Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

Previous: Chapter Seven
Next: Chapter Nine

Chapter Eight


Angela needed a cool drink after her run. It was the morning after, and she’d woken early to go jogging to clear her head. She’d hardly had any sleep and even when she had, it had been filled with steamy dreams and fantasies.

Once, she even imagined she saw the handle of her bedroom door turn, as if someone wanted to come in. But it was just her mind playing tricks on her, conjuring hopes that Shane had indeed changed his mind and had come up to continue from where he’d left off in the study. Besides, her bedroom door was always locked securely.

She’d woken up with her thoughts in a whirl. Emotions and sensations she’d never expected filled her heart for Shane. But he’d warned her from day one not to fall in love with him. Not that she thought this was love. It was just the ‘situation’; all the enigma that surrounded him plus the proximity they had to share as they played lovers.

She’d put in her quarter mile distance for the morning, and was now thirsty as hell. She traipsed over to the kitchen which was empty. She had her ass in the air and her head in the fridge, when she felt his presence behind her.

She straightened quickly to the sound of a stifled groan and turned to find Shane standing at the doorway. Half of her wanted to fly to him and be crushed in his warm embrace which would match the unguarded heat in his eyes at that moment. But then he schooled his features and pushed his fingers through his hair that tumbled over half of the scarred side of his face.

“I apologize if I startled you,” he said calmly enough, though he let out a harsh breath as he added, “I actually thought you’d be gone by now. Or at least thinking about it, especially after last night. I’m sorry about that too. There you were simply trying to be a friend and I...well, I was being an ass as usual.”

Angela wanted to lighten the air. “You won’t get rid of me that easily,” she teased. “Besides, we had a deal.”

His lips tilted in a relieved smile. “Yeah. We did.”

Angela shifted on her feet. Wished he wasn’t looking at her like he’d readily devour her. She’d worn her form-fitting running gear in lemon green with black tights. The weather was cool outside for September but she’d managed to work up a sweat. She felt a droplet of perspiration slip down her jawline to slither down in between her cleavage, gathered up by the tight neckline of her top. She noticed Shane watching that one bead of sweat and her breath caught in her throat.

But Angela had been thinking and had figured a way out of this constant state of awareness. Shane had said it himself; she’d been trying to be friendly. That’s what they needed to do. Be friends. Get to know each other better.

“I need to go up and shower,” she said lightly, “But I was thinking, when I come down that maybe we could chill. You know, maybe try out that fine-looking chess set I saw in the library.”

Angela wondered where she found the audacity. She fully expected Shane to tell her to go to hell. And yet he didn’t.

“Yeah; we could chill,” he replied. And then he grinned, transforming his face from handsome to devastating. Whoa. His eyes lit up so bright when he did that; and he had the nicest, whitest teeth she’d ever seen. What her friends would call a panty-dropping smile.

Thankfully, her hormones could be kept well in check even though it was damned hard to keep Shane at arm’s length.

The sexual tension would always be there, simmering beneath the surface. But at least they could have something else going for them while the arrangement lasted. So when he agreed to meet her in the library in half an hour for a chess match, she returned his smile and then flounced quickly from the kitchen before he could change his mind.

Angela wore a simple pair of pants and a top after a brisk shower. Her hair was done up in a ponytail and she couldn’t help a little vanity as she glossed on some lip color and mascara. When she went down, she had a stupid smile on her face. Damn but the girl’s got it bad, she thought self-deprecatingly as she opened the door of the library and felt relief to see Shane waiting by the antique chess set.

She didn’t expect Shane to be anything less than a master chess player. Turned out she was right. Thank goodness for the skills she’d learned playing with her dad from her childhood. Cassidy Neil had always been a man of many sides and had loved to tackle not just chess but also played jazz piano in a band when he was much younger. Angela had no musical leanings to speak of so she’d stuck with mastering chess and getting the opportunity to bond with her father while her sister preferred cooking up a storm with their mother in the kitchen until the day she left.

“I’ll have to warn you though; I was known as a legend in my day at college,” Shane said lightly as they took position at a table he’d set for the purpose.

Angela had to grin widely at that. “Then I can only hope to prove a worthy opponent,” she returned with a slight incline of her head. “So how was college?” she asked, hoping to learn why someone with an MBA ended up as a racecar driver.

“Boring,” he returned with a laugh. “I was at the top of my class in high school and received a full scholarship to an Ivy League school based on that and my SAT scores. Of course, all I’d ever wanted to do was drive. My grand plan was to get a job on a pit crew right out of high school and work my way up to a driver’s position. My parents wouldn’t hear of it. We weren’t exactly dirt poor but we didn’t have spare cash to throw around either. They insisted that I take the scholarship and go to college. When I graduated I would be free to do whatever I wanted. So I did.”

