Unravel MeAn Entangled Brazen Book
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Release Date: February 24, 2014
One drink. Just one drink.
Then Cassandra Blaire could return home and cozy up with case files, like she really needed to be doing tonight. Instead, she’d let her secretary, Stephanie, talk her into a blind date with some friend of her current go-to guy. A pity date, probably, given that she’d spent the two years since her husband’s death focusing on work and not her social life.
Sure, she went out now and then… Okay more “then” than “now.” But she’d done the settling down, meeting someone else’s needs, for five years. It was time to see to her own desires, and really the only desire she had currently was to successfully negotiate this Cooper collaborative divorce case so she could alter the criminal practice her husband had built into a family law practice. And that meant preparing to meet the renowned New York attorney she was collaborating with, not drinking it up with a stranger.
But she’d committed, and she couldn’t back out now. Stephanie would never let her hear the end of it.
Cassie glanced up at the twinkling lights strewn across the popular restaurant’s front entrance. One glass of wine. It was Sunday night; she could logically excuse herself after. Besides, the little bit of alcohol might unwind some of the nerves that kinked the closer her meeting with her co-counselor grew. He’d been doing family law a long time and she’d gotten the impression he considered her somehow beneath him. Even if they were working together, the last thing she wanted was to reveal her inexperience.
She shoved open the car door to a blast of cold winter air, set a black heel on the parking lot’s asphalt, and climbed out. After shutting the door, she smoothed the short length of her black skirt over her rear and approached the entry. Loud laughter filled the air as she stepped inside.
“Good evening, ma’am,” the hostess greeted her warmly. “Did you have a reservation?”
Cassie forced a wide smile. “Jefferson. For two?”
The woman ran a manicured nail down her guest book. A crinkle appeared in her brow as she turned the page. “Jefferson, you said?”
“Um…yes. Eight o’clock.”
The hostess shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything listed.”
Cassie blinked. “Are you certain? I’m sure it was here at eight.”
With a sympathetic smile, the young woman nodded. “I’m sure. And I don’t have any available tables, either, to fit you in.”
Well, didn’t that just beat everything. She’d been stood up. After supposedly hounding Stephanie for the setup, the jerk didn’t even have the courtesy to cancel. It really shouldn’t have bothered her—after all, she didn’t know the guy—but the rejection still stung. That kind of crap hadn’t happened since college.
She let out a heavy sigh and scanned the bar area. Logic said she ought to go home, but she was here now, and her bruised ego definitely could use that glass of wine.
“I’m really sorry,” the hostess said again.
Cassie shook her head. “That’s okay. I’ll have a glass of wine at the bar.” She shrugged out of her coat, looped it over her arm, and struck off toward the crowded alcove, avoiding looking at the dining room full of couples and the rose-topped tables bathed in candlelight. So much for kindling up a new romance. Not that she’d really been hoping.
While the crowded dining room wasn’t a surprise, the bar’s elbow-to-elbow crowd was thicker than she remembered in years past. Maybe it was the significant January snow that had descended on the mountains. For the past month, it seemed like every place in Vail, Colorado, brought more tourists than usual. More single male tourists, to be specific.
Then again, maybe she’d just been paying more attention. Her house no longer screamed Chris’s absence every time she turned out a light. And her big four-poster bed had stopped feeling so damned empty. All it did was remind her she hadn’t ever wanted the monstrous thing anyway. Though admittedly, she’d made peace with the objections now that she could sleep flat out in the middle of the huge mattress.
Oddly enough, she’d realized a lot of those sorts of things—she’d done an awfully good job at letting Chris Blaire walk all over her. His sudden death had shattered her. But rebuilding awakened parts of her she hadn’t realized she’d let go of.
Cassie strode to the bar and shouldered between two men in business suits.
“Can I help you, miss?” the bartender asked as he plucked a glass off the shelf and set it under the beer tap.
“Ah, yes, I’ll take a—”
The feel of warm fingers brushing across her ankle brought her up short. She stumbled a step and looked down. Two heavenly blue eyes locked with hers. Blond hair tumbled loosely over his forehead, and as he grinned, an impertinent dimple broke free. She barely registered the square of plastic beneath her toe that he pointed at with his free hand before his fingers slid a fraction higher, and electricity shot through her system. Gasping, Cassie grabbed for his shoulders to keep from toppling over backward.
* * *
Brad Steele sucked in a sharp breath as the leggy brunette braced her weight on his shoulders. The sensual fragrance of exotic flowers and citrus assaulted him far more dangerously than the slender knee that bent just beneath his chin. A few inches more, and he’d be nursing a cracked jaw. What in the hell had possessed him to grab her ankle, as opposed to merely tapping her on the shoulder?
Her damned legs. He’d taken one look at those long, toned limbs and lost his ability to think. One need dominated—to touch. The credit card he’d dropped seconds before she appeared at the bar posed the perfect opportunity.
But the blanket of slender curves now draped around him brought his nose a breath away from her thigh, and her perfume was playing wicked games with his mind. He cocked his head before sheer instinct could override common sense and attempted to disentangle himself enough to look her in the eye. “Sorry. You’re standing on my credit card.”
