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  • Alexis Winter

**SNEAK PEEK** The F*** It List





Chapter One — Cora


These are the things that run through my head every time I look at myself in the mirror—all the things that people are saying behind my back or when they think I’m not paying attention. Of course, they’re also wondering

What

wrong with me? Why is it that all of my friends are happily married with kids or with kids on the way, and I can’t even manage to hold on to one guy? What’s so wrong with me? I mean, I guess I am a little too thin. I would like to have a curvier body—a body like an hourglass, if you will. The only curves I have are from my B-cup breasts, and trust me, they’re always overlooked because they’re a B-cup! My ass is too flat, and my hips are practically nonexistent. I’m also too short. I’m a 24-year-old woman who’s built like a 14-year old girl. Harley says I’m adorable and pixie-like, but I think most men look at me and see a girl instead of a woman.

I lean into the mirror and inspect further. My eyes are blue, but they’re not a striking blue or dazzling in any way like they once were. Lately, they’ve been puffy and glassy with the amount of crying I’ve done. In fact, my eye shape isn’t right for my face at all according to several beauty magazines I’ve read. My big round eyes and cherub cheeks just accentuate the adolescent look I’ve been trying to change. I’ve always wished I were that girl with gorgeous almond eyes and an angular jaw à la Gal Gadot. Look, I’m not ugly, but I’d be lying if I didn’t wish I looked a little more interesting instead of the pale, short girl next door with a blonde bob and petite features.

A puff of air leaves my lips as I turn away from the mirror and bend over the tub to turn off the water. The tub is full of bubbles but I add in a few essential oils. I already have a dozen lit candles scattered around the tub and the vanity counter. The tray that rests across the tub is complete with a glass of wine—the bottle on the floor well within reach—and a box of chocolates. It’s been a few weeks since my failed marriage ceremony and you could say I’m still wallowing. This is my weak attempt at putting myself back together, but in reality, I’m just licking my wounds.

I remove my robe and drop it onto the floor as I climb into the tub. It’s an old-school clawfoot tub and it’s completely full, so the water covers my entire body. I pick up my phone and start up some music that plays softly in the background to help me relax. Then I pop a chocolate into my mouth and wash it down with a sip of wine. I lean my head back and close my eyes, letting the hot water relax my tired body. I breathe in the scents of the aromatherapy candles and oils. Slowly, I begin to feel myself start to relax.

Behind my lids, a vision of Jimmy appears, and I feel the ping of pain he’s left in my heart. I can see his blond hair that was always neatly combed. His green eyes and sharp jaw. His plump, soft lips. I remember the way those lips felt when they’d kiss down my neck. My heart feels like it cracks open and breaks. Tears build in my eyes. It doesn’t take long before they overflow and run down my cheeks.

, I tell myself.


All I’ve ever really wanted in life is to be married to a man who loves me deeply—a man who wants to be with me and will do anything it takes to keep me. I want the big yard, the picket fence, and a couple of kids running down the hall. I want to tuck my kids in at night by placing kisses on their foreheads, only to run back to the living room to cuddle up with my husband on the couch in front of a cozy fire. Is that really too much to ask? I don’t want a mansion or a million dollars. I don’t want some fancy car or dream job. I just want a family of my own.

I have to admit, as happy as I am for Harley, I’m also a little jealous. She’s found someone great who loves her for who she is. And now she’s pregnant and has everything I want. Giving them my honeymoon was no big deal. I didn’t pay for it, and it was the least Jimmy could do . . . in my eyes, anyway. There’s no way I would’ve been able to take that trip alone. I would’ve done nothing but cry the whole time, and I’ve done plenty of that from the comfort of my own apartment.

I’m happy that Harley got the trip. And I’m happy that she’s with Foster and that they’ll soon have a child of their own. But how the hell did my life end up this way? I did everything for Jimmy that a good fiancée should do. I waited on him hand and foot. I thought I was being supportive and loving—listening to his problems and trying to offer any advice I could. I bent over backwards making sure to take care of his place and mine. I even budgeted his accounts for him. I did his laundry and made his lunch every day. Most of the time, I cooked dinner for him too. I was

sure I was convincing him of how awesome a wife I’d be. I had no idea that what I was really doing was changing myself to fit him. I was completely neglecting my own needs and desires in my attempt to keep him happy. From now on, I won’t do that anymore. From this point forward, if a man wants me, he’s going to have to realize that it’s a partnership—it’s give and take. I’m no longer going to be that girl who completely forgets who she is for someone else.

