Don't Look

By: Jessa Kane

Maybe I should have stayed in the car. Eventually he would have come out and driven home. He never would have been the wiser that his neighbor from across the canyon was stowed out in his backseat. And I could have returned to my airless tower without getting caught. But no. With my father out of town, sneaking out had proven way too tempting. I’ll just tiptoe across the canyon, study the fascinating man through his living room window so I can paint him perfectly and go home! Perfect!

Yeah. My plan didn’t involve my subject stomping from the house at the exact moment I was creeping up his driveway. Why didn’t I just dive into a bush, instead of jumping into the backseat of his car? If I had, maybe I wouldn’t be inside this fire hazard of a building, still determined to memorize the grizzly bear man.

Now, he runs his tongue along the top row of his teeth and steps closer, almost into the V of my thighs. So close, my chair tips a little, but he reaches back and steadies it, the ancient wood creaking in his grip. “You take a wrong turn after Pilates or something?”

“I…” Whoa. Is it his deep voice tugging that string in my belly? “Huh?”

My neck is starting to hurt from looking up, up at him. Lord, he’s big. Bigger than he seemed the times I watched him on the balcony of his house. His beard is dense and black, only a few shades darker than the ink blue of his eyes—such a unique color I’m already mixing the paint in my head. And from the neck down…

I have to remind myself to breathe when my attention travels over crazy-wide shoulders and a barrel chest. He’s easily five times my size. And mean with it. No wonder that man who blocked the door surrendered. My subject appears capable of wrestling a bear. Or crushing cinderblocks in his fists.

His face comes closer to mine, his tongue poised on his lower lip. “I’m talking about your clothes, Goldie. Little bun huggers and a sports bra. Did you get lost on your way back to Calabasas from the gym?”

“I…” I didn’t expect anyone to see me. I was only supposed to be out of the house for twenty minutes. Spying on you. Can’t exactly tell him the truth, can I? “Yes. I, um. Was trying to avoid traffic and…I got turned around.” Frantically, I search my mind for the common phrases I hear coming from downstairs in my house. Anything to make me sound like a regular girl—and not a prisoner. “You know these LA freeways. They all look the same.”

My subject is definitely skeptical, but I’m saved when the bartender arrives with a beer, slapping it down in front of me. O-kay. Guess ordering a Sprite is out of the question. The bearded grizzly man takes my chin and turns my face back in his direction. “Where is your car now?”

“Around the corner.”

A muscle jumps in his cheek. “And you thought it was a better idea to walk in here half naked than to drive somewhere safe?”

If I’ve learned one thing from my criminal mastermind father, it’s how to evade questions. Even if I’ve only learned those skills by eavesdropping on our landline or listening to him conduct meetings through the heating grates. “Maybe I should have gone with the other guy.” I purse my lips and look over both shoulders. “He’s starting to seem like the nicer option.”

His chest muscles grow rigid. “I don’t do nice. But…you make me wish I could.” His hand leaves the back of my chair, burying in my hair, his mouth opening against my cheek. “What’s going on here? You and those eyes casting some kind of spell on me?”

A melting sensation starts in my middle, legs and arms and neck feeling all loosey-goosey. I haven’t had contact with another human since my mother passed away, my dad content with pats on the head once in a while. That must be why I want my subject to…pick me up and hold me and kiss me. Yes, kiss me. I’m under the influence of an endorphin rush, which probably accounts for the stupid thing I whisper into his beard. “Can I study your face in the light?”

He rears back a little, eyebrow raised. “What for?”

Good one, Hailey. “You have a really interesting nose?” I explain lamely. “I’ve always been fascinated by noses.”

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