Forget Her Not

Chapter One

 

I told myself I wouldn’t do this anymore.

When I hear the shower turn on, I’m annoyed that my one-night stand seems to think my hotel room is an appropriate place to get ready for the day. What’s next? Cuddling? Then I realize this isn’t my hotel room.

Fuck. My head hurts.

Like I said, I told myself I wouldn’t do this anymore. I’m pushing forty, for God’s sake. It’s time to settle down—and by that, I don’tmean become someone’s other half. I’m not the marrying type. Too independent and too stubborn, or so I’ve been told. No, I just mean I need to stop sleeping around so much.

Not that I’m some raging whore who opens her legs for just anyone. I have a discerning palate. Certain requirements. For one, he has to make me laugh. Tall, dark and self-deprecating—that’s what I’m drawn to. And I can tell by the way certain parts of my body feel right now that we had a good time last night. I can’t remember a damn thing, but the less you remember, the more fun you had, right? Or maybe you were just that wasted, Samantha.

Shit. I really need to stop doing this.

I manage to crack one eye open. I reach over and pick up One-Night Stand’s watch off the bedside table: 7:55. Shit. I’m definitely going to be late if I don’t get my ass out of bed. I sit up and grab my head. I glance back down at the watch. A Rolex. It’s nice, but a tad feminine if you ask me.

“Drink this, you’ll feel better.”

That is not the voice I expected. I don’t move. I don’t flinch. My facial expression doesn’t change one bit. This is not a reflection of my steely resolve. It’s only because I’m so fucking hungover my body can’t actually react to anything in less than thirty minutes. Inside, my mind is blown. From the way my body feels, everything else is blown too, but that’s not the point.

My eyes follow long, smooth legs up to black panties. Smooth legs? Black panties? I take the water bottle from her hand and try to hide my shock. I take a sip and look a little further up to a tan, toned stomach and black bra. I swallow hard and look her in the eye. She’s smiling at me. “I had fun last night.” She picks up the watch and puts it on her wrist.

“Yeah, um…” I try to clear my dry throat and look behind me, hoping I’ll find a man in the bed.

Fuck. The empty bed makes me turn back around to her, confusion written all over my face, I’m sure. “Was there…” Her eyebrows rise while she waits for me to say something halfway coherent. “I mean…surely there’s someone…” I glance at the bathroom, hoping to see a light on under the door. “Did we…”

Have a threesome? I don’t say it out loud. Instead, I scan the floor looking for a used condom. Please God, tell me I wasn’t so drunk that I forgot to have him use a condom. And also, God—please tell me there was a himinvolved in this—whatever it was.

“Yes, we did.” She’s nodding and smiling. I think she finds this funny. I watch her eyes go lower and realize she’s checking out my tits. My God, what have I done?

“Who, um…” I casually pull the sheet up to cover my bare chest.

“Who? I’m not sure what you’re asking.”

“Was there…” I take another sip of the water, wondering if I look as bad as I feel right now. “You know…a third person at this party?”

“A man, you mean?”

I nod.

She rolls her eyes. “I’ll let you get dressed.”

Damn. I think I pissed her off. My eyes follow her as she walks away. She’s gorgeous—you know, as women go. Long, wavy brown hair and a very nice ass—you know, as women’s asses go.

Did I touch that ass last night? Well, fuck if I can’t even remember my first lesbian experience. Just my fucking luck.

I’m zipping up yesterday’s trousers when she comes out of the bathroom. I give her a little smile and then look away in case I start blushing. Why do I suddenly feel so shy? We obviously had some awesome gay sex last night or she wouldn’t have been so friendly this morning. And my body is telling me it might have even gotten a little rough. I haven’t looked in a mirror yet, but I noticed a good-sized love bite on my lower abdomen, aka an inch above my pussy. What. The. Fuck?

Maybe the reason I feel so shy right now is because chances are really good that this woman had her head between my legs last night. God, I’m such a slut. I steal another glance at her as she slides into a nice pair of heels. She’s wearing a very sexy yet businesslike skirt and top. I’d ask her where she shops if I didn’t feel so embarrassed.

I slide into my own heels and put my purse on my shoulder, not sure what to say or do next, which is kind of strange for me. I usually run my fingers over scruffy whiskers and say “thank you for a great time.”

The face touching is so I don’t have to kiss them good-bye. It shows just the right amount of warmth, so they don’t feel like they just fucked a coldhearted bitch. I hate being misunderstood, even by complete strangers.

I’m not cold-hearted as much as noncommittal. Men are clingy and needy and want me to have their babies. Well, they used to anyway, when I was younger. I didn’t want to ruin my body then and I certainly don’t want to now. It would never recover. Not at this age.

She opens the hotel room door, and I say shebecause I can’t remember her name. I really should get her name before I leave so I don’t feel like a complete asshole. But how exactly do I do that without sounding like a complete asshole? I duck my head and walk to the door. She grabs my hand as I walk past her. “Samantha…”

Damn. I guess she remembers my name. Our eyes meet and she intertwines our fingers. I look down at our hands, enjoying the way her slender fingers fit perfectly with mine. I’m racking my brain for her name while I wait for her to say whatever she was going to say. Her brow knits together and then she smiles. It’s almost as if she’s warring with herself for the right words. Then she suddenly lets go of my hand and points back into the room. “I forgot I need to make a phone call before I go.”

I can read people pretty well, and I’d bet a thousand dollars she doesn’t actually need to make a phone call. She just doesn’t want to endure the awkward elevator ride with me. I don’t blame her, and honestly, I’m kind of relieved. I give her a nod and walk out. When I hear the door shut behind me, I let out a big sigh. God, I’m a fucking moron.

