Unexpectedly His(7)

By: Maggie Kelley

Nick Wright fell for no woman.

Chapter Three

“A wise girl kisses but doesn’t love, listens but doesn’t believe, and leaves before she is left.”

—Marilyn Monroe

Dance it out, Marianne thought, swiveling her hips to the Latin rhythms emanating from the gym’s built-in speakers. Just dance it out. From the back row of her third Zumba class, she followed the instructor’s choreography with enough desperation to dispel her recent misguided mistakes. A memory-killing salsa move to the left, a hypnotic twist of merengue to the right. Throw in some “Jenny From the Block”. Dance that inner siren back to the grotto…turn the deadbolt…and cover it with duct tape. Lots and lots and lots of duct tape. She rolled her hips forward. That darned siren was never coming out again.

Talk about a weekend of regret. Even thinking about kissing Nick near the blurred edge of the spotlight Friday night made her sweat-slicked skin burn with humiliation. All she’d wanted was a chance to test-drive her skills, but the whole siren thing worked better in theory than practice. A tiny crush was fine, but that kiss…that kiss never should have happened.

Nick Wright was everything she objected to in a man. Arrogant. Rude. Presumptuous. A sweet-talking man’s man all dressed up in a mesmerizing package. She wasn’t sure which was worse, the fact that she’d climbed into the cake or the fact that she’d run off as if the kiss had been more than a simple happy birthday.

Don’t analyze. Just dance.

As if enough Zumba classes would erase the memory of Friday night. She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath as the music slowed into cooldown. She’d taken the sequined getup to the dry cleaner and asked them to deliver it directly to Jane so she’d never have to see it again. As for facing Jane…well, Jane was her boss so she couldn’t hide from her forever. She’d avoided her calls all weekend, but now that she’d taken the day off, Jane might get worried. Eventually, she’d have to explain the impromptu kiss and her panicked exit.

No sense overthinking the situation. She grabbed her water bottle and headed downstairs to shower and change. Best to simply put the weekend behind her, resume her normal life, and forget all about kissing Nick Wright. Easy peasy.

Once at her locker, she pulled out a fresh towel, her neatly organized toiletries, and her cell. Unsurprisingly, there were a few texts from her boss. She stabbed her rec specs against the bridge of her nose and opened the most recent message. The answer to your homecoming prayers is waiting outside. Cryptic, even for Jane.

Homecoming prayers? M.A. returned her towel and cosmetics bag to the tidy locker and closed it tight. Was she talking about her dad’s fresh-out-of-federal-prison party? Yes, she’d mentioned needing a date, but Cupid wouldn’t try her tricks on her. Would she? A nervous feeling settled in her stomach, and Marianne hurried up the stairs. She didn’t like surprises, especially surprises that couldn’t be managed or quantified, she thought, bursting out the front door of the gym. Especially surprises that looked like Nick Wright.

The breath rushed out of her body. What was he doing here? Besides leaning against the silver railing on the outskirts of the fountain, looking all self-assured and male in his to-die-for pinstripes and power tie. Egotistical. Overconfident.

So not her type.

Except that he was totally her type. Dark hair, cropped close, always perfectly neat. Blue eyes the color of a dark and stormy summer sky. And a stride as measured as a metronome.

He looked over and caught sight of her, his blue eyes narrowing as if he wasn’t sure it was her. Not surprising. He’d never even looked at her before, not really. Mostly, he seemed to smile through her, always charming, always slightly distant. He eased away from the railing in a smooth move and walked toward her in that deliberate way of his.

A sudden tidal wave of panic rushed through her. Did he know she was the girl from the cake? Was that why he was here? Her humiliated heart beat wildly against the spandex, knowing she’d have to face him every week in the office. Hells bells, she’d kissed him. She’d have to quit her job and move to another state—no, another country—and she wasn’t even very good with languages. She shook her head as if to clear away the panic. Jane wouldn’t betray her confidence that way. But then, why was he here? He couldn’t possibly be…her date? In his cool, even stride, he closed the distance between them. “Hello, Marianne.”

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. That voice. That deep, honeyed, ready-to-teach-a-buttoned-up-libido-a-thing-or-two voice. He was gorgeous, yes, but it was his voice that made her knees buckle. She wanted to hear him whispering sweet everythings in her ear. She’d had dreams about that voice. Late night dreams. “You called me Marianne.”

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