After a blind date stands her up, Catrina Striker stops in O’Leary’s Pub for a sandwich, nothing else. Then Tony Bates, North Salem’s resident playboy, sits down next to her and destiny takes over. Cat knows all about Tony’s reputation, but that doesn’t stop her from doing something she’s never done before: invite him back to her apartment.
Tony Bates has always looked at Catrina as nothing but his buddy’s little sister, until a chance encounter one summer night changes all that.
Since the sudden death of his college sweetheart, Tony has kept all his relationships casual and fun. Everyone knows that, which is why Cat and Tony agree to keep their involvement a secret rather than risk Tony’s friendship with her brother. However, what starts out as a secret fling soon becomes much more, and Tony must decide if he’s ready to risk his heart again or lose the woman who completes him.
“You forgot about me, didn’t you?” Before Cat responded, he looked in Jimmy’s direction. “She promised me a dance, but I haven’t seen her since the ceremony.” Tony grabbed Cat’s hand as he spoke. “Sounds like the band is starting up again. What do you say?”
Cat squeezed his hand, but looked at Jimmy. “I did promise him a dance when I saw he came alone.”
“No problem. I’ll call you soon, Cat,” Jimmy said.
It took some effort to swallow down the words on his tongue in response to Jimmy’s statement, but he managed it.
In silence, he led them to an empty spot on the dance floor and pulled Cat as close as he assumed appropriate for the setting.
“What’s the matter, Tony?” Her fingers moved against his neck. “You look mad.”
“I’m fine.” Fine if wanting to rip someone’s head off was fine.
“Are you sure?”
The concern in her voice had him mentally cursing. He didn’t want her digging too deep into his feelings tonight. He didn’t even want to dig too deep into them.
“Mrs. O’Brien looked so happy today. It’s going to be awhile before I remember to call her Mrs. Larson instead.”
Cat stepped closer, her chest brushing against his. If he lowered his head an inch or two, he could kiss her. While it didn’t appear as if anyone was watching them, he couldn’t take the chance.
“You’re not the only one with that problem. Already tonight, I started to call her Mrs. O’Brien before I caught myself. We’ll all get used to it.”
“Did you see Sean dancing with Charlie earlier?” Cat asked. “He looked miserable.”
“Sean hates dancing. Mia and Charlie ganged up on him.”
“I had a feeling it was something like that.” Cat glanced around before she smiled at him. “I’ve missed you,” she said in a softer voice.
“Could’ve fooled me,” Tony muttered under his breath before he could bite back the words.
Cat’s fingers stopped caressing his neck. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Fuck. How had he let that escape? Now it was out there, and he couldn’t take it back. “Nothing, Cat.”
Without warning, she stepped out of his embrace and headed for the nearest exit. Thankfully, at the same time, Gage Larson finished up his current song and couples exited the dance floor. Tony checked to see who might be watching before he followed Cat out the side entrance.
She waited for him in the hallway. Grabbing him by the hand, she led him down an empty hallway and into the dark coat-check room, closing the door behind them.
“Let’s try again, Tony. What did you mean?”
The unfamiliar jealousy he’d struggled with much of the night clashed with the frustration building inside him. Women didn’t breach his emotional wall, or at least not anymore. Somehow though, Cat managed to put a big crack in it tonight.
“You’ve looked perfectly content all night.” Christ, he sounded like a jealous boyfriend.
Cat’s mouth dropped open, and she blinked. “You’re mad because I was dancing? What did you want me to do when they asked?”
He was entering dangerous territory here, and he knew it. Unfortunately, all the warning bells in his head couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
“Say no. Did you see me dancing with anyone?”
“I couldn’t say no to everyone and then dance with you.” She touched his cheek. “If it makes you feel better, I didn’t want to dance with them.”
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