 

v

 

I’m currently vacillating between wanting so damn bad to remember every second of whatever the hell happened last night and wanting to pretend I didn’t just wake up in another woman’s bed for the first time in my life.

woman! Christ.

This coffee isn’t helping me remember anything. Neither are these scrambled eggs. Why do hotel restaurant chefs think they have to cook every last bit of moisture out of the eggs? Even when I ask for a wet scramble they’re… Oh God, she just walked in.

She really is beautiful. And she seems very put together, almost as if she knows exactly what her next move will be; her whole life planned out and written down somewhere. Ten bucks says I wasn’t a part of that plan.

She certainly wasn’t a part of mine. Not that I have anything planned beyond the next two weeks. Whatever brought her to Chicago has probably been on her calendar for months now. Or maybe I’m completely off base and I just happened to sleep with a hooker last night. One of those high-endprostitutes. This is a nice hotel, after all, with the bathrobes and complimentary slippers. I take a quick look in my wallet, just to make sure the same amount of cash I started with last night is still there. And then I shake my head at myself. Like I’d pay to have sex with a woman! The thought almost makes me laugh out loud, but I control myself so as not to draw the attention of my beautiful, exotic-looking lover. Yes, I just said that in my head. Hey there, lover. Yeah, I said that, too. Don’t judge.

I wish I knew how we came to be in the same bed last night. What were the circumstances that took me to her hotel room? What words did I speak? Was I suave? Was I forward? Did I kiss her first? All questions I might not ever get answers to unless I speak to her again. All joking aside, I’m not sure I want to do that. How would I even begin that conversation? Sorry I’m such a lush and can’t remember a goddamned thing, but hey, mind telling me why we screwed last night?

And we definitely did. Like I said before, my body is sore in unmentionable places. And that only happens when I go at it all night. God, I wish I could squeeze even just one memory from this thick, foggy brain of mine. I rub my temples again, trying to ease the hangover. It doesn’t help.

She’s taken a booth across the restaurant from me. She’ll have to look to her far right to notice me, which means I’m basically hidden from her view. It makes me smile that I can watch her while I nurse my second cup of coffee and pray this jackhammering in my head goes away.

Who is she? Where is she from? Neither of us is from Chicago, obviously. So, where did this beautiful creature come from and how did I end up in her bed? I know I keep asking that question, but this is a serious matter. I don’t sleep with women! Not ever. Not once. Not even in my youth when I would get so drunk, I couldn’t remember…fuck.

The truth is, I wish I could remember what she feels like. Surely I ran my hands over her body. Touched her smooth skin and kissed those full lips. When I woke up in her bed this morning, I was mortified by the thought of it, but looking at her now, I’d say I scored. Big time.

She just put on a pair of black-framed reading glasses, and my tummy did a flip-flop. Why do I have butterflies? I haven’t had butterflies in a million years. Now I wish she’d look my way. Hey, baby, what’s your name? Wanna talk?

Coffee and a muffin while she works on her tablet—that’s her breakfast. I wonder if that’s her normal routine. God, I wonder if she’s married and this was just an out-of-town romp in the hay. Maybe she does this on all her business trips. I usually look for a wedding ring or signs of a wedding ring (tan lines where a ring should be). I don’t sleep with married men. I learned that lesson a long time ago. Did I think to look for a ring on her finger? I doubt the thought even crossed my mind. Because why the hell would it?

I can’t eat my dry eggs. My stomach is too tied up in knots now.

“Is something wrong with the eggs?”

My server is seriously blocking my view of Sexy One-Night Stand. I lean to the side, trying to look around the rotund woman. I don’t want to lose sight of her. “No. Just the check.”

“If there was something wrong with the eggs, I’d be happy to get the chef to—”

“No!” I look her in the eye. “Just the check, please.”

By the time she’s glared back at me and then shrugged her shoulders, Sexy is halfway out of the restaurant. So, I have a choice. Do I wait for the check and lose her forever? Or do I throw some cash on the table and run after her?

Yeah, I agree.

“Mia!” I stop dead in my tracks. I have no idea what part of my brain suddenly remembered her name. God, I hope that’s her name. Turn around, Mia.

She’s smiling at me. And slowly walking toward me. That’s what she did last night! I can see her in my head, smiling the way she is right now. I wish I could remember what happened after that. Like, for instance, how the hell I ended up in her bed.

“Hello again.” She’s standing close enough that I can smell her perfume. It smells familiar. And delicious.

“Hi.”

And that’s where my communication skills end. Because how do I casually ask who she is and did she get me drunk just to have sex with me, and by the way—did I like it? God, how I want to know if I liked it. The way she’s smiling at me makes me think we had a very good time.

She turns and glances at a group of people standing by the hotel entrance. “I need to go or I’ll miss my ride.” I just nod, still not sure what to say. “But if you’d like to meet up later…”

“I’m…I’m leaving tonight.” God, now I’m stuttering.

She nods and smiles again, showing off her cute dimples. “Okay. Well. I really don’t know what to say.”

We both giggle. “Neither do I.” Her brown eyes are warm and kind, and for a second, I get lost in them. I look down and clear my throat, hoping I’ll find some courage in the next three seconds and string some words together. “I could…maybe…change my flight. Leave tomorrow morning?”

She’s studying my eyes, wondering if I’m serious, I would guess. It’s so crazy, but I’m dead serious. For some reason, I can’t leave it like this. I have to know more. I have to know—why.

