Series: Second Time Around #3
I have two rules in life:
1. No relationships, falling in love or attachments.
2. No sleeping with clients of my interior design firm.
Since the last guy turned out to be married, they’ve been easy to follow.
Callum Huxley is a ridiculously sexy Brit, and the connection we have the moment our eyes lock scares the ever-loving hell out of me. Thank God I came to my senses before going back to his hotel where I would’ve ended up naked, panting, and unable to forget him.
Thinking I walked away from that night unscathed was stupid. Sure enough, at the biggest meeting of my career waits the CEO of Dovetail Enterprises—him. It might be the most embarrassing moment of my professional life. And breaking my no-client rule might just be the hottest moment of my personal life.
Learning to trust has never felt so good, but falling has never hurt so bad.
“Nicole, there you are,” my mother says as I approach.
Deep breaths and don’t be a smart-ass. Yeah right.
I smile, but more at the idea of not being a smart-ass than because I’m happy. “Hello, Mother, here I am in my glory—just for you.”
She ignores my tone. “You’re wearing the pearls I gave you.”
I instinctually touch them. “I am.”
I see the flash of joy in her eyes, and I’m glad I did it now. “Well, let’s hope your attitude stays as beautiful as you are on the outside. Lord knows that mouth will start acting up sooner or later.”
My attitude is never as beautiful as my exterior. She only wishes. “I missed you too, Mommy. If I’m a good girl, will you get me ice cream?”
“I should’ve given your father custody.” She rolls her eyes and turns away.
I bite my tongue and head in to the dining area. Sometimes, it’s too easy to drive her crazy.
The club is nothing short of beautiful. Everything is always in its perfect place. As an interior designer, I appreciate the fine details that were taken to make this place look upscale but still cozy. The colors are warm, the lighting is soft, and there are lots of crystals that send light beams all over, illuminating the space in a way that makes you want to look around.
“Nicole, is that you?” Mrs. Akins asks as if she can’t believe her eyes.
“Mrs. Akins, you are just as pretty as I remember,” I say sarcastically. She doesn’t look good—she looks plastic. The amount of plastic surgery this woman has had is absolutely ridiculous, and I can’t even imagine how much it cost her very rich husband. That’s the thing about coming here, once you look past the furnishings, all you see is spit on a turd. “You look like you haven’t aged at all.”
She gives me a pouty-lip grin, and I stand there looking at her like she is crazy. Her lips don’t even move, I’m not sure if she’s taking a dump or trying to smile.
“Oh, Nicole. You’re so sweet, I just love you.”
“Aww.” I give an actual smile. “You’re not alone in that. Tell me, have you had any work done or are you using some miracle skin line?”
My mother senses that things are going to go downhill fast, so she decides to divert the attention and starts talking to her about her children. I stand here, as they chatter on and wishing I could be anywhere else.
I scan the room, looking for someone I know who can save me from the torment of listening to them, and then my eyes land on him. A man in a black suit with a crisp light blue shirt and a deep blue, that borders on navy, tie is at the bar, slowly bringing a glass to his lips. His shoulders are broad, his arms are thick, and there’s a dusting of scruff along his jawline. Holy crap, that man is beautiful.
Like, I’d do him six ways till Sunday and twice on Monday.
I don’t know how long I stand here looking at him, but my mother taps my arm, and I begrudgingly drag my eyes from the man.
“Did you hear what I said?” she asks.
“Sorry, I must’ve drifted off for a second. You mentioned kids, and I just zoned right out.”
Mother gives me that nasty look that tells me, once again, I have disappointed her. One day, I’ll do better, I’m sure. Or not.
“I said our table is ready.”
“Lead the way,” I tell her.
We sit, and I do my best to ignore the sexy man at the bar, but it’s damn near impossible. Mother prattles on about various projects she’s getting involved in, and I talk a little bit about the business. All the while tracking him as he moves around the room. Our dinner is overall uneventful and, honestly, very nice. She tells me a little more about the new wing they’re putting on at the hospital when we’re interrupted.
“Hello, ladies,” a man I recognize says as he braces a hand on the back of my mother’s chair.
“Hello, Ted.” My mother’s face lights up.
Ted? Do I know a Ted? I don’t think so, but there’s something familiar about him that I can’t put my finger on. But I swear I know this man.
I stare at him, trying to place where we’ve met before. I rack my brain, but nothing comes up.
“I saw you here, Mrs. Dupree, and I wanted to say hello. Also, I couldn’t believe it when I saw Nicole with you,” he says with his eyes locked on mine. “Looking as beautiful as ever.”
“Yes.” My mother smiles at him and then me. “You remember my daughter, don’t you? You two went out one time I believe.”
He gives me this grin, and it hits me. Onion boy. I remember now.
“You guys had a great time if I remember.” She continues as if I’m not seconds away from kicking her under the table. “I’m so glad you’re here tonight so you can reconnect.”
Ted’s eyes meet mine. “I know I remember. Do you, Nicky?”
No one fucking calls me Nicky, certainly not a tool who actually tried to make me pay for not only my dinner but also his. “I don’t.”
“Oh, sure she does, Ted. She’s just kidding. My Nicole has always had such a sense of humor.”
I glare at the back of my mother’s head, waiting for her to turn and look at me. She promised there wouldn’t be any attempts to set me up tonight, but I should’ve known better. She can’t help herself. After a few moments, she still hasn’t turned, and I’m done playing nice. “Oh.” I snort. “That’s right.” I smile warmly. “You were the guy who was cheap and whose breath smelled like onions.”
That gets my mother’s attention. Her eyes meet mine with the fire of hell burning in them. “Nicole.” Her voice is full of anger.
“What?” I lean back, putting my napkin onto the table.
“It’s okay, Mrs. Dupree,” Ted says. “Nicole made me laugh quite a bit on our date.”
If that’s what he wants to call it, that works for me. Though, it wasn’t a date nor was I being funny. I was being truthful.
I opened my mouth to say something, but the stranger I have been watching all night claps Ted’s shoulder with a smile. “Ted and I should let you both get back to your dinner. We have a bit of business to attend to.”
Holy fuck he has a British accent.
Take my panties now please.
He’s even hotter up close. He’s taller than Ted, but it isn’t just his height that makes him imposing, it’s everything about him. I have a much better view now, and I have to say that I’m loving how well he fills out his suit. I could tell from a distance that he was broad, but when he’s standing before me, I can see I underestimated his size. I scan his body, down to his hand and find no ring.
“You can stay.” I offer the sexy foreigner who I’d like to hang around a bit more. I’ve never found someone in this club so tempting.
The men who are good-looking are all idiots. Their mothers dictate their lives. Their fathers dictate their futures, and their future wives will be the accessories meant to make babies.
I’m not an accessory. I’m the entire ensemble.
He chuckles. “That would be delightful, but I’m afraid we would bore you with details of our business contract. I apologize.”
“Shame.” I give him my bedroom eyes. I’d like to do some business with him myself. “I’m sure I wouldn’t bore you.”
The sexy Brit smirks. “I’m sure you wouldn’t.”
“Excuse my daughter.” Mother steps in. “I blame the wine she had.”
Ted ignores the sexy stranger’s pass on joining us and pulls out a chair. “Sit, Callum, one drink won’t hurt us.”
“Yes, Callum, please sit.” I grin. Maybe dinner at the club won’t be so bad after all.
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