Riley's Love Connection
A Mossy Oak Reader-made romance
The next Friday night, Josh shows up for Epic Fantasy Book Club. He doesn’t say much as we discuss our latest read. He just sits back in an armchair, looking like he walked straight out of an advertisement for men’s jeans. His are well-worn with lighter patches on the knees and fit him perfectly. A Mossy Oak High Basketball T-shirt stretches across his wide, strong shoulders, and a black leather jacket hangs over the back of his chair.
While the others debate the intricacies of portal fantasy, Josh listens with a confused expression, as if they are speaking a different language. He’s cute when he’s bewildered. A little line forms between his dark brows, and his lips press together. When he stands and stretches at the end of the meeting, he’s more than cute. He’s the sexiest man I’ve ever seen. His T-shirt rides up a little, showing a strip of skin above the waistband of his jeans that makes my mouth water. Even though it’s March, and my fair skin is pasty white from lack of sun, Josh’s skin is enviably reddish brown. I remember from a school project on family trees that his grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. It must be where he gets his high cheekbones and coarse, dark hair.
“I didn’t peg you as a fan of Fantasy,” Harry says to Josh.
Josh narrows his eyes at the older man. “Why not?”
“You seem like more of a Thriller guy,” Harry says. “Or Action.”
“Oh, I like all the genres,” Josh says easily. His gaze meets mine, and he smiles. “I’m always up for a new adventure.”
Something about the way he says it makes me blush. I push my glasses up on my nose and gather the stack of books on the table. But his flirtatious smile has short-circuited my coordination capabilities. The books fall from arms and bounce on the carpet.
Harry looks at me as if I’ve committed a crime. “Careful,” he says.
Josh bends to help me pick up the books. “Where do you want them?”
My face heats. As an eight-year-old, I’d dreamed of Josh carrying my books home for me. I guess some fantasies do come true. It’s hard not to stare at his biceps framing the stack of books.
“Science Fiction section,” I say, gripping a stack to my chest.
He glances in Harry’s direction and leans closer. “Where’s that?” he whispers.
I smile and point upstairs. “You’re not really a fan, are you?” I ask, leading the way up the stairs.
“No,” Josh admits. “I’m here for you.”
I miss a step and ram the toe of my boot into the carpeted stair. Pain shoots up my leg, and I nearly stumble. Josh shifts behind me, ready to brace my fall. His free hand spreads across my lower back for support.
“I was wondering if you wanted to go out with me tonight,” he says.
A flash of heat burns from my chest up to my neck. My mouth is so dry, I can’t form words. There’s a ringing sound between my ears, and I wonder if I’ve stepped into an alternate universe where Josh Killian finds me attractive.
Maybe I fell and hit my head when I missed the stair and this is all just a dream.
But Josh’s hand on my back is real. I can feel the heat radiating from his fingers, and he’s so close I can smell the woodsy scent of his aftershave.
“Riley?” he asks. “Are you okay?”
I can’t think straight when Josh is touching me. I swallow roughly and find my footing on the next stair. A nervous laugh escapes my mouth. I must be imagining things. There’s no way Josh is asking me out. He barely even looked at me throughout high school.
I busy myself re-shelving the books. When I turn around to grab the stack Josh is holding, he has the cute, bewildered expression on his face again.
“Are you gonna leave me hanging?”
His brows pull together. “If the answer is no, will you put me out of my misery?”
My heart drums in my ears so loudly I can’t hear anything else. “The answer isn’t no.”
A smile spreads across his lips. “I can’t tell you how relieved I am that I didn’t sit through two hours of debating high fantasy versus portal fantasy for no reason.”
I laugh. “Shh. Harry might start arguing again.”
Josh’s smile falters, and he darts a glance downstairs. He’s so cute when he’s flustered. “Wait, does that mean the answer is yes?”
I take the stack of books from his arms, my fingers brushing the firm flesh of his biceps. “I have plans tonight,” I say. “Book Club.”
He scratches his chin. “We just got done with Book Club.”
He’s so darned adorable. I want to smooth the line from between his brows. “That was Fantasy Book Club,” I say. “This is for the Blue Ridge Book Club. I’ve just been made the newest member.”
His eyes crinkle in the corners. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks.” I’ve wanted to be a member of the exclusive book club since I moved back to Mossy Oak, and now is my chance. But it means I’ll miss my chance to go out with Josh. My heart squeezes. I can’t back out of the book club meeting, not after I’ve just been accepted into the group.
“How about tomorrow?” he asks.
My breath catches. I look up into his velvet brown eyes, hardly believing he’s talking to me. “I’m babysitting for my nieces tomorrow night.”
