Charlie Matheson quietly sighs into her wine glass before taking a generous sip of Malbec. She’s on her second glass of the evening, and it’s not doing a damned thing for her. What she really needs is a shot of whiskey or tequila – or maybe several, if she plans to make it through the rest of her date.
She’s not really sure why she even agreed to let her mother, of all people, set her up on a blind date – on Valentine’s Day, no less. But here she is, and she’s regretting her decision more and more as the minutes slowly pass.
Of course, things could be worse, she supposes. James is very good looking – tall, nicely built, dark hair, soft brown eyes. And he’s nice. Like, really nice. He’s sweet and chivalrous and has an old-timey charm about him, despite the fact that he’s only a few years older than Charlie, and the whole damned thing makes her feel a little bad about not enjoying his company.
But she can’t help it. He might be sweet and handsome, but he’s also boring as hell. He’s just…a really nice, safe type of guy. Of course her mother would set her up with someone like him.
“…so, thoughts?” He asks before bringing his own wine glass to his lips.
Charlie’s eyes grow wide, and a warm blush instantly penetrates her cheeks. Shit. She wasn’t listening to a single word he just said.
Much to her relief, James doesn’t seem to notice; he just smiles and patiently waits for her reply.
She forces a smile to her lips and slowly pushes her chair back. “Actually, will you excuse me for a moment? I need to run to the ladies’ room.”
“Of course.” James offers her a polite nod. “In the meantime, I’ll order us more wine.”
Damn it. Does he have to be so nice?! Charlie tries not to frown as she stands up, grabs her purse, and makes a beeline for the restroom.
- - -
Bass Monroe considers himself a patient man. He considers himself a tolerant man. He’s a trained U.S. Marine, for God’s sake, and can withstand even the most excruciating types of torture without breaking.
But if he has to sit here and listen to one more cat story, he’s going to lose his fucking mind.
“And this is Eloise. She’s a Turkish Angora, and she thinks she’s a queen.” The woman across the table – Susan Smith is her name – obliviously giggles and holds up her phone, which, yet again, displays a picture of a cat. This one (the sixth that Bass has had to look at tonight) is white and fluffy and has different colored eyes: one blue and one green.
Bass nods and holds his breath in an effort to contain the irate groan that so desperately wants to explode from his throat. His lips are pressed together in a forced smile as he stares at the photo and then at his date.
“Isn’t she just the most delightful thing you’ve ever seen?” Susan sighs like a proud mother.
Bass watches as she turns the phone around and brings it up to her face. The next thing he knows, she’s kissing the screen.
Okay, that’s it. He can’t take it anymore. This lady is nuts. Beautiful – long, brunette hair, large green eyes, and a very nice rack – but nuts. He needs to get out of here. When he agreed to a blind date with his colleague’s friend on Valentine’s Day, he had no idea his evening would go like this.
“Will you excuse me for a minute?” He pushes his chair back and stands.
“Sure. No problem.” Susan doesn’t even look at him. She’s now wistfully staring at and dragging her finger across her phone's screen.
Bass rolls his eyes. His initial plan was to head to the men’s room, but now he wonders what would happen if he just left all together. Susan would think he’s a jerk, of course, but he’s not sure he really cares.
So, instead of the men’s room, he heads downstairs to the coat check. He really hopes there’s an exit on the lower level of the restaurant so he can grab his jacket and disappear undetected.
Of course, when he gets down there, he sees that there’s no attendant at the coat closet. So he decides to take matters into his own hands. He opens the door and quietly slips inside to retrieve his jacket.
- - -
Charlie gasps when the door to the coat closet opens, and light from the restaurant streams in. Shit. She’s about to be caught red-handed. God, what is wrong with her? She’s acting like a child, hiding in a fucking coat closet instead of just going back and finishing out her nice, boring date with James.
Not knowing what else to do at the moment, she quickly shirks away into the darkest corner, behind a rack of heavy, designer name winter coats, and holds her breath.
‘Please just leave. Please just leave. Please just leave,’ she silently chants to herself.
But, to her great dismay, her new coat closet companion (a man) begins to rummage through the racks instead. As far as Charlie’s concerned, it’s only a matter of time before he’ll find her.
“Damn it,” the man suddenly curses. “Where is it?”
Charlie instantly freezes.
She knows that voice. Oh, God, she knows that voice so well. But…it couldn’t be…could it?
She doesn’t even have time to really think about the question, because the next thing she knows, the wall of coats behind which she’s hiding suddenly parts, revealing her deer-caught-in-headlights expression to…
Oh, Lord. It’s him.
The closet is dark, illuminated only by a single, dim bulb in the ceiling, making it a bit hard to see, but she’d know those piercing blue eyes anywhere. She has, after all, been dreaming about them for the past ten years.
Shit, even in the dark, he looks good. Like, really, really good. He’s always been hot, but age has done some glorious things for him. And she would be really, really dead if her uncle found out she’s been lusting after his best friend ever since she was a hormonal tween.
She wonders if he even remembers her. She was fourteen the last time they saw each other in person.
“I…uh…I’m sorry. I was just…looking for my coat,” he stammers in that deliciously gruff voice that sends shivers up and down her spine.
She watches, amused, as his eyes rake over her cowered form. He’s checking her out. Holy shit, Sebastian Monroe is actually checking her out!
She clears her throat and slowly stands and doesn’t for a second miss the way his eyes briefly dart down to her thighs, which are now on full display under her little black dress that has ridden up to a dangerously high spot.
