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The Rules of Engagement

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«The Rules of Engagement» - Элли Блейк

The first look, the first touch, the first kiss…is there anything better than the beginning of a new relationship? Not for Caitlyn March – self-confessed relationship junkie. Now she’s sworn off ‘forever’ for good – three broken engagements make it clear that she – and her fickle heart – are not to be trusted… Enter Dax Bainbridge – the most deliciously handsome man she has ever met!He’s a man with enough oomph to make her forget her vows to steer clear of romance, but luckily his rules of engagement are simple: there’s no ring on offer; all he’s interested in is one, unbelievably hot fling…
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For Better, For Worse, For Ever?

The first look, the first touch, the first kiss… Is there anything better than the beginning of a new relationship? Not for Caitlyn March—self-confessed relationship junkie. Now she’s sworn off “forever” for good. Three broken engagements make it clear that she—and her fickle heart—are not to be trusted….

Enter Dax Bainbridge—the most deliciously handsome man she has ever met! He’s a man with enough oomph to make her forget her vows to steer clear of romance, but luckily his rules of engagement are simple. There’s no ring on offer—all he’s interested in is one unbelievably hot fling.…

“Are you free?”

Free? But it had been a one-night stand. Hadn’t it? “For what purpose?”

“You want specifics?”

“Sure. Why not?”

When his voice slid through the phone, deep and slow, the vibrations sent tingles all over her skin.

“I was imagining we’d...” He paused. Long enough that she held her breath. “Eat. And later, much later, once I’ve loosened my tie, and you’ve kicked your shoes off under the table, and we’re both nicely pickled on some excellent wine, together we would do...dessert.”

Somehow she managed to keep her voice from cracking when she said, “So you’re asking me on a date.”

Laughter rolled through the phone. “I’m asking you to eat dinner with me, but if you’d prefer to call it that—”

“Nooo!” Not a date!

“No?” he repeated after several long beats.

Caitlyn bit her lip. Dax was a man she’d taken home from a bar. For sex. Not as some kind of Hail Mary that might lead to something more. Her strident rejection of the word date had given her an accidental out, if that’s what she wanted.

Was it what she wanted?

In her previous life, Australian author ALLY BLAKE was at times a cheerleader, a math tutor, a dental assistant and a shop assistant. In this life Ally is a bestselling, multi-award-winning novelist who has been published in more than twenty languages, with over two million books sold worldwide.

She married her gorgeous husband in Las Vegas—no Elvis in sight, though Tony Curtis did put in a special appearance—and now Ally and her family, including three rambunctious toddlers, share a property in the leafy western suburbs of Brisbane, with kookaburras, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets and the occasional creepy-crawly. When not writing she makes coffees that never get consumed, eats too many M&M’s, attempts yoga, devours The West Wing reruns, reads every spare minute she can and cheers ardently for the Collingwood Magpies footy team.

You can find out more at her website,

The Rules of Engagement

Ally Blake

~ It Starts with a Touch... ~

This one’s for fairy dust.

May it sparkle for you, too.





html#litres_trial_promo">CHAPTER FIVE








THE Sand Bar, a cool little club in a tucked-away lane off Melbourne’s Chapel Street, was pumping that Saturday night.

‘He’s cute!’ said Franny, shouting to be heard.

Caitlyn played with her sparkly chandelier earrings as she stared dreamily at the buff Cutey Patootey in the T-shirt and jeans at the other end of the bar. ‘Isn’t he just? And for an outdoorsy-type guy he actually has really nice hands. I’m sure he plays the piano.’

Franny laughed into her cocktail sending the flamingo swizzle-stick spinning. ‘If he plays the piano then the doodles on the notepad beside my phone make me the next Picasso.’

Caitlyn dropped her hand to her drink and blinked at Franny. ‘Meaning?’

‘Only you would see husband potential in a first date.’

‘I never! I—’

‘You know you do!’ Franny said, cutting Caitlyn off. ‘You see hearts and flowers, when what you actually need is a guy who can keep you in line. Who doesn’t let you get away with the crap you usually do. One who dances to the beat of his own drum, not yours.’

