Corrine tucked her keys in her purse and, with precise steps on her discounted designer stiletto heels, marched into Holiday Market on a mission. To wipe her crappy day away, she needed her girls tonight. Her best friends, Ginger and Melody, already said they were ready to commiserate with the tidal wave of emotions she was feeling.
Corrine planned to pull together some cheese, crackers, and wine. Lots of wine.
She sighed and was hit with a whoosh of hot air as the sliding doors closed out the cold air behind her. December had arrived with a miserable portion of wet and wintery with a portion of slushy on the side. She swiped at her hair, an array of tangledly wet strands that probably matched her mascara tear-streaked face. She hadn’t dared look into a mirror.
Embarrassed because of her wrecked face, and the random time’s tears decided to make their presence known, Corrine wiped her cheeks. She wouldn’t let anything stop her from getting her multiple bottles of wine. And food. She couldn’t forget the food. “Hell, who cares about food.”
As she grabbed a cart Corrine knew people were staring. She didn’t care. It wasn’t any worse than finding out your sister was sleeping with your fiancé. “Ha!”
Corrine’s meeting in Birmingham had been canceled so she’d decided to surprise him with a floor picnic. His office was in the same building, so she’d gone to the small grocery store on the corner and picked up a few of his favorite things and a bottle of wine. She knew he’d be in because he was pushing through a major project and he always forgot to eat.
She sniffled and reached for some raspberries as her thoughts of what she’d seen tumbled through her mind. “Yuck, yuck, yuck!” A woman also reaching for some raspberries, looked at her, and pulled her hand back slowly like any sudden movement would have her turning rabid and biting it off.
“Sorry,” Corrine mumbled as she moved on.
On to the deli, she started throwing cheese of all kinds in her cart. Eyeing the summer sausage, she took a few of those for a well-balanced meal. Next was bread. She needed something to sop up all the wine she was going to drink. “Right.”
Her twin sister, Cory, had always been the bur in her designer shoe causing her to limp through life. She should have known something like what she walked in on would have happened. And every time the bur dug deeper into Corrine’s skin she would forgive Cory for what she’d done. They were hitting twenty-seven this year. How many more times could she forgive her sister, she asked herself. This might be the first time she thought about finally walking away. So much pain was intertwined with the love she felt for her twin.
Corrine grabbed a tissue from her pocket, wiped her nose again and then turned down toward the seafood.
“Two pounds of shrimp, please.”
The Seafood person stared open-mouthed at her. She must look pretty scary to cause the man’s reaction to freeze on his face. Corrine glared at him. He closed his mouth and got the food she asked for.
“Thank you,” she said with forced politeness. He nodded and handed her the paper wrapped package.
Turning down the canned food aisle she picked up pickles and some small white beans. A nice vinaigrette would add some tang to the beans, mixed along with a sweet onion, to balance it out. It would pair well with the baguette she had grabbed. She loved the bean recipe. It was fresh and flavorful with the salt and pepper and onion. And who cared about bad breath? Maybe she would add more onion just in case David decided to stop by and try to apologize.
Her phone signaled. She ignored it. It was probably David the Douche. “Who slept with my fucking sister.”
A gasp came from her left.
“Sorry,” Corrine raced away again. The woman was someone from her church. No doubt the woman would go gabbing to her mother and father. “Crap.”
Arriving at row after row of wine bottles, Corrine grabbed her favorites since saving money wasn’t on her mind. Getting drunk to forget was.
She gazed into her cart at the obscene amount of red, white and pink colors staring back at her and shrugged. Oh, well, she thought. Her friends would help her drink through them all.
“Whatever. Ice cream.”
The multiple freezer doors called to her. She steamrolled around a man crouching in front of an open door toward the ice cream she favored but the little cream puffs covered in chocolate ganache caught her attention across the aisle. Spinning her cart around with careless speed she focused on those cream puffs.
She grabbed a couple boxes and spun back around aiming for her Stroh’s ice cream. Before she could reach out for the handle her heel slipped out from under her. Her feet flew up as her ass went down and what followed was her head knocking on the floor inviting China to open up the door to the other side of the world.
Corrine saw stars of black skate across her view. She blinked, her eyelids the only thing moving. The edges fading, as the stars increased in number causing her site to be enveloped by complete darkness. Almost.
Was someone talking to her?
Lips moving. What was he saying?
“Are you okay, miss?”
His hands felt nice. She looked at her feet.
“Should I call an ambulance,” a woman somewhere asked.
I didn’t hear an answer.
“Miss?” the voice said as her hand was squeezed.
That’s when Corrine came back to herself and looked up.
All she could think of was the quote that went something like, you can see into the soul of someone through their eyes. Whoever said it knew what they were talking about. Staring into her own was an exquisite pair offset by strong cheekbones and the darkest of darkest hair. Those eyes were caught behind a million black lashes. The color of his eyes was that final second before the light went out in her world, and night captured the day. That line of black that held the blink of the darkest purple like the color of red wine but even darker.
She licked her lower lip as her breaths raced along with her heartbeat.
“Let’s sit you up.”
Corrine noticed he wore fatigues with a helicopter insignia on one shoulder.
