No Perfect Hero
The worst part is, Warren isn’t even trying to deliver these torrid, ridiculous feels.
He’s just too intense. It radiates from him in this aura, this energy field of crackling lightning.
Stand too close, and he’ll catch you up in it and consume you.
As he stares down at me, something in his expression changes. Something tense, something hot, and then I can feel it in the charge pulsing through me, starting in my lips and centering lower. I feel it in every tiny hint of space vanishing between us as he leans closer.
Only for the sound of a stomping foot to cut us off as Tara shrieks from the open back door of our duplex.
“You leave her alone!” she shouts, rocketing out, all pint-sized fury, her little fists clenched and beating ineffectively against Warren’s thigh. “Don’t you hurt my auntie!”
That’s our cue to break apart, end whatever weird, layered thing keeps almost happening but doesn’t.
Warren holds both hands up, breathing shallowly, looking down at Tara with wide blue eyes. “Whoa. Hey. Hey, now. Slow down, kitten. I wasn’t hurting nobody.”
Tara glares at him, shoulders scrunched up, her face twisted in a mask of protective ferocity. I’d hug her if I wasn’t so shaken, trembling, pressing my hands over my face and trying to calm the racing of my heart.
“Liar!” she accuses. “She’s gonna cry.”
I shake my head quickly, dropping my hands and forcing a smile. “No tears here, Tara. I’m okay. Just a little startled. Warren surprised me, that’s all.”
Warren stares between us, hands still held up like he’s facing down the cops.
“For the record, munchkin…” He licks his lips, then says, “I wasn’t gonna hurt your aunt. I was gonna kiss her.”
What?! I’m physically rocked back by his words.
He slowly lowers his arms, and darts me an uncertain glance before looking back at Tara, offering a reassuring smile. “I just wanted to hold her because I wanted to kiss her.”
Instead of slowing down, my heart nearly does a full somersault. I stare at him, my mouth dry.
He’s joking, right? Just trying to calm Tara down and explain without frightening her?
But after that charged moment where our eyes locked, Warren leaning closer…
I’m not sure of anything.
And I’m not sure what I would’ve actually done, if that domineering, stubborn jackass had kissed me.
Tara frowns, tilting her head, her scowl easing as she looks at Warren, puzzled. “You…you like Auntie Hay?”
Warren grins, easy and warm. “Yeah.”
“Like…boy-girl like?” she whispers.
“Like boy-girl like.”
“Oh,” Tara says, before her face lights up and she blushes, giggling and covering her mouth. “Ohhh. Wow.”
I have to end this.
It’s bad enough that I’m sitting here, wondering how much hot blood can flow into my cheeks before I either pass out or burst into flames.
It keeps getting better.
Now my ten-year-old niece thinks the dick next door has a crush on me. Stifling my groan, I run my fingers through my hair, glancing back at the horizon and the beautiful sunset I’m missing, when I’d wanted to at least capture the general feel of the color palette on canvas.
“Go back inside so Warren and I can talk, kit,” I say, managing a smile for Tara. “I’ll be in soon to make dinner.”
Tara bites her lip, bouncing on her heels. I just know I’m going to have to field a thousand questions over dinner about whether I like Warren and if we’re going to kiss and be boyfriend-girlfriend.
No. No way. Abso-freaking-lutely not.
Damn that munchkin for even putting the thought in my head.
But she smiles too brightly to stay mad at, tumbles over, and tackles me with a quick hug, before pulling back and, with another little giggle, darting inside.
She’s humming under her breath. It’s thirty seconds before I recognize the tune. It’s Haley and Warren, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
Meanwhile, Warren just stares, scratching at his neck like it’s the most natural thing in the world to have my kid niece thinking we’re a thing. And to have him standing here, as beast-like as ever, a storm in his eyes hinting at a conversation that might be the last thing on earth either of us need.
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