The deep voice plucked at chords of familiarity but Jocelyn refused to turn. In her mind, Levi was still the unassuming guy who’d shown up at the bar four years ago, staked out a seat at the bar, and nursed the same draft beer for six hours. She’d have forgotten him, really, except he’d left a hundred-dollar bill on a ten dollar check. Figuring it was a mistake, Jocelyn put it aside. He hadn’t looked to be the kind that could afford the beer if she was being honest. If he came back, she’d give him the chance to fix the mistake.
He came back.
It wasn’t a mistake.
Unlike what she'd done in coming here.
Jocelyn filled her lungs, steeled her spine, narrowed her gaze and pivoted slowly, prepared to laser her focus on the man who now owned her lock, stock, and belly button ring. Except…
Seeing him now stole the very air in her body. What had happened to her unassuming Levi? Where was the nerdy guy she’d had fun laughing with the last four years? Talking sports or city politics or economic development with equal passion? The one who favored baggy chinos and wrinkled polos and stuffed his too-long shaggy brown hair under a battered baseball cap? The one she’d stood beside and signed a contract that gave him rights to body as her husband.
Because he’d been replaced.
It was his mouth that first drew her attention. Full lips and a square jaw tightening until a muscle begged for mercy along the ridge hidden beneath the barest hint of stubble. Heated gold melted into his cheeks and warmed the skin until she wanted to reach out and let his lips chase away the chill from her flesh.
She pulled back out of self preservation, though, because fury darkened his eyes from baby blue to the depths of the Aegean Sea.
He closed his eyes, swore under his breath, punched a closed fist into the well tailored slacks encasing his thigh.
Shame warred with anger. She never considered herself a beauty by any stretch of the imagination but she certainly wasn't worthy of that reaction. “Am I not what you paid for?”
Levi’s eyes snapped open, those full lips parting slightly. “What? No. Yes. I mean…” He sighed. His eyebrows did a little dance of confusion before settling back into a neutral line beneath the high, regal brow normally hidden beneath the ball cap.
He gestured to her face and she remembered the bandage and bruise. “I’m sorry.”
Her hand lifted self-consciously. As much as she tried to push it down, disappointment swirled that he would see her as undesirable.
“It’s not your fault. But I’m not sure what the return policy is on goods damaged after the sale.” They’d signed the marriage contract a week ago and hadn’t seen each other since.
But she’d seen him a thousand times in the last four years before that day in the lawyer’s office. How had she never seen…this? Where had this Levi been hiding?
The shaggy hair was gone, trimmed and neatly combed, leaving on a few traitorous ends curling up in rebellion at the back of his neck to tease the perfectly starched collar of his dress shirt.
That little eyebrow dance was back but he quieted the two-step faster this time. “I’m not interested in returning anything. I would like to peel away a few more layers however."