Shut Out (Just This Once #2) (4 page)

BOOK: Shut Out (Just This Once #2)
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With every step toward the restroom, I felt her eyes on me, assessing me. I tried convincing myself I was just imagining things. I was nervous, overly cautious, and to be completely honest, I was a little intimidated. Not by her looks, which is what most would assume when they looked at the two of us side by side, but I was intimidated by the fact that she had a part of Joel I’d only caught a glimmer of. Was the Joel who stayed at my house the same one she spent dating for a year? I couldn’t imagine that. He was too…goofy. She seemed…
was the word that came to mind when I looked at her. I turned around to take another glance at the woman who followed behind me. Her smug smile seemed to mock me, and I swore I could see her black eyes looking me up and down as if somehow I didn’t measure up. I stopped at the end of the hall and pointed to the sign advertising restrooms. “Here you are.”

“Thank you,” she said as she continued walking past me. It was one of the least heartfelt thanks I’d ever received, but I was still surprised that she had some modicum of manners left—however insincere they might have been.

When I got back to my desk, I wasn’t seated for more than a few minutes before my phone was ringing again. I growled to myself, thinking it better not be Joel trying to pick up from where he left off. Instead, it was Kerri.

“Hey,” I answered the phone.

“So…did you see her?” Kerri asked like the gossip-mongrel she was. Every bit of news was salacious to her.

“How could I not? She practically had me holding her hand to the restrooms.”

“Get out! Do you think she knows something?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Sarah said she has an attitude every time she calls for Henderson, as if it’s a waste of her time to talk to his E.A.”

“I think ‘bitch’ comes naturally to her. If I weren’t trying to
become Junior Partner, I
would totally let this case circle the drain. Not that I condone domestic violence or anything.”

“No of course not, but you have to admit, she does deserve a good smacking.”

. Oh, you’ll never believe who called me.”


“No fair. I made that easy for you.”

“I told you he wasn’t done. What did he say?”

“He wants to meet.”

“I’ll bet. This is probably the longest his push-pop has gone without any action.”

“Push-pop? Really, Kerri?” I said, amazed at how Kerri could make even a children’s ice cream sound perverted. It was surely a gift of hers. I’d never met someone as horny and sex-fueled, especially for someone who hadn’t gotten any in months. It was a regular gripe of hers—told to anyone within earshot, almost on a daily basis. It could probably be considered sexual harassment, except it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.

“Yeah, don’t act like you weren’t blowing that man like he was the last Popsicle of summer.”

“I’m not going anywhere near that statement. I don’t want to encourage you. You know you’re as bad as he is.”

“So, that’s why you like him? Is it because I have a vagina?”

“Hanging up now.”

“Wait! Don’t. Did you tell him you’d meet him?”

“What do you think?” I said rolling my eyes. Even though she couldn’t see, I knew she could hear the sarcasm squeezed out of every word.

“I think if he were anyone else but our client’s ex you wouldn’t have waited to call him. In fact, I think he’d still be at your house right now waiting for you to come home.”

“But you just said it; he is our client’s ex, and that’s not going to change.”

“Man, for someone who never dates, your love life sure has turned into a Shakespearean play. Or is it a Greek tragedy?”

“Well considering that he’s not my brother or father, I would say it’s not quite a Greek tragedy…unless it turns out I’m adopted, then all bets are off.”

“Well you’ll have to tell me how the story ends. This just looks like the end of Act I.”

“I hope not.”

We hung up the phone, and while I should have hopped back into my work, seeing as how I had gotten so little of it done with the constant interruptions, I couldn’t quite take my mind off of my conversation with Kerri. She would be on my side no matter if I continued to see Joel or not, but I could tell that she didn’t agree with my cutting ties with him. Maybe it was her attempt at living vicariously through me. “At least one of us was getting laid” would most likely be her typical response.

