Read Erica Lucke Dean - To Katie with Love Online

Authors: Erica Lucke Dean

Tags: #Romance - Humor - Banker - Atlanta

Erica Lucke Dean - To Katie with Love (2 page)

BOOK: Erica Lucke Dean - To Katie with Love
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My mystery guy appeared to be searching the crowd for something or someone. And when he ran a hand through his hair, the way I’d just imagined doing, it was all I could do to breathe.

Sing, Katie,
I reminded myself. It was a wonder I could sing at all. From his dark jeans and gray Henley shirt, to his battered brown leather bomber jacket, I quickly memorized every inch of him to recall later. He didn’t notice me, but I was barely aware of a single other person in the room. I was trying to send a telepathic message for him to turn my way, and either my message got through or he felt my eyes burning a hole through him because he spun around to look directly at me.

Even from up on the tiny stage, half-blinded by the lights, I saw a flicker of heat radiating from his dark eyes. Then he flashed his perfect white teeth in the most dazzling smile, threatening the last shred of my composure, not to mention setting loose a swarm of butterflies.

But I knew that smile… didn’t I?

The little fantasy I’d created cracked along the edges and reality spilled out. How could I not have realized it was him right away? I tried to chalk it up to the two shots I’d polished off before stepping onto the stage and the sheer terror coursing through me as I belted out the song.

It couldn’t be.

He was too unbuttoned. Too disheveled. Too… perfect?

Mr. Off Limits himself.

Cooper Maxwell.

 

I THINK I’LL HAVE JUST ONE MORE

 

O
h. My. God.

The bottom completely dropped out on me with a big whoosh. I reached the top of a rollercoaster and tumbled over the crest, screaming all the way to the bottom. I wondered how, in all the time I’d known him, I had never noticed how off-the-charts sexy he was.

Oh sure, I knew he was sexy, drop-dead gorgeous even, but seven-hundred-year-old vampire sexy? No way. Maybe because I was his banker, or maybe because he was way out of my league, I honestly had no clue.

How long have I been staring?

More than a minute? Less than two? Somehow I managed to keep my breathing steady enough to make it through the whole song, but even as I handed the microphone to the outstretched hand of the DJ, I couldn’t drag my eyes away from Cooper. Locked in his hypnotic gaze, I struggled to flash an innocent smile.

Oh, I was in deep trouble, and I knew it. It was too late to pretend I wasn’t just lusting after him like a school girl… while dressed like a hooker. I needed to get back to the safety of my secluded booth in the corner and my rowdy little bunch of coworkers.

“Very nice job, James!” Phil slid out of the booth to let me in and slapped me between my shoulders, nearly capsizing me out of my scary four-inch heels. “We barely heard the tremor in your voice.”

“You were great,” Silvia chimed in with a wink. “I thought you said you couldn’t sing.”

“I can’t. You’re just drunk,” I teased. Despite my terminal case of nerves, I was proud I’d managed to find my way around the song, considering my entire office was watching.

Not to mention Mr. Off Limits… who happened to be still staring.

“Hey.” Silvia nudged me. She tried to whisper discreetly but instead shouted to be heard over the music. “Isn’t that Cooper Maxwell staring at you from the bar? He looks good without the suit. A little more rugged, don’t you think?”

“Oh.” June craned her neck to see. “He looks taller in that jacket.”

“I’ll be damned. Is that
really
Cooper Maxwell?” Vicky asked, waving at him.

He flashed an awkward grin and waved back.

Yes. It certainly is.
“I didn’t notice.” I quickly sipped from the fresh shot that had been waiting for me when I got back to the table—my third so far—and desperately tried to avert my eyes from the bar area. I didn’t have to look in his direction to know he was watching us.

Watching me.

I had to peek around Silvia to see him. He leaned against the bar, drinking a beer straight from the bottle, looking all tousled and yummy. I would have never been able to concentrate on work if the new Cooper had been in my office. The Cooper Maxwell I knew was all business. He was always clean shaven, with his hair neatly combed, and dressed in designer suits that fit him nicely but didn’t draw attention to his body.

And he never paid personal attention to me. He was impeccably polite, but most days he seemed so completely indifferent it was almost enough to set my self-esteem back to my high school days. I had no idea why he would be staring so intently at me.

Silvia squinted toward the bar and fanned her face with her hand. “He looks hot. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so hot. And June’s right, he does look exceptionally tall tonight. I can’t believe you didn’t notice.”

“Nope, sure didn’t.” I didn’t notice how his dark hair was wildly and uncharacteristically messed up. I didn’t notice his lips turned up in the most kissable smile, or how he looked as though he was thinking about something delicious. And I certainly didn’t notice how well he filled out a pair of jeans.

Nope. Not. At. All.

