Whirling around, my suspicions are confirmed.
“Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me,” Jade mutters, her hands going immediately to her hips.
I grin at her. I can’t help it. This is a lucky streak for sure. “You work here?”
She’s wearing a red T-shirt that says Light My Fire across her chest—the name of the store—and there’s a nametag pinned to her shirt that reads Jade in swirling, feminine handwriting. “Don’t act like you don’t know this. Somehow with all your money and connections, you found out where I work. So creepy. Can’t you just leave this bet thing alone?”
“You think I hired someone to track you down?” Hell, I can’t work that fast. I’ve been sleeping pretty much the entire time since I saw her last and that was only last night.
“How else would you keep popping up where I am? You’ve crossed a line this time though, asshole.” She turns on her heel and starts heading toward the register counter at the back of the store. My gaze drops to her ass, which looks mighty fine in those khaki shorts she’s wearing. And her legs…damn they’re long. “I’m calling the cops.”
“What? No.” I chase after her, grabbing her arm before she can make a grab for the phone on the counter. “I’m not having you followed or whatever you’re accusing me of doing. This is total coincidence. I swear.” Awesome coincidence for me, not so much for her, I guess.
And really, why does she hate me so much? I don’t get it. Any other girl would be falling at my feet, begging me for something. Anything.
Not this one.
She tugs out of my hold and rubs her arm in the exact spot where I touched her. Trying to rub away those sparks? Because yeah, they’re there. My fingers are still tingling. “Please. This is the third day in a row. And I’ve never seen you before in my life.”
“Really?” I find that hard to believe. I know her boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, whatever she wants to call Joel the Wuss, has definitely gambled at our place before, which means at the very least, she had to have heard about me.
“God, you’re such an egotistical ass.” She waves her fingers at me, as if flicking away an annoying bug. “Get out of here. I’m serious. Before I really do call the cops.”
“But I came in here to buy something.”
She rolls her eyes and flicks her head. Today her hair is in some sort of bun thing on top of her head. She looks like a ballerina minus the tutu. It’s sort of a shame, all of that sexy red hair restrained like it is when it should be wild and free. I prefer it wild and free.
I’d also like to take her somewhere more private and slowly pull every pin out of her hair as it falls past her shoulders, piece by vibrant piece…
“What in the world would you want to buy here?”
“Uh, candles.” I glance around. “We’re surrounded by them, in case you haven’t noticed.”
She ignores my jab. “And who are you buying this candle for?”
“My mother. It’s her birthday in a few days.” I start walking down an aisle, scanning the various candles on display. There’s some nice ones I spot already, candles I know Mom will like but I’m not about to give up my hand too soon. I say I like something, next thing I know Jade’s wrapping it up, I’m signing the credit card receipt and then she’s ushering my ass straight out of here.
Nope. I’m going to savor this. Ask her questions. Make her show me different things before I finally, finally make my decision. She’s established this crazy relationship between us from the start.
I’m just trying to keep it afloat while I plot my way into her panties.
Great. I sound like a pervert even in my own head.
“You’re going to buy your mother a candle from Light My Fire for her birthday?” She sounds incredulous. Like I can blame her.
“I am,” I say determinedly, stopping in front of one display in particular. “What the hell is this? Black voodoo magic?”
There’s a hammered silver tray covered in shiny black and silver crystals, with three fat black candles clustered together in the middle. Mom would hate this sort of thing but I have to ask.
“Enid is into all that stuff. The crystals, how they heal and ward off evil spirits and the like.” Jade leans in closer to me, as if imparting a great secret. I catch her scent, sweet and clean and inhale discreetly, trying to keep it together. She is pure temptation and doesn’t have a clue. “I personally don’t believe in any of that but I play along.”
She’s being nice to me. I wonder what’s wrong. “Is this really a medical marijuana store?”
I blew it. Now she looks offended. “Ugh, no. This is a legit candle and crystal store. If you think we’re selling pot brownies in the back, then you’re sadly mistaken.”
Huh. Wonder if she’s ever tried a pot brownie. It might mellow her ass out when I can only figure she prefers being wound up, so I doubt it. “Sorry. My mistake. So…show me your best candle. Or why don’t you show me which one you like best.”
“You’re being serious.”
“As a heart attack.” I nod solemnly, shoving my hands in my pockets before I do something stupid.
Like grab her.
“Because you want to buy a candle.”
“Isn’t that what most people want to do when they come in here?”
She rolls her eyes. If she keeps that up every time she’s with me, she’s going to give herself a headache. “And you’re not following me.”
“I already told you this is all some weird coincidence.” Or fate. I’m not a huge believer in fate but what are the odds? It’s so wild, Jade fully believes I’m stalking her.
“Is everything okay?” A large woman almost as tall as me sweeps down the aisle, coming to a stop directly in front of us. She’s wearing a long black velvet dress dotted with clear rhinestones and flowing sleeves, her pitch black hair pulled back into a low ponytail. She looks like a stereotypical witch. “Jade, are you helping this darling young man?”
Ah, her boss. And an ally. I can sense it. “She’s trying her best,” I say, my voice filled with disappointment.
The look Jade shoots me is the deadliest stare she can muster, which is pretty damn deadly. “I know him,” she mutters.
“Doesn’t mean he should be treated poorly.” The woman makes a tsking noise and holds her hand out toward me, her long pointed nails a sparkly black. “I’m Enid. I own Light My Fire.”
“Shep.” I shake her hand, smiling at her. She smiles in return. Way more friendly than Bitch Face. “I like your store.”
Enid beams. “Thank you. Do you want me to show you around?”
Jade starts backing up, the smug smile on her face telling me she thinks she won.
“Ah, I appreciate the gesture but I’m sure you’re extremely busy, being the owner and all. And Jade’s not that bad. She just likes to give me grief.” I send an innocent smile in Jade’s direction and she gives me the finger. Lucky for her, she’s standing behind her boss who doesn’t even notice.
“Jade, treat this boy right. You hear me?” Enid turns to send Jade a pointed look.
“Of course,” Jade says through clenched teeth. “I’ll give him top notch treatment.”