Sugar - Lydia Michaels



I could feel his stare weighing on me, heavy and warm like a blanket I didn’t ask for but appreciated all the same. He watched from across the hall, watched me like a man who saw something he fantasized about possessing. A beautiful car, a valuable company, a woman, either way, I was only an object to him. That was fine. Impersonal, the way I preferred my relationship with neighbors.

My hand trembled as I slid my gold key into the slot of the deadbolt, securely locking my door. The ornate moldings throughout the building imposed a sense of security as well as a sense of lavish luxury, so my sudden unsteadiness wasn’t due to fear, but rather the result of my hot neighbor’s nearness in our shared, narrow hall.

This man should not stir the feelings he roused inside of me.

Don’t look…

Sliding the ornate key into the narrow pocket of my Dior clutch, I tried to hide my body’s response to his attention. He pretended to sort a handful of mail outside of his apartment door, his tailored, bespoke clothing the usual high-end office attire, but he didn’t strike me as a self-important snob. Just a result of good circumstances.

Regardless of his background, he got up and went to work every weekday and sometimes on weekends. The golden stubble covering his jaw was proof of yet another long day’s work.

Snapping my clutch shut, I pretended not to notice him, and fought the urge to dissect him with my eyes.

No one read their mail in the hall. They grabbed it from the lobby and dumped it on their counter when they walked through the door. Yet he eye fucked each envelope with the same intensity one reviewed a life or death contract. I doubted he read a single word.

Bingo. With a flick of his thick lashes, blond enough to give his blue eyes a dramatic gilded fringe, his gaze left the mail and landed on me. I looked away because there wasn’t time to play the demure flirt, and the last thing I needed was another man in my life.

We lived in a civil war era mansion renovated into apartments, located on Delancey Street in the Rittenhouse section of Old City Philadelphia—a place college students shouldn’t be able to afford. But I wasn’t an ordinary college student. Exploits, the sort most women couldn’t imagine—wouldn’t want to imagine—dominated my social life.

This was the second time he and I crossed paths since I moved in, and it surely wouldn’t be the last. I should say hello, introduce myself, do the upper class, neighborly thing, but there wasn’t time. A luxury sports car waited for me out front, and I couldn’t keep my client waiting.

A shiver raced down my spine as my neighbor’s attention lingered, and my eyes slowly blinked. The heat of his stare teased at the base of my back, exposed by my ebony, couture midi dress.

I could feel him watching me as though he could see through my clothing. He left me feeling … exposed, as if he might detect the faux jewels and second hand couture and discover the real me. Why did he have to look at me like that?

I knew my ass looked phenomenal, and it should for the amount of time I spent sweating it off at the gym every dawn. But my curves and this dress weren’t for him. I wasn’t for him. And by the look of his high-end, tailored suit and unquestionable attractiveness paired with his young age, I knew, without a doubt, he wasn’t for me.

He hailed from prestigious lineage, perfectly suited for some pretty, little, pedigreed female, born and raised around old money, pampered and gently disciplined to always pick up the correct silver spoon at a formal table, and never go slumming in the places I’d been. Yup, I definitely wasn’t his type.

Keeping my lashes low, I approached the elevator doors. My lips formed the thinnest smile as I tossed him a brief sideways glance, and my heart lamented the death of possibilities that could never be. His mouth opened by the slightest degree, and I felt the corner of my smile pull tight with genuine satisfaction.

Yeah, he’s gawking. If only he knew…

Girls like me didn’t know the meaning of vanity growing up, but the city had taught me well. I couldn’t deny it felt nice to have an attractive man’s full focus. Rarely short of attention, his awareness somehow struck me as different. Less manufactured and more valuable perhaps.

His looks ranked him