It’s the last Friday of July. It was a tough decision to pick the last free book, but I’ve been busy working on the next Holiday Cafe Book. I choose Masked Hearts as the last free book!
I love, love, LOVED this book! Did I mention I loved it? Because I did. What we have here is the absolute perfect sweet yet sexy romance novel, all of which is centered around Halloween. I’ll admit, at first I was a little wary about how sexy this book could actually be. After all, our female lead character is a kindergarten teacher who sings in church choir on Sundays. But once she started debating the merits of having a f*%k buddy versus using her vibrator I was like, “Holy Hell, we’ve got a live one here!”
I hope everyone who celebrated Christmas had a great day! I was pleasantly surprised to come back to the internet and find several purchases of my books and a new review!
Thanks to Stacey is Sassy for reviewing Masked Hearts! She’s a frequent commenter here, and I really appreciate her reading my stories and sharing her thoughts on them. She has a blog that you must check out; not only does she do book reviews, but she does fashion. Sometimes she combines books and fashion. It’s a lot of fun!
From her review of Masked Hearts:
Masked Hearts was a sweet story with a little angst. Mark was by far the star of the show with his romantic heart and love for his children. Sienna was definitely sweet, but drove me crazy when she let people manipulate and use her. When she eventually stood up for herself, I saw a turning point in her character and it was definitely for the better.
And be sure to follow my blog for the start of The Beautician and the Billionaire Episode 4: The Past. Or purchase Episode 4 at All Romance and read it now!
Before I post the last teaser, I revealed the cover for Thankful Hearts on the ARe Cafe Blog! Go check it out!!
Mark had one romantic comedy picked out and one action movie picked out. He wasn’t at all sure she’d show up, but the lunch conversation had been fantastic until her phone rang: probably the douche bag. He frowned at his romantic comedy selection: The Princess Bride. Shit, he’d been a kid when that was popular. Had she even been born? He didn’t want to think about it. He picked it up to go find something else, but the doorbell rang. His heart pounded. She’d actually come. He put The Princess Bride under the Avengers movie and hoped she was into comic book super heroes.
He took a final glance around the den. He’d tried to put away all of his kids’ toys, but crayon scribbles covered the bottoms of the beige walls where his kids had drawn as toddlers. He’d never wanted to paint over them. At least the back wall was a window looking out onto the desert and down over the splayed city of Albuquerque, lights twinkling everywhere.
He walked through the kitchen with its spotless stainless steel appliances and an island where he’d set out a few recipe books to show her he cooked. He’d also left a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table to show her he knew how to feed his children. He’d have to get all the details right to impress a kindergarten teacher.
The doorbell rang again. At least he knew he hadn’t imagined the first ring. He jogged through the doorway to the living room, which was definitely not kid friendly with its leather couches and glass coffee table, but they wouldn’t be spending any time there. Two steps led down to the large front hallway with a couch on one wall and a mirror to make the hallway look even larger on the other wall.
On a small table by the mirror was a vase filled with a dozen red roses and a dozen white interspersed together. There was a card sticking out of the top; Sienna’s name was scrawled on the envelope. He’d spent most of the evening figuring out what to write in the card. Now he had second thoughts. No it was fine. But he’d leave it on the table rather than answering the door with it—it was just too big.
He reached for the knob and opened the door.
His jaw dropped.
Sienna had her brown hair pulled up in a messy ponytail, stray strands falling over one side of her face. Her red lipstick brought a lushness to her lips that he’d never observed before but had definitely felt in her kiss earlier that day. She wore a black leather jacket tied at the waist. He imagined she wore nothing under the jacket because her legs were bare and shaved smooth all the way down to the black, spiked high heels.
And that’s all you get for free! Now go buy the book so you don’t miss out on the great sex!
Only $0.99 until Novemebr 1!
Only $0.99 until Novemebr 1!
