He looked up at the sound of a female voice calling his name. Cherri stood in the
doorway of his shop, bundled up in a hat, her homemade scarf, and a puffy coat.
His heart malfunctioned at the sight of her, performing some kind of stupid
squeezing thumping thing.
Something was wrong. She had never stepped foot in his territory before.
He took two steps toward her before stopping. She held some sort of wooden box
in her hands. It was in pieces, and judging by the look on her face she wasn’t too
far from fall- ing to pieces herself.
Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry, his mind chanted. He wasn’t sure he could take it
She looked unsure for a moment, taking a step backward. “Are you busy? I—I
don’t want to bother you if you are.”
“Come here, love.” He stayed frozen as he watched her come toward him. Even in
a too-puffy coat that hid far too much of her body, she was lovely to look at as she
crossed his shop.
“I can’t pay you much,” she said, handing the pieces of the broken box to him.
“But do you think you might be able to make it play again?”
She looked so innocent, so heartbroken, as if somebody had stomped on her
favorite toy. “You don’t have to pay me anything, you daft girl.” With his head he
motioned toward the stool he kept at his workbench. “Sit. I’ll take a look at it.”
“Thank you.” She smiled, flashing him those pretty dimples of hers. “Baba was so
upset that she dropped it. I want to make it whole for her.”
He had yet to examine the box or to focus on her words. He was too busy
watching her strip out of her winter gear. Under it she wore a pink cardigan with a
white tank top that was just low-cut enough that he could make out the tops of her
buttermilk-colored breasts. A voice, probably his conscience, ordered his eyes
She’s not what you need right now.
His gaze traveled to her head and the ugly wool hat she wore on it. It was the last
to go, and he stared as her rowdy mane of golden hair tumbled to her shoulders.
She really had no idea how beautiful she was. No clue. He had heard her say that
she was built like a lumberjack but all he saw was a tall curvy goddess. Even with
her cheeks red from the cold and her eyes glossy from the wind she was lovely. It
made him forget that she was the last person he should be attracted to.
“What?” Her emerald-colored eyes widened and her cheeks darkened with
embarrassment. “If you tell me I have snot on my face I’ll die.”
“No.” He chuckled. “I was wondering if you walked here. You look a bit like a
That I would like to lick.
He mentally castigated himself for that one. He lost all common sense around her.
“I did walk here. But I walk everywhere and it’s not be- cause I own the world’s
shittiest car. Walking helps me keep my big bottom from spreading into a huge
But I like fat-bottomed girls.
Colin kept his mouth shut to make sure his inappropriate response didn’t come
out. An image of her very curvy be- hind shot into his mind and . . . Knock it off!
He shook his head and finally looked at the box. “So you’ve brought me a music
box.” He studied it for a few moments. It was factory- made, mostly cheap wood.
There was nothing spectacular about it except for the intricate pink roses painted
on the lid. That alone made the box worth saving.
“Beautiful.” He glanced up at Cherri. “You wouldn’t happen to know who painted
this? This is some of the best detail work I’ve ever seen.”
She beamed at him, dimples flashing, skin glowing. He gulped. “I painted it.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Her eyes lit. “Dorky art major. Remember? My painting skills make up for my
lack of beauty and grace.”
“You’re very beautiful, Cherri,” he said without thinking. “I don’t think you
realize how exquisite you are.”
“Exquisite?” She laughed that deep throaty laugh of hers, and heat unfurled in his
gut. “You must get a lot of ass.”
“What?” Her statement knocked him off guard.
“Ass? Tail? Panties dropping? Any of those ring a bell? I’m saying that you must
have a lot of women trying to have sex with you. Probably some men, too.”
The blood rushed out of his brain as soon as the word sex formed on her lips.
She was just twenty-two years old. And in the two years he had known her, he had
never seen her date. He had never seen her with a guy. She was mature for her age
but she had this innocence around her. And yet something about hearing those
words come from her mouth made his remaining brain cells malfunction. She was
the only woman he had a hard time keeping his cool around. He was more than
just attracted to her and he wasn’t sure why.
“For fuck’s sake, Cherri, where the hell did that question come from?”
She waved a dismissing hand at him. “Oh, don’t tell me you don’t know. The
brogue, the pretty words, not to mention the way you look, all make you deity-like
with your sex appeal. You probably don’t have to work hard to get women to drop
No, he never did. Using his hands and getting women to fall into bed were the
only things he excelled at. He was like his pop that way. It took running into an ex
whose name he couldn’t remember to show him that. So many women. So many
empty I love yous. It never took away that empty feeling in his chest. He promised
himself he wouldn’t say those words again unless he meant it.
“But you don’t have to use any of that charm on me. I won’t fall for it. Well . . .
Not too hard,” he heard her say when he tuned back into the conversation.