She looks back at the group again. Some of them are looking our way. They look like coworkers. Not family. Not friends. “See what you can do. And leave a note for me at the front desk. I’ll be back around six.” Our eyes lock for a few more seconds and then she gives me another huge grin. Her eyes sparkle a little bit when she smiles. “Okay, then. Maybe I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah” is all I can muster. She gives me a final nod and turns to walk away. And yes, my eyes fall to her ass. My fucking eyes fall to her fucking ass.

 

Chapter Two

After an unsuccessful client meeting (I was off my game), I’m ripping yet another page off the hotel notepad. I crunch it up, shoot, and miss. It shouldn’t be so hard to write a simple note, should it? Hey, I changed my flight. Let’s hook up again.That would work, wouldn’t it? At least it’s honest.

I’ve been racking my brain, trying to remember more about last night. I know I checked in late, around eight. I had the bellman take my luggage to my room and headed straight for the hotel bar. I was dressed in business casual. Nothing flashy. Nothing that said hey sexy lady, take me to bed and screw me.I’m not even sure what that outfit looks like.

Anyway, I ordered my regular martini with olives. Nothing out of the ordinary there. It’s not like I tried something different and got so drunk I couldn’t think straight. Heh. I have to laugh at that one.

The only memory I have of her is seeing her walk toward me with that smile—as if she knew me. As if she were meeting me there. I focus on the notepad again, and as soon as I write her name, another memory from last night pops into my head.

You don’t remember me, do you?

She said those words to me and then waved at the bartender. She ordered the same thing I was having and leaned her elbows on the bar, still smiling as if she knew a secret and couldn’t wait to share it with me.

Mia Rossi.

That’s the name she said when she offered me her hand. I took it and told her my name.

I know. God, you really don’t remember me, do you?

I drop the pen, lean on the desk, and rub my temples. Did we sit and reminisce and drink until we couldn’t walk? Obviously, we could walk. I’m pretty sure she didn’t carry me to her room. “Mia Rossi. Mia Rossi. Who the hell are you?”

You dated my brother. I had a total crush on you and he used to tease me about it.

My eyes shoot open. High school? Fucking high school? Fucking twenty plus years ago, and she remembered me?

You’re still beautiful. You haven’t changed a bit.

I stand up and start pacing the room. I don’t remember a little sister. I dated Gabe Rossi almost my entire senior year and I have no memory of a little sister. So I do the only thing I can think of to do. I pick up my phone and call my own little sister.

“Sam?” Juliet says my name all tentatively, like we haven’t spoken in years.

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

“Oh-kay. How should I sound?”

I roll my eyes. It hasn’t been that long since I called her. Or maybe it has. Shit, I’m a terrible sister. “How are the kids?”

“All grown up.”

She was always such a pain in my ass. “I know they’re grown up. I’m just asking how they are. How’s…” Damnit, what is that oldest kid’s name? “Nathan! How’s Nathan?”

“Sam, why are you really calling?”

I look at the ceiling and shake my head. Why did I call her, of all people? She’ll want to know everything and then she’ll judge me. Juliet always judged me. She’s still judging me from her perfect little home in the suburbs. “It’s about Gabe Rossi.”

“Nathan’s football coach?”

“We dated in high school, remember?” She doesn’t reply. “Juliet?”

“I know his wife, Samantha. My God, what did you do?”

“What are you talking about?”

He’s married!

Good for him!” Now we’re shouting at each other? Just for old time’s sake? Wait—she thinks I slept with Gabe? I have to laugh because it’s so much worse than that.

“You really think breaking up a marriage is a laughing matter?”

“No, Juliet. Believe it or not, I don’t. And that’s not who I…” Shit. I need to slow down. I take a deep breath and clear my throat. “Do you remember him having a little sister?” Silence again. “Juliet? Do you remember Gabe’s little sister?”

“She was a couple of years younger than me, but yeah, I remember her.”

“How much younger?”

“You and Gabe were seniors. I was in ninth. Mia was, like, sixth, I think. But then she skipped a couple of grades. She was the smartest kid in our school. Last I heard, she was a lesbian doctor, but not like a doctor, doctor. More like a medical researcher or something.”

“A lesbian doctor?” I can’t keep the sarcasm out of my voice. “Like they need their own doctors?”

“You know what I mean. She’s a lesbian anda doctor. But not a doctor, doctor…”

“Yeah, I get it, Juliet.” I cover my eyes with my hand so I can think for a second.

So, she’s only about six years younger than me. That’s good news. And she’s a lesbian, which means I didn’t coerce a straight woman into bed. Also good news. Maybe the good lesbian doctor seduced me. That, I could definitely live with.

“Sam, why are you asking about Gabe’s little sister?”

Shit. “Uh, I’m in Chicago on business,” I answer in an upbeat tone as if that will clear everything up for her.

“And?”

“Aaaand…I saw her in the hotel bar. I mean, I didn’t see her, she saw me…and we…met. You know, had a drink.”

It takes Juliet several seconds to say anything. And then finally, “Why do you sound so flustered? Did something happen?”

“Like what? What could possibly happen?”

“I don’t know. You just sound flustered. And defensive.”

“I do not!” I clear my throat again, hoping my voice will drop down to its normal range. “I do not.”

I always hated this about my little sister. You see, in our family, the first child was actually the second child and vice versa. Juliet was always the pragmatic, sensible, favorite child. And I was…wild.

Not this wild, though. I never fooled around with girls. This will definitely be something new for Juliet and my mom to talk about for months on end. I can hear my mother now. Where did I go wrong?And then Juliet trying to comfort her. It’s not your fault, Mom. Samantha is just Samantha. She always has to push the limits.

