Chapter 2

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“It’s fine, Grandma. It’s not that busy for me to need help just yet. Okay. Yes. Yes. Don’t worry.”
Grandma continued to tell me how much she appreciated me coming over to stay. To be honest, she was doing far more for me than I, her. After a major breakup with my controlling boyfriend of five years, I had to call it quits and start again somewhere else. The small town of Pagosa Springs seemed ideal. It was mainly families and the elderly, which kept it comforting and quiet. Right now it was tourist season, the sun showered over the high peaks of dusty mountains and glimmered on the reservoirs and rivers to make them look sprinkled with jewels. People mopped their brows and carried rucksacks that held large bottles of water for a long hike. The town was so vibrant and welcoming, but not to the point of pushing it in my face.
Ditching my career as a scientist and reopening late Grandpa Joe’s hardware store felt like a good a way to erase my past. I wasn’t all that happy with the way things were at work anyway. I hadn’t enjoyed being cooped up in a lab any more than being told what to do by my ex. I needed something simple, less competitive, and with less responsibility. Here, I only needed to help people fix a door handle, not try and cure some lifelong disease. I just hoped that Trent wouldn’t come looking for me and ruin my freedom.
“Okay. I’ll see you tonight at dinner. Yep. Bye Grandma.”
I grabbed the ledger and got to work figuring out how much more we needed to spend to keep the store afloat till fall. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed two guys and a girl talking pensively across the street. Well, one was a boy, the other one seemed more my age, around late twenties. His brows were furrowed; it looked as though they never parted. His lips were tense as he spoke from the corner of his mouth as he peered around.
I looked away; even from afar his eyes were intense. Not the stern kind like Trent, but with an edge of danger. I had no doubt he would be trouble, yet somewhere beneath that hard exterior and fallen-angel face seemed to be a tortured soul. Maybe even more tortured than mine. But I’d had it with gorgeous and serious guys. My last boyfriend was enough to last me a lifetime.

I took another peek and noticed he was coming over to the store. I wasn’t ready to see him up close. He was getting angrier with every step.
I scurried away from the counter and busied myself with the cylinder full of stock for sale that needed moving hours ago.
The door jingled behind me and made me cringe. I imagined his frown had deepened at the sound of it.
The cylinder turned out to be too heavy. I should have done something where I wouldn’t have needed help. Not that this guy or the others in the store seemed likely candidates. Still, I had to move and avoid being approached. I could … sweep. Yes, I’d sweep.
“Need any help with that?”
I flinched at the sound of his deep rumbling voice. When I turned around I wasn’t expecting him to be so close. His expression remained neutral. His hypnotic eyes held a note of interest, probably at how out of place I looked.
I braced myself before speaking. I couldn’t let him, or any other guy see that they had an affecting on me. I wasn’t giving anyone that kind of power again. “Oh, would you? That would be great.”
His smile was the killer kind. Not murderous, just capable of stopping your heart.

I pointed over to the corner to tear my eyes away from him. He stood there a moment as if weighing up my response.
I didn’t care if I was coming across as rude. I just needed him to stop looking at me so intently … so absorbed. I was nothing much to admire. I was kind of weak, a failure. I had allowed a guy to manipulate me because I’d thought he could change. Love really did make you dumb.
He finally moved and I caught the scent of burned wood and forest pines. I wouldn’t have guessed he was an outdoors type. More like a nocturnal recluse.
He picked up the cylinder with one hand and placed it in the corner. I couldn’t help but be impressed. He seemed taken aback by my surprise.
“Wow, you just lifted that like it was a bag of sugar.”

He frowned. “I … keep fit.” He brushed by me as if he were in as much of a hurry to escape me as I, him. I grabbed his arm and squeezed it before I could rationalize why. “Oh, just checking.” I winked, then hurried over to the counter to serve my first and likely only customer for the day.

My heart thumped. I couldn’t shake off a strange tingling sensation that lingered on my hand from his skin. A part of me didn’t want to.
It had been a long time since anyone had made me feel any kind of tingling. It seemed like decades since a man’s touch had ignited any feelings in me other than dread and fear.
I was afraid of this guy too. I’d only been in his presence a few minutes and he’d already made me feeling things I hadn’t for a long time, maybe ever. He was the mysterious type, the obvious candidate to distract myself with after a sour break up, only I sensed a lot of it his demeanor was an act. There were hidden depths that even he had lost touch with, emotion he’d rather not face.
I related, and that was what really scared me about him.
I didn’t dread the thought of being around him.
I seemed to crave it.

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