“Alexei Evanovich.” The tall bearded man in the expensive-looking camel hair coat took my hand in his and shook it, his voice a dark chocolate rumble with strong Russian inflections.
I am a sucker for Russian accents.
I don’t have particularly small hands—I am not a particularly small woman–but my fingers were completely engulfed in his big, broad hand. His fingers were unusually long, beautifully shaped and very—capable looking.
I found myself idly wondering if Alexei the writer also played an instrument. Those certainly would have made excellent musician’s hands.
Perhaps he enjoyed DIY, building bookcases and laying new flooring. The build beneath that handsome coat—a designer one, perhaps?–was definitely an athletic one.
Women aren’t supposed to undress men with their eyes—it’s the other way around, isn’t it?—but I definitely wanted to see more of Mr. Evanovich.
Focus on the task at hand, I told myself, giving my brain an inward shake.
I offered Alexei a tentative smile as I tried to return his firm grip in kind.
If the hands caught my attention, the eyes only increased my interest.
A piercing grey-blue beneath thick brows a dark reddish-brown in color, they were framed with ridiculously long, lush eyelashes. A disarmingly feminine touch in an otherwise rather stern and undeniably masculine face.
Most women would have given their eye teeth for lashes like that, I thought.
Those eyes were studying me. Taking in my own measure.
“Charlie. Charlie Barnes,” I said.
I waited for the typical response. Funny, you don’t look like a Charlie.
Alexei tilted his close-cropped head, a faint furrow in his brow, a distinct glimmer of interest in those eyes.
“Is that a shortened form of Charlotte? My mother’s favorite English novelist was named Charlotte. Charlotte Bronte,” he queried in a polite tone. “She truly loved the novel Jane Eyre.”
Well, that was a new one.
I shook my head slowly. “Actually– no. I was supposed to be a boy. I was the third of three daughters, you see. My dad was Charles, hoping for a Charles Jr. And when he got me, he decided I should be named Charlie anyway.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Didn’t work, though. I always had a lousy pitching arm.”
He raised those striking brows quizzically at my words.
“Sorry, Mr. Evanovich. My dad loved the Great American pastime of baseball. Wanted to have a Little League player in the family.”
Alexei’s mouth curved into a disarming smile that transformed his somber face.
I caught a glimpse of what he must have looked like as a boy. Very appealing.
“Ah, of course. I myself prefer your version of football. A livelier game—baseball takes so very—long.”
His forehead crinkled as if he was slightly embarrassed to admit such thoughts.
I laughed. “I absolutely agree. Daddy is the baseball fan; the Barnes women all love football. Nothing like cheering on a wide receiver who races 50 yards down the field for a touchdown.”
He nodded, that charming smile broadening, displaying a superb set of gleaming white teeth.
My, my, the quality of dentistry in Russia must have improved over the years.
“It—gets the heart pumping, doesn’t it? This American football of yours.” He said, his strong features further animated by his enthusiasm for the topic.
I returned his smile, wishing I had indulged in some White Strips before coming to meet him. And worn that new peacock blue dress with a hint of cleavage and the stiletto boots instead of my serviceable sweater and slacks ensemble.
In fact, I felt rather shabby and, well—dingy–compared to this elegantly handsome creature with the delicious accent.
And those hands. He talked with them, too, patting his broad chest as he discussed the energizing merits of the gridiron.
“It gives you—how do you say?” He frowned a little and then raised his brows as the word he sought came to him. “A—rush.”
“Yes—a definite adrenaline rush.” I agreed, smiling up into those keen blue eyes.
The truth is, my own heart was beating faster under my russet sweater. I was having a bit of an adrenaline rush of my own . . .