Ring Around Rosie, Chapter One
Rosie was in the front window, squatting awkwardly through the small opening to arrange a new display when she heard the bell from the shop door. "Good morning," she called over her shoulder. She knew she had more time before any tourists meandered up the street to her shop. It must be a local.
When the unfamiliar deep voice replied with "mornin'", Rosie jumped back too quickly, hitting her head on the frame of the window. With flushed cheeks and a hand to her head, she spun to see who had entered her shop.
"Are you all right?" The man asked, again with the sexy deep voice. "Didn't mean to startle you." He stood by the front door petting Zoe, Rosie's fluffy fur ball of a cat who oversaw security for the shop.
Unsure which was worse: her ass stuck in the air or the red flushed cheeks she was now sporting, Rosie smiled at her mysterious customer. "I'm fine," Rosie replied while still rubbing what was sure to be a big goose egg on the top of her head.
Her eyes fixated on his big hands stroking her cat. Then her eyes took a field trip up his exposed forearm and bicep with its tattooed sleeve of vines. He was fair skinned but muscular, and obviously not a man who worked with his hands. Clipped short, his fingernails were neat as they drew long sweeps down Zoe's back. Damn cat, getting all the attention. Rosie shook herself from her perusal and saw the man watching her. How long had he been watching her? Shoot, how long had she been ogling him?
Rosie cleared her throat. "Can I help you find something?" Was that her voice that sounded so high-pitched? Good Lord, had it been that long since she had spoken with an attractive man?
The man grinned down at her from his six-foot towering frame before extending his hand. "I'm Erik Thorne. Just wanted to introduce myself. I opened the brewery just down the street and thought I should meet the other business owners."
Rosie shook his hand, "Nice to meet you. I'm Rosie and you've already met Zoe." She motioned to her cat who had followed Erik as he walked along the display cases. "I'm the owner of Twisted Glimmer. So, yea, this is my jewelry shop. I, um, I make custom jewelry." The society-bred and trained Rosie stammered. Her mother would be hanging her head in shame. She actually stumbled on her words. Kill. Her. Now.
She saw his grin grow and knew he could tell just how off kilter she was too. Dear Lord, she needed to pull herself together. She was a business owner, a grown woman who would not melt into giggles at the first sign of an attractive man. And he was attractive. With his dark messy hair and walnut brown eyes all framed with a rough edging of trimmed facial hair. Just thinking about what that stubble would feel like when... no, she was not going there. Focus, Rosie, focus.
"You setting up shop around this area? Not by the port?"
"We thought it would be nicer to come inland," Erik answered, dividing his attention between her and Zoe. Damn cat, she wanted him all to herself. Wait, did he just say we?
"Oh, we? You aren't here alone?" That question was so not subtle. Rosie was failing in playing it cool on all accounts.
"My partner and I."
"Oh. Ohh," Rosie nodded, realization striking. She wanted to hit herself on the side of the head, goose egg be damned. Of course this insanely attractive man was gay. Since when was she lucky enough to have a dark handsome stranger wander into her life? And why had she already been considering any of this? This is exactly what she got for behaving like her overly affectionate house cat ready to purr against his leg.
"Oh, no. No, my business partner," Erik clarified, placing his hands up in front of him and shaking his head, "who is also my brother." Another panty-melting smile.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry. I don't know why I..." Rosie cut herself off. With her face flaming red, this entire interaction with him could not have gone worse.
Erik smiled at her as if he'd read what was flashing through her mind and was amused by her. "We're opening Thorne Brewing together. My brother, Brandon, is the brewer, does everything to do with production. I operate the brew pub and manage marketing and sales."
Rosie nodded. She couldn't quite get her vocal chords to engage. She'd like to say the next few moments weren't awkward but she gave up lying when she left Chicago.
"Our family has a large brewery back in Michigan but Brandon and I wanted to branch out on our own." Erik shrugged casually but his eyes shone with the excitement of his new venture. "So here we are. There's nothing like it on the island and we expect within a few years, a few summer seasons especially, we'll have a following."
Rosie nodded her head but when she spoke, her voice betrayed her with a croak. Clearing her throat she said, "That's great. There is a lot of the younger professional crowd coming over for long weekends. I bet you'll do well here."
"Hope so. That's what all of our demographical research said. Anyway, we're having a soft opening with a small party for the locals. I'd love it if you could make it." Erik pulled out a card from his back pocket and handed it to her.
Rosie looked it over and nodded before she smiled up at him. "I'll be there."
"Good. I'll see you then." Erik nodded, gave Zoe one final pat and turned towards the door. Just before he stepped outside, he turned back. "And Rosie, just so we're clear, I am very much into women. And right now, I've got my sights on one in particular."
With a quick wink, he disappeared from her shop, leaving her stunned. Maybe she hadn't made such a bad first impression after all. Rosie mentally high-fived herself.
Then she saw Zoe watching out the window in the direction Erik had gone. "Don't even think it, you little temptress. He was talking about me, not you." Giving Zoe a scratch on the head, Rosie went back to straightening the shop.
Before long, the first ferry filled with tourists would arrive and her day would be too busy to consider just what kind of impression she'd made on Mr. Erik Thorne.
YOU ARE READING
Ring Around RosieRomance
This weekly serial introduces some of the characters from the ISLAND REFUGE series. The first full book in the series will be published in Winter 2016. Born and bred to become the perfect princess in the Chicago socialite scene, Rosemary's dream of...