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By Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox
All rights reserved.
Why did he always have to be here?
Lauren Neill stepped into the spacious skybox at the Miami Rays hockey stadium and glared at the man who managed to dig his way under her skin without even trying. Sports Source CEO Lincoln Blair. Linc.
Kill. Me. Now.
He stood there, sexier than should be legal, chatting it up with some pretty blonde. With his attention half on the girl and half on the hockey game between the Rays and the New York Storms, he pushed his hands into his pockets, a slow sexy smile spreading across his far too perfect lips. Normally he dressed conservatively in designer suits that fit his tall, athletic frame to perfection, but for today's game he wore jeans and a black sweater, which fit tight against those wicked abs of his.
A soft, involuntary moan slipped out of her throat. Linc in a suit was one thing, but this ... well, this laid-back version of the hot as sin, richer than royalty Linc was something else entirely. Talk about raw, orgasmic sex appeal.
What the hell am I doing? Stop staring at him. It had become a habit whenever he was around, which was a lot, since he was best friends with her boss and provided all of the team equipment.
She shouldn't be drooling over a man who barely spared her a glance. Not that she wanted him to. Because she didn't, and it irritated the crap out of her that she couldn't seem to stop herself from looking. Her dislike for Linc grew, even though she honestly had no basis for it. On the few occasions when business had put them together, he'd never been anything but nice, but even when he ignored her he was a distraction. One she didn't want or need, especially at work, but oh, the naughty thoughts he inspired ...
No. Do not go there. Did she have no self-control at all? Gritting her teeth, Lauren pulled her gaze from Linc and turned it toward the crowd, focusing her attention on the activity going on around her.
As an accountant for the Rays, one of the perks was a seat in the skybox. While she seldom took advantage of that little extra, today the Rays were playing against her favorite team, the New York Storms. Unethical to root for the other team? Maybe, but as long as no one caught her, where was the harm?
She glanced around, and as usual, no one seemed to even notice she was there. People chatted and milled about the room, others gathered in small, more intimate groups, their heads bent, deep in conversation. Some watched the game from the floor to ceiling windows as it played out on the ice below, while a few hovered at the bar, preferring the zoom of camera lens and the play by play of commentators as they sipped from a longneck or a glass of something more substantial.
Perched on a barstool amid the sports enthusiasts, with her back to the game, a pretty brunette waved Linc over, trying to steal him away from the blonde who was toying with the sleeve of his sweater. Lauren shook her head. Dim witted moths to a lightbulb — every last one of them. Mr. Sex turned his head toward the brunette and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. The movement drew Lauren's attention to the jeans that hugged the thick muscles of his thighs and curved around his perfect ass like the fitted baseball gloves his company sold by the millions.
The blonde moved away, and he turned Lauren's way, giving her an eyeful of crotch, but she was far too slow to react. Her gaze flew to his and held for a moment too long. The muscles along his jaw rippled, and those kissable lips of his quirked into a smile. Crap. He'd caught her staring. Again.
He scrubbed his hand over his chin, watching her, then turned and walked to the bar, making his way to the stool the pretty brunette had pushed out for him.
Heat suffused Lauren's cheeks. Would she never learn? And what had he been waiting for? To see if she'd simper up to him like every other woman in the room? Arrogant asshole. And even as she swore under her breath, tagging him as every kind of womanizing lowlife, her gaze settled on wide shoulders that any linebacker would kill for, then languidly slid down his back, stopping just below his belt.
Stop staring at his ass already!
And there it was. It hit Lauren like a bolt of lightning right between the eyes. She was no better than the other women who panted after Linc, but for one exception ... when it came to her, he walked away. Straight to another woman.
Just like her ex. Her lower lip trembled. Was that why she had formed such a dislike for Linc? Had she been projecting her failure to attract and hold the attention of a man onto an innocent bystander? Well, Linc was hardly an innocent in any respect, but still ...
Stricken, she tore her gaze away and smoothed her palms over her navy pencil skirt, wiping away the perspiration that had gathered. This couldn't be. She wasn't a mean person. She should apologize.
Resolved to make amends, Lauren searched the patrons of the bar until she found Linc, looking over his shoulder at her, a smirk on his lickable lips as he ran his knuckles along the side of the brunette's arm.
Fueled by her own gullibility, Lauren swung around and searched for somewhere, anywhere to hide until he left. Her glance landed on her best friend Kelli, who, as luck would have it, worked for the owner of the perfect ass. As Linc's top regional sales manager, Kelli always accompanied Linc to the stadium for his merchandizing meetings, or to catch a hockey game.