5 | The Decision
The washing machine chugged through its cycles with a driving rhythm as Sienna tended her orchids by her front window, ignoring the phone still in her purse in the living room. She should’ve stuffed it under a couch cushion or something because she could still hear the damn phone when it rang—so far, Glen had called a half dozen times.
She allowed a drizzle of water to fall from the can as she recalled Mark’s kiss—his body toned and powerful, his lips tender yet lustful. Glen’s kisses had been more forced than passionate and a little bit slobbery.
Her phone chimed a text notification. She cut off the stream of water and scooted on her knees to the next orchid. When it chimed again to remind her that she had a message waiting, she set down the watering can and pulled herself up off her knees. She walked to her phone and clicked it on: Mark’s address as promised. Time to decide.
She dropped the phone and walked to the bathroom, looking in the mirror at her boring clothes and plain Jane appearance. Even if she went for the movie date, she’d have to spice herself up. It was hard to believe he’d chosen her over Mia; Mia seemed much more his type with her beauty and, judging by her Audi and designer clothes, money.
But she was the one with Mark’s address on her phone. Visions of snuggling close to him on the couch while a movie played filled her mind. Maybe he’d have some wine out, and he’d said something about roses…
The washing machine buzzed the end of the load, smashing her picturesque date.
She turned from the mirror and headed to the coat closet. Not much of a selection there either except—she pulled some coats away from the corner and saw the black leather jacket that she’d bought fresh out of college. Maybe with some heels…
Only $0.99 until Novemebr 1!
Mark felt her body yield against him and begin to shiver. God, it’d been too long since he’d fucked. So long that restraint was near impossible, and he pressed himself fully against her with his cock showing his craving.
He broke off the kiss and whispered words that he hoped made sense through his haze of desire. “I would love to take you out on dates and slowly fall in love with you over coffee and bouquets of roses. But it’s been two years since I’ve had sex, and if all you want is a physical relationship, I’ll take it.”
He kissed her neck while he waited for her answer. When his lips nuzzled her below her ear she quivered again, and her hands slid up his back, drawing him even closer. Unfortunately, her words were contrary to her actions. “I can’t do that with a parent of one of my students. It’s unprofessional.”
His lips had strayed down to the base of her neck. He wanted to tug her shirt off her shoulder so he could kiss more of her, but he managed a modicum of restraint. He lifted his lips back to her ear and murmured, “I’ll pretend there’s nothing between us when I pick up Tyler. I’ll be like every other parent.” Even though the thought of unattached sex fired his drive, he didn’t want to give up on being her boyfriend. “And if we dated, I’d pretend nothing was going on until you were ready. I’m alone Friday to Sunday. We could date on those nights far away from school.”
Her body stiffened. “I don’t want to date.”
He drew back a little and cupped her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him. “I think you’re making that decision because you just saw someone who hurt you badly. I’ll text you my address. If you want to watch a movie and eat popcorn like a normal date, come over dressed like this. If you just want sex, wear a coat with nothing underneath.”
He must be out of his mind—what a stupid thing to say. He waited for the slap, but instead, she wrapped one of her legs around his and drew him in for another kiss. He wished they weren’t in a parking lot in the middle of the day.
She broke off the kiss and gently pushed him away.
Without a word, she turned, grabbed her folders, got into her car and waited for him to step back before she drove off.
He watched her going, wondering if she’d take him up on the movie date. He told himself that’s what he wanted. But two years was a long, long time to go without sex.
4 | The Offer
Seeing Glen again rattled her more than a herd of Halloween goblins. And now she had to push through the noise in her heart and be coherent with Mark. An explanation would imply that she wanted to expand their relationship, when now more than ever she wanted to close herself off to everyone. She opened her eyes and decided to be strictly business by gathering up her papers. “I’m sorry to have drawn you into that. I used you for an easy out.”
She kept her eyes averted as she spoke until his hand wrapped around her wrist and caused her to pause. “I was happy to help, but I do intend on buying you lunch. What do you like here?” His skin was warm, and goosebumps erupted on the sensitive underside of her forearm.
