Fate Interrupted (Chapter Four)

Downtown Milwaukee was warm and bustling. A joyful weekend vibe filled the active streets as couples walked arm in arm and cabs whisked drunken passengers to their next watering hole, where the party would continue long into the night. Smiling faces adorned the candlelit tables inside Sugars. The patrons lounged on red chairs and velvet couches, which were as inviting as the racks of colorful cupcakes and illuminated bottles of booze behind the counter.

Evy slid a tray of chocolate butter cream cayenne cupcakes, with a red sauce drizzled atop the swirled frosting, into the glass case up front. Soft jazz floated down from the speakers in the ceiling as her eyes swept across the pretty setting. She smiled, happy to be a part of something so magical. Last year at this time, she was managing a sports bar and wondering where she had gone wrong. Yet somehow, she had managed to stay positive and patient and it had all finally paid off.

She turned and went through a half door that swung freely into the kitchen, the bright lighting immediately extinguishing the romantic vibe up front. She checked the timer on one of the ovens and returned to a tray of tarts cooling on a large stainless steel table in the middle of the room. Using both hands, she carefully squeezed homemade whipped cream from a cone-shaped bag, unable to stop thinking about the guy at the gym. It had been nearly a week and she was still seeing his face. Evy couldn't remember his name – Steve maybe – but had no trouble recalling his striking features and broad shoulders. Tall guys had always been a turn on for her and she cursed herself for not giving him a shot. She wasn't that busy tomorrow night.

She squirted the whip cream in circular bursts around the tarts, unnerved by the wetness building inside her jeans. She imagined running her fingers through his brown hair and kissing those full lips. He looked like a good kisser, too, like he actually enjoyed a bit of foreplay rather than just diving right into dessert. She should have said yes. It had been a long year since finding out her fiance had gotten more than just a lap dance from some stripper at his bachelor party.

Evy moved to the next row of tarts, trying to convince herself that her plate was too full to be wasting time messing with some player. Nevertheless, the guy from the gym kept rising to the top, smiling at her with that mischievous grin, ravaging her with those big brown eyes. She shook her head, fighting the flush of heat between her legs, desperate to erase the image of his sculpted biceps with that vein running through them that always turned her on. The last thing she needed right now was more drama.

A wistful sigh escaped her as she kept hearing herself shoot him down inside her head. Not every guy was Richie, she told herself. Evy refused to become one of those woefully inadequate heroines from some sappy romance novel. She knew she was smart and pretty and would be damned if some cheating scumbag would take that away from her.

She grunted and moved on to the next row. After Richie, however, she had doubted herself a great deal but putting some time and miles between her and that dark day when that racy video had mysteriously shown up in her inbox had already done wonders. It had been a long twelve months and her needs and desires, whether she liked it or not, were beginning to awaken.

The tall guy's gorgeous face, with that scruffy jaw and pointed nose, flickered through her mind again. She shuddered as the need in her gut moaned with want for the first time in a long time. She squeezed the bag of whipped cream with both hands, imagining him naked. Defined hip bone cuts were her weakness and he probably had those too. She imagined slipping her hands down his gym shorts and finding him hard as a rock.

"You okay?"

Her heart fluttered as she looked up to see Ben standing there with long yellow dish gloves hiding the sleeves of tattoos covering his muscular arms. "God, you scared me," she said, blushing and returning her attention to the tarts. "I'm fine, why?"

He shrugged and set a clean pan on a silver rack along a yellow painted wall. "You looked like you were a thousand miles away."

"Just trying to make these perfect."

He rested his hands on his hips and inhaled, his chest stretching his t-shirt to its limits. "What's his name?"

"What's whose name?" a petite brunette said, bursting through the swinging door like a Texas tornado.

Ben fumbled a pack of smokes from his distressed jeans and nodded at Evy. "Your sister is fantasizing about having sex with some dude."

"Ben!" Evy barked. "I am not."

The tiny brunette with the same emerald colored eyes as Evy inhaled sharply. "Evy Burnett! That is wonderful! Who is he?"

Evy's face turned as red as a barn. "I wasn't fantasizing about anyone. Try minding your business for once, Brooke."

Brooke and Ben exchanged glances and moved in closer, dropping onto stools around the large island table.

"Where did you meet him?" Brooke asked flatly.

Evy released a defeated sigh, dropping her shoulders and stopping the whipped cream. "At the gym last Sunday."

"I knew it!" Ben grinned, popping a smoke between his lips.

