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Authors: Laura Jardine

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BOOK: Not Just a Friend
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“Why not? I think you’re pretty. Isn’t that what you do when you see a pretty woman at a bar? I’m only nineteen, so I’m new to all this, but…”

“I mean…I’m a lot older than you.”

“I know.” He smiled. “I like older women.”

“How old do you think I am?”

He put one hand on the bar and leaned closer. She could feel his breath on her neck.

“Forty,” he said.

Whoa
. She didn’t look like she was twenty-five, but she wasn’t
that
old. This sure was great for her self-esteem.

“You think I’m
forty
?”

“Yeah.” He brushed his hand over her cheek. “And I find that super-hot.”

“You find the fact that I’ve been working as an accountant for a decade hot too?”

“I do,” he murmured. “You really turn me on.”

He moved to kiss her, and Maya abruptly stood.

“Look,” she said. “I don’t feel the same way about you. I don’t like younger men. Some women do, and that’s fine. But not me.”

“Maybe you should give it a chance.” His voice was low and soft. It seemed like he was trying for sexy, but it didn’t sound sexy to her. It sounded fake and ridiculous. Like a child pretending to be an adult.

“Just a tip. When you’re guessing a woman’s age, lowball it, okay? Women don’t like it when people think they’re older than they actually are.”

He frowned. “So you’re not forty?”

“I’m thirty-one.” As in, she was getting to the point where she tried to avoid telling people her age.

“Really?”

“Again, that isn’t the way to win a woman over.”

“But when I said I thought you were forty, it was a compliment. The older the better.”


You
might think that, but in general, that’s not what people think when it comes to women. If you guess a little low, she might find it flattering.”

He seemed perplexed by this. This kid—yes, he was a kid—had a lot to learn.

“In that case,” he said, “I’ll guess you’re thirty. Will you reconsider?”

There was something about Caiden that was rather endearing. And if she’d been ten years younger, maybe…

But if she’d been ten years younger, he wouldn’t have bought her a drink, from the sounds of it.

“Good-bye,” she said. “Good luck with school.”

Maya returned to the table, shaking her head. It hadn’t gone as she’d hoped, but that wasn’t surprising. Although this…this was a new one.

“So?” Kristy asked. “What happened?”

“From the look on your face,” Allison said, “I’m guessing it didn’t go well. I saw him pull out his wallet to show you something. What was that about?”

“He was proving he’s old enough to drink.” Maya slumped in her chair. “He’s only nineteen! And he thought I was forty.”

Kristy placed a hand on her shoulder. “He didn’t know what he was talking about. Trust me, you look nowhere near forty.”

“He has a fetish for older woman and told me it was a compliment. The older the better.”

Everyone erupted in laughter.

“You think it’s funny that men now consider me an older woman? That he was turned on when I told him I’ve been working as an
accountant
for ten years?”

“You have to admit,” Allison said, “it’s sort of funny.”

Okay, Maya could admit that.

But she was tired of her love life being one big joke.

* * * *

After their kiss on Friday, Maya was looking forward to having sex with Liam even more than usual.

It was a relief to finally go to bed with him on Sunday afternoon. To have a man run his hands over her body, and to feel how hard that made him. To feel attractive and desired. To be turned on by a man without worrying that he would turn out to be a douchebag or a nutjob. To lie in bed afterward and have a normal conversation. She told him about Caiden, and he was equal parts sympathetic and amused.

She wished her dating life could be more like this. Their kiss had given her hope, but that had been crushed by a nineteen-year-old kid who preferred women who were double his age.

If only the guys who were attracted to her were more like Liam. Maybe she should…

No
. If she was going to fall in love with Liam, it would have happened already.

And she knew he didn’t think of her like that, even though he’d asked her to meet him at a bar on Friday, where he’d covered her hand with his and put his arm around her. Even though he’d kissed her thoroughly in an alley afterward.

Liam was just a friend, a normal guy who was happy to have an arrangement where he got sex without any expectations. He’d admitted to having a crush on her fourteen years ago—God, she really was old—but he didn’t feel that way about her anymore.

After all, she was completely unlike the girl she’d been back then.