“That’s okay. I need to go home and do laundry.”
“Please, Sienna. I won’t push for an explanation about Glen, but I owe you an apology for last night. I should’ve realized who the date was with and never gone.”
Sienna relaxed and quit trying to figure out how to get out of his grip, but he let go as she dropped the papers, so she drew her hand to her lap. “It’s okay. I’m sure you never would’ve thought she’d invite the whole school to show off her catch.”
Mark laughed and said, “She tried to play it off as a coincidence.”
Sienna couldn’t help but laugh too. “I don’t think you can call writing on the teacher lounge whiteboard ‘Happy Hour this Friday at The Cellar’ with little hearts all around it a coincidence.”
“I thought it was weird, but now I know why she did it.” She felt his gray eyes staring at her even though she kept her gaze on her folders. She should get up and leave, but instead she said, “I like the Havarti spinach sandwich.”
She heard his intake of breath before he said in a silky voice, “Can I get you another latte?”
She nodded and felt the shift of the cushion as he got up to order. Immediately she piled up all the folders for a quick getaway. Lunch with him was better than going home to wallow in renewed anger and betrayal. At least Mark seemed to know he’d done something wrong. Glen was pretending he’d never broken up with her.
“Planning your escape,” said Mark, sitting next to her again and placing a new latte in front of her. She loved the way his eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled.
“No offense, but all men are bastards, as you proved last night. I make sure I can cut and run at any moment.”
“I think you did mean to offend, but I can take it. I’ll make sure last night was the last evil deed I do to you.”
Sienna shook her head. “You say that now, but it’ll happen eventually. Maybe you could do me a favor and make it sooner than later.”
Mark drew his eyebrows together, looking perplexed. “You talk like men have a personal vendetta against you.”
“Don’t they?” Sienna didn’t know what she was saying anymore. Seeing Glen again followed by a lunch date with Mark had her more off balance than a kindergartener trying to grab a rock off the ground in hopscotch. “Nice guys complain about being forced into the big brother role, but nice girls are taken advantage of until they’re tossed into the trash like a used condom.”
Mark retreated to the edge of the couch and said, “Do you teach my son with that mouth?”
Sienna knew her face must be bright red. She mumbled an apology and was grateful that Chloe showed up with the sandwiches and latte for him right then. When Chloe walked away, Sienna said, “I really don’t talk like that around the kids.”
Mark laughed and said, “Forget it. I was just teasing, and okay, a little shocked. You do have the pure-as-the-driven-snow school teacher look going for you.”
“Well, I’m not. So you can get that out of your mind right now.”
Mark shook his head, “Nope. Can’t do it. I like the contrast of how you appear and how you are. Say something dirty again.”
“No.” Sienna took a big bite of her sandwich and found herself both charmed and relaxed. When she swallowed she said, “So you asked me hiking. Is that something you do a lot?”
The conversation headed into regular date talk after that. Sienna didn’t have to push back unwanted thoughts of Glen because her mind was too engaged by the moment. She’d thought conversation with Mark might turn out to be difficult because of the age difference, but nothing awkward came up. He spoke with enthusiasm about his architecture projects and listened in turn to her joy of teaching.
At some point after the sandwiches had been finished and forgotten, she noticed that they sat face to face with their shoulders leaning against the back of the couch and their bodies only inches apart. She wanted him to hold her hand again and wondered how he’d react if she took his. She was allowing her heart to wander down the latte lined path of romance once again, despite her earlier argument with herself that she should stick with strictly physical relationships.
And then her phone rang inside her purse.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t just any ring: it was the ringtone she’d set long ago for Glen. She ignored it.
“Do you need to get that?” asked Mark.
“No,” said Sienna. Her heart collapsed and hardened all in one breath.
It rang a couple more times and Mark said, “Are you sure?”
“I should go.”
