Time ground to a halt as Tamia stared up at Dominic Archer, stunned speechless.
She couldn't believe he was standing at her table, looking like he had every right to be there with his hands casually tucked into his pockets, a smile playing at the corners of his full lips. She couldn't believe he had the audacity to approach her after the way he'd nearly ruined her life, blackmailing her for sex by threatening to expose her past as a porn star.
As fury quickly replaced her shock, Tamia spat, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
His eyes glinted with amusement. “Hello to you too, Tamia.”
“Don't âhello' me, motherfâ” Glancing around the elegant restaurant, she lowered her voice to an angry hiss. “I don't know what the hell you think you're doing, but we have
to say to each other.”
“I disagree,” Dominic said calmly. “I think we have plenty to talk about.”
“I don't give a shit what you think.” Tamia turned her head, darting an anxious glance toward the front entrance. The last thing she wanted was for her ex-boyfriend Brandon to show up and see Dominic standing at her table. There was no telling what Brandon would thinkâor do.
“You need to leave, Dominic. I'm serious.”
“Why?” His eyes gleamed. “You expecting someone?”
Tamia scowled. “Not that it's any of your damn business, but yeah, I
expecting someone. He should be here any moment.”
Or so she hoped.
For the past twenty minutes, she'd been anxiously waiting for Brandon to join her at Da Marco, the Italian restaurant he'd taken her to on their first date. She'd told him to meet her there at four o'clock. It was now ten minutes past the hour.
she assured herself.
He's just running late.
She didn't want to consider the alternative. That Brandon was at the justice of the peace this very moment exchanging vows with his fiancÃ©e, Cynthia Yarbrough. She couldn't bear the thought of it.
“Let me buy you dinner,” Dominic drawled.
Tamia gaped at him, incredulous. “What part of âI'm expecting someone' did you not understand?”
He looked amused. “Come on, Tamia. You don't really think he's coming, do you?”
Her eyes narrowed with suspicion. “How the hell do you even know who I'm waiting for?”
Dominic chuckled softly. “I think I can safely assume that you're waiting for Brandon. Which is unfortunate, since I heard through the grapevine that he's getting married today.” He raised a thick brow at Tamia. “Did I hear wrong?”
She glared at him. “How did you know I'd be here?” she demanded, ignoring his question. “Have you been following me?”
“Of course not,” he said with lazy amusement. “I had a business meeting this afternoon, but my client had to cancel. I was just about to leave when I saw you.”
Tamia didn't believe him, not for one damn second. This was the same conniving motherfucker who'd had an affair with her while he was married. She couldn't believe a word that came out of his lying mouth.
Before she could light into his ass, the waiter appeared. After topping off Tamia's water, he divided a friendly smile between her and Dominic. “Will you two be dining together this evening?”
“No,” Tamia said so sharply that the man looked startled.
Dominic smiled at the waiter. “Give us another minute.”
“We don't need another minute,” Tamia interjected through clenched teeth. “He's not joining me for dinner. I'm waiting for someone else. In the meantime, I'd like to order the grilled scampi with orange honey salad.”
.” The waiter shot a sympathetic glance at Dominic before moving off.
Tamia picked up her crocodile Dolce & Gabbana handbag, one of many expensive gifts Brandon had lavished upon her during their recent trip to Italy.
“I'm going to the ladies' room,” she coldly informed Dominic as she rose from the table. “I expect you to be gone when I get back.”
With that, she turned and stalked off, feeling Dominic's gaze on her ass until she rounded the corner and disappeared from view.
Once inside the empty restroom, she slipped into the nearest stall and retrieved her smartphone from her handbag. After taking several deep breaths, she pulled up Brandon's number and pressed
Her heart sank when her call went straight to his voice mail.
“This is Brandon. Keep it short and sweet.”
Tamia inhaled a shaky breath, debating whether or not to leave a message. If he'd gone through with marrying Cynthia, there was nothing she could say or do at this point. But if he was somewhere having second thoughts, she had to at least
to get through to him.
The beep sounded, prompting her to speak or hang up.
Gripping the phone, she nervously moistened her lips. “Hey . . . it's me. I'm at Da Marco waiting for you. I hope . . .” She trailed off, not wanting to sound too desperate. “I hope to see you soon.”
She disconnected, closed her eyes and held the phone to her thudding heart.
Please don't let it be too late,
she silently prayed.
Please let Brandon be on his way to the restaurant, not the courthouse.
