The third standalone novel in Jeannine Colette and Lauren Runow’s Sexton Brothers series is coming this week, and I have a sneak peek for you.
I see his tall frame ahead of me. His blond hair is pulled back in that man bun, and his hands are buried deep in his pockets. He’s walking down the stairs toward the subway going uptown. I follow him down.
He swipes his subway card in the turnstile and goes through. I start to go through myself, but I realize I don’t have a MetroCard.
“Wait!” I call out to him, my belly hitting the metal of the turnstile barrier.
He hears me and slowly turns around. His eyes crinkle at the sight of me standing here … stuck.
“You need to pay to get through,” he says.
I roll my eyes. “Yes, I know that. Hold on. Let me get my card, and then I’ll come through.” I step back to go to the nearby machine to get a pass, but he starts walking away. “Where are you going?”
He turns around again. “The train is coming. I’m going to get on it.”
“No. Wait!” I call out. “I want to talk to you.”
A slow, closed-mouthed smile builds on his lips, and he laughs lightly to himself. “Oh, so now, you want to talk. Sorry, babe, go find a suit who cares.”
“I’m sorry?” I ask in disbelief.
He walks closer, just to the other side of the barrier. “I get it. I’m not your type. You want a meal ticket, a guy in a suit, not a guy like me.”
Why, I’ve never …
“Are you kidding me right now?”
“You wouldn’t give me the time of day in there.”
“Fine. Whatever. I was looking for a particular type of guy tonight but not for the reasons you’re insinuating. It was more of a rebound thing.”
He crosses his arms in front of him. His biceps curl with the action.
I continue, “My ex is a power-suit-wearing, wealth-management asshole. He wasn’t always like that, but he morphed into one over time. I hate that about him. I hate his money and his friends and his hold over me when I realized everything I had was his. My friend wanted me to come out tonight and have some sort of angry fuck with a guy in a suit, which—if I’m being totally honest—I was never going to go through with. Maybe a hook-up or some over-the-shirt action, but I was seriously not going to go to bed with a stranger. A kiss was all I needed.”
“Looks like you got what you wished for.”
“Yes. About that. You can’t just go around kissing girls like that.”
He leans in, and I’m overwhelmed. There’s a metal bar between us, yet I feel like he’s right on top of me. His presence, his energy, his heat … it sears through me. I’m like a magnet for whatever it is this guy possesses.
“What kind of kiss do you think that was?”
How do I explain my thoughts without sounding like a total lunatic?
My mouth opens to speak, but the horn sounds, alerting us to the train’s approach.
The air grows thick, and the rush of it becomes loud to our ears. I look behind him as the train appears, and I have a sense of panic. He’s going to get on, and I won’t ever see him again.
He snakes his hand into his back pocket, takes out his wallet, and swipes his card in the turnstile before walking toward the train. I push my way through and then follow him onto the train, taking a spot by the doors.
The car is decently packed but not too bad. I see him standing in the middle with his arm up, holding on. The train begins to move, and I walk toward him, careful not to wobble into anyone. I stop right in front of where he stands and grasp on to a pole in the middle of the aisle.
It’s bright in here. Brighter than the bar and the subway entrance. In here, I can see him in full view. He’s one of those impossibly handsome men, the kind you see in Abercrombie and cologne advertisements with his sun-kissed Grecian skin, masculine jaw, and straight nose.
He’s tall, about six feet, and he has the build to go with it. Clear-cut muscles, lean and strong, show with his stretch. And his eyes are this intense color that doesn’t know if it wants to be green or blue. I feel like I could stare at them forever and never know which color they are.
What kind of lunatic lets a strange man kiss her in a bar and then stalks him onto a train?
“Was he worth it?” he asks.
I look up to him and wonder what he’s talking about.
“Your ex-boyfriend. Was he worth the heartache?”
“Um … no. Yes. I mean … I don’t know.”
“He probably wants you back after seeing you kiss another guy.”
“You wanted your ex to see you talking to someone else. I upped the ante.” He swings forward, leaning into me. “You’re welcome.”
“I don’t need to thank you. The last thing I want right now is for him to come crawling back. He’d probably love to have me back and have his girlfriend on the side. It’s something he actually proposed before I walked out.”
“Sounds like a good guy.”
“I thought he was.” I bite my lip.
He raises a thumb to my mouth and pulls my lip out from between my teeth. “If you’re gonna hang with me tonight, you’re not allowed to do that.”
“Think about some douchebag who doesn’t know the value of a good woman.”
The subway car stops, and the doors open to allow people on and off.
I let out a sigh. “What makes you think I’m a good woman? A few minutes ago, you accused me of looking for a meal ticket.”
His eyes stare into mine. My breath hitches as he enters my soul, searching for an answer to a question he hasn’t even asked.
I look right back. He has a powerful presence, yet, when I’m this close, I can see a vulnerability to him. I don’t know anything about him other than he’s a good kisser, yet I know I am safe as long as I’m with him.
The train begins to move again.
“Your words,” he says.
“I thought actions spoke louder than words.”
He smiles. A real smile that is luminous. “You did chase me down to the subway, so I’d say you have some pretty loud actions.”
I blush. I can’t see it to know, but damn, I can feel it.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I like a woman who goes after what she wants.”
I step back. “What makes you think I want you?”
He winks. “You can’t stop thinking about that kiss.”
My mouth parts in shock at his cavalier attitude.
He laughs and holds out his hand. “I’m Tanner. I told you earlier, but you weren’t listening.”
He’s right. I was distracted by Aaron. But not now.
I’m ready to listen.
“Harper.” I shake his hand. It’s large and soft. The hand of a gentle soul.
We’re two strangers on a train, knowing that whatever we decide in the next moment might dictate our fate for the rest of our lives.
The train stops again, and he pulls me toward him. Our chests brush up against each other, our lips just a touch away from one another. When it starts moving again, I use him to brace myself.
“What do you want to do, Harper? Tonight’s your night to move on and forget. What’s the one thing you haven’t done since you had your heart broken?”
I bite my lip and then immediately stop doing it. “Laugh. Can you make me laugh again?”
Those crinkles are back around his eyes. It’s like that was the last thing he thought I’d say.
When the train stops again, he gently kisses my cheek before stepping away and pulling me with him toward the open doors.
“Where are we going?”
“Do you trust me?” he asks as soon as we step onto the platform.
Do I trust him? Not entirely. I don’t know him. But something tells me I’d be a fool not to.