Authors: Candy Caine
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
Arrow Publications, LLC
When Jade Green met successful trial lawyer, Charles Trotter, she found herself relaxing in the warmth of his smiles and his off-beat humor. Best of all, even though he was a blue-eyed hunk, she thought of him only as a great guy to hang with—no drama, no intimacy, no possibility of shattered dreams. And wonder of wonders, he seemed to feel exactly the same way!
When Charles Totter met Jade Green, he thought she was a walking wet dream. As he got to know her better, he found he also enjoyed her company and her quirky sense of humor. Now if he could only find a way to get her into his bed!
Despite the fact Jade knew she should end things with Charles, it felt comfortable having breakfast with him. Worse, she could see making a habit of it. After they finished he insisted on helping her clean up. Standing next to him at the sink washing the dishes as he dried, she felt the heat rising from his body. His after-shave was intoxicating and going straight to her head. She wanted him to kiss her, but knew he wouldn't. Not after the last time. So she did the unthinkable and kissed him.
“This is for breakfast and two more pounds,” she said. “Thanks a lot."
He smacked his forehead and said, “I did it again, didn't I? I'm going to become a Pavlovian response. You’re going to equate me with food.”
“It's a distinct possibility,” Jade replied as she playfully punched his arm.
Charles gently took her face and held it between his large hands. She looked into his eyes as they sought hers. She had to be blind not to see the hope and longing there. “Are you going to run away this time?” he asked
Copyright © 2012 by Candy Caine
All rights reserved.
Except for use in reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, now in use or in the future without permission in writing from the publisher, Arrow Publications, LLC.
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This is a work of fiction. All characters, places and events are from the author’s imagination and should not be confused with fact. Any resemblance to person’s living or dead, events or places is purely coincidental.
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Warning: This e-book contains sexually explicit content, which is only suitable for mature readers
Shawna Brown dabbed at her mouth with a napkin. “Are you going to the office party, Jade?”
“No,” the slender African-American woman replied and took another bite of her tuna salad sandwich.
Jade cringed at her friend’s accusatory tone, having a good idea where the conversation was heading. “No biggie. Just have no desire to.”
Shawna’s eyes narrowed under perfectly shaped eyebrows. “You hardly ever go out. Girlfriend, what kind of life is that?”
“Mine. And I like it just fine.”
This was exactly the kind of conversation Jade Green hated, and continuing it would definitely ruin her lunch. Thank goodness they were alone in the cafeteria.
“Well, I don't. It's about time you were over John and got on with your life.”
over John and this is the kind of life I want right now. I don’t need a man to screw it up.”
Shawna narrowed her eyes. Jade knew that look. Shawna wasn’t buying any of it. Jade knew her friend meant well. When she began to work as a secretary for the law firm of Winkler, Blum, and Jones six months ago, it was Shawna who took her under her wing and taught her the ropes. She'd been a good friend ever since, and the only one who knew about Jade’s difficult marriage to John and the terrible divorce. Shawna was right about one thing, though. It hadn't been easy for Jade to undo the deep hurt she still felt. With that unhealed wound, she had no desire to get involved with another man. She had learned her lesson. If you don’t start a flame, you won’t get burned, plain and simple.
“Look, it's only a party,” Shawna persisted. “Stay for a couple of drinks and go home. It won't hurt.”
Jade shook her head. “I don't know...”
“Come on, Jade. Please go with me—if only to keep me company. Please…”
“Oh, all right. Release your thumbscrews.”
“Great! And you’d know when you’d been screwed.”
That made Jade chuckle and Shawna laughed with her. Even so, Jade was worried. Was giving in and attending the party the right thing to do? After all, she always thought it was best to act on her first instinct.
The following afternoon, when Shawna and Jade walked into the room where the party was being held, Jade’s first instinct was to do an about-face and bolt. But Shawna sensed she was about to flee and latched firmly on to her arm. “Why don’t we get something to drink?” Shawna suggested.
As they made their way over to the bar, Shawna nodded hello to some associates she knew. Turning to Jade, she said, “If I remembered their names, I'd introduce you, but you know how bad I am with names.”
That was one of the things about her that had driven Jade crazy at first. Shawna could never remember her name. She kept calling her Jacqueline or Joan and everything in between. But Jade grew to love her, anyway, finding it difficult to get angry at her, especially when she looked at her with those big, brown Bambi eyes.
They got their drinks and a huge smile from the young bartender, who was part of the catering staff. Moving off to the side, Shawna said, “See, even he’s hot for you. You gotta get out more often, girlfriend.”
