258,519
07.03.2019

“I think the only mistake I’ve made is wasting our time here with you. That’s something I don’t plan on doing a second longer. We’re done here.”

And then I turn to Kate and tell her softly, “We’re leaving.”

With my hand on her lower back, we walk to the coat-check room. I hold her coat for her and help her into it. With my hands on her shoulders, I ask, “You okay?”

She doesn’t look back at me, “I’m fine.”

Right. And we all know what that means, don’t we?

For many men, their car is equivalent to the perfect woman. We can build her to look exactly how we want, we can ride her hard and she won’t complain, and we can easily trade her in when a newer, younger model comes along. It’s pretty much the ideal relationship.

I drive an Aston Martin V12. There’s not many things in this world that I love, but my car is one of them. I got her after I closed my first deal. She’s a beauty. She’s my baby. Not that you would know that by the way I’m driving at the moment. It’s the typical pissed-off guy mode of driving. A death grip on the steering wheel, hard turns, fast stops, a smack on the horn at the slightest provocation. I don’t think about how my attitude might be interpreted by Kate, until her small voice comes from the passenger seat.

“I’m sorry.”

I glance quickly at her, “You’re sorry for what?”

“I never meant to send out those kinds of signals, Drew. I would never come on to a client. I didn’t realize that…”

Christ.

Why do women always do this? Why are they so eager to blame themselves when someone treats them like shit? A guy would take a cheese grater to his tongue before admitting he screwed up.

When we were sixteen, Matthew was dating Melissa Sayber. One day while he was in the shower, Melissa went through his sock drawer and found notes from the two other girls he was banging at the same time. She went apeshit. But you know what? By the time Matthew was done talking to her—after he flushed the evidence—not only did he convince her that she had read the notes wrong, but she was apologizing to him for going through his stuff. Unbelievable, right?

I pull over to the side of the road and turn to face her. “Listen to me, Kate—you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But you said, about my blouse…and his face…”

Great. She thinks she was asking for it because that’s what I f**king told her. Perfect.

“No, I was being an a**hole. I didn’t mean it. I was just trying to get a rise out of you. Look, in this business some guys are just power-high pricks. They’re used to getting whatever they ask for, women included.”

I don’t want to see the similarities between Saul Anderson and myself. But they’re kind of hard to miss. Listening to him tonight made me feel…shitty…about how I’ve treated Kate the last few weeks. My father wanted me to help her, mentor her. Instead I let my c*ck and my overactive sense of competition lead the way.

“And you’re a gorgeous woman. This won’t be the last time something like this happens. You have to have a thick skin. You can’t let anyone rattle your confidence. You were perfect at that meeting. Really. Should’ve been a home run.”

She gives me a small smile. “Thank you.”

I turn back onto the road, and we drive in silence. Until she says, “God I could use a drink right now.”

Her comment throws me. It seems like such an un-Kate thing to say. She’s a straight arrow. No nonsense. The kind of girl who hardly drinks, doesn’t eat trans fats, and vacuums behind the couch three times a week. It’s then that I realize that although the woman next to me occupies a permanent space in my thoughts, I really don’t know much about her. Not any more than I did when I first approached her all those weeks ago at REM.

It’s an even bigger shock when I admit to myself that I want to.

At this juncture in my life, my idea of getting to know a woman consists of finding out if she likes it slow and sweet or hard and dirty—top, bottom, or from behind. But the interactions I’ve had with Kate are different from any other woman. She’s different.

She’s like a Rubik’s Cube. So frustrating at times that you want to toss it out the goddamn window. But you don’t. You can’t. You’re compelled to keep playing with it until you figure it out.

“Seriously?” I ask.

She shrugs. “Well, yeah. It’s been a rough night—a rough few weeks, actually.”

I smile and shift my baby into fifth gear. “I know just the place.”

Don’t worry. I don’t plan on plying her with alcohol until she gives up the goodies. But…if she happens to get wasted and rips my clothes off in the alley behind the bar, don’t expect me to beat her off with a stick either.

All kidding aside, this is a new beginning for Kate and me. A fresh start. I’ll be a perfect gentleman. Scout’s honor.

Then again, I never was a Boy Scout.

Chapter 9

“FIRST TIME YOU GOT DRUNK?”

“Thirteen. Just before a school dance. My parents were out of town, and my date, Jennifer Brewster, thought it’d be mature to have a vodka and orange juice. But all I could find was rum. So we had rum and orange juice. We ended up puking our guts out behind the gym. To this day, I can’t smell rum without wanting to hurl. First kiss?”

“Tommy Wilkens. Sixth grade, at the movies. He put his arm around me and stuck his tongue down my throat. I had no idea what was happening.”

