Heat crept across her cheeks. “It’s just a bar…”
“No. It’s a bar that caters to swingers, doms, and subs.”
Oh, dear God. Bridget stared at him. Up until that moment, she really hadn’t believed any of the rumors, and while that was some freaky stuff right there, it wasn’t why she’d bolted. She’d jump in front of a speeding taxi before she admitted why she really ran. “I was at that kind of club?”
“You were at that kind of club?” Holy crap, she was having images of him tying her down—she threw the brakes on that train before it could fully take off.
A smirk played across his lips. “I’m not really big in the lifestyle, but I do like to dominate in bed.”
That train totally just zoomed off, throwing out silk ties and blindfolds and candle wax. All sorts of stuff she’d read in erotica.
“Okay, now that I know you had no idea what you were getting yourself into, which is sort of cute, by the way, that still doesn’t tell me anything. It wasn’t like I handcuffed you to the bed or scared you off.”
Handcuffs? Crimmey. A low heat started in her belly, even though she wondered if she should be so turned on by the idea.
“And you had nothing to fear from me,” Chad continued in a low, smooth voice. “Your pleasure would’ve come first every single time.”
God, she wished he hadn’t said that. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not interested—”
“Bull. Shit. You were interested. And you’re interested now.” Chad leaned in so close that when he spoke his lips grazed her cheek, sending shivers straight to her core. “You may not have known what Leather and Lace was, but you went home with me because you wanted me. I have no idea why you ran, but still, you are very interested.”
He swore under his breath, and then he cupped her cheeks. His hands were rough from years of playing baseball, but she liked the feel of them. He tilted her head back and with no other warning, he brought his mouth to hers, kissing away her protests and denials. His tongue swept past her lips, tangling with hers.
The kiss was one of pure dominance and control. His way of proving to her she was attracted to him and still very much interested. And there was no sense in lying or throwing up false protests at this point. Her body yielded to the kiss. Gripping the front of his sweater, she sunk into his hard body and kissed him back with fervor.
It seemed like forever before he lifted his head, breathing just as heavily as she was. Staring down at her, he swallowed hard and slowly removed his hands from her cheeks. “Like I said, you’re still very, very interested.”
Bridget didn’t remember walking back to the Smithsonian. Her legs felt like jelly, and she was in a daze. Had Chad kissed her just to prove she wanted him? If so, he’d gotten what he wanted, because the moment his lips touched hers she had turned to goo.
And then he had left her, turned around and left her on the side of the street.
Not like she didn’t sort of deserve it, considering she had left him without a backward glance last time.
Never in a million years would she have thought she’d ever run into Chase and be kissed by him again.
Once she shut the office door behind her, she turned and found Maddie at her desk, hands cupping her chin.
She sighed. “Madison?”
Her friend tilted her head to the side as she tapped long, manicured fingers off her cheek. “So, you and Chad…?”
Shuffling to her desk, she plopped down in her seat and toed her way toward the cart. She dropped her purse on it before she answered. “What about it?”
Bridget dared a peek at her boss. “What?”
“You two met at a bar?”
At least that part was true. Bridget nodded.
“And you didn’t think to tell me?” Maddie’s eyes narrowed. “It’s not like you wouldn’t know who he was or who he was related to.”
“It really wasn’t a big deal,” she said, glaring at the mass of pens in their holder. Someone had placed a black pen in with the colored ones. Bastard. “I honestly forgot about it.”
Madison snorted. “I don’t believe you.”
Snatching the black pen, she placed it with the blue ones. “We just talked. It was nothing.”
“Nothing… Yeah, okay.” Maddie sat up, crossing her arms, giving Bridget her best bullshit-detector stare. “I’ve known Chad my whole life.”
“I know.” She mirrored her friend’s posture, except the stupid flower poked her in the breast.
Madison smiled a little too brightly. “Chad has always been the…outgoing one. Usually up to no good, but very…playful. When he was younger, he used to always play pranks, and even now he’s really friendly.”
Ah, yes, Chad was really friendly. Bridget schooled her expression.
The look on Madison’s face said she wasn’t fooled. “But I’ve never seen him act like he did with you today.”
Bridget struggled to keep her face impassive while internally she was as curious as Pepsi strung out on catnip. “What do you mean?”
“Well, like I said, Chad has always been a friendly person, but he was so in your personal space I was pretty sure he was going to shove his tongue down your throat at some point.”
Her face flushed.
Madison’s eyes narrowed. “And did he grab your thigh at some point?”
“Uh, I…I think so.” She cleared her throat as she swiveled back to her desk. Pens. Pens needed places for order. “He doesn’t normally do that?”
“Only with women he’s slept with,” she quipped.