“How do you know he wasn’t making a play for you?” Jade asked.
“You ever look in the mirror, girl? Well, I have. You’re the one who looks like Beyoncé, not me.”
Before Jade could reply, Ann and Debbie, two of the receptionists, came over to chat. Each held a martini and after hearing them speak, it was obvious those hadn’t been their first drinks. Their little circle grew larger and more spread out. Somehow Jade was separated from Shawna and ended up in a corner. Jade didn't mind a bit—until she discovered she wasn't alone.
“I see you love crowds nearly as much as I do.”
Jade turned to face a tall man in a dark blue, pinstriped suit. He was undoubtedly one of the most handsome men she’d ever seen. His blond hair was longish and reached the back of his collar, and his eyes were gorgeous. A brilliant blue, they peered warmly down at her. The nose separating his full, sensual lips was narrow and straight.
He brought his drink to his lips and she noticed that the hand holding his drink was slender with the long, tapered fingers of a pianist. Her mother would be happy to know she got
out of her piano lessons. Her thoughts shifted back to the man. She knew why she liked being in a corner, but why would a guy who looked this terrific want to avoid people?
“Are you new?” he inquired.
“Only if you consider six months makes me still a newbie.”
“What department do you work in?”
“I'm Jay Schiff's secretary.”
“Jay's a lucky guy. My secretary is pushing ninety with a face that could stop a clock. My name is Charles Trotter,” he said, extending his hand. “I'm one of the trial lawyers.”
“I'm Jade Green and I'm only seventy.”
Charles laughed and nearly spilled his drink all over his suit.
“I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you spill your drink.”
“Don't be. I needed a good laugh.”
Jade noticed his eyes grew distant a moment after he said that. Must be all those billing hours, she thought.
They talked for a short time longer before he went to the bar to get them fresh drinks. When he returned, they found two seats in another quiet corner where they could talk without any interruption. Despite her tightly woven, self-imposed, protective cocoon, Jade found Charles easy to talk to.
He mentioned he was married and had a twelve-year-old son named Stephen. From his tone Jade gathered he and his wife weren't getting along. She listened carefully to the way Charles spoke about his wife, Caroline. More than once he referred to her as “the princess.” Of course that presented
Jade with the
impression of a spoiled woman with a large ego. However, reading between the lines, Jade realized that Caroline had disappointed and hurt him badly.
“It's funny how you think you know a person only to discover, after it's too late to change things, how little you really know them,” Charles said. “Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”
“In what way?” Jade asked as she stirred her drink.
“When I first met Caroline, she seemed to be everything I wanted in a woman. She was beautiful, gutsy and had class. Brains to match, as well. Unfortunately, after the birth of our son, Stephen, everything changed. She had more interest in climbing the social ladder than she did in her own child. I'm sorry to say that most of the love and attention Stephen receives comes from me. Caroline has as much maternal instinct in her as a gnat.”
Looking and listening to Charles, Jade wondered about his wife.
What was wrong with the woman
? She had to be a fool at best. After all, Charles not only seemed to be a nice guy, but he looked as if he’d rolled off the cover of
. Had she been interested, which of course she wasn’t, she would grab him.
Jade glanced at her watch and realized it was getting late. “I really should be getting home.”
“May I drop you off somewhere?”
“No, the subway will be fine.”
“Please, let me take you home so I know you'll be safe.”
“It's really not necessary. I take the subway five days a week.”
“But usually not this late. I selfishly insist.”
Cocking her head to gaze at him sideways, she asked, “How is that being selfish?”
His blue eyes twinkled. “I couldn’t handle the guilt if anything happened to you.”
“All right,” Jade sighed and nodded. “You win. I just have to get my coat.”
“I'll meet you down in the lobby in five minutes.”
Jade looked around for Shawna to say goodbye. She found her friend talking to a man on the other side of the room and wished her a good night before taking the elevator down to the lobby. On the way, she wondered how sensibly she was behaving by allowing a man she hardly knew to take her home. Oh, well, she’d always been a sucker for a pretty face. The thought made her laugh. Besides, he was married, and nothing would ever come of it.
Charles got out of an elevator across the lobby the same time she did.
“Perfect timing, Jade,” he said as he dropped his arm around her shoulders and guided her to the rear elevator that led down to the garage where his car was parked. Jade had guessed he owned a BMW or a Jaguar. Instead, he opened the door of a Volvo for her.
“I want to thank you for the pleasant time I had talking to you,” Charles said.
“Yes, it was nice. You know, I must confess, I wasn't going to go to the party at first. My friend Shawna literally had to beg me to change my mind.”
