Love needs only one chance to shine . . .
He followed in his family’s footsteps and just graduated Marine boot camp. Now Mason Cutler’s personal mission is to get plenty of sun, surf, and no-strings romance in his favorite laid-back Florida beach town before shipping out. But a chance encounter with reserved Kiran Shenoy becomes a golden day of conversation, connection—and an intense attraction Mason can't walk away from. They make an agreement—eight sensuous days together without regrets or promises. Yet soon Mason is longing to convince the spirited woman behind Kiran's sad beautiful eyes to take a chance on even more . . .
All Kiran dared hope for was a chance to heal after a tragic accident and a devastating loss. Mason's freewheeling energy and head-on courage warms her scarred body and soul—and ignites her heart. But with their lives going in different directions, the only commitment they can make is a pact to meet again. Can what they feel survive Mason’s military duty, and Kiran’s second chance to restart her life? And can a desire sparked one summer night be enough for forever?
Swinging my suitcase, I speed walk toward the elevator bank.
One of the cars is out of service. The other one is incredibly slow. By the time the doors finally open, I’ve silently sung the whole soundtrack of Rent, all five hundred twenty-five minutes and six hundred seconds of it.
“Hold it, please,” says the guy behind me as the doors begin to close.
I press the open button, but the doors keep closing. I jab it. The metal doors don’t stop.
“Sorry,” I say. “Can’t get it to open.” I throw my hand in the gap between the doors. Nope. Still moving shut. Guess it doesn’t have a safety. I pull my hand back before the doors slam.
He rushes toward me, a duffle bag slung across his shoulder. It’s too late, dude. They close. Well almost close. I gasp as a very large sneaker wedges between the doors.
“Ouch,” he says as the doors part.
“Are you all right?”
He smiles. “I’ll live.”
He presses the button for the tenth floor. The air in the elevator suddenly becomes heavier. It’s the same guy who held the front door for me, the one with the smoky southern flare in his voice.
“I swear I was trying to hold it open.”
“You were?” He looks straight into my eyes.
For some reason, I don’t shift my head down like I normally do. I’m not sure if this makes it worse or better. He’s a nice looking boy…man. Who the hell am I kidding? He’s hot, like you-might-mistake-me-for-anunderwear- model hot. He’s tall with defined, but not over-the-top, muscles.
His jeans are ripped in all the right places and his faded gray T-shirt reads free shrugs in all caps. He’s got a strong square jaw that’s a day or two past a shave. His eyes are an intense light blue, my favorite color. The T-shirt might as well say my superpower is being beautiful.
The doors close, trapping us in a space that seems to get exponentially smaller now that he’s sharing it with me. He runs his fingers through brownish hair. Umm…not exactly brown. I’d call the color milk chocolate spiced with threads of cinnamon and honey.
Get a grip. So what if he’s good-looking? This is freaking Beach Town, Florida. Next to seashells and citrus, cute boys are the largest produced crop. Wait. He asked me something, didn’t he? Oh yeah, it was about the stupid elevator. “I pushed the open door button.”
“It just closed anyway, huh?” He quirks an eyebrow, an amused expression on his face.
“It did. I swear. It isn’t working,” I say, pointing to the button with the picture of the triangles next to it.
“That’s the button you pushed?”
“You realize it’s the close door button, right?”
I stare at it and the one next to it. The placement seems wrong, but the pictures don’t lie. “I do now.”
The elevator jolts before the car stops completely. I stumble back.
“You all right?” he asks.
“Looks like we’re stuck.”
I press the button for my floor. Nothing happens. So I start pressing the other buttons. Still nothing. No… This can’t be real. Getting stuck in an elevator with a super hot guy? This is the stuff of corny rom-coms.
“There’s no need to panic.”
“Not panicking,” I say as I hit a few more buttons.
“Are you claustrophobic?”
“No.” I sigh and lean back against the railing. I can still feel his gaze on me. “A little.”
“Heard it helps to think about something else.”
“Like what?” I curl my fingers around the steel railing at the back of the elevator.
He tilts his head, studying me. “Have we met?” he asks.
I replay the question in my head wondering if I heard correctly. When I laugh, the sound bounces off the walls and echoes inside the small elevator car. “Seriously?”
He does a face palm. “Crap, that sounds like a pick-up line. I swear it’s not.”
As if I’d think he was trying to pick me up. “I’m sure you’d remember if you knew me.”
“That’s true. How could I forget?”
For a second, I thought he might be making fun of me on some level. But there isn’t anything malicious in his voice. Taking a deep breath, I force myself to relax.
“Kiran Shenoy, right?”
I lift my head, wondering if I did know him. I think back to all the boys I went to high school with, but his face doesn’t register at all. It’s the kind of face that would register in triplicate. “How do we know each other?”
“No idea. I overheard the lady behind the front desk say your name.”
He holds out his hand…his very large hand. “Mason Cutler.”
I’ve been curling my fingers around the railing so tightly that I have to shake out my hand before taking his. His handshake is firm. I’m about to let go when he flips my wrist over. He presses his thumb against the ruby red mark there. Very few people notice it against my brown skin. His thumb slides back and forth in a short caress. The stain disappears against the pressure. It comes back slowly, deepening in color for a moment. My pulse spikes ten notches…maybe twenty. After an eternity, he finally lets go. It’s really only been two seconds, but it feels much longer, or maybe not long enough.
“It’s not a tattoo?”
“It’s a birthmark. They call it a port wine stain.”
“A fire stain.”
“I thought this was inked on since it’s shaped like a heart.”
The car starts up with a jolt. He gestures to the screen that signals we are moving. “See? No reason to panic.”
The doors open, ending the weirdest elevator ride in the history of the world.
“This is me,” I say, my fingers clutching the handle of my suitcase.
He holds one of the doors by leaning against it while I get out. I catch a hint of spicy, manly cologne and delicious boy. “Thank you.”
“We made it unscathed.”
“So we did.” I nod, accepting what happened. He was just being nice and trying to distract me with an introduction.
“Maybe I’ll see you around, Shenoy,” he says.
I turn just in time to see the doors close.
About the Author
MK Schiller is a hopeless romantic in a hopelessly pragmatic world. In the dark of night, she sits by the warm glow of her computer monitor, reading or writing, usually with some tasty Italian…the food that is! She started imagining stories in her head at a very young age. In fact, she got so good at it that friends asked her to create plots featuring them as the heroine and the object of their affection as the hero. She hopes you enjoy her stories and find The Happily Ever After in every endeavor. M.K. Schiller loves hearing from readers.