And Chad—she had been really turned on by him, which proved she had no common sense, but at least her vagina was still fully functioning.
Robert was missing a certain element. An element that even Bridget had a hard time naming, but knew it would speak to her when she saw it. Sad thing was when she met Chad at that damn club a month ago, it really had spoken to her with a bullhorn.
She’d taken two steps and Robert’s head popped out from behind drab gray walls. His blond hair was a bit shaggy, framing a boyish face. “Hey there, Miss Rodgers…” His gaze dropped. “New shoes?”
If only she was attracted to him, Robert would be perfect. He noticed things like shoes. “Why, yes, I got them a week ago.”
“Very nice,” he said, sitting back. “On the way to lunch?”
She realized he might’ve been hamming for an invite and so did Madison, who was already opening her big mouth. “Thank you,” she cut in quickly. “I’ll see you when I get back.”
She hurried past, feeling like one giant bitch for doing so, but she’d rather feel that way than lead the guy on or end up in an awkward moment where he inevitably asked her out and she gave some lame excuse like she was washing her cat’s hair that night.
In the elevator, Madison turned narrowed eyes on Bridget. “You could’ve invited him, you know.”
“I know.” She folded her arms.
Chase leaned against the wall, tipping his head back. “Why didn’t you?”
“Because Robert likes Bridget,” Madison explained, finishing up the buttons on her jacket. “And Bridget likes pens.”
“Pens?” Chase echoed.
Bridget rolled her eyes. “Pens are by far more stimulating than most people.”
“I’m kind of wondering what you’re doing with those pens,” Chase said.
Madison scrunched up her nose. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“My mind is always in the gutter around you.”
And there they went again, inching closer and closer, arms going around each other, kissy sounds and all. Bridget closed her eyes and let out a low breath. Being around them was like standing next to two horny teenagers.
Damn, she was jealous.
The elevator couldn’t move fast enough, and she was surprised Chase and Madison didn’t end up having sex in the thing. A bit of the glass walls were fogged up, though.
Brisk November wind cooled Bridget’s cheeks as they dodged businessmen carrying briefcases and tourists with fanny packs. Off in the distance, the Washington Monument rose like one giant…phallic symbol.
Men and their architectural toys…
Weird looks were sent their way, ones that either Madison or Chase ignored or didn’t see, but Bridget saw every one of them. A red cardigan typically didn’t go well with a pink-and-white-striped skirt and colorful heels and white tights, but Bridget’s oddball fashion sense wasn’t anything new. More like a reject from the eighties to be exact, but she’d always been this way, throwing clothes together, mix-matching designs like a trendy Euro-trash designer.
Her mother believed it was some kind of psychological misdirection enabling Bridget to protect herself from getting hurt. Eye. Roll. She just liked colors and really wished her mother were in any career, even stripping, instead of psychology.
Nothing beats getting diagnosed over Thanksgiving dinner.
Halfway there, Chase dug out his cell and chuckled, drawing both their attentions. He texted something back and then bent down, brushing his lips across Maddie’s forehead.
Two blocks down from the Mall, they dipped into the trendy new diner. Warm air greeted them, as did the faint smell of grease and pricey food. The place was crowded, which made squeezing between the round tables tricky.
“Are we going to get a seat?” Bridget asked, hoping the blister she was getting on the back of her foot wasn’t in vain.
Chase nodded. “I called ahead. We got a booth out back.”
A frown puckered Madison’s face. “I thought this place didn’t do reservations?”
Of course, Bridget realized, no establishment in town would refuse Chase or any of the Gamble brothers. Besides the politicians and drug dealers, the Gamble brothers ran this town.
The roomy booth in the back, caddy corner to a not so surprisingly busy bar, was big enough to seat six comfortably. Madison and Chase took up one side while Bridget slid into the opposite seat, thankful she loathed jackets as she watched Madison mutter under her breath, stand again, and then take off her jacket. A server swung by their table, dropping off plastic-covered menus and taking their drink orders.
“Can I get another water?” Chase asked, spreading an arm along the back of the booth. “We have one more person joining us.”
“Sure,” the waitress replied, smiling.
“We do?” Madison asked once the waitress dashed away to fill the order.
The strangest feeling washed over Bridget. Kind of felt like someone had poked her in the stomach a couple of times as she stared at Chase, praying to every God she knew that he wasn’t going to say what she was fearing.
Chase flipped the menu over. “Yeah, it’s a good thing Richard—”
“Robert,” Madison corrected.
“Didn’t get invited, because Chad texted me on the way here. He’s just a block down, and he’s going to grab something to eat with us.”
Bridget stopped breathing. And then she lost her appetite, just like that. Vanished, replaced by knots twisted more times than a Celtic loop.
Oh no, no no no…this could not be happening.