That’s probably true. I’ve never been a respecter of limits. And people who try to place them on me get thrown to the curb pretty quickly. Gabe Rossi was the first non–family member who learned that lesson. Get married right after high school graduation? Was he fucking kidding? I was eighteen, blond, tan, and gorgeous. I had beaches to visit, and Eiffel Towers and pyramids to climb, and hot foreign guys to fuck. Marrying Gabe Rossi that summer or any other was not going to happen. And I didn’t let him down very gently. I’m sure he hates me to this day.

“Sam?”

“Yeah. Sorry. I’m here.”

“Did you and Mia…you know…I mean, she’s kind of young for you and she’s a woman, but…”

“But what?” I need her to finish that thought.

“I wouldn’t judge, is all I’m saying.”

I have to laugh out loud. Juliet not judging me would be like the sun not rising.

“She’d be a total catch,” she adds. “Gabe…Coach Rossi and his wife, Janey…they can’t say enough about her. Gabe is so proud of his little sister.”

It’s a trap. She’ll pull me in, get me to admit the truth, hang up on me, and call Mom. I know her tricks.

“Sam, you wouldn’t have called me if this wasn’t important.”

She’s right about that. And I’m so thrown by Juliet’s reaction, I don’t know what to say to her. Would she really be this open to me dating women? Surely not. Hell, I’m not even open to me dating women.

“Talk to me, Sam.”

As much as I don’t want to admit the truth to Juliet or anyone else, I could really use some advice right now. If it comes back to bite me, so be it. My mother is already disappointed in her eldest child. Always has been. This won’t change anything. “I don’t remember much, just bits and pieces.” I take a deep breath and sit on the edge of the bed. “I got to the hotel late and went straight to the bar.” I stop, because when have I ever described my sexual escapades to my little sister? Never, that’s when.

“And Mia was there? At the bar? Did you have a few drinks and then fall into bed with her?” She’s giggling. “It doesn’t surprise me that she’d find you attractive.”

What? Did Juliet just compliment me? My looks were always the bane of her existence. She hated how much attention I got. She used to say I stole all the sunshine from the room. She’s literally never, ever complimented me on—anything!

“That’s what happened, isn’t it, Sam.”

“Something like that…yeah.” And now I wait for the real Juliet to show herself.

“Maybe this is what you need.”

“What I need?” I ask, my voice rising again. What the hell does she mean by that? I soften my tone, hoping she’ll actually respect my wishes. “What I need, Jules, is for you to not tell Mom about this.” I use her nickname so she’ll understand how serious I am and maybe cut me some slack.

“See her again, Sam. And I won’t tell Mom, but you should totally pursue this. I mean, if you…you know…enjoyed it.”

God, who is this person? “I can’t remember if I enjoyed it. I’m racking my brain trying to remember, but I must’ve had too much to drink because I don’t even remember flirting with her.”

“What does she look like?”

“Gorgeous. I mean, you know…she’s pretty.” I think that answer fell from my mouth a little too quickly because she’s giggling again. “I just mean, I saw her this morning, and she’s…” That moment when she took my hand in hers while we stood at her door comes to mind, making me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “I think I liked it,” I whisper, more to myself than Juliet.

“Did you get her number?”

Okay, now I just have to ask. “Juliet, why are you being so cool about this?”

“I don’t know. I guess I’m just glad I was your first call. I’m never your first call.” I squeeze my eyes shut. She’s right about that. “Also, I want you to be happy. I want you to find someone who’s good enough for you. My big sister has terrible taste in men, but her taste in women is kind of awesome.”

“Huh. For some reason, I thought you’d see this as just another screwup on my part.”

“Only if you screw it up,” she says with a laugh.

I don’t say anything.

“Sam, listen to me. Sometimes I’ve wondered if there wasn’t some deeper reason why you’ve struggled your whole life with relationships. Why you couldn’t ever commit yourself to anyone. Even that great guy you dated for a year and then suddenly out of the blue just broke up with him. What was his name?”

“Mike,” I tell her, knowing exactly who she’s talking about.

“Mike. That’s right. Anyway, I’ve wondered if maybe you were…”

I wait for her to finish and then roll my eyes. “Gay, Juliet? You’ve wondered if I’m gay?”

“You grew up in this town with me, Sam. Every gay kid had to leave and never come back. And the only people I know who openly talk about their gay relative are the Rossis. Everyone else likes to pretend that their sister or brother or son or daughter doesn’t exist. It would be natural for you to suppress those feelings if you had them. And…it would explain why you never come home.”

As much as I appreciate her openness on the subject, it’s just not true. “I really don’t think I’ve repressed anything. I’ve never even looked at a woman in that way before.”

“Before Mia, you mean?”

I guess I can concede that point. “Okay, yes. Not until Mia.”

“So, give it a chance. Stop worrying about the fact that she’s a woman and focus on how she makes you feel.”

I still don’t know if I trust Juliet, but she’s being so nice. I guess it won’t hurt to tell her about tonight. “Yeah, um…I’m going to stay an extra night so I can have dinner with her.”

“Yes!” She lets out a little whoop and now I’m the one giggling. “You have to call me later and tell me how it goes. Or text! Just send a text if you can’t talk, okay?”

“Okay. I will.”

“Okay. Love you, Sam.”

“Love you too.” I end the call and stare at my phone for a moment. I don’t understand how a single second of that phone call could’ve just happened, but I do know that I haven’t told my sister I love her since we were little. It felt good to say those words again. I stand up and go back to the desk and the notepad.

 

Mia,

Call me when you get in. I’d love to take you to dinner.

Room 733

Samantha

 

Forget Her Never

Chapter One

 

“Has anyone ever told you that you drink too much?”

Abby stiffened. She looked around to make sure the woman sitting a few seats down was actually addressing her. Surely she wasn’t. Was she? But the woman was staring right at her. Great. Abby took another sip of her drink. “Strangers, acquaintances, even a few lovers.” She set her drink down with some force. “But never a call girl.”

