Impossible Stranger

Afternoon Delights

Laura Jardine

 

Chapter 1

I arrived at the subway station at exactly seven fifty-three. As usual. Up until two months ago, I’d started my commute a little earlier. But one morning I was running late, and I encountered an incredibly hot guy waiting on the platform. I soon discovered that my best chance of seeing him was if I arrived at seven fifty-three. He was almost always there at that time.

I merely thought of the stranger I planned my mornings around as he. I had no witty name for him. Nothing like…Well, that’s the reason I had no witty name—I was terrible at coming up with them. And I didn’t want to think of him by a fake first name. Didn’t want to think of him as John or Daniel or Matt, or perhaps something less generic. Because what if I learned his real name someday? Then I’d want to stop thinking of him as John or Daniel, and it would be hard to break the habit. How awkward would it be if I called out the wrong name while he was…

Anyway, I’d probably never know his name, let alone end up in bed with him. But a woman could hope.

I pulled out my Metropass just as he was going through the turnstile. He was wearing his navy suit today. The gray one was my favorite, but he looked good in all of them.

He was probably at least ten years older than me. Forty was my guess. Tall and lean. Short brown hair, graying at the temples, and clean-shaven. Always clean-shaven. He usually wore a serious expression, and he had a quick, purposeful walk, like he always knew what he was doing, where life would take him. Like he was in control of it all.

Unlike me. Lately I felt like I was flailing about—not that I showed it on the outside.

I followed him down the stairs to the platform and walked a little farther along it than he did. I hoped the next train would take a while so I’d have more time to admire him. Not that I openly stared, of course. But after finding some music to listen to on my phone, I sneaked a peek to admire his fine features, his strong jaw and…

Shit. He turned his head and looked down the platform. Looked toward me, and probably noticed me watching him. How embarrassing.

I did not glance in his direction again before the train arrived a minute later. As usual, I had to stand; the seats were always full by the time the train got to Lawrence. I grabbed a pole and looked down at my phone, deciding this album just wasn’t suiting my mood. My I-feel-like-an-idiot mood. I changed the music, now ready for the twenty-minute ride.

But just past the station, the train jolted to a stop and someone knocked into me.

“Sorry.”

I looked up into brown eyes and a ghost of a smile that accompanied the apology. A face I knew well but only from a distance.

Yes, it was him.

“That’s okay,” I mumbled before I looked back down.

The train was full, and we were closer together than two people would usually be if they were having a conversation. He smelled faintly of aftershave, and although I had never given much thought to the scent of aftershave before, somehow it was very appealing. Just the thought of being close enough to smell his aftershave made me light-headed, and it called to mind the many fantasies I’d had about him in the past couple months.

A prickle of heat crept down my body, from my neck to my toes. I was on the subway, I shouldn’t be thinking about this. Every inch of my body shouldn’t feel acutely aware of his presence. But I just couldn’t help it.

An announcement started. I pulled out my earbuds so I could hear it better, though as usual, it was unintelligible: “…all customers on the Yonge…” And I understood nothing after that.

“Do you know what it said?” I asked him.

Somehow I’d worked up the nerve to talk to him. I had no idea how I’d managed that. Embarrassed yet again, I covered my mouth before realizing that made me look even stupider. And it was a perfectly normal question to ask a stranger on the subway, wasn’t it?

He watched my hand as I dropped it from my mouth, then he said, “I think it was something about a Toronto Fire investigation.”

His voice was low, quiet, and made my insides turn to jelly. I wished he would keep talking, even if he just said “Toronto Fire investigation” over and over.

“You have good hearing,” I said.

He chuckled at my idiotic words. Okay, if he wasn’t going to talk, he could laugh because he had a nice laugh as well. His eyes crinkled too, and I smiled.

But then he said, “Why are you following me?”

My hand tightened on the strap of my purse. “I am not following you.”

“You make a point of showing up at the station at the same time as me. Every single day.”

I glanced at the people standing near us. One appeared half-asleep, and I was afraid he’d fall over. The other was listening to music, and she had the volume turned up so loud I could make out which Adele song she was playing.