Kelli motioned Lauren over to the table she'd commandeered, and when she hesitated, her friend pinched her lips tight and gave her a look that suggested she'd better pick up her damn feet and get over there — pronto — otherwise there'd be hell to pay. Kelli might be a pixie of a thing, but she'd grown up on the streets of Brooklyn and could drop a man to his knees with a single look. Lauren had seen it first hand. The two might have come from different worlds, but after rooming together in college, they were now closer than sisters and always had each other's backs.
A strand of hair fell from the bun piled on top of Lauren's head. She tried to shove it back in place but the damn thing wouldn't stay. Giving up, she jammed it behind her ear and stomped to the table Kelli had grabbed, her new Jimmy Choos clicking on the polished floor as she made her way to her friend.
"What's the matter with you?" Kelli asked quietly.
Lauren dropped onto the plush, upholstered chair and crossed her legs. "What do you mean?"
"Your face is flushed, and your bun has sprung."
"Like you have to ask," she muttered, her foot jiggling like it had a nervous twitch.
"Are those new?" Kelli pointed at Lauren's feet.
Stretching out her leg, Lauren twisted her ankle around, giving Kelli a better look at the black alligator pumps she'd splurged on — a secret indulgence. "They are. You like?"
"Me love. So, what has Linc done this time?"
Lauren shifted in her chair. Never in a million years would she admit, especially to Kelli, that she might, just a little bit, be attracted to Linc. "He exists. Isn't that enough?"
"I told you, once you get to know him, he's really nice."
Lauren gave an unladylike snort. "Which translates to he's a complete asshole, but you get used to it." She slanted Kelli a look. She'd heard the stories. He was a ruthless, take-no-prisoners businessman, and she had no doubt he was just as ethical when it came to women. "No. Thank. You." She lifted her chin and ran her hands over the lapels of her suit jacket. "Doesn't matter. I've no intention of getting to know him. He's your boss, not mine."
"I don't know, Lauren. I'm beginning to think the tension between you two stems from something else."
"I hardly think so," she said, a little too quickly. Dammit, way to give myself away.
Kelli grinned. "She protests too much ... me thinks."
"Well, you're wrong, Shakespeare. I can't stand guys like him." Hot, sexy, can-get-any-woman-he-wants types. And it irked the hell out of her that she couldn't get him out of her head.
"All I know is the chemistry between you two is explosive." Kelli peeked at her watch. "What took you so long to get down here? The game is almost over."
She glanced at the scoreboard, thankful for the change in subject. Her team was down by one. She resisted the urge to shout encouragements. Cheering for the Storms while working for the Rays might not be in her best interest. Her boss, Michael Rock, was a bit of a hard-ass when it came to team loyalty and would likely fire her for what he'd consider an act of treason.
She shrugged. "I had to run some numbers. Michael needed them right away."
Kelli scoffed. "And you think my boss is a hard-ass. At least he gives me time off to catch a game every now and then."
Linc appeared at the table with a drink in his hand. How long had he been standing there? Had he overheard any of their conversation? Lauren's entire body stiffened as he dropped onto the chair next to Kelli without so much as saying hello to her. Oh, so she was back to being the invisible girl now, was she? Jerk.
Then again, why would he really pay any attention to her? Obviously he'd been just waiting for her to look his way when she'd seen him stroking the brunette's arm. She was, after all, as boring as her clothes, and likely blended in with the ugly beige walls hugging the skybox. Nothing exciting to see here. Move along. Just ask her ex. He'd be quick to set the record straight. What was that he'd said? Sex with her was like drinking day-old champagne ... no fizz. Then again her ex was about as exciting as a wet crouton — under-seasoned with no bite.
Linc, however ... well, that guy had spice and bite written all over him. Any girl would want to pop him into her mouth and savor every morsel. The sudden image of being on her knees, looking up his long, lean body as he fed her his cock popped into Lauren's head, and the shocker was, she didn't find the thought unpleasant at all.
What would sex be like with him?
Would she be able to orgasm with him? Or would she once again fall short, and turn sex into something awkward and stiff?
Maybe I should just start collecting cats now.
Lauren blinked and focused on Kelli, who gave her an odd look from across the table. "What?"
"I asked what was so urgent that it had to be done today?"
Heat again warmed Lauren's cheeks. These fantasies had to stop, especially with the object of them sitting at the same table. What had they been talking about? Oh, right, running numbers.
"I could have worked on the statements Monday, but you know I have this thing about unfinished business," she said, explaining her tardiness. It was the accountant in her. "I can't walk away until I see that healthy bottom line."
Kelli stared at her for a moment and then shook her head. "Damn girl. You really need to get laid."
Lauren's mouth fell open, and she darted a quick glance around to see if anyone had overheard her. From the corner of her eye, she could see Linc's head slowly turn her way as she zeroed back in on her friend. The skin at the nape of her neck tingled. Oh, God.
