Authors: Cate Masters
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Anthologies, #Contemporary Fiction, #Collections & Anthologies, #A 1Night Stand Story
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Cate Masters
Cover art by Tibbs Designs
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Also by Cate Masters
Dead to Rights
Death is a Bitch
1Night Stand Stories
Tonight You Belong to Me
A Hard Day’s Knight
A 1Night Stand Story
For Gary, Always
The warm breeze flowed through the open studio and washed over Zoe Golden like a kiss. The soft breaths of her students mingled with the swishing of the lush palm fronds outside the studio where she taught advanced yoga. The high ceilings and open design—sheer genius with its rollup sides to give the illusion of outdoors—normally eased her and helped her flow through the poses.
Not today. What awaited her tonight weighed heavy on her mind, and body, too. Holding the basic plank position posed a challenge. Her muscles trembled.
. Not a big deal for most people. But how long had it been since she’d gone on an actual date?
She steadied her voice before speaking to the twenty-five women following her instructions. “Transition to Downward Dog.”
A movement at the screen door caught her attention.
. Observing her class. Again.
“Hold for five more beats.” Did he deliberately try to throw off her concentration? He might as well be standing beside her. She could feel him watching. Could almost feel his hands guiding her into position, gliding along her skin.
A shuddered moan, and she caught herself. “Lower yourself to the floor, then lift into Cobra.”
She deliberately chose moves for this class to loosen her up for tonight. To mentally relax her, but also physically. These positions would help prime her body for sex. Something she hadn’t experienced in more than a year after her break-up. Most likely she wouldn’t sleep with her date, but who knew—maybe he’d be someone amazing. Possibly even as amazing as Ty Hardin.
He’s still there
. Not exactly looking pleased, but hard to tell with that poker face.
Shaken, she made it through the stretch. “On all fours now for Cat and Cow. As the name suggests, round your back up.” She again imagined him behind her. Kneeling. Hands anchoring her hips.
To the end of class, when she practiced the Supine Butterfly Hip Stretch, she couldn’t shake the very vivid vision of him. She closed her eyes against the power of it and then rose.
Ending the class with the traditional namaste, she bowed—to him. Surprise blossomed into spreading warmth when he pressed his hands together and bowed in return. Actually acknowledging her? Normally a sign of respect between teacher and student, the gesture signified something else when he did it. A spark of life shone in his eyes, all right, but it held no warmth. Rather than a surrender of spirit, it seemed to throw down a challenge.
Uh, no thanks. I don’t have a death wish
. He could outdo her in anything she could think of.
The students gathered their things, and Zoe reached for her hand towel and pressed it to her neck.
Caroline, a friend and one of her regular students, approached. “Hey, everything all right?”
Uh oh, was it that obvious?
“Fine, Caroline. How are you?”
Caroline pursed her lips and scrutinized her. “You seem off today. I’ve probably taken every class you’ve taught here, and you’ve always been a thousand percent. Don’t get me wrong, even off your game, you’re better than any other instructor. But I’m concerned.”
“You’re sweet, but there’s no need. I’m a little distracted, sorry. Nervous about tonight—my big date.” Probably shouldn’t have mentioned it, but Caroline was the one who’d introduced Zoe to the 1Night Stand service. Madame Eve, she’d promised, would find her the perfect match.
Caroline muffled a delighted squee. “1Night Stand? Good for you.”
Her friend’s enthusiasm only made Zoe more nervous. “Maybe. We’ll see how it goes.” Her gaze automatically went to the door. No Ty.
Caroline hitched the strap of her gym bag. “Next week, I want to hear all about it. Maybe we can get together for a smoothie?”
“Sounds good.” The smoothie part. The friendship thing. Not the detail sharing. She’d learned the hard way to keep her private life private. And whether this guy turned out to be Prince Charming or a dud, she wouldn’t violate his trust, or make herself vulnerable to criticism either.
Zoe might be fairly new to this whole “take control of your own life” thing, but no one was more determined to make it happen.
So get Mr. Adonis out of your head
Easier said than done. All during the drive home, Ty Hardin kept popping back into her thoughts. Why should he stay and observe her? She’d been working there three months now. She always taught with the principles of the studio in mind: no criticism, always encourage, insist on a non-judgmental environment, to the point that she had to warn two attendees they’d be blocked from the studio if they so much as whispered another negative comment about a classmate. Her other students applauded her. They all loved her.
Then why did he check up on her so often?