“And you keep looking at me,” he continued, his eyes steady on mine. “Don’t deny it.”

I didn’t want him to talk about that. “Toronto Fire investigation” would certainly be preferable to this conversation. And yet I was turned on by his proximity, by his low voice. Even by the way he was confronting me about this.

Since I couldn’t deny his words, I said, “You could start coming at a different time.”

He slid his hand under my chin and tipped it up. Where his fingers touched me, my heated skin burned even more. It was uncomfortable, yet exhilarating. All of it.

“You’re right. I could start coming at seven fifty-seven instead.” He regarded me carefully, his hand still under my chin. I swallowed. This scrutiny unnerved me. “Though you’d probably figure it out quickly enough.” He paused. “And I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”

A flash of desire ripped through me. And I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I couldn’t believe he was saying these words to me. I had no idea how to respond.

His lips quirked. Apparently he was amused at my speechlessness. “What’s your name?”

“Jaime.” At least I could manage that much.

“Jaime,” he repeated. “I’m Marc.”

Marc. That wasn’t one of the names I’d ever thought to call him.

“And you…You don’t mind that I…” I couldn’t say it.

“I don’t mind at all.” He shifted his hand down and fingered the collar of my blouse. Dipping his head to my ear, he whispered, “I quite like it.”

Oh my God.

Although I was hot, I shivered at his words. And ached for him to touch me further.

The train creaked to life and started moving at a snail’s pace. He kept his head bent, his hand on my shirt. I took shaky breaths and held tightly on to the pole so I wouldn’t fall over.

“You want me, don’t you, Jaime?” he said.

“Yes,” I squeaked, embarrassed by just how much I wanted him.

“You have plans tonight?”

I shook my head.

Marc let go of my shirt, reached into his wallet, and pulled out a business card. He handed it to me. “Give me a call later. We’ll meet up after work.”

“Meet up. You mean…”

His hand curled around the back of my neck. “I mean you’ll come over to my place and I’ll fuck you. Sound like a plan?” He stroked my skin with his thumb, his light touch promising so much more.

“I don’t usually do things like that.” In fact, I never did things like that. I’d only slept with one man. We’d met in university, dated for seven years, and broke up six months ago when I wanted to get married and he didn’t. I’d felt adrift ever since.

“But if you want to, you should. And I’m pretty sure you want to.”

I took a deep breath. “I’ll think about it.”

In fact, I didn’t see how I’d be able to get anything done today because I’d be thinking about it so much. Imagining this man I’d wanted for so long between my legs, inside me. Come over to my place and I’ll fuck you. It was unfamiliar, this heat coursing through my body despite how little he’d touched me. The idea of sleeping with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend—that was unfamiliar too. But oh-so-tempting.

“You do that.” His mouth very close to my ear, he said, “I wish I could slide my hand down your skirt right now. I bet your panties are soaked. Am I right?”

I didn’t said say yes. But I say no, either.

He withdrew from me after that, and I heard him say, “Excuse me,” as he tried to make his way down the subway car.

Yeah, I’d get nothing done at work.

* * * *

At four thirty, I took out Marc’s business card. Marc Ballard. He was a lawyer. Well, he’d always looked rather important in those perfectly pressed suits.

I was going to call him. I didn’t see how I could not call him. For the past two months, I’d been arriving at the station at precisely seven fifty-three so I could see him. I fantasized about him on a regular basis. And this morning…

I pressed one hand to my warm cheek and picked up my phone with the other. I called his cell rather than his office. I didn’t want to speak to a secretary first.

He answered on the first ring. “Hello?”

“Hi, Marc. It’s Jaime.”

“Jaime,” he said. “Good to hear from you. This is about the time I figured you’d call.”

“So you thought I’d call?”

“I did.” He paused, then got right to the point. “Let’s meet at Lawrence at six. Is that okay?”

“Sure, that works.”

“I look forward to seeing you tonight.”

My body hummed with desire at his low, sexy voice.

“Me too,” I finally said.