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Authors: Alannah Lynne,Cassie McCown

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BOOK: Going All In
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Oh, he was an arrogant man.

Despite her attempt to play it cool, she was as transparent as glass. He was teasing her, daring her to go to sleep and not have naughty dreams featuring him.

Fortunately, he’d never know she planned to take her blouse to bed with her because it smelled like him. Unfortunately, not only was he arrogant, but he was probably also a fortuneteller.

Chapter Five

B
etween finalizing everything at The Chesapeake, packing up his construction trailer, and getting ready to start Gavin and Sunny’s renovation on Anticue Island, Wade stayed busier than expected over the next couple of days. The evenings remained unseasonably cold and, at times, had even been too harsh for him to enjoy being outside. Hanging out around a campfire for pleasure was different than being wrapped in layers of clothes and still unable to get close enough to the flames to stay warm. For that reason, he hadn’t invited Callie to go with him to the state park, and he hadn’t run into her at work.

The lack of visual, however, didn’t keep him from thinking about her, or texting, or calling to ask about her day. He also hadn’t been able to stop thinking about
the kiss
. Even though he’d replayed the whole incident a million times, he still couldn’t figure out what prompted him to go lip-locked-and-lovin’-it.

One minute they’d been engaged in innocent conversation about work, and the next he was moving in. The sigh that escaped her pretty pink lips as he closed the gap unraveled logical thinking and made it impossible to stop. Her lips were as soft as he imagined, and he wanted nothing more than to coax her into opening for him so he could explore further.

But Tyler and Alex’s voices cut through the roar of blood pumping in his ears and brought him back to reality. His friends… Her friends… A thousand strangers in a club… Callie, not the stranger he’d set out to find when the night began, and he refused to treat her like one, especially with an audience.

As he packed up his construction trailer and prepared to pull out of the job, he was keenly aware of preparing the project for her hands. She’d come in and pretty up the clubhouse and sales office so they could launch the grand opening, and everywhere he looked, everything he touched, reminded him of her.

Shit.
He scrubbed a hand over his face and growled in frustration. Something had to give, and soon. He was sporting all the signs of a man in over his head, not to mention a fairly consistent erection whenever he thought of her, and they weren’t even dating.

As he finished putting the final strap on the filing cabinet, ensuring it stayed put while the trailer was moved to Anticue, the door opened and Kevin stepped inside.

He looked around, saw Wade had everything wrapped, packed, strapped, and ready to roll, and burst into laughter. “You’re ready to get the hell out of here, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.” Wade loved his job, but some projects were more enjoyable and fulfilling than others. The Chesapeake had been an
other.
“This project has been a pain in the ass from start to finish, but I guess some are just that way.” He grinned as he thought about his first job as foreman. “Compared to The Vanguard, though, this has been a piece of cake.”

Kevin rolled his eyes and dropped his head back. “You’re not kidding. I’ll never jump the gun on a project like that again.” His annoyance melted into a mushy-gushy look as his thoughts flipped to his wife, Sam. “But if the water issue hadn’t come up, I wouldn’t have gotten to know Sam, so it was all worth it.”

Wade muttered, “Speak for yourself,” as he secured his chair so it wouldn’t roll during transport.

Even though Wade had been acting foreman, Kevin made the decision to move the project forward before the county completed construction of the water tower necessary to operate the sprinkler systems in the buildings. Wade had no control over the situation, but when shit hit the fan, he’d been convinced his first job as foreman would also be his last.

Fortunately, Sam wasn’t just the building inspector who shut them down, but she was also the brilliant woman who figured out the solution to their problem. Wade had been grateful. Kevin took his gratitude to stratospheric levels and married her. But they were a perfect match, and Wade was glad Kevin had gotten lucky enough to find her.

After a final check of the break room, Wade returned to the main office where Kevin stood, flipping through the box holding the project paperwork. “This ready to go to Marianne?”

“Yes, sir. It’s pretty well organized, but I’m sure she’ll find something to bitch about.”

“She usually does. She doesn’t feel like she’s being thorough and doing her job well enough if she doesn’t find something out of place.” He replaced the lid and turned to Wade. “Speaking of bitching… How’d things go with Callie the other day?”

Wade snapped the bottom of the blind next to his desk into place and carefully considered his answer. Fearing Kevin would see through him if he said too much, he decided to downplay the day and say as little as possible. “Things went fine. She’s nice.” He grinned. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say she’s sweet, but…” He shrugged and checked another blind. “She’s all right.”

He didn’t have a clue where he expected things to go, but he supposed he didn’t have to have all the answers right now. She wasn’t anything like he thought, nothing like Miranda, and he enjoyed spending time with her. Because of that, and because he’d promised her a campfire, he would see her again. Tonight if possible.

End of story. Simple as that.

Except even as he had the thought, he called bullshit on himself. The topic had never come up—because, yeah, why would it—but he knew with all his being Callie didn’t do casual sex. The thing was, he didn’t think she did anything casually. She approached everything in life with gusto and one hundred percent commitment.