I think back over the course of my dating history, and in every single relationship, I was always the one doing the changing. If my boyfriend liked football, I was suddenly an avid football fan. If he hated a TV show, I hated that same show and stopped watching it, even if it was something I’d loved before. I changed the type of music I listened to. I changed my diet and exercise routine. Hell, I even cut my hair because Jimmy didn’t like long hair. He said it was always getting tangled around him.

I decide to push all these thoughts away. All I’m doing is depressing myself, and now that I’m good and relaxed, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to fall into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I sit up and crawl out of the tub. I dry off and replace my robe, then turn on the ceiling light and drain the tub before blowing out the candles. I exit the bathroom and fall into bed. I don’t even think I pull the covers up my body. My eyes close and I’m dead to the world.

My alarm goes off the next morning, and for a moment, I’m annoyed that I have to deal with the emotions I’ve been wrestling with all week. But then I remember the promise I made to myself last night and force myself to pep up. I get up and go to start a pot of coffee before slipping into the shower. I feel my chest tighten again as I think about the memories I made with Jimmy in this same shower. Before the tears can fall, though, I shake the thoughts away and turn the water to COLD to make my ass hurry up. Before long, I’m shivering and it’s all I can think about. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to make it through the shittier moments of heartbreak.

I hold a mug of piping-hot coffee close as I flip through my closet trying to decide what to wear. It’s time I start putting more effort into my appearance. Truthfully though, even before my breakup, I’d started to slip into a bit of a lazy morning routine . . . if you could even call it that. I would brush my hair and put on whatever wasn’t wrinkled and call it a day. I just lost interest in trying to look good, but now I have some motivation . . . I want to look good to make myself feel better. I find a nice pair of high-waisted black slacks that always make me feel tall and put-together and pair it with a light pink blouse with lace sleeves. I find my favorite pair of nude heels and toss them on the floor next to my bed.

I take my time blowing out my hair and adding a few waves with my curling iron. I put on a full face of makeup, something I used to enjoy doing but have not wanted to bother with lately since I’d just cry it off.

With my appearance better than it has been these last few weeks, I shut off the light and head back to the kitchen. I open the fridge and root around, opening a yogurt and sniffing it before gagging and tossing it on the counter. I find a stale bagel that’s about as hard as a rock and tap it against the refrigerator shelf. Ugh.

I shut the door and lean against it, sipping the rest of my coffee before glancing at the microwave clock. I still have plenty of time to kill before I have to be at the office, and I don’t want to be the first person there for the fifth time this week. It’ll make me look too desperate—like I’m focusing too much on work as a way to forget my heartbreak. But I refuse to be heartbroken any longer. A guy like Jimmy doesn’t deserve it . . . just like he doesn’t deserve me. Good riddance.

I pull up to Mayhale Medical Manufacturing at 7:50 a.m. and park in my assigned spot. As far as parking spots go, I’m not important enough to park up front, but I’m not in the back 40 either. I’ve been lucky enough to get a spot in the sixth row thanks to my accounting position. I grab my purse and start making the journey to the door.

My job was another thing Jimmy didn’t like. He said that accounting is a boring job for boring people who don’t have one interesting thing about them. One time, his exact words were, “Being an accountant is the equivalent of watching paint dry. It’s as if the color beige were a human.”

He tried talking me into quitting many times over the two years we were together. I’ve never been so glad that I kept my job and went against his wishes. Where would I be now? Alone and jobless? I can’t even bear the thought of that.

When I enter the building, I say “good morning” to many of my coworkers—trying my best to plaster on a genuine smile, knowing that they’re still pitying me. I want them to see that I’m fine. Better than ever, in fact.

I stop in my office and put my things down. I turn on my phone and computer and go in search of a cup of coffee. I walk into the break room and find it empty. There’s a big table with a pink box in the center. I lift the lid and the scent of fried dough and sugar hits my nose, causing my stomach to audibly grumble. “Yes! Donuts!” I see a note next to the box with the word


The coffee hasn’t been brewed yet, so I make quick work of making a pot. I’m a

kind of gal. The office rule around here is if you finish the pot, you have to make a new one. And the first person who wants coffee has to make it. I pour some creamer and sage in my mug as I wait for it to brew, then decide on a donut. I grab a paper towel and pick up a plain glazed donut off the top. I replace the lid just as the door to the break room opens. I look up to find Grayson walking in with a smirk.

“Cool, you brought donuts for everyone?”

I shake my head. “No, it wasn’t me. They were here when I came in. But it says ‘enjoy’ so . . .” I shrug one shoulder as I take a bite of the donut.

