Authors: Holley Trent
Tags: #workplace romance, #enemies to lovers, #male submissive, #athlete, #sports hero, #baseball
“No, just a bitch with a lot of money.”
“Come on, Marina, I—”
“I think you were going to tell me something.”
Brow furrowed, he passed his sandwich from hand to hand, nervously, seemingly. “Was I?”
“Mm-hmm. You were going to tell me what you do with all your money.”
“Shit.” He set his half sandwich down on its wrapper and put his spine against the bench’s back. “I hate talking about this shit. It’s embarrassing. Folks always have opinions, and none of them are ever all that helpful.”
“Plenty of people offer me opinions about what I should do with my money, too. I ignore most of it, so I’m definitely not going to offer you any unsolicited advice.”
He put his head back and looked up at the gazebo’s ceiling. “People would get along so much better if they weren’t always trying to tell folks things they already know.”
“I don’t even see most of my money, to be honest,” he said. “If I get paid on the last day of the month, it’s gone by the first of the next one.”
. Quinn’s filter might have been functioning property, but hers was becoming more and more unhinged. “Shit, don’t answer that. I just know that more than a handful of Roosters have garnishments.” She didn’t like to judge, but she hated that those bozos hadn’t taken care of business the way they were supposed to—that they hadn’t stuck around.
He shook his head and straightened up his posture. “No kids, no ex-spouses. Just student loans and crippling credit card debt.”
“You went to college?”
“That shocks you?” He laughed and tossed a wadded-up napkin at her, which she swatted away. “Shit. I guess you thought you knew everything worth knowing about me.”
“I went for a couple of years. A really expensive college, at that. Financial aid didn’t cover living expenses. Tried to hang in there, but I got myself into a hell of a hole. I couldn’t take out any more loans, and the school wouldn’t let me return until I paid my tuition balance.”
“Yeah. I robbed Peter to pay Paul, as the old saying goes. Paid what I owed with credit cards, and then had a fun summer removing my clothes and sweating my balls off on hot stages to pay down the cards. Of course, when word got back to the athletic department about how I was spending my free time, I got kicked off the baseball team. From that point, I figured I’d take some time off and reevaluate what I was doing with my life.”
“And you never went back.”
“As my loan balance cruelly reminds me every month. That’s why when I’m not playing baseball, I’ve got a bunch of jobs. Maybe I’ll work thirty-nine hours a week in one, ten in another, and pick up a few hours for the third.” He laughed, but there was nothing mirthful about the sound. It was heavy with stress and just
And it made her sad.
She couldn’t even imagine what that felt like. Although she had plenty of stress in her life, none of it prevented her from achieving her goals, assuming she wanted to work for them. Finances had never been an impediment. Wealth felt like a curse at times, but she sure as shit didn’t take it for granted.
She reached across the gap between them and smoothed the collar of his polo shirt. He looked like he needed a touch, and she wanted badly to be the one providing it. She wanted to see him smile. “What were you studying?”
“I never got around to declaring a major. Gave serious thought to becoming a vet, though. Figured that’d be a useful skill set back in Montana.”
She dragged her fingertips up his neck to his jaw to just see if it felt as velvety as it looked.
He took her fingers in his and stared at her for a moment, looking at her as if she were a bug that had landed on his skin and he couldn’t tell if it was the kind that would sting.
Maybe she was, but she didn’t pull her hand back. She just waited. Being able to wait was what made her so good at controlling situations, even when she was so stressed. And yeah, Quinn had her stressed. He had her wound tight and aching to fix him so that
would feel better.
He dropped his hand to his lap and she continued her gentle exploration of his face. The satiny ridges of his lips, the cleft of his chin, the smooth sable of his sideburns.
His eyelids drooped when she passed her fingertips up the straight line of his nose.
“You still want to go back to Montana?” she asked.
“It’s home, I guess,” he said quietly. “It’s as good a place as any.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“Wanna go back better than I left.”
“I see.” She brushed her hand down the side of his neck and across his broad shoulder, pausing to rub it.
So tense, so high strung.
“It’ll take me a while to get there,” he said. “Gotta get rid of all the bills.”
“Mm-hmm. Might help to find a stable job.”
“Yeah, it might. Don’t know what that’d be with my résumé being what it is.”
