on May 17th, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance
The first time I saw Hudson Jameson, he was saving someone’s life.
The second time, he was ruining mine.
It was only supposed to be a vacation. A chance to let the Florida sun burn away the residue left behind from my failed relationships. I wasn’t searching for love. I was on a hiatus from men, especially ones with secrets.
Except Hudson had the gaze of a man drowning in his own miseries, and I was a sucker for the damaged souls. How could I deny him? How could I resist when his lips claimed mine?
I knew I couldn’t stay.
He told me he couldn’t bear to leave.
But some roots intertwine and refuse to let go, no matter how far you run.
Crossing the graveled lot, I opened the door and headed straight for the cashier.
That’s when I saw him.
Hudson, standing at the register, digging into his pockets.
My stomach leapt to my throat, hiding beside my heart as my feet melded to the ground. Every thought inside my head vanished like a wisp of smoke except for one—why? It had been over two weeks since I last saw him. I hadn’t even thought of him.
So why did he have this effect on me?
A fresh cup of coffee sat between him and the cashier as he pulled his hands free from his pockets, empty. “I must have forgotten my wallet.”
The cashier just stared at him. I’d seen her in a there a time or two. Always with smudged eyeliner and tired eyes. I didn’t take her for much of a talker. Maybe she was sick of words. Maybe they brought her no comfort, therefore there was no need to engage in using them.
“I’m sorry,” Hudson continued, scratching the side of his beard. “It’s been one of those days, you know?”
The woman didn’t even blink. I somehow found my senses.
“I’ve got it,” I said as I moved around him, his masculine scent overwhelmingly sexy. I sat a twenty dollar bill on the counter and looked up into those tired, blue eyes. “Can you put the rest on pump one, please?” I was trying to focus on her, but my heart felt like a live wire was zapping it again and again just from being so close to him.
He looked down at me, his face unchanged. Still stoic. Still reserved. But his eyes didn’t lie. The crystal clear blue color deepened with need and pain. How two small orbs could be more powerful than gravity itself boggled me, because I felt like I was floating when I looked into them. Drifting away, to a place others had never been.
A place he’d made very clear we’d never visit.
I cleared my throat. “Looks like I get to buy you that coffee after all,” I said to him, and then I turned and walked out, my pulse skyrocketing, setting my cheeks on fire. I didn’t turn to see if he was watching me. I could barely keep it together as it was.
“What’s your issue?” I whispered under my breath as I reached for the pump. My hands were shaking, heart still rattling as if it was trying to be released from its cage.
I was almost finished pumping when he appeared from behind my bus.
“I don’t really date.”
I flinched back a little as a small, surprised laugh awkwardly left my lips. “Well, there goes my cover. And here I thought I was indiscreetly pulling out all the stops to woo you.” I looked up, pinning him with a slitted look. “That means dinner by candlelight is off the table then?”
I could almost see the words tangling in his mouth as his eyes dropped to his feet. I think there was even a slight blush to his cheeks, but it was too hard to tell underneath all that gruff. Why was he still trying it with me? Couldn’t he see I was trouble? One childhood trauma from pushing everyone in my life away.
“I’m… shit.” He ruffled a hand through the back of his hair before lifting his gaze to mine.
The ice in his eyes was thawing.
“Sorry,” he continued, his tone a bit softer. “I’m not really a people person. I’ve never been good at holding a conversation. Martha, the woman who helps me run my diner, says it’s something I need to work on. She says I’m too abrasive.”
I remembered her. The tuft of gray. The scolding, mothering words. From what I’d gathered, she was exactly right.
I stared at him for a moment, partly because I was baffled and still trying to catch up to his change of mood, and partly because I wanted him to suffer. But it didn’t seem to work, because his eyes remained intent and focused on me, unswayed by my attempt at seeming aloof.
I was hot again, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the angle the sun was cutting through at, or because of the way his eyes played over me in such a familiar, intimate way. It was the palms turning clammy, cheeks building a sheen of discomfort kind of hot.
“I had a grandmother like her,” I said, finding my voice. I wasn’t going to let him win this. I could control my emotions. I would control my emotions. “Nona. She was a walking spitfire with enough love to fill the world. Always had a way of explaining things to me that helped the world make sense.”
He pulled a toothpick from his pocket and twirled it between his fingers before planting it between his teeth. Perfectly white, I noted, as if carved out of marble. He twirled it a few times before speaking, and spoke around it without it ever falling out, as if he’d done that his whole life.
Judging by the plain white T-shirt, jean shorts, and flip-flops he had on, I figured he had.
I stuck my hand out. “Let’s have a do over. I’m Hartley Fernsby.”
A smile hitched at the corner of his mouth as his large hand enveloped mine. “Hudson. Hudson Jameson.”
About the author
Candace Knoebel is a hopeless romantic with an affinity for whiskey and good music. Her love of words began when she met the boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs. She’s a self-proclaimed Lost Girl. Words are her mirror.
With two completed series, her work ranges from paranormal to contemporary, all centered heavily around romance. Currently she lives in Florida with her husband and two children, and has just completed her thirteenth novel, The Taste of Her Words.
Website – www.candaceknoebel.com
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