A patron of the restaurant stopped by their table, towing along a young boy wearing a Nationals ball cap. Chad was surprised to see the kid, since he was at the age where he should’ve been in school.
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but we’re huge fans.” The father clapped a hand down on his son’s skinny shoulder. “Steven would love if you signed his cap.”
Some of the players would be bothered by these kinds of things or charge a fee for it, but Chad thought they were giant douches. Smiling, he nodded. “Sure. I don’t have anything to sign with, though.”
The waitress appeared out of nowhere, presenting a permanent marker. “I’m a huge fan, too,” she whispered, winking.
He bet she was a different kind of fan.
Taking the marker, he waited for the boy to remove the cap. The boy hesitated and when he finally did, Chad saw why the kid wasn’t in school. Silence fell over the table. The pretty waitress cast her eyes to the ground as Steven inched closer to the table. His head was completely bald and pale white, obviously a side effect of chemotherapy.
Signing a ball cap wasn’t enough, but he flipped the cap over and scrawled his name along the back. While he tried to write a decent signature, he sensed Bridget lean forward and he looked up.
“You’re a fan of Batman?” she asked, gesturing at his shirt with her hand.
Steven nodded tentatively.
Bridget smiled, and oh, hell, there was something about that smile—something that he’d forgotten or been too horny when they’d met at the club to notice, but it was breathtaking. Lighting up her jade-colored eyes and placing two dimples in her cheeks.
She was beautiful.
“Batman is my favorite, too,” she said. “He’s way cooler than Superman.”
The little boy warmed up, grinning a little. “Batman can’t fly, but he has better weapons.”
“He does!” she exclaimed, eyes dancing. “Comic? Movie?”
“Movie,” the boy answered.
“Oh, I don’t know about that.” Bridget looked somber. “The comic is way better.”
During the exchange, Chad watched her in awe. No one at the table, including him, had known what to say or do. Fuck, the waitress was still staring at the floor like it held the cure for cancer, but Bridget had jumped right in, setting the boy at ease. He also wondered if she really did read comics. Intriguing. Wait. There was that damn word again. Stopping himself right there, he didn’t find it intriguing. Yeah, he was attracted to her on a near-animalistic level. Had been when he first met her and had wanted her—still did—but that was as far as he went with women. Settling down or being intrigued was what his team wanted for him, not what Chad wanted.
Handing the cap back to the boy, Chad smiled. “There you go, kiddo.”
“T-Thank you, Mr. Gamble.” Steven placed the cap back on, pulling it down low.
“No problem. I hope to see you at a game in the spring.”
“You betcha,” Steven said, tugging on his father’s hand. “Can we? Please?”
“First game of the season,” he replied, shooting Chad a grateful smile before ushering the boy off and back to the table.
In his absence, the waitress placed the checks on the table. When the receipts came, as expected, there was a telephone number on Chad’s slip of paper.
Bridget saw it and smirked.
Chad’s eyes narrowed.
As the four of them headed out of the restaurant, Chad discreetly tossed his receipt in the trash.
Heavy, thick clouds had moved in, no doubt bringing cold, bitter rain. Damn, he hated November. Give him snow or give him sun.
“We still on for tonight?” Chase asked, swinging an arm around Maddie.
Wednesday night was poker night. Chad kept his gaze on Bridget, who was trying to very unsuccessfully disappear behind the couple. “I’ll be there at seven.”
Maddie broke free and gave Chad a quick hug. “Don’t be a stranger, rock star.”
He squeezed her back and then patted her on the head, knowing how much she hated that. “See you later, midget.”
Through the good-byes, he hadn’t taken his eyes off Bridget. She was inching away, a bright and false smile plastered on her face as she clasped the handle of her purse in front of her like some kind of shield.
When Chase and Maddie turned to head back toward the Mall, Chad slipped up behind Bridget, wrapping his hand around her arm in a gentle but firm grip. She stopped, and her eyes shot wide. Before she could open her mouth, Chad cut in.
“Hey Maddie, I’m going to keep your friend for a few minutes, okay?”
Maddie looked over her shoulder, brows furrowing. “I don’t know if I want to leave her with you.”
Taking that good-naturedly, he grinned. “I promise I’ll return her just as she was.”
She glanced at Bridget, who gave a resigned sigh and nodded. Maddie smiled—the kind of smile that Chad knew all too well. Poor Bridget was going to have a field day when she got back to the office.
“Take your time,” Maddie called, and then turned back around, looping her arm through Chase’s.
Chad watched them stroll down the ever-busy Constitution Avenue. “They make such a cute couple, don’t they?”
