Authors: Lily Paradis
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Copyright © 2014 by Lily Paradis
In Association with Empire Books
Published by Lily Paradis and Elia Sayre
Cover Design by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations
Print and eBook Design by
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products, bands, and/or restaurants referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
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SWIMMING THROUGH SHARK-INFESTED waters would be more fun than waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Although there was a much higher chance of survival at the DMV, it still brought out the worst in people. It wasn’t even that bad; it’s just that people made such a big deal out of actually being there.
what made it so agonizing.
I could’ve handled the cranky lady at the info kiosk, and I could’ve have handled the creepy DMV employee who looked like my aunt’s ex-husband, but the people behind me in line jabbering on their phones about the horrors of the DMV? Not so much.
“You’ll never guess where we are, Janice,” a woman behind me complained. “The DMV. Screw me, right?”
Like I said, people love to hate this place.
The only times I’d been to a DMV before this was with at least one of my parents. Now I was navigating the system solo. Which, I was sure wasn’t that difficult, so I wasn’t sure why I was so anxious. I’d driven all the way to this DMV since I’d been here before, even though I could’ve gone to the one in the city where I’d gone to school, Boulder.
It was also possible my nerves had everything to do with the guy sitting directly to my left. I saw him when I sat down. Well, sort of. I’d gotten my line number from the info kiosk, then glanced around for the seat with the easiest access to the service desks so I wouldn’t miss being called.
I gave the woman behind me jabbering to Janice some credit; sometimes the system here wasn’t the most logical thing. However, when you were dealing with this many people and issuing government identification cards, I guessed you did whatever you had to do. That apparently involved a very strange array of chairs all over the room that were set up without any recognizable pattern or direction.
It seemed like the best thing to do was to find a seat, pretend that I knew exactly what I was doing, and hope that number 478 was called sooner, rather than later.
I sat in an aisle seat in the middle of the group of chairs. It wasn’t really an aisle seat by traditional means, considering there really was no defined aisle, but it was a safe bet. There were people sitting on the fringes of the seating arrangement, but they were further away from the service desks and I really didn’t want to miss my number being called.
So, I picked my seat. I didn’t quite realize what was going on until I’d texted all of my friends who had turned twenty-one already. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing any important documents that I needed to get my new I.D. At that point, I realized I was almost as bad as Janice’s friend. At least I was doing my complaining silently.
The guy next to me was giving off a strange vibe. Not a weird “I’m a creeper, stay away” vibe, like I had gotten from the creepy ex-uncle DMV employee, but a “I probably have a face like Henry Cavill” kind of vibe. He had that kind of presence that just sitting next to him made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Guys like him didn’t appear in real life; they were sequestered to superhero movies. I didn’t want to openly stare, so I glanced up at him from under my lashes.
I couldn’t see his face because of the angle of our chairs, but I could see his profile. It made me take a deep breath. Which, incidentally, was not a good idea, because he smelled fantastic. He reminded me of something − or
− I’d almost forgotten, which made him more and less alluring all at the same time.
Who was I kidding? He was strikingly alluring.
A bell rang and a huge number flashed across the massive TV screen across the room. Four hundred seventy-eight. I checked my line ticket in disbelief and gathered all of my paperwork nervously.
As I stood, I looked to my right. A man in a wheelchair had conspicuously perched himself there, and had effectively blocked off my exit.
I looked to my left. I would have to climb over the Henry Cavill look-a-like to get to the counter. The bell rang once more and the woman’s obnoxious voice came over the PA system as she repeated my number. Panic rushed through me. They didn’t give you a third chance here, they simply moved on and made you take a new number. I had seen plenty of people miss their numbers already simply because they gave up to go use the restroom, or god forbid, get a drink of water.
I glanced to the right once more to see if there was any chance I could squeeze by the man in the wheelchair, but it was futile. I was going to have to face the hot guy, or wait for three more hours.
To my surprise, he stood up. I was surprised that he was even paying attention, because I was expecting to have to awkwardly clamor over him like you do when you need to use the bathroom but you are in the middle of the row at the movie theater. I wasn’t used to people paying attention. That was my job.
The newspaper that he’d been reading was now rolled up in his hand by his side. My eyes traveled up his body to meet his. They were so far above mine that I actually had to tilt my head up to look into them.
My stomach tightened and I almost forgot about my number. I was so utterly stunned that he had been paying attention. I couldn’t move, much less speak my thanks. His profile had nothing on his features when viewed directly.
He looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes and motioned toward the counter, his head tilted slightly in that direction. That gesture had me lost in the curve of his lips and his perfectly straightened white teeth.
“Thanks,” I muttered breathlessly. By the time I slid past him to booth six, I wasn’t sure I’d said anything coherent. It didn’t help when the man who called me over muttered at me under his breath while he typed my information into the computer.
“Have you been a good girl?”
I actually shook my head in disbelief.
“Excuse me?” I asked, feeling slightly violated.
“I said,” the creepy, headband-wearing-ex-uncle DMV employee repeated, “have you been a good girl?”
Creeper status confirmed.
“Um, I hope so,” I replied, silently praying that he would hurry so I could get away from him as quickly as possible.