Pepsi, who’d been sprawled along the back of the couch, startled at the sound of her voice. The orangey hair rose on his back as he slid off the couch then hit the lamp on the end table as the feline shot toward the nearby recliner that had belonged to her parents. The lamp, which was heavy enough to dent the floor, tipped over.
Bridget cursed and shot forward, catching the lampshade. Dust flew into the air and crawled right up her nose.
And her sneezes weren’t the dainty kind that was barely a gasp. Poor Pepsi went bonkers at the nasal explosion and then darted under the coffee table. From there, two greenish-gold eyes peeked out.
Once Bridget had the lamp righted, she backed away slowly, before any more furniture attacked her. As she stood there, she couldn’t help but look around her cramped living room and think of all the space in Chad’s.
She cursed again.
I will not think about him or his wonderful apartment where there was actually room to walk around. And I definitely won’t think of his magical mouth and tongue. The mantra had so not been working since Friday night. All day yesterday she’d avoided Shell’s calls just so she wouldn’t be tempted to tell her about what had happened between her and the city’s beloved playboy.
But once her brain went there, it really went there. Memories of how he’d looked at her, the feel of his lips against her skin, and those fingers plagued her every step.
Stopping in front of the door, she squeezed her eyes shut and her hands into fists. Were her legs trembling? Gawd. Yes. They were. For probably what was the hundredth time in the last thirty or so hours, she told herself that she had made the right decision by bailing on Chad. Come morning, he would’ve surely regretted bringing her home and honestly, in those few hours, she had already started to feel way too much for him.
Way. Too. Much.
Love at first sight didn’t exist but lust at first sight did, and powerful lust could quickly turn into something more. The last thing Bridget needed was a broken heart to go along with her broken wallet.
She opened the door and quickly kicked her leg out. Pepsi, as expected, bolted toward the door. When he met the pink-and-blue-plaid obstacle, he sat down and put his ears back.
“Sorry, bud—it’s for the best.” Bending down, she grabbed the Sunday paper just as the door across from her swung open.
Todd Newton was doing the same thing, except Bridget had a hell of a lot more clothes on than him. Dressed only in his red-and-blue-striped boxers, he did have a body made for walking around in next to nothing. Normally Bridget was all about catching a glimpse of him, but after seeing Chad’s insane stomach, she barely raised a brow or felt any kind of stirring or interest.
Glancing up as he straightened, he sent Bridget a warm grin. “Hey there, Miss Rodgers.”
Bridget smiled. “Morning, Todd.”
His gaze dropped to where Pepsi glared at Bridget’s leg. She sent him another smile as she precariously moved her leg out of the way and shut the door just as Pepsi pounced. The damn cat hit the door with an audible thud.
Sighing, she shook her head as she reached down and picked him up. “You’re going to have brain damage along with a weight problem if you’re not careful.”
The cat let out a pitiful meow.
Pepsi was what Bridget liked to call plump. In reality, the cat was about the size of a wiener dog and probably outweighed one. One would think the cat wouldn’t be so damn fast, but the thing was a ninja when it came to trying to escape.
Cradling Pepsi in one arm and the newspaper in the other, she headed into her small kitchen. Putting them both down on the table, she punched the coffee machine on and then opened up a can of kitty chow.
Bridget’s mom would’ve shit a brick if she knew she let Pepsi on the kitchen table, but it wasn’t like anyone other than Bridget was eating off it. Her last serious boyfriend had a huge problem with it, too.
Her ex had problems with a lot of things.
Taking her cup of coffee, which was more sugar than anything else, and the bowl of food back to the small round table, she sat down and eyed the cat. “Hungry?”
Pepsi sat back on his haunches and very slowly lifted a paw, as if to say, Hand it over, lady, you’re working for me.
She sighed and leaned over, putting the dish in front of the feline. Sipping her coffee, she cracked open the newspaper and scanned the headlines. It was the same as it was every day—economy in the crapper, presidential candidates promising the world, and some poor soul murdered the night before. Was it any wonder she skipped to the gossips?
She really shouldn’t look, especially after Friday, but her fingers had a mind of their own, flipping past the finance and sports sections.
Bridget gasped and nearly dropped her cup. With a shaky hand, she put the cup down.
STAR PITCHER GAMBLE GOES FOR A TRIPLE PLAY AND SCORES!
The headline alone was bad enough, but the picture—dear God, there was a picture?—caused an irrational surge of hot jealousy.
In true black-and-white grainy glory, in the middle of three very scantily clad women sprawled across a bed, was one Chad Gamble, grinning like he’d just hit the jackpot of half-naked chicks.
“Holy crap.” Bridget grabbed the paper and lifted it closer to her face. None of the women were Stella, the model who apparently wanted a repeat of last weekend, but any one of them could easily pose for lingerie, which they were for the entire world in a bed with Chad.
