We met at a wedding—him sitting on the groom’s side, me sitting on the bride’s. Stealing glances at each other throughout the night, there was no denying an intense, mutual attraction. We ended up back in my hotel room. The next morning, I headed home to New York leaving him behind in California with the wrong number.
A year later, Hunter and I met again. Our attraction hadn't dulled one bit. He demanded a real phone number this time. So I left him with my mother’s—she could scare away any man with her talks of babies and marriage—and flew back home. I’d thought it was funny, until the crazy, gorgeous man won over my mother and took an eight-week assignment in my city. What did I have to lose? It’s just sex, not love.
Life isn’t about the big win. It’s about the person you call first to tell that you’ve won.
Age Rating: 18+
“Do you think there’s any correlation between intelligence and being good in bed?” I inhaled from the tiny remnant of rolled-up paper and held it in my lungs as I passed the joint to my best friend.
At least this round I didn’t choke and cough for five minutes. Neither of us had smoked pot in ten years, not since high school.
It seemed fitting to mark the official end of our childhood by lighting up what Anna had confiscated from her sixteen-year-old brother yesterday.
“I’m about to marry a man who creates robots that can learn how to think. Of course I’m going to say smart guys are better in bed. I mean, Derek can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than thirty seconds.
“A vagina is a lot less complicated.”
“His friend Adam’s sweet. But he spent the last hour talking to me about some algorithm he’s building for an artificial intelligence robot named Lindsey.
“My only contribution to the conversation was alternating between wow and that’s fascinating. Can you tell Derek he needs to find stupider friends?”
Anna inhaled and spoke while trying not to exhale, causing her voice to rise two octaves.
“He went to MIT and works at a tech firm—not much of a pool of stupid people to pick from.” She bumped her shoulder with mine. “That’s why I need you to move out here.
“I can’t handle being surrounded by smart people all the time.”
“Very nice.” I sighed. “At least Adam is sort of cute.”
“So, I take it you’ll be breaking your dry spell tonight?”
“Maybe tomorrow night after the wedding.” I smirked. “If he’s lucky. I’m still on New York time. Tonight I’ll be ready to go to bed alone by the time they serve dessert.”
The bride-to-be and I were hiding from the rest of the rehearsal dinner guests behind an ivy-covered lattice arch in the courtyard of the restaurant.
A deep, throaty voice scared the heck out of me, and I almost knocked the damn thing over.
“He’d be the lucky one, huh? Do you look as good from the front as you do the back, or are you just full of yourself?”
“Who the hell…?” I turned to find a man walking toward us in the dark. “Why don’t you mind your own damn business?”
The guy took a few more strides and stepped into the overhead spotlight Anna and I had attempted to avoid. My eyes nearly bulged from my head. He was gorgeous.
Tall, damn tall—I was five foot four and had on five-inch heels and still had to crane my neck to look up at him.
He had dark, sexy hair that looked like it could use a haircut but totally worked for him.
Tanned skin, carved square jaw, a five o’clock shadow that probably grew back in two hours from all the testosterone this guy exuded.
His eyes were a light blue that popped out from his dark complexion, and tiny crow’s feet flawed the skin around his eyes in a way that made me think he smiled often. And that smile.
It wasn’t really a full smile—more of a crooked, cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smirk.
The entire package of man was a lot to take in at once. But while I stood there speechless, Anna threw her arms around his neck.
I hoped she knew him and wasn’t just more wasted than I thought.
“Hunter! You made it.”
“Of course I did. I wouldn’t miss my best buddy tying the knot with his girl. Sorry I’m so late.
“I was up in Sacramento on business and had to rent a car and drive back when they canceled my flight this afternoon.”
The gorgeous eavesdropper turned his attention to me. Starting at my feet, he did a slow, incredibly rude, yet seductive sweep over my body.
My nipples hardened while I watched his afternoon-blue-sky eyes darken to hazy sunset as they traveled all over me.
When he was done, our gazes met. “Yep, you do.”
Reading the confused look on my face, Hunter clued me in. “You look as good from the front as you do from the back. You’re right. Whoever you’re planning on sleeping with is damn lucky.”
My mouth hung open. I couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy…yet my skin was beginning to tingle.
“Adam,” Anna offered. “He’s her partner in the wedding. She’s going to sleep with Adam tomorrow night.”
Hunter extended his hand to me with a nod. “Hunter Delucia. Got a name, beautiful? Or should I just call you the Adam-fucker?”
For some inexplicable reason, I knew in the pit of my stomach that putting my hand in his was a bad idea. My body and his should never touch, not even once. Yet I did it anyway.
“Nat Rossi,” I said, giving him my hand.
“Nat? Is that short for something?”
“Natalia. But no one calls me that.”
He smiled again. “Very nice to meet you, Natalia.”