Chapter 7

“What’s her name?” Gavin asked.

Liam took the heart-shaped springform pan out of the oven and placed it on a rack to cool. He closed the oven door then turned to face his cousin.

Gavin had stopped by a couple of minutes ago, asking if Liam wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day by getting drunk at a sports bar and watching the Leafs lose another game.

Liam folded his arms over his chest. “Who said there was a woman?”

“You’re baking. And not just any old cake. No, you’re making a
heart-shaped
cake on Valentine’s Day. You can’t tell me there isn’t a woman.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“I know you don’t have a girlfriend, you dumbass. But there’s a woman you want to be your girlfriend.”

Clearly he wasn’t going to fool Gavin.

Yes, Liam planned to say something to Maya today. He was afraid she’d break his heart and they’d stop hanging out. But she was the woman he wanted, and it was time to do something about it.

He walked to the couch and sat down. His cousin followed.

“Yes,” Liam said. “I have a friend I like. We arranged to do something tonight since neither of us is in a relationship.”

“What did you arrange to do?”

Liam shrugged. “Eat dinner. Have sex.”

He waited for Gavin’s jaw to drop.

Yup. Didn’t take long.

“Let me get this straight,” Gavin said. “She’s your friend. And you’re already sleeping with her?”

“Yeah.”

“Dude, you don’t need a fucking cake to win her over. I’m sure she thinks you
are
in a relationship.”

“She doesn’t. Trust me. She goes on dates with other men.”

“Even better. Sex without expectations.” Gavin slapped him on the back. “You got it made!”

Liam leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. “But I want more.”

“I’m sure the idea’s crossed her mind. Maybe she thinks you’re too much of a loser to bring home to meet her parents.”

“Hey. I’m not a loser. I have a respectable job and—”

“You’re a high school math teacher. That has dork written all over it.”

Liam glared at Gavin.

Gavin elbowed him. “You know I’m kidding, right? Lots of woman dig that kind of thing. You’re the sort of guy women say they want to settle down with. In their twenties, they may be drawn to bad boys, but ultimately they want to end up with someone more like you.”

“Thanks for the pep talk.”

“You’re welcome. So how do you know this girl?”

“We went to high school together.”

“Are you saying you’ve liked this girl for fifteen years? That’s pathetic.”

“No, no,” Liam said. “I liked her when I sat beside her in calculus class. But I was too chicken to say anything, and when I went off to university, I forgot about her. Then I ran into her again—”

“And realized she’s the love of your life and all that crap?”

“No. We just started hanging out, and then we started sleeping together and—”

“Hold on.” Gavin held up a hand. “How the hell did you pull that off? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe I need to take some tips from you.”

“It was her idea. She hadn’t dated for a while after breaking up with her fiancé, and she missed having sex. So she asked, and I said yes.”

“You need to introduce me to this woman.”

Liam didn’t like the sound of that. “If you try
any
—”

“Hey, no need to freak out. Of course I’m not planning to do anything with her. Just curious what a woman who has a friends-with-benefits relationship with you is like, okay? I bet she’s good at calculus, and that turned you on when you were seventeen.”

“Maybe a little.”

“What’s her name?”

“Maya. And of course she’s smart and beautiful and funny.” Liam would probably turn bright red if he gave a more detailed description of Maya.

Scratch that. He would turn bright red anyway because Gavin was now opening the pink envelope on the coffee table and pulling out the sheet of paper inside.

“Put it down,” Liam said, though he knew there was nothing he could do to stop Gavin.


I
…complicated math equation that I do not understand…
you
,” Gavin read. “What the fuck?”

“It’s a formula for a heart shape.”

“And she’ll know that?”

“I’ll hand her a graphing calculator.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“I am. I graphed it on the back.”

Gavin turned the paper over. “My God. I can’t believe you.
This
is how you try to win over a woman?”

“I want to be different. I bet she’s never had a guy make her a heart-shaped cheesecake and give her the formula for a heart.”

“I certainly hope not.” Gavin regarded the paper for a moment before tearing it up. Well, Liam could make another one. It wouldn’t take long. “You really need some moves.”

“Have you had sex in the past week?”

