“Oh, just a few jobs here and there. Nothing you would have seen.”
Why the hell am I lying to him? What difference does it make if he knows how famous I am?
“Good for you. I hope someday I can see you in something, but the only magazines I read are ones about graphic design,” he says with a shrug.
“I wish my ex only read graphic design magazines. He subscribed to more magazines than any woman I’ve ever met so he could pimp me out to every magazine editor he could find.”
Shut up, Paige. He doesn’t need to know your life story!
“All my ex cared about was my money, so it looks like we both made huge mistakes in our lives,” Matt confides.
Wait, ex? Is he talking about Melanie or another ex? According to what Melanie told Kennedy, they’re still married.
“So you’re divorced?”
Matt sighs deeply and takes a sip of his Jack and Coke. “Separated. Honestly, we probably should have never even gotten married. We met in college and all of my friends tried to warn me about her. She didn’t show her true colors to me until we were married, though.”
And now the investigator in me wants to know everything about her. Purely for business purposes, of course. It has nothing to do with the fact that he’s easy on the eyes.
“What kind of true colors are we talking here? Crazy possessive female or was she really a man?” I ask, trying to get him to smile again.
It does the trick. He barks out a laugh. “No, definitely not a man. I’m pretty sure she only married me because she saw the dollar signs. She’s going to try and take my father’s company and there’s no way I can let that happen.”
I take a sip of my wine so I’m not tempted to reach out and comfort him. “Wow, that’s not good. I’m so sorry.”
Matt shrugs. “And to add more to my pathetic life story, I’m positive she’s been cheating on me. All I need is proof so I can end this bullshit charade of hers and make sure the company stays in the family.”
My mouth drops open at all he’s admitted to me. He could be lying. This could be how he gets chicks—by laying it on thick and playing the “woe is me” card, but something tells me that’s not the case. His voice immediately takes on a tone of sadness when he talks about his father’s company, and my senses are screaming at me that he’s telling the truth.
“You think your wife is cheating on you?” I whisper.
This is too weird. Even for me.
“I can’t believe I’m telling you this. I barely know you and I feel like a jackass for unloading all of this on you right now. You’re a really easy person to talk to.”
He feels like a jackass? I feel like a jackass. I should just tell him right now that his wife hired me to find out if he is cheating, but I can’t. I can’t do anything until I know for sure.
“We haven’t been happy for a really long time. Fuck. We were probably never really happy. A friend of mine told me she was going to be here and I guess I was just hoping to finally have a solid reason for not wanting to be married to her,” he admits.
Jesus, the two of us could be a match made in heaven under different circumstances. Finding out Andy had a gambling problem had been just the catalyst I needed to kick his ass to the curb.
“What are you going to do if you find out it’s true and she’s really cheating on you?” I ask.
“If I have proof that she’s been unfaithful, I can threaten to out her to her family as a cheater. She’ll leave the company alone so they never know her perfect character is tarnished.”
Goddammit all to hell! I believe him. I believe him and now I want to help him. This is not good.
“I’m sorry. I wish there was something I could do.”
Tell him the truth! Tell him his wife hired you and you feel awful and want to help him instead.
Before I can open my mouth and make a huge mistake, I watch as Matt’s eyes widen as he stares across the bar.
“Oh, shit. She’s here,” Matt says under his breath, ducking his head to hide behind me.
Turning my head, I see his wife, Melanie, coming through the doorway on the arm of a very large, very badass-looking man who’s got to be twice her age.
“She’s heading this way. Matt, she’s totally going to see you. Shit! Hide under the bar!”
Matt tries turning sideways to quickly dive under the bar, but his elbow slams into my glass, knocking it over and spilling wine down the front of my dress.
I let out a squeal as the cold liquid seeps through my dress and Matt quickly grabs a pile of napkins and starts blotting at my boobs. My breath gets caught in my throat as he presses his hands against my breasts and glances over his shoulder distractedly to see where Melanie is. He turns back and notices the shocked expression on my face and his eyes drop to his hand that is now just resting casually on my boob, practically cupping it.
I tear my eyes away from his hand and how good it feels against my chest and see that Melanie and her beefcake are a few feet away at this point and heading right toward us. If she looks away from her date, she’s going to look right at Matt. There’s not even any time for him to get up and run to the bathroom. He’ll barrel right into her. Suddenly, the tables have turned and I’m on Matt’s side. I want him to catch her in the act. I want him to be vindicated so he can move on with his life.
Before all of the words finish leaving my mouth, I feel Matt’s arms wrap around my waist and I’m hauled out of my stool and pulled between his legs. His mouth is on mine immediately and I don’t even think about what I’m doing. I wrap my arms around his neck and pull him closer.
I hear the click of Melanie’s heels as she walks past us and I know by now that we’re in the clear and can pull away, but I stopped caring about anything as soon as I felt Matt’s lips against mine. And when his tongue touches mine, I forget all about the fact that we’re in a crowded restaurant making out. His lips are firm and his tongue is soft and this kiss is the best thing I’ve experienced in my entire life.
As he softly explores my mouth, I pull him closer and mold my body against his. I’m suddenly wishing we were anywhere but here. Somewhere I could straddle his hips and feel him between my legs. The kiss goes on and on as I tangle my fingers in his hair and hold him close, moaning softly into his mouth when he switches angles and deepens the kiss. I feel like I can’t get enough of him and by the way his arms band tightly around me and hold me close, I know he feels the same.
The only thing that interrupts us is the soft sound of someone clearing her throat behind me.
“Sorry to bother you. Just checking to see if you guys need a refill or if there’s anything I can do for you.”
