“It’s so good to see you, Josh. How long are you here for?”
“Easy there, Auntie Bea, you’re too strong for me like this. Going to crack my ribs.” Even as he teased, he hugged his only living relative. The woman who had raised him.
She tsked and stepped back to look at him. “A bit thin, but some of my cooking will fix that right up. Now, how long are you staying?” She propped her hands on her hips.
Josh “Helter Skelter” Jones thought about his answer before allowing it to leave his mouth. This was his hometown. Not that he knew everyone, but he was damn sure that his aunt did. Known on his team for being a man-whore, he had no intentions of dipping anything of his into a woman here because it would only lead to headache for him because of his Auntie Bea. So, giving some time for her here would work. That would leave time for him to be another anonymous face in a large city to get some pussy before he needed to go back. He had no problems splitting his time half and half, he’d not seen her in a while.
“Two weeks,” he said, wrapping an arm back around her and resting his cheek on the top of her head. Even now, she still smelled like fresh baked goods, as she’d done when he had been growing up.
“Valentine’s Day? They don’t give you enough time off. That’s hardly any time for us to catch up. Or for you to meet this lovely little woman I think would be perfect for you, and why are you shaking your head at me?”
“Not here to find a woman, Auntie Bea. I’m here to visit you.”
Once again, she stepped away from him and turned to look up in his direction. “Are you into men? I mean, that’s fine, I still love you, but there are some nice ones of those around as well.”
“I’m not gay, but I am glad you would still love me. I just don’t have time for any relationship right now, not with work keeping me as busy as they do.”
She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes but didn’t speak for a few moments. “Need to get married and have some babies, if you want my opinion.”
Can’t say that I do. “I’ll think about it, but please, I’m here to see you, not have you play matchmaker.”
She held up her hands and adopted a look he didn’t buy for a minute. Shaking his head, he reached for his bags and followed her into the two-story Colonial-style house. This was where he’d grown up, had his skinned knees, broken bones, had fights, hell, even stolen his first kiss.
“I’ll be right back down,” he tossed over his shoulder as he hurried up to his childhood room.
Staring out of the window that overlooked the backyard to the neighbors, he wondered who was there now. The Ackermen family had been there when he’d grown up. Their son and he had gotten into many scrapes together. David had died as he drove his truck across country and had fallen asleep at the wheel. That had been seven years ago.
A little girl with nut-brown skin and two black braids highlighted with green ribbons stepped out and climbed onto the swing. He smiled and stepped back. His aunt must be in hog heaven. She adored kids.
After heading downstairs and outside, he sat with her out on the back porch, he groaned at the first bite of the chocolate silk pie. “No matter where I go in the world, Auntie Bea, nothing compares to what you bake.”
“Sweet-talker, you. If you’d turn that tongue toward a woman, you could have a wife by now.”
He kept his comment to himself and instead just lifted a shoulder. “It’s not easy being married to a Marine. I’m not home much, as you know.”
“Please,” she scoffed. “You like sleeping around and not having any responsibility when it comes to being a husband.”
“Boy, don’t take that tone with me. I raised you and I watched you chase all those skirts. I don’t think now that you’re in a uniform that’s changed. Quite the opposite, I would suspect, making it all the easier for you to get women.”
“I’m not that bad,” he protested, even though he knew it was a flat-out lie.
She pinned a look on him as she poured herself some more tea.
“I saw a little girl next door—who’s the family and how happy are you to be able to spoil her?”
The segue worked because his aunt’s face split in a wide grin. “That’s Laura Menzel. She’s seven and completely adorable. They moved in about five years ago. I’m sure she’ll be over here later. She likes to come for cookies.”
“And the parents?”
“Dad’s a doctor and mom is a cop.” She drank some tea. “Frank and Georgia.”
“I look forward to meeting them.”
They caught up for another hour. He had the chance to meet Laura as she popped over as his aunt said she would then he headed off to join some friends from school and get some shopping done for her.
As he left the shopping market, he opened the back door of his cab and put the bags on the seat. He’d just shut the door when he heard a very distinctive feminine voice release a string of curses that had him smiling even as he turned to find out what the issue was.
Nothing. He couldn’t see anyone. But he trusted his ears and turned a full circle twice more before he saw her push up from beside her vehicle. Cute figure, hair shoved into a ball cap and that was about all he could tell from there. Another stream of curses exploded from her. Aside from the knowledge that she swore like a sailor, he had no clue who it was.
Locking his truck, he cleared his throat as he neared her and the blue Malibu. “Can I help, ma’am?”
She turned and he no longer had any air in his lungs—she’d sucked it all from him. Holy fucking shit.
She ran her brown eyes over him in an assessing manner, one, to be frank, he believed to be full of doubt. “Only if you are capable of changing a tire.”
The sun glinted off her brown-sugar skin. He’d had friends tell him that it wasn’t right to refer to a woman’s skin color as food, but damn it, he loved brown sugar and right now, he wanted more than anything to taste her. Large eyes framed by thick curved lashes gave her an erotic look.
“I am.” He stepped forward and offered his hand. “Josh Jones.”
She accepted and he realized her problem. The cast on her arm. “Neyda Hughes.” She gave a slight smile and he would have tripped if he’d been walking. As it was, his heart did it for him. “Figures this happens on the last day of my cast wearing. I would have been fine had this happened an hour from now. Of course, then I wouldn’t be driving this piece of shit but riding my… I’m sorry. I would love some assistance if you don’t mind.”
Hell no, he didn’t mind. “Happy to help any beautiful lady in distress.”
Suspicion filled her gaze. He held still, doing his damnedest to appear innocent.
“Josh Jones,” she said, flicking her tongue over her lips, teasing him with a flash of her rainbow tongue piercing.
“Have we met?”
“Possibly. Did you graduate from Lowery High?”
Willing his heart to stop skipping beats, he nodded. “I did. Quite a few years ago.”
She pursed her lips while skimming him with her gaze. “You were a four sporter.” His eyebrow went up. “Football, basketball, baseball and wrestling.”
“Now I’m curious, I know we didn’t go to the same grade. Did we?”
How the fuck did I not see her in school?
“No, you graduated with my sister.”
He shrugged. “And she would be?”
There was a blast from the past. Her name he knew. Most of the guys in their school did. To say she’d been liberal with her affections would have been the understatement of the century.
“Rika. Yes, I remember her.”
She snorted. “I just bet you do.”
He cleared his throat, nervous and unable to pull up a visual of her sister to save his life. A woman he’d slept with multiple times throughout school. The woman before him had blindsided him.
“Sorry,” he said. “Didn’t mean for it to sound that way.”
She waved her cast-covered hand. “Please, it’s not a secret my sister was one of the school whores. No need to apologize.”
“I don’t remember you.”
“Most don’t, especially when they realize who my sister is.”
Josh swallowed and moved to the open trunk. He had to do something or his words were going to get him further into trouble with this enticing vixen before him.
Words weren’t exchanged again until he’d finished replacing the tire. As he hefted the flat tire back into the trunk, he cut his gaze to her. She stood there, no expression on her face.
“There you go.” He announced the obvious. “All fixed.”
Her gaze softened. “I can’t thank you enough.”
“How about dinner?” The earth moved again when she tilted up her lips.
There went that smile he was hoping to see. “I don’t think that’s a smart idea. But I would be happy to pay you for your time.”
“No money. I want a date.”
“Sorry.” She stepped up to him, brushing her full chest against him, unmindful of the grease on his clothing and skin. “Thank you, Josh Jones.” Neyda gave him a light kiss on the corner of his mouth before stepping back and climbing in her car and driving off.
His heart skipped more than one beat.