Evidently possession of two X chromosomes made the human female treacherously susceptible to the smoldering charms of Michael Brandon a.k.a. The Golden One, quarterback for the High School football team.
Though Michael’s officially He Who Can Do No Wrong there’s no denying he is high maintenance. Starting with ex-girlfriend Rachel Turnbull who’s rumored to still love him despite going through a near death experience on his account.
His secret crush Madison Graham was stalked by a suspected rapist.
Head Cheerleader Drew Carpenter’s undergone plastic surgery and, one can never discount his fanatic fan following.
Blue Avery is different. An epic kiss will not change her world view neither make her fall headlong in love nor get her climbing trees to deliver a valentine.
But if it does then all bets are off-
Nothing can stand in her way- not even Super Bowl!
For different people the monster is different.
I abhorred confrontation and the he-devil thrived at it. I tiptoed around a Scagliola column feeling like a ninja warrior on the move.
“Gotcha.” A male voice spoke softly in my ear.
Even if I screamed I was well within my rights to do so.
Michael Brandon, quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, winced theatrical before removing the fingers he had stuck in his ears.
God I hated him so much I could have screamed again.
“Any other man,” he shrugged, “but you can, you know, with me,” he winked suggestive, “I wonder what it is about me-” a languid hand encompassed his lean, mean body, “all my women scream.”
My jaw dropped open.
He had not just, had he?
My eyes rounded, dilating with shock.
“So what’s this new thing you have done to yourself,” he stepped back crossing his hands over his broad, muscular chest as he turned his head to look me one way then another like my zoologist friend Cristina might study a new specimen hitherto unknown to mankind.
“You look different.”
“Of course I look different. I am different. For one, I am real! The teenyboppers you are accustomed to have had cosmetic surgery you-amazing-judge-of-women-pulchritude-you!” I pounded my fist in the air and turning stalked off in a royal huff of temper.
The man made me so mad I wanted to smack him on the head to knock some sense into him.
People stared when I stalked past.
Maui, Hawaii, I was staying at one of the most beautiful estates invited to an exclusive wedding of the year and spoiler alert!
The party had just gone to the dogs.
“Couldn’t you at least pretend to get along?” Brianna Tucker a.k.a event planner asked worrying her plump bottom lip with her pearly white teeth. “It would be dreadful if the Maid of Honor and the Best Man are seen glaring daggers at each other in all the wedding photographs.”
She had a valid point.
“What’s your dark history?” Brianna wanted to know.
One could concede she had a right to ask since it was her reputation I was jeopardizing.
I took prompt umbrage. “What history? There is nothing between us- nothing!”
Madison Graham, bride-to-be, exchanged a pointed look with Brianna and sighed dramatic like. Madison an Audrey Hepburn lookalike Goddess blessed with flashing hazel eyes used the entire arsenal to her advantage.
“Blue- if you want to live in denial, that’s fine by me but-” she fixed a direct index finger pinning me with honest brown laser fire from her eyes, “behave!”
Theoretically speaking I could ignore.
Practically it was impossible to overlook the incendiary way Michael took me in his sights. His eyes traveled the length of my diminutive frame sliding down inch by inch lingering at all the usual touristy places as if imagining how I looked stripped of that hot pink lace frock.
He took in my bare legs and the matching paint on my toenails with a visible start.
My hackles rose. Yes, I wanted to snarl, I knew I was a woman.
And no, the credit for discovering my sexuality was not his.
“Yoo hoo Blue,” Mads hailed me waving and smiling with delight while her eyes issued a clear warning.
I forced my lips to curve wide-r. As a maid of honor it was my duty.
I air kissed Madison’s cheeks, and then Tessa’s (mother-in-law-to-be) and turned extending a hand to Mr. Craig, the groom Peter Craig’s father.
Bob Craig laughed and not one to stand on formality leaned forward to kiss me smack on the cheek.
Peter grinned and claimed a kiss of his own murmuring something witty about “christening the other cheek rather than just turning it.”
My stomach dipped when I realized I was left staring at my archenemy.
Involuntarily both hands swung up in defense palms extended to arrest him as if holding up a stop sign.
He was a quarterback, trained to take down defense more skilled than mine.
Hands clamped at my waist and whipped me to him. In a dance like move he bent my back as if a bough laden with flowers. Unbalancing I gasped falling back. Hair bounced spilling frangipani blossoms resembling a waterfall.