The woman smirked. “Nice.”

“Hey, you had that coming.”

“Maybe so, but you still drink too much.”

Abby turned on her stool and gave the woman a once-over, purposely letting her eyes linger on what she could only imagine were pretty nice breasts under that tasteful little black dress. She liked what she saw, even if she didn’t care much for the woman’s pickup line, if that’s what it was. “Care to join me?”

“No, I’m waiting for my pimp. You know how it is,” the woman said with a shrug. “If I don’t pay him every night, things get ugly.”

Abby couldn’t help but laugh out loud. “Okay, you win.”

The brunette with the pretty green eyes leaned in a little closer. “Yeah? What do I win?”

“Let me buy you a drink.” Abby waved her hand, trying to get the attention of the bartender.

“I’d rather pick my prize.”

Abby’s eyes widened in surprise. “Oh, this should be interesting. Yes, by all means, pick your prize.”

“A date. You and me on a riverboat tomorrow night.”

Unimpressed, Abby swung her stool back toward the bar. “Those boats have terrible food.”

“Not the boat I’m thinking of.”

Abby took the swizzle stick from her drink and rolled it on her tongue while she considered the offer. Did she really care about the quality of the food on a damn boat? Not really. She gave the woman another glance. “Just dinner? Or do I have to put out?”

“Only if I make you laugh.”

Abby tried not to laugh, but it snuck out. “Okay, maybe I havehad too much to drink.”

“Or maybe I’m just that funny.”

“Maybe,” Abby said with a shrug. “But like you said, I’m a little tipsy. Now, a hot chick who can make me laugh when I’m sober would be a rare package indeed.”

The brunette slid off her stool and moved closer. “Not so rare. I’m looking at one right now. Maybe I should take a picture and post it on Instagram. I wonder how many likes I’d get?”

Abby looked away in disbelief. “You wouldn’t post that on Instagram.”

“Twitter, then.” She made a show of taking her phone out of her purse.

Abby suppressed a grin. “And what would the tweet say?”

“Good question. Let’s see. How about, ‘With any luck, this hottie will be doing a walk of shame tomorrow morning’?” She held up the phone as if she was about to take a photo. “Hashtag wish me luck.”

Abby shook her head. “Okay, you really are funny.”

“You didn’t LOL.” The brunette steadied her phone. “Okay, smile.”

Abby gently pushed the phone away. “I was laughing on the inside.”

“So, how about a ride home?” She tucked her phone back into her clutch. “And I’m Kendall, by the way.”

Abby threw her swizzle stick back in her drink. “Wait. Did we just backslide? First you ask me out on a mediocre date to, what was it? Medieval Times?”

“A boat.” Kendall raised her eyebrows and half smiled. “On the river.”

“Right. The backslide. You wanted to take me to see Riverdance and now you just want to take me home and—”

“Wait.” Kendall put her hands up in defense. “It’s just a ride home. No ulterior motives.”

Abby wasn’t buying it. The offer was tempting, but she’d never pictured herself with someone older than herself. Not that she really knew how old what’s her name was, but there were laugh lines around those gorgeous eyes. “Thank you for the offer, but I can take care of myself.”

Kendall leaned in. “Right now you can. But in about three minutes, that last shot of tequila is going to hit you hard.”

“You’ve been stalking me?” Okay, now it was just getting weird.

“Not stalking, just admiring.” Kendall threw a couple of twenties on the bar to cover the bill. “Please, I’d really like to make sure you get home okay so we can go on that mediocre riverboat tomorrow night.”

Abby huffed at the thought. She was definitely not going on some damn tourist riverboat with this rude woman. “It’s nice of you to offer, but I’m very capable of hailing my own cab.”

“I don’t doubt that you are, but I have a driver waiting right out front.”

This woman is relentless! “Thanks, but I’d feel safer in a cab.” And just take no for an answer already, would you?

“A cab it is. May I at least ask who we’re hailing a cab for?”

Abby hesitated for a second, then shook the offered hand. “Abby.” She forced a smile and slid off the stool.

“Easy, there.” Kendall grabbed Abby’s hand to steady her. “Take a second to get your bearings.”

Abby wasn’t about to admit it, but that last shot of tequila had indeed been a very bad idea. She grabbed on to the bar to steady herself as the room around her swayed. After a deep breath, she gave Kendall an unconvincing nod. “Okay. I’m good.”

Kendall smiled. “Take my hand, and I’ll lead you through the crowd.”

Abby did as she was told. It was for the best since the room had gone from a gentle sway to a slow spin. She watched Kendall motion to her driver as she hailed a cab. Abby tried to get it together. She could do this. She could get home without making a complete fool of herself. It would just take a few deep breaths. She took those breaths and got in the cab.

“Scoot over,” Kendall said. “I’m going to make sure you get home.”

“I’m fine,” Abby snapped back.

Kendall went to the other side of the cab and got in. “You don’t look fine,” she said. “Have you given the driver your address?”

Abby furrowed her brow. “No. Not yet.” She gave the driver the address and looked behind them. “Is your driver going to follow us?”

“Yes. I’ll need a ride home once you’re safe and sound.”

“Oh.” Abby turned back around a little too fast, causing her to grab on to the door with one hand and Kendall’s leg with the other. The movement of the cab was seriously conflicting with the movement in her stomach. “I feel sick.”

The cab driver immediately pulled over and screeched to a stop. “Not in my cab, lady. Get out!”

Abby jumped out of the cab, spotted a trash can on the sidewalk, and ran to it. Kendall also got out, giving the cab driver the opportunity to squeal away. “Oh, thanks!” she yelled.