"Was he hot?"

Evy bit back a grin. "And tall."

"Oooh," Brooke smiled brightly. "Sounds right up your alley."

"He asked me out, too."

Brooke's mouth went slack. "I hope you said yes."

Evy shook her head.

"Why not?" Ben asked, pulling a lighter out.

Evy cocked her head to one side. "Do you know what kind of guys hit on girls at the gym? Douchebag players."

Creases rippled through Brooke's forehead like time had just sped up and aged her ten years. "For your information, Evy, douchebag players know what they're doing in bed. They will service you right."

"She's got a point."

"Not my style, you guys know that," Evy replied, returning to the tarts.

"Well, you better make it your style because you need to get laid," Brooke said.

Ben's eyes silently darted back and forth between them.

Brooke tightened her pointed glare. "How long has it been? A year now?"

Evy finished the last tart and set the whipped cream bag aside. "I think I'll survive."

Brooke laughed sharply. "Not without spending a fortune on batteries!"

Ben chuckled and shook his head. "On that note," he said, exiting out a back door to have a smoke in the alley.

Brooke grabbed Evy's arm, demanding her full attention. "Do you want to grow old with a vibrator named Sparky? Is that what you want?"

Evy frowned without response.

Brooke's jaw dropped. "Oh, don't tell me you don't even have a vibrator."

An impish grin crept across Evy's face as she whisked the tarts up front with Brooke tailing her like a cop. Evy slid the tray above a rack of frosted brownies and looked up as the bell rang above the front door. Her stomach turned when she saw the guy from the gym walk in. "Oh shit," she mumbled under her breath, locking eyes with him.

Sugar and alcohol infused conversation and laughter muddied her thoughts as he came closer with a blond haired friend who wasn't nearly as tall. The cool air conditioning licked at her clammy skin as she wiped her sweaty palms on a black apron with the word Sugars stenciled across its front in hot pink.

The tall guy whose name she couldn't recall smiled as he approached the counter. "Hi Evy."

"You are following me," she said faintly.

Brooke glanced at Dean and narrowed her eyes.

"Thought we'd stop by and see what all the fuss was about."

Evy tucked a strand of hair that had managed to escape her ponytail behind an ear. "Fuss?"

"Yeah," Dean replied, taking the place in. "Everyone's talking about this place on Facebook, Twitter, the blogs…Pinterest."

An eyebrow leapt into the middle of Evy's forehead. "You're on Pinterest?"

"No, but Jon here is."

"Jon Vanguard," the blond friend said with confidence, extending his hand.

Evy hesitantly reached across the countertop and shook Jon's warm hand, the hint of a grin tugging at the corner of her lips.

"Good crowd for a Friday night," he said, scoping the place out.

"It's not bad," Evy responded, her eyes gravitating back to Dean. "It was really busy earlier."

"So what'ya got to drink?" Jon asked, craning his neck to see behind her.

"Tonight's special is an Apple Sage Ginger Mezcal Smash for nine dollars."

Jon frowned. "What the hell is that?"

Evy smiled. "It's Mezcal tequila and simple syrup muddled with apple, sage and ginger."

Jon traded a hesitant look with Dean. "How about two shots of the tequila and a couple of IPAs?"

She laughed and glanced at the tall guy whose name she couldn't remember, butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She turned to the rows of liquor bottles behind her and poured two shots before grabbing some beer bottles from a nearby cooler. Evy glanced in the mirror as she slowly poured the beers into glasses and busted Dean staring at her butt. Heat flashed between her legs and she flushed with embarrassment.

She turned back to them with the drinks and Dean handed her two twenties. Her fingers brushed against his as she took the money, sending electricity shooting through her veins. She smiled at him and stepped around her nosy sister.

Dean followed Evy to the cash register, watching her every move. "This place is really amazing."

"Thank you," she said, handing him back his change and catching another charge when they touched again.

Brooke moved in closer. "So who's tall, dark, and handsome here, Evy?"

"Jon Vanguard," Jon quickly replied, reaching his hand across the counter.

Brooke jerked her admiring gaze from Dean to Jon and shook his hand with a subtle laugh. "And this one?" she asked, turning back to Dean.

Evy shot the shorter brunette a look and returned her heated gaze to Dean, squeezing her eyes together in mystic wonder. "Steve, right?"

"Dean," he said, correcting her with a polite grin.

A mortified look stole across Evy's reddening face. She glanced at the shorter girl standing next to her. "This is my nosy little sister, Brooke."

