Author: Jessica Jarman
Released: November 27, 2015
Series: Bound #6
Genre: Contemporary Romance, BDSM
Author contact links: Blog, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, Twitter, Website
Massive knots forming in her middle, she shifted from foot to foot. God, he was pretty. It wasn’t the first time she’d thought so, and likely wouldn’t be the last. His brown hair was a mess as it was his habit to drive his fingers through it. She frowned slightly—she shouldn’t be noticing his habits. Certainly shouldn’t be noticing his long, almost elegant fingers. Shouldn’t be imagining those fingers on her skin, around her throat, heavy on her tongue.
She shook her head, dislodged the errant thoughts and brought her gaze back to Niall, jolting back when she found herself alone with him, his clear green eyes on her. A dark eyebrow lifted, and while he wasn’t grinning as he had with his customers, a smile still flirted with his full mouth.
“I came for my computer,” she blurted and nearly smacked herself as her words came out way too loudly. She inhaled deeply through her nose then stepped forward. “I mean, Maire told me she’d given you my laptop to fix. But she shouldn’t have bothered you. It’s an older one, anyway, and now is as good a time as any to replace it. So, I’ll just take it off your hands, but thank you…Mr. Walsh.”
Her face hotter than ever, she snapped her mouth closed.
“Seems a shame to replace when it’s still a perfectly good machine,” he said, reaching beneath the counter. Setting her computer and the neatly bound cord on the flat surface, he met her gaze. “All fixed…Ms. Turner.”
“Ohhhhh…” Her breath whooshed out as if she’d been struck hard in the stomach. Her heart raced, and a roar filled her ears.
“…quite a simple fix, actually.” Niall’s words finally penetrated her panicked haze.
“Oh, thank you?” She cringed at the questioning tone of her words, feeling like a complete and utter moron.
His laugh, low and dark, did things to her she didn’t want to examine, and she had to fight not to press her thighs together in response.
“You’re very welcome,” he murmured, turning slightly to grab a paper bag from the shelf behind him. “Would you mind taking these to Maire? They’re the biscuits she’s been having a craving for and nagging me about for weeks.”
“Yeah, sure,” she said slowly, moving closer to the counter.
Intense relief washed over her. He wasn’t acting any differently. Well, other than saying more words to her in the last five minutes than he had in the entire time she’d been in town, but she supposed they had something to talk about, now. And, he wasn’t treating her like he knew. He wasn’t treating her like anything other than a guest of his friends.
She lifted the laptop and took the bag from Niall, determinedly not looking at his extremely suckable fingers or his pretty face. She’d avoided a really, really awkward situation, and she sure as hell wasn’t going to create another by drooling over the man.
“I’m sorry I didn’t bring my wallet with me, but I’m good for it. How much do I owe you?”
“Owe me?” Confusion danced through his words, and without thinking, Clara looked up, took in the furrow of his brow, which had no right being so damned adorable. “For what? The biscuits? Those are a gift.”
“No, for the repairs.” she clarified.
He made a grumbling noise and shook his head. “You don’t owe me anything. Like I said, it was an easy fix. Hardly took any time at all.”
“Are you sure? I don’t mind paying. Really, I—”
“Of course I’m sure,” he said firmly, catching and holding her gaze. “I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
Before she could respond, stupidly feeling an apology on the tip of her tongue—for what, she had no idea—the bell above the door jingled, and a couple of young girls came in, talking hurriedly between themselves.
“Make sure you get those biscuits to Maire,” he nodded toward the bag she held, “and think twice before nicking a few for yourself. Pregnant women can be vicious when it comes to their cravings.” With that, he turned to the girls. “Stella Parsons, if you’re here for your tablet, you know full well I’m not handing it over until your mum tells me to. And I highly doubt we’re at that point, yet.”
“I know. She sent me here to see if you had any work for me to do to help pay off what…” The taller of the pair, a girl with blonde hair and wide blue eyes, glanced at Clara then back to Niall. “What I still owe you.”
Despite the curiosity that filled her—she figured a town this small, Maire was bound to know the story behind this—Clara skirted around the girls and out the door. She bit back a laugh as Stella’s voice followed her out.
“But you did fix it, right, Niall? Did you—”
Clara hugged the laptop to her chest as she walked back to Maire and Brody’s, her steps lighter than before. Niall obviously hadn’t seen anything, and she didn’t have to replace her computer, after all. Definitely the best outcome to all of this. This was why her worst-case-scenario way of thinking was something she had to kick. More times than not, she worried over nothing.
She let herself into the cottage, smiling when she heard Maire singing softly in the front room. After hanging up her jacket, she picked the computer and bag again and went to her cousin.
“I come bearing biscuits.”
“Oh, bless Niall. He was finally able to get some,” Maire said happily, setting her book aside and making gimme motions with her fingers.
Clara handed the bag over quickly, smothering a smile when Maire immediately dove in.
“He was done with your computer already?” she asked after practically inhaling one of the cookies.
“Yep.” Clara patted the machine. “I tried to pay him but—”
Maire laughed. “He refused. Niall would never take money. Don’t worry, we’ll invite him over for supper or something as a thank you.”
“Okay.” Clara shrugged. “Do you need anything? Help with tonight’s supper?”
“No. I’m going to enjoy my biscuits and tea.” She nodded to the cup on the table beside her. “You go on. I know you’re dying to check and make sure everything is in order with your computer.”
“Maybe,” Clara admitted, smiling and taking a step back.
“Go away.” Maire popped another cookie in her mouth. “My book was just getting good.”
Laughing, Clara hurried up the stairs into the guest room. She plugged in the laptop then plopped on the bed, crossing her legs and setting the computer in front of her as it powered on. She stretched her arms over her head then reached behind her head to pull the elastic from her hair. Closing her eyes and groaning slightly, she massaged her sore scalp as she tilted her head side to side.
When her computer chimed, she opened her eyes. And promptly froze, arms in the air. After a moment, her heart thumped wildly and her chest ached with the increasingly rapid breaths she drew in.
In the middle of the screen was, pinned to her desktop, was an electronic sticky note. The words searing themselves into her brain.
Hello, Clara. (After this, I think we’re past the Ms. Turner-Mr. Walsh nonsense, don’t you?)
I did you a favor and closed the many tabs you had pinned in your browser. To avoid inconvenience and possibly killing your computer in future, I’d suggest some safer sites. I think the following will meet your needs quite nicely.
Below his name was a list of web addresses—most of the URLs telling Clara exactly what type of sites they were. Dropping her arms, she slammed the computer closed and shoved it several inches away from her.
“Oh my god,” she breathed. “Oh my God, oooooooh my God.”