A loner wearing emotional armor…
Ace is a twenty-year-old entrepreneur focusing on two things in life: financial security and a life without ties. A life that doesn’t risk losing the ones who matter. When Ace is hired to secretly act as a bodyguard for Malerie, he faces an unwanted attraction that threatens to sabotage his heart. Can Ace find the courage to love a girl with a death wish?
"Here." I hand him the charcoal rubbing and he takes it without getting up from the bed.
Sitting, he turns the paper around like a different angle will reveal more. The picture of the dragon is detailed with tiny scales lining its body and spikes decorating the curved neck. Large pointed teeth extend outside the dragon's mouth in a hungry snarl.
"What's this?" Ace says, pointing a finger at the symbols near the dragon's feet. “Moon type again?”
"And this is another message for you," he mutters without meeting my eyes.
"I'm positive." I want him to look at me and see how much I believe in this connection.
Then he lifts his head and shakes it slowly. "You're that girl who saves her fortune cookies, doesn't step on cracks, and picks up pennies, aren't you? You think these boxes and the words on the sides are like a bad luck charm."
I continue, despite the fact I want to throw him out of my head, out of my room, out of my house. I didn’t think this would be easy, but I hoped. "So what if I do? That’s exactly why I've noticed this message when someone like you wouldn't."
He shrugs. "And the fortune cookie says…"
"This character is a G, then an R, then I, E, and F," I state matter-of-factly while pointing each one out with my fingertip.
"Grief." Ace nods. He rubs his chin, which has grown flattering stubble. "The Moon type was used on these boxes and a title for each picture was placed on the embossing. Honestly, I’m amazed you’ve figured this out. It’s genius. Really. I’d never see this. But I think you’re reading too much into a drawing.”
I grab the picture from his hands. "If you think I’m a nut, say it. Go ahead." I trace the outline of the box. Then I open the book to a section I've paper clipped. "The UNIX timestamp is on this box as well." My finger caresses the paper.
"And the date is significant?" Ace leans in and he's too close. His fingers splay on top of the page and I stare at his hands instead of his eyes.
"The date is from last week. The night in the restaurant. The night JT was murdered." I glance up into his eyes to gauge his reaction.
His gaze moves from the paper to mine and back to the paper. "All right.” He pauses and stares at the paper. "That’s very odd.”
"I want you to have more than a weird feeling about it. I want you to say you believe me. I want you to open your mind to the possibility that this is more than a coincidence."
He studies me, his finger drumming soundlessly on my desk. "I don't believe in fortune cookies. And you want me to believe you've opened up the largest cookie in the universe. One that tells the story of what has happened in your life. Malerie…" he says. He takes both my hands in his. His strong fingers send a pleasant shiver down my body. "Now if you are about to tell me that this third box, the smaller one," he says as he opens the box I've rubbed, "if it says a word like infatuation, and this is where you finally hit on me, then it's a different story. One I'm totally on board with."
Brinda Berry lives in the southern US with her family and two spunky cairn terriers. She has a BSE in English and French and a MEd in Learning Systems Technology. She's terribly fond of chocolate, coffee, and books that take her away from reality. She doesn't mind being called a geek or "crazy dog lady". When she's not working the day job or writing a novel, she's guilty of surfing the internet for no good reason.