“Hey,” said Mark, stopping her with a hand on her shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t do this again. I can’t have you romance me and fall in love with you and end with a terrible break-up. I’d rather we fuck and be done with it.” She bit her lip and cursed herself. She couldn’t believe she’d just said that to a parent. From the look on his face, she could tell he couldn’t believe it either.
The phone finally quit ringing as she gathered up her folders and left. She expected him to call out to her, but then remembered men were bastards. Of course he wouldn’t.
Outside, embarrassment hit as if the heat of a summer sun shone on her instead of the chillier fall rays. She ran to her car, not hearing the footsteps pounding behind her because her ears were filled with the beating of her own heart.
She set the folders on top of her car. Before she clicked the lock with her remote, hands grabbed her shoulders and spun her around. Mark stared into her eyes for one moment then pushed her back against the car with his body against hers. He kissed her with a passion she’d never felt, even from Glen, and it made her body tremble. His hands roamed down her arms and to her hips, and she felt his erection against the crevice between her thigh and her abdomen. Her insides pulsed with desire that only strengthened when he ended the kiss and spoke, his lips brushing her ear.
Timing was everything that morning. If Mark arrived too early, he’d seem like a loser waiting for Sienna to show up. If he arrived too late, she might be gone already. Of course, she might not show up at the coffee shop at all.
He decided to go around lunchtime and hope for the best. He had her phone number on a sheet she’d sent home at the beginning of the year, but for all he knew, that was a number she gave out only to parents and turned off on the weekends. Anyway this conversation would be better in person than over the phone.
He arrived at the coffee house and spied her right away with another man. Fuck. Did she have a boyfriend? Sienna squirmed away from the guy. Okay, maybe not. Her hair was up in a ponytail again, and she wore jeans and a t-shirt that was tight enough to show the outline of her bra. He wanted more time to admire her, but the guy kept edging closer to her. Chloe waved, and Mark stepped up to the counter and asked, “Who’s with Sienna?”
“I’ll tell you if you buy a ticket for our Halloween poetry night. Money goes to charity,” she said in a singsong voice, holding a flyer in front of him.
“Extortion? Really?” But he smiled and paid her, adding a Toil and Trouble with extra cinnamon to the order.
“Thank you, and you have to come.”
“They were engaged last year.”
Damn. “What happened?”
“You should ask her.”
He frowned at Chloe but knew she wasn’t going to say any more. As he walked over to the couches, instincts made him want to knock the guy out, even though the guy was huge. He’d convinced himself that last night had just been a hiccup to the start of a fantastic relationship with Sienna, but the reunion of her and her ex could be a problem. Still, she’d pushed herself back against the armrest and seemed upset, though something on the phone was making her soften. He had to intervene. He sat down on the couch across from them. “Hello, Ms. Carly.”
She looked up at him, harried, then relieved and then agitated all over again. She sat up straight and gave the phone back to the guy. Before she said anything, the guy gave a tight smile and said, “We were just going to have lunch. Please excuse us, Mr…”
“Mark,” said Sienna.
Mark couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows in surprise over her use of his first name. The guy she was with seemed taken aback as well.
Sienna continued, “This is Glen. He was just leaving. Glen, this is my lunch date, Mark.”
“Lunch date? But he called you Ms. Carly.”
“Well,” said Mark, more than happy to play along with whatever Sienna needed him to do, “she’s my son’s teacher, and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable in case you were a fellow teacher.”
Glen wanted to say something, but Sienna said, “Please give my regards to your mom. I’ll visit her soon.”
Glen frowned at Mark and then Sienna. “I’ll call you, and we can talk about everything then.”
“I’m sure there’s nothing to talk about,” said Sienna, her countenance stony.
“You know that’s not true.” Glen stood up and knocked the corner of the coffee table with his knee, making Sienna’s empty latte mug rattle against the saucer.
