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black roses

By:samantha christy

e-watching like me. He’s leaning casually on the wall, a foot pressed up against it behind him. He’s wearing a ball cap that’s covering what I think is blonde hair, but it’s not pulled low enough to hide his recklessly handsome features. He’s very tall, crick-in-your-neck tall. His chiseled good looks lean towards rugged and unruly, and the broad chest beneath his crossed muscular arms exemplifies power and strength. The short beard on his face is so light, it’s easy to miss if you don’t look closely.

Why am I looking closely?

Unlike a lot of other men, he’s not ogling women. He’s simply regarding each person he sees as if he’s trying to figure out their story—why are they here and where are they going?

I see a woman with super-model looks walk by him. I watch intently as they make brief eye contact. He acknowledges her with a lift of his chin and then moves his attention to the next person who walks by. I don’t miss the fact that the model turns her head and gives a longing look to the people-watching stranger. I snicker inwardly. I’ll bet she’s used to a lot more attention than he gave her.

A moment later, he springs off the wall and sprints over to a crying child. I gather from the boy’s hysterical demeanor that he’s lost his parents. The stranger gets down on his knees and within seconds, has the boy calm—smiling even. Shortly after, a woman runs up and scoops the child into her arms. It looks like she thanks the man as the boy whispers in her ear. She gets something out of her bag and the man scribbles on it. He gives it to the boy, and I’m not exactly sure why, but the boy is very excited about his mom getting this dude’s phone number for a hookup. The boy and the stranger high-five before he walks away.

Then something peculiar happens.

He looks at me. He looks at me and my knees go weak. They actually almost fail to hold me up. My heart thunders and my breath catches. My skin heats up and the hair on my arms stands on end. Good God—why am I having this reaction to a total stranger? Why am I having this reaction period? In all of my twenty-one, almost twenty-two years, this has never happened. I sit down on the nearest bench, wondering if maybe I picked up a flu bug on the plane.

I mean, he could be an axe-murderer. An axe-murderer who hangs around airports and gives his number to single mothers of scared little boys. Maybe he’s a pedophile who sits around looking for kids—that’s why he doesn’t pay much attention to women.

For some inexplicable reason, I can’t pull my eyes away. He doesn’t look at my boobs. His eyes don’t even stray from my face. He tilts his head to the side like he’s trying to figure out my story as he’d done with all the others. Then a slow, smug smile full of masculine arrogance creeps up his face.

I avert my eyes and send an all-caps text to Baylor asking where the hell she is. The tension of the flight and the toxins from the alcohol are getting to me. My head hurts. I reach up and free my hair from its constraints in the hair tie. I rub my temples and stretch my neck. Then I hear it.

His voice. The voice that slices into my skin like a knife through butter, permeating my entire being against every ounce of my will.

“Piper, right?”

Despite the smooth yet rugged sexiness of his voice, I start to panic. Oh, God. Who is he? How does he know me and what the hell does he want?

I can’t speak. Along with my wits, I try to gather my things as I contemplate running. But with my luggage, it’s not really an option. He must think I’m crazy.

He briefly removes his cap, running his fingers through his hair before putting it back on. “I’m your ride.”

chapter two


She’s gorgeous. It runs in the family, of course, and she’s a carbon copy of Baylor with the exception of her intense green eyes. They are the color of sparkling blades of grass in the sunlight just after the rain. But Piper has an exotic beauty that the others don’t have. Maybe it comes from her travels abroad. Maybe it’s her unusual hair. I normally don’t give a second look to women. Not ever. But right after I recognized her; when she reached up to pull the band from her hair and it fell down around her shoulders, my goddamn heart stopped. The tips of her honey-brown hair look like they’ve been dipped in black ink, framing her heart-shaped face that surely belongs on the cover of a magazine. Her wavy hair falls just below her collarbone and looks slightly longer in the front than in the back. Before I walked over to talk to her I had to step back. Compose myself. Take a breath. Much like I do right after the huddle and before the snap of the football.

“My ride?” Her face is pale and haunted. She looks at me like I’m the Grim Reaper. Her doe eyes assess me and I can almost see the questions racing around in her head. She pulls her shoulder-bag close against her body and looks behind me. “How do I know you’re my ride and not some psycho killer?”

I surmise from her reaction that Baylor didn’t tell her I was picking her up. I offer my hand in greeting. “I’m Mason, Griffin’s friend. Baylor sent me to get you.”

She regards my outstretched hand as if it might burn her. Her phone chirps and she glances down at it, reads the screen, then rolls her eyes. My guess is Baylor has just texted her. “Best man, huh?” she asks, looking slightly more amenable as she finally shakes my hand.

Her small hand is soft and a little damp. She’s nervous. I wonder if I made her that way or if it was flying that did it. I can’t help but notice how well her hand fits into mine. For a brief second, I wonder if she minds the calluses on my palms and then I remind myself that I really don’t care. “And you’re the maid of honor. Guess that means I’ll be walking you down the aisle,” I joke.

“Whatever.” She pulls her hand away and I immediately mourn the loss.

There’s only one other person whose touch has ever made me feel this way. I shake off the notion and