By the time Vivienne arrived at the top of the trail, she already had an eye full of the man waiting for her and a whole bag of questions to ask him. Like how he’d gotten there since she didn’t see a car or any other form of transportation at the bottom of the ridge. Her steps suddenly slowed.
“What the heck is wrong with me?” she muttered, looking down at her palms.
Perplexed at how sweaty they’d become, she wiped them against the sides of her shorts and took several calming breaths. But, none of it seemed to help. Her palms were still clammy and shook like a teenager on prom night. She had to admit, white guys weren’t usually her type, but this one deserved a second look. Well, actually that was an understatement considering she hadn’t been able to take her eyes off him the moment she stepped down from the RV.
Not overly tall, compared to today’s standards, he looked like a man used to hard labor. His frame appeared to be rock solid, reminding Vivienne of an Olympic wrestler with his bulky shoulders and narrow hips. With extreme effort, Vivienne drug her eyes from said hips to meet his gaze. She opened her mouth to say something, but found she’d lost her voice.
Blessed with beautiful, symmetrical features, his eyes were actually his selling point. They were a deep blue, akin to sapphires. Vivienne pressed her nails into the palm of her hand to keep from running forward and wrapping her arms and legs around him.
Damn! Seven months without sex was a bitch! “Are…?” She paused to clear her throat. Whenever she was nervous, her voice climbed several octaves, bordering on an intoxicated Betty Boop. Vivienne couldn’t help it that her body was reacting like a schoolgirl. She didn’t need to sound like one too. “So…ahem…are you here for the job?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Nope. His voice, slightly gravely with a rich timbre like a shot of warm brandy, was his best selling point. Vivienne crossed her arms over her chest to hide the two betraying bumps knotting the front of her tank top. She glanced at him to see if he caught her body’s reaction. Considering the upward curl of his full lips, he had. She groaned. To dampen her embarrassment, she continued the conversation. “I guess you saw my ad in town.”
“Yes…ma’am.” Vivienne noticed he hesitated longer than normal before answering. Was he nervous or lying? The streetwise chick from Harlem reared her head. “Okay, if you’re answering the ad, what am I looking for?”
“You’re looking for someone to work this mine.” He tipped his head towards the inner shaft barely visible, even at this early hour without the help of artificial lighting. His movements pitched a dark curl over his wide brow, giving him the appearance of a three dimensional Clark Kent.
She cleared her throat, again. “How much experience do you have working a horizontal mining shaft?”
“As if I’ve been living in one my entire life,” he drawled.
Where was he from? Vivienne couldn’t place the accent exactly, but she could tell he was from the South. “You don’t sound like you’re from Nevada.”
He leaned his left shoulder into one of the petrified cedar planks bracing the mine’s narrow entrance. “How does my place of origin have anything to do with the job?”
Vivienne’s cheeks burned in embarrassment. “I’m not asking for your soul, Mister…?” Here she was asking him all of these questions and she hadn’t made the proper introductions.
“No Mister. Just plain ole’ Ezekiel Proctor, but you can call me Zeke.” With an outstretched hand, he grasped the tips of Vivienne’s fingers and to her open- mouth amazement, kissed the top of her hand. The cynical New Yorker just packed her bags and left Dodge!
“Umm, okay.” “Did I do something improper?” he asked, straightening but not letting her hand go. A quizzical look shadowed his handsome features. Vivienne rushed to assure him.
“No, no! It just isn’t everyday a man kisses your hand. It’s quite, chivalrous.” And a turn on to boot! “So, do I have the job, Mrs…?”
“No Missus…or ma’am. Just plain ole’ Vivienne West, but you can call me Vivienne. And yes, you’re hired. When can you start? Do you need to go back into town and get your things? By the way how did you get here?” He rolled his shoulders and Vivienne found herself salivating.
