I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but even from that first day, I could tell who was who. It might sound like new-age nonsense, but maybe it was their auras. Where Duke was all playful and mischievous energy, Luke was all brooding, masculine intensity. The sexy stranger captured my attention from the first moment I saw him, even though I needed a man like I needed a new Louis Vuitton bag.
A few minutes later, Luke made his way into the kitchen and Duke excused himself, leaving us alone.
“Morning,” Luke murmured, his gaze traveling the length of my bare legs.
“Come here,” I told him. “I’ve got something to show you.”
I tugged him toward the kitchen table, and over coffee, laid out my marketing plan. Luke sat back with a slight grin on his lips, listening attentively to every word.
“I’m impressed that you saw straight through Duke’s game,” he said.
My gaze flicked up to meet his. “I’d never make that mistake now that . . .”
“Now that what, duchess? I’ve been inside you?”
His voice was low and seductive, and a hot shiver raced through me. I lifted my chin, waiting for the press of his lips against mine.
“I’m just getting started,” he whispered, treating me to a tender kiss.
Last night had been magical. Making love under the stars, and the way Luke took care of all my pleasure first before seeking his own. It was incredible.
Part of me wanted to pretend that this was real, but the looming end of my stay here was quickly approaching. And the past I was on the run from . . . Well, I had a bad feeling that it would catch up to me sooner or later.
“I could listen to you talk business all day, duchess.”
I grinned at Luke. “Good, because I’m just getting started too.”
I could have listened to Charlotte ramble on all day long about search-engine optimization, whatever the hell that was. Seeing how passionate she was about the whole marketing thing was a real turn-on. She’d worked on the plan while we ate pancakes that morning, and hadn’t let up since.
That was after I caught my brother trying to pull a fast one on her. After sneaking out of bed for a quick shower that morning, I went down to the kitchen and found her chatting with Duke while wearing one of my T-shirts like a nightgown.
The naturalness of the situation had stopped me in my tracks. Her long, toned legs peeking out from the shirt and her cute little bare feet on the hardwood floor were a sight I wouldn’t have minded seeing every day, but that wasn’t what we’d agreed to. Whatever we were doing here had an expiration date, and I needed to remember that.
I’d waited in the stairwell to remind myself that this couldn’t last when I heard them talking. Duke would never actually make a move on her—we had a bro code that forbade it. I knew he was just seeing how invested she was in whatever it was we had going on.
But when I heard her call him out on not being me from the get-go, the squeeze on my heart was unexpected. And the stroke to my ego was like a balm to my soul.
“I know the difference between a man who’s fucking with me and a man who’s actually fucked me. And your brother did a real good job.”
I’d fucked her, all right. And it was goddamn spectacular. I could still feel the tight squeeze of her around me. Just thinking about the past twenty-four hours had me ready to go again. If I only had Charlotte until her car was fixed, I was going to make the most of it. I’d let her eat and get a little work in first, though.
“They taught you all of this in college?” I asked, stopping her in mid-sentence.
“Some of it,” she said with a grin. “Marketing changes so much every year. Every day, even. A lot of it I picked up along the way or learned on the fly.”
“I’m impressed.” I placed my hand on hers.
The urge to sweep my hand across the table—clearing it dramatically of her paperwork—was strong. I’d already had her on the ground under the stars, and in my bed, so adding a table to the list seemed like a mighty fine idea.
“I actually learned a lot from watching my father,” she said.
Well, that abruptly put the brakes on the sexual nature of my thoughts. Nothing like the mention of dear old Dad to kill the mood. I nodded and told my dick to stand down.
“Not that he would ever know,” she added, “or even let me get a word in at his firm.”
“Why wouldn’t he want you to be a part of it? You’re smart, and like I said, you know your shit. Plus, you’re his daughter.”
She frowned. “Dad’s firm is a real boys’ club. I don’t think he even took me seriously when I majored in marketing. I spent a lot of time trying to impress him and gain his approval. I’m done with that, though. He was never going to make room for me at Freemont and Associates.”
“That’s ridiculous,” I told her, feeling overprotective. I knew a little bit about parents disappointing you.
Her dad sounded like a grade-A asshole, which went a long way toward explaining why she was packed up and headed for LA. How on earth her father couldn’t take her seriously was beyond me. I could see the frustration and disappointment in her eyes. Charlotte might have been trying to play it cool, but I could see the wound was still fresh.
“It’s his loss.”
“And your gain, Mr. Wilder,” she said playfully.
“Is it ever.” I rose up enough in my seat to lean over the table and plant my lips on hers. “You taste like maple syrup.”
When I flicked my tongue across her lips, she lifted her eyebrows. “You wanna take that bottle up to your room and have a little fun?”
“That sounds like a real good idea. But didn’t you say something about needing to check in with Wayne?”
“Oh, yeah.” She deflated a little, looking disappointed. “I totally forgot about my car.”
I wished I’d forgotten.
She picked up her phone from the table as I sat back down. After a quick swipe of her finger and a couple of taps, she put it up to her ear.
“Hello, this is Charlotte Freemont. I was calling to touch base with Wayne about my car.” There was a pause as she listened. “So, he’s out for the day?” She nodded a couple of times. “All right then. Thank you.”
“No go?” I said, hoping the answer was just that.
“No go. Apparently, there’s some kind of game tonight, and he’s taken the day off to prepare.”
Of course. Tonight was the first game of the high school football season.
“Yeah, the Stallions kick off tonight at seven. Wayne’s kid is a senior this year. I’m sure he’s on the starting roster.”
She scratched her head and wrinkled her nose. She had no idea what I was talking about.
“Shady Grove High School has their first game tonight,” I explained. “Everyone in town treats it as a holiday. Football is a big deal around here, if you haven’t figured that out yet.”
“I guess so. You taking me to the game tonight?”
“You want to go?”
I was surprised, especially when she hadn’t complained about Wayne’s incompetence or the fact that her car still wasn’t ready. And now she wanted to go to a football game with me? This girl sure knew how to keep me on my toes.
“I think I do.” She nodded. “What time does it start?”
“Seven. That give you enough to primp?” I teased.
“More than enough.”
She slipped from her seat and walked over to me. When she planted her perfect ass on my lap and wrapped her arms around my neck, she had my full attention.
“In fact,” she said in a low voice, “that’s more than enough time.”
She ran her mouth up my jawline before taking the lobe of my ear between her lips and sucking gently. I swallowed hard as every drop of my blood rushed south.
“Why don’t you grab that bottle and meet me upstairs, Mr. Wilder.”
The purr of her words had my head spinning, but I wasn’t completely dumbstruck. When she hopped up off my lap and started for the stairs, I grabbed the syrup bottle and followed her.
We had a few hours to kill before kickoff, and enough syrup to make each of them sweeter than the last.