He lets out a frustrated breath. “Tomorrow afternoon?”
A tingle runs down my spine. “Okay.”
His smile beams. He pulls out his phone and swipes his thumb across the screen. “Put in your number and address,” he says. “I’ll pick you up at 11:30.”
I type in my information and give him his phone back. When he leaves, I’m left wondering if I’m going to wake up at the bottom of the stairs having hit my head and dreamed up the entire scene.
As I’m closing up the library, my phone chimes, letting me know I have a text.
Text message from Josh: Wear something warm tomorrow.
I haven’t been on a date in ages. Not since my mom set me up with her optometrist for a Christmas party. That date had been a disaster. The doctor had been from a neighboring city and kept referring to Mossy Oak as “The middle of nowhere”. When he’d texted me for another date, I’d left his message unread.
Breaking my dry spell with my childhood crush seems too good to be true.
I change my clothes a half dozen times, wondering what Josh has in mind for our date. I’d been too nervous to do anything but text him back a smiley face emoji. So mature. I’m twenty-four, but my dating age is more like fourteen. Since it was obvious no boy wanted to date me, I spent my energy on studying.
In college, I joined academic clubs and volunteered as a tour guide. I’ve never “gone wild” at Daytona Beach, or wherever it is Spring Breakers go.
I’m nerdy and boring, and I still can’t believe Josh Killian is picking me up for a date in fifteen minutes.
I second guess every decision I make, going as far as applying red lipstick, then wiping it off. Who am I kidding? I’m not a red lipstick kind of girl. I finally decide on jeans, a green sweater, and my well-worn Doc Marten boots from college.
When my doorbell rings, I grab my coat and purse and rush to the door. My heart is in my throat, and I freeze before reaching for the door. Doubt rears its ugly head, and I have a flashback to my senior prom. I was supposed to go with Andrew Starkey, but he called last minute and canceled because of an unfortunate allergic reaction to shrimp.
I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. Maybe Josh changed his mind and no one will be on the other side of the door. Or worse, it will be a magazine salesman. I have a terrible time saying no to magazine salesmen.
The doorbell rings again, and before I can change my mind, I snatch open the door. Josh is standing there, looking good enough to eat, a half-smile on his full lips. He’s wearing a black leather jacket over a grey flannel shirt, dark jeans, and boots. There’s a helmet under his arm.
“How do you feel about motorcycles?” he asks.
My heart leaps, both at the sight of Josh looking very bad-boy in leather and denim and because I love motorcycles. My mother forbade me to ride on my cousin’s bike growing up, but he used to sneak me rides when she was out of town. Riding on the back of my cousin’s bike, holding on for dear life as he cut the corners and sped up the hills, is one of my best childhood memories.
“I like them,” I say, trying not to salivate at the thought of wrapping my arms around Josh’s muscular torso.
“Great.” His smile grows as his gaze drops over me. “You look beautiful.”
A flush spreads across my cheeks. I can’t remember the last time a man under the age of seventy-five complimented me. The old guys in the True Crime Book Club love to flirt with me, but the young ones rarely notice me.
Josh smiles, and I blush even hotter. When he smiles, he’s drop-dead gorgeous. I can’t stop staring at his sinfully beautiful mouth. He puts the helmet on the ground and takes my coat, holding it up so I can slide it on.
“One more question.” His fingers brush my neck as he lifts my hair from the back of the coat. “What do you think about kissing on the first date?”
My breath whooshes out of my lungs. I can feel the solid wall of his heat behind me.
“A kiss is fine.” My voice comes out low and husky. I didn’t even know I could sound like that.
Josh slides his hands down my arms and gently turns me. “In that case…” He tips my chin up and lowers his mouth to mine.
His lips move over mine, soft as a whisper. I sway against him, clutching his shoulders for balance. His butter-soft jacket molds to his biceps as his hands shift to cradle my jaw. He pulls me closer, pressing tightly against me. I smell the leather of his jacket and feel the restraint in his hard body.
The tip of his tongue coaxes my lips open. I taste cinnamon and spice as his tongue caresses mine, then retreats, making me ache for more. When he moves away, my lips chase his. He smiles at me, and my chest squeezes.
Not only is Josh the sexiest man in the world, he’s also the best kisser.
See how the readers voted
First Date Location
Sky Valley Vineyard: 52%
Alpaca Farm: 21%
Art Gallery Opening: 21%
Co-workers wedding: 6%
On The date
Play a game of Two Truths and a Lie: 44%
Riley spills her drink on Josh: 22%
They run into Josh’s Ex: 20%
They run out of gas: 14%
end with kiss