I smoothed the black blazer I wore over the coffee brown silk shirt, resisting the need to check my hair. As usual, when I was trying to look like a grown up, I had my mass of hair pulled back into a tight, high bun and wore more makeup than usual. For a moment, I considered grabbing my briefcase. It was like a safety blanket for me, a visible icon that said I was a serious businesswoman, but thought it might be overkill for this situation. I was simply going to ask Mr. and Mrs. Roja to please make sure their offspring showed up to his tutoring sessions…otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to afford my books next semester.
Well, I probably shouldn’t mention my tale of financial woe to people with a three-story mansion, but I was out of options.
Wide, grey and white marble steps led up to the dark maroon painted front door of the house. Beautiful cut glass inserts flanked the entrance on either side, and potted flowers added a touch of color.
I pressed the button for the doorbell, mentally berating myself for the crappy condition of my nails with half the pink polish worn off.
When no one answered, I rang again, wondering if anyone was home, or if it just took twenty minutes to walk from one end of the massive place to the other.
I was just getting ready to ring a third time when the door opened with a rush. My breath caught as I took in the man standing before me. Probably in his late twenties, I swear he was the sexiest and most dangerous man I’d ever seen, but the sneer curving his beautiful, full lips wasn’t exactly welcoming.
When I glanced up, I caught a glimpse of his eyes—gorgeous dark brown flecked with amber and green, highlighted by his cinnamon brown skin. He studied me with a cold detachment that made me want to shrink into myself, those intense eyes framed by wide cheekbones and well-arched brows. His dark black hair, long enough that it swept over his forehead, almost covered his eyes as he cocked his head to examine me. I allowed myself a quick darting look down his body, taking in the wide shoulders hidden behind his black, button up shirt, the thick chest, and powerful arms all tapering down to a trim waist. His black dress slacks fit him perfectly and, as he leaned against the doorframe with a bored expression, his gold watch flashed in the sunlight. A hint of a tattoo on the side of his neck peeked through, and I could see the shadowy suggestion of more ink on his wrists that trailed down to the back of his left hand in the form of a stylized climbing rose vine.
Across his square jaw, he had a thick, dark shadow that only grown men got when they haven’t shaved in a few days.
Damn, he was sexy, dangerous catnip to any woman with a single working hormone in her body.
Then he totally ruined my pervy fantasy by opening his mouth. “What do you want?”
His lightly accented, harsh tone and arrogant, disgusted expression snapped me out of my admiration. “I need to speak with Jacob, please.”
“He’s busy. You can talk to me.”
I gritted my teeth but forced my hands to remain relaxed at my sides. “Fine then, Mr….?”
“My name is none of your fucking business.”
I jerked back. “Excuse me?”
He gestured to the drive behind me, his gold watch reflecting the light. “Look, bitch, whatever you’re selling out of your piece of shit car, we ain’t buying.”
“What? No, I’m here about Jacob. I’m not selling anything. He owes me money.”
His pretty upper lip curled in obvious distaste as he scanned me up and down, his eyes lingering on my breasts for a little too long before he sneered. “Let me guess, he knocked you up? You need money for an abortion?”
His Latin accent thickened as he crossed his muscled forearms over his broad chest, the gold and diamond watch on his wrist catching my attention again with its sparkles. “Whatever bullshit you had in mind coming here, you can forget it now. He’s never gonna be your baby daddy, so I don’t know what strip club or escort service—”
“Escort service! Did you just call me a whore?”
“I see how you’re eyeing my watch, trying to figure out how much money you can get from it. But you can forget that shit, because I would never touch a puta like you.”
My hands clenched down painfully into fists and I took a step forward, crowding him in the doorway and catching a hint of alcohol on his breath. Great, I get to deal with a drunk asshole. Why me? Seriously, what did I do to piss off karma to deserve this?
Gathering myself, I hissed out, “I’m not a stripper, you arrogant fuck. I’m short and I have to wear heels to come even close to looking people in the eye. I’m Jacob’s tutor! Not his ‘baby mama’ or a whore, thank you very much.”
His snort of derision made me see red. “Right, tutor? With those tits? Get back in your car, trailer park Barbie, and drive away, before I make you leave. You’re not the first gold digging stripper to show up claiming he’s the baby’s daddy.”
“I am not a stripper!”
He took out his wallet with a sigh, pulled out a few one hundred dollar bills, then tossed them at me where they fluttered to the ground between our feet. “There, that should cover his lap dances. Now, get the fuck out.”
As I stared at the money laying on the glowing wood floor between our shoes, something inside of me snapped.