Caitlyn glanced back at Cutey Patootey just as he sucked in his washboard stomach as a pair of bouncy blondes swayed past. Her mouth twitched. ‘Believe me, I’m not hearing wedding bells this time.’

Franny gave her a nudge, then out of the corner of her mouth said, ‘But have you heard bedsprings creaking?’

Caitlyn smacked her hard on the upper arm. ‘We met a week ago.’

Franny shook her head as if that was no kind of answer, which in Frannyland it wasn’t.

Caitlyn, on the other hand, wasn’t about to jump into bed with some random guy just because he gave her that sweet rush that came from meeting someone new. That had never been her bag. For her, the attraction was all about the delicious slow burn at the beginning of a relationship. The shy glances, and first touches and stolen kisses, and that build of delicious tension ’til they could no longer keep their hands off one another—what a thrill! So much better than the reality that always came later. So Cutey Patootey was going to have to wait.

He glanced back at the girls and grinned; big, brawny, honestly a little less erudite than she might have liked. But Franny was right; with the dimples and spiky blond hair he was ridiculously cute.

With a self-satisfied smile, Caitlyn motioned to Franny she was about to make a beeline for the ladies’ room for a freshen up. She sucked in her stomach and ducked and weaved her way through the heaving Saturday night club crowd.

Once through she let out her stomach and craned her neck to see which direction the rest rooms had gone, when she turned and smacked face first into a wall.

At least it felt like a wall. That was until she reached out and grabbed it and discovered it was warm, and slightly yielding, and wearing a suit.

She tried to push off it only to find the crowd pressing at her back.

‘Whoa,’ she said, half laughing, half hanging on for dear life as she righted herself using the wall as her guide.

And then she looked up. And up. And up.

Dark hair, dark eyes, dark expression. Hello Handsome.

She stood staring into those dark eyes for a long time. Seconds? Minutes?

‘So sorry,’ she finally said, as breathless as though she’d had the air knocked from her lungs.

Then just when she decided he wasn’t going to answer her back, a deep dark velvet voice said, ‘Whatever for?’

She swallowed. Tried to anyway. Turned out her mouth had dried up.

Shaking her fringe from her eyes and feigning a confidence that was feeling a tad shaky right about then, she looked right into his eyes, and said, ‘I don’t make a habit of throwing myself into the arms of passing strangers.

‘Yet you’re so good at it.’

She laughed, and her breasts pressed against him. His hard warm chest. She felt a weakening at the backs of her knees. She curled her hands tighter around his lapels.

She wished she could see his eyes better. To see if he was smiling too. The club wasn’t exactly dark, but he somehow seemed to swallow the light around him.

‘Okay,’ she said, ‘so it’s a move. Not an original one. A classic, really. And I’m sticking by it.’

‘Mmm. There’s a reason why classics become classics,’ he drawled, his rich velvety voice making her shoulders roll as though someone were running a slow finger right down her spine.

‘Why’s that?’

‘They work.’

She could feel the beat of the music in her stomach. Or perhaps it was her pulse, thumping hard and fast through her centre. Unless it was his pulse. His thumping. They were pressed close enough for it to be possible.

‘Caitlyn March,’ she said, figuring it impolite to be quite so plastered against the man and not at least introduce herself. She unpeeled a hand to shake his.

‘Dax Bainbridge.’

‘Nice to meet you.’


The house lights flashed at that moment—on off on off—in time with an eighties dance hit and she finally saw his face. Gorgeous didn’t even begin to cut it. It was the kind of face she’d have immediately looked away from if caught staring for fear of public drooling.

And then he smiled.

It wasn’t a grin by any stretch of the imagination. But the serious cheek creased in the kind of way that set a girl’s heart to racing, and the dark eyes gleamed, but it was plenty enough to make Caitlyn feel as if she’d just been clubbed over the back of the head.

Her brain became a fog. She could see the wave and sway of dancing clubbers out of the corner of her eye, and it felt as though they were moving in slow motion. The steady thump of the music pulsed in her stomach. Lower. Boom, boom, boom.

Were the two of them swaying in time with the music now? If not, it felt as if they sure as heck should be.

