Tall, dark, and handsome might be a cliché, but the man who enters is the epitome of the expression. It must have been invented with him in mind. I haven’t looked at a man since the assault. Not that I dislike men in general, I know they’re not all monsters, I just don’t like people. I keep stealing glances out of the corner of my eye. He’s beyond gorgeous, with his dark, thick hair, tousled as if he’s just come out of bed after hours of lovemaking, light eyes, a straight nose, a sharp jaw and unusually full lips. There’s something unnaturally still about him. Gracious. He seems to carry secrets. Like me. He looks like a predator, dangerous despite his suited-up, civilized façade. I realize I’m fixating on him way too much and force myself to turn away and push his existence out of my mind. “Tedious wait?” a soft, sensual voice says to my right. I nearly jump through the roof, a feat, considering it is several stories up. With my heart in my throat, I turn and freeze. The intensity with which the stranger studies me steals my breath. His eyes are those of a god, an angel, descended to earth. He is darkness, death, and salvation.’
The depth of her gaze almost floors me. She oozes a darkness I rarely encounter. I take in her delicate wrists and small hands. So thin, so vulnerable. Something stirs in me at the thought. Lust. A need to possess. I like it. “Ahm... no. I’m off to the safety deposit boxes. I’m not in line.” She makes a vague gesture in the general direction of the desk at the far end. “What are you keeping so safe? What are you hiding?” She shakes her head and a brief expression of concern ghosts across her features. “No, nothing, I mean…” I laugh. “I’m just teasing you. Keep your secrets. You looked lonely. I’m bored. I figured the combination was a killer.” “So, because you’re bored you just assume I’m available for talk?” “Well, aren’t you?” She gives me a once-over, and I have no problem interpreting the flash of appreciation on her face. I know I’m considered good looking, and I’ve learned how to charm. It has never come naturally, but I’ve found it useful on occasion. The girl glances at the desk where nothing happens, and then back at me, sighing. “I guess I am.” “Your enthusiasm is contagious.” She laughs, a tinkling sound which caresses my ears. “Well… I’m just not used to… talking to people,” she stutters. “Is that so?” I find that interesting. Neither am I. “Mm hmm.” “But you’re talking to me.” “You started it.” “You’re not stopping.” “You’re impossible.” “That, I am.” It’s very accurate. I am quite impossible to most people. “Roarke.” I give her my hand. “Brennan.” She looks at it as if she thinks it will bite her. Then she lays a cool hand in mine. “Bree.” Widening her eyes, her gaze darts between our joined hands and my face. “Elliott,” she adds on an exhale. I feel it too. It’s as if the forcefield around her now also encases me, and something passes between us. We both pull back our hands a little too fast. She wipes her palm on her coat. I stare at my own as if it will tell me her secrets. With a jolt, I look at the clock again and then at the entrance. Five minutes. I narrow my eyes as I take in the sight of a tall man entering and walking up to the cashier. He carries a concealed weapon. I know this without a doubt. Years of training, of honed instincts have given me an acute ability to see things other people don't notice. I turn back to the girl. “Nice to meet you, Bree.” She flashes me a shy smile. “You too, I guess.” “You guess? That’s a nice way to put down a man.” “Oh—” She blushes, her cheeks stop-signal red. “I— I’m just not used to —” “Talking to strangers. I know. You said as much.” Out of the corner of my eye, I catch sight of Frankie storming in. “Traffic,” he says, panting, with a sideways glance to me. I spin around, shoot the guard in the heart, turn again and train my weapon on the teller to the left, waving for him to join the other two in the center as I back toward the entrance to keep everybody in sight. A woman screams. Frankie pulls out a semi and fires off a round at the ceiling. Chunks of plaster rain down as he shouts, “Everybody down! This is a robbery!” Had my eyes not been busy, I would have rolled them. Yes. This is obviously a robbery. And I was right. The tall man spins around, a magnum in his hand, pointed at Frankie. “Police! Lower your weapon.” Frankie—fat, stupid Frankie—standing in my line of sight, yells, “Fuck off! I’ll kill you!” Two quick shots ring out and Frankie falls like timber. I see no reason to stick around. It isn’t as if I actually need a hostage. I can just shoot the cop and leave, but she’s within arm’s reach and too much of an enigma not to explore further. Pulling Bree to me by her arm, putting her between me and the cop, I back out through the doors, onto the street. She screams and flails. I whack her over the head, throw her in the car and speed off. Life suddenly got a lot more interesting.