Abby wanted to crawl under a rock and die. She was throwing up into a trash can on the street. Could it get any worse? She saw fancy black heels on the ground right before she heaved out the last of the contents of her stomach. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and stood. Kendall was there with a napkin. “You’ll feel better soon,” she said.

“This is so embarrassing.” Abby wiped her mouth again and tried to hold back the tears. “I don’t usually do this.” Ever. This had never happened to her before. Not even in college.

Kendall rested her hand on Abby’s back and gave it a gentle caress. “Now you know why I wanted to help you home.”

Abby didn’t see anything in Kendall’s eyes but true concern. “Right, you were watching me. Or stalking me. Or whatever.”

“Admiring. I was admiring you,” Kendall said. She looked up and down the street. “We lost our cab, but my driver is right there. What do you say we get you home?”

Abby nodded her agreement and followed Kendall to the SUV. They both got in the back seat and sat mostly in silence, with Abby giving the driver brief directions when necessary. She felt so humiliated. The truth was she hardly ever had more than one drink when she’d frequented that bar or any other. She wasn’t usually so rude, either. This woman, Kendall whoever she was, had caught her in a bad moment. She’d apologize and hopefully never see her again. That’s how this night would end.

The driver helped Abby out of the car and over to the curb where Kendall was waiting. “Thank you,” Abby said, barely able to stand the bad taste in her mouth. “And I’m sorry I called you a—” She didn’t want to say it again with the driver standing right there. “Anyway, thank you for the ride.”

Abby tried to walk past her, but Kendall gently took her by the arm. “I’ll walk you to your door.”

“That really isn’t necessary.”

“Please, let me.”

Abby searched Kendall’s eyes again, wondering what her motives could be. Again, she only saw genuine concern, so she gave her a nod. In the elevator, it took everything she had to not lose what little was left in her stomach. She managed to get her keys out of her purse but couldn’t quite get the key in the lock.

“Here, let me.” Kendall took the keys from her and opened the door, pushing it open wide enough for Abby to walk through but not walking in herself. “Drink lots of water. And I’ll see you tomorrow night at seven.”

Abby shook her head. “Surely you don’t want to—”

Kendall smiled. “Be ready at seven.”

 

Chapter Two

Abby opened the door. Feeling rather shy and hesitant, she said, “Hello again.”

“Hello.” Kendall looked her up and down. “That gorgeous dress you’re wearing tells me you’re planning on going out tonight, but your eyes are saying something different. Have you changed your mind?”

“Did I throw up on you last night?” Abby blurted the question out and then bit her lip while she waited for an answer. She couldn’t remember if she actually hit the trash can or the sidewalk. And God help her if she hit the sidewalk and ruined this kind woman’s expensive looking shoes.

“Not on me per se, just near me.”

“Oh God.” Abby covered her eyes. “Did you have to send your dress out for dry cleaning? I’d be happy to pay for it.”

“I would have anyway. Vomit or not,” Kendall said with a smile.

“I don’t believe you.”

Kendall shrugged. “Okay, yes, it was gross. You threw up all over me.”

“Oh, my God.” Abby covered her eyes again, this time with both hands. Throwing up in public? On someone? A beautiful someone? Was someone kidding with this shit? She was better than that. So much better than that. She was a professional woman, living and working in New York City. Not some bar-hopping drunk who didn’t know when enough was enough.

“I’m kidding,” Kendall said. “It wasn’t that bad. The way you ran to that trash can was impressive. I’d say you were on the track team.”

“I wasn’t. And I’m sorry. I don’t usually drink like that.” Abby looked away, embarrassed. “Obviously.”

Kendall gave her a gentle smile. “Hey, I might have had one too many too if I, you know, had bombed so badly trying to pick up a beautiful woman.”

“You saw that?” Abby needed a rug to crawl under. Or better yet, a hole in the ground she could fall into right about now. Picking up women in bars—or anywhere for that matter—wasn’t a skill she’d managed to hone. In fact, she was terrible at it when she was sober and obviously not much better when drunk.

“Maybe you need a better pickup line,” Kendall said.

“Oh, like asking a woman if anyone’s ever told her she drinks too much?”

“Hey, that line’s a winner. I’m standing here, aren’t I?”

Abby narrowed her eyes. “I threw up on you. Why would you want to go out with me after that?”

“And right before that, you called me a call girl.” Kendall grinned. “Oh, and you also intimated that taking you on a riverboat would quite possibly be the worst date you could imagine. So yeah, I was intrigued.”

Abby eyed her for a second and then shook her head. “I forgot about the riverboat.”

“Get your coat.” Kendall gave her a wink. “I’ll wait.”

 

v

 

Kendall stood at the bottom of a gangplank and motioned for Abby to walk ahead. Abby started but quickly turned back. “You said we were going on a riverboat.”

“We are.” Kendall pointed a finger at the Hudson. “This is a river.” Then she pointed nonchalantly at the rather large yacht in front of them. “And this is a boat.” She put her hands on Abby’s hips. “Eyes forward. I really don’t want to ruin another dress trying to pull you out of the water.”

Abby whipped around. “I knew it! I ruined your dress last night, didn’t I?” She didn’t mean to step so far into Kendall’s personal space, but there they were, almost nose to nose. It was too dark to see what Kendall’s eyes were telling her, but Abby caught a hint of sweet perfume and minty breath. She let her eyes fall to Kendall’s lips. It had been a while since she’d felt another woman’s lips on hers. She missed everything about it. Nothing turned her on like a soft, wet tongue dipping into her mouth for a little taste.

“I was just teasing. My dress is fine.” Kendall gently turned Abby back around and kept her hands on her waist.