“Understandable.” She pulled her hand back to her own lap and continued to eat. After a moment, he did, too.
He glanced down at his phone when it buzzed, and then tapped it back into the pocket of his khakis.
“Do you need to get that?”
“Nah, it’s the agency’s app. It makes me check in at certain times. It’s supposed to generate an email at the end of the day where you’re supposed to log in and confirm the hours.”
“Right. I got one last night for yesterday. Very efficient.”
Automated and impersonal, in truth, but impersonal was what Marina thought she’d wanted. She’d wanted some guy to be her stand-in so she could stay out of the orbits of those blustering construction blowhards. Impersonal didn’t seem like the best tactic to take with Quinn, though. It seemed he’d had enough of that in his life. No one ever asked what he needed.
“What are you doing after work?” she asked. “Got another gig lined up for tonight?”
“I’ve got a thing tonight. And Friday.”
“What kind of thing?” It wasn’t her business, but she wasn’t one to leave questions unasked when she had them.
“I’m supposed to fill in for a guy at a club.”
He chuckled. “Bartending.”
“I don’t strip anymore.”
“You assume I was thinking that?”
His grin was soft. “You were thinking it.”
“Okay, maybe.” She took a big bite of her sandwich, deploying one of Quinn’s stalling strategies. She couldn’t speak through a mouth full of bread and meat, and he couldn’t expect her to.
“Did you need me for something?” he asked.
She could think of a few things she
him for, but wants didn’t equate to needs. She’d always been very good at telling the two apart, but with Quinn, that was getting harder to do.
“Um. A house came onto the market today,” she said. “The sellers are motivated because the husband took a position out of state and they can’t afford to carry two mortgages. I want to go look at it as soon as I can.”
“You want to flip it?”
“Either flip it or buy it to rent it out. It’s an excellent location near the university. I don’t want to get in the landlord business for the same reason I don’t want to be on my job sites. It’s a business with the potential for a lot of confrontation from people I can’t avoid. I also don’t want to leave money on the table. I haven’t looked at it yet, so I’m not sure what strategy I’ll take.”
“What time were you thinking? I have to be behind the bar at eight.”
“I made an appointment for six.”
“Just tell me where.”
“You might be cutting it close.”
He shrugged. “I’m curious, I guess, and if you need a second pair of eyes, I can be that.”
“Okay. You’ll have to meet me there. By the way, I’m not going to be on-site here tomorrow.”
He furrowed his brow and put down his sandwich. “You’re gonna leave me here?”
“I don’t see where I have a choice. I can’t be two places at once and I need to go vet some folks for windfalls while I’m in the area.”
“I see.” His tone was sullen, even if his expression was perfectly neutral. “You’ll need to tell me what to do.”
She had no business wanting to push the boundaries of his volunteerism and see just what he was willing to do, but she was lonely. In spite of Quinn’s numerous flaws, he had a genuineness about him that was so damned sexy and companionable. He was honest and passionate, rough around the edges—sure—but she could work with that.
She just had to decide if she
Quinn hoped that Marina wouldn’t fire him once she found out how he and the carpenter had gotten into it over a damaged section of wall in the kitchen. One of his subcontractors fucked up the installation of a cabinet and busted up the drywall, nudging some plumbing out of alignment in the process.
The plumber they’d called in could fix it fast, but for a big pile of money. That had been fine with Quinn, until the carpenter muttered out of the side of his damn mouth that Marina would be footing the bill.
So, they’d argued. Loudly.
In the end, the carpenter agreed to eat the cost, but Quinn worried that he’d stepped way out of bounds. He wasn’t Marina’s employee. He was day labor, at best, and it wasn’t up to him to make executive decisions of that scope, but he’d been on-site and had to act quickly to keep the project rolling. He could have called her, but she’d said at lunch that she would be busy all afternoon.
Maybe I made the wrong choice.
At the press of her hand to his back, he jerked, and turned away from the small powder room he was peering into.
“You’re skittish as a cat,” Marina said. “What’s wrong?”
She looked so pretty in that swishy sundress with the full skirt and narrow straps that left her bronzed shoulders bare. He could slide them down easily and let the bodice fall to her waist so he could see her breasts, play with them, if she let him.
