Authors: Emma Hart
Copyright © Emma Hart 2015. All rights reserved.
For everyone who asked for more of Bee and Carter.
It’s not much, but I hope it’s enough. Thank you for loving them more than I thought you would.
This one is for you.
Best friend. Go ahead—look it up in the dictionary. Right next to it in the definition section will be one simple word:
It’s never a good idea to let them set you up on a date—especially when you’ve been known to break out in hives at the mention of the d-word.
See those red bumps at the back of my neck? Yeah, those little bastards have been hanging around ever since she called three days ago and said she’d found me a date.
I threatened to vomit. I still w
to vomit. I don’t date. I’m not a dater. And not for some bullshit reason like I got my heart broken or I’m a commitment-phobe or I was cheated on. No—I’m single because I want to be. I don’t date because I don’t want to—mostly because I have no desire to wipe pee off my toilet seat.
It is literally that simple.
Except… It isn’t. Not quite.
I’m a serial one-nighter. A hitter and a quitter. A whammer, bammer, thank you mammer.
And yes, I am the proud owner of a vagina with the female reproductive organs, and I also happen to have a banging pair of tits.
What? If I can’t appreciate them, no one else will.
In the last three years, I’ve slept with exactly thirty-six men. I’ve seen one of them more than once, but it was such a booty call and so draining that I ended that crap quicker than Mr. Tap-Tap-Squirt, my sexually enthusiastic neighbor. I’ve mistaken his escapades for a knock on my front door more than once.
One time, I even knocked back through the wall in case he was communicating with Morse code. That was awkward. Especially when he showed up in nothing but his robe.
His pink robe. I’d hoped at the time it was his date’s, but I’ve since seem him proudly taking the trash out since then.
“Come on, Bee,” pleads Charlotte “Charley” Hill, my best friend, bracing her hands on her hips. She’s towering above me, standing tall in a pretty hot pair of heels. She looks like she’s ready to go give the pole the time of its life down at the local strip club.
“Nope.” I ignore the dress and heels she’s set on the sofa opposite me. I look like I haven’t showered in a week—although I did so this morning before work—and I’m slouched on the sofa in a manner worthy of a teenaged body waiting for his porn movie to buffer.
All hail sweatpants.
“Come on. He’s been dragged to this, too. He hates dating. You’re kindred spirits.”
I snort. “So send him round with beer and wine and we’ll skip the date part of the night.”
“You’re so boring, do you know that?”
I shove a tortilla chip into some salsa and pause, skirting my gaze toward her. “I’m not boring, Charley. I’m simply self-serving. Look at this—if I dated, would I be able to lie here on my sofa, feet on the coffee table, nomming down chips like I don’t care about my muffin top, while wearing yesterday’s bra?”
“When you put it like that, you really need to date.”
Shrugging, I shove the chip into my mouth and chew, staring intently at her.
With a sigh, she presses her hands together in front of her. Then, putting her hands back on her hips, she looks at the ceiling. Her lips move slowly as she silently counts to three, and then, “Right, that’s it, Bee Donnelly! I’m officially staging an intervention!”
“I don’t need a—hey, bring that back!” I lunge for the bowl of chips she swipes from the table and fall to my knees. “Charley! Don’t be a bitch!”
She slams the bowl down on the kitchen counter and a few chips fly out. She turns, her hands back on her hips, her dark eyes blazing. “No. I don’t give a shit if this is the only damn date you go on this year. I’ve gone to the trouble of organizing this, and you’re gonna go on it!”
“You just said he was forced into it too,” I point out, kneeling back. “You’re not fucking cupid.”
Charley storms across to the other sofa, grabs the dress and heels, and shoves them at me. “I might not be cupid, but I know how to use these shoes as weapons. Take them and get changed.” She pushes them into my chest and drags me to my feet.
Jesus, for a short chick, she’s strong.
“I hate you.”
“I know, Bee. But you might get laid at the end of the night. We’ll talk then.”
I grasp the bundle of items tightly and storm into my room. Goddamn it. Having a serial dater for a best friend is not fucking working out for me. I might have to cut her ass loose. So what if we’ve been best friends since we were four?
We’re not four and we can’t both have the same Barbie house for Christmas. She wants to date. Fine. She can date. Let her date her pretty way through Mr. Asshole, Sir Cheat-a-Lot, and Lord Pencil-Dick.
I’ll be quite happy to skip the date and hop straight to the bedroom with Mr. Cock Piercing, Sir Pussy-Eater, and Lord Multiple-Orgasm.
Just not at the same time.
Although. Sir Pussy-Easter and Lord Multiple-Orgasm could be on to something there.
“Bee!” Charley bangs on my bedroom door. “I hope you’re getting changed.”
I open the door and throw yesterday’s bra in her face.
“I really fucking hate you.”
“Damn, they aren’t even here yet and you hate me
I roll my eyes and take a sip of my wine. My narrowed eyes scan the restaurant, and I shift in my seat. I’m not comfortable in this dress in the slightest. It feels way too much like it’s a day job dress. If you ignore the sleeves that are slightly off-shoulder and the fact my mom would fire me if I turned up with a dress this short. At least my boobs are covered. I guess.
“How much longer do we have to wait? My stomach is contemplating digesting itself.” I lean over slightly and close the gap between our small, square tables.
“I just remembered why you don’t date. You’re so rude.”
I glare at her, but she’s grinning. Bitch. “Look, I’m hungry. You took away my chips.”
“Are you twenty-six or a toddler?”
“Depends on the day and what I’m doing. When I’m eating, I’m a toddler. Always.”
“Well can we revert back to being twenty-six now? Because they’re here.”
“Who are they? The mafia? The Avengers?”
“Bee,” she growls, discreetly slapping the side of my thigh with the back of her fingers.