He laughs and grabs one out of the box too. I watch as he takes his first bite. The sweet donut causes him to let out a small moan and his eyes flutter closed. His Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows it. His eyes pop open and land on mine as his tongue darts out and licks some glaze flakes off his lips. “Good donut.”

A blush creeps up my neck as I stare at him. “They really are,” I agree, turning my back to him to force the heat from my face as I pour my coffee.

He comes over to lean against the counter. He crosses his big arms across his chest and looks down at me. I look up and find his intense blue eyes. “So, how are you doing, Cora?”

Ugh, the dreaded question, complete with the sympathetic head nod. Everyone is overly concerned lately with how I’m handling life now that I’ve been dumped at the altar. “I’m fine, Grayson. Thanks for checking,” I say, wanting to remain indifferent instead of saying something that may tell him otherwise.

Grayson and I have been friends since I first started working here. He’s in sales, and the only time we really see each other is in the break room or at work functions, but I’ve always had a slight crush on him, like every other woman who works here. Luckily, we’re not together often, or I probably would’ve blurted it out—hoping a hot romp with him would get my mind off of things. But from what I can tell, he wouldn’t have taken me up on an offer like that anyway. He’s tall, muscular, sexy as hell, and practically every girl in the office wants her shot with him. But at the same time, he seems to be more thoughtful than most. He’s respectful, quiet, and reserved. He never takes any of the women here up on their offers, and he’s just an overall good guy. There’s no way in hell I’m going to fuck things up with him.

“I’m glad to hear it. That guy was a total dick anyway,” he says, offering up a slight smile.

I laugh and nod. “He really was. But I’m done with men like that. It’s time to focus on myself.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” he says, nodding his head.

“I’ll talk to you later, Grayson.” I take my coffee and donut and head toward the door. I pull it open, and just as I’m turning around to shut it, our eyes meet again. He’s still standing in the same spot, arms crossed and eyes on me. His gives me a little wink that causes my heart to flutter.

I quickly walk away from the break room and take my breakfast back to my office to get ready for the long workday of crunching numbers. When I’m finally in my office, I close the door behind me and take a seat at my desk. Last week I couldn’t focus on my work. All I kept thinking about was Jimmy: what he was doing, and what everyone was probably thinking about me. This week, though, is going to be completely different. I plan on doing this week’s work and whatever I missed last week. I won’t stop until I have everything done and am putting it on my boss’ desk with a smile.

Crunch time.

When lunch rolls around, I push away from my desk and crack my neck. I’ve been working nonstop since this morning and I’m in dire need of a break. I remove my glasses and drop them on top of the stack of papers I’m working on, letting out a sigh before grabbing my journal and a pen before heading to the break room.

The break room is usually pretty quiet, with most people opting to leave for lunch. But I don’t like to leave unless it’s time to go home. Leaving for lunch is nice and all, but it’s that much harder to get back into the swing of things when I return. In the break room, I can quickly eat, enjoy some quiet time, and get back to work when I finish, so there’s no lag in my brain that says


The room is empty when I arrive, so I drop my things on the table in the center of the room and open the freezer to see if any of the food I brought in is still there. I find a frozen meal—chicken alfredo—and make quick work of warming it up in the microwave. I buy a soda from a vending machine and take everything back to the table to eat and get to work on my list.

After my realization last night that in every relationship I’ve been in, I’ve changed myself, I decided I’d make a list of the things I want to do to be right with myself before another relationship comes along—things that will make me a better person, and a more experienced person. Getting right with myself will only make me that much better in a relationship, and after doing all this work on myself, I won’t want to bend to someone else’s will in order to fit into their life. I want to volunteer at a soup kitchen, help make the world a better place, and donate my time at an animal shelter. I want to play golf—I’ve never played golf! Go camping. Catch a fish. But I also put in a few relationship goals as well. Things like kiss in the rain, dance under the moonlight, have an orgasm . . .

Okay, let me explain. I’ve been in a few relationships and I went on a ton of dates before Jimmy. I even slept with some of those guys, but the one thing they all still have in common is that none of them ever got me off. I’ve been close . . . I think. But no one has ever been able to push me over the edge. And it’s irritating. I want to know what everyone’s talking about. I want to feel the heat in my veins. I want to feel the explosion in my own body. I want to know what it’s like to give yourself over completely to another person like that.

I’m so caught up in my list, which now has 20 items, that I haven’t touched my food. My hand is flying across the page, writing one thing after the next. I never even realized how much stuff I haven’t done—not until I started writing them all down. I’m so caught up in my own thoughts and my list that I don’t even hear the door to the break room open. I don’t notice that anyone’s walked in until I hear that deep, friendly voice.

