Lighting flashes across the sky, illuminating the clouds outside my window. Seconds later the crash of thunder vibrates through the room. I love a good thunderstorm. And it’s newly spring in Chicago so this is the first one in months, the first of the season. I smile watching the streaks of light scatter through the sky. The sound of the rain is soothing as it pelts against my windows, falling in tiny rivers down the glass.
My storm gazing is interrupted by the sound of water bubbling in my electric kettle. It hisses lightly before clicking off. I pour the hot water into my waiting mug and tea strainer. Grabbing my mug, I move into the living room and settle into my favorite chair, perfectly positioned to continue watching the storm rage while reading. I can hear my sister Vaughn’s voice mocking me, teasing me that I’m acting like an old lady. But this is exactly what I want to do with my Saturday night. At least this Saturday night. I grab my giant cable knit blanket and get all cozy, tucking myself into my chair with a happy sigh.
I’m not sure how much time passes, roughly four chapters worth, when I hear a tapping that isn’t related to the thunder outside. Straining to listen, I’m still startled when I hear the knocking again.
I contemplate ignoring it, but someone wants to talk to me badly enough to be out in this weather, so I put down my book and patter over to my front door. I peek out the window to see who it is at my door.
Confused and excited, there’s no denying that fluttery drop in my stomach, I flip the lock and open the door.
“Macy. Hey.” I’m sure my questions echo in my greeting. He’s never shown up at my place before. Usually we just flirtatiously chat at his dad’s bar or, more recently, my bakery and cafe.
He grins, his eyes crinkling adorably. “Hey. Busy?”
I glance down at my gray yoga pants and bare feet laughing, “Not really, no. Just enjoying the storm.”
Stepping aside, I usher him in. Immediately my little house is filled with Macy, his massive presence. Mace is a big guy both physically and in sheer personality. I’m tall, nearly 5’10” but even I feel almost tiny next to him. And if his height wasn’t enough, he’s also built like a sexy muscular tank, covered in tattoos. With a mass of dark hair, he typically wears pulled back in a causal man-bun and twinkling dark eyes.
I’m not lying. Or exaggerating. They twinkle. He’s like a dark, tan Santa Claus with six-pack abs.
He crosses the threshold, dripping water on the floor.
“You’re soaked! How long have you been out there?”
I rush down the hallway before he can answer and grab a towel out of the bathroom closet.
“I guess I’ve been walking for a while,” he admits, taking the towel I offer and drying his face and neck.
I frown in concern. “Everything okay?”
He takes a finger and gently massages the tension V between my eyebrows. He shrugs but doesn’t really answer.
“What are you up to?”
I decide to let him deflect the question for now. But I’m coming back to it.
This is so surreal I can’t help the little laugh that escapes. “Yeah actually.”
He nods, then asks, “Got a book for me?”
My head tilts to the side as I study him, not even hiding my confusion. “Macy. You can’t really want to sit and read a book with me in soaking wet clothes.”
He shrugs. “I kinda do actually. Is that okay?”
Something is definitely going on. But if he needs a friend right now, I guess I can be that.
“You have to get out of those wet clothes.”
He’s wrapped the towel around his neck now, holding the ends. He grins at me. “You could at least buy me dinner before trying to get me naked.”
I laugh. “Seriously. I doubt I have anything that will fit you but I’ll check. Why don’t you use the bathroom to get undressed and dry off. I can throw your clothes in the dryer.”
He grabs my wrist as I turn to attempt to find something for him to wear. My breath catches as I turn back to meet his gaze.
I can’t actually concentrate on my book with Macy sitting a few feet away, somehow managing to look both ridiculous and delicious in a pair of my old sweatpants. They are far too small, fitting more like tights as they stretch across his muscled thighs.
I thought he’d balk when I handed them through the bathroom door but in typical Macy fashion he’d just laughed and tried them on. I’d found an old mystery novel for him to read and so now he sat on my couch, also drinking a mug of tea, silently reading in pants that didn’t fit and no shirt.
How was I supposed to concentrate on anything other than that?
Eventually I slam my book shut, a little more forcefully than I intended. Macy looks up at me and grins.
“I’m hungry,” I lie. “How about some cookies?” I’m still trying to figure out what is going on, why he’s here. I’ve found desserts are a great way to loosen people’s tongues.
His eyes widen comically. “You got some of those spicy chocolate ones?”
I grin as I stand up. Based on his purchasing habits at the bakery, I know those are his favorites. “I do.”
He vaults to his feet, eagerly following me into the kitchen.
I warm up some cookies and we stand at the kitchen island, relishing the gooey chocolate cookies with a hint of cayenne. He’s reaching for his third one when he finally admits why he’s here.
“My brother died,” he says softly.
“Oh, Mace. I’m so sorry.” I go to him, wrapping my arms around his waist, trying to offer some comfort.
I barely remember Macy’s older brother. Unlike Macy and his sister, his brother left Chicago right out of high school. I know he comes home to visit, bringing his wife and kids on all the holidays but I’ve rarely seen him. But their family is close, this must be a massive blow to all of them.
His arms come around me, returning my embrace, his chin resting against my temple.
“There was a car accident,” his voice cracks.
I tighten my arms around him, my hands smoothing over the muscles of his back. I’m not sure how long we stand there holding each other, the pounding rain muffling any other external sounds.
Eventually I step back and meet his eyes. My breath catches at the intensity in his gaze as it moves across my face.
And suddenly, before I even realize it’s happening, we’re kissing.
Macy kisses me. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I kiss back.