Tag Archives: #carolinelee

Ranger’s Reprieve, episode 7

By Caroline Lee

 

The last three weeks had been giddying. There’d been her usual classes at the gym, and finishing up this second-to-the-last semester of veterinary school, sure. That was nothing new. But in between, in those glorious few free hours each week, she got to see…him.

Jess’s relationship with Java had progressed so well that the chocolate lab was living with him full-time, now. Which meant that she did her training visits right next door, in his house. Every time she went over, she was nervous and excited, and made a complete fool of herself. There was the time that she tripped on his doorstep and would’ve busted her head open if he hadn’t caught her. Then the time that she tried to hand him a leash when he was already holding the food bowl, completely forgetting that he only had the one arm. And of course, all of the time she spent admiring the really cool stuff his prosthesis could do, no matter how many times his dark brows drew in disappointedly when he caught her staring.

She should be too embarrassed to show her face over there again. She should find it too awkward to peek through her living room curtains at him, when he walked Java in the evenings. She should definitely not be fantasizing about him, wondering what it’d feel like to have his chest pressed against hers and taste those hard lips and—

Lindsey bit her lip, stirring the spaghetti sauce. There is absolutely no need to be thinking those thoughts, young lady. Her mother’s voice, and her father’s teasing, sounded loud in her brain. She’d heard them both often enough, the good Lord knew, in between her sisters’ joking about her distraction at their weekly family dinner.

But she couldn’t help it; she was distracted, and totally obsessed with her hot neighbor. The problem was, that Jess and Java worked so well together, there wasn’t much left for her to do. So she’d decided to swallow down her embarrassment and take a step. Instead of working at his house this evening, she’d invited them both over here, to her house. She’d claimed that Java needed a chance to socialize with Shelby, but she was hoping that he’d stay for the spaghetti dinner she’d cooked up too. And the wine. And the brownies. And maybe some more wine and Netflix, after?

Whoops, the sauce was dripping on the counter. Laughing at herself, Lindsey set the spoon back down and wiped up the mess, hurrying through the last few steps of prep before the 6:30 pm start time.

By 6:33, he still wasn’t there, and Lindsey was halfway through her first consolation glass of wine, sure that he wasn’t arriving. By 6:35, she considered throwing out all of the spaghetti and eating the pan of brownies in front of Gilmore Girls episodes.

So when the doorbell rang at 6:37, she darn near tripped over her freshly painted red toenails to get to it. Setting down the wine, she called to Shelby, clipped the leash onto her collar, and took a few steadying breaths. This was it. He was here. Did she look okay? Suitably casual and oh-I-just-threw-this-on but also really sexy? Lindsey squeezed her eyes shut, said a silent prayer that she wasn’t going to do or say anything stupider than usual, and threw the door open.

In the fading light, he looked just as scrumptious as he had for the last weeks. Except this time, there was a little smile under his stubble, and his lovely eyes weren’t as hooded as they’d been during that first official meeting. “Hi.”

Java’s leash was clenched in his fake hand—is that what she was supposed to call it? A fake hand? She had no idea, but it was one of a million questions she wanted to ask—so he was able to give her a little wave with his right fingers. “Hi.”

A good start. Unfortunately at that moment, Java smelled Shelby, gave a little wuff of excitement, and barreled through the door, pulling Jess past Lindsey. Shelby, however, was just as clumsy as her momma, because the mutt darted for the door, and Java followed, and in less than a heartbeat both humans were wrapped around and pulled together by the dog leashes.

It was a stunning feeling, to have his chest pressed against hers like this, and Lindsey resisted the urge to take a really deep breath. His prosthetic arm was trapped between their stomachs, and hers was around her back where she was still holding Shelby’s leash, but at that moment, it didn’t matter.

He smelled like a man should. He looked like a man should, all cut angles and harsh lines and firm muscles. He felt like a man should, and despite the supreme awkwardness of being wrapped up by two dogs, Lindsey wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

But a full minute of silence demanded her attention. “Sorry.” She tried for a flippant smile, but was afraid she looked love-sick instead. “I can be kinda a dork sometimes.”

A dork? She managed not to groan. Well, if you weren’t before, you are now, dork. He wasn’t the kind to make jokes. He wasn’t the kind to grin at her silliness. He wasn’t the kind—

She sucked in a breath—she could actually taste him, they were so close—when his fingers brushed against her cheek. And then he smiled. Really smiled, like he had when he’d met Java. “Well, I think you’re pretty adorkable.”