“Ohh!” The room spun as the man helped her sit up. One of his hands shifted to her neck as the other still gripped her hand. When his fingers raked through her hair to move the wet hair off her forehead, she shivered. And not from the cold. But they moved further up, and she groaned again.
“You’ve got a nasty bump here.”
“Yeah, kind of guessed that, with the pain and all.”
Corrine looked up when she finished speaking and stopped breathing. He smiled. He had dimples. Two. On both sides of his face. She held in the moan that went along with all the dirty thoughts that unexpectedly popped up in her mind.
Things went fuzzy again.
“Hey, hey. Breath, miss.”
“Corrine,” she wheezed out.
“Huh?” he said and leaned in.
He smelled nice. “My name. It’s Corrine. Corrine Dennesey.”
She scooted her legs under her and suddenly they were both moving, his one arm wrapping around her as she wobbled to standing on her stilettos.
Corrine took him in, her eyes wandering. He was taller than her maybe a few inches above her five-nine. As he held her for one more instant before, unfortunately, setting her away, she swallowed the hum that almost would have reached his ears. He was a solid wall of muscle. She still held his biceps gripping harder than necessary until she gave one more squeeze and took a step back.
“Thank you. Ah?”
Corrine said again after she cleared her throat.
“Oh,” he laughed. “Ace.” He smiled down at her. She smiled back. “I mean, Aiden. But everyone calls me Ace.”
She reached out her hand. “Nice to meet you,” She paused, “Aiden.”
His eyes flared as she let his name slide off her tongue. What was wrong with her, she thought. Was she hitting on someone in a grocery store? She shook her head.
But then the intense heated moment was broken when he said, “You sure you’re alright?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
Aiden hadn’t let go of Corrine’s hand.
“And everything else?”
“What?” She was confused.
“Ah…” Aiden motioned to her face. “You’ve been crying.”
Corrine’s eyes widened. “Oh, God.” She was mortified. Her eyes were probably swollen and red, her cheeks tear and mascara-stained. She probably looked like that girl that’s being chased in a serial killer movie.
She fumbled through her purse grabbing another tissue to sop up some of her make-up smeared face. She was also trying to distract herself, so she wouldn’t verbally vomit all her problems onto his combat covered feet. But of course, his mild and soft demeanor, his caring and deeply seductive eyes had her doing it anyway.
“My sister decided to screw my fiancé and I just so happened to take lunch to my now ex-fiancé’s office. He was tucking in his shirt along with his cock,” she pronounced the last consonant with a harsh tongue. She laughed with a leaching edge of hysterics. “And it gets worse. My sister walked toward me while tying off my…my,” she pounded her chest, “favorite wrap around dress. And it was also David’s favorite. Her mouth was smeared with lipstick. Can you believe that?” Her voice hitched. “David’s mouth shared the same shade as her lips.” By the time Corrine’s words ended her anger and sadness were coming out through pants. Her forehead hit Aiden’s chest as almost all her weight fell on him causing his fingers to grip her arms, so she wouldn’t topple over.
“Sorry,” Corrine said to their feet. When she dared to look up with her embarrassment now beyond even the fourth-grade mishap when her sister “accidentally” pushed her out of the girl’s locker room in only her underwear. Her lips pinched together as she took in the anger on his face, a contradiction in emotions, to the way his fingers caressed her arms. “I’m,” she hiccoughed, “I’m a mess.”
His thumbs kept circling in a hypnotic rhythm and she almost forgot they were in the middle of the freezer aisle, his eyes never leaving hers. And then he cleared his throat and then stepped away.
She felt the loss and wanted it back. This man, this stranger made her feel inappropriate things. Corrine should be thinking about David and Cory and their betrayal, not wondering why this man, Aiden, seemed to make her want to burrow in his warmth. She sighed. He was a nice distraction from her life. But she didn’t need to be thinking about another guy. It just wasn’t right.
“Well, if you’re okay I’ve got to get going.”
Corrine nodded and tried to hide her wince. Aiden’s eyes narrowed at her.
“I’m fine,” she said.
He nodded once but didn’t move to leave. What was he waiting for?
Aiden cleared his throat, looked down to his combat boots and then back up to her and surprised her by asking, “Can I call you later?”
Corrine’s mouth opened, and her breath caught. Did he want to call her? She nodded but was still frozen. He wanted to call her. She was a mess and he still wanted to call her. He must be a saint, she thought.
“To see if you’re, all right?”
She kept nodding.
“Your phone number?”
“Oh, right, right,” she giggled.
Aiden pulled out his phone bringing up his contacts. Corrine input her digits and he texted her back–her phone rang–a smiley emoji popped up.
She bit her lip. He didn’t have to give her his number. Did he want to call her for something other than checking in with her? Her belly flipped over with desire she shouldn’t be feeling. She just caught David screwing her sister.
“Well, thank you for rescuing me, Aiden.”
“You’re very welcome, Corrine,” he said, giving her one last look from head to toe causing her to hold her breath. He turned and walked away and the view from behind was just as sexy as the front view.
She grabbed her cart and the ice cream she never got to and dialed Melody. “Did you get the Rocky Road,” her friend asked. But Corrine ignored the question speaking right over her, “You will never guess what happened!”