Brooke reached across the counter and enthusiastically shook Dean's hand. "Nice to meet you, Dean."

"Nice to meet you," he smiled back. "You guys have a great place."

"Thank you," Brooke dreamily replied.

Jon raised a shot glass into the air. "Here's to making new friends," he said, shooting Brooke a wink that she didn't catch it.

Dean clanked his shot glass against Jon's and knocked it back.

"So is this the guy who asked you out at the gym the other day?"

"Brooke!" Evy gasped, clapping a hand over her heart.

Brooke studied Dean like he was a shiny new car. "How could you turn this gorgeous man down?"

Jon kicked Dean's foot below the counter and Dean smiled before sipping on his beer.

"I am going to kill you," Evy whispered out the corner of her mouth.

"Well, you're in luck, Dean," Brooke said, reaching behind Evy and untying her apron. "Evy just got off work!"

Evy spun away from Brooke, her loose apron twirling through the air like a ballroom gown.

Brooke snapped her close by the hand like a Latino dance partner and pulled the apron over Evy's head.

"Brooke stop," Evy quietly pleaded.

Brooke stood on her tippy toes and whispered in her sister's ear. Evy's eyes slowly drifted over to Dean and she slapped Brooke's arm, her face bunching into a tight ball. "Don't be so dirty," she whispered back.

Brooke giggled like a schoolgirl. "Have her back here by noon tomorrow, Deano!" she said, nudging Evy out from behind the counter and smacking her on the ass.

Evy gasped with the slap and took reluctant steps across the checkered floor, glancing back at Brooke for help who would only grin and wave. Evy turned back around and found herself looking up into Dean's eyes, her heart heaving in her chest. The smell of his cologne fanned her desire as they shared a simple moment that seemed to last for hours.

Jon pounded the rest of his beer and squeezed between them, headed for the front door. "Let's do this."

"Shall we?" Dean said, sweeping a hand out.

Evy swallowed hard and followed Jon outside with Dean behind her. She stopped on the wide sidewalk out front and adjusted her ponytail. "I can't go anywhere too fancy," she said, brushing flour from her black v-neck t-shirt. "I look like hell."

A confident smile parted Dean's lips. His rows of pearly whites sparkled in the glow of a nearby street lamp. "You look gorgeous."

"I'm wearing tennis shoes."

Jon's eyes lowered to her shoes. "Don't worry, we'll go somewhere low key."

***

A rainbow of flashing lights painted their faces with alternating strokes, the music's heavy bass rattling their bones. The DJ cradled one end of his headphones in his shoulder as he mixed with both hands, fueling the crowds' hungry hips on the dance floor.

When Dean saw Megan standing by the back bar he nearly had an aneurism. She turned around, a red Cosmo in each hand, and he breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn't Megan. He forced himself to relax and stretched his arm along the back of the long blue couch, pinning Evy's ponytail in the process. She tipped her head forward and he quickly relocated his arm.

"Sorry," he said with a sheepish grin, folding his hands in his lap.

Evy played with the end of her hair, taking in all the pretty girls in tight dresses and colorful high-heels. She leaned into Dean's ear and brushed a lip against his cheek. His heart flinched with the contact.

"I am way too under dressed for this place," she said over the music, the scent of vanilla floating from her breath.

He smiled at her. "Personally, I think you're overdressed. Why don't you take off your shirt and get comfortable."

Her head jerked back like some invisible entity had just slapped her across the face. She frowned at him, resisting a laugh and turning back to the dance floor. "It's so busy in here."

He kept his eyes glued to her, watching her twist her fingers. "I hadn't noticed."

She fell back into his big browns, trying to read him like a book, and quickly looked away.

He leaned into her ear, inhaling another whiff of her sweet smell, delaying what he was about to say for as long as humanly possible. From this close, her lips looked soft as pillows and all he could think about was sucking on them until she begged for more. "Trust me, Evy, you look amazing."

The lights flickered across her skeptical face.

"You must work out," he said, finally getting her to laugh.

"Do you guys come here a lot?"

He opened his mouth and hesitated, seeing himself with Megan on this very couch just last Saturday night. "Not much," he lied, scooting closer. "So where do you hang out?"

"Sugars," she replied flatly. "It takes up most of my time right now."

"I bet. New business in a new city, that's a lot to handle."

