The Stillness Of You

By: Julie Bale

Chapter One


Ben Lancaster walked into my life with no warning, just after three o’clock on a sunny afternoon. He’s lucky it happened in Old City, Philadelphia and not somewhere in Texas, because in Texas people have been shot for a lot less.

In Texas you don’t just walk into someone’s house unannounced expecting a smile or a handshake. I know this because one of the guys at Oak Run, a hospital I’d stayed at, told me his uncle was in a federal penitentiary for doing just that. Some homeless man wandered into his house and the uncle blew him away with a shotgun.

But on that particular afternoon I was standing in the corner of my brother’s loft, there where the lighting was perfect, staring at a blank canvas in front of me. To say I was having issues was an understatement, and the fact that I had been staring at the damn thing for nearly twenty minutes could have accounted for my late reflexes, because I didn’t hear him walk in. I didn’t hear anything until he spoke.

“Hey, sorry to bother you but is Matt here? I was supposed to hook up with him.”

His voice was low, hitting a timber that no guy had a right to hit. Especially when he’s standing in the middle of my brother’s loft and I’m looking back at him wearing nothing but my white boy briefs and a threadbare white tank top with no bra. The fact that he could probably see my nipples through the tank top didn’t bother me so much. It was more the idea that he had been staring at my ass before I turned around and let’s face it, half of my butt was hanging out.

Sue me, but hey, I wasn’t expecting company.

I think most normal girls would have screamed, but since I’d spent six months in the aforementioned Oak Run, I was used to strangers and besides, when you’ve stared into the belly of a monster not much scares you. But still, his surprised dark eyes settled on me and even more surprising, a curling heat pressed low in my belly.

He wasn’t like any of the inmates at Oak Run. Hell the fuck no. He was leagues above them.

I grabbed my robe from the floor where I’d flung it nearly half an hour earlier and shrugged into it, trying my best to act like it was no big deal to be caught in my gitch by some hot, random guy.

“Who the hell are you?” The words shot out of my mouth as I stared across the open space. “Haven’t you heard you of a doorbell?”

Oh. Right. The doorbell wasn’t working.

“I’m sorry, the doorbell wasn’t…”

“I know,” I interrupted rudely.

His voice trailed off and silence fell between us as a smile gently lifted his mouth. “Matt told me to swing by and I just figured he would be here alone.” He shrugged and winked. “Though I did knock.”

“You knocked.” Unbelievable. What the hell. Had I doubled up on my meds this morning? Taken klonopin instead of lithium? My eyebrow shot up. “And how did you make it past the doorman?”

His smile widened and dimples appeared. Adorable dimples. Hot effing dimples. “Autograph?”

Who the hell was he? I sure as hell didn’t need a name to answer that question.

He was at least six foot four, with wide shoulders and an impressive chest that his black T-shirt did nothing to hide. Foo Fighters spread across his pectorals in white, and a wide, weathered leather belt didn’t do much to hold up the pair of worn and equally weathered jeans that covered his long legs. It was hot as sin out there but he wore boots, Docs by the look of it.

He had thick dark hair the color of fresh espresso that was long, just touching the tops of his shoulders. It waved across his forehead and over slid over his ears. It was kind of messy, but it was the kind of messy look that a lot of guys spent a good amount of time trying to achieve. I somehow doubted this one wasted money on products or time in front of the mirror. He was too self-assured. It fell off him in invisible waves.

His eyes were as dark as his brows, his chin and cheekbones strong and shadowed with stubble. His mouth had a sensual curve to it, one that should have looked out of place on such a masculine guy, but somehow it didn’t.

I was guessing he was a few years older than my twenty, so I pegged him at maybe twenty-four?

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