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A Little Bit Of Heart

Jaci Burton


  © 2004 by Jaci Burton

  Valentine’s Day

  Eros looked down upon the shop where Maria worked, watching as people hustled in and out. It was almost closing time. All the humans wanted perfect hair today.

  His heart filled with a combination of joy and sadness. Love filled the air today, the kind of love he wished people felt for each other every day of the year. But if these humans only declared their love once a year, then he would have to be satisfied with it.

  And yet, there were so many lonely people, women and men who felt lost and unloved.

  It was his job to rectify that. Today, he had a very special assignment-Maria.

  After all, it was a big date night. Valentine’s Day, the day for lovers. He knew how Maria felt about Valentine’s Day. Burned out. She’d had more than her share of meeting the wrong man. It wasn’t his job to interfere in a human’s attempt at a love match.

  As if she’d even come close. Adorable as she was, she’d picked one great crop of losers. But not anymore, because he’d been assigned to her this time. He’d just have to make sure she found the right one. After all, it was his job as Cupid to match up lovers who were destined to meet and end up together.

  Maria’s destiny had always been clouded. Typically he matched up couples easily, but for some reason he couldn’t ‘see’ her match. Which meant he’d have to go down there in human form and figure it out in person. Throw her into the arms of the man of her dreams, if necessary, but she wasn’t going to end this night unhappy and miserable.

  Her life was about to change. Eros swept down into the beauty shop, invisible as always, and stood next to Maria. She chatted pleasantly with one of her customers. He simply had to touch her heart and he would know who her love match was.

  She smelled like jasmine, sweet summer nights. He inhaled her fragrance and ran his fingers down her long, silken hair. Her sweet innocence called out to him in a way he’d never experienced.

  This one was special. He hoped her match was equally as special, because he wanted to make this a magical day for her.

  She turned to a coworker and he took the opportunity to lay his hand upon her breast. Her heart fluttered, then a strong shock knocked him clear across the room. He found himself sitting on the floor, staring at her as she put her hand to her heart, then shook her head.

  Gods! What was that? He picked himself up and asked the gods, unable to understand what had just happened.

  He listened for their response. They told him. Surely he hadn’t heard correctly. This kind of thing didn’t happen. He asked again. They told him again.

  Unexpected, to be certain, and yet the thought intrigued him. Well, at least he now knew exactly who Maria’s love match was.

  Maria sighed and aimed the blow dryer at the woman talking incessantly, even though Maria couldn’t hear her. But she smiled, because her customer was in a good mood. Everyone was in a good mood today. And in a hurry. This was one of her busiest days. Women wanted a quick wash and style, men wanted their hair cut so they could look perfect.

  She hated Valentine’s Day. Well, that wasn’t true. She loved it, loved everything about it. People smiled, giddy anticipation filled the shop where she worked. All her coworkers had dates tonight with their husbands or boyfriends.

  Everyone but her. Hell, that was no different than most Valentine’s Days. She always managed to either be ending a relationship or between relationships when Valentine’s Day rolled around. Or maybe she just chose losers before. But no more.

  Dammit, this time she was going to be picky. No settling for some lame idiot with more brawn than brains, or one who didn’t know how to treat a woman.

  How difficult was this, anyway? All she wanted was romance. To be swept off her feet by the hero of her dreams, like in the books she read. Trouble was, those men were fantasy. The reality of it was the pickings were just slim.

  So she’d spend another night with her cats and some great old movies. No way was she going to play third or fifth wheel and go out with her friends. Besides, seeing all that love and happiness would just make her more miserable.

  Why couldn’t she find love? Just because she’d dated her share of losers and lately not even those? Just because the nicest guys she knew were already taken? She was over thirty, nearly terminally single and damned sick of it.

  What was wrong with the guys out there, anyway? She wasn’t hideous. People told her all the time how attractive she was. A big, beautiful woman, as all the advertisements for plus sized women said. Yeah, that was her, all right. Big and beautiful. With average brown hair, and, of course, an average body. Average, average, average. Surely there was some average guy out there for her.

  At least she had her cats and a good lineup of movies to watch. Tonight would be her annual Meg Ryan fest. Popcorn, her babies all around her and great movies to cry over. Meg Ryan always got the guy. Maybe she would study the films and learn something. Like how to become cute, blonde and perky, instead of big, brunette and cynical.

  Maria stared at the clock as she finished combing a customer’s hair. A half hour and she’d be out of there. If she was really lucky, no one would walk through the door at the last minute. She waved goodbye as her friends began to leave. She’d offered to close up the shop. Why not? There was no pressing reason for her to want to get out of there early. She didn’t have anything better to do. Might as well let her friends get on their way.

  “Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?”

