"It won't be that bad," he said, taking her hand into his, mostly to keep her from bolting again.


"Yes, it will," she sighed pathetically.

Jason turned his attention back to the woman who was now frowning unhappily at their entwined hands.

"We're joining the Blaine party for reservations at six," he said, tightening his grip on Haley's hand when he felt her trying to pull away.

"Right this way," the woman said with a tight smile.

As they followed the woman through a richly furnished sitting room Jason couldn't help but wonder why Haley settled on the losers that she did when she was clearly used to so much better. He'd seen some of the losers she'd dated over the years and doubted they'd pulled out their wallet for much more than Denny's and even then only if they had a coupon.

She should be dating someone who was willing to bust his ass to show her how much she meant to him. He'd have to work on it with her, but that was for later. Right now he had to focus on dragging her alongside him.

**************

"What are you doing?" Jason asked, smirking as he glanced down at her.


"Nothing," she said quickly as she tried to discretely shift so that Jason was blocking her from the left side.

"Doesn't look like nothing," Jason noted, quickening his pace, probably to annoy the hell out of her.

"It is nothing," she bit out between clenched teeth even as she hurried to keep up with Jason again, angling a little to the right so that her entire body was blocked by Jason's massive body.

She dared a peek behind Jason's back and nearly cried in frustration when a pair of smoky gray eyes that she was all too familiar with met hers. She sent him a polite smile and did her best to ignore the determined glare he sent her way.

"Who's that?" Jason asked as they continued to follow the hostess through the spacious aisles and around larger tables that surrounded the small dance floor.

"No one," she lied. Tonight was going to be difficult enough. She didn't want to get into the drama of ex-boyfriends who still took her refusal to sleep with them as a challenge, one that Robert seemed hell bent on winning no matter how many years passed.

The man was a self-professed playboy and truly believed he could have any woman he wanted. He hadn't always been like that. When they started dating at fifteen he'd been shy, sweet, and down to earth. It wasn't until their senior year when his skin cleared up, he put on some muscle and of course he inherited about thirty million dollars from his grandmother that he started to change.

He went from the sweet guy she could watch Indiana Jones movies with to the guy screwing around on her with every bimbo he could find. When she confronted him about it he denied it left and right until finally he broke down and placed all the blame at her feet. They parted as friends, well sort of, and since then every time he saw her he did his best to get her in his bed. Last time they ran into each other he'd ditched his fiancé two days before the wedding to pursue her.

His desperation to get her in his bed had nothing to do with love. It had to do with the fact that she was, according to him, the only woman who had ever said no to him. He'd do just about anything to get her into his bed. She really did not need this tonight. She had enough to deal with.

She was not looking forward to being embarrassed and belittled in front of Jason. Although it wouldn't be on her top ten favorite things to do on a Friday night, Haley would have gladly come tonight to keep her grandmother company and done her best to ignore all their subtle putdowns, but she couldn't stomach the idea of Jason witnessing how little she really meant to her family.

"Mr. Blaine, the rest of your party has arrived," Elizabeth said, smiling politely as she stopped in front of the large round table where her parents, sisters and their husbands sat. Haley frowned when she didn't see her grandmother.

"Thank you," Jason said, ignoring the inviting look the woman was sending him, surprising Haley. His disinterest in all the women who practically threw themselves at him when they were out always surprised her. He wasn't much of a playboy, she thought as she forced a smile for her family.

"Haley, sweetheart," her father said as he stood up. His eyes shifted to Jason before he pulled her into a hug and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "It's been too long, sweetheart. I've missed you."

She just barely stopped herself from suggesting that he could pick up the telephone if he missed her so much, but she bit it back. She would not let him know that he'd hurt her when he hadn't called like he promised. It was her fault anyway. She should have known better.

"This is my friend, Jason Bradford," she said, gesturing to Jason who extended his hand to her father.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, sir," Jason said, politely.

Her father shook his hand, giving her a curious look. "It's a pleasure to meet one of Haley's friends."

Haley just barely stopped herself from wincing when she realized Jason was the first friend she'd ever invited to meet her family since she was in school. The fact that Jason was a man was going to be a problem, especially if they thought they were dating.

"Dad?" Haley said, drawing his attention before he sat down.

"Yes, dear?" he asked, throwing Jason another curious look.

"Where's Grandma?"

He frowned down at her. "Didn't she call you?"

"No, why?" she asked, already having a bad feeling where this was going.

"She called earlier to say that you and your friend," he said, giving Jason another one of those curious looks that Haley knew all too well, "were going to join us tonight, but that she remembered she already had plans for this evening."

Haley just bet she did.

Chapter 11

"Jason, this is my sister Rose," Haley said, gesturing to the woman with her hair pulled back into a severely tight bun that looked like it hurt. She daintily offered her hand to him.

He took it gently, not because he was honored or overwhelmed to make her acquaintance, no he was simply afraid of breaking her long thin hand. As discretely as he could, he quickly looked over the other two women in the group and quickly noted that all three of them were tall, skinny, too skinny, and flatter than a ten year old boy. Although they were attractive women in their own right, they didn't have a thing on his little grasshopper.

A few minutes later when he met Haley's other sister Martha, and both women's husbands John and Edward, he was introduced to Haley's mother who looked upset. It took a minute to realize that she was trying to smile.

Botox.

He should have known, he thought as he reached over and shook the woman's hand just as gently as he had her daughters' hands. He'd come across this expression countless times during parent-teacher conferences.

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