“I don’t mean to interrupt you and your friend,” the girl said. “But I’m here with my girlfriend.” She nodded over to a table where a blond-haired girl beamed. “And I just had to tell you that you’re the main reason why I watch baseball.”
Bridget’s lips pursed. Was there any wonder Chad had a gigantic ego?
“Thank you,” he said, smiling. “Good to know I’m doing my part in spreading the love of the game.”
Oh. Eye. Roll.
The girl bit down on a glossy lower lip and placed her hand on the table beside Chad. It was then when Bridget realized she had a piece of paper in her hand. “Call me, okay? Anytime.”
Bridget wondered if she was visible, and she also wanted to dash under the linen-covered table or recreate a jungle scene and take the chick out, which made no sense.
Chad’s smile didn’t fade. “That’s really kind of you, but I’m not available.”
Eyes widening to epic proportions, Bridget went very still as the brunette glanced from Chad to her.
“This is Bridget,” Chad continued. “My girlfriend.”
A dumbfounded look crossed the girl’s face and her mouth opened, but she closed it. Murmuring an apology, she went back to her table, where she immediately started whispering to her friend.
Bridget squeezed her eyes shut.
“Well, that will probably also go out on Twitter,” he said, and she opened her eyes. “What?” he teased. “My relationship status is apparently big news.”
Taking a drink of the wine, she told herself to just keep her mouth shut. Her mouth didn’t listen. “When the picture of us hit the newspaper—”
“A good day for you, I’m sure.”
She took a deep breath. “Some lady approached me on the street as I tried to go to lunch and told me you were good in bed but not out of it.”
“Oh.” He arched a brow. “Well, the ‘in bed’ part is true and it’s been—”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Whoa—why the attitude toward me?”
Was he for real? There was a whole buttload of reasons. Leaning forward, she kept her voice down. “You’ve successfully hijacked my life in a matter of hours.”
Chad frowned. “I haven’t done anything.”
“Really?” she hissed. “Did you slip and fall into bed with three girls and there just happened to be someone there to take a picture?”
His eyes flashed a deep denim blue. “That damn photo. I didn’t sleep with them.”
Bridget didn’t know if she should laugh or throw her wine in his face. “Yeah, said no man ever.”
His eyes rolled. “Why doesn’t anyone believe me? I don’t get it.”
Did he really think she was that dumb? “All of this because you kissed me—”
“And you enjoyed it.”
“That’s not the point, you jerk.” Bridget glanced around. Surprisingly, no one was paying attention to them at the moment. “I have no control over my life now because of you.”
Chad inched forward, too, until only the flickering candle separated their mouths. “And I’ll say it again—how is this my fault?”
“Is anything you do your fault?” she demanded.
“Whatever. You didn’t have to agree to do this.”
“I had no choice. Your publicist from hell blackmailed me.” Surprise flickered over Chad’s face, and Bridget nearly fell out of her chair. “What? Did you think I’d just agree to this?”
“Well, I mean, come on, I am Chad Gamble.” Then he smirked.
She was seconds away from throwing her plate of scallops in his face. “God, there are no words sometimes. I know I’m not like the women you normally go out with, but I’m not desperate enough to have to pretend I have a boyfriend.”
A strange look replaced the surprise and he leaned back, folding muscular—she was so not looking at them—arms across his chest. “Yeah, you’re not like them.”
Out of nowhere, a sharp pain sliced across her chest. She jerked back and tried to swallow the sudden lump in her throat. “Can we call it a night now? I’m sure your adoring public has had their fill.”
The expected cocky response was absent as he signaled the waiter and picked up the check. He did the boyfriend thing. Stood and took her hand in his warm one, and that damn lump ended up between her breasts now.
Outside, she could see people waiting. Someone must’ve updated some social site or made a phone call. Chad went into full acting mode the moment they stepped into the late November air. A camera lightbulb flashed, and he dropped her hand, slipping an arm over her shoulders.
He bent his head, grazing her cheek with his jaw. A fine shiver danced across her shoulders, and she hated how her body wanted to lean into his, just as everyone expected that she would.
His chin continued to her temple, and she sucked in a sharp breath. “You could try to relax,” he murmured. “Because right now, you look like you want to run.”
“That’s because I want to run.” But she forced a smile.
Another bulb flashed, and Chad pressed a kiss to her cheek. Someone had better give that boy an Oscar. “That’s kind of mean.”
As they waited for the valet to bring his car around, several more flashes blinded Bridget. “It’s the truth.”
“Uh huh,” he murmured as he slid his hand off her shoulder and down to the small of her back, causing her to jerk. “What is Miss Gore blackmailing you with?”