“Whatcha doing?” Grayson asks, tossing something into the microwave and startling me. He slams the door shut then taps on the buttons until it lights up and the tray starts spinning.

“Oh, nothing,” I say, holding back a surprised yelp. I drop the pen in my hand and place my arm over the paper to hide everything I’ve written. I look up at him and force a smile. “How’s your day going?”

He smiles and shrugs. “It’s all right, I guess. It’s a Monday, that’s for sure.” The microwave beeps and he takes his burger out and carries it to the table to sit next to me.

With him so close, I no longer feel comfortable working on my list, so I close the notebook and pull my meal closer as I begin to eat.

“Whatcha working on?” he asks as he unwraps his burger.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Just a silly little list I’m making for myself.”

“What kind of list? A shopping list?”

I giggle, feeling embarrassed just talking about it. “No, not exactly. It’s just a list of things I want to do now that I’m single. I’m trying to make myself happy instead of leaving it up to someone else to do for me.”

His blue eyes meet mine and they’re shimmering. “I like that idea.”

“Yeah?”

He nods. “What are some things you want to do?”

I stab at a noodle and take a bite. “You know . . . just stuff.” I refuse to look at him now for fear that he’ll somehow be able to drag the truth out of me.

“What kind of stuff?” he presses.

“You know . . . stuff. Like going camping, taking a hike, catching a fish. That kind of thing.”

“You’ve never gone camping?” His tone is amused but his face communicates shock.

“I grew up with a single mom, all right? No, she didn’t take me camping.”

“Well, that’s an easy one. What else you got?”

I shake my head. “It’s my thing. Don’t worry about it.”

The moment the last word leaves my mouth, I feel my arm—the arm that’s resting on top of the notebook—shift. It’s suddenly flat on the table and the notebook is now in his hands.

I jump to grab it, but he slides his chair back across the floor out of my reach.

“Give it back!” I demand, standing up and having every intension of chasing him down to rip it out of his hands before he reads that one very embarrassing part:

“Golf? I can help you with that. I used to play golf in college on scholarship. I’m really good.” He smirks. He’s holding the notebook over his head where I can’t reach it—even if I jump.

I put my hands on my hips and stare him down. “No thanks. Now, can I please have that back or are we doing this the hard way?”

I see his eyes quickly flashing down the page as he reads each line. Suddenly, they freeze and I know he’s read the part I didn’t want him to see. To my surprise, he doesn’t say anything about it. Instead, he closes the book and places it in my outstretched hand.

“Seriously, let me help you.”

I frown. “Why would you want to help me?” I ask, turning back to the table. I’ve suddenly lost my appetite, so I pick up my lunch and walk across the room to toss it into the trash.

“What?” he asks, brows drawing together in time for me to turn around and see his expression, which is a mix of hurt and confusion. “We’re friends, right?”

“Sure, we’re work friends. Not outside-of-work friends.” I pick up my soda and take a sip.

“Let’s change that,” he says, lunch forgotten on the table as he stares up at me.

“Why?” I ask.

He laughs and shakes his head. “You don’t make being your friend easy, do ya?”

I want to laugh at that but I don’t. Here’s this great, super-sexy guy basically begging to be my friend, and I’m so hurt and jaded that I can’t even trust that? A friendship?

I shrug. “I just don’t understand what brought this on. We’ve worked together for years and you’ve never suggested hanging out after work before.”

“True, but that’s because you’ve always been in a relationship and I didn’t want to cause any problems for you. But now you’re single and I’m single. There’s nothing stopping us. Come on. What do you say?”

“I’ll think about it,” I say, picking up my pen and walking toward the door with all of my stuff in tow.

I pull the door open but his voice causes me to stop.

“Do more than think about it, Cora. Just . . . do it.”

I turn and look at him from over my shoulder and he’s wearing a determined look. His jaw is cocked—flexing and tensing. His eyes are intently staring at me, taking me in and studying me. For a moment, it feels like he can read everything about me, including the things I keep locked deep inside for no one else to see.

I can’t reply. Not with him looking at me like that. Instead, I nod once and walk out, leaving him alone in the break room.

Once work is done for the day, I pack up my things and hit the door. I’m lost in thought as I walk through the building alone and across the parking lot to my car. When I look up after grabbing my keys from my purse, I find Grayson leaning against the side of my cherry-red Jetta. His arms are crossed over his big chest and his thick hair is blowing slightly in the warm breeze. The sun hits it, accentuating his natural caramel highlights. Goddamn, he looks like a fucking Disney prince.