Not only had she proved it Monday at work, but he also saw the same intensity at the club. When the band started playing, she became completely involved in their performance. When he talked, she gave him her undivided attention. And while he’d love to think he was just that interesting, her captivation hadn’t been reserved for him. She’d been the same with his friends when they started a conversation with her.

She didn’t half-ass anything, and that would certainly be the case with her relationships. She was an all-or-nothing kind of girl, and to a guy like him—who was terrified of
all
and had spent the past year swimming in
nothing
—those were treacherous waters.

Miranda left his heart so shredded he’d doubted he would ever piece enough of it together again to be of value to anyone. However, regardless of the fear jetting through his system, he felt the stirrings of something for Callie, and the compulsion to follow through and see where it led wouldn’t leave him alone.

“Then I don’t need to worry about you being an ass to her anymore?”

Wade cut his eyes to the side and glanced at Kevin but didn’t meet him head-on. “No, you don’t have to worry about me being an ass.”

He hoped. Depending on how things went between Callie and him, she might end up considering him a first-rate asshole, which would land him back on Kevin’s shit list. But hey, he’d just remind Kevin he was the one who insisted Wade be nice.

And then he’d duck before Kevin connected with a solid right hook.

“Why are you so interested in Callie anyway?”

Kevin shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “You and Callie are going to work together on the Anticue project.”

That had Wade snapping to attention. Kevin was deadpan and matter-of-fact, while Wade’s mind splintered into a million directions and his nerves sizzled like he’d been blasted with a bolt of lightning. “Say what?”

“It’s a renovation rather than a new build, so she’ll need to make a lot of decisions along the way. She’ll be there as much as you, and since you’ll be riding back and forth together and sharing the office, I want to make sure you guys are copacetic. Gavin will pick up on any tension between you guys right away, and I don’t want any calls.”

Wade blew out a long, slow breath. Well, hell, that added another layer of complication to an already complicated mess. He needed to be nice, but not too nice, because he couldn’t afford to let a romantic relationship develop—at least not until after they’d finished the project.

He wasn’t planning on problems. He’d gotten the message loud and clear, but he felt the need to remind Kevin he knew how to keep his personal shit from affecting his job. “I didn’t let personal get in the way of business last year. I’m not going to start now.”

Kevin drew in a deep breath and slowly nodded. “No, you didn’t, and I have a shit ton of respect for you because of it. But I have to cover my bases. Gavin is a good customer, and I don’t think he and Sunny are finished expanding their operations. I want to make sure nothing messes up our working relationship with them.”

He opened the door a notch and grabbed the box off the desk. “I’m headed to the office. I’ll take this with me. Anything else I can do to help you here?”

Wade flipped off the light and followed Kevin out. “Nope. It’s all ready to go first thing in the morning.”

“Great. You have plans tonight? Let me rephrase that. You have any plans that will prevent you from hitting the road to Anticue first thing in the morning?”

“Nope. I’m going to the state park, but I’m taking an insurance policy with me to ensure I leave early.”

At least he hoped Callie would go. He tried calling her earlier in the day, but her phone went straight to voicemail. He started to send a text, but the building inspector showed up to do the final walk-through, and he’d forgotten to finish sending it.

“Your stripper friend have to be at work at midnight?”

The question caught him off guard, especially since he was thinking about Callie, and his hackles rose. He turned to face off with Kevin but realized he wasn’t being an ass. He was simply asking a question. And sadly enough, given Wade’s recent past, the question was reasonable.

“No.” Wade kicked the ground with the toe of his boot and mentally chastised himself for the way he’d been living lately. “I’m not taking Mercy tonight. Just a friend.”

A friend he’d kissed.

A friend who dominated his thoughts.

A friend who invaded his dreams, causing him to wake up every morning primed for action.

Shit, taking Callie with him tonight—even as a friend—was a bad idea on so many levels, one of which was standing in front of him, eying him suspiciously. But Wade had never been the cautious type, and he supposed not even the threat of death or castration would change him. He just needed to make damned sure he didn’t fuck up.

*

“Are you ever going to finish that thing?” Jen asked, settling into Callie’s sofa, a margarita in her hand, a sour expression on her face.

For the past month and a half, Callie had been working on an old dressing table she picked up at a consignment shop. The ornate corner carvings called her like a siren’s song, and she’d immediately envisioned painting the piece in bright colors to showcase the details. For her, it had been love at first sight. She was still waiting for the dressing table to share its feelings, but she was pretty sure, once finished, it would be thrilled with its new paint and thankful to have been rescued from its previous boring existence.

Holding back her huff of annoyance with Jen, she concentrated on her paintbrush. She swirled the sable bristles in the well of blue paint, dipped the tips in the white pot, then swiped most of the paint off on the towel lying across her knee. “Finishing is my plan.” Leaning in close and focusing on the edge of the carved flower, she touched the end of the bristles to the top of the petal, then pulled a downward stroke so light she barely left any paint.

Perfect.

“You’ve been working on it for weeks. Why not go buy something new and be done?”

This time she wasn’t nearly as successful at hiding her irritation. They’d had this conversation three, possibly four times, but Jen never listened. Mostly because she didn’t bother to try and understand.

BOOK: Going All In
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