Then, in a low voice, I say, “Rules are made to be broken. Or bent,” I say just for him. “You should bend your rules for me.”

A twitch in his jaw.

He wants this as much as I do, even if he won’t admit it.

He wants this because there’s more here than insane physical attraction. There’s a spark that’ll make our physical connection out of this world. And I want what I want. Badly.

“What makes you think you should be the one I break the rule for?”

I give him nothing but the truth. “Because I’d make it worth your while.”

His eyes stay on me like he’s studying me, possibly even memorizing me. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. Or maybe it’s reality, because he leans forward, a mere foot away now, his chiseled face so damn close to mine. He lowers his voice to a sultry bedroom whisper. “Of that, Fitz, I have no doubt.”

And I am officially an inferno. A speechless, hot, bothered, and turned-on-as-hell inferno.

Dean shrugs, grins, clears his throat. “But it’s a rule I won’t be breaking tonight.”

He walks away to tend to other customers, and I watch him. I cannot look away.

Because all I can think is—Dean, your challenge is accepted.

When I leave a little later, I hand him a tip, then say, “I’ll see you . . . tomorrow night.”

He meets my gaze, his eyes locked with mine. “Is that so?”

“Yes. Yes, it is.”

I walk out.

Tomorrow can’t arrive fast enough.

SATURDAY

Also known as the day I don’t expect to see him again.

Because, I swear, I’m not even thinking about him. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Fine, maybe a little.

4

Dean

I’m waiting for my award.

Top prize in Extraordinary Feats of Resistance.

Because what I did last night? There should be an entire fleet of people arriving at the door of my flat, ready to congratulate me for resisting the sexiest man to walk into my bar, let alone enter the damn country.

Thankfully, there’s nothing in the rules forbidding getting off to a customer.

Nothing at all against thoughts of his hard body on mine. Or under mine—either image worked for me.

Trouble is, I can picture him sauntering through The Magpie’s doors tonight, flashing those bedroom eyes my way.

Will I be strong enough to resist him a second time?

I better be.

I just need to forget his humor, his swagger. Erase his easy banter.

I have plenty more important things to dwell on anyway. Like the bar expo today, an event I’ve been eager to check out.

Business only.

I take the coldest shower I can stand, pull on some jeans and a casual polo shirt that I know looks damn good thanks to regular arm days at the gym, tuck my phone in my pocket, and head down three flights of stairs. London’s warm as usual on this summer day, and by the time I’ve stepped outside of my flat, the sun’s shining on the Thames a few streets away.

It’s a short walk to Coffee O’clock, the perfect midway spot between my flat and Dad’s. Inside, the intoxicating scents of coffee, tea, and flaky pastries greet me.

I haven’t even made it through the front door yet when I catch the attention of Penny, Coffee O’clock’s long-standing owner. She’s behind the counter, making drinks. She gives me a smile as she chats up a regular, then waves me over after she finishes ringing him up.

When I reach her, I survey the board. “What are the chances I could get a decent cuppa in here?”

“Terrible, absolutely terrible,” she says with a gleam in her eyes, crinkled at the corners.

“Also, can you please change the name to Tea O’clock?”

“Only if you can stop hating on coffee.”

I pretend to consider that, tapping my chin. “Not a chance. So I’ll take two of your special secret Stonehenge Breakfast Mix that you’ll someday give me the name of the supplier?”

“Ha, as if I’d ever tell you where my tea leaves come from,” she says, scooping some out.

“Someday you’ll spill your tea secrets.”

“And until then I’ll happily brew them for you. Especially since I know you’re taking one to your dad,” she says with a smile as she brews the blend.

“Ah, I appreciate you giving me a pass on account of Martin.”

“I trust he’s still enjoying his retirement?”

“Considering I can’t keep him off Tinder, he seems to be having a blast.”

She drops her voice to a stage whisper. “Better tell him to swipe right on me.”

“I’ll be sure to pass on the tip,” I say with a laugh, but something about the way Penny’s eyes sparkle tells me she might not totally be joking.

She pours the tea, sets the cups down, then eyes the food case. “You know you want a scone today. Maybe two.”

A quick scan of the options tells me the chia seed pudding and morning oats will be the best bet. Better on the heart for him, and, frankly, on the abs for me.


Tags: Lauren Blakely Romance
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