Dressed up and anonymous, Sadie Liberato feels powerful, sexy and free. Where better to lose herself than a masked party?
Gear Blackstone’s cheating ex and scheming best friend have managed to spin his life into a serious downward spiral. At least with a mask on he can cut loose for one night. And cut loose he does—with the sexiest, snarkiest chick he’s ever met.
After a scorching-hot encounter, Sadie and Gear are desperate to find each other in real life. But can the heat last when the masks come off?
Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, MARIE HARTE is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether hiking in Central Oregon, biking around town, or hanging at the local tea shop, she’s constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit www.marieharte.com and fall in love.
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She studied him, wondering when he’d get it through his thick skull that she wasn’t lovely like Rose, charming like him, or interesting like their cousin Ava, a shrink. Sadie was just Sadie. She had no aspirations to get famous or rich. Didn’t have much in the way of interests besides working out, and mostly liked her life, boring as it was.
When she remained silent, he threw up his hands. Mr. Dramatic. “Oh, forget it.”
She nodded. “Elliot, let me ask you something.”
“This should be good.”
“Why is it that I’m an unhappy person?”
“You are?” He frowned.
“Well, if I’m not dating or trying to make millions, I’m apparently unhappy and unfulfilled. I like being single. I like my little apartment that’s affordable, comfortable, and mine.” Sadie had no pets, plants, or debts other than monthly rent on an apartment owned by her father. She could move at any time. She was—in a word—tether-less.
“I don’t think you’re unhappy. But you’re not happy either.” Elliot paused to study her. “You’re comfortable, yes. But you’re not challenged. I’m not saying you need a relationship to complete you, but you’re missing something that will make this conversation make sense in the future. When you find it, you’ll know.”
“That was enlightening. Not.”
“What can I say? Some advice you pay for, the crap is free.” He gave her an evil smile. “And for making me do all the work last night, and for being the reason we had to leave early, you get the front this afternoon.”
“You’re an ass, you know that?” An ass with a majority ownership of Sofa’s, giving him leeway over business decisions. They’d all come to that agreement of who should be in charge before going into business together. A wise recommendation from their father.
Sadie cleaned up her workstation, washed and dried her hands, then snuck up behind her brother. She mussed his perfectly styled hair while he swore and tried to shrug her away. “Yeah, that’s what you get, McBossy.”
“Bitch,” he snarled and patted down his hair.
She raised a brow. As far as insults went, that was lame.
He blew out an exasperated breath. “Fine. You win. And you’re still out front.”
She flipped him off and left to help Emery, now that the majority of the afternoon prep had been done.
To say she enjoyed their crowded shop would be a lie, because in general she didn’t like dealing with people. But she did like staying busy, and she served more than her share of lattes, espressos, and Americanos. She also dished up plenty of Sunday salads, critter cookies, and Boo-Baguette sandwiches. When they had a small break, she went out to clear tables and smiled at two cute little kids playing straw wars.
Sadie loved children. She always had, and as she watched their mother gently chastising them, then laughing at the faces they made, somewhere deep inside her, something mourned.
Sadie pretty much knew she’d never have them, never commit enough to any man to make a baby. She didn’t want to raise a child by herself, and she’d never met a man she liked enough, or rather, who’d proven trustworthy enough, to father them.
Now depressed when before she’d been feeling good, she scrubbed harder. Needing to take her mind off her limitations, she sought refuge in cleaning. With the tables shining, she grabbed the cleaning bin from the storage room in back and tackled the bathrooms, which she normally left for the newer employees. But Emery was busy, and she needed the distraction.
It didn’t take long before both the men’s and ladies’ rooms smelled lemony fresh and clean. Nothing worse than a food establishment with nasty restrooms.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment and never bothered by doing menial tasks for the greater good, Sadie cleaned up, inside and out. Refreshed, she managed to smile at her next customers. And as the day wound down, she planned to work in a trip to the gym to feel better.
Besides, Sunday nights at Jameson’s were typically pretty empty.
She belatedly realized Elliot was out front chatting up someone with more enthusiasm than he normally had and glanced up from the food counter.
“Yo, S. I’m outta here.” Emery slung his backpack over his shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”
“Later, Emery.” He left, swaggering past Elliot and his companion, then did a double take and backtracked. After a few words and a huge smile, Emery departed.
Sadie stared, curious. She didn’t recognize the tall man with her brother, but a glance at thick black hair, broad shoulders, and big hands had her taking a second look. She was a sucker for big hands on a man. Weird but true.
She left the counter, seeing no one else around but the tall guy with her brother. As she drew closer, she noticed the big guy holding something.
At her approach, he turned his attention to her, and she was caught by his piercing gaze. Hazel eyes, neither green nor brown but an incredible mix of both, fringed by thick lashes, studied her from top to bottom. She’d seen those eyes before…
Then he smiled, and her racing heart plummeted to her feet. Holy crap, was this guy hot or what?
“Xena, I presume?” He handed her a sword. Her sword. “You left something behind last night.”
“Just call me Cinderella.” She accepted the prop and scrutinized him, minus the devil regalia and half mask. “Satan, is it really you?” she teased to cover her shock.
He laughed, and she recognized the husky timbre immediately.
“Sadie.” Elliot huffed, though she caught his grin. “Sadie, this is Gear Blackstone. Gear, my sister, Sadie.”
“Wait. Gear? That guy from the stupid motorcycle show?”
Gear sighed. “Yeah, that one. Surely you haven’t forgotten me already?” The blistering look he shot her reminded her girlie parts all too easily how well she knew him.
So of course her gaze automatically went to his fly.
He chuckled, and she met his gaze, mortified. Sadie didn’t do embarrassed often, so she had to give the guy props for being able to get to her. “Thanks for returning it,” she mumbled.
Elliot watched her and Gear, his eyes narrowing. “You two know each other?”
“You could say that.”