Authors: Locklyn Marx
She couldn’t decide what was worse – that some people were so physically attractive that they were able to have that kind of effect on people, or that she was dumb enough to actually fall for it.
“So all I’m asking is that you listen to what I have to say.”
Kenley realized Chad had been talking, but she’d completely zoned out.
“And if you don’t like it,” he continued, “you can walk out the door, and I’ll never bother you again.”
“Fine.” She leaned back in the booth, crossed her arms over her chest, and waited. “Talk.”
He hesitated for a second, and Kenley saw his eyes flick down to her cleavage.
She was wearing a long-sleeved navy blue top from Old Navy. It was one of those shirts that cost five dollars, and was
like it cost five dollars. She felt suddenly vulnerable and exposed in the thin material, and quickly realized that crossing her arms over her chest just made it worse. Her breasts were pushed up and out, making her already ample cleavage even bigger.
“How much do you know about baseball?” Chad asked, his gaze reluctantly returning to meet hers.
“Baseball,” Chad said. “How much do you know about it?”
“You hit the ball and run around the bases.” She shrugged. “The Red Sox hate the Yankees. That’s about it.”
“Okay.” He thought about it. “What do you know about endorsement deals?”
“Endorsement deals? Nothing.”
“Okay, well, the thing is, for an athlete, endorsement deals are a pretty major thing. A baseball player’s always worried about getting injured, or having enough money when his career’s over.”
Kenley snorted. She was wearing an Old Navy t-shirt, and this guy had on a Rolex. She didn’t know much about men’s fashion, but she was pretty sure the suit he was wearing hadn’t come from Men’s Warehouse.
“Fine,” Chad said. “That’s fair.”
“You think I’m a rich asshole.”
“You’re not rich?”
“And you already admitted you’re an asshole. So wouldn’t that make you a rich asshole?”
“No,” he said.
“I was speaking metaphorically.”
She gave him a blank look.
“I meant rich asshole in the metaphorical sense,” he explained.
“I thought you failed English. Now you’re using metaphors?”
He grinned, then scooped up another fry. “Anyway,” he said, “the point is that something happened at the meeting I had with Expera today.” He lowered his voice.
“Something that has to do with you.”
“With me? Why would it have something to do with me?”
“Well,” Chad said. “You remember how – ”
The waitress came over then and put Kenley’s Diet Coke down on the table.
“One Diet Coke,” she said, sounding annoyed and exasperated. She turned to Chad. “Do you want a drink too? A water perhaps?” And then she realized who she was talking to, and her whole face changed “Ohmigod. You’re… I mean, um, can I get you anything?”
“No thanks,” Chad said, giving the waitress a huge smile. “I’m just going to share these fries.”
Kenley fought down the wave of jealousy that flared up inside of her. What was there to be jealous about? Did she really think she was the only one he was going to smile at like that? Twelve hours ago he’d been trying to sleep with her simply because he thought she worked for a company she’d never even heard of. He was a charmer, plain and simple.
The waitress scurried away, probably to formulate some kind of plan about what to do in order to get Chad Parnell to notice her.
“Listen,” Chad said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a money clip and threw a fifty-dollar bill down on the table. “Can we get out of here? Go somewhere a little more private?”
“Like your hotel room?” Kenley scoffed.
“No, just… somewhere we can talk. I have a car waiting outside.”
She shrugged, like she couldn’t care less what he was talking about. But the truth was, she was intrigued – he’d been about to say something about his endorsement deal, something that supposedly had to do with her, and she wanted to hear it.
“It’s important,” Chad said. His joking demeanor was gone now, and his voice was serious.
A nervous feeling settled in Kenley’s stomach. What the hell had happened at that meeting? “Okay.” She nodded. “I’ll go with you.”
“Good,” Chad stood up. He glanced nervously over at the waitress. She was standing at the condiment station, whispering and pointing at him with two of her co-workers.
“Go,” Kenley said. “I’ll meet you outside.”
He nodded, turned on his heel, and was gone.