I let my mind drift to thoughts of Joel.
What would it be like to go to lunch with him, to be seen on his arm? What did he have to say to me that he couldn’t say over the phone, or was this just a ploy to get me in bed?
That seemed more likely.
And shouldn’t he be more concerned about his legal problems?
Kerri said that his lawyer was playing hardball and chances were they wouldn’t agree to the settlement, which would result in Lara suing him in civil court. He sure didn’t act like a man who was about to be sued by an ex for an amount of money that most Americans wouldn’t see in their lifetimes. He acted like someone who wasn’t used to hearing no, which probably only encouraged him to try harder. I just needed to do the right thing for the both of us and ignore his calls.
It shouldn’t be that hard, right?


Chapter Four


It was official. I was losing my mind. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I had overslept, shooting out of bed fifteen minutes after my alarm was supposed to go off. I didn’t remember hitting the snooze button, but it had to have happened twice for me to oversleep that much. I went into hyper-panic mode when I realized I had a half hour to get ready and be at work just to make it on time. With super-sonic speed, I showered, changed, and threw my hair into a bun before hightailing it to the garage so I could get my ass to work.

Careful not to hit my side-view mirrors, I looked out my window, measuring the narrow distance between my car and the wall. I backed out into my driveway, checking my rearview mirrors once more before closing the garage door. It was in those few seconds, with my hand still lingering in the air, when something to my left caught my attention.

My neighbors, Joan and Roger, were an elderly couple who hardly ever drove and almost never had visitors. So you can understand why a pearly white Mercedes S class would give me reason to pause. No one on the block owned a luxury vehicle, and what use would a car such as that have to my little old neighbors?

The car wasn’t ostentatious in any way. The color was simple, without an obnoxious license plate—commonplace for owners of nice cars in Vegas. The tint of the car windows was dark, but upon second glance, it looked like someone was sitting in the driver’s seat.

The car door opened and Joel rose out of the vehicle all cool, calm, and casual, as if he had every right to be in this neighborhood, on this street, in front of my neighbor’s home. I slammed on my brakes, practically giving myself whiplash in the process. Joel closed the door and stood next to the car, watching me. I didn’t know whether to roll down the window, get out of my car, or simply continue staring at the man who looked as stunning at 8 a.m. as he did at 11 p.m. He was simply beautiful. Beneath a beige blazer, he wore a light green collared shirt that made his eyes somehow lighter. Or maybe that was the way they always looked because I’d never seen this beautiful man out in daylight before. His jeans and loafers made him appear more casual, but they didn’t take away from his overall polished appearance.

Joel was striking. Drop dead gorgeous. A kind of take-your-breath-away stunning I’d never witnessed before in a man, possibly ever.

For those few minutes as we both stared at each other—with me hiding behind the safety of my vehicle—I forgot all of the reasons why he couldn’t be at my house and why I couldn’t be seen talking with him. As far as I was concerned, Joel was the enemy and we were in the middle of a war. There were no time-outs, no cease-fires, no talks of peace. To be seen speaking with him was damn near treasonous.

But when I looked at him, I didn’t see an enemy of war.

I saw Joel. My Joel. Or as much of him that could be considered mine after only spending a week together.

My hands felt shaky—
an effect of my lack of coffee
, I told myself with my mind racing, pulse hammering, and heart beating frantically. I was a mess of nerves. I got out of my car, barely shutting the door before walking down the driveway to meet him at the edge of my yard. As if just remembering what I looked like, I started straightening my skirt and patting my hair to make sure that I looked like a woman in control of herself, despite every synapse of my brain protesting the thought.

“Don’t you clean up nice?”

“What are you doing here, Joel?”

“What? I came to see you off to work.”

He moved in closer. So close, I could feel the heat of his breath break across my face like tides crashing against a rocky shore. The heat was strong enough to knock me flat on my back, a surge of feelings that rushed up pulling me under that looming gaze of his. That was what Joel did. That was what he was good at. Making women feel weak and off-kilter. I felt like my thoughts weren’t my own. Actually, I knew my thoughts weren’t my own because when he leaned in—our bodies so close our shadows were already merged there on the sidewalk—I leaned in, too. I closed my eyes and let him wrap those large arms around me, my body becoming sludge in his firm hold, while his mouth descended over mine. His lips felt sun-warmed and soft, capturing my bottom lip between his. He sucked and licked, awakening my whole body with the way his tongue enveloped mine. It was instinctual, my tongue reached out to touch his—to feel, to taste, to remember.