‘Are you a dancer?’ she asked. But when she felt him take a breath to answer, she got in first. ‘I meant do you get your dance moves on at places like this? Not professionally, of course. I didn’t mean you look like a ballerina or anything. And I’m not sure it would be physically possible to achieve head-spins in that suit.’

No response, not that she blamed him. Though his chest rumbled deliciously against hers. Was he laughing? God, she was literally having to stop herself from breathing the guy in he smelled so delicious, and he was laughing.

She knew she ought to just let him be, to back away slowly and go...wherever it was she’d been planning to go when she stumbled upon him. Where was that again? But he smelled so good, felt so solid, gave her such an array of the most delicious goose bumps, she couldn’t.


She realised then that his arms were around her. Not inappropriately in any way, shape or form. The song playing was the kind that always had half the nightclub trying to squeeze onto a dance floor three sizes too small and he was merely keeping her from smacking into any other nightclubbers. Or walls for that matter. It was a gentlemanly thing.

She was bumped, jostled, nudged closer. His arms tightened. The crowd moved away. His arm did not. And suddenly it didn’t feel so gentlemanly after all.

He shifted his weight. Or maybe she’d shifted hers. Either way when the shifting stopped they were closer again. Her thighs were introduced to the hardness of his. His belt buckle got to know the dent of her belly button. Her blood rushed so hard and fast through her, her head had begun to spin.

She felt as if the floor had dropped out from under her and she was balancing on the edge. Like if the guy moved the wrong way—or more specifically the right way—she might leap into his arms, wrap her legs around him and never let go. He was so strong, so warm, he had her wondering if there was a back alley to the place. A hard, private wall up against which he and she could—

And then she remembered the guy at the bar. The guy with whom she was on a date. Whatshisname? Seriously, what was his name?

Honestly, in the end, it was less that than the fact that her toes had begun to go numb from standing on them in some kind of effort not to feel completely swamped by the man’s height that she lowered shakily into her high heels, uncurled her clenched fingers from his jacket, peeled herself from his person, and took a slow and unsteady step away.

The dance song came to a halt. Something slower and softer moaned through the overworked speakers. The strobing lights disappeared and the room was lit with a soft even glow.

‘Well, thanks for not letting me fall,’ she said, still needing to half shout to be heard.

‘Thank you for letting me not let you fall.’

She managed to laugh despite the strange tumbling inside her stomach. Then his cheek did the sexy crease thing again, and she might even have said something like, Lovely. But no. She couldn’t have. That would be embarrassing along the lines of having her dress caught up in her undies.

She discreetly checked her dress. All good.

‘Right.’ She flapped her hands over her shoulders in the general direction of the bar. ‘I’d better get back to my friend before she thinks I’ve been abducted by little green men. Not that she’s some kind of rabid believer in UFOs, or those kinds of things. Though once, late one night, we did see something odd—’

Stop! Go! Now!

‘Okay, then. Bye!’ she said.

He acknowledged her with a bow of his head. A small smile. And a glint in his eyes that seemed a hell of a lot like the kind of shockingly hot attraction she was dealing very badly with herself at that very moment.

Caitlyn curtsied. Curtsied! Then stepped back, bumped into someone, spun on her heel, apologised profusely, smacked another dancer, turned to wave to Dax again so that his final impression of her wasn’t her elbowing a stranger in the head, to find he was gone.

She stood a moment in the middle of the dance floor, feeling a little adrift, actually.

When a group of grinning guys in matching ‘Pub Crawl’ T-shirts surrounded her, she came to quick smart. She ducked under their waving arms and aimed her unsteady feet in the direction of Franny.

As her knees shook she couldn’t remember having such an instantaneously intense response to meeting a man in, well, ever. All that from a bit of body contact, a smouldering gaze, and a five-minute almost-conversation. No shy glances, and cheeky first touches there. It had felt as if a bomb had gone off inside her. She held a hand to her stomach to quell the lingering ache.

Alas, intensity was the absolute last thing she wanted or needed. She’d lived through enough intensity to last her a lifetime during her latest break-up.