  Maria smiled at Stephanie and shook her head. “No, you go ahead. I’m exhausted, been on my feet for ten hours today. All I want to do is curl up with my cats and my movies.”

  Stephanie frowned. “You’re never gonna find a man hiding out in your apartment, Maria.”

  “I know. But you know the kinds of losers I hook up with, Stef. I just don’t have any luck in the man department.”

  Stef placed her hands on her hips and shook her head, her wild, red locks falling over her shoulders, her multiple earrings making musical sounds as they brushed against her neck. “Well I don’t know why. You’re beautiful, Maria. Long, dark hair that touches your waist, a heart shaped face that belongs on a magazine cover, and the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. And that body. Look at you, girl, you’re every man’s dream!”

  Maria snorted. “Yeah, right. Men really go for full-figured girls like me, don’t they?”

  “Honey, you just don’t see it, do you? Trust me. There’s a man out there for you. Someone who will sweep you off your feet, knock your socks off, and hopefully your panties, too,” she added with a wink.

  Maria had to laugh. “I love you, Stef. Now get out of here and have fun tonight.”

  After Stephanie left, Maria swept up the shop, threw the wet towels in the dryer, and closed up the cash register. Figuring she was in luck, she was just about the lock the door when a man walked through it.

  Correction. Not just a man. Adonis. A god. The most beautiful man she’d ever seen. Her heart did that weird jumping thing it had done earlier. Really, she didn’t need this.

  “I hope I’m not too late.”

  Oh, that voice. Deep, dark, like rich, sinful chocolate. Forbidden yet irresistible. He stood well over six feet, and had a body that he must work on religiously. Tight jeans hugged his well-shaped ass, and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on those abs. His t-shirt fit snugly around his broad shoulders and chest. Her heart really started to pound now.

  Was it possible to drop dead at the sight of a good looking man?

  “You need a haircut?” Or are you here to whisk me away from my life of drudgery and take me to your castle in the sky?

  “Uhh, yeah. If you don’t mind.”

  Why no
t? She could indulge herself in a little eye candy before she went home. Then she’d have someone to think about when she got down to business with her vibrator. “Sure. Come on in and have a seat.”

  “I’m Ross, by the way.” He held out his hand and she shook it, then nearly jumped in the air. A hot little spark sailed through her. Ross must have felt it too, because his whiskey-colored eyes widened in surprise.

  “Nice to meet you, Ross, I’m Maria.” Figured she’d have a serious chemical reaction to a guy who was way out of her league.

  His hair was thick, dark, wavy, the kind that needed nothing but a little trim. “How much you want me to take off?”


  “Excuse me?” No way was she going to shave this guy bald. He was gorgeous, from his thick head of hair to his handsome, angular face that could easily grace the cover of any fashion magazine.

  “What was the question again?”

  “How much of your hair do you want trimmed?”

  “Oh, that. Just a little. Whatever you think is best.”

  Weird. She combed his hair and began to shape it up, which was all he needed. “Big date tonight?” That was her standard question of the day.


  Her hand stilled. “No? Why not?”

  “I haven’t asked the girl yet.”

  This guy didn’t strike her as the shy type. “Why haven’t you asked her yet?”

  “Because she doesn’t know me.”

  It was getting weirder by the minute. “You’re going to ask a girl out on Valentine’s Day that you’ve never met before?”

  “Yeah, it kinda looks that way.”

  She had to give him credit for having balls. “Is she available?”

  “I don’t know. Are you?”

  It took a few seconds for what he said to register. “Could you repeat that?”

  He turned in the chair so that he faced her and graced her with a smile that made her forget how to breathe. “Are you available?”

  “You’re joking, right?” Stef put him up to this. Or Carol, or one of her other friends.

  “No, I’m not joking.”

  “Yeah, right. You must be a model or something, and my friends got together and paid you to play this little Valentine’s Day trick on me. Well you can tell Stef that it wasn’t funny.”

  “Who’s Stef?”

  “Okay, Carol then.”

  “I don’t know any Carol.” He stood up and took her hands in his. She jerked them away, and he reached for them again, holding them firmly within his own. “You’re my destiny, Maria. We are fated to be lovers.”

  He was an actor, that was it. Damned good one, too, because she could easily fall for his lines. “I think not, Ross, but thanks for the entertainment. Tell whoever paid you for this little performance that my heart is now resting comfortably at my feet.”

  “You have a wonderful sense of humor. Why didn’t I notice that about you before?”

  Now he was getting scary. She backed away as he reached for her hair. “I think you need to leave.”

  Ross sighed. “This would have been much easier if you’d been fated to be with a mortal male.”

