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A Night of Misbehaving
By Carmen Falcone, Karen Grove, Nicole Steinhaus
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Carmen Falcone
All rights reserved.
"Look who I'll be banging tonight," Carl said with a bona fide man-whore smile on his face.
Brent sighed. He'd barely walked inside his business partner's office, and it'd already started. Carl moved the computer monitor in his direction, but Brent refused to look and retrieved the iPad from his briefcase. "Don't care. Did you take a look at the corporate wellness proposal I emailed you?"
Carl grabbed a small basketball and passed it from hand to hand, his eyes following the movement of the ball. "Not yet. Don't worry, buddy, we'll work it out."
Or I'll work it out. Showing blue- and white-collar workers a healthier lifestyle and easier solutions for their day-to-day, work-related aches was a passion of Brent's that his sleazy partner didn't share. Why would he? Carl had landed his position courtesy of his wealthy father, who had been the first major investor. The old man used his financial support for leverage to keep his son employed. Carl's narrow mind was set on continuing their successful chain of upscale gyms in Austin, Texas.
Brent rubbed the back of his neck and plopped into a chair. He glanced at the image displayed on the monitor across from him. His legs were suddenly restless. It was Super Mom. Looking more super than mom. Her hair, usually in a ponytail or a prudish bun, framed her face with shampoo-commercial black waves. A shade of dark red stained her damn fine lips.
"My date du jour is a knockout, huh?" Carl snickered.
Blinking, Brent swallowed and stared at Carl, whose lips broke into the winning smile of a man who was close to achieving his goal.
"You can't go out with her."
Carl's eyebrows furrowed. "Why not?"
"Her daughter goes to the same preschool as mine. I know her." What was her name, again? Gia, Gina, Jenna ... The woman volunteered to chaperone every school field trip and had one of those small hand sanitizer thingies hanging from her handbag.
He ran his fingers through his hair. Damn it. Joanne, Jackie, Gabby ... What was it? A weight bench sat on his chest. Shit. The badge. A few days ago, he'd seen an ID badge hanging from her neck. She was a Human Resources Director at A.W., the giant manufacturer of networking equipment headquartered in Austin. The company he coveted for his corporate wellness program.
He would have approached her, but the woman never gave him the time of day. For no particular reason, Super Mom narrowed her eyes and creased her mouth whenever she saw him. He'd once tried to shoot her a smile across the parking lot, but she'd responded with a tight nod as she slid into her squeaky clean Honda Odyssey.
"I don't care if she has a daughter. She's at dateaustin.com. She wants to get lucky, and so do I." Carl pointed to his athletic body restrained by a muscle shirt he could have bought at Abercrombie Kids.
"Just because she's on that site doesn't mean she's game for anything." Brent weighed his options. If Carl acted like an ass around Super Mom, their chances of getting a contract with A.W. were shot. No way would his partner keep who he was and what he did quiet. It'd be useless to ask Carl to keep the hook up detail-free. Truth was, Carl didn't care for the corporate wellness program anyway, and often did the opposite of what he was told.
Staring out the glass window behind his partner, Brent willed the panoramic view of downtown Austin to offer some inspiration. In the middle of the day, cars crowded the busy streets, and lines of men with grim faces and collared shirts formed in front of the convention center. New businesses kept developing in the city, and more work meant higher stress levels. A couple of burly, suit-clad men walked side by side, deep in conversation, both carrying Starbucks cups.
They probably worked day in and day out, without time for relaxation or stretching. They would have back pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, and caffeine addiction. Not if he could help it. He jammed his hand into his pocket and touched the coin, as if the piece of metal cemented his determination. It was time to launch his program, which meant keeping Carl away from Super Mom and going in his place instead. What better solution to talk to her and pave the way for his wellness program?
"You can't go out with her because she's mine. I'm going on this date instead of you."
"Wait, what?" Carl dropped the ball and frowned.
"There's no way in hell I'll let you near this woman. She's not your no-strings-attached type, Carl. She is ... different."
Carl lifted his hands in surrender. "Fine, you can have her. That hot new receptionist was giving me the eyes this morning. I bet she doesn't have any plans for tonight. Plus, I've only exchanged a couple messages through the dating site with your chick anyway. No names yet, because this chick is super worried about privacy and stuff. I wanted to —"
"Ain't gonna happen." He looked straight into Carl's eyes and spoke in the only language the man would understand. "Trust me, you won't be the one banging her tonight."
* * *
"One more?" The bald bartender offered her a sympathetic smile and pointed at her empty, dirty martini glass.
Georgia Taylor sighed, glancing around the long, L-shaped countertop. Most of the stools around her were occupied — a few couples on dates, some older men enjoying beer and hard liquor, and tons of single, fun-loving women whose high-end perfume filled the air. Under low, seductive lighting, people flirted and had a good time.
