I leave through the receiving door and walk around the parking lot, back to my car. The parking lot is well lit, but there are still patches of shadow. I eye my car and hurry, walking fast, rubbing my arms to try and keep warm. A jacket is definitely a priority. When I get to my car, I stuff my check in the glove box and grab a can of ether. I lift the hood and hold it up while I spray, holding my breath so that I don’t breathe it in.

“Miss Smith,” a familiar voice says behind me.


“It’s a wonderful night for a spray start car,” Sean says. Startled, I flinch and the can of ether goes flying. It smacks into my windshield, chipping it, before rolling down into the engine. Sean reaches under the hood and grabs the can. “A bit jumpy, are we?”

“Yes, I am,” I say, snatching the can from him, after I drop the hood. “When strange guys come up to me, things never end well.” I try to walk past him to get in my car, but he doesn’t move. When I look up into his face, I’m angry. “Better get back to your new hooker. She didn’t seem like a patient woman, if you ask me.”

“I didn’t ask you,” he says with confidence that I’ve never felt.

“Real nice. You scared the crap out of me and cracked my windshield. Unless you plan on robbing me, go away.” I fold my arms over my chest and look anywhere but at Sean. The parking lot is fairly empty. It’s dinner time and the place is packed. It’s always packed.

“What would I take? That dress you have in the backseat—”

“Tell me what you want or go away,” I say. My nails are biting through my sweater and into my skin. I lock my jaw, trying so hard to keep from saying something stupid.

“Is that dress for your next lover?”

“It’s not for you, if that’s what you’re asking.” I’m bristling. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to, but I can’t stop. Sean has my blood pumping and my body just reacts.

Sean’s eyes flick over me, like he’s amused. “I don’t wear dresses, although I appreciate the thought.”

“Let me in my car,” I hiss and drop my hands to my sides. He’s blocking the door.

“What will you do if I say no?” His eyes sparkle, like he thinks this is funny.

I lean in close to his face. A twisted smile snakes across my lips as I speak. “I’ll take your nuts off and then run you over with my car.”

Sean flinches and steps away from the door. I push past him, brushing his shoulder and fighting the urge to throw myself into his arms. I’m so messed up. He’s on a date with a hooker and I still want him. How many times was I dropped on my head as a baby? There’s no way that this is normal. I sit down hard in the driver’s seat and yank the door shut.

Sean leans on the door, resting his hands on the roof. He speaks into the open window. “You’re beautiful when you’re angry.”

“Go to hell.” I turn the key in the ignition and the car backfires and rumbles to life. God, could this be worse? Is he here to taunt me? I don’t get it. I throw the car into reverse and rev the engine, ready to peel out, but his words stop me.

“I would have rather had you.” Sean straightens and turns to walk away. His hands are in his pockets as he strolls back toward the restaurant.

The car sputters and stalls. I stopped feeding the engine gas without realizing it. I throw the car into park and jump out. “Wait!” Sean stops and turns around to look at me. There’s a golden glow on his head from the light above. His hands are in his pockets and there’s a faint smile on his lips.

I leave my car where it is and run the three steps toward him. “What do you mean?”

Sean looks me over like I inhaled too many fumes. “You were my preference.”

I stare at him like I’ve been hit in the head with a board. “Then why did you tell her no?”

Something flashes behind his eyes, but it fades quickly. He tries to conceal it by looking down and pushing a rock with his shoe. “I shouldn’t have,” he confesses.

“Then fix it.” Heart beating too hard, I stare at him.

Sean’s gaze lifts and meets mine. “I was under the impression that it’s not the kind of thing that I could fix.”

“If you don’t want me, I suppose that I could screw someone else—” I turn from Sean, but he grabs my wrist and pulls me back.

“I never said that I didn’t want you.” He flips open his phone and dials. I stare at him. Someone picks up. “I’ve changed my mind,” he says without any introduction. “Yes, Miss Stanz. I want her delivered to my doorstep wearing nothing but a bow tomorrow night.” He hangs up before the person can respond. His eyes are locked on mine the entire time. “Is that plain enough?”

Giddy hope flutters inside of me. I’m so f**ked up. Why do I like this guy? He’s on a date with a hooker. He ordered me on the phone. He wants me nak*d, in a bow.

“Maybe.” I try to hide my smile, but suck at it. I rub my arms, trying to chase away the chill.

Sean takes off his jacket and places it over my shoulders. “Come inside and have dinner with us.”

All sorts of nervous energy snake through me. I twist my hands and say, “With you and your hooker? I’m not into threesomes. I know it’s not on my list yet, but I’m pretty sure I’m not into that.”

“How do you know if you haven’t tried?” His voice is light, teasing. He grins at me.

“Because I’m possessive. I don’t share.”

