Jenna’s conversation with the first realty company did not go well. They didn’t have any openings for a consultation meeting for at least a week.
Three more phone calls later, and she finally had a meeting scheduled. It would take place on Monday—four days from now.
When Jenna explained her situation, the realtor said she shouldn’t have any issue with selling the home. The housing market wasn’t particularly stellar, but finding a buyer would be easy, given the home’s location and appeal.
She had slept in that first morning—well, if you can call it that. The tossing and turning that occurred most of the night had nearly made sleeping late a requirement for functionality.
When she finally got up, she made coffee, then called the realty companies. Now that her main goal was crossed off the list, she figured collecting supplies to last her the next week would be the next best thing to accomplish.
Donning skinny jeans and a light sweatshirt, she locked the doors and began the trek back to the bus stop to catch the afternoon bus back into Lincoln City.
The baseball cap was still a must, and she sincerely hoped that no one would recognize her in town.
The air was chilly, as it was early May, and this region was still experiencing spring weather. It was also much cloudier than it had been the day before, a sure indication of rain later in the day.
Jenna’s shopping affair took place with no momentous incidents.
She picked up a few more clothing options, including one that would be more professional-looking when she met with the realtor. She also picked up some food and laundry detergent.
On her way back to the bus stop, the skies opened and poured out their fury upon the Lincoln City residents.
She contemplated trying to book it the couple of blocks to the bus station but gave up when the rain soaked through her sweatshirt and jeans within the first twelve seconds.
So, instead, she ducked into a coffee shop and made her way to a table on the far side—away from most of the patrons.
After setting her bags down and lowering herself into the chair, she felt eyes on her.
Slowly, as not to draw attention to what she was doing, she lifted her eyes and scanned the people in the room.
Two college-aged girls, chatting over cups of hot coffee.
A woman with gray hair sipping her drink while reading a book. Her eyes fluttered briefly to Jenna before returning to the page.
A few other people, lost in their own worlds, drinking and chatting or nibbling on pastries, but none that would elicit the alarms in Jenna’s subconscious.
His face was hooded below dim lights in the corner across from where she sat, but his eyes were on her.
They were hidden beneath dark eyebrows, but the intensity was something she could not mistake. He had midnight hair, a straight nose, thin lips, and dimpled chin.
And he was bad-boy gorgeous.
Jenna nonchalantly skimmed her eyes back over the coffee shop and then grabbed her clutch and headed for the counter.
“Hey, hon, whatcha havin’?” the girl asked, smacking her gum between her lips half a dozen times during the four words she spoke.
“Um, medium latte,” Jenna replied, removing a couple of dollar bills from her purse. “Hot, please.”
The girl rattled off the amount, and Jenna paid before moving back across the café to her table.
The rain was still falling in monsoon fashion, and there was no way she was going to be leaving in the immediate future, so she might as well try to look like someone who might be hanging out in a coffee shop.
A few minutes later, one of the other baristas brought out Jenna’s coffee to her.
“Thank you,” Jenna murmured in reply as the girl turned back to the counter.
With a sigh, she leaned back in the chair and began to sip the creamy warmth. It was freaking good. She was no connoisseur of the stuff, but she could recognize high-quality coffee when she had it.
A presence set off the alarms in Jenna’s mind again, and she looked up with a start as the stranger from across the coffee shop now stood next to her table.
“May I…?” he asked, indicating the seat across from her.
Jenna fought the urge to roll her eyes from beneath her baseball cap, knowing that he probably wouldn’t even see it.
Without looking up, she gave a jerk with her head toward the seat, and a split second later, he was seated across from her.
He didn’t say anything, just stared at her.
Jenna squirmed uncomfortably under his scrutiny as she pondered all the possible reasons that he would have to leave his perfectly fine table and sit with her.
She angled away slightly and took another sip of her latte before asking, “Can I help you?”
She didn’t spend a lot of time in public places, but she thought the unstated protocol was stick to your own space and don’t unnecessarily intrude on others. Or maybe that was just her protocol.
His eyes narrowed as he seemed to consider a response. Instead of immediately replying, he took a sip of his own drink and then leaned forward with his elbows on the table.
“Quite the storm out there,” he said.
Oh God. He was going to talk about the weather.
Jenna took a moment to regard his statement and decipher what he was truly wanting to know. It seemed that in this day and age, no one could have a simple, straight conversation.
They had to use subtext and code to even ask the simplest things. It made no sense to her.