“Well, I'm glad you did.”
“So am I,” Jade heard herself reply. Had she actually said that?
“Maybe we can have lunch or dinner together some time. I really enjoy your company.”
“But you're married.”
“Jade, I’m not asking to have an affair with me, only a meal.”
“I apologize. What I meant was that it wouldn't look proper and tongues would wag.”
“I'm not one to worry about how others view an innocent meal. But if it will make you uncomfortable, forget I asked.”
“No, you’re right. It would only be a pleasant meal shared between two friends.” Had she actually said
? She’d only just met the guy. How did he get past her self-imposed moat so fast? Though she’d dated several guys since John, they’d never got beyond the first or second date. Now listening to some of her responses, Jade suspected she wasn’t sounding or behaving like herself. Had she been replaced by a clone?
“I like that way of describing it,” he said. “Everybody needs a friend to talk to from time to time.”
No one said anything for a few moments. Then Charles asked, “Where do you live?”
“Not too far from Rockefeller Center.”
“Great! I know this is a bit on the spur of the moment, but are you free tonight? There's a terrific restaurant near there I know you'll love.”
Jade bit her lip and made a sound of indecision, which he picked right up on.
“Oh, is there something you had planned or someone at home who expects you?”
“Actually...the answer is no to both.”
“Then...why are you so hesitant?”
“It's me. Ironically, from where I stand, you're the best guy to be with—you're married and safe.”
“I was married for eight long, hard years to a guy who drained me of all feeling except pain. I'm still reeling from the aftershock of the divorce. I guess it's hard for me to trust men. Subconsciously I've built a protective wall around myself. There, now you know the entire sordid story.”
Charles began to laugh.
“You find that funny?” Jade practically hissed at him.
“No, Jade, I'm not laughing at what you said. I was thinking of the mockery of my
marriage.” He stopped at the light and turned to face her.
“What do you mean?”
“Caroline and I are married in name only. We haven't slept together in ages and hardly ever talk—except to argue. No matter what, there always seems time for that. Basically I remain with her so I can be with Stephen, my son. I shudder to think what might happen to him if I divorced her. She may not care for me, but she does like what my salary can provide.”
“I know how rough it must be. I'm sorry.”
“Not as much as I,” he said as the light changed. “She has her discreet affairs and I have mine. No one knows our marriage is a sham. It's one of the best-kept secrets.”
“I truly understand how painful this all must be for you. I guess, in a way, I’m luckier.”
“How’s that?” he asked.
“I got divorced. All I had to do was pick up the pieces of my life and go on from there.”
He nodded. “Well, we're nearing the restaurant, Jade. Would you like to try it? I promise that if you ingest anything that makes you sick, I'll take you immediately to the hospital.”
Jade looked at him. The expression on his face was serious, but his words sounded so silly, she had to laugh. No one had ever given her such an outrageous dinner invitation. “Okay, since you put it that way, I'll tempt the fates.”
“Good. I know you're going to like it.”
Jade was enjoying the company of this man more and more. He had a strange sense of humor, which she found refreshing. Perhaps their friendship would turn out to be a good thing.
Charles was right about the restaurant. It was a terrific find. Located on a side street, it was small and easily missed if you didn't know it was there. It specialized in steak and seafood. Surprisingly, the portions were huge compared to the smaller, artful ones she’d grown to expect. There was no way she’d be leaving the place without gaining at least five pounds.
And of course, the food wasn't the only enjoyable aspect of the evening. Charles kept her in stitches with stories about some of the funniest blunders that took place during trials he had litigated. After dinner Charles drove her home. He had to be at the courthouse early in the morning, so he walked Jade to her elevator and then left.
She had been thinking about offering him a nightcap, but worried she’d hurt his feelings if he made any advances. His leaving allowed her to dodge a bullet, but along with the relief she felt was a little disappointment. It was that feeling that made her apprehensive. She feared he’d somehow made a chink in her armor.
Jade hadn’t seen or heard from Charles for over a week. She merely figured he was involved with a case. Or perhaps, the night of the party he’d just needed someone to vent to and nothing more. She applied the emotional brakes. Why should it matter to her, unless of course, she wanted something more—which she definitely didn’t. Therefore it was just as well she hadn't heard from him. Then she hesitated. But they had discussed friendship, hadn’t they? She covered her face with her hands.
Stop it, Jade!
she chastised herself.
You're beginning to sound like you miss him. Don’t look for problems now when you’ve been doing so well. The last thing you need is a man around to complicate matters.