Best Man with Benefits Excerpt
Copyright © 2014 by Samanthe Beck.All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Logan McCade never considered himself an ass man, but the heart-shaped one packed into snug black jeans practically begged to be kissed, licked, bitten, and quite possibly spanked. The distraction in question snagged his attention as he approached the Beaver Creek Resort concierge desk, which made all of the above highly unfeasible.
Still, the soaring ceilings, dark wood beams, and huge river-rock fireplace of the resort’s lobby couldn’t compete with the tight, round handful traveling in close company with toned legs that gave the impression of going on forever. A nice illusion, considering the woman leaning against the marble-topped counter looked about five foot nothing in her flat black sandals—even when she rose onto her tiptoes to speak to the resort manager.
He couldn’t catch the full conversation, just her quiet, halting voice saying, “I-I think I’m going to hyperventilate.”
As she finished speaking, she rocked down on her heels and took a half step back from the desk. Now that she wasn’t leaning on the counter, the hem of her oversize white shirt settled below her hips, curtaining the world’s most bitable backside.
Keep walking, he told himself, because thanks to a call from his CFO about some issues they’d hit with a potential acquisition, he was already late to the official kickoff dinner for Colton and Kady’s epic week of wedding fun. As best man, he ought to be on time for shit like that, but something about the damsel in distress talking to the concierge—and, okay, maybe it was her sweet little ass in those clingy pants—had him detouring to the desk.
A shower of light from the chandelier splashed auburn streaks through chin-length dark hair that had been ambushed by restless hands a few too many times. Something about the texture and color set a flare of familiarity firing in his brain. He couldn’t see her face from this angle, but he heard the resort manager reply, “…our sincere apologies, Miss Brooks. Please don’t hyperventilate. Rest assured, we’ll locate your dresses and have them sent to your room as soon as possible.”
Miss Brooks? As in…
She whirled to face him, and he fell into a pair of big brown eyes he remembered belonging in the slightly rounded face of a girl…teenager…whatever. Not a full-grown woman with high cheekbones and an actual jawline—both of which a man could spend days sculpting with his fingertips, or his tongue. The only plump thing about her face was her full, unpainted lips, currently parted in what he figured to be surprise at his interruption, but his imagination whispered, This is what she looks like when she comes…cheeks flushed, eyes wide and dazed, and those soft pink lips parted.
The flush darkened from pink to flaming red, and a voice just a note deeper, and a hint huskier than the one from his memories, said, “Logan?”
“Hi, Sophie. What’s up?” Holy shit, besides your dick.You’ve been fantasizing about giving your best friend’s shy, adorable, strictly off-limits little sister an ass hickey. Of course, the last time he’d seen her, “little” had been the operative word. She’d been what…eighteen? Nineteen? Definitely still a teen. Now she was all woman.
Colt’s request from earlier in the day replayed in his mind. You know what a hermit Sophie can be. Last night at the bachelorette party, she bailed as soon as she could sneak away. Do me a solid and look after her this week. Make sure she doesn’t bunker in her room and miss all the fun.
“Logan,” she repeated and backed up, sounding distinctly uncomfortable and looking like she’d dearly love to bolt to her room right that moment. She had the bolting thing down cold, because he couldn’t remember seeing her at all last night when Colt and the rest of the groomsmen had invaded Kady’s bachelorette party. And based on the way his body reacted to grown-up Sophie, he would have remembered. Then again, thanks to work he’d been functioning on a handful of hours of sleep all week. He’d spent most of last night on autopilot.
“Hey,” he smiled and leaned against the counter, aiming to throw as much relaxed and casual at her as he could muster to counteract all her skittishness. “Are you on your way to the dinner at Spago?” Her outfit suggested she was not, and he was suddenly bound and determined not to let her slide under everyone’s radar and skip it. Because you promised Colt. “Walk over with me.”
She shook her head and lifted a hand toward the hotel manager, enlisting his support. “I can’t go. I have nothing to wear. I sent my dresses…oh, goodness, including my bridesmaid dress”—she added as if that particular realization had just hit her—“to get the wrinkles steamed out, and they’ve disappeared.”
“Temporarily misplaced,” the manager interjected, aiming an apologetic look at them both. “We’re very sorry. This has never happened before.”
Sophie stretched her pretty lips into a pained smile. “Things like this happen to me all the time. I’m cursed with bad luck. But this is particularly awful because I can’t be a bridesmaid without the bridesmaid dress.” She paused as the ramifications of her words sank in, and then her tense expression cleared into a look of pure relief. “Darn it, I won’t be able to stand in front of a packed chapel while my brother and Kady exchange vows.”
Colt sure knew his sister. Not only was she trying to use the laundry glitch as an excuse to back out of tonight’s dinner, she was aiming to back out of being a bridesmaid.
“Let’s not reserve you a pew in the back of the chapel just yet. They’ve got five days to find your dresses.”
“We’ll find them, sir—”
“I have every confidence,” Logan told the manager. “In the meantime…” He caught Sophie’s hands between his and gave her a gentle tug. “Come with me to dinner. You look great just as you are.” She did. Total opposite from the high-powered, high-maintenance, airbrushed-to-perfection corporate types surrounding him most days, and he found her lack of artifice refreshing as hell.
“Oh, no. I couldn’t.” She freed her hands and tucked them behind her back, which made her look like a little girl with something to hide until he noticed how the front of her button-down shirt stretched across her chest, revealing generous, incredibly distracting curves beneath the thin white cotton. Jesus, when had Colt’s little sister turned into a centerfold? He found the transformation of the cute, quiet Sophie of his memory to the Sophie in front of him so unsettling it took him a moment to get his head back on what she was saying.
