“Thanks,” he said, glad to be spared the awkwardness of trying to open the door while holding two hot coffees and a bag of goodies.
“Be right with you,” she called. Her back was turned as she reached to hang a pair of fur-lined handcuffs on the wall behind her. He wasn’t exactly sure what she was wearing, but it was black and made out of leather and something shiny. There were an ungodly number of hooks and laces across the back. It reminded him of a Chinese puzzle box he’d had as a kid. It had kept him busy for hours unhooking latches and bolts to get inside. When he had discovered the trick, it had been fiendishly simple. One button and the lid had popped open like magic. He wondered if Crystal’s complicated getup had a simple catch too. Maybe a hidden zipper?
She turned around and her welcoming smile disappeared. The heavy black lines around her eyes made them look huge and deep, and her lipstick was so dark it looked like it had been applied with a black Sharpie marker. It should have looked garish, but it suited her.
She crossed her arms and the movement plumped her breasts above the neckline of her top. What the hell is that thing? How does it stay up? How does it come off? He itched to get his hands on the closures.
“Bringing you coffee.” As he set her mocha on the counter, he saw an empty cup with chocolate residue on the bottom. “But I see you’ve had your fix today. My instincts were right on, but I guess I’m a little late.”
“I’d say that about covers our situation.” She slid onto the stool behind the counter and crossed her legs. The band of smooth white skin between the top of her fishnet stocking and her miniscule skirt made him dizzy.
He swallowed hard, forcing his eyes back to her face. “What’s with all the black and leather? I don’t remember you as a goth girl.”
She smiled, tilting her head back to gaze at him through half-shut eyes. The long line of her neck made his mouth water. “People change, Ryan.” The way she said his name sang through him. “I’m more comfortable this way. It fits the whole psychic image, and frees me up to do what I do best.”
“What do you do best?” he asked, even though he already knew—make love like an angel, haunt a man’s dreams, set the standard so high that no other woman would ever measure up.
She shrugged. “I help people. I know what my clients want, what they need. I give them the good advice they would give themselves, if they only knew what to say.”
She laughed. “We spent one night together, Ryan. I didn’t tell you all my secrets. Did you tell me all yours?” Her voice held no more than mild curiosity, but something about her blasé attitude didn’t ring true. Maybe it was the faint sheen of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. The tightness in her jaw. The way her heel twitched against the leg of the stool.
He leaned on the counter. “You tell me.” They were eye to eye, her sitting on the stool, him leaning forward. “Even if I did, I have more secrets now. Better secrets. Want to try to guess them?”
She could read his emotions? Did she know he wanted to walk around the counter and stand behind her, brace her body with his and drop his face into the long, pale curve of her neck? From this distance, he could just catch the edge of her spicy perfume. It wasn’t enough. Couldn’t they drop the bull and have this conversation naked? Somewhere comfortable? Where she couldn’t run away for at least a week?
She swayed on the stool. “And I don’t have to guess how you feel right now. I can’t get away from it.” She took a deep breath and blew it out loudly. “Enough with the lust, Ryan. You’re giving me a headache.”
Surprise jerked him upright. “That is certainly not my intention.”
“Yes, I understand that. But we aren’t teenagers anymore.” Her indulgent smile made his hackles rise. She had moved on. She’d made that clear, but he still felt like she owed him an explanation.
“I have some questions for you.” He crossed his arms. He had assumed she was cleverly tapping a niche market with the whole sensual psychic gig. Was it possible she was telling the truth? If so, he had nothing to hide.
She jumped to her feet. “I’m sorry, but I have a client at four-thirty I don’t have time to chat.”
“Actually, you do.” He pointed at the appointment book on the counter. “I booked your last slot.”
She grabbed the book and flipped it open. “Marvin Gaye?” Her voice held disbelief and fury.
“I couldn’t resist.” He took a sip of his cappuccino, now cool enough to drink. “Isn’t that what you peddle? Sexual healing? I’ve needed a dose of that for ten years. Bring it on, Crystal. I’m waiting.”
Crystal gaped at him. He was waiting? How about her, waiting for that phone call that never came? He had a lot of nerve. Why hadn’t she checked the appointment book? Then she would have known something was bogus. Unfortunately, Beth had come in for a vibrator consult, and she hadn’t given another thought to her four-thirty client, her fake client who had just toasted her carefully constructed shield. She was going to kill Destiny for setting her up like this.
Crystal struggled to control her physical response to his surface emotions, but it was a losing battle. Her pulse was a dull thud in her ears. Her throat was dry. Her breasts were swollen, as well as other vital areas of her body. Hell no, she wasn’t going to read him. There was no way she would willingly dig deeper. A shiver ran through her. She had to get him out of here. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
She shrugged. “I don’t accept every client. Nothing personal.” But it was personal and they both knew it. She stepped out from behind the counter and gestured around the store. “Why don’t you take a look around before you leave? Maybe you’ll find something that can solve your problems.”
She ignored him. “Our vibrators are state-of-the-art. Buy one for your girlfriend. She’ll love it.” She sounded like she was fishing.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said, striving to sound disinterested. “In that case, we do sell several inventive devices that could help you out until you meet someone new.”
His teeth flashed white against his perfect tan. “I already checked out the merchandise when I made my appointment this morning. I want my half hour, Crystal.”