  Great. Stuck in a shop alone with Mr. Looney Tunes. “Mortal? And who are you, the Incredible Hulk? Spiderman, maybe? How about Batman? I really go for Batman.”

  “I am Cupid, Eros, the God of Love.”

  “Nice to meet you. I’m Catwoman.” Sheesh, why did she always get the nut cases?

  “You don’t believe me.”

  “Well, duh, Ross….or do I call you Eros?”

  “Ross is fine. I’ll simply have to prove to you that I am who I say.”

  At least he was entertaining. She crossed her arms. “Go for it. This should be good.”

  In an instant the room went dark. Startled, Maria didn’t know what to do. And she felt funny, like some strange electricity was running through her body. She could hardly breathe, and panic began to set in. Just as she was about to scream her bloody head off, a soft light began to glow within the room, growing brighter and brighter by the second.

  By the time she could make shapes in the semi-darkness, she realized she was no longer in the shop.

  Instead, she stood in a huge ballroom covered with wall tapestries of naked lovers entwined. Golden statues of the Greek gods sat in the corners of the room. She blinked, convinced the statues were staring at her.

  It was the most elegant place she’d ever seen. Ross stood in front of her, dressed in a tux and looking utterly edible in black and white. An orchestra played on a raised stage—soft, beautiful, danceable music. There was one table in the center of the room, with a bouquet of pink roses in a crystal vase centering the pristine white tablecloth. A bottle of champagne chilled in a silver bucket, and two empty glasses sat on the table.

  But the really strange thing was that she was no longer wearing her baggy blue jeans and oversized top. Instead, her body was adorned in black velvet. A long gown that hugged her curves swept the floor. She looked down and saw beautiful matching heels in velvet. Her toenails were even painted, and she hadn’t had a pedicure in ages!!

  Her hair fell in soft waves and her cleavage, oh dear God her cleavage. How did she get her boobs into this dress? She looked…


  Her head whipped up at the sound of Ross’s voice. He gazed at her with pure male appreciation and a hunger that sent vibrations through her body. He strolled over to her, his movements deliberate, his eyes darkening to a smoky brown with every step toward her.

  “You look incredible, just as I knew you would.”

  This wasn’t real. “What did you do to me? Am I dreaming?”

  “No. This isn’t a dream.”

  It had to be. Maybe in shock she had fainted, bumped her head and this was all some sort of coma-induced fantasy thing.

  “Come dance with me, Maria.”

  Oh, why the hell not, since it wasn’t real anyway. Ross held out his hand. He pulled her close and wound his arm around her, pressing her against him.

  Her breasts swelled up and over the low-cut décolletage of her dress. Ross looked down and back up at her, and smiled. “You’re gorgeous.”

  The funny thing was, for the first time in a very long time she felt gorgeous. Maybe it was because of the way he looked at her, like she was the only woman in the world for him. She sure hadn’t received that look from any of the other guys she had dated.

  For a dream-fantasy, this sure felt real. His heart pounded against her breast. Fortunately, she was tall, and with these heels she was nearly eye level with him. Why not go for broke? “You’re gorgeous, too.”

  He laughed, then. “I don’t know why I didn’t see this before.”

  “This what?”

  He twirled her around to the rhythm of the music, his body fluid and one with hers. “This connection we have. Touching you was like an instant shock to my heart. Don’t you feel it Maria?”

  “Of course I do. I’m madly in love with you, Ross, and you are with me. It’s my dream, after all, so I get to have it the way I want it.” Really, she had to get her dream men to grab a clue.

  “You can have anything the way you want it, Maria. And soon, you’ll realize that this is your reality, that your life will always be like this.”

  “Uh huh. Just shut up and dance with me.”

  He did, and it was wonderful. Their steps matched perfectly, even though she hadn’t danced ballroom in ages. They fit together as if their bodies were made for each other. And not once did she feel too tall, too fat, too not worthy for this gorgeous hunk of man.

  After all, that’s what dreams were for, right?

  “Would you like to live with me among the clouds, or would you prefer I remain mortal?”

  Truly, as dreams went, this had to be one of her all-time favorites. “I don’t know, tell me about cloud life.”

  “It’s magical. There is no time, and you will not age. We move through the planets and bring love to those we e
ncounter. There are many who do not see love even though it stands right in front of them.”

  His enigmatic smile had her wondering if he was referring to her. “And I suppose now you’re going to tell me you love me.”

  “Yes, I do love you, Maria. You are my soulmate, the other half of my heart. Even I didn’t realize it until we contacted that you were meant for me.”

  When was she going to wake up? She was really beginning to enjoy this fantasy. Spending the rest of her life with a gorgeous man like Ross? Oh hell yeah. She could get used to that idea.

  “Can we have children if we aren’t mortal?”