Kenley took a deep breath and closed her laptop. What the hell was she about to do? The guy was trouble. Anything he was going to tell her couldn’t be good. She didn’t have anything to do with his endorsement deal. Not to mention that every time he was around her, she couldn’t keep her hormones under control.
“You’re leaving already?” the waitress asked, coming up to the table and sounding panicked. “Where did your friend go?”
“He went to get the car.”
The waitress’s mouth dropped open.
Kenley smiled. “Here you go,” she said, picking up the fifty and slipping it into the waitress’s pocket. “Keep the change.”
The air inside the limo was warm, and Chad sank into the backseat, closing the door behind him. He looked back at the restaurant, waiting for Kenley to come out.
After a few moments went by, he started to get nervous. He knew he shouldn’t have left her in there by herself. Too much time for her to think about how it wasn’t a good idea to go with him, too much time for her to second guess, too much time for her to decide it wasn’t worth it.
Chad was no stranger to women deciding he wasn’t worth it. His mother had left him and his father when Chad was seven. He still remembered coming home from school one day to find his father sitting at the kitchen table, his head in his hands. He told Chad his mother wouldn’t be living with them anymore. Chad cried for a few minutes and then asked for a grilled cheese sandwich. His father had burned it.
Of course, to be completely fair, his mother hadn’t completely disappeared from the picture. She’d show up a couple of times a year -- Christmas, birthdays, maybe a random summer vacation -- never seeming to think there was anything wrong with the fact that she’d been MIA for most of her son’s life.
Eventually Chad’s father got remarried to a woman named Noelle. Chad’s stepmother had basically ignored him, seeing him as an extension of his mother, the woman her new husband would never really get over. Noelle had never been intentionally cruel, but she was dismissive, never really treating Chad like her son. And after Chad’s half-sister Jenna had been born, the rift between them had only widened.
Chad thought, looking at the door of the restaurant.
As if she’d heard him, the door to the restaurant opened and Kenley stepped outside.
Chad let out the breath he’d been holding, realizing just how much he’d been hoping she’d keep her word. Of course, he was about to propose something to her that was completely and totally crazy, so it actually might have been better if she’d blown him off.
Now that she was here, though, he had to do everything in his power to make sure she went along with his scheme. There was no way he could have predicted what had happened at that meeting today – but now that it had, his endorsement deal depended on Kenley. And so he needed to get her not only to like him, but to trust him enough to go along with his plan. It was going to be a huge challenge. But Chad Parnell had never shied away from a challenge. He rolled down the window of the limo and waved her over.
Kenley stopped before getting in, looking at him through the window. She bent down, hesitating, and strands of her long blonde hair blew against her face. “We’re going in a limo?” she asked.
“Sorry,” Chad said. He usually loved to show off all the perks of being a major league baseball player, but he could tell Kenley wasn’t going to be impressed by that stuff. And besides, the last thing he needed was for her to think he was trying to get one over on her. If she thought he was a bullshitter, there was no way this was going to work.
Kenley hesitated again, and Chad smiled at her. “It’s a company car,” he said, and then shrugged his shoulders as if he had no choice but to be driven around in it. The company car part, at least, was true. After his cab ride this morning, he’d called back to Brooklyn and had the team send him a limo for the day.
Kenley bit her lip, then finally nodded and got in.
“So, where are we going?” she asked once she was sitting next to him.
“We’re going,” Chad said, “to my house.” The limo started to move, and he saw the look of panic that washed over Kenley’s face. “You okay?” he asked.
“If you’re nervous about going somewhere with me, you can just say it.”
“I’m not nervous about going somewhere with you.”
“So you don’t think I’m a stalker anymore?”
“I told you I’m not,” he said. “Only NFL players are stalkers or murderers.”
“Well, whatever.” She pulled her phone out of her purse. “What’s the address of your house?”
“Because I want to text it to my sister,” Kenley said, her hand poised over the keypad. “That way, at least someone will know where I am.”