Regretfully ending the kiss, I turn my head without letting go of Matt and see the hostess standing next to us. She quite obviously winks at me and I realize that my fingers are still threaded through Matt’s hair and his hands are dangerously close to my ass. And I’m guessing by the sneaky look on this girl’s face that she just got a bunch of awesome pictures of the two of us with my camera.
“Nope, we’re good, thanks.” I try to tell her with my eyes that she should go away but she doesn’t get the hint.
“Really, I’m here to help. Would you like me to do anything else for you?” she stresses. She attempts to wink at me again, her way of letting me know she got the photos. The way her face contorts makes it look like she’s having a stroke.
“Miss, are you okay?” Matt asks her in concern, his arms still holding me close.
“Oh! Ha, ha, I’m great! I just wanted to let you know that if I can be of service, I’m here.”
She stands there staring at us, not making any move to walk away.
“Wow, they’re really accommodating to their customers,” Matt whispers in my ear. His warm breath gives me goose bumps and I realize I have completely lost control of this situation. Sure, I was starting to believe him, and seeing his wife show up on the arm of another man solidified the story he told me, but being this distracted by a simple kiss is not like me at all. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do now.
Under normal circumstances, I’d be feeling pretty smug that I was able to get the money shot of a subject, but I just feel dirty. I feel awful that I didn’t come clean with Matt when he poured his heart out to me. Now all I can think about is that kiss and when we can do it again.
I am so going to get fired.
“Okay. Well, I’ll just be over there, by the hostess stand, if you need anything,” she states with another awkward wink in my direction. As she turns and walks away, I can see a bulge in her front pocket that I know is my camera. My camera filled with shots of me kissing Matt. Shots that I want to look at over and over again alone at home.
When the girl is finally gone, I turn my face back to Matt. He’s staring at my lips and I can’t stop my tongue from sliding out and running over them, savoring the taste of him still there. Matt suddenly lets go of me when he realizes his arms are still wrapped tightly around me long after the threat of being spotted by his ex is gone. I immediately miss the warmth of his body.
“I feel like I should apologize for using you like that,” he tells me as I take a step back from him, his eyes still focused on my lips.
“And I feel like I should tell you that there’s no apology necessary, and you can feel free to use me like that anytime.”
We both laugh a little uncomfortably. Matt cranes his neck, searching around the restaurant. “I don’t see Melanie anywhere. They must have been seated in another room.”
Heat flushes through me when I remember the whole reason for the kiss: to make sure his estranged wife didn’t see him. I feel like I’ve waited my entire life for a kiss like that. And now I have to get up from this bar stool and walk away from him and never see him again. It would be unethical for me to do anything else. He’s not cheating on his wife, so this case is closed. I can’t help him any more than I already have. I’ve already compromised Fool Me Once Investigations enough for one night.
Kennedy’s family, along with Lorelei, Griffin, and me, are all standing around our offices waiting for Kennedy to finally come out of the bathroom. Earlier, I was happy to come here tonight and toast my best friend and her newfound love. Now, I’m preoccupied and freaked out that someone is going to ask me about the case.
It’s been an hour since I left Matt at the bar. Actually, it’s been one hour, eight minutes, and thirty-five seconds. But who’s counting?
Me! I’m counting!
I can still feel his lips on mine, and I can still hear the anguish in his voice when he told me about his wife cheating on him and trying to take away his father’s company. He’s a good man; I can feel it. I want to beat that bitch Melanie to the ground, but I can’t. She signed a contract with us and we have clearly defined rules and regulations in that contract that state there will be no conflict of interest and that everything we do will be to protect our client. Matt isn’t our client, Melanie is. Melanie: the gold-digging whore.
I listen distractedly as everyone talks around me, wondering if Kennedy would let me quit for a week so I don’t violate the contract by helping Matt.
“Oh, speaking of whores, what’s going on with that case of yours, Paige? Weren’t you working on catching some slutty guy whose wife suspected him of cheating?”
The swallow I take of champagne goes down the wrong pipe immediately when Kennedy’s brother, Ted, questions me. I cough and try to take a breath as he comes over and pats me on the back, adding more champagne to my glass.
I feel my cheeks redden, and I look away from Ted quickly, chugging the entire glass of champagne in one swallow.
“Guy? What guy? There’s no guy. I don’t know a guy. Who wants more champagne?” I ask, grabbing the bottle from Ted’s hand and walking away.
Thank God Kennedy walks in the room at that moment and I don’t have to acknowledge the questioning look he’s shooting at me.
Standing by the wall on the opposite side of the room, I forgo my champagne glass and drink directly out of the bottle while everyone fawns over Kennedy in her short red dress and awesome Jimmy Choo shoes that I let her borrow. No one cares that I’m drowning my sorrows in cheap champagne.
“Did you just drink directly out of that bottle? What’s going on with you?”
I sigh and rest my head against the wall as Lorelei folds her arms and raises her eyebrows at me, waiting for me to talk.
“Nothing is wrong. This champagne is just delicious. I didn’t feel like waiting to pour it into my glass. It’s such a waste of time.”
“Nice try. Give me the bottle,” Lorelei demands, holding her hand out to me.
I reluctantly hand it to her and glance over her shoulder at Kennedy and Griffin, wrapped up in each other’s arms, staring into each other’s eyes.
I want that for myself. I didn’t think I did, but I really do. I miss having someone look at me like that. Like I’m his whole world. I don’t really know Matt. I certainly don’t trust him; I doubt I’ll ever really trust another man again. But I can’t deny that kissing him made me remember what it was like to have someone special in my life. I want more than an empty condo to go home to and a job where I have to be a liar and kind of slutty. I want to stand for something. I want what I do to mean something, and I feel like helping Matt is just the ticket I need to show people that I have a brain.
“Were you able to track down Matt Russo again?” Lorelei questions, bringing me out of my depressing thoughts.
“Ummm, yep. I tracked him down.”