I stop a few feet from him and tilt my head.

He stands up straight and takes a few steps toward me. “I seriously want to help you with your list.”

“Yeah, I got that. But I haven’t decided yet.”

“Why not? Come on, it’ll be fun! Who else is going to go golfing and camping with you?”

He does have a point. Harley isn’t exactly the outdoorsy type, and now she’s pregnant and probably won’t be feeling very well when her morning sickness kicks in.

“Well . . .” I say as he stands in front of me, smiling and nodding his head. “Okay,” I finally agree.

“Yes,” he breathes out excitedly. “This weekend we’re hitting the golf course. You and me, baby.” His wide smile is contagious and I can’t help but smile at how excited he is.

“Okay. Saturday it is.”

“Bright and early. We’ll have breakfast and hit the course. I’ll pick you up around 6.” He tries to walk away but I quickly grab his arm.

“Six? Like, in the morning?”

He nods. “Yeah, why?”

“Six? In the

?” I say again to clarify.

He laughs. “That’s right. Hope you’re a morning person, ‘cause I am,” he says around a smirk as he walks away. I let my gaze linger on him for a moment, my eyes dropping down to his taut ass for a brief second before I feel a pang of guilt.


Great. I am not a morning person. Hopefully he isn’t one of those super-chipper annoying morning people. I’d hate to have to snap off his head while he’s being so nice to me.


Chapter Two — Grayson


I chuckle as I’m walking away from her toward my car. Is 6 a.m. really that early? I get up at 4 a.m. every day. It gives me time to wake up, work out, have breakfast, shower, and get ready for the day. I’ve never really understood how people can sleep so late. On the few occasions I’ve done it, it felt like I wasted my whole day. And the thought of getting to spend a whole day with the girl I’ve had a crush on for years probably means I won’t sleep much the night before.

I’ve been holding back a secret crush on Cora for years. I made sure to get to know her, to become a friend, and to be there whenever she needed me. Not because I’ve been trying to get into her pants or manipulate her. It’s just that she’s an amazing fucking woman and any man who can’t see that doesn’t deserve her. And now thanks to that douchebag who decided to run out on her the day of their wedding, I’m finally getting my chance.

I don’t know how she feels about me, though, and it drives me crazy. We’ve laughed and joked around on several occasions at work, but due to her always being taken, she’s never flirted with me. But I guess I haven’t really flirted either—at least, not after I found out she was taken. I’ve had to sit back and watch the guy she was about to marry break her heart again and again and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. This time, she isn’t getting away.

I’m worried that if I come on too strong, I’ll just scare her off. She’s probably still hurting over his rejection and I don’t want to push her into another relationship too soon. She needs time to heal, which is why I think this whole “Fuck It List” of hers is perfect. I almost laughed when I saw the title of her list today. Then I damn near shit myself when I saw one of the last things on that list.

How has she never gotten off before? Surely she isn’t a virgin, is she? How can anyone go 20-something years without having an orgasm? I mean, at some point, wouldn’t you get just tired of being let down and take care of it yourself? That piece of shit did her a favor by dumping her if he couldn’t get her off. She clearly has no idea how fucking good the right man could make her feel. I know one thing: when I get my shot with her, I’ll make it my damn mission to have her entire body so racked with toe-curling orgasms, she’ll be begging me to stop.

I’ve always avoided workplace relationships though, and that’s one aspect of this that worries me. What if things don’t work out with us? Will it be awkward running into her at work? Although the only time I run into her is when I’m already seeking her out. We work in different departments and only ever see each other in the break room—

break room, not mine. I just randomly pop in down there in the hope of running into her. I’m glad it worked today.

As I climb behind the wheel, I plan out in my head how I want things to go with us. We’re already “work friends,” as she put it. I want to be real friends. Friends who call each other on the weekends. Friends who get together for dinners or lunch dates. And that friendship could easily turn into a relationship. There’s always been something about her that I just can’t resist. I don’t know if it's the silky blonde hair that she’s recently chopped off into a stylish bob, or if her icy blue eyes, high cheekbones, and perfectly sculpted lips. I bet those lips could do some amazing things. She’s short—probably only coming up to my shoulders—and I bet she doesn’t weigh 110 pounds soaking wet. She’s like my own personal little pixie, and I want nothing more than to pick her up against me and carry her to my bed where I can see how that little body fits with mine. I feel my body come to life with those thoughts and have to push them away and clear my head to drive home.