He's staring at me!Swallow me Earth. Now. Do it.
Don't look. Don't look.
When her gaze met that set of piercing blue eyes, it nearly sucked the oxygen from her lungs. He rested his arm on the table and leaned forward, leaving no doubt that his attention was focused on her. The corner of his mouth quirked, and a dimple formed as his gaze moved over her face. That smirk. God, that smirk. Sexy, dirty, that of a natural born bad boy — a shameless player. Her body burned, no tinder needed. Come on. Weren't her panties damp enough already?
"What was that about a bottom line?" he asked, his voice laced with humor.
Her stomach squeezed. Why oh why did everything that came out of his mouth sound so sexual? "Nothing," she said, looking away to focus in on the game below. Dammit, the Rays were pressing.
Kelli's glance ping-ponged between Lauren and Linc. "I'm going to grab a hot dog and a drink. Anybody want one?" she asked.
Panic burst inside Lauren. Kelli couldn't leave. She needed a buffer, otherwise she'd have to make conversation with Miami's hottest, youngest, sexiest billionaire. One who made her mouth go dry and the needy spot between her legs tingle.
"Yeah, grab me one, Kel." He dipped his head and looked at Lauren. "Would you like a footlong?"
A strange, strangled noise crawled out of her throat. Both Kelli and Linc sat there looking at her like she had two heads. Wait, what? Are you kidding me? How could anyone not think those words were overtly sexual? Ugh. Then again, maybe they weren't. Maybe her mind was in the gutter because she hadn't felt a man's hand on her body, or had a footlong in ages. Or ever.
Kelli was right. She needed to get laid.
She coughed in a feeble effort to cover up her embarrassment as the two continued to watch her. "No, I'm good," she managed to get out past a tongue gone thick.
As Kelli stood and went to get the refreshments, Lauren also got up from the table and walked to the window. She stepped up to the glass and focused on the game, a difficult task when the king of the one-night stands followed her and was standing so close. The Storms interrupted a pass, and took off down the ice. The puck was passed from center ice to the left-winger, who took a shot, and evened the score.
"Yes!" she hissed before she could catch herself.
"Interesting," Linc said.
She angled her chin and glanced up at him. "What?"
"I'm pretty sure I just heard you cheering for the other team."
She tore her gaze from his, denial spilling from her lips. "You're wrong."
He moved close, too close. His hand brushed against hers, the warmth of his knuckles curling her toes. Her nipples tightened as she imagined the rough rasp of his fingers skimming over her breast. "Pretty sure I'm not."
She squared her shoulders and opened her mouth to counter, but his scent ... damn, why did he have to smell so good? She breathed him in. Mmm. Warm and earthy, like afternoon sex on the beach. Wait, what was it she wanted to say?
Get it together, Lauren.
"You're from New York, right? Kelli told me you met in college."
Why would he be talking about me with Kelli?
"I might be from New York, but I wasn't cheering for the Storms." She tapped her temple. "I was just running some numbers in my head, and it excites me when things balance."
His grin widened, bringing those dimples into play. Dammit, she was so busted.
He arched a brow. "So this is you ... excited?"
His warm breath fluttered over her face. "Yeah. This is me, excited."
"You're not even smiling. I mean, most people smile when they're excited, don't they?"
"I'm smiling on the inside."
"Right." He glanced at the ice and then back at her.
"What?" She stared at him. She had no idea what was going through his head, but she'd grown up with three scheming brothers and knew when a plan was forming. What was he up to?
"How about a bet?"
"I don't bet."
His grin was slow, sexy ... deliciously filthy. Enough already! "I think you're going to want to take this one."
Her body stiffened and she eyed him carefully. "Why?"
"If you don't, word could get out that a Rays employee was in the skybox rooting for the other team."
Her heart slammed. Bastard. "You wouldn't."
He held his hands out, palms toward her, the image of innocence when he said, "Hey, I'm not saying I would tell."
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "What do you want?"
"Bet me." His gaze dropped to her mouth, that dirty, promising smile of his teasing her sex. "My team against yours."
What the ... Okay, she was pretty damn certain this exchange was sexual. But it didn't make sense. She wasn't even his type, and in all the times they crossed paths, he'd barely spoken to her.
"What is that supposed to mean?" she asked, needing clarification.
"If my team scores before overtime, I win, and you're mine for the weekend."
His for the weekend?
Her mind raced with hot, sexy images, like him holding her against the wall while he did depraved, corrupt things to her body. She swallowed. How tempting.
"And if I win?" she asked, sounding far more winded than she would have liked.
Excerpted from Learning Curves by Cathryn Fox, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2016 Cathryn Fox. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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