Authors: Cate Cameron
A TEMPTING PROPOSITION . . .
think it’s a good idea,” she whispered, and she nipped his earlobe.
He didn’t move. She had no idea what that meant. Damn it, she’d never done this before. Josh was supposed to have fallen over himself as soon as she’d suggested the possibility of a hookup. He should have been
with excitement. That was how this was supposed to work, wasn’t it?
This was . . . Ashley had no idea. She’d think about it when she sobered up. For the time being, she kissed her way down Josh’s neck. His skin was warm and surprisingly soft, and she felt a churn of desire in her gut when she felt his pulse beating strong and fast beneath her lips. Ashley genuinely wanted this man. She hooked her fingers into the waistband of his jeans, and that was when he caught her hand in his.
“Not a good idea,” he said, and he stepped back, holding his arms out to keep her from following.
“Why not?” she demanded.
“You’ve had too much to drink.”
She stared at him. “What? You’re the bar police now? You watch people’s drinks and then decide who gets to go home with whom?”
“No. Just who gets to go home with
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JUST A SUMMER FLING
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2015 by Cate Cameron.
by Cate Cameron copyright © 2015 by Cate Cameron.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-19832-6
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / August 2015
Cover art by Jim Griffin.
Cover design by George Long.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I’m deeply grateful for all the support I received while writing this book. Special thanks to Sharon Cox—you’re a very effective cheerleader!
And, of course, thanks to my agent, Andrea Somberg, and my editor, Julie Mianecki. Who knew the publishing process could be
ASHLEY CARLSEN WAS
drunk. She’d been drinking at the lake house all afternoon, and then they’d piled into the car and been driven to town where they’d found
delicious alcohol, and now? Drunk. It wasn’t unheard of for Ashley to have a few drinks too many when she was at home with her friends. But she’d never been so reckless as to lose control of herself out in a public place. She had an image to cultivate and maintain. Now that she’d dared to cut loose, though? She thought maybe she liked it.
“I love this band!” she told Jasmine McArthur just as their song ended.
“I think you’ve loved everything about this bar so far,” her friend replied with a laugh. “The name, the neon sign, the wooden door, the sports posters, the mismatched tables, the servers’ aprons . . .”
“It’s a good bar!” Woody’s wasn’t fancy, but that was fine by Ashley. She squinted up at the stage and saw the musicians packing up. “Wait a second! Are they leaving?”
“Just taking a break, I think. There’s a jukebox if you want to put a song on.”
A jukebox. Like they were in the fifties or something. It was too damned perfect and Ashley absolutely
want to put a song on. Jasmine pointed to the far wall, past the bar, and Ashley craned her neck to see. Her gaze got caught on a broad set of shoulders before she found the jukebox. The man was facing away from her, but even from behind he was worth paying attention to. When he half turned, giving her a look at his silhouette, she forgot the jukebox entirely.
“Oh,” Ashley said. It came out more like a moan than it should have. “Nice.”
Jasmine draped herself over Ashley, leaning across to see what had caught her eye. “Oh,” she said with a bit less enthusiasm than Ashley had displayed.
“He’s lovely,” Ashley said. But that wasn’t the right word. “He’s . . . God, what
“A bit of a whore,” Jasmine answered. “He’s a local handyman. He takes care of our place, and quite a few others. But that’s not
he takes care of, if you know what I mean. He’s a handy man when husbands aren’t in town, as I understand it.”
Ashley didn’t have any reason to feel so disappointed. This was just one more man unable to keep his dick in his pants. She’d come to this small Vermont town to escape one man-slut and no sooner had she stepped into a public space than she’d encountered another. It was tedious maybe, but certainly not a reason for her to feel let down. “Oh,” she said quietly, and took a sip of her wine.
“I’m not saying he’s off-limits, Ashley. . . . He’s . . . well, I’m having trouble thinking of any man who’s more
limits than Josh Sullivan.”
? Like . . .
Sullivan? That kind of Sullivan?”