Maybe it has nothing to do with work
. Could he really be the Ty Hardin she knew so long ago? Since she’d taken the job, she must have wondered a thousand times. They’d only been kids then; more acquaintances than friends. Except for that one night....
This man had the same gorgeous blue eyes, but soulless. The Tyson Hardin she knew had been kind. It still warmed her heart to think of him. Generous to a fault.
Yes, and about one hundred and fifty pounds too heavy, but it hadn’t mattered. Except that her friends often teased him cruelly. And though she stayed silent, she stupidly followed them. Even that night.
How many times had she regretted her betrayal? If she could find Tyson now, she’d give her heartfelt apology. Beg his forgiveness. The old Tyson would graciously accept it.
She couldn’t even imagine such a scenario with this Ty Hardin. Oh, her coworkers always said how incredible he was, how supportive, that he went above and beyond to make his fitness studio family-friendly, even let one of the trainers stay at his house a few days after a kitchen fire.
Where was that open, supportive attitude for her? Whenever she approached him, he clammed up. Lost his smile if she asked something as simple as ‘how are you.’ She couldn’t imagine getting comfortable enough to ask him about his past.
No way could he be the same guy. In high school, Tyson Hardin stood maybe an inch taller than her. Her employer had a good six inches of height over her.
It didn’t matter. There was just no getting close to Mr. Ty Hardin.
Damn fool. Ty Hardin dragged himself away from the yoga studio and slipped from Zoe Golden’s line of vision.
Namaste to you, bitch. I see you for who you really are
. Whatever little game she’d planned in coming here, invading his sanctuary, he’d bust it wide open. It would make it all the sweeter when he kicked her to the curb.
He rubbed his neck, thick with tension. A quick workout and then a swim. Not here, though; at home in his private gym. He could whale on the punching bag without anyone wondering why he had so much pent up aggression.
He smiled at the receptionist on the way outside, but as soon as the doors swung shut behind him, he dropped all pretense of good humor. He slammed the car door and revved the 583 horsepower engine of his Mercedes SLS. Man, the car was a work of art. Today, it might as well be a Kia. He tore out of the parking lot, the streets a blur until he climbed out in his driveway.
It happened every time he observed her. She tainted everything, and he could enjoy nothing. Not the sleek black sports car he’d waited years to buy, not the aristocratic house he’d bought in the classy neighborhood, not his fitness studios that took a decade to grow into a successful chain. Nothing seemed good enough.
He smashed his fist into the punching bag so hard, pain shot through his hand to his elbow.
Christ, why had he hired her in the first place? Yes, her credentials had been excellent, if a bit recent for his usual preference. He still hadn’t solved the little mystery about why she’d disappeared from her high visibility job as a local news anchor, supposedly on track to go national. Repeated searches uncovered no dirt about the move, though at first he wondered whether she’d really left her news job at all, had gone undercover to expose him in some way. He’d quickly rejected the notion; his business practices were above the normal standards.
And financially, his risk had paid off. Her classes sold out in advance, and the students raved about her.
Guess it shouldn’t surprise him. She excelled at convincing others of her pure heart and good nature; yeah, till she turned on them. He’d experienced it firsthand. Long ago, but that had been the catalyst that inspired him to change. Not something he could easily forget.
Sweat matted his hair, made his shirt cling to him. He stripped and walked outside to the pool. As he sliced through the water, the sensation of it gliding along his skin brought her to mind again.
Seeing her every day, working for him, brought all the pain back as if it had happened yesterday. The past three months had been pure torture. He’d told himself to stay away from the yoga studio, treat her like any other employee. Tried to. But good God, when she moved like that....
It all went to hell the instant she looked at him. She might as well plunge a knife into his heart; it would probably hurt less. One glance, and in a snap she reduced him to an undesirable, overweight teenager with a ridiculous crush on the popular girl. The Golden Girl who pretended to like him, laughed at his little jokes, and waited for the worst possible time to crush him—in front of all her snotty friends.
Tonight, he’d finally put an end to years of misery. He’d be the one to ruin her.
After all this time, revenge would be sweet.
Zoe checked the time on her cell for the thousandth time. 7:12 p.m., which meant her 1Night Stand date was twelve minutes late. Caught in traffic? Changed his mind?
Maybe he saw you through the window and ran away
The thought prompted her to glance outside. A sleek black sports car sat in the parking lot, lights out but a figure visible behind the wheel. Could it be him? Why not come inside? Meet her, and judge for himself?