BARNES N’ NOBLES
“Fuck,” I groaned, staring at the sign hanging on the elevator that read “Out of Order” and almost burst into tears.
It was a crappy day that was only getting worse with each passing hour. I figured standing drenched in the rain was the icing on the cake, but no, I was wrong.
With a heavy sigh, and an even heavier bag on my shoulder and one in my hand, I took the first step in my seven-flight journey up to my floor. At about four floors, I had to take a break, so I threw my bags down on the landing and sat of the bottom step of the next floor. I closed my eyes, resting my head on my arms that were crossed on my lap.
My shoulders ached, my head ached worse, and I was soaking wet from head to toe. So exhausted, I was close to curling up on the floor and sleeping there, and would have if I wasn’t already freezing—the stairwell wasn’t temperature controlled.
“Need some help?” an unfamiliar male voice asked.
I didn’t look up—I didn’t care who it was. A minute of rest was all I needed to carry on. That, and the knowledge that a hot shower awaited me as soon as I finished the remaining three flights.
“No, I’m fine. I just need a minute.” I gave him a thumbs-up and hoped he would carry on.
“Are you sure?” he questioned again, real concern evident in his voice.
I took a deep breath and raised my head. My eyes widened as I looked at the stranger in front of me. His leather jacket was riddled with water droplets, his brown hair flattened on his head and soaked to the roots. His light green eyes drew me in like a beacon in the dark. I’d never seen him before, which was odd, because I knew almost everyone in the building. We often held parties on the rooftop garden, and I would have remembered seeing a gorgeous guy like him, even soaking wet.
Strong jaw, sharp cheek bones, and a fit physique—yeah, I would have remembered him.
“Who are you?” The words shot out, and I slapped my hand over my mouth. He let out a chuckle, exposing a perfect set of white teeth. “I mean... You must be new?”
“Yeah, I am. Tristan.” He held out his hand, and I took it.
I wanted to lick any part of him, but I’d settle on his hand for now… he was that hot.
His hand was large, warm, and rough. Add that to the sexy vibe I was getting, and images of the two of us naked popped in my head.
“Nice to meet you, Mia.”
I nodded and stared back at him unblinking, the visions still dancing in my head the more I stared into his eyes.
“Going to need that hand back.” His gaze moved down to where our hands were still connected. I didn’t even realize I hadn’t let go. Dear Lord, I wasn’t drooling, was I?
“You sure?” I smiled up at him, trying to make light of the situation and not make myself out to be some strange psycho.
He let out a deep chuckle. “For a little while, but then you can have it back.”
My whole body felt colder when I let go. I didn’t realize his presence had beaten back some of my gloom, which returned in full force.
“So, are you going to be okay if I leave?”
I rolled my eyes at him. “I’ll be fine. It’s just been a really crappy day.”
“It can’t be all bad.”
“Yeah? Why is that?”
He grinned. “You met me.” My head tilted back in laughter as he stepped up and past me. “See you around, Mia.”
“Better. I’ll be searching out that hand.”
He stopped on the stair just above me, his tongue peeking out to lick his lips. “You’re going to be trouble, aren’t you?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “That’s what my dad used to say.”
Tristan nodded. “Oh, he was right.”
After the sound of his footsteps retreated, my hand reached up to fan my face. I hadn’t been that bold in…months. Not since the night my best friend Casey and I had a little too much to drink at the martini bar down the street.
I took a deep breath and gathered my strength. The call from my shower was growing, and I still had a few flights of stairs to go. With my bags in hand, I finished the climb of doom.
The end was nigh. The bright red door with gold painted 7C was within my sight, and my heart and body sang. It was a bit off key, and more like wailing cats, but in no way reduced the euphoria of finally being home.
Until I realized my key was not in hand.
I leaned forward, whimpering as my forehead came to rest against the old wooden gate to my apartment. The bags slipped from my grip, landing on the floor.
“Oh, enough with the dramatics, Mia. It was only seven floors,” the familiar voice of my neighbor said as she walked past.
“Bad day, Lena.”
Her keys jingled as she pulled them out. “I can tell. That peroxide was left on a little too long.”
“I’m sticking my tongue out—you just can’t see it. But I bet you can see this.” I stuck my arm out and flipped her the bird.
She laughed. “Find your fucking keys, girl.” The door creaked open. “Oh, and don’t forget we’re meeting up for dinner tomorrow night.”
“Yup, now get inside. If I come out here in five minutes and you’re still standing there, I’m going to throw your bags down a flight of stairs.”
I whimpered at the thought of climbing even one more step.
“That’s what I thought.” Her door slammed shut behind her, and my eyes stared down at my feet, locating my purse. I found my keys and unlocked the door before stepping in.