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Nick Bateman lay in bed in the honeymoon suite of the hotel, pretending to be asleep, wondering what the hell he'd just done.
Instead of spending his wedding night with the woman who was supposed to be his new wife--the one he'd left at the altar halfway through their vows--he'd slept with Zoë, his office manager.
He would have liked to blame the champagne for what had happened, but two shared bottles wasn't exactly enough to get him rip roaring drunk. He'd been too intoxicated to drive, no question, but sober enough to know it was a really bad idea to sleep with an employee.
And even worse, he considered Zoë one of his best friends.
He rubbed a hand across the opposite side of the mattress and could feel lingering traces of heat. The scent of sex and pheromones and her spicy perfume clung to his skin and the sheets.
He heard a thump and a softly muttered curse from somewhere across the room. She had been slinking through the darkness for several minutes now, probably looking for her clothes.
His only excuse for what he'd let happen, even if it was a lame one, was that on the night of his failed wedding he'd been discouraged and depressed and obviously not thinking straight.
Instead of saying I do, he'd said I don't and skipped out on his fiancée. His second, in fact. Could he help it if it had only occurred to him just then the terrible mistake he was making? That his desire for a wife and family was clouding his judgment? That after a month of courtship he barely knew the woman standing beside him, and she was in fact--as his friends had tried to warn him--only after his money.
He would never forget the look of stunned indignation on Lynn's face when, halfway through their vows, he had turned to her and said, "I'm sorry, I can't do this." He could still feel the sting of her fist where it had connected solidly with his jaw.
He'd deserved it. Despite being a lying, blood-sucking vampire, she didn't deserve to be humiliated that way. Why was it that he couldn't seem to find the right woman? It had been five years since he decided he was ready to settle down. He'd figured by now he would be happily married with at least one baby and another on the way.
Nothing in his life was going the way it was supposed to. The way he'd planned.
After the abrupt end of the service, Zoë had driven him to the hotel where the honeymoon suite awaited and the champagne was already chilling. He'd been in no mood to drink alone, so he'd invited her in. She'd ordered room service--even though he hadn't been particularly hungry--and made him an ice pack for his jaw.
She always took care of him. And damn, had she taken care of him last night.
He wasn't even sure how it started. One minute they were sitting there talking, then she gave him this look, and the next thing he knew his tongue was in her mouth and they were tearing each other's clothes off.
Her mouth had been so hot and sweet, her body soft and warm and responsive. And the sex? It had been freaking fantastic. He'd never been with a woman quite so...vocal in bed. He'd never once had to guess what she wanted because she wasn't shy about asking.
God, he'd really slept with Zoë.
It's not that he'd never looked at her in a sexual way. He'd always been attracted to her. She wasn't the kind of woman who hypnotized a man with her dazzling good looks--not that she wasn't pretty--but Zoë"s beauty was subtle. It came from the inside, from her quirky personality and strength.
But there were some lines you just didn't cross. The quickest way for a man to ruin a friendship with a woman was to have sex with her.
He knew this from experience.
Thankfully, he hadn't done irrevocable damage.As much as he wanted a family, Zoë wanted to stay single and childless just as badly. Unlike other female employees he'd made the mistake of sleeping with--back when he was still young, arrogant and monumentally stupid--she wouldn't expect or want a commitment.
Which was a good thing, right?
There was another thump, and what sounded like a gasp of pain, right beside the bed this time. He had two choices, he could continue to pretend he was asleep and let her stumble around in the dark, or he could face what they had done.
He reached over and switched on the lamp, squinting against the sudden bright light, both surprised and pleased to find a completely bare, shapely rear end not twelve inches from his face.
Zoë Simmons let out a shriek and swung around, blinking against the harsh light, clutching her crumpled dress to her bare breasts. This was like the dream she frequently had where she was walking through the grocery store naked. Only this was worse, because she was awake.
And honestly, right now, she would rather be caught naked in a room full of strangers than with Nick.
"You scared me," she admonished. So much for sneaking out before he woke up. Call her a chicken, but she hadn't been ready to face what they'd done. How many times they had done it.
How many different positions they had done it in... The bed was in shambles and there were discarded condom wrappers on the bedside table and floor. She winced when she thought of the way they'd touched each other, the places they had touched. How incredibly, shockingly, mind-meltingly fantastic it had been.