George hadn’t taken it well, poor love. No wonder, he’d been so sure of her he’d gone so far as to give her his grandmother’s engagement ring. But panic had set in, as it inevitably did, and she’d ended it.

She shook it off, literally shimmying away the discomfort of the whole incident, which was draping itself over her like an old shawl that smelled of mothballs. Things were different now. She was different. At least she was trying to be.

At first she’d tried swearing off men for good. But holing up on the couch every Saturday night had sent her nearly around the bend. Now she’d decided, with Franny’s encouragement, that what she needed wasn’t self-enforced sobriety, just some simple honest-to-goodness fun. A light, easy-going, melt-in-the-mouth kind of guy; sorbet to cleanse her romantic palate.

‘What was that?’ Franny asked, practically bouncing on the barstool.

Caitlyn slid onto her barstool and feigned fascination for her now lukewarm cocktail. ‘What was what?’

‘You and the Suit, that’s what. I thought you were going to tear one another’s clothes off right in the middle of the dance floor. Who is he?’


‘Well, Cutey Patootey over there might be a cute guy. But that one was all Man.’

Caitlyn glanced at her date to find him sculling beer with the Pub Crawl guys. She winced, and turned back to Franny. ‘You say man like it needs a capital M.’

‘Go ahead and capitalise the whole word.’

When Franny was quiet for longer than Caitlyn thought possible, she looked up to find her friend staring across the room. Caitlyn couldn’t help but follow her lead.

And there he was, Dax...Somebody, standing in a group on the other side of the club. He watched in seeming bemusement as a woman about her age wearing fairy wings was waving her arms at him as if she were about to take off.

Taller than everyone else in sight. Broad too. Dark hair, dark suit. Serious expression. As if he secretly ran the whole world all on his own. As if he always got his way.

Franny was right, he was all Man. Caitlyn breathed in deep through her nose, looking for and finding the tang of his scent, which still lingered on her skin. And just like that the vibration was back, fizzing as potently inside her as it had the moment she’d recognised the heat in his eyes as a direct mirror of hers.

But no matter how much her body was telling her yes, her head knew he was too much for her. All that intensity and heat was a banquet when all she could stomach right then was sorbet.


Dax...Somebody discreetly checked his watch, then glanced about the room, his gaze almost colliding with hers.

Cheeks as red and hot as sun-ripened tomatoes, Caitlyn spun away and grabbed Franny by the arm, pulling her friend from a trance.

‘Stop staring,’ Caitlyn hissed as though he might hear her. ‘You’ll get RSI.’

‘It’ll be worth it.’

* * *

It was after two a.m. at the hazy, noisy, malodorous nightclub when Dax decided he’d put in an appropriate amount of time at his sister Lauren’s birthday bash and was quietly working out the fastest route to the door.

His time was rarely his own. He still had a half dozen endowment proposals to which he needed to give the final stamp of approval and foreign markets to check before he could even think about sleep.

But his feet refused to budge. They were fixed to the floor as if they’d been bolted there, and it had nothing to do with the sticky remnants of a night’s worth of spilt booze. He only had a certain someone with dreamy brown eyes to blame.

Dreamy brown eyes that locked on and didn’t let go. And warm skin that had felt like velvet beneath his hands. Then there was that mouth. A soft pink mouth that was made for being kissed, and thoroughly.

Caitlyn...Something. Even her name had him shifting in his shoes. Shoes that remained stuck, while his eyes began to rove.

The crowd of loose sweaty bodies rolling with the beat of some obscure song shifted and swayed, revealing glimpses of faraway corners of the club, before swallowing them up in the writhing mass once more.

Dax ran a hand hard and fast up the back of his head, attempting to shake loose the tension coiling through him. A glimpse was all he wanted. A flash of auburn hair and pale skin and warm curves, a memory to take home to his

empty bed.

The crowd parted. And there she was. Perched on a stool at the bar. Hair shimmering in the down lights, legs crossed, high heel bouncing up and down, shoulders bare in that so-sweet-it-was-sexy little dress.