Mark stared at Sienna, not knowing what to say. She didn’t look at him but gripped her hands together, appearing as white as her mug. When he noticed her shaking, he joined her on her couch and put his arm around her shoulder. Her body was stiff and unyielding, but he still relished the touch until she said in a faint voice, “Please don’t, but thank you for playing along.”
Mark let her go and withdrew a few inches. Her body slackened, and she leaned back against the couch cushion and closed her eyes.
3 | The Fiancé
Sienna almost didn’t go to the coffee shop to do her Saturday morning work. She tossed papers on her table and tried to shuffle through them, but her mind kept turning to Mark. She should’ve stayed and listened to what he had to say. No, screw that. She’d allowed her heart to have a little bit of hope once again, and he’d already squashed it. The relationship would end like all the rest.
Her high school sweetheart had left her after graduation to go on a religious mission to Africa. Her college boyfriend had joined Doctors Without Borders and fled to Iran. And, of course, her fiancé had broken their engagement to teach needy children in Argentina. All her former boyfriends had big hearts—just not big enough for her. Mark was bound to up and run away to freaking Habitat for Humanity in Asia. She needed to mask her heart from romance and enjoy a purely physical relationship.
But a student’s parent was not an appropriate fuck buddy.
She grabbed the folders, deciding she needed the caffeine and atmosphere of the cafe. If Mark showed up, he could say whatever he wanted to say, and they could go back to being parent and teacher. She’d find somebody else to screw for fun or just keep consoling herself with a vibrator.
When she arrived at the coffee shop she noticed right away that spiderweb decorations had been spun everywhere. Chloe bounced up to the cash register with a pointy witch’s hat on and said, “So, when are you seeing Mark?”
“Monday when he picks his son up from school.”
“Oh, come on. You guys seemed perfect together yesterday.”
She wanted to spill the whole incident at Happy Hour because she didn’t have anyone else to talk to about it, but it didn’t seem right. “It’s just tricky because he’s a parent,” she finally said.
Chloe slid a flyer to her about their Halloween poetry slam and concert. “Here, buy a ticket to this. I bet he does too, and then you can meet again in disguise. We won’t let anyone in who’s not in costume. Then you can see how it is with less pressure.”
“How do you know he’ll come?”
“I know all my customers,” she said with a wink.
Sienna couldn’t help but smile. At least the proceeds went to an abused children’s home. It’d be the first charity she’d helped since Glen left. “All right, one ticket and a Toil and Trouble, extra cinnamon.”
The couches were open, so Sienna dumped her folders on the coffee table before somebody else came in and took her spot. After she retrieved her latte, her pen filled in box after box of percentages and levels. She was about halfway through when she heard a voice that she hadn’t heard in months, though it still made her heart crumple into a wad. “I thought I’d find you here.”
She raised her head, seeing worn jeans that hugged muscular legs and an untucked tie-dye t-shirt that always seemed a little pretentious: Glen, her former fiancé, grinned down at her.
His mussed up blond hair topped his planned casual look, and his handsome face said that nothing had ever gone wrong between them.
Her heart pounded under the gaze of his brown eyes. She’d hoped she’d never see him again, but if she did, it would be while she was out with someone awesome. Alone and already frazzled from the turmoil with Mark, her emotions knotted up inside. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in Argentina.”
He looked suddenly grieved as he sighed and sat on the couch next to her. With his broad-shouldered build, he loomed over her even after sinking into the cushions. “My mom is really sick, so I took a job teaching here to be near her.”
His proximity worsened the knot, and she slid a few inches away from him, towards the fire place. “Carol’s sick? I’m so sorry. What’s wrong?”
“Breast cancer. She’s recovering from a double mastectomy. It’s going to be hard working full time. In a week or so, she’ll be starting chemo.”
Even though she felt almost as bad as if it were her own mother, she wanted to snatch back her next words as soon as she said them, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”
He took her hands in his, and her whole body cringed. He’d left her. He shouldn’t be sitting so close to her or, much worse, holding her hands. He said, “I knew I could count on you. Mom thought you wouldn’t talk to me after what happened, but you and her were so close, I thought you could set aside the incident.”
