Blake feels coerced to take out his best friend’s sister while she’s in town. He remembers her as a chubby, awkward teenager with a crush on him. When Erin shows up at his door, he’s blown away. She’s all grown up now,a lush, curvy beauty, and he wants her desperately. To his consternation, Erin doesn’t seem to like him at all. He needs to figure out if he’s too bad-boy for the good girl, or if her apparent dislike hides something else—like a mutual desire she’s fighting to control, due to her own self-esteem issues and a refusal to be another one of Blake’s conquests.
Blake took a quick look around his living room, making sure he’d tidied up well enough not to appear like a total slob. His house still looked like a bachelor’s pad, but wouldn’t send anyone screaming from his home. It probably didn’t matter anyway. It was unlikely Erin would actually come in.
As if thinking her name had summoned her, his doorbell rang. Bach barked and growled, running to the door like a steak salesperson waited on the other side. The dumb chocolate lab did that every time he heard the doorbell. “Knock it off, Bach,” said Blake with a gruff edge to his tone. The dog immediately fell silent, looking down at the floor with contrition.
To ease the reprimand, he rubbed Bach’s head as he passed him. “Sorry, boy.” He didn’t mean to be grumpy, and it sure wasn’t his dog’s fault he’d let his best friend convince him to take his little sister out for a meal while she was in the city for an interview. He hadn’t seen Ethan’s sister in at least eight years, not since the Christmas he’d spent with the Hollings family during his senior year of college. What could he possibly have in common with a twenty-three-year-old girl? She was just starting her career, and his was established. All he remembered of her was she had been a chubby, annoying teenage girl, who blushed and ran from the room any time she’d seen him.
Praying her teenage crush had died long ago, he opened the door, blocking Bach’s escape attempt with his knee. “Hi. I’d invite you in, but I doubt you want dog hair all over your clothes. Give me just a minute to grab my keys.” In a rush, he closed the door and took a few steps away, taking a moment to catch his breath.
Wow. His friend’s little sister was all grown up. She was still chubby—maybe even overweight by some standards—but she had gotten hot. Her frizzy mud-brown hair was now a sleek bob with golden highlights. He hadn’t gotten much of a view of her in his hasty greeting, but he’d seen enough to have the beginnings of a hard-on. Maybe this dinner “date” wouldn’t be so unpleasant after all. As he scooped up his keys and regained his composure, he debated if seducing his best friend’s sister violated the Bro Code, and if so, by how much?
Erin stood on his doorstep, where he’d left her, dressed casually in a khaki skirt and red twinset. She gave him an uncertain smile when he closed the door. “Hi. I thought I’d squeeze that in.” The gleam in her eyes let him know she was teasing.
“Sorry about that, but Bach loves company, and you would have had brown fur on your sweater.” It sounded lame even to his ears, and he did his best to change the subject. “So, what do you think of Seattle so far?”
She shrugged. “I like it. It’s very laidback compared to New York.”
He frowned. “Were you in New York? I thought your brother said you were in South Dakota for school?”
“San Diego,” she said with a little laugh. “Practically the same thing.” Erin shrugged. “I had an interview in the city last week. The job would be fantastic, and the pay is phenomenal, but I’m not sure I want to live there.”
“Seattle and New York are pretty opposite.” They reached the end of his walkway. “Do you have a dinner preference?”
She cocked her head, making the waves in her bob frame her face in a way that had his mouth going dry. “Seafood? I love chowder.”
Blake nodded. “I know just the place. Are you up for a walk? It’s about six blocks, all downhill—until we come back. The hills can be a killer if you aren’t used to them.”
She shrugged. “Sure. I’d like to see more of the area, and I think I can handle the hills. My prospective employer is only a few blocks over.”
Blake looped his arm over her shoulder in a casual manner to steer her in the right direction, but didn’t drop it when they had crossed the street. What he felt before she stepped away told him her body was curvy and soft—whereas he was getting hard. He cleared his throat and tried to keep the conversation light. “Ethan didn’t say what the job was?”
He blinked. “Really?” Brains and beauty? Nothing irritated him more than trying to have a conversation with someone who was a complete twit. She was getting hotter by the minute.
She nodded. “What about you, Blake?”
“I do forensic accounting.” He gave her a grin. “It’s more interesting than it sounds.”
“I’m sure.” Erin shrugged. “Who am I to judge? I spend all day looking at molecular structures on a computer screen, and I love it. If it makes you happy, that’s what counts.”
He couldn’t help feeling she had a marked lack of interest in him. Ethan had told him Erin would be lonely in a new city and convinced Blake to “volunteer” to take her out one night during her stay. Why did he get the impression she didn’t want to be here? It irked him. Without false modesty, he knew he was damn good-looking, with golden-blond hair, hazel eyes, a toned body, and a sharp wit. He was never without a shortage of female attention. Maybe there was someone else?
“So, are you seeing anyone, Erin?”
