Home > Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(17)

Black Hearts (Sins Duet #1)(17)
Author: Karina Halle

“But intense can be good. It can be very good.”

I’m not sure if it’s my overactive imagination or not, but his gaze seems to intensify as he says that. The delicate skin at the back of my neck starts to prickle. I’m both nervous and at ease all at once.

“Violet is a beautiful name, by the way,” he says, offering me an easy smile. “Are you named after anyone?”

I shrug, managing to break my eyes away from his, and start stirring the ice cubes around in the glass with my straw. “No. I asked my mom once why she named me that and she said she liked the color. Though I’ve actually never seen her wear it. I guess it’s better than being named after Violet Beauregard.”

“From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”

“Yup.”

“I prefer the Gene Wilder version,” he says.

“Me too,” I say excitedly. “Depp was too…pretty for the role. Too calculated, you know? Gene’s Willy Wonka was like a natural extension of himself.”

“So you know film as well as photography.”

“Films are just moving pictures,” I point out.

“True,” he says, running his hand along his sharp jawline, the dark stubble of his beard brushing against his fingers. “I had an aunt named Violetta.”

“Sounds so much prettier in Spanish,” I comment.

“Yes,” he says, looking away. I can almost feel his heart growing heavy. “Too bad I never had a chance to know her. She died before I was born.”

“Oh no,” I say softly. And, of course, because I’m a dick, the next word out of my mouth is, “How?”

“Car bomb,” he says matter-of-factly, not even trying to keep his voice down, which draws a look of concern from the bartender.

My eyebrows lift. “A car bomb?” I manage to keep my voice in a hush.

He nods. “It was a mistake. It wasn’t meant for her.”

“I’m so sorry,” I tell him, even though I know my words aren’t enough. I can feel his pain, and my words can’t soften it.

“That’s okay,” he tells me, giving me a small smile. “Life can be rough down south. It’s one of the reasons my parents moved to America long before I was born.”

“You still have a bit of an accent though,” I point out.

He grins at me, letting out a sheepish laugh that I feel deep inside. “I know. I’ve tried to hide it but why pretend to be someone else other than Vicente Cortez, you know? Actually, my parents opened a business outside of Sacramento and that’s where I was born. When I was five, my parents sold part of it and we moved back to Mexico. My mother missed her family. Family, blood, is everything.”

I nod, even though the phrase makes me pause. Family, blood, should be everything, but in the case of my family, it’s not.

Lately I’m not even sure who my family is.

“Anyway,” he says, bringing me back out of my head. “I went to university in Mexico City, took a bullshit degree in business, which, at least got me to invest in a lot of the right stocks. But now I’m following my passion. I wanted to explore the city by the bay, close to where I was born. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a city so photogenic.” I’m about to open my mouth to agree when he adds, “And I’ve never seen a girl outshine it. Until I saw you today.”

My cheeks turn red and the back of my neck is hot. I nervously pull my hair off to the side, trying to cope with the compliment. “Oh, come on,” is all I can say.

“I’m serious,” he says, and he sounds serious, looks serious. “You must be the subject of everyone in your class.”

I let out an awkward laugh. “Yeah right. Are you kidding me?”

“I never joke about beauty,” he says solemnly. “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

Holy shit. I feel that one in my bones. Warm, liquid honey that spreads to my heart.

“You act like you don’t hear that all the time,” he continues, his knee brushing against mine as he leans in closer. I stare into his eyes, counting the threads of mahogany and yellow streaking through the golden brown.

I swallow hard and immediately busy myself with the drink, sucking in more than I mean to. The horseradish and hot sauce burn my throat and chest.

Ah shit.

My face grows hotter, redder, until I can’t hold it back anymore and I start coughing uncontrollably.

Just fucking great.

He reaches over and pats me lightly on the back, ordering water from the bartender, and I can’t even enjoy his touch—both soft and hot—because I’m too busy dying.

Finally, I’m able to get my breathing under control. Thankfully it’s only then that he asks me if I’m all right. There’s nothing worse than trying to answer when your throat and lungs are on fire.

“I’m fine,” I tell him meekly, finishing the rest of the water.

He raises a brow as if to say, Are you?

“Really,” I tell him, hoping not to make a big deal out of this.

“I’m sorry my words have this reaction with you. I have to say, I kind of like it.”

I look at him as if he’s nuts. He might be.

He raises his palm as way of explanation. “You almost choking on your drink brought your intimidation factor down just a bit.”

“Intimidation factor?”

“You think it’s easy talking to the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen?”

   
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