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Roxanne Gray glanced up at the ceiling dragging in a ragged breath. The bar was crass, loud and a cliche, but it had to be at his local.
She figured she had to seem available and willing to roll between the covers with him with only the smallest effort on his part.
Oh, gawd. What had she got herself into?
It had taken her for ever to work out that she couldn't just go anywhere to pick him up. It couldn't be at a library or he'd think she was too smart to fall straight into bed with him. And it couldn't be at a shopping mall because, goodness, although she'd be awfully comfortable and at home, she couldn't wait that long until he went into one.
Roxanne toyed with the stem of her glass to still her shaking hands. It couldn't be on public transport because he probably didn't take ithe was the sort of guy who would have a really nice car parked somewhere and if by chance he did take the bus or train, what was the likelihood he'd consider a woman who made eye contact? Even if it was just for sex?
She glanced around the room, taking a deep breath to calm herself, pushing the thought far from her mind. Just meeting him was all she had to worry about, for now.
His workplace had seemed a nice safe environment for her to engineer a meeting with him, but there were just too many rules for office decorum and propriety to wade through before she'd have been able to get what she needed.
She glanced towards the door, the thought of escape on her mind. She didn't have to step this far out of her comfort zone to prove anything or did she?
Roxanne shook herself. This had to be done. She needed a quick, efficient approach and this was it. The only logical option left to her was a club like this.
She had to smile at the cliche she made, sitting at a bar in a short black dress with a plunging neckline. She clutched her strawberry daiquiri as if it was a lifeline to sanity.
She couldn't believe she was doing this
Roxanne stroked the book beside her, struggling with her rising panic. It had given her a few ideas on how to do this. She'd picked it up from a little bookshop down the street. It dedicated an entire chapter to the arts of picking up a woman she couldn't find one on how to pick up a guy. Either it wasn't that hard or women didn't usually do it. Either way, she figured the book had at least given her a few hints.
She took another gulp of her daiquiri, savouring the fruity sweetness, praying the double jigger of rum she'd asked for had given her the courage to go through with this.
Gawd, she hoped he liked her and fell into her traphook, line and sinker.
Roxanne tried to smile at the barman, but failed. The mass of pick-up lines swirled in her head, the litany of conversation starters, and the burden of the result she was looking for was all she could cope with.
She swung around on her stool, trying to ignore the cold knot forming in her belly. The bar was filling fast with suits from all quarters of the city sector stopping in for a quick drink before the long haul homeward, most probably to partners and kids. Some just meeting up with others to take the trip with, or to join friends to go out somewhere else.
The bar was a trendy place deep in Sydney's business sector, with just the right balance of class and ap-proachability. The artworks on the walls were modern, the solid colours lit by bright lights shining only on them, the rest of the room bathed in the shadows and the reflected light, giving a mood of intimacy and privacy despite the lack of space.
The black faux-marble bar stretched almost across the room, with matching tables with their own chrome bar stools perched beside them, placed to maximize the capacity rather than for comfort zones. And Roxanne was as far from her comfort zone as she could get.
She didn't want to be here, or meet him.
Cade Taylor Watson what a name. She glanced at the photo of him that she was using as a bookmark. His large square jaw, his strong brow, his chiselled features giving his image a strength and a presence that she could feel right down to her toes.
Her hand still shook as she lifted her glass again. This wasn't going to be easy.
She took a big gulp of her drink, scanning the room again, half-afraid she'd missed him, yet more terrified that she hadn't.
He stood by the door.
Her heart slammed into her chest.
He was easy to spot. He stood a good six inches taller than the suits around him. His finely tailored suit was deep blue. His hair was cut short at the sides, the longer top slightly spiked, the colour an almost rusty-blond that seemed to match his eyesa golden hazel, and his gaze careered around the room.
His attention rested on her only a moment and kept moving, obviously looking for someone else.
She let out the breath she was holding, the pressure in her chest easing. O-kay. So he hadn't been magnetically drawn to her the way she'd sort of hoped he would. She would have preferred it if he'd locked eyes with hers, his feet moving him closer, and she would have dazzled him with her pick-up lines and conversation starters.
Dammit. Now she had to go and break the ice herself.
She gulped some more of the Dutch courage in her glass. Could she just sit on this stool and hope she radiated enough charm and allure that he'd buy her a drink? Could she afford to wait, to rely on her looks and short black dress to get her the result she needed?
She jerked to her feet, slowly smoothed down the fabric of her dress on the off chance he was watching, picked up her handbag and sauntered over to the guy.
Her blood rushed hot and fiery to her cheeks.
She walked slowly, conscious of the thrust of her breasts, of the sway of her hips, of the distance that was vanishing between her and where he sat on his stool at a small table near the window.
This was it. She could do this. She was a professional or temping as one, and that was as good as being one, wasn't it?
He was hunched over the small table, a pen in his hand, scribbling on a napkin. His shopping list? His workload? A dear Jane letter?