Blood rushed to my head. I reached out to grab at his shirt with hands that had been desperate to ward him off.
He eased up slowly but turned and swung me the opposite way this time draping me over an arm. Muscles bunched at my back stopping the fall holding in position.
His wicked eyes had the gall to gleam at me with unholy lights shining in their dark blue depths.
He kissed me on the lips and my toes curled in the sand.
His lips moved soft, whispery, seductive… He did not smash his mouth with unbridled passion. He did not open his mouth. It was a gentle; if I did not know him tentative exploration of lips sliding with butterfly movements on lips. My lips tingled and tremors went down my spine.
That he felt for the arm bracing my back tensed.
Gently he brought me back to terra firma, graceful and elegantly unruffled as only a man in a black tux could look despite the devastation the sea breeze wrought on his hair.
Maybe, I thought hysterical; the womanly nature of a sea sprite could not resist his allure and had run fingers in his hair to feel its silky texture.
Madison clapped trying to put a positive spin on the stupefaction that was displayed for all to see on my face.
“Peter! Shall we?”
Mads turned to Peter linking her arm in his; effortlessly drawing all the media attention back to the reason for the season.
“Keep your shirt on,” Michael caught me by the shoulder just as I managed to recollect myself and willed my body to turn away from his.
His tanned hand was warm against the sensitive skin. To me it was evocative of an image imprinted in my mind.
Why had I done it? Why had I allowed him those intimacies- were not relevant questions anymore?
From a perspective of time that was water under the bridge.
What was important to remember were answers I learned in its aftermath?
No man should have the power to wield such degree of heartbreak.
“Let me go,” I muttered once I had my breathing under control.
“In my defense you invited this upon yourself,” he had the audacity to say.
I spun around.
“Take it easy-” he took me by the arm and steered me about to follow the happily betrothed couple. “You will have ample opportunity to fight with me later.” He glanced down, devilish lights twinkling in his eyes, “matter of fact, I think I am looking forward to it.”
“You provoke me-” I accused taking in another deep breath.
Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts, I chanted like a mantra in my mind.
“Look who’s talking,” he rebutted nodding genially at Peter’s grandfather.
“Let me go,” I muttered tugging at my arm.
“Let me go-” he mimicked my tone. “What do you think I am going to do to you with this crowd about us?” He asked in a disgruntled tone of voice.
My eyes snapped to his.
“What? Are you kidding? Of course I thought of it. Any red blooded male who sees you in this dress is thinking s-e-x. That’s the way men think Einstein!”
In the Federation rules for slamming each other with childhood nicknames this was hitting under the belt even for him.
“And do you care to know what women think,” I asked huskily batting my eyelashes at him like Drew Carpenter the airhead, his school heartthrob and Prom Queen.
He stared arrested.
With a flick of a wrist I tossed the contents of the champagne glass on his face.
It was JTB just too bad no one had yet proposed a toast.
Impetuous, headstrong and stubborn: were synonyms for the negative trait I personified when I was still in Kindergarten. I had a long winding road uphill to travel if this one pilgrim was to make any concrete progress towards the Promised Land.
Michael’s reflexes were legend.
Fingers captured my wrist in a brutal vice like grip.
“Grace, darling,” and “less eagerness to please,” Michael derided looking at the revelers who tittered at his wit taking their cue from his smiling lips.
He put his mouth to the brim of the glass and forced me to hold still while he sipped a delicate, appreciative sip.
“Oh My God,” a woman gasped.
I blinked to look away.
“No,” a hand tangled in the riot of my hair forcing me to look him in the eyes. His other hand forced me to serve him another delicate sip.
His Adam’s apple moved when he swallowed.
My cheeks felt on fire.
“That’s how it’s done Kitten,” he released my hair. Removing the glass from my hand he placed it on the table with exaggerated care.
“I wouldn’t want you to cut your hand playing these adult games.”
Madison was watching one hand fisted over her mouth and her brows rose imperiously on catching my dazed gaze.
‘There,’ she communicated non-verbally, ‘are you happy now?’
Michael pulled out a chair at the table.
“Sit,” he barked commanding.
I sat down my legs buckling as they suddenly gave away.
It was not the menace in his eyes, I told myself. Belated I had recalled my promise to Mads, my best friend.
He sat down beside me.
A white silk napkin dangled in front of my eyes like a flag of truce.
Did he want me to wave it? I looked at him anger snapping in my eyes.