“I see your point. But it just sounds like you got lucky there. And this isn’t about sex—it’s about taking the relationship to the next level.” Gavin shook his head. “I can’t believe I said that.”

“Neither can I,” Liam said. “It’s not something you know much about. Unlike you, I’ve actually had a few serious relationships.”

“Still, I think you should try another approach. The guys she usually dates—what are they like?”

“I’ve never met any of them. Her ex-fiancé was a cop who turned out to be a drug dealer. Obviously she doesn’t want a guy like him.”

“But she might want a man who’s masculine rather than cute. Maybe that’s what you need to get her to think of you differently.”

Liam was loathe to admit it, but Gavin might have a point. Perhaps he needed to act a little tougher. Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure he could manage that without coming across as a complete idiot.

Gavin snapped his fingers. “I got it. You probably fuck her all wrong.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation,” Liam muttered. “May I remind you that
I’m
the one who’s had sex in the past week. Not you. We keep doing it, so she must like it.”

“Clearly you’re not terrible. But maybe you need to kick it up a notch.
Fifty Shades of Grey
stuff? Handcuffs—that’s probably why she dated the cop. Whips. Chains. Biting. Spanking.”

Liam put his hands to his ears and howled in frustration. “Shut up.”

“It doesn’t take much to make you uncomfortable.”

“You just figured that out? I thought you knew and had been taking advantage of it for years.”

Gavin chuckled. “Okay, you got me.” He walked to the kitchen and came back a minute later, carrying a plate with a slice of cheesecake.

Oh no you didn’t…
Liam wanted to punch his cousin in the face. But he wasn’t the kind of guy who did a thing like that. Now was not the time to start acting tough.

“Did you seriously ruin my cheesecake heart?”

“I seriously did. This is all far too lame.”

“Good thing I hadn’t taken out the red and pink streamers yet.”

“The disturbing thing,” Gavin said, lifting a forkful of cheesecake to his mouth, “is that I can’t figure out whether you’re joking.”

Liam wasn’t joking. That had been part of his plan: a cheesecake in the shape of a heart, a mathematical formula for a heart, and pink and red streamers. If he could manage it, he’d make the streamers into the shape of a heart. But he didn’t feel like telling Gavin that.

“Let me give you a tip,” Liam said. “Women love men who bake. Amber was sick once, and I brought her muffins. Just muffins—nothing fancy—and she went crazy over them.”

Gavin chewed thoughtfully for a minute. “You can bake really well.”

“Thank you. Though the cake would be better if it was refrigerated for a couple of hours. The plan was to eat it after we’d done…everything else.” Hopefully Maya would like the cheesecake too. Except he no longer had a whole heart to offer her, thanks to his jerk of a cousin.

Gavin put down his plate on the coffee table. “I don’t think this would work on the women
I
date. Especially not the math mumbo-jumbo. But maybe you know what you’re talking about when it comes to Maya. I’m sorry I ruined your plan.”

As Liam was debating whether he should redo the note and present Maya with a partially-eaten cake, the phone rang.

Shit.
She was early. He buzzed her up, then turned to Gavin. “Time for you to get out of here.”

“I’ll leave. As soon as I meet her.”

There wasn’t time to argue. “Fine. You can meet her.”

Liam walked into the kitchen and looked at the cake. How had Gavin managed to make such a mess by cutting a single slice? It looked like crap now. No way was he giving this to Maya to express his feelings for her. Instead, he quickly cut it up, put it in plastic containers, and threw it in the fridge. Rather than giving her a broken heart, he could tell her he had some leftover cheesecake for dessert.

He would put the whole I-love-you thing on hold. He’d do that some other time. Or maybe he would give up on the romantic gesture and just tell her. No fancy plans required.

But he liked his plan, and he thought Maya would too. He remembered how she’d smiled when she put the pink rose in the water bottle. Yes, she was different now. Yes, she’d been screwed over by a bunch of assholes. But he knew that romantic part of her still existed.

However, much as Liam hated to admit it, Gavin might have a point. Perhaps he needed to be a bit manlier. Step things up in the bedroom.

BOOK: Not Just a Friend
10.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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