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Falling For Mr. Wrong
By Inara Scott, Libby Murphy
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Inara Scott
All rights reserved.
Three years ago
She was precisely the sort of woman Ross Bencher had vowed to avoid.
Just twenty-four hours before, when he signed the papers that ended his marriage of ten years, he'd made it clear to himself what his future held: sober, predictable women. Women who didn't have urges for adventure. Women who wouldn't run away from a marriage, husband, and kids, leaving a trail of heartbreak in their wake.
Women who were nothing like this.
She stood at a table a few feet away, but obviously lived in another world. As far as he could tell, she'd been sent by the universe to demonstrate all of the things he didn't want in a woman.
Her hair, the color of rich, dark honey, spilled over her bare skin in a shimmer of sun-tipped streaks. The natural highlights provided clear evidence that she spent most of her time outside. Which meant that she didn't hold down a regular job, or worse, was employed in the outdoor industry like so many other twenty somethings in Boulder, Colorado.
She looked a few years younger than his brand new ex-wife Jenna — maybe twenty-six or twenty-seven — though with a body like that, she and Jenna might have been different species. Not that Jenna wasn't attractive. She was. But Jenna had three babies and now a divorce behind her. This woman was untouched. No dark circles under her eyes from waking up to soothe others' nightmares.
As if noticing for the first time that he was staring at her, she looked up, and their eyes met. He caught his breath. She wasn't tall — maybe five four or five, but she radiated a bold, intense energy that made her seem bigger. Her eyes threatened to swallow her gamine, heart-shaped face, and pink bow of a mouth. She looked away, as if uncomfortable with the eye contact, but then came back. A faint smile creased her lips, along with the barest hint of an invitation.
Ross's body snapped to attention.
He warred with his better instincts for a moment and then approached. She held his gaze, unafraid, the entire way. The noise of the bar seemed to dim when he stopped a few feet away, close enough to smell her perfume, a faint mix of vanilla and rose.
"New in town?" she asked, studying him from head to foot.
Her tanned shoulders reminded him of golden silk, while her body seemed to have been created entirely of long, graceful muscles. She wore a swingy tank top of some indeterminate material that draped along the curve of her waist and hip as she moved, and a short skirt that clung to the length of her thigh.
The taut arc of her bottom clearly did not spend all day seated at a desk. She was dangerously beautiful, and he definitely didn't want that.
He glanced at his tailored slacks, white button-down shirt, and navy tie, all of which were painfully out of place in a bar full of shorts and jeans. "Here for business," he replied. "I'm guessing you're a local."
She folded her arms over her chest, a move Ross found himself enjoying, as her forearms pushed up the firm, high peaks of her breasts. Up close, he could see that the web of scratches stretched from her wrist to her elbow, and the skin on one of her high cheekbones was marred by another scratch. It looked like the kind of road rash his daughter, Julia, had gotten when she'd fallen Rollerblading. This woman must have been in some kind of similar accident, which meant that she had poor judgment. Was probably untrustworthy.
"What makes you say that?" she asked.
He stepped forward and boldly took the hand of her injured arm. He studied her short, square fingernails, the sinewy strength in her hand, the size of her scars. He racked his brain to think of the activities he'd heard people in Boulder did, all of which were alien to him, as a lifelong resident of New York City. "Let me guess how you did this. Mountain biking? Rock climbing?"
The woman's friend stepped forward. She was of a similar height, but had the sort of hourglass figure you might find in a 1950s pinup calendar, a shape emphasized by her white dress, which was dotted with candy-red cherries and nipped at the waist by a wide red belt. Fiery red hair corkscrewed from the top of her head to her shoulders. She rolled her eyes. "Try tripped while running."
Ross looked back and forth between them. "I don't believe it."
His golden-haired beauty shrugged. "You can believe the rock climbing bit if you prefer." She squeezed his hand ever so slightly and leaned forward to direct her words into his ear. Her voice lowered, turned husky. "It turns you on, doesn't it?"
Before Ross could react to the invitation in her voice, the curly-haired woman pulled her friend's hand out of Ross's grasp. "Good grief, Kelsey, I think it's time for us to go."
"It's early. You are sure you have to leave?" Ross kept his gaze locked on Kelsey. At that moment, he knew he couldn't let her walk away. Not when his body hummed at the very sound of her voice.
"Maybe," she replied. "Maybe not."
"Kelsey," her friend warned. "You have to be on a plane tomorrow at nine a.m."
"All the more reason not to go to sleep, Marie," Kelsey replied, swinging her hair over one shoulder. She pinned him with a deep, meaningful gaze. "You here by yourself?"
He nodded. Obviously, he'd have to reassess his plan of twelve hours. Or maybe just be clear that the plan started tomorrow. On second thought, would spending the night with her really conflict with his plan? His plan had ruled out dating women like this. It had said nothing about sleeping with them.