“How do I know your sister isn’t going to post the address to facebook so that all kinds of crazy deranged fans show up and start pounding on my windows?”
Kenley put her phone back in her purse and leaned over the top of the seat.
“Excuse me, driver,” she said. “Could you pull over, please? I need to get out.”
“Okay, okay,” Chad said. He recited the address. He couldn’t believe he was doing that. He hardly knew this girl, not to mention her sister. Visions of psychotic girls in Brooklyn Heat jerseys showing up and breaking down his door danced through his head.
“Thank you,” Kenley said, sounding satisfied. “So if you have a house in Florida, then why were you staying at a hotel?”
“You ask a lot of questions.” He reached into the lighted cooler next to him and pulled out a bottle of water. “Would you like a drink?” he asked.
“Of whatever you’d like.” He’d been thinking more along the lines of a soda or juice, but now that he thought about it, alcohol might not be that bad of an idea. He could get her a little loose, let her relax. “There’s wine, vodka…”
“I’ll have a Diet Coke,” she said. Damn. He pulled a glass out from the tiny bar, opened a can of soda, and poured the drink for her. “Thank you.”
“So you never told me why you’re in Siesta Key,” Chad said.
The question seemed to make her a little uncomfortable, and he saw her swallow.
Then she shrugged. “Business trip,” she said.
“Oh, really? What kind of business?” He was just making conversation, trying to get to know her a little bit, and trying to keep himself from thinking about reaching over and kissing her full lips. But she seemed to take the question as a challenge.
“Fine,” she said. “I wasn’t on a business trip.”
“No. I got fired on Friday, and I had a slight breakdown about it. So I used what was in my savings account for a ticket to Florida.”
“So you lied to me.”
“I didn’t lie to you.”
“Yes, you did,” he said. “You said you were here for a business trip.” He didn’t care that she lied. It amused him to think that she wanted to impress him, at least on some level. And the fact that she was unemployed made what he was about to propose that much better.
“How far away is this place anyway?” she asked, sounding cranky.
“It’s right up here,” Chad said, as the car turned onto a tree-lined suburban street.
“This is where your house is?” Kenley asked.
“You sound surprised.”
“Well, yeah.” She watched out the window as the houses went by. The street was cute and lined with palm trees and white sidewalks. Small, ranch style houses dotted each side of the block, most of them with stucco trim and long driveways. “This doesn’t seem like the kind of neighborhood a professional athlete would live in. And why do you have a house in Florida? Is it like a vacation home?”
The limo pulled up in front of one of the houses.
“It is a vacation home,” Chad said. “And it’s funny, I never pegged you for a snob.”
“I’m not a snob!”
“Then why would you think that I wouldn’t want to live here?”
“I think it’s a gorgeous neighborhood.” She peered out the window. “And the house is adorable. But after last night, with your fancy penthouse, I didn’t think this was your style.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.” He winked at her, then got out of the car and walked around to the passenger side. He opened her door and gave her his most charming smile. “You ready?”
Kenley’s senses had been heightened ever since she’d gotten into the limo.
Throughout the whole car ride, Chad’s leg had been touching hers, and it had been sending waves of heat through her body. She couldn’t believe she’d gotten into a car with him, couldn’t believe that she was now at his house. This was so not like her. She never did things like this. In college, when all her friends were hooking up with guys and ending up in strangers’ beds, she would refuse to go home with anyone, preferring to meet them in a public place the next morning. Of course, most guys didn’t really want to do that. Which was probably the reason she hadn’t hooked up much in college.
“I have a confession,” Chad was saying as he unlocked the front door.
“I knew it,” Kenley said.
“You did not.”
“Yes, I did.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay, so out with it. What is it? This is really your drug den? You used to run a prostitution ring out of here? What?”
She tried to sound suspicious, but the thing was, she was actually kind of amused. Even though she’d been acting like she thought he was a crazy stalker she actually felt safe with him for some reason. Even though he was obviously a total jerk, she didn’t get the sense that he was out to be malicious.