Sienna ripped her hands away and stared with wide eyes at his choice of words. The ‘incident’ he referred to was when he stood up to toast her at the rehearsal dinner and ended by saying, “I can’t do this. You’re wonderful, but I’ve had an offer to go teach in Argentina. I think I have to accept it.” The knot inside her stomach tightened so much that it snapped. “Don’t touch me. I’ll come by to see your mom. Not you.”
Undaunted, he put his hand on her knee and said, “I never should’ve just left. I should’ve taken you with me. You would’ve loved those kids.”
She pulled her knee away and smashed herself against the arm of the couch. Though the fire place was set on low, it felt like it blazed. She should stand up, but she feared her legs would shake if she tried. “We were teaching plenty of needy children as you recall. You didn’t just leave me, but a whole class of first graders who kept asking me why you didn’t like them anymore.”
“I know, I’m really sorry. Why don’t I buy you lunch to make up for it and tell you about Argentina?”
“Lunch is not going to make up for it…”
While she ranted, he pulled out his phone and brought up a picture of his ragtag class looking both charming and neglected and passed it to her. “I know you’ll love hearing about all the kids. They’re amazing.”
Her stomach growled and her heart wavered as she stared at the picture, but just as she was about to agree to lunch, Mark, dressed in khakis and a button up dark blue shirt, sat down on the couch across from them and said, “Hello, Ms. Carly.”
Sienna felt like a wine rack must’ve fallen on her when she walked into The Cellar and saw Mark holding hands across the table with Mia Warren. Her cheek burned where he’d kissed her, and rage almost made her shake. If the bastard was trying to decide which of his kids’ teachers to date, he could’ve at least mentioned he was coming tonight.
He pulled his hands away from Mia and turned to look at her as the other third grade teachers whispered and stared. They treated their grade level like it was a sorority and rarely deigned to collaborate with other teachers. Sienna’s vision blurred until a voice broke through, calling her name.
“Sienna,” yelled Krista from a table a few feet away from Mark’s. It snapped her out of her stare, and she stalked by him, knowing she’d look ridiculous if she turned and fled.
Krista sat on a long bench against the wall. She was fortyish, with sandy hair that fell to her shoulders. Her dress was maybe five years out of fashion, but Sienna knew Krista didn’t care about that. Anyway, it looked good on her. Krista scooted over and said, “Wow, you clean up nice.”
“Thanks,” said Sienna in a voice like one of her shy students. “You look nice too.” She sat in the space that Krista had left for her.
“For an old married lady, I know,” said Krista.
“Here’s to old married ladies,” toasted one of the other kindergarten teachers. It seemed as if everyone down the long table heard her because all the teachers raised their glasses, said, “Woo!” took a drink and laughed.
“What’s the joke?” asked Sienna.
“You missed a big ‘woo’ over at the third grade table before you got here. I took it from the shocked look on your face that you saw who came with Ms. Mia.”
Sienna kept her eyes straight ahead, refusing to glance over at Mark. “I shouldn’t be so surprised. She’s gorgeous.”
“He looks miserable, and he keeps staring at you.”
Sienna finally turned to see one of the third grade teachers draped over him getting a selfie. “Yeah, poor guy, getting all that attention.”
A waitress stepped up and asked for Sienna’s order.
“Just water please.”
“Water?” asked Krista. “You need something stronger than that!”
“Maybe later.” But she didn’t want to stay another minute. The waitress walked away, and Sienna tried to figure out what the hell was going on. The kiss at the cafe had been so weird but led her to believe he was interested in her. Mia’s high-pitched laugh pierced her ears, making her head hurt. At least this time the relationship had ended before it had begun. She gritted her teeth. How long before she could leave with some semblance of dignity?