"Oh, what the hell ... Yes, please." She forced a smile at the bartender, who nodded and turned away. She reached into her bag and found a lonely figurine of Mike Wazowski next to her iPhone. Ella. She retrieved the phone and texted her mother.
Mom. If Ella asks you about Mike, I have him.
A small vibration. I hope by Mike, you mean your date tonight.
Georgia smiled and shook her head and typed, Her fave toy. She sleeps with him every night. Also, can you make sure she flosses?
Yes. STOP. I got this. One more text and I'm turning my phone off.
Fine. Georgia checked the time. Her internet date would show up at any moment. She tapped her spiky high heel on the metal rod of the barstool. Why did sexy shoes have to be so damn uncomfortable? She would probably be used to them if she did this more often. Without warning, her mouth dried, her foot stilled. Is he still coming?
That's what I get for arriving early. She sipped her drink while her gaze skimmed from the entrance to the invisible bubble around her. When lookingfurluv32 had suggested this place, she thought she had a winner. Or at least, one for what she had in mind.
She had joined dateaustin.com after a visit to her OB/GYN. There's a problem if you have to look at the calendar to remember the last time you had sex, right? But the three sorry dates she had experienced in the two weeks since she posted her profile on the site left her cold. And dry.
Case number one. A boring accountant. The only thing he got excited about was audits, and she wasn't ready to subserve her libido to the IRS.
Two. The tall, skinny guy who kept talking about his ex — so much, in fact, that by the end of the night she was giving him relationship advice.
And three. Anthony, who had posted a picture of himself taken at least ten years ago, when he looked younger and more fun. The real guy, of course, paled in comparison and skin tone; he'd looked like he'd been kept hostage in a dark cubicle since the early nineties.
She wished she could use her work expertise in Human Resources to recognize potential smexy love life talent. She thought of her daughter Ella, and smiled. Ella's dark blue eyes and honey-colored hair, like her father's, came to mind. Georgia clutched the phone in her hand. Tonight wasn't about reminiscing. Tonight, it was all about fun and meeting someone interesting enough to ease her into dating again. Or just a hot guy with booty call potential. That would work, too. Yeah, right.
The bartender brought her another glass, and she took a sip, the liquid burning down her throat. Her eyes drifted to the door. Again. Well, if the bastard didn't show up soon, at least she would get drunk, which was the next item on her list of things she hadn't done in forever.
She swiveled on the stool for the millionth time. An attractive hostess with a plastered smile greeted the people coming in and out of the jazz bar and restaurant, the popular new hangout in downtown Austin. The hostess was all dressed up, with nowhere to go. Like me, most nights.
A prickle of recognition rippled across Georgia's skin. She blinked a couple of times at the male figure walking toward her in all his glory. Yes. The physique of a former football player. Light brown hair, emerald-green eyes, and the smile of a man who pretended he didn't have anything to hide.
Brent Turner, aka Sexy Dad.
No, no, no.
All the moms at the preschool swooned over his smoldering eyes and Ryan Gosling looks. But not Georgia ... He spiked her blood pressure every time he was around, but for a much different reason. He'd hurt her best friend, Alice, when the poor girl had finally worked up the courage to ask him out. And now, as the head of the party planning committee, Alice was stuck working with him for the fund-raising barbeque the dads threw every year. How awkward.
Cold sweat slicked her palms. Oh God, this could not be happening.
Georgia shifted in her seat for straighter posture and averted her gaze to the bartender, who leaned over the bar and talked to a blond woman. Damn it, even the bartender was having a better time than she was. Sexy Dad couldn't see her all dressed up like this, stood-up and ... miserable.
She focused on her phone and pretended to read some funny email or a memo from work. It didn't matter. All she needed was to show confidence and self-reliance. Didn't matter if the sight of him made zings of heat jolt in her system, relentlessly.
Brent Turner ... Now divorced, he had been married to a personal trainer. He owned a few gyms. If the comments from the preschool moms were anything to go by, he had a lifetime supply of compliments, all stashed and stored in alphabetical order.
She felt his presence before he even sat on the stool next to her. Well, that was to be expected ... The guy was six feet two, at least ten inches taller than she.
"Georgia." His voice, deep and firm, unexpectedly sent a little thrill through her. A blend of spicy citrusy notes and bamboo scent swirled around him.
She gave herself a couple more seconds of staring at her cell phone screen before raising her eyes to him. Her gaze traveled over his pinstriped, long-sleeved shirt clinging to his muscles, and the black slacks hinting at the long, well-built legs.
"Oh, hi." She squared her shoulders and stretched every bit of her. "I'm waiting for someone." Why did I say that? Even if her stupid internet man didn't show up, Sexy Dad would never know. He would probably go to the nightclub upstairs, and on his way out, he would conclude she got lucky and left. "A date, I mean. He should be here any second." A strangled laugh escaped her lips, and she could have hit herself.
