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Waking Up Married(5)

By:Mira Lyn Kelly

There were a lot of things he’d done without as a kid. Things     he’d made it his purpose to secure as an adult. Money, respect, his own     home...and the thriving business he ran with an iron fist that garnered them     all. But a family...? For that, he needed a partner. One he’d thought he found     in Caro. She fit the bill, fundraiser ready with the right name, education and     background. Coolly composed and devoid of the emotional neediness he’d spent his     adult life actively avoiding. Or so he’d thought, right up to that last day when     she’d folded her napkin at the side of her plate and evenly explained she wanted     a marriage based on more than what they had. She hadn’t expected to, but there     it was.

Fair enough. He gave her credit for having the good sense to     recognize she wanted something she wouldn’t find with him. And most important,         before the vows were exchanged.

So, heartbroken? No.

Disappointed? Sure.

Relieved? Hell, yes.

“...I think you’re lonely. Sad...”

Throwing back the rest of his single malt, Connor relished the     burn down his throat and spread of heat through his belly. If he weighed in     fifty pounds lighter, it might have been enough to fuzz out the discomfort of     this conversation.

But there was always the next one.

“...remember, there are other fish in the sea—”

“Come on, what’s next—hot flashes?”     Holding up the empty, he scanned the crowd for the cocktail server.

“—hell, apparently the one over there is a gymnast.”

Connor quirked a brow, angling his head for a better look.     “Which one?”

Jeff winked. “Just making sure you were listening. Care about     you, man.”

Though he’d never figured out why, Connor knew.

That caring had been the single constant in his life from the     time he’d been ripped out of poverty and drop-kicked into the East Coast’s most     exclusive boarding school at thirteen. He’d been the illegitimate kid with a     chip on his shoulder, a jagged crack through the center of his soul and a grudge     against the name he couldn’t escape—and Jeff had been the unlucky SOB saddled     with him as a roommate. Connor hadn’t given him any reason to cut him a break,     but for some reason, Jeff had anyway.

Which was why, for as much as he gave his friend a hard time     about being an “in touch” guy...he also gave him the truth. “Yeah, you too...     Now, where’s the gymnast?”

* * *

Another two rounds and some forty minutes later, Connor leaned back in his chair watching     as Jeff reasserted his status as a testosterone-driven male by smoothly     intercepting the cocktail girl he’d been eyeing for the better part of an hour.     Connor didn’t even want to think about the rap this guy had laid on her to get     those lashes batting and her tray cast aside so fast, but whatever it was, it     must have been phenomenal.

Jeff shot him a salute, and the deal was done.

Reaching into this breast pocket, Connor pulled out his wallet,     tossed a few bills onto the table and then set his empty glass atop the     stack.

The night stretched out before him with all its     endless...exhausting possibilities.

He could hit the blackjack tables.

Grab a bite.

Pick up some company. Or not. With this apathetic indifference     he was rocking—

“Excuse me.”

Glancing up, he’d expected another waitress ready to clear, but     instead it was the blonde in the midnight dress from the other table. The gymnast, who most definitely wasn’t a gymnast if her     height and the soft S-like lines of a figure draped in one of those clingy wrap     numbers were anything to go on.

Very nice. “Hi. What can I do for you?”

Her smile spread wide as her big blue eyes held his. “This is     going to sound like a line. A really, really bad one. But you’ve got to believe     me when I say it’s not.”

The corner of his mouth twitched as he readied for what     inevitably was the rest of the line. Playing in, he     gave her a nod. “Okay, you’ve got the disclaimer out of the way. Go for it.”