Title: Ruffles & Beaus
Author: Carina Adams
Genre: NA Romance/Love Triangle
My last year of college was set to be the best yet. Only a few months stood between me and the life of my dreams. Until my manager was arrested for embezzlement, our department was wiped out, and everything fell apart. I needed a job. I was willing to do anything to pay for school, hoping to simply survive. Desperate, I joined Soirée, the private party company that offered something no other did.
I wasn’t prepared for Roman, the boss who thought I was helpless and hated me as much as I detested him. Or, his best friend Reid, who assumed I was tougher than I was and pursued me in a way no one else ever had.
I never used a pole, yet I took my clothes off as men cheered. My past didn’t lead me there, though.
My story began with the secrets I told as I fell in love with two very different men.
And continued with the lies I weaved to keep us all from breaking.
I stood there, a helpless bystander, as he gave her the same grin he’d always used on the adults to get himself out of trouble when we were kids. The one that said he was sweet and innocent and could be trusted. Lying asshole. Cady responded with a slow, lazy smile of her own, one filled with promises I couldn’t even comprehend.
Not happening. My fingers locked around her upper arm and I hauled her to her feet before I knew what I was doing. “I’ve got it,” I snarled in his direction before I half dragged her up the stairs and down the hall to my room.
With every step we took she sputtered like an angry wet cat and tried to shake me off. My grip only tightened. As soon as we were in my room, with the lights on and the heavy door locked safely behind us, I let her push me away.
“What in the hell are you doing?”
“You said you were exhausted.” I lifted my chin toward the bed in the middle of the room as I dropped my suit jacket on the floor and pulled off my tie. “Get some rest.”
“There’s no couch. Where are you going to sleep?”
I had my shirt unbuttoned and on the pile before I answered. “You’re a smart girl. You figure it out.”
As I reached for the button on my pants, she nodded once. “Okay. So, I’ll be in Andy’s room.”
I lunged for her as she was twisting the handle, squishing her body between the door and me, my hands on top of hers, halting her. I hadn’t been prepared for how she’d feel. She wasn’t built like my other dancers, shorter and curvier, but I hadn’t stopped to think about how soft that would make her body. It was oddly comforting, and I wanted to sink into it and let her surround me.
Fighting whatever craziness my mind had started to manifest, I put my mouth to her ear, needing her to hear me. “If you leave this room, I will spank your ass. I’m too fucking wasted to take on every man here, but don’t think I’m too far gone to haul you back to this room, tie you to the bed, and punish you.”
Glimpses of that scenario ran through my mind, making me instantly hard. I had no idea where the thought had come from. I’d never tied any woman to my bed, or any where else, and I sure as shit had never spanked anyone in more than a playful manner. It should have disgusted me.
We must have gotten a bad bottle of booze. It hadn’t been stored right or something. Maybe one of Alistair’s loser friends laced it.
Instead of throwing her head back into my face and breaking my nose, or reacting the way any sensible woman would, Cady’s breath caught and she shivered underneath me. Not from fear or cold, but because my words had gotten to her.
She moved her head back slightly, fitting it into the spot between my neck and shoulder. Neither of us said a word. Her scent, one I didn’t recognize, invaded my nostrils. I fought the urge to turn her around and kiss her, to beg her to let me fuck her against the door for the entire house to hear.
Her breathing grew more ragged by the second and I knew that she was feeling it, this undeniable attraction. She spun, her back to the door, perfect fat tits shoving into my chest, and I couldn’t think anymore. My fist wound itself into her hair, holding her in place, as I leaned down in slow motion, almost daring her to push me away, and captured her lips with mine.
She tasted like strawberries and whiskey, her mouth warm and captivating as she gave me exactly what I wanted. It wasn’t enough. I bit her bottom lip lightly, tugging it open, so my tongue could find hers.