“…the invitation said cocktail attire. I’ll be the only one dressed like a salesgirl from the Gap.” She actually took another step away and he had a sneaking suspicion if he blinked, he’d open his eyes to find a vortex of empty air where she now stood…maybe one sandal halfway across the lobby.
Thing was, he hadn’t earned an economics degree and an MBA, and founded his own outdoor adventure gear company without picking up a few problem-solving skills along the way. “Let me see if I understand your concern. You don’t want to be the only person there tonight who doesn’t look like they got lost on the way to the red carpet?”
He found the unwilling grin flirting across her lips ridiculously gratifying, and her reply more revealing than she probably intended. “I’d feel too self-conscious…like everyone was staring at me thinking, ‘Didn’t she get the memo?’”
“Okay, I can solve this problem.” He hit her with his patented this-will-work stare, the one he’d perfected five years ago to convince angel investors to put millions into Defy Gravity, a fledgling company best known, until that point, for manufacturing rock-climbing gear. “Don’t move. I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Sophie watched Logan stride away. Watched every female in the vicinity discreetly or not-so-discreetly check him out as he passed, and tried not to squirm when those same sharp gazes cut to her and she inevitably became the object of baffled, disbelieving, or outright rude looks. All of them conveyed the same underlying question. Namely, “What the hell is that monument of male perfection doing with her?”
Even as a crazy part of her wished he could really be hers, she imagined shouting, “Calm down. You have not fallen into some parallel alternate universe where the impossible becomes reality. He’s not with me.” But of course, she’d never actually do it. The girl who’d passed out attempting to deliver her single line in her kindergarten class play didn’t have the nerve to engage in a public outburst at a posh hotel.
Anxious to escape what felt like a glaringly bright spotlight, she made her way to an empty chair in a quiet corner, sat, and tucked her card key into the back pocket of her new skinny jeans. Jeans she’d bought on a whim, and packed on an even bigger whim, and was pretty sure now she should have waited to wear in public until she’d lost another five pounds. She stared down at her plain, unpainted toenails. He’d asked her to wait, so she’d wait, even if she would have preferred to disappear. Have a hole in the time-space continuum open beside her and suck her right in.
Poof! She could land back in her hotel room, or, as long as she was dreaming, back in her little walk-up apartment in West Hollywood, sitting on the postage stamp of a balcony she shared with her incredibly hot neighbor, Mark. He was an unrepentant flirt, but she could handle flirting with him and all his equally hot, equally gay friends. Hanging out with them was the very definition of looking for love in all the wrong places, but it was completely safe.
Logan? Not so safe. Not for someone woefully inept at the boy-girl banter. But that hadn’t stopped her from developing an immediate and lasting crush on him the day she and her mom had dropped Colt off at college and met his freshman year roommate. Even now, fourteen years later, she still reverted to the tongue-tied preteen she’d been whenever she found herself in Logan’s presence.
She needed to remember the fascination only ran one way. He hadn’t even noticed her last night when Colt and his groomsmen had crashed the bachelorette party. Admittedly, she hadn’t stuck around long after the guys had arrived—long enough to witness two of the bridesmaids enter into a pact to bed the groomsmen of their choice, and of course, Logan had topped their lists. Seeing one of the girls swipe his room key had been her cue to leave, and slipping out unnoticed hadn’t been difficult. A short, frumpy chick didn’t attract much attention.
Logan, conversely, commanded attention. She couldn’t put it down to height. At six-one, he was tall, but not necessarily the tallest guy in the room. His rock-climber’s physique boasted a truly mind-boggling collection of hard-etched muscles. Not that she’d been lucky enough to make a personal inspection, but she’d spent hours studying a memorable Climber’s World article featuring Logan hanging from Half Dome, wearing nothing but electric-blue Defy Gravity flex shorts. Impressive as his body was, most of those lean, limber muscles stayed hidden under his clothes. His appeal sprang from something deeper than thick black hair and mood-ring hazel eyes staring out from the kind of bone structure a male model would kill for. He radiated…something. Some magical blend of energy, charm, and confidence.
Confidence. Something she lacked. Not that she never accepted a challenge or took a dare. She had an adventurous side—one she’d recently set a specific goal to nurture—and it had itched to speak up last night, deal her into the bridesmaid pact, and stake a claim to Logan. Instead, she’d opted out under the guise of avoiding putting her brother in the awkward position of having his little sister hook up with his best man during the wedding week festivities. But that wasn’t the real reason she’d held her tongue. In reality, well…she’d set fitness goals, too, and stuck to them, but logging her three miles every morning was never going to turn her into an elite marathoner. Going head-to-head against those other girls for Logan’s attention constituted the sexual equivalent of Olympic-level competition. In the end she’d get laughed off the course, and hurt.
A hand landed on her shoulder at the same time a low, thrillingly masculine voice, asked, “Ready?”
She looked up to find Logan standing over her, smiling like a co-conspirator, and momentarily lost her powers of speech. Gone were his crisp white dress shirt, silk tie, and light-gray trousers. Instead he wore an olive-green T-shirt that molded to the hard planes of his chest and turned his hazel eyes to jade, paired with wash-worn khaki cargo shorts that left his tanned calves bare. God, even his feet are gorgeous, she thought as she inspected his brown leather Tevas.
“Ready, Soph?” He gave her shoulder a playful—perhaps prompting—squeeze, and she had a shockingly vivid fantasy of surging to her feet, tearing his shirt off and running her hands all over his warm, naked skin. Well aware her face was on fire, she forced her eyes back to his, and swallowed to ease the dryness in her throat.
“Ready for what?”