Kiss It Better Excerpt


The sound of licking and sucking fills my ears, and an occasional low moan filters through. My sole focus is on the man in front of me and the knowledge that I have nearly brought him to his knees with pleasure. He groans lustily as his teeth nibble and his tongue flicks. His throat works as he swallows, and his fingers are slick. Slippery. Searching.

My body shudders.

With revulsion.

“Hey, you got any more wings?” Joe Miller asks.

Joe is a six-foot-five former pro football player who now coaches at the local high school. He relishes the samples I hand out at Cooper’s Food Market and Pharmacy, and he’s currently still licking his fingers clean of wing sauce like he’s a toddler rather than a grown man.

I try not to grimace, knowing that I’m all out of wings but not wanting Joe to complain to the manager about skimpy portions.

This is what I get for asking for a promotion. Instead of working behind a cash register, I make a dollar more an hour doing the culinary equivalent of spritzing perfume on random passersby. I glance down at the display samples, my dual offering of coconut curry wings and asparagus intended to appeal to the health nut and adventurous eater alike. A lone chicken wing sits in a red-and-white checkered paper tray, like the ones used to serve fries in gas stations, only smaller. An identical tray contains portioned green sticks of healthiness (I keep telling them raw asparagus isn’t edible, but no one listens to me).

Joe doesn’t even glance at the asparagus, not that I blame him.

I’m not a fan of curry, but give me something with some freaking calories any day.

Joe eyes the tiny wing sample, as if calculating if it would be worth the energy to eat it, or if he should ask me to go to the back and get some bigger ones. I smile, hoping he’ll go away.

My feet feel like I’ve been standing in this spot for five years without a break, but I know that’s not true. I spent them standing behind the register for three; that’s how I know almost everyone who comes through the door.

Could be worse. It could be like it was when all of my friends from high school were graduating college and coming home to get their things together to move off to wherever they were going next, be it grad school or fancy new careers.

When I think about how I got stuck here, I have to remind myself that at least I’m working for Mr. Cooper, the owner, even if I’m not fond of She-Hulk, the new manager he recently hired. Cooper’s is owned by a local family, and Mr. Cooper gave me a chance when no one else would.

God, please don’t let this be my life forever.

“Here you go, Joe,” I say finally, since it’s obvious Joe isn’t going to leave until I satisfy his appetite for more wings. I hand him the little tray with the last wing, plus several napkins.

He shoves the wing into his mouth in one gulp.

Sauce immediately covers his face and drips on the gray T-shirt he’s wearing, already stained in sauce from earlier. Once again, I stifle a grimace as he sucks on the bone. He literally sounds like he’s inhaling his food.

“Thanks.” Joe hands the empty tray back to me rather than tossing it in the garbage can in front of us.

I look down at the tray, no bones in sight, and back up at Joe. I start to ask him if he ate the bones, but then a man walks by my stand and I’m stunned silent.

I’m stunned, period.

It’s the same reaction I’ve had the last five times I’ve seen him.

No, I don’t know his name, but yes, I know exactly how many times he’s come into the store, at least when I’ve been here. He started coming in about two months ago, at various days and times, to peruse the vitamins.

He’s tall. Big, buff, and crazy handsome, with short dark hair and chiseled features. He’s wearing a faded T-shirt that shows off his toned chest and arms, and jeans that hug an impressive package and tight ass. Even though he’s dressed casually, he radiates confidence and power.

He’s never said a word to me. Never even looked in my direction. He could be the biggest dick on the planet, and that would be a damn shame, because I’d like to think he’s as beautiful on the inside as he is on the outside.

Every time I’ve seen him, I’ve been struck by a sense of familiarity, but I’ve never figured out why. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about what he does for a living. I always go back to him being some kind of movie star, though I can’t imagine what he’d be doing in Rutherford, especially on this side of the tracks.

He certainly looks like a movie star, with a strong jawline shadowed with scruff and cheekbones high enough to make a girl scream. Hazel eyes that, even from a distance, entrap and drown anyone fortunate enough to be caught in the crossfire.

Today, however, I’m suddenly struck by a vision of him in a fancy suit and tie, reigning supreme in an office building somewhere in the towering heights that are downtown Rutherford.

“Girl, he is so far out of your league.”

I jerk around at the voice that comes from beside me. Joe is gone, replaced by Kevin, my best friend, coworker, and constant enabler. He’s tall and thin, with eyes so similar to mine that many have wondered if we’re siblings. His hair is deliberately tousled and his shirt is always ironed. He’s clean and neat from head to toe. I love his company, but damn it, he’s distracting me from Big Sexy, who I know will be leaving soon; he never stays long.

I’ve never told anyone about him or my intense reaction to him, not even my best bud. But one thing’s for sure: whether Big Sexy’s a nice guy or not, Kevin’s right—he’s way out of my league. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t admire the view while I can.

“Thank you, Kevin,” I say, deadpan. “Thank you for taking a wrecking ball to my self-esteem.”

“I’m just trying to save you from heartbreak.”

“Heartbreak? I was ogling him, as I’m sure most people do. It’s not like I’m falling in love—”

“That ass?” He glances back at Big Sexy, as do I. As we watch, Big Sexy suddenly crouches to examine a row of vitamins on the bottom shelf. Kevin and I let out simultaneous sighs. “That ass is worth falling in love with,” Kevin adds.

“He’s out of your league, Kevin,” I say, throwing his words back in his face. Then I giggle softly. “Why are we getting into a pissing contest over a complete stranger?”

“Because of that ass!”

I take another surreptitious glance. “It is a nice ass.”

“God spent a little more time on that bottom.”

“And that smile.”

“How can you possibly know what he looks like when he’s smiling?”

“As you know, I’ve got a great imagination.”

