The Love Charm
Published by: eXtasy Books
Author : Evelyn Starr
Word Count :71750
Publication Date :2010-08-25
Series : #
Heat Level :
- Product Code: 978-1-55410-100-9
Miles Ashton doesn't have a clue what's hit him. Survivor of the collapse of the World Trade Center and the loss of his fiancée and all his co-workers, he wasn't ready for anything to hit him. Ever again. But then he meets JoJo Hammond, would-be novelist and unenthusiastic interior decorator, on the streets of Chinatown, and nothing is the same. The old woman in the Chinatown alleyway claims the thing she gave JoJo is a love charm, guaranteed to bring the "right" people together. But Miles isn't so sure. And neither is JoJo. Because doesn't everyone know there's no such thing as a love charm?
This was destiny. Had to be. The not-entirely-welcome news broke over him with a shock. He wasn't ready for destiny, but it sure as hell seemed to be ready for him...seemed to be past ready. Something in the air, or maybe in the sunshine that poured down from that astoundingly blue and cloudless sky into the street outside, had started to shout at him. Had ordered him to sit up and take notice, because it...destiny, or fate, or whatever the hell else he wanted to call it...had come to a decision.
He was to be with JoJo. He'd been summoned to Chinatown today so that he could be with her, and that was that. Period. End of story.
"Shit." He said it before he thought about it.
JoJo's eyes widened, and her expression changed to one of surprise. Or maybe of shock.
Grabbing his own cup, Miles gulped the pale-amber tea down, leaves and all, once again wishing it was something a hell of a lot stronger.
"You know," she said slowly. "I don't want to be here any more than you do."
Miles glared at her. What the devil was that supposed to mean, anyway? He waited while the waitress, who'd apparently decided to hover near their table in case he went suddenly and uncontrollably berserk and started trashing the place, poured more tea. Then, picking up the cup, he gulped it down again, barely noticing that it was hot or that it burned his tongue and the roof of his mouth.
"I don't understand this," JoJo went on. "No more than you do. I don't know you, for God's sake, so I don't know what I'm doing...I don't make it a habit to just pick up strange men in the street."
"I never said you did."
And that seemed to be that. She didn't say anything else. She just kept staring. With eyes so incredibly beautiful, so fantastic that his cock kicked again. Harder. So hard it was all he could do to not grab it and try to massage it back into submission.
"My name is Miles Ashton," he declared after a while, as if that explained everything. As if that made it perfectly all right for her to have just scooped him up and carted him away on some kind of strange and whirling cloud of...
Or had he scooped her?
Hell. His hand twitched when his cock did, wanting to reach down and adjust. To caress, and fondle, and find...please God...a little relief.
He didn't have a clue about anything. Except that she was gorgeous.
"You told me that before." Putting her teacup down, she folded her hands together and leaned her chin on them. She smiled. Her sweeter-than-sweet mouth curved up at the corners, a dimple appeared in one soft-and-smooth cheek, and her strawberry-lips parted a little. Just enough to drive him insane all over again with the need to kiss her. "Tell me something I don't know."
"What would you like to know?" Brilliant. He wished he could kick himself. He might have tried, if his legs hadn't gone so weak. If all their substance hadn't been diverted into the shamelessly-rearing monster between them, so that he couldn't have moved them if he'd been inclined to try.
"Tell me who you are. Besides Miles Ashton, I mean. Tell me what you're doing in Chinatown on a Tuesday afternoon when everybody else in the city is working. Tell me why that cabbie wanted to kill you."
He made an effort. He relaxed. A little. "The last one's easy. The damned fool tried to run me down when I was crossing the street. I took exception to his God-given right to own the whole damned place. And he took exception to my exception. It's only...you're not from New York, are you?"
Her smile melted away. Turned into a small and slightly defensive frown. "And just how do you know that?"
"If you were, you'd know that a cabbie trying to kill an innocent pedestrian is just a normal day in Paradise."