Her green eyes found him in their sights and his pulse quickened. She stared at him for a moment and turned back to the throbbing crowd. Dean, however, couldn't turn away so easily. He loved the way her gaze slowly gravitated back to him every few seconds. He waited for it and started counting  –  one Mississippi, two, Mississippi, three Mississippi. Evy turned back to face him and he tried not to laugh.

"What?"

He shook his head, wanting to know everything about her but not wanting to spoil the moment with words. She tore her gaze back to the dance floor and it filled him with joy knowing those eyes would soon be back. He impatiently awaited their return, adjusting his jeans which were riding him in the crotch.

"Okay, who ordered the lamb?" Jon yelled, magically appearing out of thin air with three shot glasses in his hands.

"Oh, hell no," Dean said, taking one of them off his hands.

Jon shoved one in front of Evy, who eyeballed it like spiders were crawling about inside. She held up a palm. "Oh, I don't…"

"Take it!" Jon said, gesturing with the glass and spilling a little of the clear liquid onto the wood planks between her shoes.

She took it before he could spill any on her as a pretty waitress dropped off a tray of Heinekens.

Jon thanked her with some folded bills and told her to keep it. She gave Dean fuck me eyes and Evy frowned. Jon watched the waitress disappear into the gyrating mass on the dance floor, licking his lips from one side to the other. He turned back around and raised his shot glass into the sweaty smelling air. "Here is to the rousing success of Sugars, my new favorite after dinner retreat!"

Evy smiled and clanked her glass against theirs. They tossed them back, grimaced with the tequila's burn, and slammed the glasses onto a narrow coffee table with a relaxing shade of red glowing from its core. Jon chased the shot with a long swig from a Heineken bottle. "Whoo! Now, that's what I'm talkin about!" He sat down on the other side of Evy and surveyed the crowd, his head bobbing along with the music. "Ass soup tonight!"

Evy arched a puzzled eyebrow at him and Dean gladly took the opportunity to lean into her ear, much closer than needed. "He means it's an…attractive crowd."

Her perplexed frown morphed into a laugh.

"So is your sister single?"

She smiled warmly at Jon. "She's married."

"Bummer," Jon replied dully, returning his attention to two dark skinned girls with long brown hair tearing up the dance floor. "So what's up with giving my boy here the slip two times in a row?" he asked, jerking his chin at Dean.

She turned to Dean and sharpened her gaze. "I know a player when I see one."

Dean's jaw dropped in mock horror. "Me?"

Jon leaned in closer to Evy and Dean wished it was him. "Don't hate the player, hate the game, girl! He can't help it if women fall all over him."

She turned to Dean and wrinkled her brow. "You poor baby."

Dean's shoulders rose to his ears. "It's an old family curse."

"His problem is he's been looking for love in all the wrong places," Jon said, enjoying watching Dean squirm.

Dean rolled his eyes and took a long drink, hiding behind his beer bottle for as long as humanely possible.

Evy squinted at Jon. "That sounds like a country song."

He shrugged apathetically while scanning the club. "All I know is you're only going to find rotten skanks in a place like this. Dean needs someone wholesome to sweep him off his feet and he ain't gonna find that in here," he said, his eyes following the tight butt of a pretty redhead walking by. "Trust me."

Evy studied Jon while Dean shot him a look that could kill behind her back. "Wow, you're a really good wingman, Jon!" she said over the driving beat. "I'm impressed."

Jon gestured with his bottle, spilling some beer that Evy narrowly dodged. "My boy here runs a lot deeper than you think, Evy. Don't let his superficial good looks and charm fool you. Dude cried during The Notebook."

She leaned into Jon and laughed, the tequila already making her insides tingle.

"Bullshit," Dean barked, trying to sound offended but unable to stop a smile from spreading like the flu. "I cried during the The Vow."

Evy laughed harder, making his heart inflate to twice its normal size. She took a drink of her beer while examining him through warm pools of green.

Jon gestured to Dean again with his bottle. "Guy like that won't be on the market much longer, sweetheart."

Dean scooted closer to Evy to change the subject as his cell vibrated two times in his pocket, signaling an incoming text message. "He's drunk; don't listen to a word he says. So what do you think of Milwaukee so far?" he asked, glaring at Jon, who held up his hands in surrender.

"I really like it. It's so beautiful down by the lake."

"Just wait till Summerfest," Dean told her, digging his phone out.

"That's what everyone keeps saying."

Without saying a word, Jon got up and started dancing with the two dark skinned girls on the other side of the dance floor. Their annoyed looks quickly turned to smiles when he unleashed his wild moves upon them.