She shook her head, her lack of expansion telling him a bit—either she’d had little luck finding men or had her heartbroken. He didn’t want to break her heart. All he wanted was to get his hands on her curves. Erin was so different from his usual type that it was surprising to be drawn to her so quickly. He was acting like a horny teenager instead of a thirty-year-old man.
Noticing she didn’t ask, he volunteered, “Neither am I.”
Her inscrutable expression made him frown. “Imagine that.”
Blake frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Erin’s brown eyes widened. “Nothing.”
Feeling like an overly sensitive ass, it was a relief to arrive at the little chowder place in the heart of Pike Place. “Standing room only,” he joked as he held open the door for her to precede him. There were three tables in the small restaurant, and they were all packed. “We can grab chowder and go sit on the pier.” Striving to sound casual, he said, “Or we could take it back to my place?”
Erin never took her gaze from the order board. “The pier sounds nice.” They were up next, and she placed her order, slipping a ten on the counter as he ordered his.
Frowning, Blake tried to slide it back to her. “My treat.”
Erin shook her head. She sounded lighthearted, but her eyes were serious when she said, “There’s no need. It isn’t a date.”
Ouch. That smarted. “Sure, of course.”
The clerk dished up their selections and passed the white bag to Blake. He resisted the totally childish urge to ask her if she wanted a separate bag so she could carry her part. What was with him today, acting like a petulant brat?
They strolled the remaining couple of blocks to the pier, trading meaningless conversation. Blake selected a park bench, and she sat beside him, taking the paper cup of chowder. Erin moaned with pleasure at the first bite, making him wonder how it would be to have her moaning that way in his bed.
She wiped her mouth before answering. “Delicious. This is definitely a point in favor of Seattle.”
“Do I know how to impress a girl, or what?” he asked with a hint of mocking. Erin’s lips moved, but the smile didn’t reach her eyes. She was so infuriating. Why did he even care? He could call half a dozen girls as soon as he got home and have them in his bed within the hour. Maybe his self-imposed period of celibacy had lasted too long. His relationships had started to seem shallow, based only on physical attraction, so he’d decided to take a break from sex and try for a serious relationship. The results had been lackluster to date.
“What do you do here for fun?” asked Erin.
“Baseball games, the opera, the symphony, trying different restaurants, and Bach loves the various dog parks. If you’re the outdoors type, there is swimming in the summer, hiking or camping in the national forest, whale-watching, or island-hopping via ferry, to name a few.”
“It sounds nice.”
“It is.” Blake finished his chowder before they exchanged another word. The silence was awkward, not comfortable, and he searched his mind for a way to break it. “What do you like doing?”
“A little of everything.”
He gritted his teeth. “Clearly not conversing.”
Erin arched a dark brow. “It depends.”
On the company. Yeah, she didn’t have to add that part. He’d had just about enough of this frustrating evening. She annoyed him and turned him on in equal parts. His cock throbbed each time she opened her mouth to extend a delicate pink tongue while taking a bite, but his temper raised another notch with her rebuffs. Perhaps she was just shy? He remembered the way she used to flee from him. It could be Erin wasn’t as immune to him as she was pretending to be.
Feeling cocky, he turned toward her slightly, catching her elbow in the process. Her bowl of chowder spilled down her red sweater.
“Dammit.” She dabbed ineffectually at the soup with a pile of thin napkins.
Blake groaned. “I’m sorry. I’m usually not a klutz.”
“We all have off days.”
It was the perfect, polite thing to say to a stranger or distant acquaintance. Teeth on edge again, he said, “Let’s go back to my place. You can clean up there.”
Erin hesitated, clearly on the verge of declining, when a breeze blew past them, flapping her sweater and flinging chunks of chowder onto her cheek, making her gasp. On instinct, he wiped it away, while his thumb continued to caress her cheek. Her eyes darkened slightly, and he didn’t miss the catch in her breathing as their gazes locked. Abruptly, she pulled away from him and got to her feet, but not before she’d revealed a hint of attraction.
He was feeling buoyant on the walk back to his place, his mind insisting on producing images of him undressing her, of touching her generous body, of sinking into her softness. She’d be his first plus-size lover, and he was eager for the experience. What was that term he’d heard? Rubenesque. Yeah, that sounded nicer, more representative of her voluptuousness and placing less emphasis on her size, as though that was the sole thing that defined her.
His hands shook a bit with excitement as he unlocked the door to his house, going in before her to keep Bach from attacking her with love. She ruined that plan by immediately bending down to the dog’s level and talking sweetly to him. Erin giggled when the dog licked her across the face, making him jealous of his own pet. Bach was getting a genuine reaction from the object of his interest, not the polite distance she had displayed to him.
“The bathroom’s that way.” He nodded down the hall.
Erin nodded, standing up again to head in the direction he pointed.
“Traitor,” he said to Bach when his dog tried to follow her.