2 Ridiculously hot asshole stranger

THREE YEARS AGO

CAT

On my way home from work, I pick up the Mac I've been waiting to buy for ages. The sales guy puts a shiny blue wrapping paper around it and slips a card in the crevice he left behind. It is the perfect gift.

I don't care much about gifts myself but my siblings love them and Rico has had this one coming for months. He did his university entrance test today. He hasn't told me the results yet but I already know there's going to be something to celebrate. My brother is a brilliant kid. He reminds me of myself at his age, with big dreams and even bigger plans to accomplish them.

On that note, I drop by the grocery store and pick up more ingredients for a big celebratory dinner tonight. I also buy a new pair of shoes for Elena. I wish I could buy her something as expensive as Rico's new Mac but I can't afford to splurge.

At least she cares about shoes, clothes and makeup more than she would ever care about electronics or books. She and Rico are twins but you would never know it. While Rico always has his nose buried in a book, Elena believes she doesn't need to study because she will be a famous actress one day. Lord knows she has the looks for it. The skill, on the other hand…

At least she's still young. She could learn, or she could develop more interest in something else. Either way, I still have a few years to nudge her in the right direction.

I'm still thinking about this as I reverse out of the parking lot, which is probably why I don't notice the car coming up behind me until I feel the impact.

"What the fuck?" I snarl. This is not how I wanted my evening to start. But again, when did things ever go the way I wanted them to? I've had an insane streak of bad luck for as long as I can remember.

The tiny hope I had that it can't be that bad flies out the window when a furious man marches up to my window and bangs his palm down on it. I roll it down with a groan.

"You rear-ended me!" I snap before he has the chance to speak.

"Only because you clearly don't know how to drive. Were you on the phone?" he peeks inside to catch me in the act, but my phone is exactly where it always is when I drive–on the shotgun seat.

I get out to assess the damage and glare at him when I see the significant dent. He sees it too, and doesn't look sorry in the slightest bit. Instead, there's a hint of a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips.

"That's an old hank of metal you're driving. It's a surprise it didn't roll up like a foil."

The nerve of this man!

This so-called hank of metal was given to me by Pops. I don't care if it's fifty years old. You don't get gems like these anymore, and I love it.

Besides, not everyone drives a ridiculously expensive Mercedes. I want to tell him that, but I also want to slap that stupid smirk off his face. But that would be a shame. A red palm print on that gorgeous face would certainly be out of place. Before I know it, I'm taking in his features. Dark, brown eyes with what I think are caramel or golden specs dusting the irises, framed by long lashes and eyebrows that make me jealous. Why do men have the most beautiful brows? They match his dark, slightly curly hair that looks like it would be soft to the touch, and the stubble on his jawline.

Why are handsome men such insane assholes?

Though this man is not just your everyday asshole. Something about his gaze sends a shiver down my spine. I'm suddenly conscious of how close I'm standing to him. I'm five foot three and wearing six-inch heels, a requirement for my second job, but he still towers over me in a way that makes me almost feel insignificant. It's not just his height. It's that stance. That poise that makes me certain I shouldn't even think about pissing him off. He could squash me like an ant and it would be like throwing a pebble in the vast ocean. It wouldn't cause a ripple. No one would care.

That doesn't make me cower. Instead, I'm more curious about him than I've ever been about anything. Nonna liked to say I'm a magnet for trouble and at this moment, I'm starting to believe her.

"I'm going to call it in." I finally say, pulling my mind back to what it should be focused on.

"That will not be necessary." He assesses the damage with a pensive look. I catch a slight hint of an accent in his tone but I can't quite place it. It makes every word coming out of his mouth sound sexy, laced with his deep, sultry voice. I would love to hear him speak later when I'm alone at night and my hand…

Good Lord, I need to get laid. First, I get my head turned by the asshole who rear-ended me and made it my fault, and now I'm imagining what exactly? Getting off on his voice?

I am furious with myself, but that only lasts until he speaks again.

"I'll give you a ride and call the tow truck, seeing as you think this is my fault."

As tempting as it is to slip into the passenger seat of an insanely hot stranger, the warning bells in my head tell me to slip into my car and high-tail it out of here. I do just that.

"Thanks for the offer, but I'll pass." I force a smile. "Your car sustained some damage too. We should both pay for our own repairs and forget this encounter happened."

"Your loss." He shrugs like I'm missing out on more than a ride, then he offers a hand. "Truce?"

I hesitate to shake his hand. Would it offend him if I pretended not to notice?

Of course it would. I take a deep breath and place my hand in his, trying not to notice how his large hand covers mine. A sting pulls me back to earth and when I glance down at my wrist, I see a drop of blood. I also catch the glimpse of the tip of a knife just as it disappears up his sleeve.

"My cufflink came loose. Sorry." He clears his throat and offers a handkerchief. When I take it, I step as far as I can from him. A million possibilities drown my mind but none of them stay long enough to make any sense.

Suddenly it doesn't feel like an accident that his knife grazed my hand. But again, he didn't take my blood. He gave me his handkerchief and didn't take it back.

I sigh in relief when I make it home without being followed or passing out from some drug laced on the handkerchief I was given. Now that I think about it, it's ridiculous that I even considered that possibility. It doesn't sound like he wanted to mug me. Even if he wasn't the tycoon he obviously is, what would he gain from it, aside from Rico's gift that was still sitting in my backseat when I drove off?

If he wanted to kidnap me, he had the chance. But he didn't do it. Maybe I'm just paranoid because of what I overheard several years ago, which is insane now that I think about it. I shake the thought off and finally enter the hellhole I've been calling my home for years.

Rico is waiting for me in the living room, and I already know from the grin on his face that he has good news to share.

"There he is." I pull him in for a hug and ruffle his hair. It's the exact opposite of mine; a mop of dark curls that frame his face and feel good to ruffle. I think the fact that he's hated his hair ruffled since his voice broke is what makes it even more tempting.

Rico eyes the bags in my hands and takes them from me. "Big dinner tonight?"

"Of course." I kiss his cheek as I hand him his gift, not able to wait one second longer. "Congratulations."

He laughs. "I haven't even told you my results."

"Do I need to take it back?" I tease.

"Of course not. I passed." He grins.

"I knew that. My brother is a genius." I ruffle his hair some more.

"Don't go telling people that or they will be disappointed when they meet me." He lets out a nervous laugh, downplaying it.

I shrug off my coat as I ask, "Is Elena home?"

"Upstairs with Mom."

"Oh." I swallow past a lump.

I'm not sure if it's possible to love someone and hate them at the same time but that's how I feel for my mother. The animosity between us hasn't dulled in the tiniest bit even though it's been years since…well, since our lives took a nosedive towards hell. Just like that, my evening is ruined.

____

I manage to make it through dinner with thoughts of the hot stranger swirling in my brain. I have a billion questions, none of which I should be asking myself. I shouldn't be recalling his alluring, woodsy scent either but that doesn't stop my brain from conjuring it up. It keeps me up, tossing all night.

Maybe that's why I'm running late by the time I wake up the following morning.

"Shit!" I hiss when I stub my toe against my nedpost. I have no time to dwell on it. I wash up and do a quick work of brushing my hair. I have no time for breakfast, so I grab an apple on my way out.

I'm rushing into my car, groaning when I remember I should have it checked out at the auto repair shop. But just as I open the door, a blunt force hits the back of my head.

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