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Two fleeting smiles.
A dare that will change my life.
That’s all it takes to send me plummeting into the arms of the mysterious Holt Hamilton. Behind his crystal blue eyes is a secret, one that screams danger but calls to me anyway.
My name is Saige Phillips.
I never walk away from a dare.
“Lucia’s Kitchen?” Saige’s eyes widen in surprise as I pull into the valet drive.
“You’ve been here before?” I ask, curious.
“No. I’ve heard it’s amazing but impossible to get a reservation.” She twists her hands together in her lap.
“It is,” I admit. “But my buddy Mark owns the restaurant. Lucia is his daughter’s name.”
She blinks at me. “You know the owner of Lucia’s?”
I grin. “I do.”
“Figures,” she says under her breath.
The valet opens the car door to help her out, and I jog around to meet her. Pressing my hand to the small of her back, I guide her into the fancy new restaurant in Old Town. It’s just down the road from my house and one of the neighborhood’s trendiest new restaurants.
“I thought we were just doing drinks,” she says, raising her eyebrows at me.
“We can’t very well have drinks without having something to eat. I saw the way you stumbled out of Bar 51 last night.” I smirk and she blushes.
“Mr. Hamilton, your table is ready,” the hostess says, and Saige falls quickly into step behind her.
The table I requested is private yet overlooks the outside dining area below us so it doesn’t stand out as isolated. The restaurant is dark with dim overhead lights and accent candles on the tables providing the only sources of light. The atmosphere is modern and upbeat, yet still mysterious.
“Would you like a drink? Perhaps a lemon drop shot? That’s what I saw you indulging in last night, correct?”
Her lips twist into a smile she’s holding back, and she shakes her head. “Uh, no thank you. I’ll take a vodka martini, extra dirty, please.”
I damn near choke when she says “extra dirty,” but the waiter nods his head and looks to me. “Jameson reserve. Neat.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Hamilton. I’ll be right out with your beverages.”
“Reserve?” She questions.
“Only the best.”
She puckers her lips, and I can tell she wants to say something, but she refrains.
“So I’m curious,” I begin and rest my elbow on the table. I know it goes against all forms of proper etiquette, but I honestly don’t care. “Why are we here, Saige?”
Her eyes widen, but she doesn’t hesitate. Good. “Because this is where you chose to bring us,” she deadpans.
I throw my head back and let out an exuberant laugh. She’s beautiful, smart, and funny. Everything I knew she would be and more. Our drinks arrive in record time, and I give the waiter a look to which he quickly catches on and leaves us alone. Saige picks up her martini glass and presses the rim to her bottom lip. Her tongue brushes just over the rim, easing the cool liquid into her mouth.
Her lips. That tongue. Fuck.
“So back to the question at hand,” I say, picking up my own drink. “Why are we here?” I pull a quick taste of the smooth whiskey into my mouth, letting it settle on my tongue before swallowing.
“It’s embarrassing,” she says innocently, her eyes falling to her lap.
“Tell me,” I demand with a smile. “I’m curious why Saige Phillips asked me out for a drink.”
She winces after taking another sip of her martini and pats her chest as she swallows the bitter liquid. “It was a dare,” she admits with a grimace. “It sounds childish, but we were sitting at the table and Emery decided we should play Truth or Dare, and they dared me—”
“To ask me out,” I finish her sentence. I laugh to myself, although I don’t know if I should be flattered, offended, or horrified. Truth or Dare? I scoff internally.
Saige looks absolutely mortified. She lifts her eyes and finally looks at me, answering quietly. “Yes. It’s an app that Emery has on her phone. It’s a drinking game.” She looks as horrified as I felt a moment ago. I smile as she fumbles around nervously with her explanation.
I can barely contain my laughter, and I see her visibly relax. “You asked me out on a dare?” I shake my head.
She nods and grips her martini glass for dear life.
“So what would’ve happened if you didn’t take the dare?” I ask, taking another sip of the smooth whiskey.
“I would’ve taken a shot.”
I study her expression. She’s telling the truth, but why wouldn’t she just take the shot? Seems the much easier choice rather than asking out the boss. “Didn’t look like you had any problem taking shots before you asked me out for drinks,” I quip.
“I had already had a shot,” she fires back at me. “And how would you know if I was taking shots?” She asks defensively.
I study her for a moment. “I was watching you, Saige. I enjoy watching you.” I admit boldly.
She audibly gasps, her chest rising and falling with each quick breath she takes.
I fix my eyes on hers and continue, “And I saw you watching me.”
Her upper lip twitches as she thinks of a sarcastic comeback. I can see the vein in her neck throbbing with the beat of her pulse before she finally whispers, “We shouldn’t do this.” She pulls a green olive off the toothpick floating in her martini, then she pops it into her mouth. The green olive matches her eyes perfectly.
I watch her shift uncomfortably in her chair for a few seconds before I respond, “Why not?”
“Because you’re my boss.” So naïve, sweet little Saige is.
“I’m actually not,” I tell her.
She frowns. “You own the company I work for; same thing.”
I clarify, “I’m part owner of the company you work for.”
She sighs. “Holt, this is just drinks. That’s all.” But her eyes tell me she wants more.
I lean closer to her. “It’s never just drinks, Saige.”
Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Unbreakable series (Unbreakable, Undone, and Unforgiven), the Bound & Broken series (Broken by Lies and Bound by Lies) and two stand alone novels, Dare Me and Fault Lines. She has also co-written two books with her friend, A.L. Jackson, The Hollywood Chronicles: One Wild Night and One Wild Ride