Home > Worth the Trouble (St. James #2)(8)

Worth the Trouble (St. James #2)(8)
Jamie Beck


After the bartender handed him a seltzer with lime, Hank immediately swallowed half the contents of the glass. The hint of citrus tasted good as it slid down the pipe. Exactly what the doctor ordered to sober him up, which he needed to do pronto. Being even slightly buzzed made him too vulnerable, and he refused to fall for Cat’s phony flirtations again. He’d already learned the hard way she had no real interest in him or his relatively humble lifestyle.

Scrubbing his hand over the back of his neck, he tried to rid himself of the yearning she always aroused. Like the moon caught in earth’s gravity, he couldn’t escape her hold on him. Hopeless moron.

It had all started when he’d first seen her pictures in Jackson’s office, before they’d ever met. Her dramatic brown eyes had distracted him every time he sat across the desk from his boss. The fact Jackson happened to be her brother should’ve convinced him to steer clear. But he’d been too much of an infatuated dumbass to heed common sense because, even in those family snapshots, she looked like a fantasy, with her bronzed skin, shiny long hair, and perfectly chiseled face. He suspected he wasn’t the only guy in the crew who engaged in a few inappropriate daydreams following any meeting with Jackson.

He’d finally met her a few years after he’d first seen those pictures, when she attended one of Jackson’s informal get-togethers at his house in Connecticut. Hank had been too shy and tongue-tied to approach her, but then she’d surprised him by homing in on him early that evening.

“Hi! We’ve never met. I’m Jackson’s sister, Catalina.” She’d held out her graceful hand. A jolt of energy had slammed into his body from the brief contact.

“I’m Hank.” He’d managed to say two whole words, which had been a feat, considering the thoughts running through his mind at the time.

“So, Hank, what’s it like to work for my brother?” She’d placed her hand on his shoulder and leaned in to whisper, “You can tell the truth. Your secret is safe with me.” Her warm breath had wrapped around his neck like a sensual caress. Then she’d slowly retreated, staring at his mouth for a heartbeat before meeting his gaze. He’d felt her eyes fondle him like a hot pair of hands, and it had nearly brought him to his knees.

Since he hadn’t yet mentioned his job, he figured she’d asked Jackson about him. Her notice had made him feel damned good, too. Throughout the rest of the night, she’d continued touching his arm when she spoke, tossing her hair over her shoulder, and pretty much sticking by his side for the better part of the party.

Of course, then, like now, she’d drunk a little too much alcohol, which explained a lot of her behavior, in retrospect. But at the time, he’d thought he’d hit the jackpot.

Throughout that evening, he’d learned she was a loyal Giants fan, exercised ninety minutes each day but hated every second of it, loved her big-city lifestyle, considered social media a necessary evil, and never backed down from a dare.

Even more appealing were the glimpses of tenderness he witnessed, like the way she idolized her brother. And unlike Jackson’s then-girlfriend, Alison, Cat had hastened to cohost his party by cleaning up after careless guests and extending herself to ensure shyer ones were included in conversations. The mix of larger-than-life mannerisms and thoughtful, attentive gestures had dazzled him. He’d never met any girl like her—or at least not the way she’d presented herself that night.

As the hours ticked by, she’d decided to crash at Jackson’s rather than deal with the late-night train to the city. Jackson had left Hank and Cat alone at the end of the party in order to take Alison home.

“I should probably head out so you can get some sleep,” Hank had said halfheartedly, savoring the touch of her knee on his thigh as they sat side by side on the sofa.

“That’s a terrible idea.”

“You’re not ready for bed?” He’d grinned at her as she twirled a lock of her hair around her finger.

“Well, when you put it that way . . .” She’d playfully raised her eyebrow then leaned forward to toy with the hair at the nape of his neck. “Sure, I’m ready.”

It was all the invitation he’d needed. She’d been priming him all night. He’d become powerless to resist her even though it meant fooling around with his boss’s sister in the man’s house.

The next thing he knew, those plush lips of hers were glued to his. Both of his heads had nearly exploded from the desire coursing through his veins, but he’d restrained every male instinct and taken things slowly.

If she hadn’t been Jackson’s sister, he would’ve gone as far as she allowed. But even in his lusty daze, he’d been wise enough not to cross too many lines, although they’d both been partially disrobed by the time Jackson’s headlights streamed through the living room windows. Thank God for that brief warning.

He’d still been flying damned near the sun when he left Jackson’s house, so he hadn’t minded the blue balls. Even now he needed to loosen his tie just from remembering the taste of her mouth and silken skin.

Cat had suggested they get together again soon, so he’d left her three messages throughout the following week. To his disappointment, she’d returned none of his calls. Looking back, he’d been foolish to consider her casual proposal a declaration of real interest. A famous model dating a carpenter? He’d obviously been drugged by those kisses.

On top of that humiliation, he’d spent the next few weeks wondering what Cat had told her brother, and what, if anything, Jackson suspected. When Jackson later mentioned Cat had reunited with the jerk she’d been dating on and off, he’d finally realized she’d been using him as a distraction.

Months later, he’d endured almost an entire week of watching her prance around in bikinis and silky nighties at her family’s vacation home right here on Block Island. He’d had to work hard to conceal his alternating feelings of irritation and lust so that no one else, most especially Cat, suspected his enchantment. They’d kept a polite distance with one another—he’d known she was still entangled in the yo-yo relationship with her boyfriend.

Hank wouldn’t lie and pretend some part of him hadn’t felt avenged when her ex got arrested on assault charges. But for the most part, he’d been extremely upset Cat and Vivi had been in such danger, especially after learning the guy’s lawyer succeeded in keeping him out of jail. Cat’s decision to date an asshole, when she could have her pick of any number of decent men, boggled his mind.

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