I forgot all about being late, and not talking to Joel, and everything else outside of our lips merging. His face was freshly shaved, and I rubbed my palms there beneath the curve of his cheeks. Fingers wound in his hair, relishing the softness. Joel was soft everywhere. Soft lips, soft skin, soft hair. I opened my eyes and watched those long, brown eyelashes sweep against the dip above his full cheekbones. He looked sweet from this angle. Every bit of the playboy I’d seen that night and discovered over a week ago was gone. Before me stood a boy that kissed like it was his first time. When kissing still felt like the gateway to another’s soul and all you had to do was reach for it.

His eyebrows quivered and the few groans that escaped his mouth were swallowed by my lips, but we continued kissing as if it were the last thing our lips would touch. We kissed like we were searching for answers. I didn’t know if I had the answer for Joel, but I liked to think that if I did, he found it in that kiss.

Joel’s hands trailed down my back until his hands found my waist. He wrapped them around me, holding me in place as his lips finally broke away from mine. His forehead rested against mine as we both came down from the high we were just on. I stared into his eyes as if looking at them for the first time. He didn’t move, didn’t blink. He simply stared back, holding me there in my driveway. The whole world could have passed down my street in those few minutes and I wouldn’t have noticed. More importantly, I wouldn’t have cared.

His hands fell from my waist and whatever spell his touch had tied me up in was broken. I took a step back and continued putting distance between us, each step marking the return of my sanity.

“What are you doing here, Joel? And don’t say it was to send me off to work. I get to work just fine. In fact, I’d be there already if it weren’t for you.”

“Blaire. Don’t be this way. I want to see you. Will you just meet for lunch? Please?”

“I can’t. And you shouldn’t be here. Please leave, Joel.”

“You don’t want that,” he said taking a step closer. I threw my hands up, forbidding him to come closer. “That’s not what that kiss said, Blaire. Do you know what I heard? Lick me, taste me, fuck me. Does that sound familiar? It should. It was the same thing you said the first night.”

“I don’t remember. Please, Joel.”

“You said that a lot, too,” he laughed. His smile was bright and his eyes sparkled, and I knew he was working his charm on me. Oh, how I wanted to remember the things that he could recall so easily. I wished I could remember those things so I’d have more memories to recycle. The ones I had were becoming too predictable.

“I have to go, Joel. Please don’t come here again.”

“Blaire. Blaire, please,” he pleaded, reaching for me.

I didn’t turn my back on him as I returned to my car, and he didn’t chase after me. We watched each other as the distance between us grew. We watched each other until my car turned right and escaped his view.


Chapter Five


The week flew by, and I let Kerri convince me to make Saturday a girl’s day out with her and Piper. The three of us went and had pedicures done before getting down to our swimsuits for some tanning and swim time over at the Cosmopolitan. The temperatures had just reached the hundreds—the first of the year—and everyone was sprawled out on lounge chairs to officially welcome summer.

“Ohh, my godddd. I love summer,” Kerri said ripping her sarong off and throwing out her arms as if offering herself up to the hot rays and cloudless sky.

“You always say that,” Piper giggled next to me.

Compared to what everyone else was wearing poolside, I felt a bit frigid in my carefully placed sarong that bared very little, but compared to me, Piper looked like a Buddhist Monk—nearly covered from head to toe in a muumuu that was a bit too thick to technically be considered a swimsuit cover-up. Kerri didn’t respond, simply sighed as if she were truly content with all life had to offer her. If only something as simple as tanning under a warm sun could take away all of the worries of the world, maybe then I wouldn’t be stressed about my predicament with Joel.
In a perfect world.

BOOK: Shut Out (Just This Once #2)
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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