"Just who do you think you're fooling, Blade? You're interested in Sam. Admit it."
What was this—an interrogation? Blade Madaris thought as he ignored his cousin Luke and glanced around the restaurant before looking down at his watch. It was almost six. He had just arrived in Oklahoma City a few hours ago and Luke had picked him up from the airport.
On their way into town, Blade had persuaded Luke to make a pit stop at a restaurant downtown. He'd even suggested that Luke call his wife, Mac, and invite her to join them, conveniently extending the same invitation to the other two female partners in Mac's firm, Samari Di Meglio—better known as Sam to her friends—and Peyton Mahoney. Since Mac's marriage, the law firm that used to be known as Standfield, Di Meglio and Mahoney was now Madaris, Di Meglio and Mahoney.
"Of course I'm interested in Sam," Blade finally said, easing back in his chair and taking a sip of water. His great-grandmother had always said that confession was good for the soul. "She's a woman, isn't she? And a good-looking one, so quite naturally I want to get to know her better."
Luke stared at him. Irritation was clearly etched in his face. "But what's the reason?"
Blade rolled his eyes. "Why? Does a man have to have a reason to want to get to know someone?"
Luke gave him a suspicious look.
Blade sat his glass down on the table. "For crying out loud, Luke," he said. "You've only been married ten months and already you've forgotten that you were once a skirt chaser."
"I haven't forgotten, but I consider Sam a friend."
Blade glanced at his watch again before looking at Luke. "Good for you. But to me she's a prospective conquest. Will it make you feel better if I told you she doesn't even like me?"
"Doesn't surprise me. Your reputation precedes you, even in Oklahoma. She's heard about you and detests everything you represent," Luke said bluntly.
"Whatever." Blade wasn't the least bit bothered by Luke's warning. She wouldn't be the first woman who detested him, and he figured she wouldn't be the last. Besides, women might complain about him being a player, but that had never stopped them from jumping into his bed.
Admittedly, he had picked up on the negative vibes from Samari at Luke and Mac's wedding, and had found it rather amusing—challenging in a way. It didn't bother him in the least that Sam was difficult, because the one thing he liked when it came to women was a challenge. He took it all in stride and figured her resistance would make the victory that much sweeter. He was confident that he would be getting what he wanted. And he had decided the day of Luke's wedding that he wanted Sam. Clarification, he wanted Sam in his bed. There was a difference.
Luke's phone rang. Blade watched as his cousin stood to pull his cell phone out of his jeans pocket, sliding it open as he sat back down. "Yes, sweetheart."
A few moments later Luke nodded. "All right, we're at the restaurant waiting," he said. "No problem. I love you, too."
Luke put his phone back in his pocket and glanced at Blade. "That was Mac."
"Like I thought it was anyone else," Blade said, chuckling.
"They got slightly detained but are on their way now."
He nodded and detected that Luke was just as eager to see Mac as Blade was to see Sam. "Marriage certainly agrees with you, Luke," he said after a while.
Luke grinned at him. "Hmm, maybe you ought to try it."
A scowl quickly appeared on Blade's face. "And maybe you ought to keep your opinions to yourself."
Luke couldn't help but laugh. "Not that I think you'd really care, but Mac mentioned Peyton couldn't make it. She'd made other plans."
Blade took another sip of water. It wasn't that he didn't care, especially since Peyton Mahoney was a good-looking woman in her own right, but he'd set his sights on Sam. There had been something about Samari Di Meglio that got to him, just below the gut.
"So how long will you be in town?"
Blade glanced over at his cousin. He, Luke and his brother Slade were thick as thieves—always had been, always would be. The only kicker was now Luke and Slade were married and he was still single, and that was taking some getting used to.
"Not sure yet," he replied, glancing at his watch once again. "I'm meeting with J. W. Mosley tomorrow. Slade and I are glad we won the bid for the contract. I understand we had some pretty stiff competition."