“And what did you parents think about you throwing away a college education to race cars?” She couldn’t imagine they would’ve been pleased, at least in the beginning; before the fame and the money.

He moved a chess piece before answering. “Well, I didn’t exactly throw it all away. The money, this house, most of it comes from my business investments. I invested all of my race winnings and spokesperson fees I received from my corporate sponsors into other businesses. So as you can see my Ivy League education hasn’t been wasted after all, especially lately. So tell me about your family, Angela. How is your father doing?” He quickly turned the conversation around to her.

The atmosphere between them was light and cheerful compared to last night’s charged encounter in the study. Angela was a strong chess player but found herself rightly tested by the more intensely strategic Shane. Angela didn’t care how many times she lost; she was happy seeing Shane relax for once. He was in his element while he played, sometimes letting her think she had a fighting chance and then...well, it turned out to be a somewhat brutal trumping at his hands. He really was very competitive and he acknowledged her well executed moves. Angela enjoyed the fact that they could relate on an intellectual and cultural level, and it seemed like they played for hours. The more she learned about him, the more she wanted and needed to know. He never failed to surprise her. There was more to Shane Davis than a half-pretty, half-scarred face. It took Angela’s growling stomach for Shane to announce an end to the chess match.

“I’m sure you’ll want to get some lunch,” he said lightly, rising to his feet. “I’m not that hungry so I hope you’ll excuse me while I make a few calls.”

Angela felt bereft that they couldn’t spend more time together. She really would’ve liked to have had lunch with him. As if reading her mind, he suggested catching up with her later when he was done in a couple of hours. Angela wanted to kick herself for the girlish pleasure she felt at his willingness to share her company.

It was a big old house after all, and neither Bess nor Linda worked on the weekends. Usually Angela spent time by herself, calling friends and family, watching a movie or reading. But she couldn’t help being fascinated by Shane and she told herself the more time she spent with him, the better she could handle her ‘girlfriend’ role especially as they drew so close to the time they were to visit his parents.

Angela didn’t want to think about that upcoming event, because she knew that it would signal the conclusion of their contract. Once they convinced his mother that he was truly healing both physically and psychologically, he wouldn’t need a fake girlfriend. And if he ever did, he could easily find himself another one. Maybe one for real.

Oh sure, she’d seen the subtle changes in him. He seemed far more confident now, less uptight. Even women seemed to sense it too. She remembered how he’d gotten looks from many females at the last outing they went to; saw the look of interest that was more than just curiosity or dismay at his scars. He carried himself with such virility that one could imagine that behind closed doors, it would be easy to forget everything else but the man and his specialty of making a woman scream with pleasure.

Angela didn’t want to think about that, either. Didn’t want to depress herself with thinking of something that was never going to happen. Not that there was anything stopping them. They were both adults; it would be so easy to give in and then walk away when it was over. “Merrily” walk away he’d said, she kept reminding herself.

But Angela couldn’t see that happening this time around. She’d already begun to form a connection and she was hungry to find out where it would lead. Even if she daren’t show it, she really liked him and wanted to get closer to him. It wasn’t all about the sex or romance, but her own need for a friend. She couldn’t exactly see herself inviting her friends over and having a nice time. Shane hadn’t expressly said her friends weren’t welcome but Angela had a sense that he wouldn’t want anything to disrupt his self-imposed isolation. Not with her type of crowd anyway.

Those girls could be nosey as hell and they’d want to know Angela’s millionaire ‘boyfriend’ better. Thankfully, Angela didn’t have that many close pals, just girls she hung out with. There was Sasha of course, but there was no way Angela wanted her sister mixed up in this.

Sasha had seen the papers and Angela had had to explain it was nothing serious, just a PR thing as part of a new project she was about to take on. It was at times like this Angela was glad that her father couldn’t really follow the news or gossips for now. She wouldn’t have been able to explain how come she was now dating a famous racecar driver that none of her family members could meet.

Angela wandered into the kitchen and picked a couple of the delicious ready-made courses the chef had waiting for them in the fridge. She learned he came in a few times during the week to whip up different dishes from a menu Shane picked out. Shane leaned toward heart-attack-on-a-plate meals with lots of red meat and potatoes. Always watching her weight, Angela was glad to find a few healthier meals she could enjoy. She wondered how hard it would be to convince the chef to cut back on some of the fatty meals. It couldn’t be healthy for Shane to eat the way he did. Unfortunately she wouldn’t be around long enough to find out. Pushing that thought aside, she finished with lunch, eager to see what the rest of the day would bring.