“According to him, his great-grandfather was one of the
first settlers to the area.” Jasmine sounded bored. “Who knows if that’s true. But, yeah, he says the lake’s named after the old guy.” She shrugged. “Honestly, though, who cares about his family?” Her face grew more animated and her smile was almost crafty as she said, “He could be just what you’re looking for after that mess with Derek in the city! I know you say it was just your
that was hurt, but even if that’s all it was, it still has to sting. Getting a little action from a rugged country boy? That could be the perfect antidote to a bad case of cheating-boyfriend syndrome.”
Ashley had only been staying with Jasmine for two days, and she’d already figured out that the woman liked drama. If there was none naturally occurring, she’d go out of her way to create some. Ashley tried to laugh it off. “Oh, I don’t think Derek made me sick enough to need any medicine.”
“So maybe it’s not about Derek, then.” There was something new in Jasmine’s voice, something Ashley wished she was sober enough to puzzle through. But she and Jasmine didn’t know each other all that well, and Ashley couldn’t get a read on what Jasmine meant when she said, “You’re looking for something new, aren’t you?”
Was she? Professionally, yes. But that couldn’t be what Jasmine was talking about. “Something new?”
“You just got dumped. You’ve flown across the country to escape a messy breakup. You should live a little. Take your tight little ass over there and let Josh Sullivan know he’s yours for the night.”
Ashley’s style. Not even close. Her best friend, Charlotte, was the take-charge type; Ashley usually just sat back and watched. She had a pretty good come-hither stare, but it only worked if the man would look in her direction long enough to get stared at. And that was about as forward as she’d ever gotten.
“It’s the twenty-first century,” Jasmine said firmly. “You
you want to be in control of your life and your career.
But you’re still sitting around waiting for some man to notice you and decide whether you’re worth his time!
“It’s just not really—”
This was ridiculous. They were both grown women but Jasmine was acting like a little kid. And not a very nice one. “I’m not scared,” Ashley said as calmly as she could. “I’m just . . . There’s a difference between admiring someone’s appearance and wanting to have sex with him.”
“Why? Because you’ve got a boyfriend to be faithful to? Oh, nope, you don’t. Because you’re saving yourself for . . . Oh, no, there’s no way Derek Braxton dated you for two years and didn’t get any sex out of the deal. Unless
why he had to go and sleep with his little tramp? Because he wasn’t satisfied at home?”
Ashley stared at Jasmine. She knew her mouth was hanging open, but she couldn’t pull herself together enough to close it.
Jasmine watched her with an arched eyebrow, then smiled almost sweetly. “No,” she said. “That’s not what happened. Derek cheated because he’s an asshole, not because you’re a prude. Right?”
“I’m not a prude,” Ashley managed to say. At least she got her mouth closed at the end of the sentence.
know that.” Jasmine was almost motherly now. “But does anyone else? I see how they treat you at home, like some kind of frilly little ornament. Because they still see you that way. They don’t think you’ve got the guts to be a strong woman, the kind who sees something she likes and then
Ashley had no idea how she’d gotten into this conversation. She felt like anything she said would be stepping into one of Jasmine’s traps. And she couldn’t afford to offend Jasmine; she was part of one of Hollywood’s biggest power
couples, and she wasn’t afraid of throwing her weight around. The invitation to the McArthur summerhouse had been a professional dream, but it would end up a nightmare if Ashley pissed Jasmine off.
“It’s just . . . it’s not really my style,” she said.
“You want to play with the big boys? You’ve got to
like the big boys. And the big boys don’t see something they like and then decide it’s
not their style
to go get it. They fucking take it.”
Ashley wished she’d had a little less to drink. “Okay, I think maybe we’re talking about something a bit beyond picking up people in a bar.”
“It’s all the same. You’ve either got the fire or you don’t.”
“I have plenty of fire!”
“So prove it,” Jasmine said with a cocky grin. “I’ll bet you . . . lunch at The Warwick when we get back home. You chicken out, you owe me lunch. You go over there and take that rugged lumberjack home, and you win twice over. Sex, plus I owe you lunch.”
“This is ridiculous,” Ashley protested.