Luke nodded. Blade's construction company, which he jointly owned with his fraternal twin, Slade, had been hired to do extensive renovations to Luke and Mac's home, as well as build the Luke Madaris Rodeo School. And now the company would also be building the new thirty-four-story Mosley Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Over the past few years, the Madaris Construction Company had earned a reputation as one of the best firms in the country. With Blade as construction engineer and Slade as master architect, their designs were renowned worldwide.
"You're sure they're on their way?"
Luke glanced at Blade. He recognized the look on his face, since he'd seen it on several occasions over the years. It was Blade's predatory look. Luke swore silently to himself and decided it wasn't any of his business, since he'd given his cousin fair warning. Samari Di Meglio was not your typical Blade Madaris kind of woman. Sam despised players in the worst way, and Blade was definitely a player—of the card-carrying variety. Hell, he even had membership in the notorious Gentlemen's Club, and everyone in Houston knew that its members were far from being gentlemen.
"Yes, they're on their way," Luke said, taking a sip of water after deciding to mind to his own business. Blade was a grown man and Sam was a smart, intelligent woman. There was no doubt that the two would tangle, bump heads and even try to do each other in before it was over. He smiled as he leaned back in his chair. Things would definitely be interesting and all he could do was settle in for what he knew would be a wild and crazy ride.
Samari Di Meglio frowned as she glanced at the woman by her side after handing the valet attendant her car keys. "I don't know why I agreed to come here with you, Mac. You of all people know how I feel about Luke's cousin. The man is everything I detest."
Mackenzie Standfield Madaris couldn't help but smile. "Well, yeah, I know. I'm also surprised that you came."
Sam shrugged. "What can I say, it's a free meal."
Mac rolled her eyes. "Whatever."
Sam, Peyton and Mac had met in law school. The three women had become the best of friends and now they were partners in their own law firm, Madaris, Di Meglio and Mahoney. She of all people knew that the last thing Sam needed was a free meal, especially given her family—the filthy rich Di Meglios of New York.
Thanks to the proceeds from the trust fund that she had received on her twenty-third birthday, Sam had been the one to provide the financing to get their law firm off the ground, and for that Mac would be eternally grateful.
"Besides," Mac said as they entered the restaurant, "if there's any one woman who can handle Blade Madaris, it's you."
Sam appreciated Mac's vote of confidence, especially when she glanced around the restaurant and her gaze landed on the man in question at the same time he laid eyes on her. He immediately gave her one of his predatory smiles.
She could actually feel the blood rushing through her veins and felt the hard thud of her heart beating in her chest. It wasn't a good sign that a twenty-eight-year-old woman suddenly felt like a teenage girl swooning over one of those "I-heart-you" smiles from the cutest boy in school.
Luke and Blade saw them as they entered and stood up to greet the two women, stretching their muscular bodies to their full height. Sam's gaze immediately went to Blade's broad shoulders, and with his jacket off she could actually see the muscles rippling under his starched white dress shirt. He was wearing a pair of jeans that hugged his firm muscular thighs. She'd seen him only a few times and the one thing that stood out, besides the fact that he was truly a handsome man, was that he was a sharp dresser, whether it was business or casual attire. He was Mr. GQ in living color, and he had an air of machismo about him that women could sense and few could resist.
He stood tall—almost six foot four—with a body that had her insides quivering in appreciation. She hated being reminded of how long it had been since she'd been intimate with a man. She was used to flirting with men who had the word player stamped on their foreheads, and setting them up for heartbreak. She enjoyed showing them that two could play their games. Thanks to the hurt and humiliation she'd suffered at the hands of Guy Carring-ton a few years back, on what should have been her wedding day, she got great pleasure from pretending to be the needy, airhead, spoiled little rich girl. She enjoyed getting to them before they got to her, but not in the same way, of course. She figured it was their just deserts, and the least she could do to retaliate for their thoughtless behavior toward women.
Mac touched Sam's arm, regaining her attention. "Wait a minute. You didn't bring it up so I will."