"How about a drink?" He motioned toward his table, where his half-empty glass still sat, the amber liquid beckoning.
Marie gave Ross a friendly smile. "That's a lovely invitation. Will you excuse us for a moment, Mr., er ...? I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."
"Bencher. Ross Bencher." He took one last look at Kelsey's lips, imagined licking them with a slow brush of his tongue, and then glanced at her breasts. Full. Round. He thought he saw her chest rise, then freeze, as if she were catching her breath. And did he imagine it, or did her cheeks turn pink under his gaze?
He forced a polite smile at Marie and nodded at Kelsey. An invisible magnetic force stretched between them. She wanted this. She wanted him. And he wasn't going to let her get away.
"Take your time — I'll be right over there when you're ready."
* * *
Kelsey watched the tall, heart-thumpingly gorgeous man walk back to his table and felt her stomach give its hundredth flip-flop of the night. The sensitive organ had been turning somersaults ever since she'd noticed him sitting by himself, nursing a series of drinks, a distant, unemotional mask over his features. He had the broad shoulders and lean waist of a wrestler, but the patrician look of a businessman. A heavy silver-and-gold watch adorned his wrist, shouting money and power. She'd never seen a Rolex, but she'd have bet that's what he wore.
He was a wealthy professional who wore fancy clothes and apparently wasn't afraid to throw down some cash for a killer haircut. She had no idea what he did, but it was clear from looking at him that he was nothing like the men she normally dated. And that was exactly what she wanted.
"Kelsey, what the hell are you doing?" Marie hissed. "You are not going anywhere with that guy. The girlfriend code of ethics does not allow such blatantly idiotic behavior."
Kelsey watched Ross sit back down. He motioned across the room toward a waitress, who immediately gave him a simpering smile. She had a feeling women regularly turned into helpless adolescents around him. Six feet of muscle and shoulders you could set a truck on drew the initial gaze, but it was the intense blue eyes and deadly smile that made it impossible to look away. Something about Ross Bencher promised a night of sensual bliss, and that was precisely what she wanted.
Something crazy. Something different. Something that she'd never done before, and would never have the chance to do again.
"I have condoms, a black belt in karate, and a cell phone with your number on speed dial," Kelsey said, unable to look away from the man who was now boldly staring right back at her. "I am also an EMT. So I'm fully qualified in case I pass out from the force of his hotness."
"You are also in a state of confusion due to said hotness," Marie said in exasperation. "Which, I must admit, is totally warranted. He's like Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, and Esquire magazine all rolled into one." Marie shot Ross a glance over her shoulder. "Then again, with that body, he's probably a famous football player. Not that either of us would know."
"Yeah, it's been a while since I turned on ESPN," Kelsey mused. "Should we ask him? If he's famous? That's rude, isn't it?"
"Of course we aren't going to ask if he's famous." Marie snapped her fingers in front of Kelsey's face. "Seriously. He's obviously rich, sexy as hell, and he's eating you with his eyes. That's not the point."
"No?" Kelsey said, her attention drifting back to the man who was watching her with his sinfully blue eyes. What did football players wear, anyway? She tried to picture him shirtless, wearing a pair of snug, white pants that laced up just below his navel. The image fit perfectly.
"We've been best friends since we were freshman," Marie said, butting in on her reverie. "You don't do one-night stands."
Kelsey felt her nipples tighten as Ross unbuttoned the top of his shirt and loosened his tie. His hands, she noted with approval, were large and strong. Whatever his tie and watch might say, this man didn't get manicures or spend his life clicking on a mouse and a keyboard. She imagined the rough skin trailing over hers and shivered. "This is different."
Marie touched her arm. "You're coming back from this trip. You aren't going to die out there."
Kelsey shrugged off her hand. "It isn't about that."
"Of course it is."
"And if it was? Would impending doom be such a horrible reason to spend the night with that?" Kelsey looked back at Ross's fingers, one of which was tracing the edge of his glass. She pictured the finger somewhere else.
A rush of heat shook her body.
"If you really think you're about to die, why the hell are you going?" Marie demanded.
Kelsey shook her head. "Let's not talk about that. Let's talk about how you're going to go home and leave me with Mr. Sexy, while keeping your cell phone next to your bed in case I need to call in the middle of the night."
Marie took Kelsey's hand and tugged. Unwillingly, Kelsey forced herself to focus on her friend.
"Kelsey, honey, are you sure you want to do this?" Marie asked. She had fixed the sort of stare on Kelsey that she usually reserved for the kids she babysat: hard, direct, and impossible to ignore.