Really, it was no wonder she didn't date.
He studied her like she was some kind of fine print at the bottom of a lengthy contract. She touched the tips of her hair and hoped to God lipstick wasn't stuck to her teeth. His lips curled and hinted at a smile. She shuffled in the stool and clenched her legs.
"Maybe he's already here, Mizbehaving29." A sexy, lazy grin matched the playfulness in his voice.
She took a quick short breath. In slow motion, she blinked, then pushed a hoarse sound from her throat. "You? You're lookingfurluv32?" The grip of her fingers on the phone loosened, and her shoulders sagged. "You ... You're supposed to have blond hair," she said with a quiet voice.
Crap. She should have known that meeting someone without a picture wouldn't end well. But this had been a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing. Since the others had let her down after so much build up, she thought maybe meeting someone without planning would give her a better chance.
"Dark blond. Light brown. Kind of the same?" He ran his fingers through his hair. Not really the same, although through the layers of his ruffled hair, there were a couple of sun-kissed streaks. She imagined by his glowing tan that he spent some time outdoors. "My bad." A light blush covered his high cheeks.
Inhaling, she waited for the jumbled thoughts in her mind to clear. He'd be the last person she'd choose for a night of fun. Even if he hadn't been a jerk to Alice ... To bring that kind of mess into her life, worse, into Ella's life, wasn't fair. Ella was besties with Sexy Dad's daughter at school. What if word got out, and the two little ones started to fantasize, only to get their hearts broken? Not to mention, Georgia took Ella to school and she would have to face him. Every day. Every damn day.
"I'm sorry. Coming here was a mistake on my part." She slid off the stool, grabbed her purse, and gave Sexy Dad a last once-over. "Good-bye."
"Wait." He caught her wrist.
Her shoulders stiffened, tight as a rope, and he loosened his grip until his finger slid off her skin.
"There's no reason why we can't have a drink."
Georgia looked at the broad-shouldered man in front of her. His partially unbuttoned shirt showed a hint of his smooth chest, but not in an eighties-porn-star-actor way. Yes, there were plenty of reasons.
She wanted to have a night filled with laughter, sexual innuendos, and the promise of something more. For just one night, forget the endless contracts and meetings from work and the responsibilities of motherhood. How would that ever happen with a self-absorbed, shallow man like Brent, someone who'd given Alice a dismissive "no thanks" after she'd rehearsed for two weeks how to ask him out? A man she'd have to see tomorrow.
"That's not a good idea." The reason burned at the tip of her tongue, but she figured to out Alice and her crush on him was even worse.
"Why not?" he said. "You don't like me, do you?"
She upped an eyebrow. "I like you ... just not enough to go on a date with you."
"Ouch." He touched his heart and made a sad face. "You really know how to woo a guy." He turned his attention to her mouth.
She chuckled. "I'm sure you've already been wooed into the next century."
His eyes lifted and focused on hers again. A shot of espresso spilled into her bloodstream.
"Then give me a chance to woo you." He swung around to signal the bartender, and she lifted her hand to her neck, squirming in her chair.
Damn. No wonder Alice threw caution to the wind. Alice. Her BFF since sixth grade. Alice hadn't mentioned him in a few weeks, but Georgia knew her friend was proud and it had to be uncomfortable to send emails and sit in committee meetings with the man who'd snubbed her.
After exchanging a couple of words with the bartender, he sat on the stool and stared at her. "What can I do to show you I'm not the douchebag you think?"
Nothing. "I'd like for you to bow out of organizing the annual barbeque party, for starters."
"Because your presence might take center stage and steal the focus from the fund-raising. And I ate your hamburger last year; it's nothing to write home about."
His hearty laughter reverberated through her. "Georgia, give me until midnight. If by then you still think I'm a stuck-up bastard, I'll pull out of organizing the barbeque party."
"And if I change my mind about you?" she asked, even though it was highly unlikely.
A dangerous smile formed on his lips. Challenge flickered in his darkening green eyes. "Then you'll stick around a bit longer and try something new. I'll pull a wild card."
She held onto the sides of her stool, as if she would slip otherwise, and followed the pulse of his smooth, thick neck. Clenching her fingers harder, she cleared her throat. "Wild cards ... are ... not my thing."
He shifted on his stool, rubbed the back of his neck, and then tilted his head an inch or two from hers. "You're making it a thing. Don't. Just go with it."
Just go with it. If she was able to put up with him for a few hours, she'd save Alice from having to work with him. And she might just prove to him that not every woman was susceptible to his charms.
Excerpted from A Night of Misbehaving by Carmen Falcone, Karen Grove, Nicole Steinhaus. Copyright © 2014 Carmen Falcone. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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