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One Night with a Stranger
Unforgettable Nights (Book 1)
On the rebound from a bad breakup with Mr. Wrong, Lisa Randall does something she’s never done before: has a one night stand with a strangershe meets in a bar. As amazing as the night is, the last thing she expects is to hear from the guy again. But when one night turns into two, and then three, and then more, Lisa wonders whether her infatuation with Matt is keeping her from meeting Mr. Right, or whether a passionate one night stand can actually lead to true love.
Matt Owens has always considered himself the King of Jumping into Things Too Fast. He met his ex on a Tuesday, proposed on Saturday, and married her a month later. This time around he wants to take things slow, enjoy the moment. And the attractive woman he picked up in a bar seems to fit the bill. Lisa doesn’t even want to know his last name, let alone plan a future. But as he begins to develop feelings for her, he knows his one big secret could ruin any chance for something more.
Lisa Randall slid into the booth next to her best friend Courtney Clark at their usual table in Rico’s Deli. Her stomach growled in anticipation of a BLT and fries, her regular order at the weekly Tuesday lunch with the BFFs.
“Who called?” Courtney looked up from her Smartphone. “The guy from Saturday night?”
Lisa nodded. “Where’s Jessica?” Since they worked in the same Wilshire Boulevard office building, Courtney and Jess usually walked over together.
“She’s finishing up a deposition. Said she’d be here as soon as--”
“I’m here.” Fingers flying over her cell phone, her conservative gray suit jacket buttoned up despite the July heat, Jessica Pena slid into the other side of the booth. “What did I miss?”
A bell jingled. Lisa glanced toward the door. As did half a dozen male heads, turning in sequence as if choreographed. Tish must be arriving.
Dark sunglasses screening out the ogling stares, their friend meandered to the booth, her shapely hips swaying as if to a song only she could hear. Tish Varner took the seat next to Jessica, set her sunglasses on the table, and smiled her hello. “What are we talking about?”
“Lisa’s one night stand called.” Courtney flicked her menu toward Tish and filled her in.
“Lisa had a one night stand?” Tish’s crystal blue eyes widened in disbelief. “And he called back?”
Lisa tapped her nails against the salt shaker, as shocked and amazed as her friend. By both questions. “This isn’t how it’s supposed to work, is it?”
“Is he hot?” Tish asked, flipping her corn yellow hair off her neck.
“He’s...” Lisa thought about his dusky brown eyes, the enticing shadow of beard along his hard-planed cheek, broad, tanned chest that narrowed to slim hips, and-- “He’s nice-looking,” she said before her mind went lower and colored her face with morning-after blush.
“When did he call?” This from Jessica.
“Yesterday. That is, he left a message.”
“Why haven’t you returned the call?” Tish’s mouth formed a perfect ‘O.’
“I don’t know what to say!” Lisa almost wailed. She hadn’t prepared herself for a callback. The spontaneous, out-of-her-comfort-zone experience had been an exhilarating high, much as she imagined skydiving: a phenomenal rush but unlikely to happen twice in her lifetime. “I need advice.”
Jessica, always one to spot gray clouds even when perched on a silver lining said, “Maybe you left something at his place, or he left something at yours, and he just wants it returned.”
Like Lisa had left her panties wedged in the steering wheel? They’d never made it to Lisa’s place, or his. They’d just fallen over each other in the backseat of his truck like a couple of horny teenagers. But Courtney, Lisa’s best friend since third grade, was the only one who knew that embarrassing piece of information. “The message said he’d like to see me again.”
“You go girl!” Tish raised a palm for a high five, but Lisa wasn’t sure this warranted one. The earth had definitely moved with Matt Whatever-his-last-name-was, but she wasn’t due any congratulations, she’d just gone with the flow. The flow of his magnificent body over hers like a tidal wave embracing the shore.
“What exactly did he say?” In attorney mode, Jessica took out her I-pad, presumably mining evidence to sue, countersue, or otherwise make this guy’s life miserable for giving Lisa one of the best nights of her life.
“‘This is Matt. I’d like to see you again. Call me,’” Lisa recited from memory. Of course, Matt might not even be his real name. They’d agreed not to share last names, but he could have totally made up everything he’d told her.
Not that she remembered much conversation. She turned to her oldest friend. “So what should I tell the guy, Court?”
“Me?” Courtney’s lips formed a coquettish pucker. “How should I know? I’ve never done a One Night Only.”
Not exactly the truth. Her tempestuous red-haired friend had been involved in two that Lisa knew of. Courtney rationalized those as ‘super-short relationships that didn’t go anywhere.’ But Lisa had engaged in one-night-sex on purpose. Not looking for a relationship. Just a night of almost-anonymous sex to be enjoyed and forgotten. Except Matt, apparently, wasn’t ready to forget it. A smile formed inside her lips. Actually, that was a great compliment.
“Don’t look at me.” Jessica held up her hands, palms forward. She and her boyfriend had been together since high school. Jessica maintained Josh had been her first and would be her last.
All eyes turned to Tish. The sleek blond yoga instructor/actress wannabe, every man’s wet dream, got hit on by more guys in one week than Lisa had since puberty. Tish silently studied her fingernails. No comment.
“You can’t leave me hanging here.” Lisa turned back to Courtney. “You’re the one who pushed me to do this.”
