Live Without Regret (A Touch of Fate)

By: K.L. Grayson



“Connor, the tattoo artist, you are too kind.” She flashes him a flirty smile and struts—yes, struts—toward the bar.

Connor nods toward Casey. “I like your sister.”

“You can have her.”

“I heard that,” Casey yells. “And you would miss the hell out of me,” she tosses over her shoulder before reaching the bar.

I shake my head and mouth ‘no.’ Connor’s answering smile is enough to make my insides go all soft and gooey, something I haven’t experienced in a long time. What I wouldn’t give to feel that every single day. What I wouldn’t give to know I was the one who put that smile on Connor’s face—the kind of smile that, if allowed, could mend broken hearts. The kind of smile that could make a girl hope for things she shouldn’t be hoping for, like white picket fences, blond-haired babies, and the promise of forever. Except…

Forever doesn’t exist.

Forever can be taken away.

Minds can change, and in the blink of an eye, everything you thought you had simply disappears.

Shit.

Why the hell am I thinking about forever? Surely his smile isn’t that potent.

“You can’t smile at me like that,” I whisper. Then I squeeze my eyes shut when I realize I actually said those words out loud. I’ve been so good about closing myself off, putting on my armor and shielding myself from feeling…well, anything.

But Connor is different. He’s a game changer. When I’m around him, I want to rip down all of my walls and try.

Try what? I’m not sure. Anything, maybe. Anything other than what I’ve been doing. And it’s not that I want to try with just anyone, I want to try with him.

“You don’t like it when I smile?” he asks, his husky voice invading my thoughts.

Opening my eyes, I glance up. His eyes are smoldering, begging me to give him what he wants. Who am I to disappoint? My head is screaming…

Mayday!

Abort!

Look away!

But my heart isn’t listening. “I love it when you smile.”

Connor’s eyes widen and he goes completely still.

Oh, God. Why in the hell did I just say that?

He’s probably confused with all of these mixed signals I keep throwing out. Hell, so am I.

Connor hasn’t said a word and he’s still watching me. I’ve seen that look before. I saw it on Tyson—several times, in fact—years before he ripped my heart out.

Fix this, Brit.

My eyes drift to the dance floor. I can’t help but feel like I’d be much safer out there in the midst of all those gyrating bodies than I am here sitting in this booth, looking into the eyes of this man who sees way too much. This man who makes me say stupid, stupid things.

Looking at him isn’t an option, because if I look at him, I’ll cave. So I do the only thing I can do—the only thing that will preserve what willpower I have left.

I ease out of the booth. “I’m going to go dance.”





What just happened?

“Where the hell is she going?” Scooting into the seat Brittany just vacated, Casey hands me a beer, but her eyes are locked on her sister’s retreating form.

“I’m an asshole.” A fucking asshole.

Brittany’s blatant honesty caught me off guard and I froze. She had made it clear that she wasn’t into dating, only meaningless sex. Therefore, I expected her to brush off my question, or at the very least come up with some sort of sarcastic answer. But the vulnerability on her face when she said she loved my smile was unmistakable, and it left me at a loss for words.

I had been seconds away from telling her that I’d gladly have meaningless sex with her if the offer still stood. The need to touch her was growing by the second, and although I would’ve hated myself in the morning, I was willing to take whatever she would give me.

But then I saw it. The truth behind whatever façade she was putting up was short-lived, but it was all I needed. I knew right then and there that if I played my cards right, I could break down her walls … and I desperately want to break down her walls.

“Most men are,” she mumbles. We both watch as Brittany finds an empty spot on the dance floor and starts moving her body in perfect rhythm with the music. “But,” she says, turning toward me, “I have a feeling that you, sir, are a redeemable asshole.”

Choosing not to comment, I take a drink of my beer. I know I’m not really an asshole, and I can tell by the tone of Casey’s voice she doesn’t think that either.

“She likes to think she’s made for meaningless sex,” Casey says, confirming what I had begun to suspect. “But she isn’t. It’s not who she is. She’s been hurt, and this is her way of protecting herself.”

Casey takes a sip of her purple concoction. When I open my mouth to respond, she holds up a hand, signaling me to wait. Lowering her glass to the table, she twirls it between her fingers. “There are two things you should know about my sister. First,” she says, holding up a finger, “she can’t—and I repeat cannot—say no to the Cardinals.” I furrow my brows, completely confused as to what the Cardinals have to do with anything. Before I can ask, Casey quickly continues. “And second, when it comes right down to it, she will always follow her heart. Now,” she says, sliding from the booth, drink in hand. “That’s all you need to know to land my sister. What you do with it is completely up to you. But”—she points a finger at me—“if you break her heart, I will hunt you down and do godawful things to your manhood.” Without a second glance, she spins on her heel and walks away.

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