Dean shook his head and chuckled. "You can't beat the summertime in Milwaukee, but you blink and you'll miss it."

Evy's eyes narrowed.

"It gets cold quick," he explained, looking down at his phone. A shot of adrenaline flooded his system when he saw the picture of Megan lying naked on a pink bed with her legs spread wide open. Evy craned her neck for a better view and Dean scrambled to back out of the screen, dropping the phone to the hardwood floor where it cart wheeled out of reach. He bent down to snatch it just as a leggy blond at the other end of the long couch picked it up. The bright screen illuminated her face. Her eyes widened. She turned to Dean, staring at him through incredulous eyes, and slowly handed it back.

"Thank you," he said shamefacedly, pocketing the phone and sitting back down.

The blond batted her fake lashes at him and whispered something to her girlfriend, who glanced over at Dean. The two burst into an animated case of the giggles, sizing him up from head to toe.

"Are you all right?" Evy asked with a scrunched up face.

"All thumbs today," he smiled.

"Are you always so smooth? I about died laughing when you spilt that lady's drink at Panera."

Dean exhaled a long breath, relieved Evy hadn't seen Megan's revealing picture. He was thankful for the energetic lights masking his flushed face. "You saw that, huh?"

"I almost hit an elderly couple crossing the parking lot I was laughing so hard."

He watched her lips wrap around her bottle of beer and he wanted to be that bottle more than anything in the world. It was absurd. Something was happening inside of him he couldn't define. Serving up natural conversation with his silver tongue had always been smooth and easy, but with her it took effort and he wondered if he had a fever. Evy's sultry gaze jerked back to him and his heart skipped a beat. She smiled as the booze loosened her up. He couldn't stop himself from getting lost in the sea of green staring back at him.

She dropped her gaze to her bottle and began picking at its label as a comfortable silence fell between them. He waited for those eyes to return, knowing they would.

On cue, her emerald gaze alighted on him, sending fire blazing through his veins. He wanted to grab her and kiss her and was certain sure she felt the same. A swarm of butterflies launched in his stomach, their wings tickling his insides as they held each other's gaze, communicating their thoughts and desires without saying a word.

She leaned in closer, making him do the same. "So…what do you do? For work?"

He wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her across the couch. She slid up against him with a faint whimper bursting from her lips. Her startled expression made him regret the move. It was too much too soon, but he kept his arm around her just the same.

"What's that?"

She opened her mouth to repeat her question, basking in his glow without pulling away.

Sweet relief swept over Dean like a cool ocean wave, instantly quenching any apprehension he may have had. Her body heat flushed against his side, stealing his breath. There was a stirring in his jeans as he waited for her to reply to a question he no longer remembered asking. His eyes traveled from her eyes to her lips and back again.

She watched him in silent wonder, her lips dangling in the air, her memory long abandoned by the question. Her hand found his knee to stop herself from falling into him.

They were so close, he could feel her warm breath on his face and, yet, he had to get closer. His hand curled around her hip and pulled. She moaned again, their eyes dancing with the beat of their hearts. Bright lights jumped across their faces. He opened his mouth, tasting her sweet lips before even making contact, his erection searching for a way out of his jeans like a whale trapped beneath a sheet of ice. He leaned in closer.

"Deano!"

Dean looked up just in time to see a girl with long black hair and blue eyes drop into his lap, spilling his beer onto Evy's jeans. "Whoa, Becky!" he cried out, trying to regain control of his frosty beverage.

Becky wrapped her arms around Dean's neck and planted a sloppy kiss on his cheek. He pushed her away with his free hand while she painted him with a drunken grin. "Why haven't you come over to see me yet?"

He tried his best to control his annoyance at the rude interruption. It was all he could do to keep from dumping her onto the floor with a double thud. "We just got here," he replied coolly, swapping glances with Evy as she gradually retreated down the couch.

Becky stuck her head in-between them, blocking Dean's view of the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, demanding his full attention. "Aren't I still your favorite bartender?" She brushed an index finger across the tip of his nose. "Boop!"

An uneasy laugh squirmed free as he twisted beneath her weight. "You know you are."

She buried her head in his neck and inhaled his scent. He pushed her away and she pulled him closer, kissing his neck and making him fidget. She leaned back and looked into his eyes. "Then come dance with me while I'm on break," she said, grinding her curvy buttocks into his lap with the house music. Her eyes lit up. "Ooh, someone's happy to see me!"

