In the privacy of my mind, I allowed myself a second curse for the night.
Fuck you, Amber.
“Have to admit, I thought you might have a problem with this …” I said, running a finger around the rim of my water glass. We were supposed to have a date that night, but Nate had called earlier saying he’d been scheduled to work, so we’d met downtown for lunch instead.
He stole one of my fries, and I smacked his hand playfully. I’d missed having a man around, as much as I hated to admit it. Looking at him across the table, I felt a wave of warmth, because being with him always made me happy. He was so strong and sexy in his deputy’s uniform … Like something out of a romance book. Nate even had the tousled hair and dimples to complete the package.
The memory of Reese Hayes’s kiss flashed through my mind, and I flushed. I hadn’t told Nate about it. We weren’t officially exclusive … or at least we’d never discussed it.
The implication was certainly clear, though.
“I’m not thrilled,” he admitted. “Hayes is a criminal and we all know it—but he’s not under investigation for anything right now. I do question his motives in asking you to come out personally.”
Yeah, I wasn’t going to touch that …
“Well, it should be interesting,” I said.
“Same as always, I guess. I’m trying to get her job hunting. She needs to be thinking about her future, and she says she doesn’t want to do any more school. It’s frustrating.”
“Must be,” Nate said, his voice sympathetic but noncommital. He’d made it clear from the start that whatever went on between me and Jess was our business. Totally hands off, which I found alternately reassuring and frustrating, because I was in over my head. “You think it’s safe to leave the house for a night? I’d love to take you up to Sandpoint this weekend. There’s a beautiful B&B I think you’d like.”
I flushed, because we both knew what he was really asking. Was I ready to spend the night with him? For some reason I’d been stalling, which was strange, given how sexually frustrated I was. I couldn’t think of a single good reason not to sleep with him … Might as well just do it, I decided. Rip off that bandage, get back in the saddle.
Great. Now I was thinking in cliches.
“I don’t think I can leave overnight,” I replied, offering him a smile. “I’m afraid she’d have a party and burn the place down or something. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take some time for ourselves.”
His face brightened.
“You sure?” he asked. Nate never pushed, which was one of the things I loved about him.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
He reached across the table and caught my hand, pulling it up for a gentle kiss. I heard a little sigh and glanced over to find our waitress watching raptly.
I leaned forward and whispered in his ear.
“I think she’s waiting for you to propose,” I said, giggling.
“Not this time,” he replied, turning his head just enough to allow his lips to graze my jawline.
Did he just say what I thought he said?
Oh, wow … I knew Nate wanted to get married again. He’d been divorced for three years and had been clear he was looking for a serious relationship. Still, seemed a little early to say something like that.
I tugged away, staring down at my food.
“Hey, don’t worry,” he said lightly. “You think too much, Loni. Just enjoy the moment, okay?”
“Okay. So … Maybe we should make a plan. How about I come over to your place on Friday? We could fix dinner and maybe watch a movie or something.”
“I like the ‘or something’ option,” he said, eyes sparkling.
I stirred my ketchup with a fry, pretending I had to consider the suggestion carefully.
“Yeah, that’ll work.”
He leaned forward to kiss me properly, right in the middle of the restaurant. Our silly waitress started clapping. Ugh. Had I ever been that young and romantic?
No. I hadn’t.
Amber had been the romantic, always chasing her dreams, right up to the point where she fell down a rabbit hole and never found her way out. I’d been trailing after her ever since, doing damage control.
Maybe it was time for me to chase some of my own dreams. Starting with Nate.
I deserved a little happiness.
Why the hell am I here?
I stood on Reese Hayes’s porch later that afternoon, questioning my sanity. Jessica would just get herself in trouble again—I hadn’t solved anything, just delayed the inevitable. The relaxed glow I’d carried from my lunch with Nate had evaporated the minute I pulled up to the house, replaced with a sort of horrible anxiety and excitement about seeing Hayes again all mixed together in my stomach.
Of course that could’ve just been the fries I’d eaten for lunch.
The big biker met me at the door with a lazy smile guaranteed to melt the panties right off a girl. Faded jeans hung low on his hips and an old T-shirt did far too little to hide the bulk of his muscles. Those ice blue eyes of his missed nothing, sweeping down my figure to take in the baggy shirt and hole-filled jeans I’d deliberately chosen to wear this afternoon. Possibly the least sexy outfit in human history and that was no coincidence.
There would be no repeats of the weekend’s unfortunate events in the hallway.
Reese’s mouth quirked and his face held none of the intimidating coldness of the last time I’d seen him. Nope, today he was pretending to be a seminormal human being, but only partially succeeding. I knew what was under the surface—a hard man who wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever he needed to do to get his way. Unfortunately, my lady parts stopped listening to my brain right after the “hard man” part, because they were less focused on the work ahead and more focused on remembering how his mouth had felt on mine.
“Glad you could fit me into your schedule,” he said slyly as I stepped inside. I bit my tongue. Literally. I couldn’t afford to make him mad for any number of reasons, not least of which was the fact that the MC was my best-paying client. If I got the strip club contract, they’d be the biggest, too. All cash. I might not be suffering for work—but there’s work and there’s work. The club wasn’t afraid to pay well in exchange for good service, and they didn’t cheap out when it came to getting what they wanted. Expanding to take on their account would be worth the hassle.