The highly anticipated final book in Kristy Marie’s The Hands of the Potters series is out this week, and I have an excerpt for you.
I’ve never been good with boundaries.
They take away from getting to know the person behind the mask.
Or, in this case, behind the snoring.
Pulling out a handful of shit from the purse, I drop the items I don’t care about onto the counter.
A library card.
A frequent shopper card to some crappy coffee place.
Mints that expired two months ago.
And what looks to be an emergency tampon—I hear no woman should leave home without one. Apparently, Eden Da Luca from Atlanta, Georgia, is no exception. My friend, Halle, would be impressed with Eden’s tampon preparedness and unimpressed with the fact that I’m pilfering through the purse of the front desk clerk at Midnight Gardens Motel. I hear that’s unacceptable behavior—even for guests.
But again, I don’t live with boundaries, nor do I care if my behavior is unacceptable. If Ms. Da Luca didn’t want me going through her shit, she shouldn’t have fallen asleep on the job and left her purse on the counter while her phone played some true crime episode that clearly bored her to sleep.
Not that I blame her. It’s after ten p.m., and there are literally only two cars in the motel parking lot. The place isn’t exactly hosting the nightlife scene. But assuming the dark-haired clerk, with flushed cheeks and a slightly open mouth, is nineteen-year-old Eden Da Luca from Atlanta, she should be more aware of her surroundings. There are people in this world who would take advantage of her unconsciousness.
People like me.
I bang my hand over the old-school bell on the counter three times before it sends her shooting upright, her eyes widening as she takes a quick glance around.
“Can I get you a coffee or perhaps a nightcap?” I offer sarcastically. “I hate disrupting REM sleep, but some of us would like a nap, too.”
Those brilliant blue eyes snap to mine, lingering for a moment before they lower to my hand.
“Is that my license?” she snaps, noticing the other things I tossed out on the counter. “Is that from my purse?” Heated anger bleeds through her words, and it revs the shitty engine inside me that gets a cheap thrill out of irritating people. “Did you go through my purse?”
I can understand her shock. A stranger helping himself to the essential items you carry with you at all times could be considered invasive, but that’s if the person going through said items has a moral code. I’m sorry to say, Ms. Da Luca here is out of luck.
“That depends,” I drawl lazily, flipping her license between my fingers, “did you leave your purse on the counter where someone could go through it?” Let’s not split hairs here. We both are at fault in this situation. “Because if you did, you can’t dangle temptation and expect me not to accept the challenge.”
Her cheeks redden. “It wasn’t a challenge!”
She lunges for the ID in my hand, but she’s not fast enough to grab it. “You shouldn’t leave your shit on the counter. Someone could steal—”
Motherfucker. I sound like my father.
But Eden doesn’t give me time to dwell on that fact. “Is that what you were planning to do? Steal my purse.”
Narrowing my eyes, I try to focus on her nose, not on her mouth, which is very distracting under the dim lighting. “You have nothing I could possibly want,” I say flatly. “But the lint-coated breath mints are pretty tempting.”
She sucks in a breath, and dammit, I look at her mouth. It’s full and pouty, with a layer of gloss that really puts some fucked-up images in my head.
Before I realize it, this nut jumps over the counter and snatches the ID from my fingers, shouting like she just overcame an enormous obstacle instead of simply plucking a piece of plastic from my hand that I wasn’t even holding tightly. “Let this be a lesson to you, Mr. Stranger, you can’t dangle temptation in front of me, either.”
Good gracious, she actually puffs out her chest, while sitting on the counter, but that’s not the most ludicrous sight at the moment. “The dress code seems a bit too casual,” I say, ignoring her temptation comment—because, please. There are no words for such ridiculousness. This girl wouldn’t sample temptation if it begged her. She seems wholesome —which, I have to admit, is disappointing.
It takes Eden all of three seconds to track my gaze to her mismatched fuzzy socks and to jump down from the counter, scattering the items from her purse onto the floor in front of me. “You caught me on a break,” she lies, seemingly innocent. “It’s a twelve-hour shift, and my feet get tired.”
“From sitting?” I tip my chin to the chair I found her in. “I hear you can get insoles to help with that.” I doubt ridiculous socks give her much arch support. But then again, she’s full of shit. This woman got comfortable and settled in for a paid nap.
She straightens, placing a hand on her hip. “How can I help you, sir?”
I raise my brows. “I’ll be honest; I don’t hate the moniker. It has a certain plea to it.” And I enjoy a bout of begging almost more than a cigarette.
“What do you want?” Ah, how the unprofessional have slipped further.
Holding her angry gaze, I ignore the zip of pleasure as I squat down and pick up the fallen items from when she nearly tackled me to get her ID. “I need a room,” I say, tossing the tampon and old mints onto the counter like the asshole I am. “Can you manage that, sweetheart, or should I wait for the morning shift?”
She snatches the items and throws them behind her, not even caring that the impact dislodges the lid to the mints and scatters them everywhere. “You should probably shove that ‘sweetheart’ right up your—”
“Ah. Ah,” I chide. “You wouldn’t want to offend me even more than you already have, would you? I don’t know about your boss, but mine is a stickler for keeping customers happy.” Which is bullshit, but I let Vance think I actually care what he wants.
Ms. Da Luca inhales and looks to the ceiling, likely remembering the reason she needs this job in the first place, and sighs. “Would you like a single or double bed?”
I can’t hide my grin. “I want the one with a patio chair.”
You would have thought I asked for turn-down service with the look she gives me. “All the rooms have an outdoor chair.”
It’s like she doesn’t even work here. “No. You only have two rooms with a chair.”
Unlike Ms. Employee of the Decade, I did my homework when I pulled in and scoped out the place, noting each room with a chair out front. One seems to be occupied, if the car parked in front of it is any indication of occupancy, but the other appears to be vacant. You don’t live with plastic surgeons for two years and not grow accustomed to the finer things in life.
Eden looks down at the wooden counter like there’s a reservation log there. “Shoot. Looks like both are booked. My apologies. May I suggest the motel down the street instead? I hear their chairs sit better than ours anyway.”
Now, she’s just making me hard.
I pull out my wallet with a chuckle. “I’ll take whatever you have available, then.”