Copyright © 2016 by Mary Hughes
Enjoy the following excerpts from Cin Wikkid:
Cin has been chatting online with tutor Rafe for about a month.
An odd delay made her frown before another text bubbled up from him.
—I have a picture, too.—
The single line looked strangely vulnerable.
—Cool.— She wondered what he had for her. Another picture of Snoopy? An image of a sleek coupe?
Or a video?
Her heart beat harder in memory. Last week he’d shared a clip, proudly showing her he could do twenty-five push ups in one minute. She had to take his word for it; she hadn’t been counting, hadn’t even been able to count, after the video started.
The shot zoomed in on Rafe’s back from above. His muscles bunched and released under his thin tank shirt as he strained to pump out reps.
She’d replayed that clip several times in private, thinking all sorts of hot, sweaty thoughts. The ripple of strength as he bobbed up and down…her breath steamed in puffs on the air and her thighs heated just from the memory.
But after another odd lag, the image that popped up in her feed wasn’t Rafe’s back.
It was his face.
“Oh!” She nearly clapped in delight. She’d been hoping for a better picture of him. His chat head was mostly grin, his eyes scrunched to moonlike slivers, his head turned and tilted at such an angle that she’d had to imagine what he might really look like.
Now she could see.
Tousled black hair, jet brows sharp as ink slashes. Eyes a brilliant blue, so gorgeous they cut into her soul. She drank in his masculine beauty, including the tops of compelling cheekbones.
The rest of his features, though, were round, boy-next-door average.
And one other thing. His right cheek was a mass of puckers, as if his skin was a darned sock or made out of bubblewrap.
No text with it. No snarky I really am ruggedly handsome or I’m Ironman.
Just the single picture, hanging there at the bottom of the message stream, almost as if it was holding its breath.
“Is that you?” She began to type the words, but hesitated pressing send.
While she wavered, a bubble popped up. —It’s me. I’m scarred. Pretty badly.—
She’d gotten used to his almost-mind-reading and erased her text then quickly typed, —Can you tell me what happened? Does it hurt?— She pressed send.
Regretted it immediately. What if she’d said the wrong thing?
The screen froze, and for a moment, her breath froze with it. Was this something that pained him to talk about? If she’d hurt him by asking, she’d feel terrible.
A reply finally popped up. —Doesn’t hurt any more. Stupid accident involving too much testosterone. But thanks for asking.—
Her breath unfroze, her body warming. Maybe he didn’t often talk about it, but he had with her. —Thank you for sharing this with me.—
He responded with a sticker, a purring cat with a heart over it.
He’d posted a heart. Longing, sweet and thrilling, threaded her body like candy syrup. She shuddered with it.
Dial it down, Cin. You’re overreacting. It was simply a cute little sticker. Didn’t mean he loved her.
Still, it was nice, and she liked it. She was about to search for a sticker to reply with when a line of alert appeared below.
Rafe is typing.
She waited, breathless for what he’d share next.
The message bubble, when it popped up, contained a single line.
—Can we meet?—
Rafe and Cin meet for the first time.
Rafe watched her over the rim of his coffee mug, cobalt eyes twinkling.
Hesitantly, Cinderella told him about the mock hearing. “Is that something you can teach me?”
“Ye-es. Probably.” He frowned, thoughtfully. “How long do we have?”
“Until the beginning of April.”
“Then definitely yes. Though, it will take some pretty intense work one-on-one.” One black brow raised, a challenge. “Are you up for it?”
“I’m not afraid of hard work. Are you up for it?” Daringly, she raised both brows in return challenge.
The right corner of his mouth went up, on the scarred side, crinkling his skin and giving his grin a rakish, devil-may-care look. “Hours of intense work, one-on-one, with you? Oh, yeah. I’m up for it.”
The way he purred “up for it” implied things beyond study. Physical things. Cin’s stomach swooped and her heart pattered rapidly in response.
Then his eyes dropped to her mouth and heated.
Her whole body went boom.
She trembled, her heart pounding, her breath sawing in and out, on the cusp of bright truth. Her stepsiblings’ hatred had taught her to cover herself in bad makeup and baggy clothes and work, the contemporary version of sacks and ashes. But Rafe, looking at her like that…as if he not only was attracted to her but was on fire…God. She wanted to tear off her rags and shine.