A few steps down the path I slip the brownie from my sleeve. There’s no way I can wait to get out of the front yard before I taste this square of temptation. I should be sainted right alongside Ari’s grandson for not wolfing down the whole platter.
There’s a mega-sized tree in the front yard, so I head around it, lean back against its bark watching the brownie’s slow approach to my mouth, savouring the moment. I smell the chocolate, the sugar, the awesomeness. I bite down and my eyes flutter closed. Oh. My. Heaven-loving-tastebuds. Galaxies of spun sugar dissolve in my mouth, symphonies drowned out by the roaring in my ears. My body mirrors what’s happening in my mouth; I’m slowly, deliciously melting into a gooey, thick puddle.
The roaring stops.
“If you like my cooking, you’d love how I make breakfast.”
Everything stops. Every cell goes from puddly and quivery to upright and alert. I know that chocolately voice. I’ll never forget that warm, rich timbre.
I open one eye, then two.
PJ is sitting on his motorbike, helmet on his lap, that grin glinting in the sun. He hangs the helmet on a handlebar, swings a long denim leg over and swaggers towards me. And I mean a hip swaying, shoulder swinging swagger that evokes images of yellow-striped, denim-clad butts.
The moment he’s close enough for me to focus on his eyes the brownie turns to bread in my mouth. It could never compete with the symphonies and stars in those molten maple pools.
“They’re a family recipe.”
My brain clicks out of brownie-PJ heaven and into gear. Hang on a sec. I look over my shoulder at the door, the door that was just closed by a woman the colour of brown sugar. I look back to the very white, hot guy in front of me.
The moment PJ stops I take a step back, out of arm’s length, and out of smell’s reach. His eyes narrow ever so slightly as he notes my movement. He crosses his arm. “Yeah, family.”
I wait, but it seems someone else in this town took the course on stubborn silence. Instead he grins again. Man, I wish he’d stop doing that. Here, in the sun, it’s blinding. “I’m flattered.”
I raise a brow.
PJ shrugs, and somehow the movement seems to bring him a millimetre closer. Moving again would be rude and weirdo-whacky so I stay put, choosing to breathe through my mouth.
“It takes some effort to find out where a guy lives.”
My jaw slackens. Ego much?
“Hmmm.” I step to the side and head to his motorbike. “I’m glad you brought a second helmet.”
PJ turns and follows me, I step around the bike, using it as a barrier.
He places a hand on the leather seat. “You wanted to come for a ride?”
Eyes wide with mock shock connect with molten maple. “Don’t you need it for your ego?”
Instead of looking insulted, PJ grins. A wide, teeth-glinting, eye-wrinkling grin. “I think I might; it just got one heck of a hit.”
I cross my arms, glad I can do it safely this time thanks to my Personal Protective Equipment.
PJ brings one hand up to stroke his chin. “So you’re not here to see me.”
“Difficult to imagine, isn’t it?”
“What else would bring you here?”
Those delicious lips twitch. He knows exactly why I’m here. I’m not much of a blusher, but being here, for a therapy group for a phobia I don’t have, wearing the freaky lengths I have to go to avoid touch seems like a pretty good time to blush.
But I didn’t wear a balaclava, so instead, I own it. “I have ablutophobia.”
PJ’s eyes stray to my lips. “Well, it’s not a fear of brownies.”
I resist the urge to lick their suddenly dry surface. “Or the repeated use of pick-up lines.”
PJ chuckles, and it’s a sound that reminds me of crème brûlée, smooth and moreish. “Maybe it’s a phobia of stepping up to a challenge.”
That has me straightening. Everything in my impulsive but necessarily inhibited personality loves a challenge. PJ quirks a brow, and leans forward, placing both hands on the seat. The position pushes his shoulders forward, focuses my attention on those biceps. Mr. Sexy-Comes-Naturally is waiting for me to pick up the gauntlet.
Sensations and sights sharpen. Those molten maple pools watching me. The heat pressing against my body. Those Adonis lips parting on an inhale. The bead of sweat raking down my spine.
I lean forward, and my eyes widen the moment my next sense registers something. A scent, the kind of scent that has your head tilting reflexively, your mouth opening just a touch to see if it will land on your tongue.
I don’t know what amber smells like, but I think this could be it. Woodsy, spicy…tempting…moreish. It’s the kind of smell that makes you wish you could spend more time breathing in than out. One hand reaches out to the red plastic fender rising from the back of the bike. The moment woven cotton presses into my fingertips, rather than smooth plastic warmed by the sun, I stop. It’s all I need to return me to reality.
I take a step back, having to mentally force my nose to follow. PJ was never meant get close enough to smell, because exactly what I thought would happen just happened.
He smells as good as he looks, and I don’t need any more temptation to fight.
I take another step back. “You’ve got the wrong girl, PJ.”
PJ exhales, possibly because of the pent-up tension, but probably out of frustration. “It seems we have one thing in common, Casey.”
With another step back I decide it’s safe to ask. “What’s that?”
PJ straightens, his eyes twinkling. “We both love a challenge.”
I start to walk backwards, shaking my head. “The difference is I can pick a lost cause.”
I turn and start creating even more distance between us. I walk away from hot, seAxy, available maple, knowing this is what I need to do. Telling PJ, with everything I can, he’s wasting his time.
“See you at mini motos.”
I keep walking. The tenacity is admirable and flattering, but wasted. “I’m not going.” I call over my shoulder.
“Don’t forget to bring your little brother.”
I shake my head, glad PJ can see that and not my smile. Sure, I love to look, I like the flirting, and I’d love to be someone that could go there.
But PJ is the last person I plan on touching.
A school psychologist by day, Tamar channels her passion for books into creating young adult stories about discovering life and love beyond our comfort zones. She is the award-winning author of the Prime Prophecy and Touched by Love Series. Tamar is also the author of PsychWriter: where psychology meets writing, a blog that supports and extends writers.
When not reading, writing or working with teens, Tamar can be found with her ever-patient husband and two beautiful sons enjoying country life on their small acreage in the Australian bush.
Tamar finds it deeply rewarding to share her stories and she loves to hear from her readers and fellow lovers of all things book related. You can find her at