The next thing he noticed was the other half-dozen pairs of male eyes zeroed her way. Seedy eyes with one thing on the minds behind them. How a woman like her expected to make it out of a place like that alive was anyone’s guess.

Perhaps he ought to make sure she did. Now that he knew her name he felt a kind of responsibility over her. Especially when he knew how much trouble that brazen little mouth of hers could get her into.

That mouth...

His suit began to feel too snug. Too hot. He shifted uncomfortably but it didn’t help. If he was honest with himself he knew there was only one thing that would.

He’d never liked loose ends. Never believed some things were better left unsaid. If he wanted any kind of legacy it would be that he was a man who always finished what he started.

His shoes unstuck and he set off—

‘Man, you look like you have fleas,’ Rob, Lauren’s husband, said as he clapped a hand on Dax’s shoulder, yanking him back onto his heels.

Dax breathed out hard through his nostrils like a racehorse locked into the starting gate.

‘Or an itch needs scratching,’ Rob said, motioning towards the bar. Towards her. ‘Saw you two out there dancing before. Who is she?’

Caitlyn. Again her name slid through his mind like a siren song. He shoved his hand into the pockets of his suit trousers and levelled his gaze at his brother-in-law. ‘There was no dancing, merely a great deal of crowd jostling, and I made sure the lady didn’t get trampled.’

‘Right,’ Rob said, a grin spreading across his face. ‘Jostling.’

Dax realised too late that knowing who Rob was talking about had been his big mistake. He dragged his eyes back to the dance floor. ‘It was quite a crowd.’

‘Or quite a girl.’

Quite a girl? At the mere thought of the end result of the crowd-jostling, heat broke through him like a wildfire with a forest full of dry scrub in its path. Dax sought out a bunch of leg hairs and tugged, but it was to no avail.

Brutal honesty was.

She was a girl who clearly had a defective self-defence mechanism if the way she’d melted against him, a complete stranger, was anything to go by. She’d do better with the nice guy, the Robs of the world, not a hard-headed realist like him, despite the sexual attraction they no doubt shared.

It wasn’t enough to warrant pursuit. Especially when he knew nothing about her apart from the fact that she could get his blood boiling with a mere glance. The Bainbridge name brought with it certain advantages. But those same advantages attracted elements best left alone.

His eyes sought out Lauren, who was laughing and dancing. She’d been so young at the time of their parents’ accident. So disorientated by the avalanche of chaos they’d left behind and therefore a perfect target to the sharks who’d smelled blood in the water.

It felt so long ago now; he twenty-two, and saddled with not only a shell-shocked sixteen-year-old sister he’d barely known but the rotting carcass of his family’s hundred-year-old business. The future he’d imagined for himself gone in a puff of smoke.

He coughed, the haze before his eyes for real. Someone had gone overboard with the club’s smoke machine. Through the smog his eyes disobediently sought out the shapely outline of an auburn-haired spitfire.

His self-preservation instincts had been well honed. They’d had to be. Never again would he be as unsuspecting, as stunned to the very core, as he had been by the selfish and systematic fraud his parents had perpetrated so slyly before their deaths.

Though if Caitlyn was a shark in damsel’s clothing then he’d change his name to Susan.

Unlike plenty before her, she hadn’t looked at him as if he was the answer to her girlhood dreams of diamonds and furs. More like she was a diagnosed sweetaholic and he was the biggest doughnut she’d ever seen.

He felt hot, he felt tight, he felt wide awake. As turn-ons went it appeared her particular brand of upfront, in-your-face, sexual frankness was it.

Could he? Should he?

He glanced at his watch and frowned, unsure if that one move had been a mistake, or his saving grace. It was nearing half-past two. He had work to do. And it had been a long time since his time had been his own.

‘Right, I’m off,’ Dax said, overly loud to his own ears though the vigour was likely lost in the thump of the booming beat.

He patted Rob hard on the back and searched out his sister. He found her bouncing from one foot to the other, the antenna on her head and fairy wings on her back bobbing right along with her.

‘Hey, brother! Don’t tell me you’re off.’

‘I’m afraid I must. I have a conference call at six.’

‘So stay ’til then. Get your dancing feet on.’ She did a solo tango to illustrate.