Sean looks down and then up again. The movement makes my stomach feel like it’s floating away with my brains. Those dark lashes are delicious. “I like that. I don’t share, either. The woman is my accountant. We were going over some records this evening. I didn’t think I’d see you again, but I’m glad I did. Come inside.”

I shake my head and look back at my car. It’s halfway out of the parking spot. “I can’t. I mean, I shouldn’t. Black would be pissed if she found out about it.” And you act so hot and cold, that I feel like I have whiplash.

The way his eyes devour me makes me weak. Somehow Sean manages to get close to me. Before I know it, Sean’s rubbing his finger over my arm, gently. He looks at me from under his lashes, and says, “Please.”

I melt. How can I refuse him? He sees it in my face. I offer up one last halfhearted protest. “But, I’m not dressed for it.”

He takes my hand, “I don’t care.” Sean pulls me to his chest and wraps his arms around me. The way he looks down at me makes me shiver. Desire flames to life inside of me. “I wish I could kiss you.” His lips barely brush mine as he speaks. It’s a cruel trick, a kiss without kissing.

“Maybe, someday.”

This makes him smile.


I sit at the table in my tattered jeans and oversized sweater, feeling out of place. When I look up from my plate, Sean’s eyes are on me. He explained to his accountant that I was an old friend and that I’d be joining them for dinner. Her eyes swept over me before giving me a look that said she thought I wasn’t a threat. Whatever. She can take her perfect body and shove it. Besides, all Sean’s attentions are directed at me.

Dayla has a tablet on the table, where she presses buttons, asking Sean to clarify expenses. “You can’t take a deduction on that Sean.”

“I wouldn’t have come here if the damn merger went through.” Sean says, ripping off a piece of bread from the loaf on the table. “The additional trip isn’t an expense?”

She sighs, “You’re private jet isn’t an expense. I need the fuel bill when you get back, along with these other papers.” Her eyes flick to me. “Can you believe him? He avoids New York at all costs and then spends money like it’s water when he finally gets here.”

I have no idea who Sean is, why he’s avoiding New York, or the reason for the sudden spending spree. I just smile politely and say, “Yeah, Sean’s always pissed away money like a drunk sailor when he hits the Big Apple.”

Sean grins at me. Dayla rolls her eyes. “It wouldn’t be so bad if he told me what some of these expenses were. Like this one. What cost you $8,000 last weekend?”

Sean’s eyes remain amusedly locked on mine. My stomach flutters. “Entertainment,” he says.

It takes me a moment, but I realize who he spent that money on. That was the down payment for me. Sean sees the comprehension in my eyes and winks at me when Dayla has her eyes glued to her tablet. Excitement flutters through me and I smile awkwardly.

Dayla looks up and says, “I need more information, Sean. Honestly, how am I supposed to be your accountant if you don’t tell me specifics? I need specifics.” She glances at me, looking for help.

I lean back in my chair and say, “I’m not getting involved. He’s your client. You fix him.”

She laughs lightly and gives me an if only look. “God bless the woman that brings him to his senses.”

Sean doesn’t look phased, but his eyes shift between us, like it worries him. He cuts our conversation short. “Unless there are more questions, we need to be on our way.”

“Nothing you didn’t already avoid telling me.” Her pretty face pinches as she scrolls through her tablet, shaking her head.

Sean stands and says, “Do the best you can. I don’t expect you to find a way to deduct, claim, or mark everything as an expense.” She nods slowly, like her mind is still reeling from the meeting. “Please, take your time. I’ll take care of the bill.”

“Email me a copy,” she insists. “This was a working meal.”

Sean nods and heads to the front. I don’t know why I didn’t see him when I was working here. I would have remembered him. “Do you come here a lot?” I ask.

“No, why?” He tells the hostess that he’d like to settle his bill with the waiter. She rushes off to find him. Sean turns back to me, waiting for an answer.

“I worked here, until a few days ago.”

He grins at me. “You got a better job, I hear. One with benefits.”

I laugh, “Benefits for you, maybe.”

“Miss Smith, you dismiss me too quickly. I assure you that this arrangement will benefit both parties.” The hostess returns with our waiter. Sean’s eyes rake over me, openly admiring my body. I look away, unable to process what’s happening. We just had dinner. That’s all. We ate. Pull yourself together, Stanz.

Sean settles the bill and gives the waiter a big enough tip to render him speechless. His jaw drops as Sean walks away with me on his arm.

The nippy night air blasts me in the face as soon as we’re outside. I shiver and try to race toward my car, but Sean grabs my wrist. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Home, lunatic. I’m not supposed to be with you right now.”

“Says who?”

“Says you,” I say to him, smiling. He’s wrapped his arms around my waist and pulls me to him. I mimic his phone call from earlier, “I want her delivered to my doorstep wearing nothing but a bow.”