It had started out as just a Saturday night drinking session. Sipping dirty martinis with Courtney at The Happy Clam, Lisa had been eyeing that hot guy at the end of the bar all night. And when their eyes met...
“Hey, I just pointed out that having a little no-strings fun with the hottest guy in the bar could be a great cure for the Dirt Devil flu,” her wing woman backpedaled. “Come on, Lisa, you’ve been moping around like a turkey before Thanksgiving. I thought this might help get your mind off the BBU.”
The Bad Break Up had been frequent conversational fodder for the Tuesday lunches over the past three months, ever since Lisa had found Darryl the Dirt Devil in her bed with another woman. Still, she hadn’t realized she’d whined quite that much.
“Not to mention a great cure for horniness.” Tish grinned.
Well yes, that too. Funny how your boyfriend wanting it seven days a week-- twice on Friday nights--seemed annoying and exasperating, until nobody wanted it from you at all. But Lisa’d had other reasons, not so comfortably shared, for putting her body on the meat market she’d always disdained.
First: Since freshman year of high school, she’d always had a steady boyfriend. When she and Courtney had moved to Los Angeles after college two years ago, she’d sort of expected the next guy she dated to be the permanent one, her Mr. Right. Instead, after more than a year alone, she’d stumbled onto Mr. Wrong.
Second: When Darryl moved in, romance had moved out. While she hadn’t expected soft music and candlelit dinners every night, neither had she anticipated dirty underwear on the floor, unwashed dishes left all over the apartment, and girlie magazines in the bedside table.
Which brought her to the third reason.
“You should have seen Lisa’s face,” Courtney recounted to Jessica and Tish, “when the Dirt Devil and his latest Blonde Boob Job sauntered over to our table.”
And there it was. The clusterfuck of those four dirty martinis and seeing Darryl and his new sex toy walk into the bar might very well have shoved her out of her seat and across the room.
“I guess that did send me over the edge,” Lisa admitted.
“If you’d seen this guy.” Courtney said to There’s-Only-One-Man-For-Me Jessica, “even you might have been tempted to leap off that cliff.”
“Damned straight.” Lisa allowed herself to revel, just for a moment, in the memory of Matt’s perfect body and boundless passion. “If any woman has ever fantasized about a night with a sexy stranger, let me tell you, this guy was it.”
Her personal perfect storm. One fun filled, no holds barred, night of romance novel passion. And she hadn’t regretted a minute of it. Until the voice mail.
Their regular waitress arrived with drinks, including the Diet coke Lisa hadn’t been present to order. Cassie knew her customers well. “The usual?” she asked Lisa.
“Absolutely.” Lisa mentally inhaled the aroma of bacon, looking forward to the simple, uncomplicated bliss of enjoying a sandwich whose sole mission is to give you pleasure and has no interest in ever interacting with you again.
After the orders had been taken and menus gathered and dispensed with Jessica asked, “Well, do you want to see him again?”
Lisa sipped at her soft drink, wondering what it would be like to make love to Matt without the companionship of all those dirty martinis. Surely no responsible, clear-headed experience could match the fervor and ecstasy of Saturday night. “No.”
“Why not? If it was that good--”
“Because it was that good.” At some point reality was bound to rear its ugly head and things could only go downhill from there.
Courtney’s copper toned brow arched in a You’re-acting-crazier-than-usual-today expression.
“Besides, he’s a player,” Lisa said, slightly irritated at having to explain the obvious. “He picked up a girl in a bar, as he’s obviously done many times, and had sex with her--me--on the first date. Strike that: it wasn’t a date. He didn’t even buy an olive for my martini.” Definitely not the kind of guy for her Possibly Permanent list. “This was a fantastic roll in the hay, but that’s all it was.”
Courtney shrugged. Since moving here, Court had been involved in four relationships--five if you counted the guy they’d met driving out here and stayed with for a couple of weeks until they'd gotten settled. Fun-for-the-moment guys, but not husband material. Courtney wasn’t looking for long-term.
“But you were interested in him,” Jessica pointed out. “At least enough for one night. There were two people in that bed, n’est-pas?” Ever since Jess had spent two weeks in France last summer, she’d been dropping French phrases like flowers from a bridal bouquet.
Lisa shrugged. “That's just it. One night. It was only supposed to be one night."
Tish blinked. “So why did you give him your number if you didn’t want to see him again?”
Temporary insanity? “I don’t know. I guess...I just didn’t think.” She'd still been reeling from the best sex of her life and it hadn't occurred to her to say no.
“So, just don’t call him back.” Jessica said. “He’ll get the idea and go away.”
Simple as that. And of course, it was. Despite the sometimes-uplifting, often-irritating ping announcing an incoming social connection, one was not compelled to respond to every email, voice mail and text message one received. What were the chances she’d ever run into Matt again anyway? She’d just ignore it. In fact, she’d already started forgetting him. And yet...
Images tumbled through her memory, of desperate groping that had almost impaled her on the gear shift, crawling into the backseat flinging clothes in all directions, legs kicking the truck roof as Matt thrust deliciously again and again.
“Earth to Lisa.” Courtney rapped her knuckles on the tabletop. “Hello?”
She took a deep breath. “Jess is right, it’s a no-brainer.”
“Voila.” Jessica’s smile took credit for the end-of-discussion statement.
But the turmoil in Lisa’s stomach wasn’t on board. Part of her had wanted to be talked into seeing this guy again, not out of it.