I just about refrain from rolling my eyes again and release my vice-like grip on my wine glass. Play nice, Bee. That’s all you have to do. For ninety minutes at least.
“Bee,” Charley says, “This is Carter Hughes.”
Great. Here we go.
I place my hands on the table and push up to standing. And, shit.
Dear God, did you send Carter Hughes as a beautiful treat for me? Is it because I finalized the mother of all contracts at work this week?
Because thank you. Thank. Fucking.
His dark hair is cut short, and it’s slightly longer along the middle and spiked in an odd kind of Mohawk way, but the rest of his hair is just long enough that it doesn’t look stupid. In fact, it’s kind of swept to the side, too. But who the hell am I kidding—I’m not focusing on that hair. I’m focusing on everything that is his face.
His eyes—holy fucking ovary boom. They’re the most startling bright green I’ve ever seen. They’re almost emerald in their intensity, and the intensity is spine-shivering in the best kind of way. His eyes are crawling over me slowly, every tiny spark flaring in those captivating irises firing a bolt of attraction and desire my way.
It’s also how his mouth curves to the side that has his cheek quirking, revealing a tiny dimple on that cheek, the only so-called blemish on his perfectly smooth skin.
And his mouth. We won’t go there with his God-given perfectly pink lips and his expert turn upward.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Donnelly,” he says, his voice husky as he takes my hand. He lifts it to his mouth and brushes his lips warmly across my knuckles.
“I’d love to say the pleasure is all mine,” I muse, admiring the way that suit hugs his shoulders, “but I’m sure I might be lying.”
Carter Hughes stops, his mouth hovering against my fingers, and smiles. “That you might.”
“And the name is Bee,” I add as an afterthought.
Yes, sir. My name sure is Bee. You can try it on later.
“Bee,” he murmurs. “As in the animal?”
“As in the animal,” I agree.
Damn hippie father.
I half-smile, ignoring the shivers that cascade across my skin when his fingers clasp around mine. He shakes my hand. The movement is easy and slow, but his grip is tight and strong, and his thumb flexes as it brushes across mine just a little too harshly.
Hello, Mr. Hughes. I declare that you’re interested.
“Does the name reflect the personality?” He quirks a brow, slowly, and the easy way his lips curve into a smirk has my stomach flipping.
“As in bright with a sharp tongue?” I curve my eyebrow upward to match his. “Wouldn’t you like to know, Mr. Hughes?”
His grip on mine tightens, and he pulls me toward him. It’s hard enough that I have to step forward to keep my balance. “Absolutely,” he responds. “I have sixty minutes of this little slice of hell before I’m out of here. Convince me to stay longer.”
Sixty minutes. Excellent. Thirty less than I’d planned for.
I brush my finger down the center of his stomach, its smooth journey interrupted by the bump of his button. “I would… except I have no interest in drawing this out any longer than it needs to be. Looks like you’re stuck to sixty minutes of my stunning company.” I smile sweetly, pat his deliciously firm stomach, and step back.
“Really,” he drawls, grasping the back of my chair as I sit and pushing me in. “Stunning—is that the personality or the looks?”
“I’d love to tell you, but where’s the fun in that?” I follow him with my eyes as he takes the seat opposite me. “You’ll just have to find out for yourself.”
He drops his head as he sits, but those startling green eyes raise beneath thick, dark lashes to meet mine. “Can I get you another drink, Ms. Donnelly?”
“Not as long as you continue to call me Ms. Donnelly.”
“Bee,” he corrects himself, his lips quirking again. “A nickname?”
“Unfortunately not,” I reply. “My father was… eccentric.”
He smiles as he waves a confident hand in the general direction of a server. “Red or white?”
“Clearly the stunning part of your previous statement wasn’t your personality,” he teases, turning to the server. “A bottle of your finest blush wine for the lady, and I’ll have your best merlot. Thank you.”
“A bottle, Mr. Hughes? Are you trying to get me drunk?”
“Will you stay longer than an hour?”
He leans forward, resting his forearms on the table. “I’ll ask you after another glass.” He grins, and it’s playful, an endearingly charming smile.
I’d bet he uses that on all the girls.
I curl my fingers around the stem of my wine glass, swirl the small amount of pink liquid left, and drink it in one. “And my answer will be the same.”
An hour in the restaurant, I mean. If he felt like taking it outside would be proactive, I’d be down with that. This man is fucking fine. And by fine, I mean he’s fucking
“What do you do?” I ask, acknowledging the server with a tilt of my head as he fills my glass. Halfway. Professional, but ridiculous. Wine glasses should be full at all times.
“I work in business,” Carter Hughes answers. “And you?”
“I also work in business, along with one hundred percent of working Americans.”
“You’re kind of sassy, you know that?”
“Kind of? No, sir. I’m incredibly sassy. I’m just handing it to you in small doses so you don’t get overwhelmed.” Another sweet smile.
“Bee,” he says it in a low voice, leaning toward me, his glass raised to his lips. “If you think it’s your sass that’s overwhelming, you haven’t looked in the mirror.”
“Well, that’s sweet, isn’t it?”
“That’s what they all say.” I pause. “Are you trying to get in my panties? Because it’s a little early, don’t you think?”
“For sex?” He takes one long, slow drink, his eyes never wavering on me. “It’s never too early for sex.”
Huh. We agree on that, then. “Unless that sex is the morning after when one of you should have left in the middle of the night.”
Carter’s lips move slowly, oh so slowly, into a smile that is equal parts amused and predatory. A thrill runs down my spine—and I know why. It’s cat and mouse.
“Oh, Bee,” he mutters. Darkly. So, so darkly. “Could it be that I’m finally on a date with someone that understands my aversion to that commitment bullshit?”
“Please don’t use the ‘c’ word in my presence. It makes me sick.”