|Release Date||June 28, 2013|
For the two years that she’d lived in the sleepy town of Los Osos in central California, she’d had shitty days, bad days, a few “what the hell” days but never one of those days and, as she turned onto her street, she realized she’d dodged the proverbial bullet until it hit her right between the eyes. Okay, that was a bit dramatic. But when she pulled up to the place she called home and saw the sleek black custom-made chopper sitting in the driveway Hadi realized she should have packed her shit after she woke up and never looked back.
The idea to just keep driving flinted through her brain briefly as she slowed her car down. She’d learn over the years how to reinvent herself so much that it had become second nature. She could be in another state or country by tomorrow at the latest. Far, far, away from the owner of that bike and the bullshit he was inevitably trying to drag her back into.
She parked behind the bike and resisted the urge to slam her car into it. Data entry paid the bills but she wasn’t exactly rolling in the cash. She and the owner may have history but he’d definitely make her pay for his shiny little toy. Hadi reached over her center console for her grocery bag, got out of the car and shoved the door shut with her hip. The loud sound of metal connecting reverberated through the quiet street. Fuck being subtle. Walking to the front door she paused, listening to the sounds around her. He came alone. Interesting. Her suddenly foul mood didn’t lighten as she struggled to balance her purse and groceries while unlocking the front door of her tiny house.
She felt as if she was being watched and looked to the side before crossing the threshold. Mrs. Peters, her elderly neighbor, peeked through her curtains attempting to watch her covertly. She smiled and gave an awkward wave to the woman. Hadi had done everything possible to not end up on the neighborhood busybody’s radar and that bike and its rider had probably put her firmly on the grid.
She expelled a soft sigh before heading down the short hall toward the kitchen. Hadi didn’t even bother looking in the living room. She could feel the heat of his gaze on her skin as she walked by. He came close. She wasn’t going to make it easy. She never made it easy for him, so why start now? Entering the tiny kitchen, made cozy by little knickknacks spread about, Hadi grinned at the space she had created for herself. She was her mother’s child, and though the blood of a nomad ran through her veins, she always had to have her surroundings be distinctly hers. It was, after all, one of the few things she could control in her life.
She started putting groceries away and could feel when he walked into the doorway. The air became heavy and static. He, Weiland, had always been so intense. He was the flame; she the little moth that flew toward it over and over again. Singed each time but unable to acknowledge the danger of it, the pain that came from being burned.
“Hello, wife.” The deep gravely sound of his voice was like honey over razor blades. The cut was tempered by the slow sweet liquid sound of his voice.
“Hello husband,” Hadi responded with a neutral tone.
“Will you not give me the consideration of looking at your face while talking to you?” The hint of anger in his tone actually comforted her.
This is what she needed to remember when it came to them. The sharp words and hurt feelings made it easy to walk away each time. If she didn’t then she’d end up back in his arms, in his bed. She turned around slowly and gave him a neutral stare. She may intellectually try and deny his effect on her but her body always responded to him.
Weiland Osbeorn, her husband, the barbarian prince, was still as impressive as the day she saw him riding a large stallion on a battlefield in Northern England. Tall for a man who lived at a time when food was scarce and healthy nutrition wasn’t a daily practice, he stood at six four with the hard-packed muscled body of a man that utilized labor, and not the gym, to get his impressive physique. His silky brandy colored hair was pulled back neatly at the nape of his neck in a low ponytail.
Her fingers itched thinking about the soft texture of his thick locks. In their better moments she’d tease him about how hair so beautiful was on the head of a man so hard. Hadi ignored the tightening of her chest at the memory of past pleasure. Instead, she looked at his face and began to catalogue his features, comparing them to what her mind had stored away.
Weiland could never be called beautiful, and handsome was a word that failed to do him justice. The strength of his features, the hard angles and planes of his face would never grace a magazine cover. He wore a neatly trimmed beard that was more enhanced than marred by the thin scar that ran along his jaw line. His intense sapphire blue eyes carried the knowledge of his long life, the pain and the triumph. Staring into them, she tried to block the heat they invoked in her body.
“Thank you, Haddiyya,” he said with words still slightly accented after all these years.
She took a deep breath and ignored how the sound of her name coming from his lips made her feel. She’d had many names over the years but each time he spoke a new name she’d chosen, it was as if that name became her true name. The name her mother whispered into her ear after giving her life, her true name—the name her mother intended for her to carry He gave it a life and a meaning she never heard coming out of the mouths of others. She would have to change this one as soon as he left.