What had started as a fun little game to bring this timid beauty out of her shell somehow turned into a wrestling match.
And I was the one about to lose.
Katelyn O’Malley was nothing like I’d imagined.
What had I imagined?
I wasn’t sure exactly.
I’d diligently done my homework— reading Scandal not once, but twice— before I’d hopped on a plane to Oregon. I’d thought the novel would give me insight to this perplexing woman I was about to meet.
Not one bit.
If anything, it’d created a thousand more questions.
At first, cracking her ironclad shell seemed like a daunting task. She had come off dry and dull.
But boring women didn’t do tequila shots until two in the morning.
Boring women didn’t lie to waiters for free wine and dessert.
And boring women definitely didn’t make me feel this way.
Needy. Desperate. And fucking horny as hell.
Even the way she licked the chocolate off her fork was making me shift uncomfortably in my seat.
This was a job.
Get your head in the game.
“You were pretty good at that,” I said, trying not to stare at the way her pink tongue darted out to grab the last bit of mousse from the tip of her finger.
“Good at what?” she asked.
“Lying.” She let out a choking cough, patting her chest with her palm. “I’m not a good liar,” she argued.
“Really? You seemed to have everyone around us fooled, including that charming elderly couple who offered their congratulations on their way out.”
“That really was sweet.” She smiled, a touch of whimsy in her gaze. “Did you see the way they held hands? I’m pretty sure he even grabbed her ass when she walked past him to go to the restroom.”
I laughed. “My kind of guy.”
“I just wonder what it’s like— to be that in love after all that time,” she said, bending forward and resting the curve of her chin on her hand.
“How do you know it has been a long time?” I asked. “Maybe they got married late in life.”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
“Why?” I asked, curious how she’d reached that conclusion.
“There was a familiarity in the way they touched. The way they leaned into one another, the way they walked. It was as if they’d been doing so forever.”
I studied her for a quiet moment, recalling the intensity of her words and the passion in her voice. It was the first time since meeting Katelyn O’Malley, I could actually see a sliver of Laura Stone, the author, somewhere inside.
“I do believe you are a bit of a romantic at heart,” I replied.
She smiled sweetly. “Maybe a hopeless one.”
My hand reached out to hers, a needless gesture since we’d already achieved our goal for the evening and sold everyone on our false marital status.
This time, I touched her because I wanted to.
“Definitely not hopeless,” I said softly, knowing that instant that I was crossing the line between business and pleasure.
And heading straight to the land of hell.
“So, tell me about technical editing,” she said, shifting topics. “How does one get into something like that?”
I suddenly felt like I’d been hit in the face with a bucket of ice water. Here I was, in a dimly lit room, romancing the hell out of a woman I’d just met, and then reality hit.
I was lying to her.
I needed to remember that. “There’s not much to tell,” I said, straightening slightly in my chair. “Rather boring really.”
We continued to chat about our lives. She told me more about her work at the college. I rambled off more lies about mine until the check came around.
I was feeling quite good about myself as I led us outside.
My head was clear.
But then I saw the way the moonlight highlighted her golden-blonde hair. I became mesmerized by the sway of her hips and the soft curves of her body.
Katelyn O’Malley was casting a spell on me, and she didn’t even know it.
And I wasn’t sure I wanted her to stop.
About The Author
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.