I get to my place and my roommate, Charlie, who also goes by Chuck, is already home and lounging on the couch with a case of beer beside him. He looks up with a smile. “Hey, got you a beer,” he says, reaching down and grabbing one. I sit down beside him and he hands it over.

“Thanks.” I pop the top and take a long drink.

“How was work?”

I nod. “It was good. You know that girl I told you about?” I look over at him.

His brows furrow together. “Which one?” he asks, being stupid. He knows which one. It’s not often that I talk about girls.

“You know, the one from work.”

“Oh right,” he says with a nod. “The little blonde girl who was left at the altar.”

I roll my eyes. I’m tired of hearing her described that way. She has a ton of things going for her. “Well, I got her to agree to go out with me this weekend.”

“Awesome, where ya taking her?”

“Golfing.”

He snorts and bursts out laughing.

“Shut up, man. She wants to go. She has this list of stuff she wants to do and golfing was on there. And you know, since I’m a pro, I figured, why not?”

This only makes him laugh more. “Pro?”

I roll my eyes.

“If you’re a pro, then why aren’t you making millions on tour playing golf somewhere instead of working where you are?”

“Well, you say you’re a pro at Photoshop yet you’re still making all your money on Fiverr, so I don’t want to hear it from you.”

“Hey, I’m an entrepreneur,” he says, clearly offended by my jab.

This time I snort and roll my eyes. “Riiiiight. You’re just the

type. Can’t handle the 9-5 grind,” I say, giving him shit. He actually is really good at what he does and he did have a normal job at a design company, but he left it to start up his own business that hasn’t exactly taken off yet. He does, however, cover his share of the rent and other expenses, so I don’t complain. He’s a guy who doesn’t have to try to excel at something and he knows it, so instead, he does the bare minimum. Something about being a “free spirit,” but really, it’s just laziness.

He holds up his middle finger, making me laugh. He knows that I’m just giving him a hard time and he doesn’t take anything I say seriously anyway.

“Wanna go grab some dinner?”

“I actually just placed an order for some Chinese food delivery. You’re more than welcome to join in if you’d like. I ordered enough for 10,” he laughs out.

“You always do,” I agree. “Chinese food sounds good. I’m going to hop in the shower. Let me know when it gets here.” I push myself up off the couch and go into my bedroom to gather up my clothes.

I shower quickly, shave my face, and pull on a pair of sweatpants before walking back into the living room to find Chuck at the door retrieving his order. I go into the kitchen for plates and forks then take a seat on the couch. He sets everything down on the end table and we both start making our plates. I grab a little of everything and dig in while he flips through the channels too fast to actually see what’s on. He’s somehow able to tell, though, because he stops on an old baseball game and sets down the remote. We both eat in silence until I finally speak up.

“So, how are you and Jessica doing? I haven’t seen her around here in a while.”

He shrugs. “We still talk but haven’t hung out much,” he says around a mouthful of food.

“Not meant to be then, huh?” I joke.

He snorts. “Not even close. So you think this girl from work is the one for you?” He’s wearing a smirk because he doesn’t believe in that kind of thing.

I shrug. “I don’t know. I guess we’re going to find out.”

***

After our meal, Chuck goes back to work at his computer desk in the corner of the living room, and I get up to go to my room so he’ll have the quiet he needs to focus. I sit on the edge of the bed and look around my room. I don’t hang out in here much, so there isn’t a lot to do and it’s too early to go to sleep. I get up and walk into my closet to pull on a pair of jeans, some boots, a black T-shirt, and my leather jacket. On my way out the door, I grab my keys from the bowl and head down to the parking garage. While I always park my car in the lot, my motorcycle stays well-protected in the garage.

I swing one leg over the Harley, put up the kickstand, and start her up. She comes roaring to life, and when I twist the throttle, she rumbles loudly. I slowly make my way out of the garage and onto the street. I have no destination in mind. All I know is that I was feeling too shut in and needed an escape. The road with the bike between my legs and the wind in my hair is the only way to do that. I weave in and out of traffic until I can hit the highway. Finally, I have the room I need to open her up.

I don’t pay much attention to where I’m going. It’s like my mind isn’t steering the bike—my body is, and it does so without being told where to go. When I look up, I’m in a familiar part of town but I have no idea why I drove here. I park in a parking space on the side of the road and shut off the bike. I put down the kickstand and get into my saddlebags to remove my water bottle. I lift it to my lips and take a long drink while my eyes take in everything in front of me. There are a few apartment buildings, a couple little restaurants, and a gas station, but no bars or anything. It’s a quiet section of town that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, so I can’t for the life of me figure out why I drove here. Then I catch a glimpse of something that gets my attention.

