Cupid stood sightless, the afternoon sun warming her bare shoulders. The arrow quivered in the bow, pulled back and ready to go. The sudden whir of an engine distracted her, but only for a moment.
The arrow left her grasp and soared through the still air to find its mark.
Cupid Albright pulled the blindfold off and looked down at her nephew, Mikey. “What’s wrong? Why’d you yell at me? I probably missed my target.”
“That depends on what you were aiming at,” came a rich baritone voice behind her.
Cupid twirled around.
Parked several yards away, sat the longest, shiniest, blackest limousine she’d ever seen. In the driver’s seat sat a man. A very handsome man.
“Oh Lord,” she mumbled aloud. Her arrow hung precariously from his cheek.
Protectively, she wrapped her arm around Mikey’s shoulder. The nine-year-old boy squirmed out of her grasp. She rushed after him when he darted toward the car.
“Wow, a real limousine!” Mikey rubbed his hand along the sleek metal. “Can I go inside?”
“Mikey, get over here and stop puttin’ fingerprints on the nice man’s car.”
“He’s all right,” the man said climbing out of the car.
Cupid’s attention traveled back to the driver of the limo. He pulled the arrow off his cheek, leaving a small ring of spit–her spit–glistening on his skin.
“I am really sorry. I didn’t mean to shoot you. We always practice out here. I was blindfolded and I’m–”
“I know, you’re sorry. I’m just thankful you don’t use real arrows.” He kept his tone light and his eyes sparkled a shade of blue that reminded her of–geez, she couldn’t think of anything she’d ever seen that was as blue as his eyes. For just a minute, she thought she might drown in them.
An image of a Bermuda vacation commercial came to mind. An endlessly deep pool of aquamarine shimmered before her.
“Aunt Cupid, look at this car.”
“Cupid?” A dimple appeared in his cheek when his lips curved up into a smile darn near as dazzling as his eyes. The damn dimple all but begged her to investigate.
“Aphrodite Albright.” She held her hand out toward him. “Everyone calls me Cupid.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
Anger instantly heated her cheeks and her temper rose. The last thing she wanted from him was another stupid joke about little blind boys who shot arrows of passion into the hearts of unsuspecting lovers. She’d had more than enough of that growing up. Flat as a board, front and back, she’d had the same haircut as her brother. Thanks to genetics, she’d never been the victim of the real Cupid’s fateful shot. To date, no men had fallen at her feet and pledged their undying love.
“No, I’m not joking.” The glint of humor in his eyes stoked her anger and she needed to get away from him before she did something horrible. “Mikey. Inside.”
“Miss Albright,” she insisted.
His smile disappeared. “I didn’t mean to offend you. But you have to admit it is kind of funny.”
“There ain’t nothin’ funny about it at all. It just so happens I was born on Valentine’s Day and my parents were deeply in love.”
“I’ll say. They followed it all the way through.”
She pinned him with a wicked stare and delighted in watching him squirm. She fought down her smile when he dug his finger into his collar. It didn’t matter one single bit that she couldn’t catch her breath, or that she ached to know if his lips tasted as sweet as they looked. She forced her thoughts away from him and focused on the car behind him.
“You’re blockin’ my back door, and I have a delivery due. Besides, you’re invadin’ my space.”
That dang smile was back and she needed desperately to get away from this man, before she burst into flames.
“Doesn’t the Arrow Corporation own this lot?”
“What of it?” Cupid folded her arms across her chest, daring him to argue with her. “I pay my rent and that makes this a private alley.” The Texas twang creeping back into her voice annoyed her to no end. The hotter her temper got the more obvious her accent became.
He nodded his head toward the extended car. “Same folks that own this limo.”
A rush of panic overwhelmed her. Someone from Arrow Corporation was sitting in her alley and she was a month behind in the rent she’d claimed to pay. She considered falling down on her knees and begging them not to evict her. Maybe she could explain the situation. Things were a little slow at the moment. The first of the year was always rough, people coming down from their holiday highs. She knew the valentine’s specials would start rolling in any minute. She always had lots of pre-planned orders for candlelit dinners and boat rides.