He shook his face bringing it close to mine like a shaggy dog and all seated at our table burst out laughing at his “cute” gesture.
He was smiling but his hand that gripped my wrist in a manacle hold held the promise of retribution. He dropped the napkin in my hand and forced me to wipe his face. He had always been a vengeful S.O.B.
“Don’t frown,” the girl applying a face mask cautioned.
Easy for her to say, I thought.
I still could not make up my mind if the spa day was a genuine gift from Madison or a clever strategy to keep the warring antagonists at a safe distance.
Time was supposed to be a great healer but it did not seem to have worked for me. To deal with the confrontational, aggressive, pig-headed man was to have my insides abraded raw and I could not help lashing out like a wounded animal.
Any reasonable woman… I sighed heavily, who was I kidding?
The girl drying her hands overheard and glanced inquisitive, “man trouble?”
“Um-hum,” I was a private person. I did not share confidences.
“Men! They all want one thing,” the pedicurist massaging my foot spoke up with the eagerness of a sprinter waiting for the Starter’s gun.
“Er,” I tried to insert.
“Shush,” the girl who had applied the face mask warned.
“You can consult who you want,” the nineteen- twenty-year-old chewing gum offered her advice, “the only way to solve man issues is become his sex-kitten. Give him what he wants in bed and lots of it.”
The sky blue dress left my shoulders bare to end above my knees in a flirty hem.
It was so light I felt I had nothing on. The lustrous silk caressed my skin lovingly.
I pulled on the white gloves and stared at my reflection in the mirror admiring.
“Love, that guy ain’t gonna last till the evening,” Katy (the chewing gum addict) nodded meaningfully towards the door that opened to the reception area.
“I can see why you are having trouble keeping him in line,” Audrey the girl who had done my facial nodded sagely; “he seems a handful.”
My heart filled with a deep sense of foreboding.
Michael turned as I pushed the door open-
He was dressed in a black velvet lined jacket paired with a light blue shirt. His silk tie was an eye catching design in vibrant colors. The trousers matched his jacket. The patent black leather of his handmade shoes was buffed to a shine.
I tried to speak but my mouth had gone dry. So I tried to make a casual gesture like a hand wave and the door slammed in my face.
When I pushed the door open again red-faced with mortification he was grinning at my expense.
I tightened my lips to a thin line and headed out the door leaving him to follow in my wake.
At the pavement I turned having no idea where his car was parked.
His eyes were fixated on my bottom.
I gasped aloud fisting my hands to stop them spreading over my ass to shield it from those blue eyes.
He looked up a brow raised in mute inquiry.
My color heightened and my lips thinned but I shook my head sharply.
“Wait here. I’ll get the car.”
“Thanks,” I managed throatily.
“No problem.” He replied as he strode past. “We don’t want to risk a fall with you on those stilts.”
Of course he was laughing at me. He was a man who lived and breathed in the same stratosphere as supermodels.
Aware of his eyes critiquing every move I alighted from the car with all the grace at my command and almost faltered when his hand snaked about my waist.
He instinctively pressed me to his side offering silent support.
“You don’t have to hold me,” I muttered ungracious, “I was not about to fall- you startled me.”
His lips curved at the accusation.
“Why are you smirking?” I was irked enough to ask looking him in the eye.
“Don’t men ever hold you just because they want to?”
The question got to me.
Emptiness echoed in the awning recesses of my heart.
I was mentally transported to the abandoned ruins of a magnificent palace walking through grand, desolate rooms devoid of any furniture or ornament. My hand lingered on the bare, walls where the paints from an ancient tapestry were flaking…would it always be void like this?
Lightbulbs flashed and I blinked breaking free of his hold.
It felt an intrusion of my privacy.
He was not supposed to see me like this, nobody was supposed to make me feel vulnerable.
Maybe he had set me up; the ugly thought crossed my mind.
It was just the thing to appeal to his crass sense of humor.
He caught up with me at the door of the banquet hall where we were to rehearse for the wedding.
“Don’t touch me ever again,” I turned on him with a low, angry voice.
The look of genuine concern faded. His eyes sparked at rashly spoken words.
He nodded sharply stalking ahead.
I wanted to recall my words. I wanted to recall Michael.
“Blue,” Madison squealed with delight, “you look gorgeous!”
All the folks clustered about the prospective bride and groom oohed and aahed.
I was engulfed in many fragrant hugs yet I could not help the guilt that assailed every time my eyes met Michael’s.
Darn! I would have to apologize.