“Can I borrow a kiss? I promise I’ll give it back, darlin’.” The slow Southern drawl I’d tried to forget spoke from behind me in the queue at the pharmacy counter.
I winced at the cheesy come-on while a low hum of anticipation started in body parts beyond my control. I hadn’t seen Micah Wyatt in the three months since our pseudo date in which we’d served as wing men for his brother, J.D. and my friend, Leah. The date from hell I joked about that night with Leah. Yet, the annoying player had lodged in my brain and clung like a burr. Even the fact I’d nearly gotten trampled escaping the firetrap where Micah hosted illegal fights apparently hadn’t been enough to convince me once and for all he was no good. Although the man was a smart alec, obviously shallow, and no one I’d consider going out with a second time, he attracted me on some primal level.
I turned to face a broad chest, brought my gaze up to meet laughing eyes, and gave a weak smile. “Micah. What a surprise to see you again.”
“A pleasure to see you again, sugar. Do your legs hurt? Because you’ve been running through my dreams every night since we met.” His wide mouth curved in a smile that invited me in on the joke of his silly pick-up line.
I cradled the few items, which had turned into several more than I could comfortably carry, in my arms and moved another step closer to the counter. “Does that crap actually work for you?”
He cocked his head and a reddish curl fell over his forehead above one arched brow. He studied me intently and I was glad I clasped a bottle of antacid and a package of tampons over my breasts because my nipples tightened at the sheer sexiness of his gaze.
“Does it?” he asked. “You tell me if it’s working.”
I couldn’t say if his lines were working but the height and muscles and stunning blue eyes were going some way toward melting me.
“You’re not as charming as you think you are,” I lied.
“That’s what they always say, but then…” He shrugged and gave me a naughty boy smile.
I rolled my eyes, turned to put my stuff on the counter and gave the pharmacist Mrs. Heidelberg’s name so I could pick up her prescription. I checked my watch and my stomach dropped. Almost five minutes since I’d left the old woman in the car in order to run in and get the items I needed. Should’ve gone through the drive-thru for her prescription and come back for the other stuff later, except my period had started unexpectedly and I was out of supplies.
“I had fun the other night,” Micah said as I swiped Mrs. Heidelberg’s insurance card. “You’re a good pool player. Whupped my ass and that rarely happens.”
“Really? With your mouth I would’ve guessed you get your ass handed to you on a regular basis.”
“Hot and spicy like my favorite barbecue sauce. I’d like to pour you all over—”
“Anyway, it wasn’t the other night. That was over three months ago.” I grabbed my bag.
“Ah, so you’ve been counting the hours too. I know I should’ve called, but it’s not too late. Why don’t you give me your number?”
“No time. Gotta go.” I hurried away from the counter.
“I’ll just get it from Leah,” he called after me. “No escaping this, sweetheart. This thing between us? It’s destiny.”
His warm laughter rolled after me like a wave with an undertow drawing me back to him—not physically, since I was already halfway to the parking lot, but on a much deeper level. Despite the goofy come-ons, there was something about Micah that set all my lady parts quivering. I wondered about the real person hiding behind the jokes and the retro bowling shirts.
I reached Mrs. Heidelberg’s van parked in a disabled spot and forgot all about any attraction to Micah as my stomach plummeted. The elderly woman no longer sat in the passenger seat.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” I swore under my breath. I raced to the vehicle and unlocked the door, checking inside in case she’d slumped down on the seat. The van was empty.
How far could a nearly ninety-year-old woman get in a few minutes’ time? I tried to calm myself with the thought. The harsh glare of streetlights illuminated the dark parking lot in front of the pharmacy and…oh God, the busy street running past.
I roamed the parking lot for a few moments, checking around the cars, in case she’d tripped and fallen. Images of the frail woman injured in any number of horrifying scenarios flashed through my mind. I frantically called her name while I looked up and down the street. As far as I could see in either direction, there was no old woman shuffling along. It was more likely she’d be drawn to the bright lights of the store. I raced back toward the building, just as Micah Wyatt emerged.
He grinned. “Couldn’t get enough of me, eh?” Then he caught my mood and his smile evaporated. “What’s wrong?”
“I lost my client. I left her alone while I ran in to get a couple of things. She’s gone.” I felt like a mothers who’d left her kid in a hot car. In my two-year career as a professional caregiver, I’d never done anything like this. Adrenaline sizzled in my veins and my body shook.
“Okay, what’s she look like. I’ll help you find her.” Micah’s tone was calm and soothing.
I got a grip on myself. “Her name’s Sonia Heidelberg. She’s in her late eighties and has dementia. Sometimes she behaves like an adult but recently she’s reverted mostly to her childhood, so call her Sonia if you find her. Actually, don’t approach her at all. Just come get me.”
Micah glanced at the store windows. “You think she went inside?”
“I thought I’d start there before spreading out. I doubt she’d get far.” I said it confidently to convince myself, but I already had visions of having to call the police. How could I have been so careless? But Sonia had seemed content listening to her music, and more lucid than usual, and it was a huge deal to get her in and out of the vehicle. Easier for me to simply dash in for the pads and tampons I’d run out of.
Micah led the way indoors and set off toward the aisles on the right while I went to the left. I rushed up and down them, calling, “Sonia! Mrs. Heidelberg.” People stared curiously as I hurried past. Several were white-haired ladies, but none of them was mine.
When I reached the far wall, I started back to the front of the building. Time to alert the store manager or whoever was in charge tonight, and then I’d head out to the streets. By now my pulse was pounding so hard it felt like a heart attack.
Near the first checkout counter I spotted Micah across the store with Sonia’s arm linked through his. She wore a big smile as he leaned close to talk to her. He picked up a small stuffed dog from a nearby bin and offered it to her. The old woman’s gnarled hand clutched the brown and white toy and she rubbed the plush against her cheek.
Micah glanced up, saw me and gave a nod. He escorted Sonia with gentlemanly courtesy, guiding her around displays and other customers.
I trotted over to them and gave Mrs. Heidelberg a hug. She squirmed in my embrace and pulled away.
“Ronnie’s here. He’s come to take me home,” she told me.
“That’s good. I’m glad.” I mouthed a thank you at Micah. “But I can take you home, Sonia. We’ll see Ronnie another time.”
“No! I want him to take me.” She refused to walk another step. Her face clouded and I could see a tantrum coming. She wanted her long dead brother and no one else.
Micah gave her his billion watt smile. “Honey, how about if you let Tina take you home and I’ll follow right behind in my car. I’ll see you back at the house and help put you to bed. Would that be good, darlin’?”
Apparently even old women weren’t immune to his powerful charisma. Sonia nodded. “Don’t tell mother and father I went out, all right?”
He shook his head. “Wouldn’t dream of it. That’s our secret.”
I put an arm around Sonia and gently moved her forward. “How about we pay for your little dog and then go home and have a nice cup of hot chocolate?”
Micah interrupted. “That’s okay. You get her out to the car. I’ll pay for the toy, and then I’ll follow you like I promised. See you home safe.” He wasn’t asking. He was telling in an authoritative voice completely unlike his usual amused drawl.
I guided Mrs. Heidelberg past him and turned to whisper, “Thanks so much.”
“No problem, darlin’.”
“And by the way, my name is Gina, not Tina.”
A grin wider than Kentucky spread across his face. “Sorry about that. I was so struck by your beauty it knocked your name clean out of my head. To me you’re just Angel.”
And you’re an angel with a crooked halo, the hero of my night.
I couldn’t help smiling back and I knew from that moment I was falling into a heap of trouble.