Charlie instantly feels a jolt of heat between her legs. She’s pretty certain he doesn’t remember who she is, because if he did, there’s no way he’d be eyeing her like she’s a steak dinner.
“It’s okay.” She slowly pulls down the hem of her dress and almost smirks when she notices the look of disappointment that temporarily flashes across his face.
He chuckles quietly and shakes his head. “Not that it’s any of my business, but may I ask what you’re doing in here? Because I’ve got a pretty strong feeling you’re not the coat attendant.”
She laughs. “No, I’m not. And…I’d rather not say, because I’m not sure there’s a way to tell you without it making me sound like a jerk.”
“Yeah, well…that makes two of us.” He continues to look around for his jacket.
“Huh?” Charlie is intrigued and continues to watch him move about.
Damn, he’s hot. He’s wearing a pair of fitted jeans that hug his legs very nicely and a button down white shirt under a black (or navy…she can’t quite tell in the dark) vest.
He finds his coat and is about to answer, but then they hear voices just outside the door, and before Charlie even knows what’s happening, she feels herself being smashed into the corner of the closet, and then Bass’s tall, very hard body, is suddenly pressed up against hers.
“Shh…” he whispers and moves in even closer.
She gulps. She always imagined this. Well, no, she didn’t imagine being trapped in the coat closet of an Italian bistro with him, but she did imagine his amazing body pressed up against hers, and she can easily admit that the real feeling is far superior to the fantasies that have been dancing around in her head for nearly a decade.
Her boobs are pressed to his chest, her hips touching his hips, thighs against thighs, and—okay, that is definitely a boner pressing into her lower belly.
The realization sends another surge of heat to the spot between her legs, and she immediately feels her own excitement seeping out of her, dampening her panties.
- - -
Bass clenches his fists, which are resting against the wall on either side of the sexy blonde’s head. Fuck, she’s hot. Like, really, really hot. She’s young and slender and curvy and firm under that tight black dress that’s not leaving much for the imagination, and having her body so close to his is making him delirious. And hard. His erection is growing against her belly, and there’s not a damned thing he can do about it.
Of course, she could be as crazy as Susan Six Cats, for all he knows. But even if she’s not, she probably thinks he’s a fucking creep for pinning her to the wall before he’s even had a chance to ask her her name. And who can blame her? But what else was he supposed to do? They’ll probably get caught either way, but at least this way, there’s maybe a small chance that they won’t. He sighs and silently prays that the coat attendant – or whoever is just outside – goes away.
He sucks in a sharp breath when Blondie’s fingers find his hips and pull him closer and then trail behind, grasping at his ass.
What the fuck is she doing? Is she trying to make him come in his pants? Because if she doesn’t stop rubbing up against him, he very well might.
“Yes, I’m looking for a young woman…blonde hair, blue eyes. She’s wearing a black dress….” A voice outside the coat closet momentarily distracts them both. “Did she come this way by any chance?”
“Oh no,” Blondie mutters and stops her seductive touching. She leans her forehead against Bass’s shoulder and groans under her breath.
“What?” He quietly asks.
“Shh…he’ll hear you.” She anxiously looks up at him.
Bass raises his eyebrows at her and watches as she guiltily bites her lip. Shit. Her lips are gorgeous. Full and pouty, and he really wants to taste them. But first he needs to figure out what the hell is going on.
“Who?” He asks, despite her reprimanding.
“Shhh!” She glares at him. But then she adds, “James. My date.”
He quietly snorts. “You ditched your date? On Valentine's Day?”
“Will you shut up? He’ll hear us, and then we’ll both be dead.”
He has to do everything in his power to not laugh. So Blondie ditched her date. Just like he ditched his. And now she’s hiding in the goddamned coat closet. With him. Could this night get any weirder?
A sigh of relief escapes her pretty, pouty lips when her date finally thanks the coat attendant and apparently leaves. Everything outside the coat closet becomes quiet again.
She then frowns at Bass. “It’s not what you think.”
He shrugs. “Hey, I ain’t judging.” Who’s he to judge, when he literally just did the exact same thing?
“This is all my mom’s fault. She set me up with this guy. And….” Her voice trails off for a second.
“And he’s a wack job?” Bass finishes for her. He thinks about stepping back and giving her her space, but a part of him doesn’t really want to.
“See, that’s the thing,” she sighs. And then she sticks her hands into the back pockets of his jeans again. “He’s not a wack job. He’s just…really nice.”
“What’s wrong with nice?” He croaks out. Oh, hell, she’s touching his ass again – his fully clothed ass, but his ass, nonetheless.
“He’s too nice. Boring nice. And I don’t really want nice. Not tonight.” She gives his rear a little squeeze. “I want…experienced. Adventurous. Spontaneous.”
“I see,” he stiffly replies. Shit, she’s driving him crazy, and he wants nothing more than to rip her clothes off and fuck her right here and now.
“So what’s your story?” She asks in a tone that is far too cool and casual for the situation at hand.
“Same thing, more or less.”
His answer causes her to laugh. “Really? Was she nice, too?”
“She kept showing me pictures of her cats. All six of them.”
“That sucks,” she giggles, and it’s the most musical sound he’s ever heard.
He shrugs. He’s suddenly grateful for Boringly Nice James and Cat Crazy Susan Smith. If it hadn’t been for them, he and Blondie wouldn’t have ended up in the coat closet together.
“You wanna get out of here? Go somewhere else?” He suggests. Maybe he’ll regret this decision. But something in his gut tells him he won’t.
She grins mischievously, her eyes twinkling with anticipation. “Yes, please.”