Valentine's Day Anthology: Hearts and Handcuffs, page 19
There was a small bottle attached to the card. It read, Anti-Serum.
Phoebe frowned. “Anti-Serum?”
Sasha shrugged. “There wasn’t any of that on mine. I don’t know anything about it.” There was something on her sister’s face though, something that gave Phoebe pause. Like a warning. Something big was coming.
She pulled the card from the envelope carefully.
Tight, orderly block letters met her eyes.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Phoebe.
I don’t expect you to understand, but I wanted to get to know you. Twenty-seven years old.
It feels like it was yesterday that your mom and I brought you home, the tiniest bundle. I could fit you each in the crook of an arm and hold your heads in my palms.
I didn’t want to leave Earth. You need to know that. I did what I thought was best at the time. The explosion that killed your mom was an accident I’ll never stop regretting. She loved you so much, and so do I.
You’ve met Szar. He’s a good man. I saw his face after you got hurt at the hotel. He cares for you.
This is an uncomfortable gift for a father to give a daughter, but you’re old enough to make your own choices, and I’d like you to be safe.
Everyone deserves to kiss the person they love without having to commit their whole life. The contents of this bottle will act as an antidote to Szar’s hormones. It worked for your mom and me for all our time together. One drop a day.
With a whole lifetime of love and regrets,
Your father, Jogon
Her hands shaking so badly the little envelope rattled back and forth, she met Sasha’s deep-set brown eyes, so similar to her own. It was so much to take in. “Did you meet him?”
Sasha nodded. “I didn’t know it at the time. He used to hang out at the coffee shop I get lunch at every day.” She looked away, stroked one of the pink roses. “I wish he’d told me who he was. Who he really was.”
“I never even looked at him. Not really.” Phoebe tucked the bottle carefully inside the envelope.
“I think he didn’t want to get too close.”
Her eyes stung. What a day. A father. The loss of a man she’d never known burned through her. If only he’d told her. And Szar… she couldn’t even think about Szar. That ship had sailed.
Phoebe pulled Sasha in for a tight hug. “Let’s not drift apart again, okay?”
“No. Let’s talk more. We’re family. Each other’s only family.” Sasha pulled back to stare at Phoebe, eyes wide. “And I should tell you the truth – I don’t work at the magazine anymore,” Sasha blurted out.
“What? Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I’m working on writing a novel. And I didn’t want to tell you. You’d have told me to do something more practical with my life.”
Two sisters. Both liars. Phoebe straightened her shoulders. “I would not… I … okay, maybe I would have. But I won’t now. Good for you, Sash.” Before she could change her mind, she opened her mouth and forced the words out. “I don’t have a boyfriend. I didn’t want to tell you that I’m single.”
Sasha raised her brows, a knowing smile at the corner of her lips. “You may not think he’s your boyfriend, but he certainly does. That man isn’t acting, Phoebe. Whatever’s going on between you two, give him a chance. He really is tall.”
Sasha kept on talking. “And you seriously weren’t kidding either about the dreamy part. Those eyes.” She dragged her down the hallway, sipping her champagne happily, while she struggled to keep up.
They emerged into the midst of the party. Music and soft lighting surrounded them, along with elegant New Yorkers and…
Sasha kept talking, calling over her shoulder, “She’s finally here!”
Phoebe couldn’t breathe.
A man stood at the back of the room, head and shoulders above most of the guests, dark hair curling around an impeccable grey suit and an open-necked white collar. Goodness, whoever had dressed him deserved a reward. His lips curved.
Sasha leaned in to whisper, “You could’ve warned me about him. Doug’s mom almost had a heart-attack when she saw him. He’s gorgeous.”
Szar crossed the room, and Phoebe released a long, shaking breath.
He bent and kissed her cheek, wrapping her up in all that yummy Szar-smell. “You should have waited for me, Peahen.” His hand drifted around her waist. “I didn’t even have a chance to catch up. I missed the train and had to fly. It gave me time to do some shopping though. I do like the clothes on this planet.”
Szar sipped golden liquid from a crystal glass the older woman with bulging eyes and skinny legs had pressed on him. It was far more pleasing than the brown drink Phoebe had given him the night before. This one tasted of fruit and made his nose itch. Phoebe looked so cute, all confused and blustering, and ridiculously sexy in one big sweater. He wanted to pull it over her head and lick every inch of her body. Slowly. And kiss her a few hundred times, until her body melted and she begged to Bond with him.
He couldn’t help but grin at her.
She needed a minute.
Someone carried a tray past him with something they called lollypop lambchops with pomegranate puree, whatever those were. It appeared to be meat on the bone. He grabbed one. Delicious.
He’d been standing in the corner waiting for her for the last hour. About time she showed up. He kept his hand around her waist, giving her time to catch up with his arrival.
Jogon had disappeared again. At least for now. But something Phoebe had said had taken a little edge off his fury to find the man. Maybe he fell in love. Maybe he just wanted to be free. Maybe it wasn’t personal.
The words hadn’t made a lot of sense at the time, but they did now. He tried to imagine how he’d feel if he Bonded with Phoebe, if he loved her, made a family with her, and then had to leave. How far would he go to get back to her and his children?
Jogon’s actions didn’t seem quite so villainous in this new light.
He sighed and finished his bubbly drink. No kissing. Not yet anyway. Not until he’d convinced her to Bond with him permanently, which might be a tough sell.
She stared at him, eyes wide and liquid brown. With careful motions, she set down the flowers and pulled out a little glass bottle with a dropper.
Something about her seemed different. More confident. More determined. “I got a gift from an old scientist.”
She lifted the bottle, unscrewed it, and released a drop on her pretty, pink tongue. All the blood rushed straight to his groin as he watched.
He couldn’t think. Her hand curled around his neck, and she pulled him forward. She smelled like growing things, like flowers and leaves. Her lips curled. “It’s okay. I won’t become too ardent,” she whispered against his lips.
He froze anyway, wanting to pull away, willing himself to do the right thing and protect her.
“It’s okay,” she said again. “I have it on good authority that I just took a medicine that will protect me from your hormones.”
All my hormones? He wanted to ask, but didn’t. It felt like tempting the gods. Better to take the kiss and count his lucky stars than start planning for what else he might be able to do. Which brought him back to wanting to pull the sweater over her head and see what she tasted like all over.
Her lips widened, and she pressed them against his. He’d waited fifteen years to kiss a woman, and she didn’t disappoint. Soft, and sweet. It took a second for him to realize the growling sound was coming from his throat. People would probably stare, but he didn’t care. Not one bit.
Not with her tongue pressing gently against his and her arms around his back.
He pulled her closer, breathing her in. Gods, she tasted good.
She pulled back, too soon for his liking. Her cheeks were flushed, and a big smile spread across her cheeks, but she wasn’t out of control. Whatever medicine she’d taken, it must work. Please let it work for other hormones,
He tugged at the front of his pants hoping to be subtle.
“So, Szar,” she said. “I’ve got this wedding in a few months, and I really need a date.”
Thank you so much for reading!
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Renee Grace Thompson, Valentine's Day Anthology: Hearts and Handcuffs