When she had dashed out of Chad’s luxurious apartment, sans panties, she figured that would be the last she’d see of him in person. They really didn’t run in the same circles, and she had sworn off sexy bars in her future.
She felt sick.
“Great,” Madison said, leaning back against the seat. “Let’s see how long he goes before he gets his picture taken or asked for an autograph.”
The smile that crossed Chase’s face was full of pride. “Hey, he’s the star. Recognize.”
Bridget stopped listening to them as she glanced back through the restaurant and eyed the door. She couldn’t be here. No way was she eating lunch with Chad. Panic blossomed in her belly and crawled up her throat. Good God, she hadn’t even told Shell about what happened, much less Maddie.
There was a good chance she was going to hurl.
What if he recognized her?
What if he didn’t recognize her?
She didn’t know which would be worse.
“Bridget, are you okay?” Concern radiated from Madison’s voice.
Nodding absently, she grabbed her purse. “Yeah, but I just remembered I had this phone call at the office. I…I better get back.”
Madison frowned. “What phone call?”
Uh, yeah, what phone call? “I need to check in with the catering company about desserts for the gala event.”
Madison’s eyes narrowed. “I thought we were waiting to hear back from them.”
Bridget started to stand. “Oh, yeah, but I wanted to call them—” She cut herself off. Her boss was giving her a look that said, Sit down and stop acting weird, and really, bolting on lunch would just look crazy.
“Never mind,” Bridget said, fixing a smile on her face. “It can wait.”
Madison stared at her a moment longer and then went back to chatting up Chase.
Life could be so unbelievably cruel.
For the last month, she had wrestled with what she had done and didn’t do with Chad. Part of her was glad she had left before the man wised up and regretted bringing her home, but the other part, the one that operated purely on memories, rehashed the way he’d kissed and touched her over and over again. For a straight month she replayed it, unable to shake the feelings he had awakened in her and wishing she had more memories to linger over.
God, she couldn’t even think about this right now.
When the drinks arrived, she swallowed a gulp, wishing there were some vodka in her diet soda. She needed to try to leave again. Had to. “Madison, I forgot—”
A low rumble from the front of the restaurant cut off Bridget and any hope she had of making a clean getaway. She didn’t have to look to know that he was there. All the commotion was for him. Ball players were like gods in their hometowns.
She dropped her hands to her lap and continued staring at the menu, but when Chase greeted his brother, she had no control over herself. Not looking was like going against nature.
Worn jeans hung low from a tapered waist and the long-sleeved shirt he wore stretched taut over a stomach she knew you could do a nation’s worth of laundry on. Like the other two Gamble brothers, he had shoulders a girl could hold on to. Shoulders that could bear the brunt of anything you threw his way. He had a body that was meant for sex.
She really shouldn’t think of sex right now.
His attention was on whatever Chase was saying, and she was sure he hadn’t even noticed her yet. Why would he when the waitress suddenly appeared out of freaking nowhere, popping a hand on a nonexistent hip as she stared up at him like he was on the appetizer menu. Bridget couldn’t blame her. His easy grin made her stomach flutter as he took the menu from the waitress, his long fingers brushing hers as he did so.
“There’s a water for you,” the waitress said, her cheeks flushed and eyes bright. “Would you like something else?”
Chad shook his head. “Nope, that’s perfect. Thank you.”
Bridget bit down on her lower lip at the sound of his deep, smooth voice and told herself to look away, but now she couldn’t. She stared at him like she was nine kinds of crazy, part of her willing him to look away and another part hoping he disappeared.
“Are you sure?” the waitress asked, batting lashes like she was having a seizure. “I’ll be more than happy to get you something a bit tastier.”
Madison choked on her drink.
“Water is fine, but thank you,” Chad said, polite as ever. And then he added, “But I’ll keep your offer in mind.”
Bridget sighed, totally foreseeing an exchange of numbers in their future.
Finally, the waitress disappeared with a promise to be back to get their orders and an extra swing in her hips.
“Can’t take you anywhere,” Chase said, grinning.
Chad chuckled. “Whatever.”
And then he reached toward Madison, no doubt about to ruffle her hair, but she jerked back, eyes narrowed. “Do that and you won’t be making the waitress’s dreams come true anytime soon.”
Her threat was no deterrent, though, and he managed to mess up her hair before Chase stepped in, threatening to do bodily harm.
Bridget was slowly sinking into the cushion, keeping her hands still tightly clasped. Maybe he would never notice her. Seemed probable, since he hadn’t looked in her direction once, but then Chase had to open his mouth.
“Oh, you haven’t met Bridget, have you?” Chase nodded in her direction, and she felt her eyes go saucer-size wide. “She works with Madison.”
Oh God, oh God, oh God…