Abby took a breath and tried to shake herself out of her musings. “This is a private yacht, not a riverboat.” She took a few careful steps up the gangplank.

“Oh! My bad.”

Abby stopped halfway up and turned around. “Well, this is a night of firsts. A private yacht. An older woman—”

Kendall put her finger on Abby’s lips to silence her. “Hey, watch it. I can’t be that much older than you, but that doesn’t mean you need to ask my age. Not yet.”

“Thirty-six,” Abby mumbled past the finger.

“Yes, that is correct. How did you know?”

Abby laughed. “That’s how old I am.”

“Fine.” Kendall sighed. “If you must know, I’m forty-seven. And a half.”

Abby grinned. “So, forty-eight?”

Kendall turned Abby back around and urged her up the gangplank. “I saved you from yourself last night. Surely you can cut me some slack on the age thing.”

Abby would most definitely cut this beautiful woman some slack on the age thing. She’d never dated an older woman, but there was a first time for everything.

She boarded the yacht, expecting to find a party going on, but the only people she saw were wearing uniforms. The first gentleman bowed slightly. “Ma’am, welcome to The First of Many. Would you care for a drink?”

Abby glanced back at Kendall and smirked. “The first of many drinks? Probably shouldn’t go there again.”

“How about a glass of wine? I have a great selection.”

The First of Manyis yours?” Abby looked around the very expensive-looking yacht.

Kendall rested her hand on Abby’s lower back. “May I choose something for us? A nice pinot noir to start?”

It didn’t go unnoticed that Kendall had avoided the question, but Abby didn’t want to push it. She put up a finger. “Just one glass.”

Kendall signaled to her bartender. “The sixty-one, Sergio.” She took Abby’s hand and led her to the upper deck. “You’ll tell me if you get chilly?”

“Of course.” Abby glanced at their intertwined fingers before turning her attention back to Kendall’s green eyes. “But I don’t think that will be a problem.”

Sergio came back with a bottle. He poured them each a glass of wine. “The normal route, ma’am?”

“Yes. Thank you, Sergio.” Kendall offered Abby a glass and held her own up for a toast. “Here’s hoping I can make you laugh tonight.”

Abby gave her a quizzical look.

“Last night, you asked if you had to put out tonight, and I said—”

“Only if you make me laugh,” Abby said as she nodded. “Now I remember.”

Kendall cleared her throat. “So, a guy walks into a bar with an alligator.”

Abby started to giggle in spite of herself.

“Well, that was easy,” Kendall said. “I didn’t even have to get you tipsy.”

“I was laughing at your ridiculous attempt to get me to laugh, not the actual joke. It doesn’t count.”

“I would love nothing more than to hear you laugh all night. And don’t worry about the other thing. I won’t hold you to it.” Kendall took Abby by the elbow and led her to a sofa. “We should sit while the captain embarks.” She waited for Abby to sit first. “Please, wherever you like.”

Abby sat in the middle of the long sofa and crossed her legs, swirling the wine in her glass. “So, is it?”

Kendall sat and turned toward Abby with her legs crossed. “Is it what?”

“Is it the first of many?”

Kendall smiled and held up her glass for a toast. “The first of many times I make you laugh? God, I hope so.”

Abby clinked their glasses together. “Are you going to deflect my questions all night?”

“Will you be here all night?”

God, this woman had a non-answer for everything. Abby grabbed the seat when she felt the boat move. She’d been on the ferry a few times, but never on a smaller boat like this. As if you could really call this boat small. She smiled at Kendall, trying to hide any anxiety she was feeling.

“It’s okay,” Kendall said. “Once we get going, it’ll be smooth sailing.”

Abby was trying to take it all in. She needed to adjust to her surroundings and react appropriately. She was on what appeared to be a very expensive yacht with an extremely attractive woman. How did she end up here after making a complete fool of herself the night before? And was this something Kendall did on the regular? She needed more information, but she had her doubts that she’d get a straight answer about anything. “That guy, Sergio, asked if you wanted to take the normal route. Does that mean this is normal for you?”

“Hmm,” Kendall said. “If I say yes, you’ll think I’m in this for one thing. And if I say no, you’ll call me a liar.”

Abby gave her a sympathetic frown. “You can’t win.”

“Not with that question. Ask me another.”

Abby’s eyes fell to Kendall’s lips. They were naturally plump. Not the fake plump that looked as if someone had attached a tire pump to them. No, Kendall was obviously born with the most sensuous, kissable lips Abby had ever seen. “What’s that shade of lipstick called?”

“It’s called You Get My Jokes,” Kendall teased.

Abby stifled a snicker.

“See?” Kendall said. “I speak the truth. Ask me another.”

Abby tucked her long, dark hair behind her ears. “Okay. What’s on the menu tonight?”

“Riverboat food. What else would you like to know?”

“Your last name.”

“Squires.”

Abby put out her hand as if they were in a business meeting. “Mine is Dunn.”

Kendall reached out and pulled Abby’s hand to her mouth and gently kissed it. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Abby Dunn.”

Abby’s heart skipped a beat. “It’s nice to meet you too,” she whispered.

Kendall took Abby’s cold hand and rubbed it between her own. “You’re getting chilly. Stay right there, and I’ll grab a blanket for us.”

It was a clear, crisp, early autumn evening. Abby looked but couldn’t see any stars in the sky. It didn’t matter. The New York skyline was beautiful, and the woman walking toward her with a blanket was absolutely stunning in her navy-blue dress and camel hair coat.

Kendall sat and wrapped the blanket over their legs. “Better?”

