Authors: Rhonda Pollero
“Uh-huh. Sorry, I’m not comfortable with that.”
“I don’t think I heard you correctly. You’re saying you don’t want your job back?”
I gave him a cool look. “I’m saying I don’t want my old job back at my old salary.”
There were a few seconds when I thought Vain Dane’s product-immobilized hair would stick straight out while steam shot from his nostrils. I had him by the balls and he knew it. This was killing him. Slowly.
The faint stain darkened but his smile never slipped. “How much?”
I wanted to be greedy, I really did. I considered thirty. But I was a reasonable woman. “A twenty-five percent raise.”
The smile slipped. “Twenty-f—You
got a ten percent raise a few months ago.”
“You’re right,” I said sweetly. The power trip was a hell of a lot of fun. “It should have been fifteen.”
I saw Patrick’s car pull into the lot. Good warm-up to bargain with your not-so-ex-boss when your not-so-ex-married boyfriend is in the vicinity. Hell, now I was on a roll. Line ’em up.
“Ten,” Dane countered.
“Sold.” I shook his hand and practically shoved him out the door. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” he said. Negotiations over, deal closed, no more pretense of a smile. “Thank Liam McGarrity. Our new clients approached him first and apparently he wouldn’t agree to be discreet unless you got your job back.”
I would have celebrated that bit of information if I hadn’t been distracted by Patrick. He was carrying a cactus. A prick carrying pricks, hummmmm.
He and Vain Dane exchanged one of those I-vaguely-recollect-you nods. When Patrick was about a foot away from me, I held up one hand. I wanted to slap the fake concern off his face so much my fingers twitched.
“I brought you a present,” he said, waggling the cactus.
“From your fabulous camping trip in the Grand Canyon?”
“Yes. Great news about Jane. But how are you?” He tilted his head and made a pathetically pouty face as he surveyed the small bruise on my forehead. “I should have been here for you. What can I do to make you feel better?”
“Throw yourself under a bus?”
I grabbed the first bag and tossed it at him. Unprepared and still gripping his cactus, Patrick didn’t react fast enough, so the bag hit him squarely in the chest. Air whooshed out of his lungs. “Fin? What the hell is wrong with you? What’s all this stuff?”
I had the second bag at the ready. “Things you’ve given me over the last twenty-six months and eleven days. Things you said you picked up on your faux flights. Things like that stupid flipping cactus.” I hefted the other bag at him.
“Well, I’m not.” I stepped back, stared him in the eyes, and said, “No, Patrick, you’re not confused, you’re married.”
I slammed the door so hard I could hear the glasses rattling in the cabinets.
“Fin?” he called through the door. “It isn’t what you think.”
“I think I know your wife’s phone number!” I called back. “Go away or I’ll call her and see if she wants a freaking cactus!”
I should have felt something. Remorse, grief, anger, guilt…something. Two hours had passed since I’d tossed Patrick and his gifts out of my life. Well, not all his gifts. I kept the good stuff. I’d been wronged, not lobotomized.
I was restless. I’d already called Becky, Jane, and Liv. Sam must have had his ear to the floor since he came down to congratulate me the minute Patrick had driven off into…wherever cheating husbands drive. I flipped through the television but nothing held my interest. Nothing on any of the movie channels either.
I could go to the grocery store. Grabbing my purse and the ugly green, rubbery key chain off the counter, I headed outside. The sun was setting, so the heat was no longer oppressive. A small breeze rustled the palm fronds, not enough to keep the mosquitoes from buzzing around my head.
I needed food.
I wanted Liam.
I turned right and headed east toward the ocean. The grocery store was to the west.
Liam and I had been nearly killed together, so it made perfect sense for me to want to be with him. Plus, I did owe him for getting me my job back.
I strained to read the street signs. Though I’d never been to Liam’s house, I knew his address from the invoices he’d sent. I’d memorized it. That, in and of itself, said it all. Who was I kidding? This wasn’t about bonding or thank-yous or anything other than pure, unadulterated lust. But, I justified as I eased off the gas while I tried to read the numbers printed on the mailboxes, we were consenting adults. We could have sex; I’d get it out of my system. Take a vow of celibacy for at least a year, then start looking for a guy who wouldn’t play me like a cheap banjo.
