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The Risque Contracts Series(6)

By:Fiona Davenport

There I was with a rare half hour alone in my office, and I was wasting it mooning over him. The ringing of my phone was a welcome distraction and I hastily reached for it to answer the call. “Madeleine Connelly speaking.”

“What’s this I’ve heard about you and Caleb Sterling, Maddiekins? Have you fallen prey to a notorious playboy?”

The teasing voice belonged to none other than Brysen Mariano, the boy next door who’d been my closest friend growing up. Besides my mother, he was the only person alive who ever dared to use her childhood nickname for me. “You’re one to talk.”

“Exactly my point! If you wanted a playboy in your life, you should have called me.”

“Ewww. Now you’re just being disgusting.” The very thought of doing anything remotely sexual with him made me want to vomit. Brysen was the closest thing I had to family besides my parents. He was the brother I’d always wanted.

“Have I ruined your appetite, then? Because I was thinking we could meet for lunch.”

A quick glance at my schedule confirmed what I already knew to be true. I was booked for a lunch meeting with Caleb, just like I was every day for the last month. Today he was going to have to fend for himself, though. I needed to get away from him, if only for a little while. Maybe lunch with Brysen would help me build my shields back up again.

“You’re buying and I’m ordering the most expensive item on the menu as payback for using that wretched nickname.”

The sound of his laughter in my ear was soothing. “Like I’d ever let you pick up the tab anyway. And since I knew how much it would irritate you when I said it, I’ll take you to your favorite restaurant to make it up to you.”

“You have a deal,” I agreed. “As long as you can meet me in fifteen minutes.”

“I’ll be there,” he replied before hanging up.

Tossing my cell into my purse, I rushed out the door of my office and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Caleb’s door was still shut. I approached his assistant’s desk and cringed at the scathing look Julie gave me. She had taken an instant dislike to me, one I knew was based on her less than a professional interest in her boss.

“When Caleb is done with his meeting, please let him know something’s come up and I’m unavailable for lunch today.”

Her expression brightened, most likely because she figured this information was going to piss Caleb off. She delighted in causing friction between us whenever she could. I didn’t bother waiting for her response. Every additional minute I was in the office, I risked the chance of Caleb opening that door. I’d never make it out of here if he knew I was trying to leave for lunch.

By the time I arrived at the restaurant, Brysen was waiting for me. At six-foot-three and all solid muscle, he was impossible to miss. Even though his inky black hair was covered by a hat with his football team’s logo on it and his chocolate brown eyes were hidden by sunglasses, his disguise didn’t fool me. I’d recognize him anywhere.

The hostess looked crestfallen when he turned to greet me, sweeping me into a big hug and giving me a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“It’s good to see you, Bry.” I really meant it, too. More than half a year had passed since we’d last seen each other. We’d talked on the phone several times, but he’d been in the middle of a season with his team on another coast and I’d been busy trying to save my family’s company.

The hostess led us to a secluded table in the back corner of the restaurant and I giggled at the glare she sent my way before leaving us.

“I think you have an admirer,” I teased.

“She’s harmless, but from what I’ve heard, the same can’t be said for your not-so-secret admirer.”

The concern in his voice had me struggling for the right words to explain my situation with Caleb, but I couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t also require me to convince Brysen not to go after Caleb. “It’s complicated.”

“That’s a bullshit response,” he hissed as the waiter approached to take our drink orders.

“I’d like to order our lunches now,” I requested before he could walk away. Brysen and I had been here together many times before, and we always ordered the same things. My delaying tactic didn’t take long and before I was ready, the waiter was gone, leaving us alone once more.

“Seriously, Maddie. What the hell is going on with you and Caleb Sterling?”

“A better question would be what the hell business is it of yours and why the fuck is my woman having lunch in a secluded booth with you when she’s supposed to be with me?” The question was growled by a deep voice I’d come to know well over the last month. Caleb was here. He’d hunted me down and was now forcing his way into the booth next to me, his arm flung over my shoulder as he signaled the waiter over again. “There will be three for lunch. Add another place setting. Now.”