The truth formed on the tip of her tongue, but she closed her mouth. The last thing she wanted to share with Chad was how pitifully broke she was, that she could lose her job because of it. “It’s none of your business.”
“Hmm, must be juicy if you don’t want to share.” He stepped in closer and placed his other hand on her hip.
Bridget stiffened. “What are you doing?”
“Giving them something to put in the newspaper.”
Chad kissed her again.
It was nothing like the one on the side of the street or those in his bedroom. This one started off as a slow, tantalizing sweep of his lips. She forced her lips closed and to remain still in his arms. They could pretend to be dating, but this—the kissing—was so not a part of the plan.
In the wave of flashing lights, Chad growled low in his throat, and Bridget shuddered. “Don’t fight what you know you want,” he said in a low, seductive tone.
“You have no idea what I want,” she replied, but damn it, what she wanted was him between her thighs. But not like this—not when they were pretending.
His lips made another sweep, but this time he caught her lower lip with his teeth, and she gasped. Heat exploded through her every last nerve ending and like before, her body won out over her head. He took full advantage, slipping his tongue in, taking complete control within seconds. His hand traveled up to the nape of her neck and held her there as his mouth was hot and demanding, slanted across her lips. At that moment, she wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Oh Lordie Lord no. Her knees were weak and the muscles in her belly did tight, funny things.
The kiss went on, and it was how it should be. Not rushed in the heat of the moment. Not an act to prove that there was attraction. It was an unhurried, playful, and measured seductive assault that left her senses reeling.
Chad lifted his mouth a hairsbreadth from hers. “Tell me how Miss Gore got you to do this.”
“It wasn’t blackmail,” she said, toying with her bracelet. Then she remembered what Miss Gore had said to her and wasn’t sure what provoked her to say what she did next. Maybe it was how he said she wasn’t like the girls he normally went for. Or maybe it was how breathless and dazed the kiss had left her and how she knew that kind of response was going to get her into nothing but trouble. “Going out with you is really going to increase the dating pool for me in the future, right? Guys are going to want to know what I have that caught your interest.”
Chad stared at her a long moment and then said, “Right.”
The valet appeared with Chad’s keys in his hand before she could take the words back. God, that came out sounding as horrible as it had when Miss Gore had said it.
She was barely aware of the cameras going off when the passenger door was held open for her and she slid into the front seat. In a daze, she placed her fingers to her lips as Chad loped around the front of the car and climbed in.
The playfulness was gone from his movements when he got into the Jeep. His jaw was set in a hard, firm line. He didn’t look at her. He didn’t say anything, in fact, as he shifted the gears into drive.
Bridget turned away from him, having no idea what to say. She wanted to apologize but wasn’t sure there really was a point. And besides, for a moment, a blind, stupid moment when his mouth had been against hers, she had forgotten what was really going on. That she wasn’t the kind of woman Chad preferred and that he, like her, had no choice in this.
This was so wrong, and she really had no idea how they could do this without tearing each other’s heads off. Or how long she could last knowing every hand held, every kiss for the cameras, was faked.
“You’re dating Chad?” shrieked Madison.
Bridget hated lying to her, but she knew if she told the truth, Madison would tell Chase. “Yeah, something like that.”
Buzzing back and forth between their two desks, Madison was like a cracked-out hummingbird. “I can’t believe it.”
“Neither can I,” Bridget muttered dryly. After their first dinner last night, she’d gone home in a mood worse than when she’d left. And she’d still been starving.
“I mean, not that I can’t picture you with Chad. I can. But I just can’t picture him settling down.” She paused halfway between the desks and frowned. “Then again, I couldn’t picture Chase settling down, either, but he did.”
“This is nothing like you and Chase.” Bridget started color-coding her Highlighters. “Anyway, did we get final numbers on the catering yet?”
Madison was not derailed by the more important conversation. They’d been working on the Gala since last February. The damn thing had consumed both their lives and now Chad was consuming hers. “What do you mean, it’s not like Chase and me?”
Moving the pink Highlighters next to the green ones, she sighed. “It’s just not serious. Not like you guys.”
Madison stopped in front of Bridget’s desk and propped her hands on her hips. “Okay, when’s the last time you had a boyfriend or was dating someone?”
“Exactly,” Madison said and then resumed her pacing. “You dating Chad is serious. It can’t be anything less than serious. Did you see the Washington Post online this morning? There were pictures of you two kissing.” She picked a pen up off her desk and threw it at Bridget. “Kissing! I’m pretty sure it’s on CeleBuzz, too. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”