I found the house. Okay, “house” was generous. “Shack” was probably a better description. What it lacked in ambience, it more than made up for in location. Liam’s modest home sat right on the beach. And several lights were on. And the Mustang was in the driveway. Only the Mustang. So, unless Ashley biked it around town, he was in there. Alone.
I cut the engine and took a deep breath. Maybe this wasn’t a good—too late! The front door opened. So did my mouth.
Liam stood there, shirtless. Tanned skin, rippling muscles, great hair. A heady combination.
I opened the car door and smiled at him. “Hi.”
“Get lost in the dark?”
“I came to thank you.”
So take your pants off.
Stop it! Now.
“Yes. Thanks for getting me my job back.”
He shrugged. Not that I really noticed. I was a little busy admiring the soft, dark hair on his chest. It tapered into a V, then disappeared into the waistband of his jeans. It was like a big directional arrow pointing the way to the fun house.
“Sorry. You were saying?”
Paolo who? Oh, right.
“The rectangular one on his temple that Trena told us about?”
I nodded, afraid if I opened my mouth drool might dribble down my chin.
“It matched Kresley’s engagement ring.”
“Good to know.”
“Want a beer?”
Among other things.
The inside of his house was…interesting. “Work in progress?” I asked as I followed him past the saw table in the living room.
“Renovating,” he said.
When he turned and reached into the fridge, I had to swallow the groan in my throat. That bronzed skin and those broad shoulders were impressive.
Liam twisted the tops off, tossing the caps into a garbage can off in the corner. When he handed me the bottle, our eyes locked briefly as his fingertips brushed against mine.
My pulse was pounding and a liquid desire was spreading to every cell of my body.
Tipping the longneck bottle, Liam never took his eyes off me. Then he put the bottle on the counter. “Why’d you really come here?”
Afraid my hands might tremble, I laced my fingers around the cold bottle. “To thank you.”
He smiled, but not in a good way. “You did that outside.”
“You invited me in.”
The words hit me like a slap. “What?”
He took the untouched beer away from me. “Go home.”
“That’s pretty rude.”
Liam bracketed his hands on the counter behind him and practically cut me in two with his eyes. “No, Finley. It’s honest.”
This wasn’t working out at all like I’d imagined. “You don’t want company? Fine. I’m leaving.”
Liam came up behind me, caught me around the waist, and pulled me against him. Using his free hand, he lifted my hair off my neck and placed hot, quick kisses from my shoulder to my earlobe. Then softly, his breath warm against my ear, he said, “Go. Home.”
He let go and I turned, confused and addled by the rush of desire coursing though my system. “Did I miss something?”
“Yeah. A big something.”
“Is it a secret or are you going to tell me?”
He breathed deeply, then exhaled slowly. “I don’t do this.”
“You don’t do sex?”
His lips curved into a lazy, easy smile. “I’m fine with sex. But…” He paused, hooking his thumbs in the back pockets of his jeans. “I’m not the guy you screw ’cause you just got screwed over.”
“I did not—”
He placed his finger to my lips. “Don’t lie. You really suck at lying. Go home.”
“Gladly.” I moved as quickly as I could. In the dark. In three-inch heels. Over uneven terrain, trailing my dignity behind me.
I refused to look at him. Instead, I jammed the key in the ignition and ground the engine to life. “What?”
“Do this again, and I will be that guy.”
“You don’t need to worry about that. I will never come back here.” I heard him chuckle as I jerked the car into reverse.
“Wanna bet?” he taunted.
“No!” I called as I backed up. Hell no, I didn’t want to bet. Not when I knew I’d lose.
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by
Kensington Publishing Corp.
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New York, NY 10022
Copyright © 2008 by Rhonda Pollero
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Library of Congress Control Number: 2007937050