“So, what exactly do you do, Cu–Miss Albright?”
“Obviously, I’m a specialty caterer.” She pointed to the sign tacked to her rear door.
“What kind of money do you make in a business like this?”
All of his questions rubbed her in all the wrong ways and her emotional wall of defense shot up around her. Just who does he think he is?
“Is there a problem? Did your boss come to kick me out? I am only a month behind and I know that–” She stopped when she noticed him leaning casually against the car smiling at her. “What are you starin’ at?”
“I don’t know diddly about your business, and I can honestly say the occupant of this car is in no position to toss you out on your cute little–well, er, your ear.”
His deep Texas drawl sent a twitter up the length of her spine. Shaking it off, she stared back at him.
The news that she wasn’t being evicted thrilled her, but it also sent her back to wondering what they were doing in the alley. Maybe they’re meetin’ someone to make some kind of illegal drug deal. Her eyes rolled at the thought. “Look, if you are doing somethin’ illegal, don’t do it in my alley.”
“And what is it you think we’re doing?” He crossed his arms over his chest. Russell Arrow hadn’t come across anyone quite as invigorating as her in a long time. She had a spunk most socialite women didn’t come close to possessing. That energy flashed in her hazel eyes.
Soft chestnut curls twirled around her face. Neatly trimmed bangs hung long, repeatedly flopping down into her eyes. She squared her shoulders and blew the bothersome locks away from her face. Not very lady-like, he thought, but cute as hell.
“Does your boss know what you’re out here doin’? I’m sure the president, or whoever, wouldn’t appreciate you hangin’ out in alleys doin’ lord knows what,” Cupid said caustically.
“We still haven’t established exactly what I’m doing.”
“So why don’t you tell me before I call the police and let them find out.”
“Is that really necessary?” Wouldn’t father love that? Rusty thought.
“You tell me, Mr.–?”
He hesitated before he answered. “Rusty.”
“Mr. Rusty. I think it’d be best if you just told me what you wanted and went along on your way.”
“My name is Rusty, not Mr. Rusty.” He eyed her appreciatively. Hmm, he thought. What do I want? Looking at her, the possibilities seemed endless. A night would be good. A lifetime would be perfect. “Why don’t we start with dinner?”
The intercom buzzer inside the car startled them both.
Rusty turned around, glaring at the window. He knew Cory was sitting back there sweating bullets. His friend had been nervous enough about the switch. He was sure to be a mess with as long as they’d been in the alley.
“Aren’t you gonna see what your boss wants?” She stood motionless, eyeing the tinted window.
Rusty wasn’t sure what to do. He didn’t want to take the chance of one of his father’s tenants telling him what he and Cory had done. He decided just to duck and run. “I’ll just get out of your alley. It was a real pleasure to meet you.” He reached out and took her hand in his.
It had to be some kind of crime to have skin so soft and smooth in Texas. Her fingers wrapped gently around his and right then and there he knew he’d found heaven. It wasn’t the typical lusty feeling that shot through him. It was more of an awakening.
The simple gesture opened the floodgates and he contemplated falling down on his knees and begging her to run away with him. The buzzer sounded again. Without letting go of her hand, he reached back and opened the front car door. “I’ll be right there.”
Cupid, trying to squirm free, mumbled. “I’ve gotta go inside.”
Rusty could feel her tugging, but he wasn’t ready to let her go. Two more times the buzzer echoed. “Coming,” he growled.
“Really, I have to go.” She finally pulled free and backed away from him.”
“You never answered me about dinner.”
“I can’t. I’m babysitting. Just then, Cupid remembered Mikey. She turned around and found him standing in the doorway looking at her. She took one last glance at the stranger then hurried inside the building.