Kelsey adjusted the tiny bag that she had slung over one shoulder. It was a passport holder, really, not a purse like most women carried. Just one of the many things that made Kelsey different from other women her age. Women like her best friend Marie, who desperately wanted to get married, settle down, and pop out some babies before she turned thirty.
Kelsey had her own plans, but they involved snow, ice axes, and really big mountains. Having a family simply wasn't in the cards.
She felt Ross's eyes on her bare shoulders. What would he be like in bed, she wondered, half-dreamily. Would he be fast and hard, exploding inside her like a freight train? Or would he take his time, torture her with his lips and mouth before bringing her to a screaming peak?
Desire, as sharp as it was unexpected, tightened her muscles. There was a frantic energy inside her that almost sent her shaking. She'd never experienced anything like it before, and it terrified and thrilled her all at once.
"Marie," she whispered, "I need this. I can't be home tonight, thinking and waiting. You understand, don't you?"
A pair of arms wrapped themselves around Kelsey's neck. Marie's curly hair tickled her nose as her friend landed a kiss on her cheek. "I do." Marie reached into her purse and pulled something out, which she shoved into Kelsey's hand. "Here. You might need these."
Kelsey peered down at her fingers. A grateful bubble of laughter broke the tension as she realized Marie had given her a handful of condoms. "Jesus, you really think we're going to need three?"
"You never know," Marie said primly. "You are an athlete, after all. And I'll keep the cell phone handy, in case you need me." The smile slowly faded from her face as her eyes grew misty. "You'll e-mail me when you get to Nepal, right?"
Kelsey shoved the condoms into her bag, fighting a quick rush of tears. She hadn't thought about the fact that this would be good-bye. "Absolutely. As soon as I find an Internet café. And I'll post pictures whenever I can."
"I'll miss you." Marie's chin started to tremble, and she wiped a finger under one eye, careful not to smudge her mascara.
"Get out of here, okay?" Kelsey said through a wobbly smile. "You're ruining my hot sex vibe."
Marie snorted, but gave one final wave before heading back through the crowd. Kelsey waited until she'd disappeared from view before turning to Ross.
Her stomach nearly dropped out of her body when he met her gaze. He stood and held out a glass of white wine. She sauntered over, forcing her legs to move slowly and deliberately.
Control yourself. He probably does this all the time. Act cool.
She took the glass, shivering a little when his fingers brushed against her. "Thanks." She slid into the high-backed stool.
"So, where do you go tomorrow?" Ross asked. He had a pleasantly deep voice that carried easily despite the noise of the bar.
Kelsey glanced at his hands again as he picked up his drink. That was when she noticed the thin white line on his left ring finger. A sick feeling entered her stomach.
She ignored his question, focusing on the tan line that was about to ruin her evening. "Leave the ring back home?"
Ross pulled back, his dark brows knitting together in confusion. He followed her gaze to his hand. "Ah, I see. I'm not married. Not anymore."
Kelsey cocked her head, trying to assess the sincerity in his eyes. "You don't give off the divorced-guy vibe."
He shrugged. "I'm new at it. Give me time."
He glanced at his watch. "The lawyers said it was official yesterday when we signed back in New York, but they didn't record the documents until today at noon."
"Oh." Kelsey continued to study his face. "And you flew to Denver to celebrate?"
"One of my suppliers is based here. We had a contract to sign, and I told him I'd do it in his backyard." He paused. "And I didn't want to be back home right now."
She wanted to believe him, but knew he was probably lying. Wasn't that what married men did? Came up with some stupid story to placate their lovers, who probably knew the truth but wanted to pretend they weren't having a sordid little affair?
She considered walking out, but then the corner of his mouth quirked, just a little, and he reached out to tuck a long strand of her hair behind one ear. When he touched the edge of her jaw, a trail of goose bumps splintered down her spine.
She couldn't turn away. Not from a man with a smile that reached right down inside her, or eyes that were sexy, yet warm, the kind that belonged to a man who spent a lot of his time laughing. A man who would spend the night and buy you breakfast in the morning.
"Is that why you've been putting away the drinks tonight?" she asked.
He laughed, a self-deprecating sound that struck her right in the heart. "Maybe."
"Well, to answer your question, I'm leaving tomorrow for Nepal." The flutter between her legs grew to a throb.
"Dear God." Ross pulled back, frowning. "Are you climbing Mount Everest?"
Kelsey smiled. "No. Annapurna, actually. Annapurna One."
"There's more than one of them?"
"It's a section of peaks in the Himalayas. Annapurna One is the tallest. Not as big as Everest, but size isn't everything."
Ross waggled his eyebrows. "Anyone who says that is lying, you know."
Excerpted from Falling For Mr. Wrong by Inara Scott, Libby Murphy. Copyright © 2013 Inara Scott. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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