After taking a brief walk she returned, hoping to find Shane around. But he was nowhere to be seen so she figured he was still busy. She strolled into the entertainment room and instead of opting to watch a movie as usual, she turned on the radio connected to the hi-tech surround sound speakers. She found her favorite station and instantly her spirits rose. Nothing like some good music to ease one’s troubles.

Angela didn’t want to worry about anything: her less than amazing career, or her lack of a love-life. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the music, swaying from side to side. The station was playing the charts and Angela recognized some of her new favorite hits. She liked to listen to most music genres and wasn’t picky so long as it made her ears and heart feel good. She half-way hoped the sound of music would lure Shane out. She wasn’t surprised when ten minutes later, Shane came into the room. She turned to him with a ready smile and waved her arm in a beckoning manner. “Come on, let’s dance.”

His face showed a playful grimace. “Sorry, not much of a dancer. I’d rather just watch if it’s all right with you.” His grey eyes held a teasing light in them as he settled into a nearby couch. Well it wasn’t all right with Angela, but she only gave him a mock frown while she started moving to the music, which was a new Robin Thicke song dripping with his trademark beats. “I love this song!” she said exuberantly over the sound from the speakers, her hips shaking to the beat. She couldn’t help being unselfconscious when her kind of music started playing. She’d always been good at dancing and wasn’t shy about showing off. She kind of liked the way Shane followed her movements with eyes that spoke volumes of want. She didn’t mean to tease, but...well, it was just music, wasn’t it. Not like she was dangling from a stripper pole or giving him a lap dance.

He had a big smile on his face that all but obliterated the shadow of any of those scars. She couldn’t help wondering how lonely he must have been in this big, beautiful house before she came along. Just then the music switched to something less upbeat but just as good to listen to. Another favorite of hers, and she didn’t want to even think about it first before she sashayed to Shane and took both his hands in hers, urging him up. “Come on. I’m not going to let you sit this one out. This is bluesy Alicia playing; food for the soul if you ask me.”

“I really, really don’t dance,” Shane told her with a half-warning, half-humorous expression but to her glee, he let her pull him up and then he started to move with her. The gusty vocals hit all the right notes in Angela’s belly and she couldn’t help thinking how apt the song was right then; it was about doing the unthinkable and falling for someone different and exciting, totally from another world from yours yet, holding the key to your heart. As Alicia Keys crooned out, Angela hummed right along, biting on her smiling bottom lip as she looked up at Shane through her lashes. Okay, so she was teasing him. A little.

There was a slight flush on his cheeks as she swayed against him that looked kind of cute. She’d never known she could make a grown man blush; especially someone so jagged-edged like Shane. He wasn’t looking for love; she knew that. And that was cool because she wasn’t, either. But there was nothing wrong with a man and woman simply enjoying the fact that they were male and female and could just indulge in each other’s presence.

But something in the music got to them. Maybe it was the breathy lyrics or just the fact that they were alone and their bodies were grinding up against each other. So when she saw Shane’s head begin to lower dangerously close to hers, Angela didn’t pull away. One harmless kiss wouldn’t hurt, would it? He really did have a sexy mouth and she’d never forgotten how good he kissed. Maybe just one little peck then, thought Angela as she fluttered her lashes closed, neck arched in anticipation as her mouth parted eagerly...

Something buzzed against her thigh and she started, drawing back to look down to find out it was something in Shane’s pocket. He looked angry at the disturbance but still let her go with an apologetic look. Angela nodded and quickly reached for the remote, muting the music as Shane unearthed his phone from his pocket. He took one look at the screen and his frown deepened. He held up a finger at Angela to excuse himself, and then turned away to walk out of the room. As he left she heard him start with “Mom....,” before the door shut behind him.

Angela sighed deeply. That was close. Saved again from doing something stupid, she thought.

Last night it had been the glass breaking that had both her and Shane coming to their senses. And now a phone call had interrupted what would have been a kiss – one which could or could not have led to something else. Damn, but she was such an idiot. What could she have hoped to accomplish from kissing him? That would be starting up something she couldn’t finish.

Time she had a reality check. Exhaling one last regretful breath, she shut down the music set and ducked out to lock herself in her room. Not exactly to keep anyone out, but to keep herself in. She’d need to shackle herself to the bed or something to keep from seeking Shane out again and begging him to have his way with her, just like she’d only ever dreamed of him doing.

That was it; I need to get a grip, was Angela’s decisive thought. Two weeks from now, she’d be out of Shane’s life. Their contract would come to an end. They had their separate worlds to return to. He had his friends and his million-dollar lifestyle while she...well, she had to get her act together, literally. Once this was over, she’d put her all into revamping her career. Since she couldn’t get a decent relationship she could at least make something of herself. And keep any wishful thinking about Shane Davis from her heart.

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Next: Chapter Nine