A blonde had her hand on his chest. Another had her leg thrown over his. The third had her hands in his fabulously messy hair.
The article really didn’t say much other than the “wild Nationals playboy strikes again.” The picture was taken at a Hyatt in New York City within the pass week.
Bridget had no idea how long she stared at that picture, but the elated faces of the women blurred. Chad, well, he also looked pretty damn happy grinning from ear to ear. What man wouldn’t be?
She closed her eyes and his cerulean blue eyes appeared, heated and consuming. Had he looked at those women like that? Of course he had. If she thought any differently, then she was truly an idiot. And why did she even care? She barely knew him, and it wasn’t like she hadn’t known his reputation.
But damn…that ugly feeling inside her was more than just jealousy. Possibly even a little bit of disappointment, because even though she knew that whatever had happened between them was a one-time thing, there had been moments where her imagination got the best of her. When she fantasized that he was going to show up at her door unexpectedly, having searched her out because he couldn’t go on without her.
Thank God she didn’t have sex with him and end up as another notch on a belt the size of Texas.
Bridget stood up and hurried into the kitchen. With a disgusted sigh, she tossed the newspaper into the trashcan.
God, she hated Sundays.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Chad demanded.
From the chair beside him, Miss Stick-Up-Her-Ass shot him a nasty look. “I see language is another thing we’re going to have to work on.”
Chad breathed in slowly and— Screw this. “This is ridiculous. I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Miss Gore is not a babysitter,” Jack Stein said plaintively. His agent had his jacket off and sleeves rolled up. Sweat beaded his brow and his dark hair looked like his fingers had made a run through them many times. “She’s a publicist that the Club is requiring—”
“Requiring?” Chad planted his hands on his agent’s desk and leaned in. “Since when are they requiring this?”
Jack gestured at the contract. “The Nationals are willing to re-sign you, Chad. They’re willing to pay you more money—”
Miss Gore cleared her throat. “But if you wish to continue playing for the Nationals, you will agree to get your act together…under my supervision.”
Jack closed his eyes and blew out a long breath.
Very slowly, Chad forced himself to address her for the first time since he learned who she was and why she was there. Two dark brown eyes met his from behind square glasses. That stare made him want to cup his balls. True story.
Miss Alana Gore was the epitome of prim and fucking proper. Her dark hair was pulled back in a severe bun. Her pantsuit was a drab muddy color and ill fitting. Her shoes looked like something a nun would use to kick kids with. Not a speck of makeup covered her face. She might have actually been a decent-looking woman if she knew how to smile.
She was so not smiling right now.
Chad folded his arms. “And exactly how am I supposed to get my act together?”
“Well, for starters, try keeping your dick in your pants for longer than twenty-four hours.”
Jack sounded like he choked, but Chad just stared at the woman. “Excuse me?”
Miss Gore smiled, and shit, it made her scarier. “Let me ask you a question, Mr. Gamble. Do you want to play for the Nationals?”
Stupid question. “What do you think?”
Her smile didn’t fade. “And you don’t want to leave the city, correct?” When he narrowed his eyes, she went on. “I’ve done my research on you, Chad. You have two brothers who both live in the city. You’re very close with them. The three of you are all joined at the hip. No other family except the Daniels.” She paused, scrunching her nose. “They run an apocalypse store?”
“It’s not an apocalypse store.” Chad was used to defending them. “It’s a preparation store for—”
“Whatever,” she said too sweetly.
Chad’s skin started to itch.
“In many of your past interviews, you’ve stated very clearly that you don’t want to leave the city or your loved ones.” She leaned forward, clasping her hands around her crossed knee. “So if you want to stay here and continue to be paid to play ball, then you’re going to do exactly what I say.”
He turned to his agent. “This is drastic.”
“Drastic?” Miss Gore bent forward and pulled the newspaper from her oversize black purse, and Chad cursed. “You were pictured in bed with three women.”
“I didn’t have sex with them!”
Both Jack and Miss Gore shared doubtful looks. “And what about the Victoria’s Secret model you were seen with the weekend before?” she asked.
“I didn’t sleep with her, either!” He took a deep breath. “Okay. I did sleep with her about eight months ago, but I haven’t recently. We’re friends.”
The look on the publicist’s face said she questioned his definition of friendship. “And the twins from four weeks ago?”
Good God, was this woman a stalker? “The twins used to date one of my brothers. We—”
“Are just friends, right?” Her smile tightened. He shot her a bland look, and she ignored him. “And then there’s this club you like to frequent. Leather and Lace? Let me guess, you go there searching for new friends.”
Chad glowered. “Funny.”
Miss Gore looked rather proud of herself. The whole messed-up thing was the fact that Chad hadn’t had sex with anyone in the last three months. Sure, it wasn’t an astronomical dry spell, but for him, it was epic. Hell, he hadn’t been interested in any woman until he stumbled across Bridget.