He’d get on his knees if she told him to. He’d deserve to after the mess he’d made.
He closed his eyes on the decadent sight she was and let out a breath. “Nothing. Listen, I need to tell you something. I—”
“So, what are you thinking?” came the realtor’s cheerful voice from the hall behind them.
Quinn groaned quietly. With many more interruptions, he might never get up the courage to say what he needed to.
Marina turned to the lady. “Give me the skinny,” she said. “You’re the listing agent so I know you can’t give me too much information about the sellers’ circumstances, but this place needs a little work.”
The realtor blinked rapidly. “Well, it’s move-in ready, and—”
Marina laughed softly, and the shake of her head stopped the lady’s mouth from running. “Yes, it appears to be, but some of the fixtures are as old as the house. There are some noticeable ridges under the carpet where the subfloor isn’t flush. There are stains in the laminate on the countertops. I mean, the house
pretty and new, but whoever moves in is going to have to put some money and elbow grease into it the first couple of years. And the roof is…” Marina shuffled through the sheath of papers in her leather portfolio. “Well, the roof needs replacement. So, I’m prepared to make a competitive offer that accounts for the selling prices of recent comparable listings as well as immediate improvements that need to be made on the property. I mean, the fence posts in the side yard are starting to show rot, all the flower beds have been neglected and need to basically be torn out at this point, and—”
“Okay, I get it.” The realtor chuckled nervously. “But it’s a
“I’m not discounting that. Look, we’re talking about a cash offer. No waiting for loan closings. I’m ready to accept the keys as soon as an independent inspector tells me I’m not nuts for considering it.”
The realtor swallowed hard. “Cash, you say?”
“Well, I’m not gonna give it to you in piles of hundred-dollar bills crammed into a locked suitcase or anything. I’ll get you a cashier’s check.”
The lady pressed her lips together and studied the ceiling for a bit. “Stay right here. I need to…go to my car and make a call.”
“Take your time.”
Please, take your time
. Quinn was dying to clear the air.
The realtor hurried away and down the stairs. When the front door slammed shut, Quinn turned to Marina. “Listen, I need to tell you something.”
, about the house?” She pouted.
Fuck, I made her pout already. Good job, jackass.
“Did I miss something obvious and you couldn’t signal it to me while I was yammering away?”
He chuckled. “No, I like hearing you yammer away. It’s sexy, a woman who knows what she’s talking about.”
“Oh?” She furrowed her brow. “Well, I put on a good show of it, anyway.”
“No, you actually do know, don’t you? You don’t have to pretend otherwise.”
She had the audacity to blush. It was almost as if no one had ever accused her of such a thing, and that was a damned shame. To Quinn, Marina was obviously very competent. Anyone with half a brain would have been able to discern that.
“That’s not what I need to tell you,” he said.
“I wanted you to hear it from me—before word got back around from the crew or something.”
“Did something happen at the house?”
“Yes. I, uh…know how you think I go around picking fights, and maybe it does seem I’m a little more prone to them than other guys, but, that’s just how I am. I’m defensive, sometimes, and I don’t like to think folks are getting things they don’t deserve. I couldn’t let them stick you with that charge.”
“What charge?” She put her hands on her hips and canted her head. “And
“I mean, it didn’t get physical…just might have sounded like it at one point, I guess. They fucked up a wall in the kitchen and wanted to bill you for the plumber.”
Her eyes went comically round. “Bill
“Mm-hmm. Uh, well, they won’t be.”
“What did you do?”
“Just convinced ’em that it was a shitty thing to try to pull over. Carpenter’s gonna pay for it out of his own cut, or dock his crew, or whatever. I just wanted you to know what it was about from me before you heard about it from them.”
Her eyes went back to their typically narrow slits, and her neutral expression gave nothing away. That meant she was pissed. He hadn’t been in her acquaintance for long, but damn sure long enough for him to read
He dragged his hands through his hair and groaned. “I—I didn’t want you to be mad at me, Marina. You left me alone to take care of things at—oh,
.” He sucked in some air and pushed up onto his toes as her surprising grip on his sac tightened.
Her lips quirked up at one corner and she canted her pretty head. “You’re rambling, Quinn.”