"And the rest?" Obviously unaware of the war that had started up inside him...grab her and kiss her, maybe even toss her to the floor and have his way with her? Or don't grab, don't kiss, don't have anything...? JoJo smiled again.
"What do you do?"
"I'm...uh..." Now, how the hell was he supposed to answer that? How the hell was he supposed to tell this woman he'd just met, the most gorgeous one he'd ever met who'd apparently been dropped straight down out of a clear blue sky and tossed literally right under his feet when he hadn't been looking, that he didn't do anything? That he was a living mess who wasn't capable of doing anything? How on God's green earth was he supposed to look her straight in the eye and say 'I have a dead fiancé and the firm I worked for just up and disappeared in a cloud of smoke one fine day, and now I feel guilty that I'm alive?' How was he supposed to tell her he felt so guilty that'd he'd talked himself into all kinds of syndromes...half a dozen of them, whose names he couldn't even pronounce?
How the hell was he supposed to tell her any of that and not expect her to run for her life?
If there was one thing in the world Miles certain as hell understood, it was running for your life. He'd been there. Done it. And he wouldn't blame JoJo Hammond one good little goddamned bit if she leaped up from the table this instant and did it for herself. Just barreled into the street, arms flailing, screaming that she'd just confronted something ugly. So ugly that it...
"Well?" Her eyebrows went up. She was waiting. So he had to say something. "That was a pretty simple question, Miles. What do you do for a living?"
"I used to do a little investment counseling," he hedged carefully, about to enter a minefield and determined at all costs...at whatever cost...to avoid it.
"Investments? On Wall Street, you mean?"
"And now?" God, she wasn't going to let it go, was she? "That's what you used to do. But what about now? What do you do now?"
"What do you do?"
She scowled. "I asked you first."
He sighed. Bit back a groan. Fiddled with his tea cup, took a bite of sweet bun that wasn't really all that sweet, swallowed it and fiddled with his cup again. "Not much," he admitted finally. "I've had some...issues. I had to drop out for a while, and I've spent a lot of time in Connecticut the past couple of years."
Her eyebrows went up even more. "Connecticut? I've never been there. I hear it's beautiful."
"It is." He looked out the window at the street.
Because he was afraid she might read the truth in his eyes?
"Do you have a house there, or..."
"It was my Dad's place. It's where I grew up, and...look, I don't know what's happened here. Why you...we..."
Biting down on her lip with a force he could almost feel in his own lips and could most certainly taste, she stared into her cup and colored the same bright, unabashed pink as her little off-kilter skirt. "And you think I do?"
"JoJo." Reaching out across the small square of their table, Miles caught her chin in his hand and lifted it.
She blushed again. Turned downright red this time. "What?"
"I don't understand this. It's not like I...I mean, I never expected..."
Goddamn it, anyway. How the hell was he going to explain what he was feeling? How he felt, without going into all that other stuff?
How the hell could he tell her he wanted her...wanted every fiber of her body and her soul, wanted to take her to bed and do things to her in ways he'd never, ever done them before, when he didn't deserve to have her?
How in the hell was he going to tell her, and more importantly, how in the hell was he going to get himself out of this?
Thankfully, he didn't have to. "I know," she murmured. "I didn't expect anything like this, either. I feel like...I don't know...like I've been struck by lightning. I don't know how else to explain it."
So. She felt the same way he did.
That wasn't good. Not good at all.
Biting back a groan, he grabbed her hand so suddenly it startled the ever-loving crap out of him and dragged her to her feet. He groped in his pocket, dropped a twenty onto the table and without a word, without so much as a second's thought, pulled her toward the door.
"Where are we going?"
"Christ on a cruise ship, I don't know. I can't think straight, woman. I can't even..."
"But the sweet buns!" Reaching back at the last possible instant, she scooped one off the plate. "We've barely..."
"All I know," he growled, dragging her into the street. "Is that we can't stay here."