Love's Hope Sample Sunday
Subject to change.
Release Date: TBD.
“Can we talk for a minute?”
Dammit. Speak of the devil.
I'd hoped my low-key spot was far enough from the festivities to leave me unbothered for the rest of the night, especially by the man standing in front of me.
I’d heard rumors of his involvement with another woman we worked with but my feelings never ran deeper than surface level, so it didn’t bother me. Even when he used it in failed attempts to make me jealous.
My lack of reaction always made him angry, which should’ve been another sign to delete his damn number.
“Chauncey.” My tone was dry as I greeted him, hoping he’d keep it professional.
Instead of the annoyance I’d expected, he laughed, moving a step too close as menace flashed in his dark gaze. Since he’d shown up at my home uninvited almost two months ago, he’d been persistent in his pursuit of rekindling things, refusing to just accept that I was truly done with him. It was beyond tiring and I’d almost reached my breaking point.
Filing a harassment complaint with HR wasn’t a route I wanted to take because Chauncey hadn’t actually done anything when we were on the clock. Besides being an arrogant asshole who popped up when I didn’t want him to. Though it made me uncomfortable as hell, I couldn't help thinking it was partially my fault for always letting him back in when I got lonely.
“Stop playing this hard-to-get shit, Hope.” When I kept facing forward, his hand shot out and cupped my chin, twisting my face hard in his direction.
My eyes bucked and my fist clenched instinctively before I jerked away. “Chauncey… don’t you ever put your fuckin’ hands on me again.”
Anger darkened his gaze as surprise contorted his features before he took a step back. “I was joking, Hope. Joking. You know how we play.”
Grabbing my face and yanking it was not how I played. Ever. And he knew it.
Growing up, I’d never been the girl who threatened to tell her brother whenever I got into it with boys because I typically fought my own battles.
Then again, I never had to tell Truth. Somehow, he always found out and handled the problem before I could.
And the urge was strong to tell my brother about this just to see Chauncey cowering in his presence again. But I couldn’t do that to Truth.
Though he’d step in without hesitation, my brother was reformed. A business owner, father, and husband who couldn’t afford to get arrested for beating Chauncey’s ass, no matter how much he deserved it.
No. This fell solely on my shoulders since I’d made the mistake of letting him have access to me after swearing to never do it again.
I parted my lips, prepared to spew venom in his direction, professionalism be damned, when Trinity’s vibrant voice and smiling face distracted me. “There you are!” Her gaze skated knowingly over my tense expression before flashing to Chauncey. “Hey, Chaunce. There’s a box in my trunk. It’s full of gift sets but it was too heavy. Do you mind grabbing it?”
He blinked at her, swung his gaze to me, then nodded, accepting the keys she held out.
“Thanks.” She called sweetly. Once he was out of earshot, she turned to me with her brows raised. “Couldn’t take a hint, could he?”
“Yeah.” I put my anger on the back burner to give her a genuine smile. “Thanks for the rescue.” She must’ve recognized the difference because she beamed, pulling me in for a one-armed hug.
“Anytime, hon. In a testosterone dominated environment like TS, us girls gotta stick together.” She scanned the room like she was looking for someone. “We’ll be doing the giveaways soon, so stick around until the end. You might win another trip.” She leaned over, whispering conspiratorially. “This year, it’s a four-day trip to Vegas. But don’t tell anyone.”
I played along, pressing a finger to my lip and fighting a laugh when she giggled and flounced off.
Finishing the last of my drink, I moved from my position in the room's corner. This year, Trinity rented out an event room at Piers Troup Hotel, one of the most popular chains in the southeast that started right here in Sienna Falls as a black owned bed-and-breakfast back in the 50s.
Avoiding everyone’s gaze, I slipped out the door and down the hall to the bar in the lobby’s restaurant. I just needed a moment to myself and I found it on a stool at the black-topped bar.
Sitting alone, I sipped my Amaretto Sour until a distinctly masculine scent wafted past my nose moments before a man sat next to me.
“Whiskey. Neat.” He ordered without flashing a glance my way.
While he was distracted and waiting on his drink, I took my time looking him over.
He wasn’t freakishly tall like my six-foot-four brother. If I had to guess, I’d say he was only two or three inches taller than my five-foot-eight frame, which I appreciated. From experience, I'd learned that men who towered over me liked using their size as an intimidation tactic to get their way.