He’d made a joke? Or was he teasing her? Or did he—wait. He thought she was adorable? And then she stopped thinking altogether, because Jess was leaning closer.

 

 

Days Of Auld Lang Syne, Episode 11

By Caroline Lee

She’d been stood up a few times on dates over the last couple of years, but this one hurt the most. Joanne had been counting on this… but here she was, sitting in their usual back corner booth at BLVD, and her phone had just vibrated.

Sorry hon. Not going to make it. YOU GOT THIS!

She was really, really tempted to text something rude back to her best friend. How dare Lara bail when she so desperately needed her support? Only the knowledge that she’d pushed her friend into tonight stayed her hand.

Lara must’ve been waiting for a response, because when she didn’t get one, Joanne’s phone vibrated again. Jo? It’s going to be OK. I know UR freakin out, but you look hawt, and Shawn is going to love you.

He already did love her, according to that super-awkward conversation from this afternoon. How in the heck was she supposed to know what to believe anymore? Not least of all about her bestie. How do you know how I look? Her fingers shook so hard—in anger, or sheer terror of facing Shawn alone?—that it took three tries to spell “know” correctly.

I knew you were there! Joanne could hear Lara’s triumphant smirk in the words. You always look hawt, esp when you do that messy bun. You wearin the little blue dress? They’d gone shopping for New Year’s Eve together, but Lara knew Joanne well enough to know that she’d wear it early.

Yes.

Good. Order a drink and think sexily.

Think sexily? That was her only advice? Joanne groaned, and dropped the phone screen-down on the sticky table, hoping she didn’t have to deal with any more well-intentioned suggestions from Lara. She was gathering up her purse and scarf to escape when she saw him, pushing his way through the crowds with two drinks in hand.

Shawn stopped by the booth, and dios mio, did he look fine. The same thick coat from earlier, unbuttoned inside, and he must’ve stashed a hat someplace, because his hair was wonderfully tousled. More than anything, Joanne wanted to run her fingers through it… and judging from the wicked sparkle in his eye, he knew it.

“Your friend isn’t here yet?”

“No.” Joanne scowled. “She bailed.”

“Good.” His smile was wicked too, but she couldn’t help smiling back at his good humor. Shawn slid into the booth across from her, and passed her one of the drinks, which she grabbed, grateful for some way to occupy her hands. “Just us then.”

“How was your Christmas?” Joanne almost winced at the way she blurted out the question, knowing that it sounded desperate and awkward. But she was awkward, and desperate for any conversation that wasn’t about his earlier confession.

“It was nice, thanks. Low-key. I hung out with my Mom and sister and her boyfriend. How about yours?”

The genuine warmth in his maple eyes told her that he wasn’t just making small talk, and Joanne felt herself relaxing. “Good.” She chuckled a bit. “Loud. The opposite of ‘low-key’, I guess.”

“Your family visited?”

“Yeah, and you know Puerto Ricans. Get a houseful of us together, and everyone has to talk louder to be heard over anyone else. It was hectic.”

“It sounds wonderful.”

“It was.”

They smiled at each other, and it seemed to open the gates to all the discussions they’d missed. Questions about what they’d been doing over the last years mixed with updates on old classmates and mutual friends. Shawn told her all about his new business and the traveling he’d done during college, and Joanne explained how she’d been able to earn money from her fashion blogging.

It was just like old times. She was perfectly at ease with him, loving the fact that he didn’t intimidate her the way other men sometimes did. In fact, two hours and another drink went by before she realized it.

But all good things must end, and when he checked his watch around eleven, he abruptly straightened. “I’m sorry, Jojo, but I have to cut this short. I have a project due in the morning.”

She smiled, refusing to be awkward again. “That’s okay. I’ve gotta get home too.”

“Can I…” His gaze flitted to the bar, and then the ceiling, and then the table, and that’s when Joanne realized he was hesitating. Mr. Sexy himself was awkward? Around her? “Do you have plans for New Year’s Eve?”

“Yes.” She was watching movies with Novia and Yana and eating popcorn. But when his face fell, she hurried to assure him, reveling in this new role as the not-awkward one. “But nothing that can’t be changed.”

“Would you… would you like to spend the night with me? I mean—” Those gorgeous maple eyes went wide. “I mean, spend the evening. New Years. The evening of New Year’s Eve… with me?”

Joanne smiled. “Yeah. I think I’d like that.”