Hunter kept my hand cupped in his as he turned his attention back to Anna. “And why is Adam paired up with the beautiful Natalia and not me?”
My friend snorted. She was definitely stoned. “Because you two would kill each other.”
He seemed to like that answer. His eyes crinkled, and he returned his gaze to me. “Is that so?”
I felt electricity zapping between us, although something told me this was electricity harnessed from lightning in a storm.
The last time I’d felt a physical reaction so strong to anyone was when I met Garrett. My delicate heart still had a hole in it from that lightning bolt.
“Do you remember when Derek’s brother Andrew lost his job and was having a hard time in social situations?” Anna asked him.
“He started to stay in too often, and I was nervous he was turning into an agoraphobe?”
“Yeah,” Hunter said. “I remember. It was a few years back.”
“I suggested he find a therapist to work with, help him get over a difficult time and his fears. And what did you say?”
“I said you were nuts, and he needed a swift kick in his lazy ass and a job.”
Anna smiled. “Nat here is a behavioral therapist. She visits people with anxiety disorders and works on breaking the habits that cause them stress.”
His brows rose. “That’s an actual thing?”
I slipped my hand from his. “It is. I work mostly with people who have obsessive-compulsive disorders.”
“Well, whatta you know? I thought you were making that shit up.”
“Hunter is a builder,” Anna continued. “He builds large projects like shopping malls.
“You know, the kind where they need to clear the land of all the trees to build a mile of Gap, Baby Gap, and Abercrombies.
“He built the one that took over part of the park we used to go to uptown as kids—Medley Park. He and Derek grew up together.
“They don’t get to see each other often because Hunter travels around the country for months at a time on projects.”
Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome seemed proud of that résumé.
I offered him a sugary smile. “I loved that park. Good job blowing up the carbon footprint of the Upper East Side and desecrating our environment.”
“Tree hugger, huh? Sounds like Anna’s right. We might kill each other if we were partners.”
“Mmm…I want cheesecake. Are you thirsty? I’m so thirsty.”
Yep. Anna was definitely stoned. “We haven’t even had dinner yet,” I pointed out.
“Who cares? Let’s go get some dessert. Come on!” Licking her lips, she started back into the restaurant without us.
Hunter chuckled. “It was nice to meet you, Natalia. And if things don’t work out with that boring shit, Adam, I’m in room 315 at the hotel.” He winked and leaned down to whisper in my ear.
“We might kill each other, but fucking to death is the way I want to go.”
“Are these seats taken?”
Adam and I were just finishing dessert when Hunter walked over and pointed to two empty chairs across from us. The couple inhabiting them had skipped out a few minutes ago.
“Yes,” I lied.
Adam was kind enough to correct me. “Actually, Eric and Kim were sitting there. They just said goodbye two minutes ago, remember, Nat?”
A wide, gloating smile spread across Hunter’s face. He pulled out a chair for his wedding partner and seated himself directly across from me. “This is Cassie.
“She’s a tech goddess—graduated from Caltech. Have you met Adam, Cassie?”
Adam’s interest piqued. “We met briefly this afternoon, but I hadn’t realized you were in tech. I’m MIT. I work with Derek over at Clique in robotics programming.”
Conversation between Adam and Cassie took off like a runaway train. Neither of them even noticed the scowl I shot at the architect of this match made in geek heaven.
I leaned forward and smiled, speaking through my teeth. “I know what you’re doing.”
Hunter sat back in his seat with an ear-to-ear pompous grin. “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”
“It’s not going to work.”
“Whatever you say. But I’m here if you need an alternate later.”
I finished off the coffee in my cup and adjusted the front of my dress to reveal a healthy amount of cleavage. Then I took my napkin from the table and discreetly dropped it on the floor.
Picking up my fork, I scooped up a small piece of cheesecake and accidentally dropped it onto my cleavage.
Hunter watched the entire show with interest.
Leaning in, I wrapped my hand around Adam’s bicep. “Do you have a napkin? They must’ve taken mine when they cleared dinner, and I seem to have made a mess.”
Being a gentleman, Adam excused himself from his conversation and turned to give me his attention. His eyes dropped to the cheesecake, and I knew instantly that I’d won.
Triumph roared from my smile as I allowed the techie to help me clean off. Hunter’s scowl felt like a victory.
To be honest, during dinner I’d decided I wasn’t sleeping with Adam anyway—I needed some sort of physical chemistry with a man, even for a one-night stand. But I enjoyed screwing with Hunter anyway.
“I’m a butterfingers when I’m tired,” I said to Adam. “I’m still on New York time. I think I’m going to head back to the hotel.”
“I’ll join you,” he promptly replied. Cassie who?
Hunter didn’t give up easily—I’d give him that much.
He stood. “I have a car here. I can give you two a ride. Are you ready to go, Cass? The four of us are all at the Carlisle, I’m assuming?”