His face turned as red as the glowing table. "I'm going to have to take a rain check on that," he said, trying to free his groin from her crushing attack.

Her face fell, turning a multitude of flashing colors.

"I'm with someone."

Creases snaked through her fake-baked forehead. "Who?"

He craned his neck to look over her shoulder, his mouth opening to introduce her to Evy, praying that Becky would play nice and make a graceful exit. His heart sank. "Shit," he said, scanning the empty couch and pushing Becky off him.

She fell onto the velvety cushions with a soft bounce, her startled eyes boring holes straight through him. "Hey!" she bellowed, struggling to sit up.

He pushed her legs off of him and set his beer down on the table without looking at her again. His round eyes scoured the large room as he waded through the thick crowd. He cut through them like a warm knife, seeing Evy standing in the shadows against a far wall only to find out it was someone else upon closer inspection. He saw Jon bouncing up and down with the dark skinned girls in perfect rhythm. A strobe light kicked in, making them move like stuttering robots as the song hit its crescendo. The strobe cut out, releasing the crowd back into a flurry of unbridled dancing. Jon looked up and raised a fist for Dean to bump. Dean ignored him and kept moving.

The line of girls waiting to use the restroom in the back was long and loud and Evy free. He ran a hand through his hair and turned for the front doors, dread growing in the pit of his stomach. He nodded to the two burly bouncers guarding the entrance as he spilled outside. The cool breeze felt good against his skin and he could finally think again without the blaring music muddying his thoughts. The walkway out front was hectic with small groups of smokers and people shuffling past to their next destination. His heart hammered inside his chest. He spun in circles on his heels. This wasn't how it was supposed to go down. He started for Sugars, reversing the way they had come. When he saw her his heart lurched into his throat. He picked up his pace and darted into the street. A silver SUV slammed on its brakes and Dean barely noticed.

"Hey!" Dean said, taking her arm as the SUV whipped around them.

She twirled around and hit him with those green eyes, sending a shiver down his spine.

"Why did you leave?"

She glanced down the street. "I have to help Brooke close up."

He followed her wandering gaze, his mind swimming in a sea of longing with no land in sight. He must have a fever. "No you don't."

"Yes, I do."

"Then I'll go with you."

She shook her head. "You shouldn't leave your friend."

"He'll make new ones."

"I'm sure he will," she scoffed.

His face soured. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means I think you have enough friends on your hands already."

He snorted, still holding onto her arm, her soft skin making his knees weak. "So you don't…wanna be friends?"

Evy lowered her gaze to the pavement and kicked a red Solo cup off to the side. She looked back up, unable to stop herself. They stood frozen, staring into each other's eyes. Time seemed to stop, or speed up. It was difficult to tell. Dean's hope danced perilously close to the edge of a high cliff, ready to jump into his arms or topple over the side, crashing into a million pieces on the jagged rocks below.

She finally dropped his sweltering gaze. "I just think this isn't the best time for…"

A speeding cab laid on its horn.

With a quick jerk he pulled her against him, the blur of yellow just missing her leg. They stood face to face in the middle of the street, her startled eyes looking up into his, silently pleading for him to stop whatever he was doing. He cupped her face in his hands and dipped his chin. Their lips hovered inches apart as his eyes ravished her features, spellbound by something he was at a loss to explain. Her eyes glittered with heat, making them glow. He licked his lips, ignoring the way his heart was pounding against his ribcage. When she took a step back he pulled her close and brought his mouth down onto hers, forcefully kissing her with a needful passion that refused to be denied. A soft whimper escaped through her nose from somewhere deep down inside. Her arms spread out into the air for balance as he took what he so desperately desired.

His lips pressed against hers with fervor, sucking and caressing, moving from top to bottom. She pushed against his shoulders, trying to resist with little resolve. He kissed her harder and her hands gradually relented, wrapping around his neck and pulling him in. She shut her eyes and sent her warm tongue slipping through his lips. Stars exploded behind his eyelids, lighting up the darkness like the Fourth of July. Headlights swerved around them, the drivers' angry horns falling on deaf ears. Their lips probed each other like they had met before, pulling and pressing with a familiar repose. They were the only two people on Earth and time had definitely stopped.

They broke the kiss to catch their racing breath. Dean's chest rose and fell beneath his black button down as he stared into her star-crossed eyes. Her hand slid down his rounded shoulder and pressed into his chest, accepting his heart beat into her open palm, the rapid hammering telling her something words could not. She melted into his eyes, unable to utter a single sound, let alone an entire word.