Fingernails traced down my bare chest, exploring. When they ran over my abs, Cady groaned as if it was the most delightful thing she’d ever touched. The sound made my dick jump. I worked hard for the body I had, pushed myself to stay in shape, so I could accomplish all the things I wanted. It was a bonus to know she appreciated the effort.
Jealousy, that she got to touch me while I was acting like a saint and keeping my hands in PG zones, hit me. I broke the kiss and stepped back, ready to strip her out of the ugly baggy clothes she’d put on and worship her body. She wasn’t fooling me. I’d seen enough during practices and the performance to know exactly what she was hiding.
In spectacular fuckface timing, Andrew chose that moment to pound on the door. “Yo, asshole. You forgot your phone. Reid’s blowing it up.”
Cady ducked and spun away from the wood, backing toward the bed, eyes wide as they darted around the room. Before I could offer an explanation, or beg her to give me five minutes to get rid of the pest problem outside our door and get back to business, the brat smirked at me. Then she began to laugh.
“Well,” she dragged her teeth over her lip making me groan inwardly, “that was a surprise. No more alcohol for us.”
Andy knocked again.
“You get that. I’m going to go to bed. To sleep.” She clarified. “And then you’re going to come to bed. For sleep. So we can get up in a few hours and pretend this never happened.”
“That’s how we’re playing this?”
“Partners don’t have sex, remember? It’s against the rules.”
Fuck the goddamned stupid rules. I hated them. I was going to rewrite the employee manual first thing on Monday.
Cady chuckled, as if she could hear my thoughts. “No, you’re not. They’re good rules. You don’t want to sleep with me. You’re just drunk.”
“I said that out loud?”
She giggled again and I couldn’t stop my own answering smile. “You did.” She moved forward, pushing me out of the way slightly, and opened the door. “Give it to me,” she held out her hand.
“Come next door and I will,” Andy’s husky voice replied as he handed her my iPhone. “I’ll give it to you so dirty you’ll be begging me for more.”
Without a reply, she backed up quickly and slammed the door in his face. He obviously didn’t like his head attached to his body because I was going to remove it if he didn’t cut the shit.
“Here,” she didn’t wait for me to take it, but shoved the phone into my chest instead. “Call Reid. Tell him you’re too drunk to drive, that I’m not any better, and that we’re staying here. It’s been an,” her gaze settled on my stomach and her teeth scraped across her lips, “interesting first day at my new job and I’m exhausted.”
With a quick tug, her sweatshirt was over her head and on the floor, taunting me, before she face-planted herself onto the bed. “Good night.” It was no more than a mumble. The brat was out cold in seconds.
I didn’t dial Reid’s number. Or anyone else. He hadn’t been the only one who had called repeatedly. I especially didn’t want to deal with the force that was Livie tonight. Not when I was drunk and I had a hot as fuck woman in my bed.
No. Cady wasn’t hot. Cady was Ruffles, my employee. The bitter, snarky, clueless one. I wasn’t attracted to her.
She definitely wasn’t Brooke. I wanted my fiancé back. And only my fiancé.
Which is why it was perfectly safe for me to climb up onto the bed next to Cady. Friends could sleep in the same bed. The small width of the full size mattress wasn’t something I was used to, which was the only reason I threw an arm around her and hauled her back into my chest. She was soft and warm, which was why I dropped kisses onto her neck, inhaling her body spray, telling myself I loved the scent and needed to find out what it was.
It was all fine. Completely innocent. Nothing more.
An avid reader who loves epic and unconventional romance, Carina has an unhealthy obsession with Jason Statham, loves the sounds of Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, is the crazy friend your mom warned you about, and believes one day she will go through the stones to meet Jamie Fraser.
Carina has been writing and creating characters for as long as she can remember, allowing her to fall in love with the next man of her dreams with every new story. None of which are anything like boring Prince Charming. Thankfully, fate stepped in and granted her the ultimate wish - a life full of men. Carina lives in a picturesque New England town with her husband, the man who ruined the thought of all others, and two amazing sons who always keep her on her toes.
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