Return of the Bad Boy

By: Jessica Lemmon

He walked to her desk and picked through the papers there. She rushed over and snatched the corner of a contract, but he pressed his hand flat, keeping the paper trapped beneath his palm.

“Excuse me,” she said.

“Professional curiosity.” He moved his fingers over hers. “I’m personally curious as well, you know.”

“Like you may want to try dating a man for a change?” She slipped the contract out from under his hand.

“Not that kind of curious.” He shot her a look of derision. She was purposefully changing the subject and he knew the tactic too well. “I’d like to take you on a date, Gloria. I’m here for the night.” His eyebrow lifted subtly.

“Well, I’m sorry to break your heart, but I’m not into the hookup scene.”

“Who said hookup? It’s a date.”

“Playing dumb doesn’t work for you, Brice.” She used to date. But ever since she’d heard Asher was coming to town, she hadn’t been out with anyone. The thought made her frown. Surely she wasn’t subconsciously holding out for him. She tucked the papers into a manila folder she then filed on the other side of the room.

“But you’re not really asking for a date,” she told Brice as she slid the file cabinet drawer shut. “You’re asking me to sleep with you.”

“I am. But I would take you on a date first.”

Gloria laughed. So much nerve in this one.

He grinned. “That sounds like a yes.”

“To dinner, maybe, but not to the second part.”

“What if I extend my stay?”

She shook her head, but she was still smiling.

“What if I told you”—he came to her but this time hid his hands in his pockets—“that I plan on making you an offer you can’t refuse.”

“I’m not sleeping with you,” she stated more firmly, meaning it.

“That’s not the offer. I have a professional offer.”

He had her at “professional.” Gloria loved business. Loved deals. Loved offers. Just hearing the old “offer you can’t refuse” bit was like waggling raw meat in front of a hungry lioness. But she wasn’t about to show him her eagerness. That was a surefire way to get the short straw in any deal.

“Let’s talk about it over breakfast,” he amended. “I saw a cafe a few doors down. Interested?”

“Sun Up?” The diner was good, simple, and had outdoor seating. Plus great coffee.

“We can discuss my offer. I’ll even pay.”

She twisted her lips. It seemed simply having the thought about going on a date had called the Dating Fairy out of hiding. The perfect opportunity had just descended in the form of Brice McGuire. Even a business date was better than sitting in her office staring out the window. But Gloria was no dummy. She knew strings were attached to every part of his offer.

“This better not be a sex proposition,” she said, letting him know she knew his tricks all too well.

“Come on.” He gestured to himself as if to say, Would I do something like that? And the answer was unequivocally yes.

She rolled her eyes but accepted with, “Brunch tomorrow. Two o’clock too late?”

“For brunch, two is way too late, but for you, I’ll make an exception.” He gave her a quick nod, turned and pulled open her door, and walked out of it.

Gloria shook her head. Brunch was harmless. And nothing sexy happened at two in the afternoon. And it was a business date. Perfectly safe.

But the mystery offer was one she wondered about the rest of the evening.

* * *

“Shitty craftsmanship. Gotta love it.” Donovan Pate, resident of the Cove and resident mason, pulled his head out of the fireplace. He used to build custom fireplaces for the hoity-toity Hamptonites in New York, but now he lived in his inherited thirty-five-room mansion with his event planner fiancée, Sofie. His talents were greatly underutilized in Evergreen Cove, but Donny himself had said he was tired of living like a nomad. Once he fell for Sofie, his life took a drastic left.

Asher tried not to be jealous, but he was.

Donny dusted his hands on his jeans. “I can fix it for you.”

They’d been friends since Asher and his family used to vacation here when he was a kid. Donny was one of the few people who knew the real him: the Asher the tabloids would never see. Donny and Asher raised a lot of hell together. He, Asher, and Evan palled around and caused trouble during their vacation week for several years running. Evan’s and Asher’s families visited the same week every summer, but Donny was a local. The three of them spent as many days as possible attempting to drown each other in the lake and flirting with girls—hell, Evan had met his late wife, Rae, here. The three boys had later become christened by the local librarian and the newspaper as “the Penis Bandits.”

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