"We should probably get out of the street," he panted.

She grabbed a fistful of his shirt and pulled his lips to hers, pouring gasoline on the fire inside his pants. Their firm embrace was greedy and relentless. He cupped the curves hiding inside her tight jeans and pulled her body against his, pressing his groin against her stomach. Her eyes widened as his hardness stole her breath.

A cop car stopped in the street and splashed them with red and blue, adding to their dream-like state. Evy's mouth breathed sweet air into him that he would surely die without. Their heads rocked back and forth as she emptied her life force into him with reckless abandon.

A screaming siren punctured the night with a double beep. "Getouttathegoddamnstreet!" a man squawked over a PA system in a continuous string, jerking them from their trance.

Dean turned and raised a hand to the cop, leading Evy across the street by the hand. They hopped up onto the sidewalk and began back-tracking their course to Sugars in a stunned silence, both trying to come to grips with what had just happened. His mind raced nearly as fast as his pulse. He glanced over at Evy to make sure she was real. She looked up and smiled, confirming her validity with swollen red lips. He squeezed her hand, refusing to let it go for anything in the world. She squeezed back and giggled softly. Dean laughed with her, sucking in massive gulps of air that tasted like cotton candy.

Everything was brighter and more vibrant than ever before. They passed massive flower pots dotting the downtown sidewalks, their petals in full bloom, just like his heart. Soft jazz floated from a set of open double doors with a big black guy standing guard outside. He nodded at them and smiled brightly, catching a small taste of their magical aura. It was contagious. Whatever they had just discovered between them was as infectious as a bad case of the giggles.

Evy studied Dean through thoughtful eyes. "What just happened back there?"

His gaze swept over to her as they crossed another street. "I think a tanker truck or something exploded."

She clapped a hand over her beating heart, a practice he had already grown to love. "That was…"

"Perfect," he muttered, finishing her sentence for her.

Two younger girls, drunkenly walking arm in arm in skintight dresses and high heels, smiled warmly and said hello as they passed by. Whatever it was, others could see it in their faces. Could feel it.

Evy and Dean continued walking, their shoes floating above the ground. They were at least two feet taller than everyone else, walking on air. She glanced up at his strong profile and squeezed his hand, simultaneously signaling her surrender and his victory with one simple gesture. "You're not from this planet, are you?"

He laughed. "Me? I'm not the one with white wings and flowers in her hair?" He yanked her to a stop and turned to face her. "You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen."

A bashful smile graced her lips. "I bet you say that to all the girls."

"But this time I mean it."

She chuckled and he leaned in to kiss her again, needing just one more fix to get them to where they were going.

"Yo, whassup, man, you gotta smoke?"

Dean turned to see a white guy step out from a darkened alley with his pants hanging down to his ass crack and his ball cap turned sideways. Black tats spider-webbed across his wiry arms as he eyeballed Evy. Dean tightened his grip on her hand and led her around the guy. "Don't smoke," he said shortly, towing her along.

Evy screamed when the guy grabbed her purse and yanked hard, pulling her and Dean backwards. Without hesitation, Dean flew through the air and punched the guy squarely in the face, dropping him where he stood. Dean towered over him, the sparkle in his eyes now hardened with rage.

"Damn, man," the guy groaned, rubbing his jaw. "I just wanted a smoke, dude."

"Next time you'll want a doctor, asshole," Dean said through gritted teeth, turning to Evy. "Are you okay?"

She slung her purse over her shoulder with a weak nod.

He took her hand and kept moving without looking back.

"That scared the shit out of me," she said, taking hurried steps to keep up.

"Welcome to the big city."

"You reacted so fast," she gasped. "Like Edward Cullen fast."

He flashed a cocky smile without slowing. "Those guys always ask to bum a smoke right before they jack you up. It's a dead giveaway every time. They should try some new material." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her against him, slowing his stride. With their body heat blending, he tried not to stare at her breasts poking through her t-shirt but couldn't help it. He wanted to rip that shirt off and take them into his mouth. Bite down on her nipples until she arched her back and moaned in delight.

"You really are from another planet."

He laughed uneasily.

"What's your weakness? Kryptonite?"

He turned to her and softened his gaze. "You."

She stared blankly at him as the world revolved around them. She was his and he was hers, each heavenly step confirming it in his mind. They rounded a corner, arm in arm like a couple who had been dating for years. Sugars sat up ahead, dark and quiet.

Her brow folded.

"What's wrong?"