“A friend dropped me off so going back into town is out of the question. I’d like to start today, if you don’t mind. I have everything in the world I need right here. I hope you don’t mind if I work and sleep here as well?” Vivienne glanced down at the threadbare bedroll at his feet. She noted the thin gray blanket tied with rope and she fought the urge to rub her backside.
“I don’t mind, but I do mind you sleeping on that thing.” She raised her hand when he opened his mouth to object. “I need someone who’s healthy and able to work a decent day’s work, and you won’t be able to do that by sleeping on the ground. At least let me supply you with a sleeping cot and possibly, a new pair of jeans and a decent work shirt,” she said, eyeballing his worn woolen trousers and button-down shirt. Vintage was in but his wardrobe looked antique.
“I won’t take charity.” He suddenly straightened to his full height, his jaw taking on a mutinous cast. Vivienne rolled her eyes.
Men! “It won’t be charity if I take it out of your pay.” His blue eyes searched her face. Vivienne realized she was holding her breath because she exhaled in relief, when he finally spoke, “I’ll let you replace my bed roll only if you take it out of my pay.”
What the heck was wrong with her? Did she care that much about his feelings already? Shelving her reaction to him for the moment, Vivienne decided to keep him to his promise. “Since we’re on the same page, how about I show you where I found the mother lode.”
She smiled. He reciprocated.
Feeling hot and cold at once, she retreated to the litter pile in the far corner. She picked up a miner’s hardhat and placed it on her head. She turned away from him slightly before turning on the light.
They walked down the narrow shaft in relative silence. She pointed out the bandana marker she dropped two days ago and the ore webbing the ceiling. Once done, she walked him back to the entrance. Not wasting a second, she, removed her hard hat, stepped out into the sunshine, and lifted her head to the sky. The inside of the mine had been unusually cold.
“I can’t believe this Harlem Girl is going to say this, but this feels….” Vivienne paused to inhale deeply.
“How does, it feel?” She shifted her gaze and found him still standing in the shade of the entrance. The shadows softened his features. He painted a romantic picture with his dark curls floating around his head like a cherub.
“It feels like a lover’s embrace—warm, energizing, and protective all at the same time.” Vivienne shrugged her shoulders in an effort to dismiss her romantic allusions. “Sorry, I tend to wax-poetic about the most trivial things sometimes.”
“Sometimes, trivial things tend to become the most important, especially when they can no longer be enjoyed or when they’re just out of reach.”
Vivienne looked at him and the tangible weight of his soul touched her. Unable to help squelch her curiosity, she asked, “Are you talking about a lover’s embrace or the sun right now?”
Even though she was standing in the morning sun, goose bumps pimpled her skin, his pale blue gaze ran over her body, and set off a tingling sensation between her legs. As if sensing her reaction to him, his gaze dropped below her waist, lingering there before finally meeting hers once again. Vivienne’s cheeks exploded with heat. How could she be so turned on by just a glance?
“Both, I guess.” Vivienne pulled her shoulder length ponytail off her neck. The air had suddenly turned hot, sticky. And she needed to get away before she did something stupid. “Well, I better leave you alone with my incessant chattering. I’ll go ahead and head into town while it’s early and pick you up another…” Vivienne paused. It was hard to make a coherent sentence when images of them lying naked in a bedroll flashed through her mind.
“A bed?” he supplied. Vivienne’s eyes met his and the desire she read in their cerulean depths was more blatant than any pick up line. Unable to do anything else but stare at him, she nodded her head. “I’ll be waiting, forever if necessary.” He stepped back into the shadows, allowing them to swallow him whole.
Vivienne had the strangest feeling he was somehow speaking the truth.
Want to read more? Visit Red Rose Publishing’s official website.
FYI: Don’t forget, I have a contest going on to celebrate the release of, Kisses and Curses! The prize this time is a beautiful one-of-a-kind southwestern -style turquoise and silver tone bracelet created by a local artisan.
To enter, all you have to do is send me an email by April 1, 2011 with the answer to the following question: Where does Vivienne discover evidence supporting Zeke’s story about an Indian curse?