“I—I—I…” He fisted his hands and shook them out again and again, trying to compartmentalize the pain. Tried to let the pleasure come to the forefront, and it was there.
Fuck, it’s there
She loosened her grip only to press her palm against his cock and grind. “They didn’t call me,” she said. “So, that means you handled it. I doubt they’ll say anything.”
“Mm-hmm.” She skimmed her hands up his arms and then down, cinching his wrists. “I think we need to take a better look at this powder room.”
“There’s not much to see to it. I mean—”
She pulled him in and closed the door.
Her hands at his shoulders pushed his knees down to the tile, and his gaze focused onto the tan smoothness of her thighs as she lifted the skirt of her sundress more and more.
“It’s cute that you thought I’d be upset about that. I rarely get upset about a man taking care of business. You have to understand how rare an occurrence that is in my life lately.”
“I want to do that for you.”
“Take care of business? So go ahead.” She propped her right leg over his shoulder and tugged the crotch of her lacy panties aside to reveal a smooth, wet sex.
He leaned in instinctively, dying to have a little taste of her.
Her sharp intake of air when his tongue delved between her lips spurred him on.
She laced her fingers through the back of his hair and circled her hips, pinning his mouth to her. “The way you wear a pair of slacks is a sin, Quinn.”
“Hard to focus on business when you look so good. Damn you.”
He chuckled against her and worked his tongue in a little more to have better access to her clit.
“Probably shouldn’t be doing this.” She pulled his face even more toward her. “Probably shouldn’t touch you, but fuck, I want to touch you. I want to make you do things.”
“Mmm.” He nodded enthusiastically against her and kept spearing her with his tongue. He wanted to taste all of her—wanted to make her legs quake and for her to call out his name in that little bathroom.
Make me do things.
“Shouldn’t want to take you home.”
Take me home, Marina.
He needed his fingers to convince her. He took over holding her panties aside and she yanked his hair painfully as he slipped two fingers into her.
He liked the pain. He liked how she was so desperately steering him to get what she wanted, and he wanted to give it to her—wanted to make her happy.
,” she uttered through clenched teeth as he pulled her clit into his mouth and fluttered his tongue rapidly against it. “Work that tongue for something other than running your mouth, Quinn.”
He’d keep his damn lips zipped for the rest of the day if it made her happy—if she kept letting him touch her.
The front door downstairs opened and then slammed, and Quinn shoved another finger into her and put his thumb where his tongue had been. He massaged her wet nub as he thrust his fingers in and out of her slit, and stared up at her.
Her mouth was open wide and dark eyes round. Her pussy clenched tightly around his fingers, and then her body shook hard.
He threw an arm around her ass to stabilize her as she ground out her orgasm through clenched teeth.
Footsteps sounded up the stairs and Quinn slowly,
, pulled his fingers free from her and fixed her panties.
She was outside the door and waiting, a bit breathlessly, as Quinn washed his hands and grinned like an asshole at his reflection in the mirror.
“Give me a number,” the realtor said. “I’ve got the owners on standby and we can get the ball rolling tonight, if you don’t mind me acting as a dual agent.”
“No need.” Marina sounded perfectly clearheaded and professional, in spite of what she’d just had done to her.
A master at work.
He couldn’t help but be impressed. Marina was a hell of a woman. Way too good for him, that was for damn sure, but knowing that didn’t stop him from wanting her.
“I’m licensed to conduct real estate transactions in Florida,” Marina said, “so I’m handling all of my own paperwork up until closing. I’ll give you a number and can send you the written offer tonight for you to forward to them.”
“What’s the number?”
“Well…” Marina led the realtor down the hall and toward the master, itemizing cosmetic things that needed to be fixed.
She glanced over her shoulder at Quinn, and he waved at her.
He had to get to the bar.
She mouthed, “Keep your phone on.”
He nodded. He’d keep it attached to his ear, if he had to if it meant she’d call.
He hoped she would. She hadn’t been turned off yet by the usual things that sent women running. His net worth was in the negatives, he had no stable work, and sometimes when clothes came off, he was a little nastier than some ladies liked.
Marina was bound to give up on him like all the rest he’d given a piece of his heart to, but he was tired of superficial connections. He wanted someone to try to relate to him for a little while…even if they didn’t stay for long.
He’d take what he could get.