"She must have closed up early. What time is it anyway?"

Dean checked a silver watch on his wrist. "Quarter to two."

"In the morning? How'd it get so late?"

A devilish grin met her incredulous stare. "Time flies when you're havin fun."

She smiled and dug a ring of keys from her bag.

He swooped in and pulled her against him. She screamed out in surprise, still unnerved after the near mugging. Her keys fell to the sidewalk when he started kissing her hard. They probed each other with a fevered intensity, their heads swaying back and forth in perfect compliment, like they had done this a million times before.

Evy tore herself away, her lungs begging for breath. "You have to stop doing that."

He drew in a deep breath and returned it into the night. "Never."

She locked eyes with him, weighing his statement, everything and everyone dissolving into another place and time. He still wasn't sure if it was real or not as he reluctantly left those warm green pools to pick up her keys. The metal felt cold in his hand. Felt real. She took them from him and shook her head, trying to clear away the fog swirling inside her head. He watched her unlock the door, her shapely rear end driving him to the brink of disaster. He had to feel it again but she was already pushing through the door and entering the darkened dessert bar.

A nearby streetlight spilled through the large front window, basking them in thick shadows as they crept past the vacant tables and chairs. Even her silhouette was amazing. She led him behind the counter and through the swinging door into the back, where she hit a light switch that brought a modest sized kitchen to life.

She slid a gun, loaded with a tube of chocolate frosting, off the worktable in the middle of the room and hurriedly tucked it away in a walk-in cooler stocked with eggs, cheese, milk, and cases of cold beer.

"So this is where all the magic happens, huh?" he asked, surveying the room's many shelves of flour, sugar and spices. Four industrial-sized ovens rested quietly against two walls. "I bet it gets hot in here when those things are cookin."

She spun around to him, aghast.

He leaned against an industrial sized mixer bolted to the floor, his eyebrows drawing together. "What's wrong?"

"I don't even know what you do for work."

A relieved smile broke across his face. "I'm a corporate lawyer for a small, up and coming firm."

"Oh," she said, overly understandingly. "Well, if anyone tries to sue us because our coffee is too hot I guess I'll know who to call."

"Hopefully you'll call either way."

She leaned up against the cold island table and folded her arms across her breasts. "Your parents must be proud."

He winced and tried to hide it, hating this turn in the conversation no matter who he was with, especially now. The pity in their eyes was always embarrassing and the last thing he wanted was anyone's pity. He had done just fine on his own. "My parents died in a car accident several years ago."

Evy moaned softly while that dreaded pity seeped into her eyes. "I'm sorry."

He shook his head and peered through a small window with a desk and chair on the other side, unable to look into her eyes. "It was a long time ago."

"How old were you?"

"Nineteen."

She wrinkled her brow. "How old are you now?"

"Thirty-four. How old are you?" he asked, eager to change the subject.

"Twenty-eight." Her eyes narrowed, the pity slowly draining away. "What's your last name?"

He smiled. "Jacobs. And yours?"

"Burnett," she said faintly, as if still contemplating his last name, trying it out on her mental tongue.

The humming fluorescents buzzed in their ears. His eyes explored her silky skin, his pulse beating against his neck. She stared at him without speaking. He wanted to know more about her but had no clue where to even begin.

"Siblings?"

He shook his head.

The pity crept back into her eyes, making him shift from one foot to the other. She tilted her head to the side. "So where do you…spend the holidays?"

"At my friend Shaun's house…with his family."

She nodded and stepped closer, drawn to him like a magnetic.

"Are your parents in Des Moines?" he asked, taking a step toward her.

"Uh-huh."

He took her face in his hand. "Any other brothers or sisters?"

His thumb gently traced along her jaw line, making her eyelids grow heavy. "Just Brooke," she replied, nestling her cheek into his palm.

Dean wasn't sure if she had even heard the question and didn't care. He inhaled a breath of chocolate swirling with mint as she explored his stomach. His abs twitched beneath her delicate touch and her lips curled at the corners, pleased with his reaction. Her fingertips ran along his beltline. He set his jaw and watched her slide a hand up his shirt, flesh on flesh. His heart rate quickened. Her lips called out to him, intoxicating and terrifying him at the same time. Evy stopped her hand over his thumping heart and watched his expression. Dean grabbed her by the ponytail and pulled. A soft moan burst from her lips. He looked her over for three or four seconds, exploring her like a newly discovered planet, and slowly lowered his mouth to her neck.