After her water arrived she noticed Mark extracting himself from the third grade teachers. He ran a hand through his hair and approached her. Suddenly, the water became the most interesting thing she’d ever seen. She heard him say, “Ms. Carly, I’m sorry to interrupt your evening, but I was wondering if I could talk to you about the incident with Tyler yesterday.”
She wanted to sigh in relief at the out he’d given her, but at the same time it took every ounce of her professionalism to tilt her head up to him and say, “I was just leaving. We can talk about it on the way to my car–” she gave a scathing glance toward Mia, “if you can be away from your date that long.”
He cleared his throat and turned red before he said, “I’m sure she understands, being a teacher and all.”
Sienna rolled her eyes and said her goodbyes to the rest of the teachers. They protested her leaving so early, but she begged off by saying she had too much work tomorrow and needed to make it an early night.
When she stood to leave, Mark stepped back to allow her to pass in the narrow space. Her arm brushed against his chest, and she heard his breath hitch. Her body sang with all the bells and whistles of sudden desire just from that momentary collision. But she wasn’t going to let her body lead the conversation. So what if he was smoldering hot with a silky smooth voice? It didn’t make up for his actions tonight.
She strode to the stairs; her flats slapped against the tile. She could feel him right behind her, though he didn’t touch her as they climbed the stairs. It wasn’t until they were outside in the chilly October night that he said anything. “Sienna, I don’t want you to misunderstand this situation.”
She rounded on her heel and glared at him. “Everything looks perfectly clear to me. You’re on a date with Mia tonight, and you wanted to take me out tomorrow. What is this, a competition between your children’s teachers?”
He took her arms and pleaded, “No, it’s not that way at all.”
She shrugged out of his grip and said, “You could’ve at least told me you were coming to the Happy Hour so I would’ve been prepared or better yet stayed at home.”
“I didn’t know this was where your Happy Hour was. I didn’t even know I was going out with Ms. Warren. It’s a blind date, and I didn’t recognize her name.”
“She’s your daughter’s teacher!”
“Yeah, but I always call her Ms. Warren. I didn’t know her first name was Mia.”
“You knew my name.” Her voice mimicked his, “Call me Mark, Sienna.”
“That’s because I’ve been crazy about you since the first day of school.”
Sienna took a step back, too shocked to reply. Then the door opened, and Mia appeared. A breeze blew her hair back like she was in a perfume commercial, making her a striking compliment to Mark. “Everything okay with Tyler?” she asked with a voice that really said, “What are you doing alone with my man?”
Mark kept his eyes on Sienna, who finally found her voice. “If you’re so crazy about me, why are you on a blind date at all?”
She turned and strode down the sidewalk. She heard Mia plead with Mark to come back, and Mark made no objection. The pain in her heart was much sharper than it should’ve been. The headlights of passing cars seemed to shine like a spotlight on her, showing the world how vulnerable she’d made herself again. With relief she turned a corner onto a darker street and found her car. As she unlocked the door, she heard Mark calling to her.
When Sienna left for her car, Mark followed Mia but stopped just inside the door. He said, “Thanks for sharing a drink with me, but I think it’s a bad idea for you and I to date.”
Mia narrowed her eyes and said, “But it’s okay to date Sienna? She’s a teacher too.”
“You being a teacher isn’t the issue. You’re beautiful and fun-loving and very much like my ex-wife. There’s a reason we’re divorced. You would find out all too soon what a boring asshole I am.”
“I’m sure that’s not–”
“I’m sorry Ms. Warren.” He opened the door again and ran down the sidewalk in the direction he’d seen Sienna heading. He heard the click of her car remote before he saw her, and he called out to her. For one moment they stared in each other’s eyes, but then Sienna climbed in her car and drove off.
“Damn it,” he yelled to the streetlamp buzzing overhead. Walking back to his own car, he tried to figure out how he’d make things right with Sienna. Maybe tomorrow he could reason with her back at the coffee shop, where she seemed much more relaxed.