She tapped him on his large square shoulder, acutely aware of the warmth under her fingertip, of the man beneath the suit and just how long it had been since she'd been this close to one, let alone touched one.
Roxanne swallowed hard. 'Excuse me,' she said softly. Darn it, a woman on the prowl didn't have confidence issues. She should be strong, independent and daring.
He turned towards her, the pen in his hand. 'Yes?' His deep rich voice washed over her, seeping into her skin and making every nerve stand on alert.
She opened her mouth but the words wouldn't comeCade Taylor Watson was a hunk!
His warm gaze met hers and careered over her in quick assessment, taking in her attire, and hopefully the shape of her body that she'd slithered into the dress.
Was he thinking how nicely they'd fit together? How her hands would feel running over that incredibly fine body of his, of her lips tracing the muscles on his wide chest, of her curling her fingers in his light hair, or of them fusing together?
Roxanne opened her mouth, and closed it. So, he was more handsome than she could have imagined. there was an energy about him that wasn't captured in the photo, that one could only feel in the flesh, first hand. And dammit she was feeling it.
'Can I help you?' he offered, his golden-flecked eyes warm and inviting.
She licked her lips, the welcoming flicker she saw boosting her will. 'I' Oh, help. Weather? Politics? A straight-out invitation to get down and dirty with her?
He raised an eyebrow, rotating the pen in his right hand like a mini baton.
'I ' She pulled her attention from the sexy shape of his lips to meet his eyes. She could do this. She'd researched, practised and was primed. She clenched her hands by her sides. 'Are your legs tired?' She tried to smile like the book said. 'Because you've been running through my dreams.'
'Wow,' he murmured, a smile fighting his sensuous mouth. 'I don't think I've heard that one before.'
'Ever used it?' she said in a rush.
'No, but I have used a few others in my time.'
She couldn't help but smile. This wasn't so bad. He wasn't going to jump on her or anything pity. It would have made this so much easier. 'I probably should have gone with something about the weather ' she offered tentatively.
He rubbed his jaw as though trying to smother his smile. 'Wouldn't have been as memorable or as cute.'
She clasped her hands gently in front of her, holding them tightly, a bubble of excitement rising up inside. They were talking, clicking. This was going to be no problem at all. 'Thanks, you wouldn't believe how hard this is.'
Cade nodded, raising an eyebrow, putting the pen in his shirt pocket along with the napkin. 'I know. I've done it enough times myself but I have to say it's not often I get the opportunity of being on the receiving end.'
'Really? I would think that women everywhere would take a punt and chat you up.' Was she smiling too much? She could feel her cheeks aching she was. She tried to sober under his warm gaze.
'You're the first.'
'So' She glanced wildly around the room. This was it. Phase two. She'd got his attention, now all she had to do was get a sign he wanted to do more than chat to her. 'Can I'
Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned, pulling her gaze away from Cade's, forcing herself to focus on the interruption rather than the gorgeous challenge at hand.
'You left your book, Miss,' the barman said, thrusting something towards her. 'On the bar.'
Oh, no. She yanked the book out of the guy's hands where he was brandishing it around for everyone to see, including Cade. How to be a Stud was not going to help her cause at all.
She stuffed the book into her handbag, fighting with the corners to get the zip up, the seconds melting into a minute that felt too long.
Roxanne swung around to face her mark, forcing a smile on her face.
His seat was empty.
A sense of loss filled her. She tried to laugh at her defeat, but couldn't. What had happened?
Had he gone to get her a drink, gone to the bathroom, or to talk to a friend? Roxanne scanned the room but there weren't any tall rusty-blond hunks to be seen.
She'd lost him.
What was her sister going to say when she heard about this? She was meant to be helping her, not making a mess of things.
A glimpse of a blue suit caught her eye through the sign on the front window. Cade Taylor Watson was on the footpath outside, his arm around a woman.
She moved closer to the window.
Roxanne recognised her instantly, the sight a steel weight in the pit of her belly, reminding her of her decision to do this, of her sister and of her miserable failure.
She sagged against the windowsill. She'd mucked it up. Her first attempt at being a private investigator-cum-seductress and she'd failed, miserably, but then she hadn't had long.
He'd been late.
She was early.
And she was left with nothing.
Cade glanced back towards the bar, a dull ache sliding into his chest.
Given different circumstances, like a few months earlier, and it would have taken a hurricane to tear him away from a unique and tantalising woman like her. Now all it took was Heather.
He'd had no other choice. Heather had arrived right on time. He'd wanted to say goodbye to the tall, curvaceous beauty with the pick-up line and amazing smile, but it was wise not to have. Heather would not have understood.
Heather may be beautiful, successful and classy, but tolerant she was not. Meeting her at a gallery opening just after deciding it was time to settle down and get married had seemed like fate. She'd seemed perfect.
He steered Heather towards the car park, focusing on the footpath and his fiancée beside him and not the woman he'd just left.
He should have said something to her. It didn't have to be a lot.