“You imagining him smiling before or after he does you?”

“Both, of course.” I playfully shove his shoulder, but soon enough both of our eyes are back on Big Sexy.

“Kevin Dorsey to customer service,” She-Hulk calls over the intercom. “Kevin Dorsey to customer service.”

He groans, but takes no time marching forward. She-Hulk expects timeliness in all aspects of the job—especially when she’s reaming our asses. She-Hulk (real name: Sheila)—tall, blond, and lithe—is good at her job, but her moods swing back and forth like a pendulum; you never really knew what you’re going to get with her.

Just before Kevin passes Big Sexy, he reaches into his pocket to retrieve his phone and readies the camera. He looks back at me with a mischievous smile before snapping a picture of Big Sexy’s ass.

I cringe when Big Sexy cranes his head over his shoulder, catching Kevin in the act.

Maybe he really is a movie star, because he doesn’t seem surprised. Or maybe he didn’t see the phone. What he does do is crane his head farther over his shoulder until his eyes meet mine.

God, those eyes. So perfect. I feel his gaze in every part of my body.

Then he smiles slightly, and I swear, something inside me I didn’t know was broken clicks into place. With just his smile, Big Sexy has completed me. Made me whole again.

Those gorgeous lips, taunting and teasing me. So red. So luscious. So fucking kissable.

I feel a connection. He sees right through me, and I—

Oh God, I’m staring!

I whip my head to the side and turn around, and in so doing I twist my foot awkwardly. I’m not agile enough to pull off a smooth recovery, and my leg collides with the stand. In slow motion, the table, replete with the slow cooker filled with coconut curry sauce, empty trays, and a dozen sticks of asparagus, threatens to tumble.

I gasp in horror as I imagine my name being called over the speaker next.

Clean up in aisle five because Big Sexy smiled at Julia Rominger and she did the sample girl equivalent of pissing her pants.

I wouldn’t put it past She-Hulk to do something like that.

Then Big Sexy would know my real name instead of how he was probably thinking of me right now: that creepy girl staring at me and making a fool out of herself.

Thankfully, after some serious arm flailing, I’m able to catch myself on the table and right both it and myself before I land on my ass. Heart thundering, legs trembling, face flaming more than a virgin on The Bachelor when a camera zooms in for that oh-so-perfect first kiss, I suck in several breaths.

I refuse to glance over at Big Sexy.

I comb a finger through my hair, a nervous habit I’ve been unable to break since I was a shy kid.

Then I can’t help myself. I turn back to face him.

And almost scream in surprise to find him standing right in front of me.

“Hello,” he says.

I blink, and feel my face going into another full, four-alarm blush.

“So what are you offering today?” he asks.

“I’m sorry?”

“Chicken wings, huh?” He inspects the package and remnants of sauce in the slow cooker.

“Um, yeah. I just ran out, but I can . . . ” He waits, as if he’s actually interested in an alternative to not having a chicken wing. “Well, I can go get some more?”

He nods. “Go ahead,” he says. “I don’t mind waiting.”

“Are you sure?” I ask him.

“I’m sure.”

As I walk around my table, he shifts and our arms brush. I tremble at the contact, and I tremble some more when I catch a whiff of his scent—something spicy with citrus accents that makes me want to moan, latch onto him, and lick him like an ice cream cone. Somehow I manage to walk several feet before I glance over my shoulder to make sure he hasn’t run off. He’s looking at a floral display near my stand, and I want to tell him I’ve got a flower he can inspect. But there’s no way he’d be interested in me. He’s not just out of my league—he’s so far out of my league we’re not even playing the same game.

I rush back to the employee restroom and check my hair. I don’t know why, but it has a tendency to fall flat at work. I want my golden hair to bounce. If it’s full of life, I look full of life, right? I run my hands through my hair, fluffing some oomph and volume back into it. My makeup is fine. I could use a little ChapStick or gloss, but I just wet my lips with water from the sink and dab them dry with a paper towel.

I adjust my work shirt to make sure it’s straight. I unbutton the top and pull it down to show off a little cleavage, give him a taste of my curves. Then, I shake my head at the grocery store sample girl staring back at me in the mirror. It’s no use. I’m as plain as they come. I also weigh quite a bit more than your typical size-eight twenty-something and have heard my share of remarks about fatties manning food sample stations. The last time I saw my mother, she’d advised me to cut back on the ice cream, which wasn’t the politest way to greet me given I’d spent the past two years taking care of her while she suffered through her cancer treatments. But she gave me life and I’m glad she’s doing so well. Even when she insists the number I see on the scale is double digits too high.

Doesn’t matter. I need to get back to my sample table before Big Sexy loses interest in the chicken wings. If he ends up leaving, I might never see him again. He could find another place to buy his vitamins tomorrow. He could decide he doesn’t want to chance running into the klutzy girl at Cooper’s again. Me? I just want the chance to talk to him a bit more.

He has a great voice and now that I’ve heard it, I’ll probably fantasize about all the things I wish he would say to me. Not asking if I have any chicken wings left to sample, but maybe . . .

You look beautiful today.

Damn, what a body.

You’re the best lay I ever had.

I grab a package of the wings and hurry back to the front where my samples stand is waiting, unattended.

He’s gone.

Of course he is.

I don’t know what I was thinking. I know better than to think someone like him, with his perfect face and body, could ever actually be interested in someone like me. Even so, I feel like I just lost my chance at something precious.

I adjust my shirt so that it’s a little more work appropriate and button it back up before anyone else sees me.

It’s time for me to go on break anyway. I can put the table away and sulk over a sandwich from the deli. I walk closer to the table and that’s when I notice Big Sexy didn’t leave after all.

Instead, he’s passed out on the floor.