Bridget dropped three red pens on the floor.
“Did you sleep with Chad?” Madison asked.
The question hung in the room like a plume of poisonous gas. Bending down, she gathered up the pens and faced her friend once more. “No. I did not sleep with Chad.”
Madison stared at her a long, hard moment and then said, “I believe that part of the story.”
“Maddie,” she said, using the nickname Chase favored.
“Whatever. Don’t Maddie me. I feel offended. I know you’re not being honest with me. Something obviously happened between you two.” Her pout was brief, and then she stood. “You do realize Chase will probably get the truth out of him, right?”
Her friend’s eyes lit up as she moved to the front of her nice big desk and propped a slim hip against it. “And if I find out there was an exchange of bodily fluids—any type of fluid—I’m going to tell Robert that you’re madly in love with him.”
“That’s so wrong!”
Picking up a stack of Post-it notes, she chucked them at Madison. They missed her by a mile. Hell. There was little to no chance she was going to get out of this situation without Madison and Chase knowing the truth.
And worse yet, Bridget was going to have an even harder time forgetting Chad after that last searing kiss.
Miss Gore was not a happy camper. “You should be home.”
Chad rolled his eyes as he pressed the speaker button on his cell. “I’m at my brother’s house. Isn’t family time a good thing?”
There was an audible huff. “Knowing you, there will be alcohol and strippers involved.”
Poker and beer—there weren’t many things in life better than combining those two. But definitely no naked chicks. Pulling the keys out of the ignition, he considered chucking his phone into the nearby bushes. “We’re just playing some poker.”
“Just like you were supposed to be going to dinner with your teammate, when in reality you were going out and getting drunk,” Miss Gore shot back.
Chad smirked. “Look, if I get drunk and I’m not driving, I’ll just crash at my brother Chandler’s house. It’s no big deal. Chill out.”
“I don’t like this.”
“And I really don’t care. Good night, Miss Gore.” He cut off her protests by hitting the end button and then turned off his phone.
Damn, if it wasn’t for that stipulation in his contract…
Shaking his head, he climbed out of his Jeep and headed up the steps. Well-manicured plants and shit lined the sidewalk, which drew a snort from Chad. Chandler, the eldest of the Gamble brood, had the personality of an ox sometimes, but man, his brother had one hell of a green thumb.
Was that a bush of late-blooming roses by the porch? Pansy ass.
An hour later, Chad was kicked back at the card table, watching Chandler deal the cards. Across from Chase, their partner in crime and Maddie’s older brother, Mitch, nursed a warm beer.
“Ever since you got married you’ve started drinking like a grandpa,” Chad accused Mitch, scratching at the label on his bottle.
Mitch snorted. “With Lissa’s middle-of-the-night cravings, I need to stay sober. I have no idea when she’s going to start craving fried chickpeas.”
Chad shuddered. “Babies…”
Frowning at his cards, Chandler looked up. His longer hair was pulled back in a short ponytail. “Fried chickpeas?”
Mitch nodded. “She dips them in a mixture of ketchup and mustard.”
“That’s disgusting,” Chase murmured, rearranging his cards.
Casting his younger brother a sly look, Chad grinned. “Before you know it, you’ll be bouncing little Maddie babies on your knees.”
Mitch groaned. “Yeah, can we not talk about that? Seriously?”
“I vote that we don’t talk about babies or bouncing them on anyone’s knees,” Chandler threw in as he tossed some cards out. “It’s like playing cards with a bunch of old ladies lately.”
Chad snorted as he glanced down at his cards. His hand sucked.
“One of these days, you two will be in the same position as Chase and me.” Mitch took a swing of his beer.
“What? Whipped?” Chad asked innocently.
Looking up, Chase’s brows rose. “Speaking of whipped…”
“You?” Chad offered.
His brother rolled his eyes. “What the hell was going on with you and Bridget today?”
“Bridget?” Mitch frowned. “She works with Maddie, right?”
When Chase nodded and Chad said nothing, Chandler turned to him. “Please tell me you’re not screwing Maddie’s friend. There has to be at least one woman in the entire city you aren’t sleeping with or trying to.”
“I haven’t slept with her.” Not from lack of trying or wanting. “And for the record, there are plenty of women I haven’t slept with.” Several sets of eyes turned on him in disbelief. Geez. “You know those three women I got pictured with?”
Chandler’s brows rose in interest. “Yeah, I think the whole city knows about that.”
“I didn’t sleep with them, either.”
“Whatever,” Chase said, tossing a card aside.
Chad laughed. “I’m being serious. Sort of wished I had now, since everyone thinks I did, but shit, I ain’t seventeen anymore.”