Just a Girl - Becky Monson

Chapter 1

I’m convinced that any compliment I’ve ever been given was somehow done as charity by a family member or a friend. Like they paid someone to do it. So when the handsome stranger with extremely dark hair and brilliant blue eyes tells me that I have a beautiful smile, my first reaction is to almost choke on my donut. Actually, that’s exactly what happens. It went a little something like this:

“You have a lovely smile,” said the man.

I’d just left Sweeties Bakery, which was only a few blocks from my apartment, and the smile he noticed was directed at the powdered sugar donut in my hand—because donuts bring me, and nearly all the world’s population, joy.

I then lifted it to my mouth as he said the fateful words. Which caused me to do a sort of confused snort-laugh where some of the powdered sugar got sucked into my throat along with a piece of the donut. I coughed, trying to dislodge the food from the back of my throat, and was unsuccessful. So I coughed some more, and it got so bad that the handsome stranger even started patting me on the back. This continued to happen. Like a horrible, vicious coughing cycle.

I wasn’t sure if it would happen, but I was finally able to get a hold of myself, which is where I find myself now. Currently standing in front of the handsome stranger, still holding the donut that was nearly my undoing (I wasn’t going to give it up so easily), and looking down at a dusting of powdered sugar that has traveled down the front of my black workout tank and onto the upper thighs of my capri yoga pants.

How freaking stupid.

Not to mention, I’ve just finished working out so my hair is in a ponytail—or at least it was. In my peripheral vision, I can see strands of golden locks that came loose in my coughing fit. I’m sweaty, but luckily I’m not having to suffer under the noon-day Orlando summer heat right now, even though the setting sun offers only a slight reprieve. I’ve lived here since I was thirteen and I still can’t get used to the summer heat.

“You okay?” Stranger Man asks. He’s wearing basketball shorts and a dark V-neck tee that hugs his muscular arms quite nicely.

“I think so?” I say and then cough. Just once. For good measure. Gah.

“Brilliant,” he says, his mouth a grimace. He reaches up and runs a hand through his dark hair. “I feel a bit bad about that.”

Oh, dear heaven above. Handsome Man has an accent. A very British one, in fact. It didn’t register with me before, in my choking state. Be still, my beating ovaries. I’ve always been a sucker for a British accent.

But of course, I’m standing in front of him, hair askew, my face a nice shade of red, if the burning feeling I’m currently experiencing is any indication. Oh, and powdered sugar down the front of me. I’m also still holding on to the donut. I’m a work of art. A Picasso.

“No worries. You just caught me off guard,” I say, holding the donut up, my offering as proof. As if he doesn’t know what I was just having a coughing fit over. Good job, me.

“Sorry about that.”

I look down at my shirt, wondering if I should try to dust it off or if I should just let go and let God. It is what it is. It’s also not like I’ll ever see this man again. Which is sad because he’s quite handsome and despite my disheveled look, he thinks my smile is lovely. I will cherish this moment. Or, a smidgen of this moment.

“Henry,” he says, holding out a hand to shake mine.

“Uh . . .” I close my donut-free hand into a fist to make sure it’s powdered sugar–free, and sure enough, there’s a definite sticky feeling. In my haste to eat the donut I forgot to grab a napkin. Therefore, I do the only thing I can: I wipe my hand on my leggings and then gingerly place it in his. “Quinn.”

He shakes my hand with a grip that’s firm but not overly so. Just the right amount of hold, and my hand feels dainty in his. Which is not a normal feeling for me. My hands are not small. Thomas doesn’t call me “Man Hands” for nothing. They’re also not soft like most girlie hands. They’re calloused and rough. But working with wood and stains and