How to Misbehave (Short Story)

BOOK: How to Misbehave (Short Story)
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

How to Misbehave
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Original

Copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus
Excerpt from
Along Came Trouble
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
Excerpt from
Flirting with Disaster
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.
Excerpt from
Room at the Inn
by Ruthie Knox copyright © 2013 by Ruth Homrighaus.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing
Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Cover design : Lynn Andreozzi

Cover photograph © Claudio Marinesco

eISBN: 978-0-345-54530-5


By Ruthie Knox

Ride with Me
About Last Night
Room at the Inn
How to Misbehave

Chapter One
Friday, July 16, 1999

When the tornado siren began to scream, Amber was alone in the building with him.


The foreman. The guy with the deep tan and the hard hat and the oh-my-lord arms.

Everybody had a different name for him. One of the lifeguards called him “the Italian Stallion.” A patron had referred to him as “Mr. Yummy.” Rosalie, the weekday receptionist, said his name was actually Patrick Mazzara, and he was trouble.

Amber just thought of him as “him.”

She thought of him a great deal more than was good for her.

Gusts of wind flung the sound of the siren at the building, drowning out whatever noises he might have been making behind the thick plastic curtain that separated the construction zone from the rest of the center. But he was definitely over there.

Knowing when he left was part of her job. As program director, Amber opened Camelot Community Center at seven in the morning and locked up at five. Sometimes, like today, she had to wait around for him after everyone else had gone home. She would sit behind the counter of the tall, curved reception desk and imagine herself pushing aside the plastic curtain to ask when he might be finished cleaning up.
It’s twenty after. I need to head home

She never actually did it, though. She’d never been brave enough to initiate the conversation, and there was nothing so pressing on her agenda that she couldn’t wait for him.

Except, right now, the siren seemed kind of pressing. Herding all the people in the center down to the basement in the event of an emergency was another one of Amber’s responsibilities, which meant she should probably get off her tush and round the man up.

But then she’d be alone with him in the basement.

The notion simultaneously thrilled and frightened her. On the one hand, it felt a little bit like Providence tapping her on the shoulder.
Is this what you wanted? Here you go! Carpe diem!

On the other hand, she was female and alone. She didn’t go into dark basements with strange men, and especially not with
strange men who’d been described to her as “trouble.” Because what if? What if seven hundred different horrible things happened?

Smart girls didn’t ignore the what-ifs.

They didn’t ignore tornado sirens, either.

She might have sat there forever, immobilized by indecision, if the phone hadn’t rung at the exact same moment his shape materialized as a red-and-blue blob behind the plastic sheeting.

“Camelot Community Center. This is Amber. Can I help you?”

“Why are you still by the phone? Don’t you hear the siren?”

Her mother.

“Yeah, I hear it.”

He shoved the curtain aside and walked across the lobby, past the desk toward the front doors. Surely he wasn’t—

“—have to go to the basement,” her mother continued. “It’s not safe near all that glass. Really, you should be—”

. The man pushed open one of the entry doors, and Amber shot out of her chair.

“Hey!” She dropped the phone and scooted quickly around the desk. “You can’t go out there. The siren.”

When he frowned, he looked even more intimidating than usual. “I’m only checking it out.”

He had the door propped open with his right arm and leg. Not leaving.

“Right. Sorry.” All the blood in her body attempted to relocate to her cheeks. “I’m, uh, supposed to take you down to the basement. Hold on a second, and I’ll get off the phone.”

She crossed back to the desk in a rush and leaned way over to retrieve the phone from the far side. “Mom, I have to go. Be safe. I’ll call you when it’s over.”

“Who were you talking to?”

“The guy from the construction company.”

She didn’t know if he was technically the foreman or the owner or what. He seemed to boss a lot of people around, particularly another man who looked like a shorter, angrier, tattooed version of him, but he also did plenty of work.

She’d mentally designated him the foreman on the basis of the fact that he seemed to come and go as he pleased. He did half days sometimes and skipped other days altogether, which made her think he was off running the show at another site.

“You mean that man who keeps you late? You can’t go down to the basement with him.”

“Of course I can. I have to.”

“He’s a stranger.”

“Yes, but there’s a

The storm noise died down as the door eased shut behind him.

His boots squeaked over the polished linoleum of the entryway, and then metal clicked on plastic as something hit the desk beside her.

She looked sideways. His belt buckle.
Holy Toledo

“I know there’s a tornado,” her mother was saying. “That’s why I called. But you can’t go running down into the basement with a man. It’s unsafe.”

“I think this is one of those situations where you have to pick your poison, Mom.”