We’re playing First and Ten. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this drinking game, I’ll explain. One person asks about a first—your first trip to Disneyland, the first time you got laid, doesn’t matter. And the other person has to tell about that first. If they haven’t done it for the first time yet—or won’t answer—they have to drink their shot. Then they have to tell you something they have done at least ten times. Which one of us suggested this game? I’ve already missed five firsts. I have no clue.

“First time you fell in love?”

Make that six. I pick up my vodka and toss it back.

We’re in a darkened corner of a small local bar named Howie’s. It’s a low-key place, kind of like Cheers. The patrons are laid-back, easygoing. Not the slick, couture-wearing Manhattanites with whom I typically spend my weekend nights. I like it here, though. Except for the karaoke. Whoever invented karaoke is evil. They should be shot between the eyes with a dull bullet.

Kate cocks her head to the side, appraising me. “You’ve never been in love?”

I shake my head. “Love is for suckers, sweetheart.”

She smiles. “Cynical much? So you don’t believe love is real?”

“Didn’t say that. My parents have been happily married for thirty-six years. My sister loves her husband, and he worships her.”

“But you’ve never?”

I shrug, “I just don’t see the point. It’s a whole lot of work and not much payoff. Your odds of making it for even a few years are only fifty-fifty at best. Too complicated for my tastes.”

I prefer simple and straightforward. I work, I fuck, I eat, I sleep, on Sundays I have brunch with my mother and play basketball with the guys. Effortless. Easy.

Kate sits back in her chair. “My mother used to say, ‘If it’s not difficult, it’s not worth it.’ Besides, don’t you get…lonely?”

On cue, a busty shot girl comes to our table and leans over with her hand on my shoulder and her cl**vage in my face. “You need anything else, cutie?”

That pretty much answers Kate’s question, huh?

“Sure, honey. Could you bring us another round?”

As the waitress moves away, Kate’s eyes meet mine before rolling to the ceiling. “Anyway. Give me your ten.”

“I’ve had sex with more than ten women in one week.”

Cancun. Spring Break 2004. Mexico is awesome.

“Uck. Is that supposed to impress me?”

I grin proudly. “It impresses most women.” I lean forward and lower my voice as I rub my thumb slowly against hers. “Then again, you’re not most women, are you?”

She licks her lips, her eyes on mine. “Are you flirting with me?”

“Definitely.”

Shot Girl brings our drinks. I crack my knuckles. I’m up. Time to get…intimate.

“First bl*w j*b?”

I tried. I held out for as long as I could. I couldn’t resist any longer.

The smile drops from Kate’s face. “You have serious issues. You know that, right?”

Borrowing some peer pressure from The Breakfast Club, I goad, “Come on, Claire—just answer a simple question.”

Kate picks up her drink and knocks it back impressively.

I am both shocked and appalled. “You’ve never given a bl*w j*b?”

Please, God, don’t let Kate be one of those women. You know the ones I mean—cold, unadventurous, the ones who just don’t do that. The ones who insist on making love, which means f**king in the missionary position only. They’re the reason men like Elliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton risk the destruction of their political careers, ’cause they’re just that desperate for a happy ending.

She flinches as the vodka burns down her throat. “Billy doesn’t like…or*l s*x. He doesn’t like to give it, I mean.”

She’s got to be drunk. There’s no way in holy hell that Kate would be telling me this were she not completely and utterly shitfaced. She hides it well, don’t you think? But she still hasn’t answered my question.

As for her fiancé—he’s a p**sy. No pun intended. My mother always told me, “Anyone worth doing, is worth doing well.” Okay, she didn’t actually say those exact words, but you get the picture. If I’m not eager to go down on a chick, then I’m not screwing her. Sorry if that’s crude, but that’s just how it is.

And this is Kate we’re talking about here. I’d eat her for breakfast every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And I can’t think of a single man I know who would disagree with me.

Billy is a total f**king idiot.

“So, since he’s never…you know. He doesn’t think it’s fair that I should do it to him. So, no…I’ve never…”

She can’t even say it. I have to help her out. “Given head? Sucked him off? Been tea-bagged? Blown his balls and his mind?”

She covers her face and giggles. I’m pretty sure it’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. She takes her hands off her face and blows out a breath. “Moving on. My ten. I’ve been with Billy for over ten years.”

I choke on my beer. “Ten years?”

She nods. “Almost eleven.”

“So you started dating when you were…”

“Fifteen. Yeah.”

So, if I’m hearing her correctly, what she’s most likely saying is no man has ever gone down on her? Don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I just can’t wrap my mind around this. That’s what she’s saying, right?

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