And how it could never, ever happen again. "Going somewhere?" he asked. "Fraid so."
He looked over at the digital clock beside the bed. "It's the middle of the night."
Exactly. "I thought it would be best if I leave." But God help her, he wasn't making it easy. He sat there naked from the waist up, looking like a Greek god, a picture of bulging muscle and golden skin, and all she wanted to do was climb back into bed with him.
No. Bad Zoë.
This had to end, and it had to end now.
She edged toward the bathroom, snagging her purse from the floor. "I'm going to go get dressed, then we'll...talk."
She backed into the bathroom, his eyes never leaving her face. She shut and locked the door, then switched on the light, saw her reflection and let out a sound that ranked somewhere between a horrified gasp and a gurgle of surprise.
Just when she thought this night couldn't get any worse.
Her hair was smashed flat on one side of her head and sticking up on the other, last night's eyeliner was smeared under her red, puffy eyes, and she had pillow indentations all over her left cheek. Unlike Nick who woke up looking like a Playgirl centerfold. It's a miracle he hadn't run screaming from the room when he saw her.
Had there been a window in the bathroom, she would have climbed through it.
She splashed water on her face, used a tissue to wipe away the smudges under her eyes, then dug through her purse for a hair band. Finger combing her hair with damp hands, she pulled it taut and fastened it into a ponytail. She had no clue where her bra and panties had disappeared to, and there was no way in hell she was going to go hunting for them. She would just have to go commando until she got home.
She tugged on her battered dress, smoothing out the wrinkles as best she could. In his haste to undress her, Nick had torn one of the spaghetti straps loose. One side of the bodice hung dangerously low. The form-fitting silk skirt was still a little damp and stained from the glass of champagne she'd spilled on herself.
It was the dress she'd worn to both of Nick's weddings. It looked as if maybe it was time to retire it.
Or incinerate it.
Zoë studied her reflection, hiking the bodice up over her half exposed breast. Not great, but passable. Maybe everyone wouldn't look at her and automatically think, tramp, as she traipsed through the five-star hotel lobby. Not that she would run into too many people at three-thirty in the morning.
She heard movement from the other room, and fearing she would catch him as naked and exposed as he had caught her--she cringed at the thought of her big rear end in his face when he turned the light on--she called, "I'm coming out now!"
When he didn't respond, she unlocked the door and edged it open, peeking out. He sat on the bed wearing only the slacks from last night, his chest bare.
And boy what a chest it was. It's not as if she'd never seen it before. But after touching it...and oh my, was that a bite mark on his left shoulder? She also seemed to recall giving him a hickey somewhere south of his belt, not to mention the other things she'd done with her mouth...
Shame seared her inside and out. What had they done?
As she stepped toward him, she noticed the gaping hole in the front of his pants. She was about to point out that the barn door was open, then remembered that in her haste to get his slacks off last night, she'd broken the zipper. They'd torn at each other's clothes, unable to get naked fast enough, as if they'd been working up to that moment for ten long years and couldn't bear to wait a second longer. She would never forget the way he'd plunged inside her, hard and fast and deep. The way she'd wrapped her legs around his hips and ground herself against him, how she'd moaned and begged for more...
Oh God, what had they done?
She clutched her purse to her chest, searching the floor for her shoes. She needed to get out of there pronto, before she did something even stupider, like whip her dress off and jump him.
"I think these belong to you." Nick was holding up her black lace bra and matching thong. "I found them under the covers."
Swell. "Thanks." She snatched them from him and stuffed both in her tiny purse.
"Should we talk about this?" he asked.
"If it's all the same to you, I'd rather leave and pretend it never happened."
He raked a hand through his short blue-black hair. Thick dark stubble shadowed his jaw, which explained the chafing on her inner thighs.
"That is one way to handle it," he said, sounding almost disappointed.
He had to know as well as she did that this was a fluke. It never should have happened. And it sure as hell would never, ever happen again.
Not that he was a bad guy. Nick was rich, gorgeous and genuinely nice--and okay, a touch stubborn and overbearing at times. And there were occasional moments when she wanted to smack him upside the head. But he was sweet when he wanted to be and generous to a fault.