“I would totally do him,” Vicky blurted. “My husband and I have this ‘fantasy threesome list.’ You know, like fantasy football? And I’ll tell you what—” She hooked her thumb in Cooper’s direction. “—he’s my first-round draft pick. I don’t care what people say about how he makes his money.” She picked up her frozen margarita and took a long gulp from the straw. “My husband picked you.”

“Me?” Silvia gasped.

Vicky snorted out a laugh. “No, Sil. Katie.”

“Oh my God.” I choked on my drink,
and Vicky rolled her eyes.

“That’s why it’s called the ‘fantasy threesome’ list.” She made quotation marks in the air with her fingers and shook her head as if
I
was the crazy one. “We don’t actually have threesomes. We just talk about it and get turned on.” Vicky sucked down the last of her drink with a loud slurp and refilled her glass from the pitcher. “Although, I have to tell you, I wouldn’t mind it a bit if he suddenly wanted to do it for real. I absolutely love sex. If there was a way to somehow hide my face so my father wouldn’t know it was me, I’d do porn.”

We all gaped at her. Vicky had an uncanny knack for making people blush. For a pretty girl, she had a tendency to try too hard to get noticed.

“Oh, roll your tongues back up. I wasn’t going to get up on the table and demonstrate. Geez.” Vicky laughed. “Not unless Cooper is willing, that is.” She stared off into space as if she were imagining that very thing. “He would be a lucky guy. I give a great blow—”

Silvia cut her off. “Oh, I think that’s enough out of you.” She casually moved Vicky’s drink away from her, eliciting a scowl.

I may have thrown up in my mouth a little. I sort of couldn’t feel my tongue anymore and quickly waved over the waitress to get another drink.

“Maybe we should invite him over,” Silvia said. “He seems to be all alone, and he keeps looking over here. I feel like we’re being very rude pretending we don’t see him.” She wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, but more running the idea past herself for approval.

June automatically jumped up from the booth to let her out.

“Oh, don’t,” I pleaded. “He’s probably waiting for some tall, leggy blonde.”
Certainly not a shy banker with too many hours on her hourglass figure.

“Don’t be ridiculous, Katie. You’re not fat,” Silvia tossed out as she slid out of the booth.

Did I say that out loud?
I didn’t think so.

“Oh, God, no,” June added with an encouraging smile. She took Silvia’s place against the wall. “You’re not fat at all. You’re curvy. Men like curvy women. Don’t they, Phil?”

Phil had the good sense to pretend he was listening to the bad Johnny Cash impersonation on stage and didn’t respond.

Who said anything about fat? What was the line from
Macbeth
? The lady doth protest too much? My bottom lip pushed out all on its own. “I never said I was fat!”
I just thought it a little too loudly.

“Of course you didn’t
say
it.” Silvia waved a dismissive hand. “You don’t have to say it. I know how you think.”

“Besides,” June droned on, “I think blondes are highly overrated. Your hair is such a lovely chocolate color. Although, if you added a few caramel highlights, it would make the green in your eyes really pop.”

Oh, good. My drink had arrived. Perfect timing. I took the glass directly from the waitress rather than waiting for her to set it on the table.

“You should see yourself in that outfit,” Silvia said.

I’d definitely seen myself. And it would take me until my next birthday to figure out how she’d managed to convince me to wear it.

Silvia gave me one last smile, and then she walked toward Cooper. Even from our table way in the back, I could see his dark eyebrows rise as Silvia approached. The slight turn of his lips blew up into a full-blown smile, and he turned to offer his hand. I watched their animated conversation, wishing I could read lips. I didn’t need to wish for long because Cooper pushed away from the bar and escorted Silvia back to our booth.

“Scoot in, Katie. Make room for Cooper.” Silvia orchestrated the seating arrangement to include Cooper, while Phil hopped up to take another turn at the microphone.

Cooper took my hand as if he was going to shake it, but instead, he bent down and brushed his lips across my knuckles. “I didn’t know you sang, Kate.” He beamed.

Cooper always called me Kate, never Katie. It took me almost six months to get him to stop calling me Ms. James or, God forbid, “ma’am.” We were the same age, for Pete’s sake!

“It was my idea,” Silvia chimed in. “She didn’t want to. You have no idea how hard it was to pry her out of this booth to get her up on stage.” She giggled like a teenager and leaned in, doing the whisper-shout thing to be heard over the music. “She doesn’t know it yet, but I put another song in for her.” She turned her eyes to me, and I saw the mischief lurking in them.

Vicky snickered. “It’s too bad Dean didn’t come tonight. Katie could have done a duet with him. He would have
loved
that outfit.”

Cooper raised an eyebrow. “Dean?”

“Dean Maynard. He’s one of Katie’s clients,” Silvia said.

“Dean’s an actor. He’s been on Broadway.” Vicky leaned toward Cooper and lowered her voice. “He likes to come in and serenade Katie in her office.”

