After paying for her latte and a nice, thick slab of New York cheesecake with strawberry purée drizzled on top, she settled into one of the oversized brown leather chairs with the latest Vogue magazine on her lap. She sipped and ate and browsed the latest in haute couture. It couldn’t get much better than that.
“Well, hello there.”
And with three little words, her day was ruined. Glancing up, she stared into the familiar face of Dr. Blake Marsh. He smiled broadly, his cheeks crinkling with the forced grin. Claudia’s heart lurched in her chest, dropping down somewhere in the middle of her burning gut. Her stomach churned acid, the cheesecake swimming like a lump in her coffee. She blinked, trying to decide what sort of mood the man was in. From the look on his face, she was pretty sure he had read her column, too.
“Mind if I join you?”
Before she could answer, he dropped down into the chair across from her, a mere three feet away. A cherry wood coffee table separated them. He planted one ankle on his knee and leaned back into the chair. He looked rather appealing, not to mention appetizing, wearing khaki Dockers, loafers with funny looking tassels, and a black golf shirt.
Golf. She knew it.
Calmly, she took a sip of her coffee and then stabbed the last bite of her cheesecake, mopping up some of the purée with the creaminess. May as well not let it go to waste. She wished he hadn’t caught her with her only meal of the day. But she was thankful she had at least showered, put on a little makeup and wore her jeans without the holes in the knees.
“Read your column,” he said without preamble.
Glancing at him, she noted the devilish gleam in his eyes and winced. “Did you now?” A feeble reply at best, but she still sounded cool. Never mind her innards jangled like a ring of a building super’s keys.
“I’m flattered you wrote about me.” He gave her a sly wink.
Oh, if they weren’t in public, she’d climb into that lap of his and… She shoved away the erotic images forming in her mind.
“I didn’t write about you.” Her lie didn’t hold up either, because a grin broke out on her mouth.
“You’re a poor liar, Claudia.” He took a sip of his coffee and then set the paper cup on the table in front of him. He leaned forward, close, and dropped his voice. “By the way, I don’t play golf.”
“Really?” One eyebrow quirked and she tried to keep her mind focused on the conversation at hand. Not the visual of his naked body pressing against hers. Or his hands roaming over her breasts. Or his hot mouth licking her erogenous zones. “I thought all doctors played golf. Goes with the territory, right?”
“Another stereotype.” He kept his gaze pinned on her face, his voice low and sultry. Reminding her of…someone…but she couldn’t quite place it. “I’m not a stereotype.”
“Then what are you?” The question bolted out of her mouth before her brain could stop it.
“Why don’t you go out with me and I’ll tell you?”
He suggested it so casually, she almost said yes. Almost. “No, thanks.”
“Is it because of the other night?” He picked up his cup and taking another sip.
Why did his gaze never waver from her face? It left her feeling unsettled.
“No,” she quipped.
“Come on, Claude. We’re both adults here—”
“Don’t call me that,” she snapped, her defenses up and raring to go. No one called her that but Gayle. And, okay, Tony, too.
“Sorry.” He looked miffed and settled back into the chair once again, his coffee in his hand. “I thought it was your nickname.”
“For those who are closest to me, yes.”
“And I’m not?”
The verbal duel was beginning to get on her nerves. Claudia pursed her lips and glared at him. “Is there something you want from me?”
“Your phone number.”
“Ha!” Her outburst startled a few afternoon customers who gave her a cursory glance. She lowered her voice. “I don’t think so.”
Blake cocked his head, realization dawning on his face. “You’re pissed because I left the other night, aren’t you?”
She huffed out a breath, tucked her magazine under her arm, and then rose. “Don’t you have some heart patients to see?”
“I’m off duty.” He gave her a lopsided grin.
Rolling her eyes, Claudia stalked off, hoping to get outside before he caught up to her. To her horror, though, he followed her out into the blazing Texas heat. Squinting against the bright afternoon sun, she slipped her Oakleys over her eyes.
“So now you’ve decided to follow me? Are you going to start stalking me, too?” she snapped. “I’m still not giving you my number.”
“Claudia, maybe I need to explain about the other night.”
No need to explain.” She approached the corner, pausing to look both directions before crossing the street. “I get it.”
“You get what?”
“You’re taken. Or not interested. Whatever. I totally get it.”
He snagged her arm and spun her around before she could step off the curb. “I’m very interested.”
Blake swept her hair off her shoulder, his large warm hand resting on her neck and giving her more delicious fantasies.
His thumb traced a sinful line along the curve of her neck, leaving her feeling tingly even in the oppressive humidity. She squelched the moan threatening to erupt in her throat.
“And about last Friday—” he began.
The low, sexy voice attached to a striking, buxom blonde interrupted him. His hand dropped from Claudia’s neck as he turned his full attention on the tramp. Could her appearance scream nympho any more than it already did? Claudia thought. How the woman had managed to squeeze her silicon breasts into that tiny, sleeveless sweater was beyond Claudia. She showed everything but the nipples, it seemed.
“Alicia, hi.” Blake gave Claudia a sideways glance.
“I’ve missed you,” the blonde bimbo said, running a pink tongue over her full red lips.
“Have you?” Blake kept his voice even and monotone. A feat, Claudia was sure, since the wench was busy giving him an eyeful of her enhanced cleavage.
“Wittle Awicia has been soo wonwey without you, Blakey-wakey,” she cooed in her best baby talk. She walked her fingers up his arm and leaned into him, brushing her overly large breasts against him. Her hand slithered along his collar as she fondled this neck.
Claudia thought she would see her cheesecake again, this time on the concrete and she really didn’t want to upchuck a five dollar piece of heaven for God and everyone to see in downtown Fort Worth. Anger boiled under her skin and if she hadn’t been holding a half-empty cup of coffee in one hand and her purse in the other, she would have clenched her fists. Instead, she shook her head, tossed a glare at Blake and stepped off the curb to cross the street.
“Claudia,” he called.
“Talk to hand!” she shouted back. Or ass, as the case may be.