“Yes, thank you.” Abby’s tummy did a little flip when Kendall smiled at her. She turned away, feeling shy all of a sudden. Was this woman even real? She’d never been treated so well on a date before. Even back when she’d dated men, they were never as chivalrous and attentive as Kendall was being. It felt too good to be true. And it probably was.

Kendall pointed out landmarks and talked about the different buildings as they made their way past Lower Manhattan. It was obvious she’d grown up in the city and knew it well. Abby found it fascinating since she hadn’t lived there for very long. She listened intently, adding a comment here and there, but mostly, she was content to drink her wine and listen to Kendall Squires talk about the city she loved. She had a pleasant voice, and she used her hands when she spoke. Abby found she didn’t want to take her eyes off Kendall, even when she would point to a landmark.

Sergio stepped outside with a plate of appetizers. “Excuse the interruption, ladies. We have Osetra caviar to begin this evening if that would be satisfactory?”

Kendall looked from Sergio to Abby. “Are you okay with caviar?”

“Absolutely.”

“Personally, I’d prefer buffalo wings, but Sergio is a snob about these things.”

Abby looked at Sergio, and he lowered his head, trying not to laugh. “Caviar is fine, Sergio.”

Kendall put her hand on Abby’s knee and gave it a gentle squeeze through the blanket.

Abby smiled. “I love good caviar. And something tells me this will be good.”

Kendall leaned in and lowered her voice. “Only the best for the drunk girl I picked up in a bar.”

Abby covered her eyes for a second as the awful memory came forward. “Is there any chance we could pretend we met tonight?”

Kendall put a dab of caviar on a blini and offered it to Abby. “And forget that you called me a call girl? Not on your life.”

“I’m sorry about that. I misspoke.” Abby looked around at their surroundings. “I should have called you a high-class call girl.”

Kendall grinned. “Thank you.”

 

v

 

After enjoying an incredible meal in the dining room, Abby leaned back in her chair and studied Kendall for a moment. She hadn’t been able to get much personal information out of her, but she did get her to admit that The First of Manywas indeed her yacht. Abby could play the secretive game too, although it wasn’t really necessary since Kendall hadn’t asked any personal questions.

Don’t ask, don’t tell seemed to be the theme of the evening. Abby could deal with that as long as Kendall kept looking at her the way she was looking at her—as if she was the most beautiful woman she’d ever laid eyes on.

When had any woman looked at Abby that way? Men, sure. They weren’t hard to please. But women were different. They didn’t usually let their desire show so openly as Kendall Squires did. Abby had to admit that it felt good, and she didn’t want it to stop.

Kendall didn’t break her gaze while she sipped from her glass. “You look like you have something on your mind.”

So many things were on Abby’s mind. Like, where was the bedroom? And what was under that high-necked, navy-blue dress? And what cruel designer made a neck that high anyway? And also, what did her skin smell like? And underneath that well-spoken, high-class façade, was this the kind of woman who would let herself go in bed? A woman who would let herself be devoured? Because that was what Abby would do, given the opportunity. She would devour Kendall Squires, if that was even her real name.

“Just one question,” Abby said. “What were you doing in that bar?”

Kendall looked a bit perplexed by the question. “I imagine I was doing the same thing as you. Having a drink.”

“What I mean is, I wouldn’t take you for the type to hang out in bars looking for drunk girls to hit on.”

“True. Stumbling across a drunk girl was just a bonus.”

“Would you please be serious?”

Kendall leaned on the table, resting her chin in her hand. “Maybe I am being serious. Did it ever occur to you that maybe I really was looking to get laid?”

“Most people don’t do that with yachts and caviar,” Abby said.

“Don’t they? Well, maybe I’m just willing to work harder than most.”

“That’s just it. You don’t have to,” Abby said. “Any woman…or man, if you like both, would be so enamored, simply by your voice and your touch and those eyes and your graciousness and your witty comebacks and those lips and those eyes.”

Kendall grinned. “You said eyes twice.”

Damnit, she did. And those eyes were searing into her, and if she didn’t look away, she’d get lost in them forever. “My point is—”

“Oh, there’s a point! I can’t wait,” Kendall said, her chin still resting in her hand and her face looking so gorgeous Abby was tempted to swipe the dinner table clean and climb across it and kiss that cute smirk right off Kendall’s lips.

“Kendall.” Abby liked the way the name sounded coming from her own mouth. “Why would someone like you go to a bar that’s obviously way out of her neighborhood—unless you live downtown, which judging from all of this, I seriously doubt—and pick up a stranger?”

Kendall leaned back in her chair and sighed. “I guess I can’t use a witty comeback for this one, can I?”

“You could. But wouldn’t it feel great to just tell me the truth?”

Kendall pushed her chair back and stood. She offered her hand to Abby and waited for her to stand too. “The truth is, I’d love to have dessert with you out on the deck.” She ran her other hand over Abby’s shoulder and pushed her hair out of the way. Abby shivered under the touch. Goose bumps popped up on her arms. Kendall ran her hand down Abby’s arm. “And I promise to keep you warm.”

Abby was already warm. Kendall had a gentle but purposeful touch. She knew what she was doing. And it was working. God, was it working. “Yeah,” Abby said. Because really, who gave a damn about anything other than how Kendall’s warm, soft hand was caressing her arm? “That sounds nice.”

“I’ll meet you out there.” Kendall walked away, presumably to find Sergio. It was obvious that making himself scarce was a key part of the steward’s job description. Abby took advantage of the opportunity and let her eyes rake over Kendall’s body as she walked away. Because Kendall Squires was definitely a woman worth watching—whether coming or going. Coming. Abby knew that would be a sight to behold. She tried to keep those images out of her head as she walked out onto the deck.