A sexy new standalone novel is now live from Sarina Bowen, and I have a little sneak peek for you. But if you’re really into reading books with interconnected characters in order, then you might want to read the Brooklyn Bruisers series first and meet its hockey players, because this book is about the team owner—Nate.
Nate’s voice stops me as I pass his office door. When I turn, I see he’s perched on the edge of the desk, probably because Georgia asked him to wait there until it’s his turn to step up to the press conference dais. His tie is straight and his shirt is crisp. Whereas my makeup is smudged and I feel as though I’ve summited a mountain in these clothes, he looks like a million bucks.
Or a billion. Technically.
“Is there something you need?” I ask. Please say no. “And what’s with this Miss Rowley business?” After I ask, I want to kick myself. Letting on that it bothers me is probably a bad idea.
He frowns. “I was only going to ask if you knew why Alex didn’t show up tonight.”
“No,” I say slowly. “I haven’t heard from her. It wasn’t me who put her on the invite list.”
“I see. I guess I’ll give her a call tomorrow and make sure she’s okay.”
“Right. Okay.” I clear my throat. “Good night.” I turn to go.
“I wasn’t trying to be a heel. That…” he makes a hand motion toward the hallway. “The eager intern called you Miss Rowley. I thought it sounded nice.”
“Nice,” I repeat stupidly.
“To me it sounds like you forgot my name.” I step into his office and shut the door behind me, because I seem to be picking a fight with the great Nate Kattenberger, which is colossally stupid. At least I have enough of an instinct for self-preservation not to let anyone else hear it.
Nate flinches. And when he speaks again, it’s still in his iceberg voice. “That wasn’t my intent. To make you uncomfortable.”
“You’re treating me like I have Ebola.” This complaint comes out sounding squeaky and weird. I should know better than to have an emotional conversation when I’m exhausted.
“Poor calibration,” Nate says. Then he turns his head a few degrees and puts on his thinking face.
“What?” He’s completely unreadable. With Nate’s thinking face, you just never know. He might be considering the topic at hand, or he might have instantly changed gears. Right now he might be considering a merger with Comcast, or reinventing the way your phone battery functions.
“It’s taken me longer than I’d hoped to recalibrate my reaction to you. My apologies, Rebecca. You were right when you pointed out that this is your place of work, and that it would be wrong to pursue you here. And I haven’t.”
I try to take that in. “So this whole Mr. Darcy routine is not because you’re mad at me?”
“No.” Nate gives me a tiny smile. My first one in weeks. “Not mad at you. Not at all.”
I’m so confused. And the worst part is that it’s all my fault. I was so eager to have that awkward conversation in Nate’s office—the one where I told him that it could never happen again, and that he wasn’t allowed to bring it up. If I hadn’t made these demands immediately, then maybe I’d know what he thought about the whole thing.
“Look. I’m sorry I screwed up your…calibration.”
“It’s entirely my own fault. We discussed this already.”
“Not exactly,” I admit. “I never let you tell me what you thought about the whole thing.”
He gives me a smirk. “By whole thing are you referring to a very hot night in Bal Harbour, Florida?”
“Of course I am!”
He shrugs, and I want to slug him. “But it doesn’t matter what I think. The guy who owns your place of employment can’t say what he feels. I don’t want to look like that guy. I don’t want to be that guy. And now we know my poker face needs work. So I’ll get right on that.”
He folds his hands, as if the matter is settled. The problem is that suddenly I don’t want it to be settled. I want to know. “Nate,” I whisper. “Tell me what would’ve happened if you weren’t my boss for seven years. Or even—what if I didn’t say no to breakfast that morning. What would you have said to me over hotel coffee?”
“Something awkward probably.” He clears his throat. “Look, there are no hypotheticals. You were never just some girl I met at a party. So don’t ask me to tell you what I think. Not if a little awkwardness sends you into a tailspin. Because I don’t think you’re ready for what I’d have to say.”
“But…” My heart rate accelerates. I feel wide-awake and joyous and bewildered. Everything at once. “What if I hadn’t given you a long speech about how the whole thing was a huge mistake? What would you have said if I let you talk? Do you even know?”
“Of course I know.” He stands up, but doesn’t come any closer to me. “I’ve thought about it every ten minutes since. I’ve thought about us during conference calls and while watching hockey.” In an uncharacteristically fidgety maneuver, Nate scrubs a hand through his hair. “I thought about us on the Gulfstream and also in bed.”
My face flushes instantly. Because the idea of Nate having a fantasy parallel to mine is not something I’d really considered. “What about us?” I squeak.
“What do you think? In my imagination we aren’t reviewing spreadsheets, that’s for sure.” He puts a hand on the desk beside him. “The only office furniture in this scenario is the desk I’m bending you over.” He drops his voice. “Does that answer the question? Or should I go on about what color dress you’re wearing when I lift it up and…”
I hold up a hand to stop him before I need to turn a fire extinguisher on myself. “I think I get the idea.”