‘Alas I left my tap shoes in my other car.’

Tango done, she levelled him with a stare. ‘At least promise me you had fun?’

‘More than I can possibly say.’ Having a nubile redhead wrapped about him a definite highlight, though he knew better than to let Lauren in on that score.

‘Fine,’ she said, sighing dramatically. ‘Go. Get your beauty sleep. It wouldn’t behove you, or the foundation, if you appeared anything less than implacable.’

After blowing him a kiss, she shimmied and boogied away into the crowd. Whatever things he might wish to change about his past, bringing her up wasn’t one of them.

Dax resisted the urge to look towards the bar one last time and turned towards the exit.

Something slithered down his neck. It felt as if it had legs long enough to belong to a bird-eating spider, so he flapped his suit jacket madly ’til whatever it was either flew away or was summarily squished.

He took a step, only to feel his foot slipping out from under him. He caught himself just in time, took a moment to find his breath, then lifted his shoe to find something twinkling at him from the dark wooden floor.

Braving the possibility of disease by letting his fingers stray that close to the layer of sticky ooze, Dax bent to pick it up.

It was long. It was shiny. And it was no bird-eating


* * *

‘What are you doing?’ Franny asked. ‘The cab’s waiting.’

Caitlyn, who was at that moment on her hands and knees—with paper napkins keeping all four from actually touching the precarious Sand Bar floor—blew a strand of hair from her mouth. ‘I’ve lost an earring.’

Franny threw out her hands in supplication. ‘It could be anywhere by now!’

‘Which is why I need to get a move on looking for it.’ With a shiver Caitlyn flicked a stray piece of random cocktail fruit from her wrist. ‘They were Gran’s. The chandeliers with the little flowers at the clasp.’

‘Oh,’ Franny said, looking suitably understanding. She knew the history those earrings had. Still she glanced longingly towards the door where the guy she’d spent half the last hour dirty dancing with was waiting to take her to heaven and back.

They’d promised to drop Caitlyn home on the way as her lift had evaporated once Cutey Patootey was no longer around to escort her. He’d disappeared into the wee hours after Caitlyn had made it clear, by not letting him stick his tongue in her ear, that she wasn’t going home with him that evening.

Caitlyn wasn’t all that disappointed. Not about that. Her gran’s earrings on the other hand... They meant something deeply. Her heart clenched hard at the thought of losing them for ever.

‘You go,’ she said, giving Franny a shove on the ankle, which was the only part she could reach from the floor. ‘I could be a while.’

Franny bit her lip, looked from Caitlyn’s no doubt pathetic position and back to the brooding blond in the leather jacket lounging mysteriously by the door.


‘All right!’ Franny blushed furiously, then leant over the bar, getting the attention of the bartender. ‘Ivan! See to it our mate Cait makes it safely to a cab all right? And if anyone hands in an earring, it’s hers.’

Ivan peered at Caitlyn, grinned and nodded.

Franny said, ‘I won’t be home tonight. Usual place tomorrow for a warm down?’

‘If I must.’

Franny grinned, and took off at a sprint.

Caitlyn spent the next ten minutes peering at the floor and getting nowhere. Every minute down there had felt like an hour and the further she got, the more concerned she became.

She and her dad had picked out those earrings for her gran when she was eleven years old. No matter how short a stay he’d had at home between tours, he’d always made time for just the two of them, but she remembered that trip to the shops with him with such clarity. The next time he’d gone on tour he’d never come back.

Something glinted at her under a barstool! She pulled to a crouch, tucked herself into ball, peered underneath and—


At Ivan’s unexpected call, Caitlyn looked up so fast she bumped her head on the underside of the stool. Biting her lip to keep from swearing like a sailor, she rubbed her head and frowned up at him, only to find him holding a long glinting earring made of a dozen pieces of cut glass with a flower at the clasp.

She scrambled most ungracefully to her feet and grabbed the earring and held it to her chest, spinning around so that her hair slapped her in the face, but she didn’t care. ‘Oh, Ivan! My dear darling Ivan! I love you more than you could ever know!’