Drawing another deep breath, she stepped out of the stall and crossed to the row of sinks to inspect her reflection in the mirror. Her sleek bob was freshly straightened, her red lipstick was perfectly intact, and she wore a Dolce & Gabbana tapestry-print dress that molded her voluptuous curves. She'd been delighted when the Italian saleswoman had told her that the dress wouldn't hit the U.S. market for another four months. She enjoyed being ahead of the curve.
With a parting glance at her reflection, Tamia left the restroom and headed back to her table.
When she saw Dominic sitting there, a wave of incredulous outrage swept through her.
As she marched over to the table, he stood and smoothly pulled out her chair for her. Ignoring the chivalrous gesture, she thrust her hands onto her hips and spat, “What the fuck do you think you're doing?”
His lips twitched. “You might want to keep your voice down,” he advised. “People are staring at you.”
“I don't give a shit.” But even as the angry words left her mouth, Tamia couldn't help glancing around. Meeting the curious stares of several other diners, she scowled.
Not wanting to cause a scene, she reluctantly sat down and allowed Dominic to push her chair back in. But as soon as he reclaimed the seat across from her, she began looking around for the waiter so that she could request her food to go.
“I ordered a bottle of Chianti,” Dominic said, gesturing to the wineglass in front of her. “It's good. Have some.”
“I don't think so.” Tamia glared at him. “I thought I told you to leave.”
“You did,” Dominic said mildly.
“So why the hell are you still here?”
“I thought you could use some company.” He raised his glass to his lips, his eyes dancing with humor. “Were you able to reach Brandon?”
Tamia's face heated. “None of your damn business.”
Dominic laughed, leisurely sipping his wine.
Tamia hated him with every fiber of her being. But not even she could deny how fine he was with his hooded dark eyes, juicy lips framed by a trim goatee, broad shoulders, and muscular six-four frame dipped in Armani. His lazy West Indian accent only added to his immense sex appeal.
But it didn't matter how gorgeous he was, or that he was by far one of the best lovers she'd ever had. From the moment Tamia had met him, he'd wreaked pure havoc on her life, ultimately causing her to lose everything. Now that she was trying to pick up the broken pieces and move forward, she wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. The sooner he got that through his thick head, the better.
Tamia took a sip of her water and glanced impatiently around the restaurant. “Where the hell is that damn waiter?”
“Probably taking care of our order,” Dominic drawled.
Tamia's eyes snapped to his. “
“Yeah.” He drank more wine. “I canceled your salad and ordered dinner for both of us.”
The nerve of this motherfucker!
“Who the hell told you to do that?”
He smiled lazily. “We're both here. We might as well eat together. Besides, this will give us a chance to discuss my proposal.”
Tamia's eyes narrowed. “What proposal?”
“Glad you asked. I'd like toâ”
“You know what?” Tamia cut him off, holding up a hand. “I don't even wanna hear it.”
He frowned. “Why not?”
Why not? Why not?
Hmm, let me see. Maybe because the last time you approached me with one of your so-called proposals, I lost my boyfriend and my job, and I went to prison for murder.”
Dominic grimaced, leaning back in his chair. “All of that was unfortunateâ”
” Tamia echoed in angry disbelief. “Getting a speeding ticket is unfortunate. Falling on your ass in public is unfortunate. What happened to me was absolutely devastating, Dominic, and none of it would have happened if you'd stayed the hell out of my life. So, no, I have absolutely no interest in hearing your proposal, so you can just go fuck yourself.”
Dominic hung his head, looking contrite for the first time since she'd met him. “I know I did you wrong, Tamia. That's why I'd like to make amends.”
“How? You nearly destroyed my life, Dominic. There's nothing you can say or do to make amends for that.”
“Maybe not,” he conceded, “but I'd at least like to try.”
“Why? To ease your damn conscience?”
“Nah,” he murmured, watching as she agitatedly sipped more water. “This isn't about making myself feel better. It's about rectifying a mistake, righting a wrongâ”
Tamia snorted derisively, shaking her head at him. “You are so full of shit, Dominic. And you're out of your damn mind if you think I'd be stupid enough to ever trust you again.”
He looked at her with solemn eyes. “Everyone deserves a second chance, Tamia.”
“Not everyone.” She set her empty glass down on the table, then grabbed her purse and stood so abruptly she got lightheaded.
As she swayed for a moment, Dominic frowned in concern. “Are you okay?”
“I'm fine,” she snapped.
“Maybe you should stay and eat something.”
Tamia sneered. “Nice try, but I'd rather go back to prison than stay here and have dinner with you.” She jabbed a finger at him. “You wanna make amends? Stay the fuck away from me.”
With that, she turned and strode from the table without a backward glance.