She regained her balance, pulled that delectable ankle from his fingers, and set her black stiletto back onto the floor. A soft laugh tumbled off full lips. “Gives a whole new meaning to ‘shoestring budget,’ doesn’t it?”
His grin deepened as he picked up his credit card and straightened. Luminous tawny eyes met his, their sparkle full of laughter. Her jest, however, held him transfixed. Humor was the last reaction he’d expected, given his rather inappropriate spontaneity. Most of the women he knew in Manhattan would have thrown him a scathing look, accompanied by “Get lost, jerk.”
Before he could recover enough to respond, she waved her hand dismissively. “I apologize. Bad pun. It’s been a long day.” A slight infusion of pink filled her cheeks.
Brad’s breath caught. What a fascinating contradiction—one moment a confident quip, the next demure softness. The sudden desire to unwrap whatever layers she possessed struck fiercely. He eased back into his seat, determined not to let her slip away just yet.
“I understand long day. Can I get you a drink?”
Her gaze tripped down his body, roving over his dress slacks and shirt, which was rumpled from several hours on a plane. The slow perusal, followed by the keen interest in her eyes when she met his gaze again, only served to ramp up his rather neglected libido. He hadn’t expected that either, certainly not in this tourist trap. Snow and a warm hot female would make a week of negotiating with the uptight attorney on the Cooper divorce case infinitely more enjoyable. Vail, Colorado, might just prove interesting. At least for the short week he’d be here.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” she asked, her confidence returning with her smile.
“Is it the suit?” As the man beside him vacated the bar, Brad leaned an elbow on the polished wood. He crossed an ankle over his knee, acutely aware she hadn’t answered his question. “Or is it the accent?”
Rich and husky, her laughter caressed him like fine velvet. “Definitely the accent. I deal with suits every day. New York?” She moved into the space in front of him.
At the same time, the man behind her took a backward step, forcing her to twist sideways. The thin fabric of her black dress brushed Brad’s knuckles. Again, her perfume tickled his nose. He breathed it in, sifting through the fragrances he knew. Jasmine. He couldn’t define the other aromas, but jasmine brought him to his knees every time.
“Yeah. Manhattan,” he answered, hoarsely. He cleared his throat, nodded at the bartender, and asked again, “What are you drinking?”
“A glass of moscato. So what brings you to town?” Mirroring his position, she set her coat on the bar and leaned on it. Her thigh came shockingly close to fitting between his knees.
Brad checked himself, torn between scooting back and moving closer. He didn’t really want to confess that work brought him halfway across the country. This would be his first night of downtime in weeks before he was back to working his rear off for his upcoming promotion to partner. Though he wasn’t keen on lies, he didn’t want to be an attorney tonight, dissecting every word and nuance. “Just checkin’ out the slopes.”
A faint frown touched her brow, then quickly cleared. “Oh? How long are you staying?”
This time, when her gaze roamed over his body, the flicker of attraction became unmistakable. And the interest in her question was impossible to miss. In a heartbeat, he recognized a game of seduction he knew all too well, and he fell easily into the cadence. He shifted so when he brought his arm up to gesture at the bartender, his fingertips grazed her elbow.
The way she drew her lower lip between her teeth and indecision puckered her brow, however, set his system on red alert. If he barreled forward, she’d run. But the flash of her softer side was such a sharp contrast to her otherwise confident demeanor it only made him more determined not to let her bolt. He backed off and gave her a casual grin. “I’ll be here for about a week. Then it’s back to the big city.”
The bartender moseyed to their position, and Brad ordered another martini along with her wine. He turned back to his stunning companion, picked up her delicate hand, and ran his thumb over her ring finger. “What brings you out tonight?”
A tremor ran through her palm but she didn’t miss a beat. “Better than sitting at home, right?”
Hell yes. If she’d stayed at home, he wouldn’t be staring into the most compelling light-brown eyes he’d ever seen. For a moment, the uniqueness of that chestnut color held him spellbound. He stared, soaking in the warmth of her hand against his, feeling his breath harden with each passing second. Her lips parted. Alongside the elegant column of her neck, her pulse beat strong and quick. Momentary nervousness, however, made her smile waver, and she once again drew her full lower lip between her teeth.
A vision of that softness beneath his mouth wound Brad’s entire body into a frustrated knot. Good Lord. He was no stranger to women, but the tightness in his gut and the sudden strain behind his fly couldn’t be ignored. She had him captivated, and he was aching to discover all he could.
“Cash or plastic?”
The bartender’s voice jerked Brad out of the fantasy, and he released her. With his opposite hand, he passed the man his credit card. “Keep it open.” Turning back to her, he gestured at an open bar table in the corner. “Join me?”
The hesitation that passed across her face made something foreign inside him twist sharply. Surely he hadn’t read her wrong. Don’t let her refuse.
With a slight dip of her chin, she let out a breathy, “Yes.”Read Short Excerpt Book Details