‘Love him,’ Ivan said with a grin, cocking his head to the right. ‘He found it.’

Caitlyn spun to a halt, spat a clump of hair from her mouth, and found herself looking into a pair of familiar dark eyes.

‘Dax,’ she said, his name a breathy sigh upon her lips.

Up close and personal he’d been impressive. At enough distance to get a load of the whole lot of him in one go he was...breathtaking. Dark, serious, cool, and with a face that got a girl to thinking she was wearing far too many clothes for comfort.

He seemed not to notice the feminine tremblings she’d resorted to, thank goodness. He just leaned comfortably against the bar, looking as if he’d been standing there watching her shuffle about on her hands and knees for some time and had been perfectly happy to do so.

‘You found it?’ she asked, somewhat redundantly. Though she was pretty impressed she’d been able to get any intelligible words out at all, considering the loudness of the pounding of her pulse in her ears.

‘I stood on it,’ he said, his deep voice reverberating inside her so that she might as well have been hollow. ‘If not for my natural grace you and your earring might have single-handedly laid me flat on my back.’

Dax, flat on his back. The image that created was a keeper. One she knew she’d be trotting out on long, cold, lonely winter nights.

‘It must have come loose when we...met.’ The guy made the word ‘met’ sound like a dirty word. Good dirty. Behind-closed-doors dirty.

Dax nodded to Ivan, who seemed to understand whatever signal he’d sent and moved away.

Something made Caitlyn almost call out for Ivan to stay. As if being left alone with this man without the aid of loud music, a tightly packed crowd, and low lighting was a kind of peril she knew she couldn’t withstand alone.

Dax pushed away from the bar and moved closer. Caitlyn curled her toes so as not to sway away. Even in her high heels she had to tilt her head to maintain eye contact.

He reached out and took her hand. Caitlyn’s breath caught in her throat. Then he turned her hand over and uncurled her fingers one by one.

Her gran’s gorgeously gaudy earring glinted back at her.

Relief poured through her, partly because she remembered why he was really there; not for some random seduction scene, but to return her lost property.

She took a deep breath, centred herself as best she could with his warm male scent curling about her, and turned the earring over in her now moist palm.

‘Is it okay?’ he asked.

The bar at the back was slightly bent, but other than that it was in perfect nick. ‘You’re light on your feet for a guy of your size. You could have mashed it completely. She’s barely bruised and with a little TLC she’ll be as good as gold.’

She risked looking at him. Her eyes locked to his. Hazel. Her new favourite colour in the whole world. Her breath came hard, for there was no hiding from the patent desire in his gaze. Desire for her.

The house lights slowly lifted, encouraging the dregs to stumble on home. Panic set in. Her hair would be a mess, her lipstick bitten away, her mascara ever so delightfully smudged. Yet his expression didn’t change. The glint in his eyes if anything grew. Scorched.


And for a girl who in the past had lived for the adrenalin brought on by the mere possibility of a new relationship, she felt as if she were free falling into those hot hazel eyes.

In the past being the most important part. She wasn’t looking for that brand of blistering intensity that could sweep a girl off her feet before she knew what was happening. She wanted fun and frivolity. She needed...


All of a sudden parts of herself began to click and slide, like the tumbling open of a combination lock.

What she needed most was emotional catharsis.

What she wanted was to clear the bad taste in her mouth that her most recent failed engagement had left behind.

Sorbet sex.

What kind of sorbet sex she couldn’t be certain, since it was her first time going down that route. Sorbet came in a million different flavours, and if hers came in the guise of a tall, dark, handsome stranger she had no doubt could wipe away the memory of every man she’d ever met, well, then, who was she to argue?

‘Closing time,’ Ivan called out, dragging Caitlyn to the present.

Her breath shook as she wondered how exactly one went about picking up a sexy stranger in a bar by asking for no-strings sorbet sex.

‘Hungry?’ she asked, before she even felt the word coming.

‘Ravenous,’ Dax said without missing a single beat.

Well, she thought as he slid his hand around her waist, resting it possessively on her hip as he led her towards the door, even that gentle touch making her feel as if lava were sliding through her veins, that’s how.


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