Sam lifted an eyebrow. "What?"
"The vase of flowers you got today."
She shrugged. "What of it? I have a secret admirer who evidently hasn't gotten the message that I'm not interested."
"Or one of those players who didn't appreciate your turning the tables on them, perhaps?"
Sam looked at Mac as she planted her hands on her hips. "Trust me, if that was the case I wouldn't be getting flowers."
"Still, I think you should consider investigating just to be on the safe side. You could have a stalker."
Sam shook her head. Of course Mac would think that way. "I really don't think it's that serious. Besides, I have an idea who they might be from."
She glanced back at Blade and her gaze went directly to his face. The eyes staring back at her were dark, piercing and determined. They were filled with a hunger like he wanted to eat her alive. She could just imagine what was going through his mind. He wouldn't hesitate to seduce her if given the chance. She tilted her head, knowing he would never get the opportunity.
Okay, she would admit there was a sexy air about him, and there was no doubt in her mind that he proudly lived up to his womanizing reputation. A part of her knew she probably should not have come, since tonight she wasn't at the top of her game. But because she was here, she would just have to deal with it and handle the notorious Blade Madaris in her own way.
And notorious he definitely was, with a face too gorgeous to be real. He possessed a ruggedly handsome square jawline, high cheekbones and a straight nose. And then there were his lips, the most sensuous looking pair she'd ever seen. They were curved in a smile that was trying really hard to seduce her, get on her good side and break down her defenses.
She found his efforts annoying and was determined not to let him get past her guard. Some men just didn't know when to give up. Her mind went back to the flowers she'd left sitting on her desk, and felt the same held true for whoever had sent them. For the past three weeks she'd received a bouquet of flowers. They were beautiful, and she could tell by the blossoms in each arrangement that they had to have been expensive. Although she wasn't one hundred percent certain, she believed they had come from Blade.
If he was the culprit, and assumed liked a lot of players did that a quick way into a woman's panties was with sweet-smelling roses, he would be sorely disappointed. Maybe there were some women who were that naive, but their name wasn't Samari Di Meglio.
Mac nudged her shoulder, interrupting Sam's thoughts. "Our guys are waiting."
Sam frowned, feeling a migraine coming on. "One of the guys is definitely yours, but the other is sooo not mine. I wouldn't claim him if my life depended on it."
As they began walking toward the two men, Sam wanted to believe what she'd just said.
Blade glanced at the two women who were making their way toward him and Luke. Both were stunningly beautiful. One was already taken by Luke. The other… well. He studied all five foot eight of her. He looked her up and down, top to bottom, taking note of her blue business suit with its short skirt that showcased a pair of lush brown thighs and long, sexy legs. They were legs that went on forever, and one of these days he intended to see just where they stopped. He could just imagine the body hidden under her suit—a body he was convinced needed a master touch. His.
He smiled at the thought before his eyes moved up to her face. She was a mix of Italian and African-American. She had a pair of beautiful dark exotic eyes, a cute nose and delicious looking lips. Her caramel-colored skin looked soft and smooth, and the mass of black hair that flowed around her shoulders gave her a sexy look. Samari Di Meglio was the kind of woman who easily drew men to her, made them drool mercilessly and compelled them to include her in any wicked fantasies they had. But he also knew that she was a woman with no intention of ever being claimed by any man—not now or forever.
That was fine with him, since the word forever wasn't in his vocabulary, anyway. He wasn't interested in any woman beyond the first two orgasms, maybe three on a hot night. To go beyond that was asking for trouble, especially if she had a tendency to become possessive, or assumed that most men's brains were controlled by what happened below the belt, and that if you kept a certain part of their anatomy satisfied, then that's all it took. But that was a false assumption where Blade was concerned.
That might be true for some men, but he had yet to encounter a woman who could make him forget what day it was, whose bed he was in or whose legs he was between. And when the time came, he had no qualms about pulling back, pulling out and getting the hell out, if necessary.