Unbeknownst to them, most of the men in the Givens family pushed six and a half feet and I’d held my own against them since I was old enough to talk.
Expecting me to wither just because I was a few inches shorter was wishful thinking.
A neat beard covered the handsome man’s chin and jawline while hints of tattoos on his chestnut brown skin peeked from under the sleeve of his plain black crew neck.
His lips were full, nose wide, and he was muscular, but not obnoxiously so. Like he visited the gym but didn’t live in it.
My eyes fell to the travel bag at his feet. Though I wasn’t familiar with every face that worked at T. Solutions, his was one I would’ve remembered.
“Hello.” I greeted softly, wondering if I could talk my way into a one-night stand. Him not being local eliminated the risk of that difficult I’m not interested in more conversation afterwards.
He took his time glancing over, as if he hadn’t seen me sitting there at all. His brows lifted as a half-smile flashed deep dimples that creased his cheeks.
“Hello.” He mocked in a low, throaty tone, sending a zip of pleasure right to the apex of my thighs that made me squirm on the unforgiving stool.
Deciding to go ahead with my plan, I dove right into the spiel that always worked.
But instead of my normal success, what commenced was ten painful minutes of me trying to keep the conversation flowing. And to my dismay, he wasn’t biting. Despite spitting my best game, he refused to take the bait I tossed out that should've convince him to invite me upstairs.
But the man who’d yet to tell me his name remained a blank slate.
Men like my brother radiated arrogance that I could spot from a mile away. Just like I could see through the men who postured as alphas but lacked the natural dominance that came with that trait.
Men like Chauncey.
They were easy to reel in. All it took was a few compliments and acting impressed while they talked themselves up. Before they realized, I’d turned the tables and had them eating out the palm of my hand.
But I couldn’t get a read on this man because he gave off absolutely nothing.
“So, where are you fr—”
My brows peaked when he cut me off. “Are you trying to fuck?” His tone was painstakingly casual as he peered over the rim of his glass while taking a sip.
Momentarily, I was rendered speechless. Apparently, he had caught the vibes I’d thrown out but I hadn’t expected that response. “Excuse me?”
Despite the aloofness in his expression, amusement glittered in his dark gaze. “You heard me.”
Reclining against the high back stool, I crossed a leg, surprised when his gaze didn’t drop to the expanse of thigh I’d exposed with the move. “You don’t think that was a bit… forward?”
The cat-and-mouse game before going in for the kill was my preference. Not… whatever this was.
“No.” Now that I had his gaze on me, I wanted it gone. The quiet intensity of it both aroused and unnerved me because I still had no clue what he was thinking. “It was honest and upfront. I don’t do small talk, especially when it’s obvious you want something from me. We’ve never met before tonight. Neither of us has a ring on our finger… so it’s safe to assume you were not so subtly trying to convince me to invite you up to my room. Am I wrong?”
At my silence, the side of his lips turned up before he slid a plain, black room card across the bar towards me.
“415. If you decide to go after what you want. But make it by 10:15. I have a long day tomorrow.”
I watched, lips parted with shock as he drained the rest of his glass, placed it back on the counter before dropping several bills into the tip jar. Still not looking my way, he bent at the waist, grabbed his travel bag and turned without another word.
“You don’t care if I come or not?”
I’d never had a man handle me like that. And though my little anti-asshole heart should run in the opposite direction, I couldn’t help but to be curious and… turned on by the nonchalance.
He stopped, looking back over his shoulder before smirking. “No. I don’t. I’ll sleep the same, regardless of your choice. But if you choose not to, please return my key to the front desk.”
This time, when he walked away, I faced the bartender who hadn’t bothered to hide that she’d stopped working to tune in to our conversation.
When my brows hiked in her direction, she mimicked the gesture. “What? You’re still sitting here looking at me? After getting an offer like that? From a man that fine? That confident? That bold?” She stopped to shiver, brown eyes rolling back in her head. “I know what he’s packing is life changing. Girl, you better go to that room before I do.”
I flashed another look over to the elevator doors that closed behind him, then down at my half-empty glass and the card still sitting next to it.
My lip slipped between my teeth before I slid off the stool, tossing back the rest of my drink like he’d done before grabbing the card.
“Yesssssss!” The bartender cheered as I took my first step towards the elevator. “I’ll be working tomorrow night, boo. Come back and tell me what it was like!”