Cora. She’s walking toward me with a bag in her hand. She hasn’t spotted me yet, so I lean against the bike and cross my arms over my chest as I wait. When she’s only a few feet from me, she stops.

“Grayson?”

I stand upright. “Hi, Cora.”

“What are you doing here? How’d you know where I live?”

I shake my head and point up at the building. “You live here?”

She nods with her brows lifted, as if she’s saying

“I had no idea. I was just riding and stopped here to get a drink. What are you up to?”

She holds the bag up a little higher. “Just went out to get some dinner. Hungry?”

“I just ate, thanks.”

“Are you sure? It’s my favorite. Chinese.” She smiles wide.

I laugh. “I just ate Chinese food myself.”

She giggles. “I guess that’s part of being a single millennial in the city, huh? Takeout life. Want to come up and watch me eat then? I’ll even give you a drink.”

I shake the water bottle in my hands. “Well, my water

almost gone.”

She nods toward the building. “Come on.”

I follow her inside and she shuts the door, locking it behind us. She flips on lights as she walks through the apartment, and I glance around to take everything in. I smile, realizing the entire place smells like her: warm vanilla and something that has a hint of spice to it. The hallway leading from the doorway to the living room/kitchen area is rather bare. There’s nothing but a blue rug, a table where she drops her keys and purse, and a few pictures hanging on the walls. The living room is more homey; it looks lived in and welcoming. There’s a thick, fluffy gray couch, a matching armchair, and a table between them. The coffee table is littered with a few magazines and a candle. There’s a small entertainment center against the far wall that holds a TV with a few more candles, a picture frame, and a few knickknacks here and there. There’s another big rug under the couch and table, and light-colored curtains hanging over the big windows. I take a seat on the couch, which is so comfortable and soft.

“I’m going to make myself a plate. You sure you don’t want anything?” she asks, holding up the bag to me before ducking into the kitchen.

“I’m good, but thank you.”

When she walks into the living room, she has a plate in one hand and two beers in the other.

“Drink?” she asks, holding them out.

“Sure, thanks.” I take the beer from her hand, pop it open, and take a swig.

“So why were you really in my neighborhood?” she asks, sitting on the couch. She curls her legs up under her while she rests one edge of the plate against her chest and the other on her knees. She starts eating while waiting for my response.

It’s clear that I’m not going to convince her that I didn’t mean to come here. It was simply my heart being pulled to hers. So I lie. “I got to thinking about your list.”

Her cheeks flash red with embarrassment.

“Have you ever ridden on a motorcycle before?”

Her brows pull together. “No, why?”

“I thought we could add it to your list and then you could check it off.”

“Isn’t that cheating?”

I shrug. “It’s your list. Do you think it’s cheating?”

She thinks it over for a minute.

“Look, the list is full of things you haven’t done, right?”

She nods.

“Well, you haven’t ridden on a motorcycle. It doesn’t make it cheating just because you haven’t written it down yet.”

“Good point. I wasn’t exactly finished with it anyway.”

“So . . . write it down and then I’ll take you for a ride.”

She smiles. “Okay,” she agrees. “But you’re not going to kill me or anything, right?”

I laugh. “I’ve been riding about as long as I’ve been walking. My dad had one when I was growing up. I’m a pro.” I flash her my best attempt at a charming grin.

She snorts and rolls her eyes. “You’re just a pro at everything then, huh?”

I laugh. “Something like that. I can do all sorts of things, Cora.”

She doesn’t reply, but I see the way the pink in her cheeks grows more heated and I know she’s picked up on my insinuation.

After she finishes eating, she cleans up her mess and grabs a jacket. Her hands are noticeably shaking as she pulls it on, but I don’t mention it. I lead her back down to the street and climb on. She stands off to the side, looking at me, then the bike, with wide eyes.

I hold out my hand. “It’s really not that bad. It’s kind of fun, actually. Come on. Do you trust me?”

Her eyes flash to my outstretched hand. “Yes. I think so, anyway,” she replies.

Finally, she places her hand in mine and I help her behind me on the bike. I kick the motorcycle to life and it roars loudly. She automatically starts to giggle. I look back at her.

“It tickles my feet!” she giggles out and I laugh and shake my head. “Hold on tight,” I say, shifting into gear.

I check my mirrors then twist the throttle as we dart out onto the street. Her arms are around my waist and she’s holding herself against my back tightly. I can feel her breasts pressing against me and it makes my body come alive in ways it shouldn’t. This time, the wind in my face doesn’t do anything to cool my overheated body—not when she’s wrapped around me like this.

