For Business...Or Marriage?

By: Jules Bennett
One




“Ride it!”

Her body quivered, shook, bucked. Every muscle ached as she held on for the ride of her life. Nothing else mattered but holding out for the finish.

“Roll your hips.”

As if she had any other choice. Hips rolling, thighs burning, she nearly collapsed as she came to the end.

Thank God. The mechanical bull finally stopped.

The crowd roared and whistled.

“That, ladies and gentlemen, is a lady who can ride!” The DJ’s voice boomed through the crowd. “She stayed on for eleven seconds. Someone get this girl a beer.”

On shaky legs, Abby Morrison stomped over the red padded vinyl and hopped down onto the scarred, peanut-covered wood floor. Never in all her twenty-eight years had she ever done something so…silly, so fun.

She thought walking over the foam matting had been difficult, but now that she was on solid, stable ground, she was still having problems.

Hmm, maybe drinking two, no three, no—who knows how many margaritas and the two shots of mystery liquid the bartender had chosen was the problem. Oh well, after the day she’d had, she deserved a little fun. She needed to detach from reality, no matter how brief or how much she’d regret her decision in the morning.

Abby accepted the high fives as she wound her way through the thick crowd. She was just getting back to the bar, and the stool she’d warmed before taking a daring risk and mounting the bull, when a large, familiar hand clamped down on her shoulder.

Did he have to ruin everything today?

Her gaze trailed from the tan hand to the rolled cuff of a crisp, white shirt and on up to a set of coal-like, angry eyes. Eyes that were much more affectionate in her dreams and fantasies.

“Cade.” She smiled sweetly and looked him in the eyes—all four of them. “What are you doing here?”

“Saving you.”

He motioned for the bartender to hand over her keys and purse.

And that was what irked her about Cade Stone. The man didn’t even have to speak for people to jump at his command.

In the year that she’d known him, he’d maintained an aura of power combined with a sexy, lethal body all wrapped up in Italian suits. All he had to do was walk into a room and women swooned…and she was no exception. Damn it.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she declared, though if the invite was back to his house, she’d seriously reconsider. “But, if you want to stay, you can join me for a drink.”

“I think you’ve drunk enough for both of us tonight.”

With a forceful grip on her arm, he spun her toward the exit and out into the unusually cool spring evening.

“How did you find me?” Abby demanded as she stumbled behind the Neanderthal who was currently dragging her to his black Lincoln Navigator.

He opened the passenger door, tossed in her things, gripped her waist and hoisted her up and into the heated seat. “This was the first piece of property I sold when I got into real estate with Dad. The owner and I have remained friends.”

Figures. Who didn’t know the almighty and powerful Cade Stone? Not only that, Abby had yet to meet someone who didn’t jump through hoops to make Cade, and his brother, Brady, happy.

She tried to ignore the tingling on her body where he’d touched her hand, her waist. The shivering sensations were alcohol-induced—they had to be. She refused to believe her feelings for Cade were anything other than superficial.

How could she trust her instincts when she was, oh what was the word she was looking for? Oh, yes. Trashed.

“But why would he call you?” she asked, slapping his hand away as he attempted to fasten her seat belt.

Those charcoal eyes that haunted every fantasy, sleeping or awake, came up to meet hers. “He figured I didn’t want my assistant soused in public. He was right.”

The door slammed before she could think of a response or a defense. She settled into the warmth of the leather seat and shut her eyes as Cade got in and roared the engine to life.

Abby tried to push aside the thoughts that led up to this evening’s entertainment. But her mother’s mounting medical and funeral bills and Cade’s most recent job offer were too much of an overload for her mind. She could think of little else.

Forget the fact she’d already decided to quit her demanding job just before Cade dropped his life-altering announcement. Her life, and his. How could she leave now? How could she stay, though?

“Do you have a reason for behaving like a free-spirited party animal?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Silence stretched as he wound through the streets of San Francisco. She knew he waited for a response, but she honestly didn’t feel he deserved one.

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