I don’t think I’ve been so mad in my entire life. He actually took a step back when I moved into his personal space then grabbed the front of his shirt to keep him from backing up further as I stared up—way up—at him. “I don’t know what kind of messed up, misogynistic world you live in, but a woman’s breast size has nothing to do with the size of her brain. I am not a fucking stripper! I am Jacob’s tutor at ASU, an honor student working on eventually getting my PHD in education. Jacob hasn’t been showing up to his appointments for the last three weeks! He promised me he would be there, and he broke his word. Now, I need to speak to Jacob, and I need to do it right fucking now, or so help me…” I trailed off for a moment, not sure what his name was, then went with my initial pet name, “You arrogant dick, I will make you regret the day you were born.”
“Too late,” he said in a bitter voice, but something in his eyes sparked to life. The sneer curving his rather nice lips softened. Hell, his entire face warmed in a way that made me distinctly uncomfortable. “Do I know you?”
I wanted to look around to see if I was on one of those prank shows with the hidden cameras.
His pupils widened as he slowly examined my face, that disconcerting warmth turning to full on heat. “Do I know you? You seem…familiar.”
“Are you high?”
“Excuse me.” A woman’s husky voice came from my left. “I’m Mrs. Roja, and who might you be? And why are you roughing up my nephew?”
I turned to see an older Hispanic woman with long black and grey streaked hair standing at the base of the stairs. Her cheeks were nicely rounded, which should have given her a kind old woman look, but her gaze was pure ice. A flush burned my cheeks as I realized I was still holding onto the arrogant asshole’s shirt, which I quickly released and then smoothed into place. As I did that, I realized the man’s heart was thundering beneath my palm, and that his skin was warm, so warm. Mrs. Roja cleared her throat, and I snatched my hand away from his chest, feeling guilty like I was caught groping him instead of trying to fix the damage I’d done to his pristine look.
“Ah…uh, I’m sorry. My name is Joy Holtz, and I’m Jacob’s math tutor at ASU.” I cleared my throat then licked my lips, trying to gather myself after my temper tantrum. “He hasn’t shown up to his tutoring appointments for the last two weeks, despite his promises to do so. Normally I wouldn’t bother you with this, but I don’t get paid if he doesn’t show up and…well, I need the money for tuition next semester. He’s missed three sessions. I could have used that time to tutor other clients, but each Jacob swears he’ll be there, then he isn’t. I’ve tried to hold him accountable for this, but he’s avoided me at every turn, which left me no alternative but to come here. I’m so sorry for interrupting your day, but this is important. Not just for me, but for Jacob. He’s going to fail out of school, and I’d hate to see that happen to anyone, but he’s going to leave me no choice but to report him to the school.”
Her lips thinned, and I swallowed hard at the anger filling her deep brown eyes. “No, I completely understand. I’m so embarrassed you’ve had to take time from your no doubt busy schedule to come here. I know who you are, Ms. Holtz. You were highly recommended by the Dean of the Education Department. I was hoping you could perform a miracle with Jacob and get his academic affairs in order.”
I couldn’t help but glow a bit about the words of praise from my usually prickly boss. “Thank you, but I’m afraid it’s going to take a miracle for Jacob to pass at this point, unless he really applies himself.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Roja said in an ominous voice that made me faintly alarmed for Jacob, “that won’t be an issue. I’ll be having a talk with my son about responsibility, and I assure you he will be most eager to do whatever you wish. You have my word.”
I let out a mental sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“Ramón,” she snapped. I darted a glance at the handsome, brooding man now staring at me in a rather disconcerting manner. “Pick up that money. This poor young woman is going to think all the men in this family are ill-mannered animals. Dios, wait until I tell your mother about this.”
I gave Ramón a good glare as he picked up the money he’d thrown at me, then mouthed the word ‘asshole’ at him.
Instead of looking pissed or embarrassed, he smiled at me suddenly in weird way that made the hair on the back of my neck want to stand up. His entire face softened, and I swear his dark eyes were near dancing with laughter. When his gaze dropped to my lips, my stomach filled with a thousand tingling, bursting bubbles. Something…powerful passed between us as he stood and gave me a long, slow look. Before I could protest, he crossed the room and took my hand gently in his own.
The moment our skin touched, a riot of pleasant tingles raced through me. I found my breath picking up. This close, I could smell his sinfully spicy cologne, could admire the perfectly sculpted bow of his upper lip. He had a great mouth, almost pouty, the kind that reminded me of stars from the silent movie era. I bet those lips would feel like velvet against my own. Soft as pillows.
“Please, Joy,” he said in a low voice that seemed to flick my clit. “Accept my apologies. I—well, there is no excuse for the way I treated you. I was an ass. You can smack me if you want. I know if my mother was here, she’d be whacking the back of my head right now for being such a—what did you call me? Ah, yes, an arrogant dick, wasn’t it?”
Ann Mayburn.Sweetest Obsession.Kindle Locations 112-194.Kindle Edition.