by Cindy Miles
Series: Stupid In Love #3
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication Date: September 10, 2015 by TKA Distribution
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That’s how I refer to the guys who’ve had the bad fortune to fall for me. They only see long legs that they wish were wrapped around them, a cat-like smile, and the reckless abandon to take on any wild dare. It’s all a game to me. Show me a bridge, and I’ll leap over the side. Give me a car, and I’ll race it. Give me a heart, and I’ll break it. I always win. I even showed Death who was boss a long time ago.
Or so I thought.
Now, time is running out, and I’m losing fast…and big. I met someone. Jace Beaumont. He’s smart, and good, and I dream about spending days exploring the summit of his perfect lips. But, I’m a grenade. I know I should leave him be. I can’t.
Study, class, work, repeat. That’s all I have time for. At twenty-five years old, I have a bit more mileage on me than the average college freshman. But, that’s what happens when you spend your youth drinking, partying, and bagging girls like it’s a full-time job. Now, I have goals. There’s just one kink in my plans. Her name is Memory. She’s every guy’s dream girl. She’s intoxicating. She’s trouble. I want to stay away. I can’t.
“So, you want to know who I really am?” I asked Jace as I rose to my feet on Morgan’s Bridge. The sun was gone now, but still light enough to see. Almost dark, but not quite. “Why? Have you heard rumors? Wait! Don’t answer that,” I continued. “You’re pals with Brax Jenkins. Since he’s the king of bad reputation, I’m sure he can single out badasses just as easily.” I winked at him. “Takes one to know one, right?”
Jace laughed softly. “Yeah, he said you’re known for some pretty crazy stunts on campus. A player. Adrenaline junkie.”
“Hmmm,” I answered. “I guess I’d be lying if I didn’t lay claim to all of those accusations. What can I say? I love to live life to the fullest.” I cupped my hands at my mouth. “I’m young! I’m twenty-two!” My voice echoed over the water and through the trees. I squatted down and shot him a lingering look. “I just simply don’t allow all of that to define me. You see,” I went on, wrapping my arms around my legs and hugging them close. With my chin resting against my knees, I looked at him. “There are many more facets to my psyche than I ever, ever let on. You know? Keeps me in a sort of shady shroud of mystery.”
“A shady shroud, huh?” he repeated, and chuckled. “What are you majoring in?”
“Fine arts,” I answered, and sat close to him. “BFA.”
“And what will you do with that?” he asked.
“I’m a self-proclaimed ornamental metalwork designer,” I told him. “And that’s pre-degree, yes sir. Got a business license and everything.” I flashed him a grin. “Calypso Designs. I make a pretty decent coin with the whirlygigs and windcatchers I create in the workshop by the barn. Any sort of crazy welded metal art statue I can dream up. Calypso Designs, Inc. Google me, why don’t ya?”
Jace just kept his eyes on me, and in the faded light they hardly looked green at all. More like shadows in the mouth of a cave. “Any siblings?”
“Nope. Only child.”
He nodded again. “You’re close to your dad?”
I smiled. “Very. He raised me alone after Mom died. Taught me about brazing rods, oxyacetylene, how to set up the fuel tanks. Taught me how to strike a torch, how not to look directly at an arc flash. Taught me…everything I know.” I felt my heart pinch, because I loved my dad more than anything. “He’s a damn good man, Jace Beaumont.”
His teeth were a ghostly white in the dusk. “I believe you, Memory Thibodeaux.”
“Okay.” I changed gears from the serious stuff. “Here’s the final chapter of tonight’s grand Thank You For Changing My Belt Date. Then we’ll have dessert. Ready?”
Jace laughed. “Yeah, why not. Shoot.”
I could barely see his features now. “Remember how I said this bridge was haunted?”
“Well,” I continued. “The legend goes that back in 1923, Madigan Morgan and Company—not to be confused with the Morgans of the Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad—was commissioned to build this trestle for the Southern Pacific Railroad. Anyway, Madigan Morgan was rumored to have had a love affair with a beautiful, beguiling witchdoctor who lived in the woods, just there”—I pointed toward the forest on the other side of the river—“named Gilly from New Orleans. Right behind his wife Adelaide’s back. Well, the construction of the trestle was finally finished, but not before Adelaide Morgan found out about the affair.” I leaned closer. “It’s rumored she gathered her three brothers and went after Gilly the witch one moonlit night.” I glanced up. “Much like tonight, yeah.” I wiggled my brows.
Jace watched me closely and in silence, and although it had grown fairly dark I could still make out the amused expression pulling smile lines around his eyes and mouth. He smelled good. A faint, woodsy, clean smell. Like pine needles, with a ting of ocean spray, if I had to put a name to it. I continued.
“Well Madigan Morgan was supposedly to have scheduled a rendezvous with Gilly right here where we sit, that very night, in the center of the trestle,” I said softly. “Gilly was a raven-haired French-Acadian Cajun, you see, and had the sensual power to make a man do just about anything. And he’d fallen hard and fast for her. Anyway,” I said with a grin, and I looked out over the moon that had slowly risen, and watched the water lap at the bank’s edges. “When Madigan arrived for the rendezvous, it was just in time to see his wife and brothers-in-law binding Gilly’s hands with rope. He started to run up the hill to stop them, but could hear Gilly’s voice. She wasn’t pleading for her life. Wasn’t begging for them to let her go.” I reached slowly between the boards beneath me until my hand felt the heavy-duty nylon rope I’d placed there myself back in October when Crisco and I had bungee jumped off the bridge. Eased my hand through the slipknot and grasped it tight, all the while, keeping my gaze on Jace’s. “She was cursing them, Jace Beaumont,” I said huskily. “Just before they shoved her off the bridge!”
Over the edge I went, just as though I’d been pushed by Gilly herself, and as soon as I cleared the boards I grasped the rope with my other hand and hung there, mid-air, just beneath the trestle.
And at the same time, Jace leapt to his feet.
“Memory!” he yelled. “Fuck! Memory!”
Hanging beneath the very place he stood, I burst out laughing. “Do you kiss your mama with that mouth, boy?”
In a flash, Jace was on his stomach and peering over the edge of the trestle at me, swinging on my rope.
“Boy, you look pissed!” I exclaimed, laughing. “I didn’t know you could move so fast—Jace!”
The moment I swung within his reach he grabbed me, and let me say that although he was muscular, he was way stronger than I’d suspected. He pulled me up and over the trestle, and I barely helped. He did it that fast. And he all but plunked me down onto the track.
Jace pushed off and stood, clasping his fingers behind his neck. “Jesus God, Memory!” He turned to me then, and I could see fury in the shadows of his eyes. “Don’t you ever fucking do that again.” He moved toward me where I was still sitting on the track, and hauled me up. His fingers encircled my arms, and he gave me a slight shake, and we were almost nose-to-nose. A muscle flinched at his stubbled jaw, and his dark brows were furrowed. His eyes flashed. “Do you have a death wish? Or are you just crazy?”
The irony of his words almost made me laugh. At the same time, though, I was touched. I was used to being egged on. Used to being dared.
I was not used to Jace’s reaction.
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