“I’m serious! This is not . . .” Not what? Not her style, she’d said, and that was true. But what the hell good was she getting from being true to her style? Her acting career was stagnant, her last relationship had just publicly imploded, and she’d practically run away from home. Maybe Jasmine was right and it was time to change her style. “I could go
to him,” she said.
“You have to actually leave with him,” Jasmine warned. “This isn’t a points-for-effort situation. You take him to bed or you lose.”
Ashley looked again at the broad shoulders by the bar. Josh had turned away and she couldn’t see his face, but she remembered enough of it to know that she’d really like to see more. And getting an up-close view might be nice, too.
Bet or no bet, she’d rather talk to that man than to Jasmine McArthur. All she had to do was find the guts to approach him. She looked at her empty wineglass, then reached for Jasmine’s vodka tonic and lifted it to her lips. She had it drained in two gulps.
“Okay,” she said. “I’m doing it.”
Jasmine clapped her hands. “Fun!”
There was no point in thinking too much more about it. So Ashley stood up, straightened her clothes, and then headed for the bar. She tried to look confident, as if this was something she did every day.
Josh Sullivan was standing at the bar, his back turned to the crowd. He seemed to be dividing his attention between a baseball game on the television behind the bar and a few casual comments to the guy sitting next to him. And, damn it, the guy next to him was the tall, blond lead singer from the band that had just left the stage. Shoulders as wide as Josh’s, so the two of them had to sort of angle themselves in just to have room next to each other at the bar.
handsome men were even more intimidating than one had been.
How exactly was Ashley supposed to do this? If he’d been at a table she could have snuck around to the far side and caught his eye, but as it was she was stuck behind him, being ignored, and she felt like an idiot. Was she supposed to tap him on the shoulder to get him to turn around? That wasn’t too cool.
People talked to strangers in bars all the time. There had to be a system. How did men approach
in bars? No, that wasn’t a good line of questioning. She generally found the men who approached her in bars to be annoying, or even sleazy. Not the impression she was trying to create here. But it was probably better than the
impression she must be creating, hovering there behind the guy’s back like a dog hoping for a treat from the dinner table.
She turned and looked back at Jasmine, who was laughing her ass off, of course. Ashley threw her hands up in a “What now?” gesture, and Jasmine just responded with a little shooing motion. Ashley waved emphatically behind her to show that there was no access point, and her flailing hand met soft fabric covering a hard, warm stomach.
She jerked around to stare at Josh Sullivan, who had apparently stood up to give his bar stool to a friend. Excellent.
“Sorry,” she blurted.
She realized she was apologetically patting his stomach, then realized that her motivation was only partly apology. Damn, the man was
, and very nice to touch. “I’m a little drunk,” she said. The words were out loud, but she’d only meant them for herself.
“If you’re going to be drunk, you picked the right place for it,” Josh said. His voice was low and warm, loud enough to be heard over the din of the bar without sounding like he was yelling. He smiled gently at her and she knew she was staring but she didn’t seem to be able to stop. The alcohol was part of the problem, but there was absolutely more to it than that.
She wanted to stare at him all night. But for some reason he was turning around, edging to the side, going back to his damn conversation about the stupid baseball game. He was blowing her off!
He was . . . this lothario, this man who was
for so many women . . . and he was done with her? He hadn’t seen anything to catch his interest?
She glanced back toward Jasmine. Jasmine just grinned and made the shooing gesture, urging Ashley to keep trying.
She wasn’t going to slink back over to the table with her tail between her legs, so Ashley stepped around Josh’s broad back and smiled at him. “Can I buy you a drink? As an apology for that little groping thing I did?”
He looked at her, assessing, then said, “Sure. I’ve been drinking beer, but I was just about to make a switch. You want to try something new?”
“I absolutely do!” She tried to make it sound as if she were feeling adventurous about more than her choice of beverage, but probably just came off as dementedly enthusiastic about alcohol. Damn, she was going to regret this when she sobered up. But now that she’d set it all in motion, she wasn’t quite sure how to stop.