Despite the chilly weather, he wore a short-sleeved black shirt and jeans.
Abstract dark lines protruded from the collar along his skin, revealing the edges of a tattoo. Another was positioned on the underside of his forearm.
He was exactly the type of man that she would normally avoid. She had no desire to get caught up in the bad-boy fantasy. Men were men. And they were all the same.
Her experience with men was limited, but not obsolete. She had done her share of dallying with the male species from time to time, but every time she did, she left feeling emptier and less satisfied.
“Yeah, typical coast weather,” she finally replied.
His eyebrows shot up. “So, you’re from around here?”
“Used to be,” Jenna said, realizing if she wasn’t careful, he would figure out her whole life story in a matter of minutes.
The man frowned slightly. “Anything in particular bring you back?”
Okay, that was a strange question. Unless he was fishing for significant other information.
Now it was Jenna’s turn to frown. “Tying up loose ends, I suppose.” A nice and vague, yet true, answer.
Before he could think to reply, she added, “Look, some people might appreciate the whole ‘twenty questions’ act, but I usually prefer to sip my coffee in solitude.”
She hoped he heard and understood the clip in her voice.
“The name’s Chase,” he said, setting his coffee down and reaching a hand toward her.
Well, one thing was for sure: the man did not take hints. Or maybe he did, and he chose to ignore them. Either way, she was forced to introduce herself or come off as extremely rude.
“Harper,” Jenna said, giving him her middle name. Chase was proving to be a bit of a snoop, and she didn’t want to take too many chances.
She accepted the offered hand and allowed for the minimum amount of appropriate contact before releasing his and sliding her hand back around the warmth of the cup.
“Harper,” Chase repeated. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Mm,” Jenna hummed in reply, not wanting to blatantly lie about the experience being pleasurable for her too. It wasn’t, and the sooner he left her alone, the better.
She glanced wishfully toward the window, hoping that the rain had diminished, but no such luck. She was still stuck here unless she decided to brave the conditions.
Maybe she would if Chase asked her anymore questions…
Noting the sustained silence, Jenna glanced back at Chase only to find that his eyes were on her again.
“You are most peculiar,” he murmured, taking a sip of his drink.
“Peculiar?” Jenna gave a snort. “If that’s your idea of a pickup line—”
The rest of her sentence was caught off as Chase erupted in laughter that attracted the glances of a few other people in the coffee shop.
When his laughter subsided, he leaned forward, his face once again solemn.
“You truly have no idea what you are,” he stated, his voice a combination of surprise and curiosity.
“What?” Jenna questioned, feeling more and more in the dark about this conversation by the second.
With lightning speed, Chase flicked his hand out and grasped her wrist firmly, but not to the point of causing pain. Then he lightly skimmed his thumb along the sensitive skin.
“What do you feel?” he asked.
“Like you’re completely full of shit,” Jenna hissed, snatching her wrist back from his grasp.
That was it. She was going to brave the rain and get out of this place. This guy was whacked, and she was ready to put a few miles of distance between herself and him.
Snatching up the bags by her feet, she lumbered awkwardly toward the main entrance. There, she threw her cup away and pushed through the glass door.
Hoisting the bags more firmly against her sides, she began speed walking toward the bus stop.
The faster she walked, the more she felt rolls of emotions turning in her gut. Twinges of fear mixed with anger and confusion about what had just occurred. She had no idea why she was angry about it, but she was.
Chase had overstepped boundary lines to the point that she had felt the need to book it out of there. And she normally wasn’t one to run away from a situation like that.
Okay, sometimes she ran away. But only when she felt that she needed to.
She continued pacing toward the bus stop. She was nearly there when she felt a new emotion, and it was even stronger than the others had been.
She slowed her pace, coming to a complete stop before turning around, her shoulders straightening. Her eyes growing narrow in determination.
Fuck him for making her run like a terrified puppy from the coffee shop. He had no right to do that to her. This town was just as much hers as anyone else’s.
A surge of adrenaline rushed through her. Every vein, artery, and capillary flowed with the powerful hormone.
Oh yes. She was going to go back there and tell him exactly how this situation worked.
She took three steps before her fingers began to dance with heat. It spread quickly through her arms, shoulders, torso, and simultaneously up to her head and down through her feet.
Where the adrenaline had been energy and life, the heat was the exact opposite. It was draining the energy from her. Siphoning it away from her body in a mere few seconds.
That was the last thing she remembered before she began hyperventilating and everything went black.