I drive around the city and she never asks me to stop or slow down. In fact, whenever I glance back in the mirror, I always see her smiling. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she’s having fun. We drive around for nearly an hour before we’re back at her house. I turn off the bike and she climbs off, then I follow behind her.

She’s wearing a wide smile. It nearly stretches from ear to ear. “That was awesome!” she cheers.

I laugh. “Glad you liked it. And now you get to mark it off your list.”

“Oh, I’m going to. Thanks for helping me, by the way. I don’t think I said that earlier.”

“You did not,” I reply.

She blushes. “Well, thank you.”

I nod. “It was my pleasure.”

She starts walking backward toward the door. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“I’ll be there,” I tell her, watching as she’s still walking backward.

“Okay, bye. And thanks . . . again.”

I don’t reply. Instead, I just smile and watch as she slips away behind the door. Since she’s no longer in sight, I climb back on the bike and make my way home.

Chuck is hard at work when I arrive. He’s still at his desk with his headphones on, so he doesn’t even hear me come in. I lock the door behind me, grab a bottle of water, and go straight to my room where I undress and crawl into bed. I turn off my bedside light and look up at the dark ceiling, reliving my evening. The smile on her face is burned into my memory.

In the morning at work, I go straight to the break room on her floor. I wonder how long it will take her to realize that this isn’t my break room and that I only come here to see her. When I walk in, she’s already sitting at the table in the center of the room. She has a cup of coffee, some kind of pastry, and her notebook open in front of her with a pen in her hand.

She looks up at me with a smile.

“Good morning,” I say, stepping past her to pour a cup of coffee.

“Morning.”

I turn and lean against the counter. “So, did you cross something off your list last night?”

She smiles, picks up the notebook, and turns it around for me to see. My eyes quickly glance down the page and see that she’s written

and it’s slashed through. I also catch a quick glimpse of

and see that it’s still there waiting. Thank God!

“Good. How’d it feel getting to mark something off?” I ask, moving to sit down at the table.

“Amazing. I don’t know why I didn’t do this before.”

“What? Ride a motorcycle or start a list?”

She giggles. “Both.”

I reach over and take away the notebook. “What’s on here that we can do tonight?” I ask, looking over the list.

“How about this one?” I ask, pointing at it.

She reads over the line. “You want to take me out to dinner?”

I nod. “Sure, I gotta eat, and if it helps you out, why not?” As I wait for her answer, I add on. “What do you usually do on these dates anyway? Lie?”

She smiles. “Usually. I . . .” she rolls her eyes. “I guess I’ve always been so desperate to have people like me that I said I liked things I didn’t. Like Jimmy. He was into football, like

into it. Well, once I found that out, I loved football too. In reality, I hate football. I don’t have a clue what’s going on or why they’re constantly stopping the game. I tried to understand it and truly get into it, but I just couldn’t.”

I laugh. “Fair enough, I guess. So, tonight? Seven work for you?”

She giggles. “Sure.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tonight then.” I take my cup of coffee and head out to get to work.

I have a long, boring meeting that lasts the entirety of the morning. By the time we’re all dismissed, it’s lunchtime. I grab a sandwich from the cart and go back to her break room. I find it empty and decide to go to her office instead. I knock on the door and she calls out from the other side. I open it and step in. She looks surprised to see me, and her fingers, which were racing across the keyboard, stop.

“You weren’t in the break room,” I say, taking the empty chair across from her desk.

“I have some work to finish up,” she says, turning her chair to face me.

“It’s lunch. You need to eat. Here, I’ll split my sandwich with you.” I take half the sandwich and hand it over.

“Thanks,” she says, accepting it.

“So, where do you want to go for dinner?”

She takes a bite and shrugs. “It doesn’t really matter. It’s not like it’s a real date.”

I frown. “Sure it is. I’m picking you up, taking you to a restaurant, and paying. It’s a date whether you like it or not.”

She rolls her big blue eyes. “Fine. There’s this new Mexican restaurant down the street from me. I’ve always wanted to try it, but Jimmy hated Mexican food.”

“Mexican it is . . . and you know what that means.” I smile.

“What’s that?” she asks, confused.

“Tequila!”

She fakes a gagging sound and we both laugh.

When I get off work, I waste no time in going home and getting ready for our date. Chuck is still in his sweatpants on the couch when I get in, and he looks up at me with sleepy eyes. “How was your day?” he asks, taking a bite of his cereal.

“Good. I gotta get ready for a date.”

“Blondie?” he asks.

“You know it,” I reply, walking past him to my bedroom to get cleaned up.



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