Cooper stared at me. “He serenades you?”

My face flushed, and I shrugged.

Silvia shook her head and chuckled. “Vicky’s making it sound like much more than it is. He sings to everybody.”

“Oh, come on! You know I’m not exaggerating. He’s got his eye on her, if you know what I mean.” Vicky winked at Cooper. “I wanted to invite him, but Silvia—” She glowered in Silvia’s direction. “—said absolutely not. Hey, why did you just kick me?”

Silvia glared at Vicky across the table.

“Cooper, did you know today is Katie’s birthday?” June asked.

He pulled his eyes from Silvia and Vicky and turned to June. “Yes, Silvia told me.” Then he tipped his head slightly to the side and smiled. “Happy birthday.”

“Thank you.” The heat crept up my throat, and my lips twitched with the threat of a smile, but I couldn’t quite bring it out. I was too busy feeling sick to my stomach. The flip-flopping had reached a fevered pitch. I told myself it was because there was another slip of paper with my name on it up there somewhere, but deep down, I knew it was because Cooper’s thigh was pressing against mine. I could feel his warmth through the denim.

I tossed back the remaining liquid in my glass and quickly waved for the waitress to come back. “Who wants another round? Cooper? What are you drinking tonight?”

He held up his bottle. “I’ll have another one of these, thanks. And put everyone’s drinks on my tab.”

Cooper smiled at the waitress, and I realized how much I liked his smile.

I bet he’s a good kisser
. I must have been crazy or drunk to even entertain such thoughts. I wasn’t supposed to be thinking about his mouth or about kissing it. I had worked very hard to convince myself I shouldn’t want him. I managed a full smile and actually met his eyes for the first time since I was on stage. At first, I thought they were just plain stormy gray, but up close, I realized they were more of a blue-green.

“I’d like another one of these, please.” I tipped my empty shot glass in a little salute. The alcohol had made me brave. “So, Cooper, what brings you here tonight?”

He looked at me for a long moment with an amused expression, and I suddenly felt as if I had an imaginary wart on my nose.

“Are you drunk, Kate?”

“Don’t be silly,” Silvia said. “She’s hardly had anything, as usual.”

Cooper locked his eyes with mine and leaned in closer—as if that were even possible—until I could taste his warm breath, all peppermint and Heineken. “Are you sure you’re not drunk?”

I bobbed my head a few times.

Cooper grinned. “How many candles did you put on your cake today?”

I tried to speak, but no sound came out. Not that I would have had a chance.

“She’s twenty-nine,” June blurted.

Cooper didn’t take his eyes from mine. “I wouldn’t have guessed,” he said in a low voice. Then he gave me the same high-voltage smile as before, the one that sucked the air from my lungs and stopped my heart from beating for almost a whole second. “In honor of your twenty-ninth birthday—” He turned to the waitress. “—I’d like to order a bottle of your best champagne.”

I started to protest, but everyone erupted in laughter at something Vicky had said. I pushed my hair away from my face with both hands, desperate for something to distract me from the riot of butterflies in my gut. I hadn’t heard her remark, but I hoped it didn’t involve threesomes and blowjobs. I sort of feared it might.

Vicky zeroed in on Cooper. “You know, we come here once a week, and this is the first time I’ve seen you.”

Cooper shifted his weight slightly, causing his leg to press harder into mine from hip to knee. I wondered if he could hear the sizzle over the music and chatter.

“Once a week, huh?” His eyes caught mine again. “I guess I’ve been missing out then.”

“I don’t come every time,” I quickly added and immediately regretted it, not wanting him to think I had no life, which of course, I didn’t.

“That’s because she always has to chase down her stupid cat. I swear, you need to get a collar for that thing, Katie,” Vicky said. “With a bell.”

Cooper raised his eyebrows, amusement dancing in his eyes. “Sounds like a crafty cat. Does he have a name?”

My lips fell open as I floundered for something to say. I’d never given my imaginary cat a name.

“So, Cooper,” Vicky purred, leaning across the table toward him. “Were you ever going to tell us what you do for a living? I’m not the only one who thinks it’s more than just a little suspi—ouch! Again with the kicking?” she sputtered, glowering in Silvia’s direction.

“Oh, sweetie, did I kick you?” Silvia smiled sweetly.

The waitress returned with the champagne. She placed a fluted glass in front of me and said she would be back with the rest of the drinks right away. I picked up the flute and gulped a mouthful of the fizzy drink, catching a shocked look from Silvia. I wondered if she’d been keeping count. I figured one of us should. I was on the verge of completely losing track of how much I’d had to drink. I did a mental tally, adding the swallow of champagne to the total. It was definitely a personal high.
Are my fingertips supposed to be so tingly?

BOOK: Erica Lucke Dean - To Katie with Love
2.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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