HOOK UP by Amanda Usen (writing as Miranda Baker)
Come Again Book Three
Publication date: 11/29/2016
Publisher: Balancing Act Press
A blast from the past can play hell on your heart.
“Spend the night with me, Crystal.”
One college hook-up with Ryan Anderson ripped Crystal LaRusso’s emotions wide open and hot-wired her to the world around her. After gaining control of her new abilities, she rebuilt her life and started a business as a sensual psychic. She’s bold, fearless and, admittedly, a little freaky. Black leather, exotic makeup, and a sexual preference for women keep the world at a necessary distance, distance she can’t maintain when Ryan reappears in her life.
Crystal has a lot of explaining to do. The chemistry between them is just as potent as it was ten years ago, so why does she keep running away? One night won’t be enough time to satisfy his curiosity about her, but it might take the edge off. At the very least, he can ask her why she broke his heart – and this time he’s not leaving without an answer.
The door to Come Again opened just as he reached it and a pink-cheeked redhead stepped outside and held the door for him.
“Thanks,” he said, glad to be spared the awkwardness of trying to open the door while holding two hot coffees and a bag of goodies.
He spotted Crystal behind the counter.
“Be right with you,” she called. Her back was turned as she reached to hang a pair of fur-lined handcuffs on the wall behind her. He wasn’t exactly sure what she was wearing, but it was black and made out of leather and something shiny. There were an ungodly number of hooks and laces across the back. It reminded him of a Chinese puzzle box he’d had as a kid. It had kept him busy for hours unhooking latches and bolts to get inside. When he had discovered the trick, it had been fiendishly simple. One button and the lid had popped open like magic. He wondered if Crystal’s complicated getup had a simple catch too. Maybe a hidden zipper?
She turned around and her welcoming smile disappeared. The heavy black lines around her eyes made them look huge and deep, and her lipstick was so dark it looked like it had been applied with a black Sharpie marker. It should have looked garish, but it suited her.
She crossed her arms and the movement plumped her breasts above the neckline of her top. What the hell is that thing? How does it stay up? How does it come off? He itched to get his hands on the closures.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Bringing you coffee.” As he set her mocha on the counter, he saw an empty cup with chocolate residue on the bottom. “But I see you’ve had your fix today. My instincts were right on, but I guess I’m a little late.”
“I’d say that about covers our situation.” She slid onto the stool behind the counter and crossed her legs. The band of smooth white skin between the top of her fishnet stocking and her miniscule skirt made him dizzy.
He swallowed hard, forcing his eyes back to her face. “What’s with all the black and leather? I don’t remember you as a goth girl.”
She smiled, tilting her head back to gaze at him through half-shut eyes. The long line of her neck made his mouth water. “People change, Ryan.” The way she said his name sang through him. “I’m more comfortable this way. It fits the whole psychic image, and frees me up to do what I do best.”
“What do you do best?” he asked, even though he already knew—make love like an angel, haunt a man’s dreams, set the standard so high that no other woman would ever measure up.
She shrugged. “I help people. I know what my clients want, what they need. I give them the good advice they would give themselves, if they only knew what to say.”
“How do you do it? I don’t remember you being psychic.”
She laughed. “We spent one night together, Ryan. I didn’t tell you all my secrets. Did you tell me all yours?” Her voice held no more than mild curiosity, but something about her blasé attitude didn’t ring true. Maybe it was the faint sheen of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. The tightness in her jaw. The way her heel twitched against the leg of the stool.
He leaned on the counter. “You tell me.” They were eye to eye, her sitting on the stool, him leaning forward. “Even if I did, I have more secrets now. Better secrets. Want to try to guess them?”
She shook her head. “I can’t read minds. Only emotions.”
She could read his emotions? Did she know he wanted to walk around the counter and stand behind her, brace her body with his and drop his face into the long, pale curve of her neck? From this distance, he could just catch the edge of her spicy perfume. It wasn’t enough. Couldn’t they drop the bullshit and have this conversation naked? Somewhere comfortable? Where she couldn’t run away for at least a week?
She swayed on the stool. “And I don’t have to guess how you feel right now. I can’t get away from it.” She took a deep breath and blew it out loudly. “Enough with the lust, Ryan. You’re giving me a headache.”
Surprise jerked him upright. “That is certainly not my intention.”
“Yes, I understand that. But we aren’t teenagers anymore.” Her indulgent smile made his hackles rise. She had moved on. She’d made that clear, but he still felt like she owed him an explanation.
“I have some questions for you.” He crossed his arms. He had assumed she was cleverly tapping a niche market with the whole sensual psychic gig. Was it possible she was telling the truth? If so, he had nothing to hide.
She jumped to her feet. “I’m sorry, but I have a client at four-thirty. I don’t have time to chat.”
“Actually, you do.” He pointed at the appointment book on the counter. “I booked your last slot.”
She grabbed the book and flipped it open. “Marvin Gaye?” Her voice held disbelief and fury.
“I couldn’t resist.” He took a sip of his cappuccino, now cool enough to drink. “Isn’t that what you peddle? Sexual healing? I’ve needed a dose of that for ten years. Bring it on, Crystal. I’m waiting.”