Bridget stepped back under the awning of a closed arts dealer shop, and he followed, keeping his hand on her arm. She blinked several times, those crazy-long lashes fanning her flushed cheeks. Damn. He’d remembered her because he couldn’t forget her, but his memories hadn’t done her justice.
She drew in a deep breath. “Look, I really need to get—”
Lowering his head so their faces were mere inches apart, he enjoyed the soft intake of breath. “Did you really think you were going to escape me twice, Bridget?”
Never in her life had she suffered through a more awkward lunch, and there was no end in sight. Did she plan on escaping Chad again? Well, yes. Was it working?
Her gaze dropped to where his large hand practically swallowed her arm. She could feel the heat rolling off his powerfully coiled body as if she were basking in the sun instead of standing in chilly wind.
Nope. Her plans for escape sure weren’t working.
She raised her eyes, meeting the deep blue hue of his. The feral, possessive look in his stare made her hot and shivery. Having seen that look in his eyes before, she wetted her lips. “So, you remember me?”
“Remember you?” he repeated, brows lowering. God, he was good-looking. As much as she hated to think it, there was no doubt in her mind he would end up on People’s list again this year. “How could I forget you?”
Her heart tripped over itself and her mouth dried. “Then why did you act like you didn’t know who I was?” she accused.
“Why did you say we only met briefly and it wasn’t a big deal?”
Bridget bristled. “It wasn’t like I was going to say, ‘Oh, I met him at a club rumored to be a sex club.’ That’s kind of private, you know. Anyway, I’m sure there are a lot of women you’ve met at that club, so why would I think I would’ve stuck out to you?”
Letting go of her arm but not moving away, he placed a hand against the brick wall beside her head. She wondered what they looked like to people passing by. It would only be a matter of time before someone recognized him.
“There’s only one person who made a daring escape before the real fun got started.”
She flushed. Real fun? Dear God…
He cocked his head to the side, eyes narrowing. “For a month, I’ve been dying to know why you ran.” He paused, waiting. “Don’t you remember the details?”
She closed her eyes. No matter how hard she tried, the details of that night had refused to be forgotten. To this day, she couldn’t fathom how someone like him, a freaking god among men, would’ve been interested in her or even cared to know why she’d left.
“I’m more than happy to remind you,” Chad offered. “You left while I was in the bathroom. I came out and you were gone. No note. No good-bye. Nothing.”
“And if I remember correctly,” he said, his voice lowering to a low, sexy whisper, “I made you come twice before you ran off, so it wasn’t like you weren’t enjoying yourself and then some.”
Oh God, her body went hot, but not because of embarrassment. The heat was from the memories his words provoked. The man’s fingers weren’t just skilled at handling a baseball, and his mouth…
“So, I’ll ask again. Why did you leave?”
Why had she left like the very devil was snapping at her heels? It wasn’t the dark, sensual promise in his cerulean eyes. Or what he had said to her. It was the wakeup call that came in the form of a text message from an incredibly beautiful Russian supermodel.
Bridget had long since accepted that she’d never be one of those women who could ever be considered petite. And normally her confidence didn’t waver, but Chad had to be the kind of man who was used to tight and trim bodies. And when she saw the gossip section that following Sunday and a picture of him and those three women, she knew hightailing her behind out of there had been the right decision. Maybe Chad had been in the mood for something different that weekend, and the last thing she wanted to be was his experiment with buxom girls.
Looking away, she took a deep breath as a series of speeding taxis blew their horns. “Okay, maybe I shouldn’t have left without saying something,” she admitted. “But I’ve never done that before.”
“What? Had an earth-shattering orgasm?”
Geez, that was partly true, but damn, his arrogance knew no limit. She shook her head. “No. I never went home with a guy—”
“One-night stand?” he interrupted. Doubt clouding his tone. “You’ve never had a one-night stand?”
Bridget looked at him. She couldn’t help but be aware of how close their lips were. “It’s none of your business.”
“I’m about to make it my business,” he replied.
She couldn’t believe she was standing there with him, arguing over her sexual history. Stepping to the side, she said, “I have to get back to work. It was nice—”
Chad placed his free hand on the other side of her head, caging her in. She doubted she’d be able to slip under his arms. The look in his eyes said he might like it if she tried.
“I want to know why you ran,” he demanded again.
Frustration boiled over. Her chin jerked up in defiance. “Maybe I didn’t like the way you were ordering me around, telling me when to come and all.”
“You were enjoying what I was doing. Don’t even deny it.” Chad’s lips spread in a half grin. “I like to be dominant, Bridget. That shouldn’t come as a shock, given where we met.”
She couldn’t believe they were having this conversation on the side of the street, all out in the open and stuff.
“People who go to that bar…they know what kind of people frequent the place.” Chad paused. “Shit. You really have no idea what Leather and Lace is?”