“Ask him his name, at least, so if something happens I can report him to the authorities.”

“His name is Patrick Mazzara.” Her face got even hotter. Why not just wear a sign that read,
I Know Your Name Because I Have a Huge, Inappropriate Crush on You
? “I have to go.”

He shifted beside her. The buckle scraped over Formica.

“Mazzara? Is he the one who—”

“Bye, Mom.”

Amber hung up the phone and closed her eyes. Inhale, exhale, inhale,
gosh darn it
, she hoped he hadn’t heard that.

But she wasn’t any good at lying, even to herself. She worked the phone all the time, and she knew perfectly well that the volume stayed cranked up loud enough that it was possible to hear both sides of any conversation from several feet away. Rosalie was a little hearing impaired.

He wasn’t several feet away. He was breathing. Right next to her.

He cleared his throat.

She turned.


She beamed as if she were offering him a cocktail. Because she was excellent with men. So very excellent and savvy. Not at all a flushing, bumbling Bible college graduate who’d lost the faith and misplaced her virginity but somehow accidentally managed to hang on to her air of dewy inexperience.

It was her face—her giant eyes and big round cheeks. She looked like Bambi. The kind of men who were attracted to her wanted her to be as sweet and innocent as her face.

“I’m not Patrick.”

Amber blinked.
I’m not Patrick
was the last thing she’d expected him to say. Though to be fair, she was hard-pressed to come up with a list of things he might reasonably have said.

I adore you, Amber

I want to marry you

Or maybe,
I want to take you out to my truck and teach you what sex is supposed to feel like

She wasn’t innocent enough to think it would be romantic if he said any of those things. Not at all. It would be creepy. And probably also terrifying.

“Patrick’s my brother,” he added. “My name’s Tony.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“It’s all right. People get us confused a lot.”

Patrick had to be the tattooed guy, then. The shorter brother, who didn’t do as much of the work or the bossing around.

Patrick the troublemaker.

Maybe Tony was the nice one.

Though if he’d
like the nice one, she certainly wouldn’t have developed such a desperate, inadvisable crush on him. No, she liked his rough edges. The way his hair stuck out underneath his hard hat and clung to the back of his neck, a few weeks overdue for a visit with the scissors. The way his hands always looked so beat up when he held the door open for her—a dark blood blister under his thumbnail, a crack in one knuckle.

A man who worked hard, knew what he wanted, and didn’t take flak from anybody.

“I live over in Mount Pleasant,” he said. “Sunnybrook Lane.”

She flapped one hand and made a dismissive shape with her mouth, as if to say,
No, no
. Though what she was denying, she couldn’t say. That she’d wanted to know where he lived? That she minded going into basements with strange men?

mind. Or she would, normally. It was just that the tornado siren had short-circuited her brain.

And also, his voice was rich and dark and delicious. He wasn’t a big talker, and maybe that was because his voice was such a valuable substance, he had to ration it. She might actually be able to live on it for the next week.

“You need to know anything else to be sure I’m not gonna maim you?” he asked. “Social security number? Height and weight?”

She shook her head with too much energy.

He smiled.

Amber thought she just might die.

It was dazzling. Tony Mazzara had a dazzling smile. Like a toothpaste commercial dipped in a porn movie.

“Now we’re at the part where you tell me
name,” he said.

“Sorry?” She had an urge to shake her head and clear away the smile vapors, but she managed not to. Just.

“Your name, honey.”


“Amber what?”

“Amber Clark.”

His eyes were laughing at her, but they were doing it kindly. He had nice eyes. Dark, dark brown eyes and wavy black hair. A face like his name, like it should have been chiseled out of marble, with a big Mediterranean nose, high cheekbones, and one of those brows that could go
dark and menacing and make a girl shiver.

His mouth was probably illegal.

She needed to stop cataloging him, because it only made the blushing, perky thing worse. The guy she now realized was his brother gave her sly looks whenever the two of them passed her. Looks that said,
I see the way you watch him. Everybody sees

She wanted to tell him,
It’s not like you think. I’m not mooning over him. I’m trying to figure out a way to drag him into my bed and tie him up

But that was such baloney. She was mooning over him.

“And you live …?”

She pointed out the door in the general direction of her place. “Camelot Arms apartments. A mile or so over that way.”

BOOK: How to Misbehave (Short Story)
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Loyal Servant by Hudson, Eva
Whitehorse by Katherine Sutcliffe
She's Got Game by Veronica Chambers
In Too Deep by Brandy L Rivers
Trauma Queen by Barbara Dee
Tony and Susan by Austin Wright
Must Love Vampires by Heidi Betts
Home Again by Ketchum, Jennifer