I flashed Mr. Persistent my pearly whites and hooked my arm through Adam’s. “I have my rental car here, so Adam and I are good. Thank you so much for the offer, though, Tanner.”
“Right.” I smiled.
The hotel was only a mile up the road. As we entered, I spotted a few familiar faces—friends of the groom—in the lobby bar. The party seemed to have moved from the rehearsal dinner to the hotel.
As we passed, one of the guys I recognized yelled for Adam to join them for a drink.
He looked to me before answering. “What do you say? You up for a nightcap?”
“I’m actually wiped out—time difference and all. But you go. Have fun.”
“Positive. I’ll be sleeping before my head hits the pillow.”
Adam gave me a quick hug goodnight, and I headed to the elevator alone.
I really was exhausted.
Anna and Derek had reserved the top floor of suites for guests traveling in from out of town, and I’d forgotten that I needed to insert my room key into the little slot on the elevator panel to gain access to the floor.
After pushing the button a few times, I finally realized and dug into my purse to find the swipe card. I was preoccupied with the search until I heard that voice.
My head flew up to find Hunter standing in front of me with a shit-eating grin.
“Me,” he said.
I looked around his wide, imposing frame. “Where’s your partner?”
He winked. “Left her at the bar with yours, so the two of them can get to know each other.”
“Won’t you be lonely, then?” I said with sarcasm.
“I might. But I can think of a way to fix that.”
“Going to take matters into your own hands, huh?”
I finally located my room key in my messy purse. Hunter chuckled and took it from my hand to slip into the slot. Of course we were on the same floor since we were part of the same wedding.
When the doors slid closed, the elevator suddenly seemed very small. It didn’t help that Hunter hadn’t bothered to turn around when we started to move. He faced me, standing very close.
My body definitely took note of the proximity.
“Don’t you have any elevator etiquette?” I asked. “Turn around and stare at the numbers like a normal person.”
“Why would I waste my time looking at that when the view is so much nicer facing this direction?”
“I’m not sleeping with you, you know.”
“Why not? You were gonna sleep with Adam.”
“I’ve met Adam before. He’s a nice guy.”
“I’m a nice guy.”
“I don’t know you.”
Hunter slipped his hands into his pockets. “Hunter Delucia, age twenty-nine, single, never been married, no kids. Went to Berkeley for undergraduate and grad school.
“Degree in architectural engineering. Grew up next door to Derek, been friends since we were in the carriage. He’ll vouch for me as a decent guy.”
“Own a home in Idyllwild, about an hour from the happy couple, with no mortgage. I also built it myself and have lots of trees on my property—that should get me extra points, by the way.”
“Last doctor’s appointment was a month ago—clean as a whistle. And, most importantly…” He took a step closer to me; our bodies were practically touching. “I think you’re extremely sexy.”
“There’s some insane chemistry here, and I think we should explore it.”
I swallowed. Luckily, the elevator dinged, and the doors slid open on the top floor. Needing some air that didn’t smell like Hunter Delucia, I sidestepped around the tree of a man and exited.
He followed right behind me. When I abruptly stopped, realizing I was going the wrong way, he walked right into me. His hands caught me, fingers pressing into my hips to stop me from falling forward.
“Wooo. You okay?”
“What the hell? You almost knocked me over.”
“You stopped short.”
“If you weren’t up my ass, you wouldn’t have walked into me.”
We were still standing in the middle of the hall, and he still had a firm grip on my hips...and it felt really good. God, it had been a long time for me. More than two years.
Those fingers squeezed a little harder, and his head dipped to whisper next to my ear. “You smell incredible.”
A fire burned under his touch. I shut my eyes. Hmmm.... He and Derek have been friends since they were little. He can’t be that bad of a guy. Maybe—
Thankfully, the other elevator saved me from doing something stupid. A few of Derek’s friends stepped off and didn’t seem to notice what was going on between Hunter and me.
“Hey, Delucia!” An arm wrapped around his shoulder. “Shots in our room.”
I shook some sense back into my head and used the opportunity to escape, practically running down the hall toward my room. Of course, my room had to be the last one at the end.
Hunter yelled my name as I fumbled to get the key in the door. I ignored him and rushed inside. Leaning against the closed door, I let out a breath of relief.
What the hell am I doing? Get a grip, Nat. Literally running away from a man instead of just declining his offer or telling him to screw off?
But something about this man made me feel restless and nervous—like I needed to run the other direction.
A soft knock at the door I was still leaning against made me jump.
Why the hell did he have to call me that? “I’m sleeping.”
I heard him chuckle. “Just wanted to tell you, my room is right next door. Even the hotel thinks we should sleep together.”
I shook my head, but smiled. “Goodnight, Hunter.”
“’Night, Natalia. Can’t wait to see you tomorrow.”