My Husband, My Stalker

By: Jessa Kane


I turn, walking in a fast clip down the sidewalk toward my house, but before I can veer down my front path, the handsome man I noticed before breaks from the barbequing group of men. He doesn’t block my path like I expect him to do. Instead, he takes a hesitant step in my direction, hands in his pockets, a lopsided smile making him even more attractive.

“Leaving already?” he asks, in a husky baritone that makes me shiver hotly.

I haven’t spoken to anyone in person in a month. Before that, it was mostly lawyers, cops and doctors. So my voice sounds unnatural to my ears when I respond. “Yes. I can’t find the lady who invited me. I don’t see her.” For some reason, maybe because his eyes are so patient, I blurt, “There are a lot of strangers here.”

He considers the packed block, nodding, as if that was a completely normal thing to say. “I see your point.” He lifts his beer. “That’s what the alcohol is for.”

A laugh sneaks out of me. “Actually…I don’t drink anymore.”

A beat passes and I assume I’ve disappointed him. Then he turns the bottle so I can see the label. “Non-alcoholic,” he says, kind of sheepishly. “I didn’t want you to think I was…”

“Flawed?”

His eyes are the most intense shade of blue and it deepens now. “Isn’t everyone, though?”

It’s the strangest thing. Those three words feel like they’re being whispered to me across a pillow. We’re standing in a sea of people and yet…this encounter is so intimate. Like no one else exists. The other voices are just buzzes of sound. His eyes are a lifeboat in a huge, turbulent ocean and I can’t seem to look away. “Yes. Some more than others.”

Did he move closer or am I hallucinating?

“I don’t want to be forward or anything, but…” He looks over his shoulder. “I happen to know where I can get you a tasteless non-alcoholic beer, too.”

My heart starts to pound. So loud he must hear it. I’m not ready for this kind of thing. At all. Sure, he’s kind. But having a drink with a man? A man I’m attracted to? Where can it lead when I’m not even capable of walking into a room unless the lights are blazing and I’ve pep talked myself for ten minutes? “I don’t know,” I whisper. “Um…no, I can’t.”

“Of course not,” he says, visibly exasperated with himself. “I haven’t even told you my name. That’s supposed to come before asking the beautiful girl for a drink, right?” I’m still reeling from him calling me beautiful when he holds out his hand. “I’m Christopher. New to the neighborhood. I live next door to you.”

“You do?”

He hums in the affirmative.

New to the neighborhood. Does that mean he doesn’t know who I am?

If he doesn’t now, he will eventually. People talk. But I can’t help but think it would be nice to sit and have a conversation with someone who doesn’t know I was kidnapped and terrorized in the basement of an old house.

Shaking off my nerves, I slip my hand into his without thinking, shocking myself. “It’s nice to meet you. I’m Jolie.”

There’s a flicker of something in his eyes and an answering crackle breaks across my palm. Electricity. It turns my nerve endings into buzzing little sources of sensation. “Jolie,” he says gruffly, his attention dipping to my mouth. “It’s nice to meet you, too.”

“Do you live…alone?” I ask.

“No.” I try to take my hand back out of his grip, but he holds on. “I have a temperamental Husky named Winston.”

“Oh.” Wow. I think I almost got jealous there, assuming he had a wife or girlfriend. How embarrassing. I’ve only known this man for a matter of minutes. What business do I have being jealous? It makes me feel silly. For making assumptions. For being so freaked out over having one measly drink in broad daylight with a neighbor. You have to start living again, Jolie. “I guess one drink sounds nice.”

He smiles, lines fanning out from the corners of his eyes. “Thank you.”





2





Jolie





Christopher leads me to an empty picnic table on the outskirts of the crowd, leaving briefly to get me the same non-alcoholic beer he’s drinking. When he sits down across from me, it feels a lot like a date and a flutter of panic takes wing in my throat, but his affable smile puts me at ease. “You’re in luck, Jolie,” he drawls, tapping the neck of his bottle to mine.

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