She’s making a wish list, and he wants to be on top.
From foster kid to trophy wife, Tessa McAllen is about to reinvent herself all over again—and defy every insult her cheating ex-husband ever used against her: Selfish? She’s championing a charity. Stupid? She’s getting her degree.
Boring in bed?
Kade Vandergriff can help her with that one. When they encounter each other at a singles event held at one of his restaurants, Tessa blurts out that kink is for girls who try too hard, and Kade instantly wants to show this sassy stranger how thrilling a night under his command can be …but when he learns her name, the game changes for both of them.
In high school, Tessa was the popular girl who stuttering, awkward Kade fell for. But she chose another. Now, as she eagerly learns lesson after lesson, he’s going to make sure she never forgets him again.
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“Where are we going?”
“Up,” he said, pulling the door open for her and guiding her forward.
A set of stairs greeted her along with a chain that had a Closed sign hanging from it. She peeked back over her shoulder. “I don’t think we’re supposed to go up here.”
He leaned past her and unhooked the chain. “I promise they won’t kick us out.”
So he worked here apparently. Maybe he was the general manager or one of the owners. That last one was a distinct possibility. The man definitely strolled around like he owned the place. But she had a feeling he walked around every place like that. Without voicing her questions, she headed up the stairs. When she reached the door at the top, he stepped past her and pushed the door open.
She sucked in a breath at the unexpected gust of cool air and the view on the other side. A rooftop deck spread out before them, complete with quaint little tables and a vine-covered pergola laced with twinkle lights overhead. On the far end, there was a long, rustic table with candles and a full, outdoor stove and grill.
“Wow, this is beautiful.”
“Yeah, it’s my favorite spot in the restaurant. But we don’t use it during the winter months except for the occasional party.”
“Or for a random woman you pilfer from a online dating event.”
He grinned. “Exactly. But I think it’s warm enough tonight to not be a problem.”
“So we’re going to make some poor waiter traipse up here to serve us food?”
“Nah,” he said, taking her hand and leading her forward. “You came here to learn how to cook. So we won’t need any staff.”
As they got closer to the long table, she saw there were little bowls of ingredients on the far end like they’d had at the event. She glanced over at him. “You’re going to teach me to cook?”
He cocked his head, looking playfully offended. “What? You don’t think I can cook?”
She let her perusal of him travel from the top of his head down the front of his black dress shirt and gray trousers to the tips of his clearly expensive shoes. “You don’t look like you spend a lot of time in a kitchen.”
“And you don’t look like a woman who’d spend her evening crashing a date meet-up. But looks can be deceiving, right?” He let go of her hand with a smirk, unbuttoned his cuffs, and rolled his sleeves up his forearms.
For some reason, the simple movement fascinated her, like she was watching his urbane shell being peeled back and revealing the real man beneath. She pulled her attention away from those big, capable hands. “So what kind of woman do I look like then?”
He gave her a similar head to toe assessment then met her gaze. “One who doesn’t usually break the rules or take a risk.”
She scoffed. “Oh, really?”
His smile was knowing as he grabbed a knife and cutting board from the counter then placed a wedge of white cheese on it. “Am I wrong?”
“I’m up here with you, aren’t I?” she challenged.
He moved the knife as if marking a point in her favor on an invisible scoreboard. “Touché.”
Following his lead, she grabbed a loaf of crusty bread and another knife to start slicing it. “So you admit you’re a risk?”
Before she could cut into the bread, he laid his hand atop of hers, stilling her movements. “Don’t use that knife. You need a serrated one for that kind of bread.”
She glanced down at his hand on hers, the warmth of his touch a little too welcome. “Oh, right.”
He replaced the knife with one that had a jagged edge. “And I’m no more of a risk than going to the dating event and sitting with a stranger.”
“So this a date?”
He took one of the slices of bread, placed a piece of cheese atop it, and then held it in front of her lips. She opened her mouth and let him feed her a bite of bread and cheese. He was so close now, she could see the flecks of green mixing in with the blue in his eyes. Somehow he managed to both intimidate and cajole in one simple look. “It’s whatever you want it to be, Contessa.”
The salty cheese hit her taste buds, and she had to remind herself to chew, to breathe.
“Good?” he asked.
She nodded, though the movement felt stiff. “Manchego. One of my favorites.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “A woman who knows her gourmet cheeses but doesn’t know how to use a bread knife? Interesting.”
She was tempted to refute that claim, tell him it was a lucky guess, but she stopped herself. No more lying.
“I don’t want this to be a date,” she blurted out.
His forehead creased. “What?”
“I don’t want this to be a date,” she repeated. “Dates suck. It’s two people telling each other what they think the other person wants to hear and hoping they get it right. It’s a farce.”
He leaned back against the table as if giving her space to voice her opinion. “Okay, so what would you like this to be?”
“Let’s make this an un-date. No fronts, no lies, and no ridiculous promises to call the next day. You didn’t invite me up here because you think I could be some perfect match for your future. And I didn’t come up here for that either.”
He’d been watching her with equal parts amusement and intrigue, but now a flicker of something else edged in, something that made her insides flip over. “So what did you come up here for, Contessa?”
Well, here it was, her opportunity to put her money where her mouth was and be blatantly
honest. He was probably going to run, but so be it if he did. “A year ago, I walked in on my husband cheating with my best friend. Instead of even pretending to be sorry, he proceeded to give me a long list of my faults and told me to get used to his affairs.”
Sharp disapproval flashed over his features.
But she didn’t let his reaction stop her. She needed to lay it all out there. “I left him, my life blew up, and now I’m putting the pieces back in place. I’m not looking to date anyone. I’m not looking for love or even a boyfriend. I came up here tonight because I haven’t felt desire in a long time, and you made me feel that in the hallway.”
She took a deep breath. “I came up here to use you. To be used. I need a night off from…all of it.”
The shift in his expression was enough to have any remaining words shriveling in her throat. All traces of his sympathy over her story had vanished and in its place, unadulterated lust took root. “Text your friend and tell her you’ve found a ride. I’ll have your keys sent down to her.”
The command in his voice rippled through her. “But I—”
He pushed off the table and stood in front of her, cupping her chin. “You told me your reasons, now do you want to hear mine? I brought you up here because from the moment you walked into the restaurant tonight, I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I would’ve sat through a cooking class about dishes I created just to be next to you. Let me give you your night off.”
She was jittery in his grasp, her body literally vibrating with the need for him to touch her more. “But the cooking class still has two hours left. We could—“
He pressed a finger against his lips. “I promise I’ll need more than two hours. I haven’t even given you your first lesson yet.”
About the Author
Roni wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New Orleans girl at heart, she now lives in Dallas with her husband and son.
If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her reading, watching reality television, or indulging in her unhealthy addiction to rockstars, er, rock concerts. Yeah, that’s it. She is the National Bestselling Author of The Loving on the Edge series from Berkley Heat.
Places to find Roni Loren:
Roni Loren is offering one lucky reader of Brooke Blogs an eBook copy of the Riding Desire Box set. Woohoo! Thank you, Roni! For your chance to win, enter using the Giveaway Tools widget below. Super easy entry, I promise. 🙂