by Andie J. Christopher
Pub date: 4/18/2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Bartender and aspiring painter Maya Pascual loves turning up the heat. And dumping a vodka-and-karma chaser on the man who broke her heart is perfect Bronx girl payback. But how can she resist when Miami playboy prince Javier Hernandez begs to make it up to her. . .
Between his disastrous personal life and his wealthy family’s meddling, Javi needs to get back on track. The only thing that’s certain is his passion for Maya. If she’ll just let him show her how sorry he is, maybe he can move on and start fresh. But one look in her gorgeous eyes and he knows letting her go will be easier said than done.
Maya agrees to one dinner with Javi. But as their attraction threatens to combust, she wonders if a night of no strings, no repeats surrender is the only way burn off their desire once and for all…. Unless the light of day reveals it’s impossible to let go.
Javier Hernandez’s dick was bored. The rest of him was bored, too. But the dick part had him worried.
He slouched back on the padded bench in the VIP booth. Yvette and her friend—couldn’t remember her name—danced near the edge of the balcony. They were conspicuous enough that someone among the writhing mass of bodies in the club below would snap a picture with their phone. Before sunrise, they’d be plastered on a gossip blog as a romantic item.
He hadn’t been to a club in almost a year, and right now, he wasn’t sure why he’d ever enjoyed this kind of thing. Since his little sister called him out at a family gathering, his father had kept him on lock down.
The only reason he was off-leash tonight was a business dinner with an out-of-towner who wanted to see the Miami nightlife. His father was quick to nominate him for that job. But not before pushing him out the door with a few words on how to land the client’s cash into their family’s hedge fund.
The potential client was currently passed out in a black car on the way to the airport. His father might not like how he got things done, but the guy was happy, and Javi didn’t doubt that they’d have his business.
He didn’t know why he was still hanging around. For the past year, he’d had his shit together—working out, showing up to work on time, and staying away from women who would garner any publicity for the family. He’d thought that being back in a familiar environment would be a relief. Instead, it felt like pants that didn’t fit—his old life was tight in the crotch, and not in a good way.
Both models shot him suggestive glances, and Yvette beckoned him with one finger and a flutter of her eyelashes. A year ago—fuck, six months ago—he’d have been with them, taking a selfie, and posting it on social media. Thinking that people would be jealous of him—Javier Hernandez, asshole who cavorts with models.
Losing the regard of his family had cured him of the idea that he was living some sort of charmed life. He’d used that image to bolster his wounded ego after his wife left him. He didn’t need that Band-Aid now that the wound had closed up. If he wanted to fuck, he fucked. But he didn’t make a big production of it. He didn’t make a point to be photographed with models, strippers, or club girls. He’d even closed down his Instagram account. There wasn’t any point. All of those women had made him feel precisely nothing.
Javi drained his vodka soda and reached for the half-full bottle. He’d made some bad life choices if the sight of two underwear models grinding on each other inspired the need for a drink instead of a boner.
There might be some sort of temporary disturbance in the Force, or maybe he was permanently out of the game. Living like a careless fuckboy hadn’t made him feel alive, it had deadened everything inside him that his marriage hadn’t killed.
The last year of living like a monk with benefits hadn’t been all bad. Gradually, he’d started repairing his relationships and noticing the people around him again.
Maybe he just needed more alcohol to get in the spirit of things. He sent a text to the manager, telling him to send up a bottle of Dom for the girls along with more vodka for the other people they’d invited to join them.
He flinched when Yvette sauntered over and straddled his hips. Her black dress crept up until he could see that she wasn’t wearing panties. They were concealed by the table, so she wasn’t about to flash anyone. But people would see them and make assumptions.
He used to like this club because of the private alcoves where he could indulge in any sort of vice he desired. That way he never had to kick anyone out of his condo in the light of day.
Yvette rolled her sinewy body against him and her friend sat next to him, her fingers grazed the front of his pants on their way to making this whole scene too X-rated for the birthday party at the next VIP table.
He moved Yvette off his lap. She didn’t miss a beat and kissed her friend. Javi ran his fingers through his hair in an attempt to look slightly less debauched.
He should have gone home when the potential client left. But he hated being alone.
Coming out with Yvette and company hadn’t fixed that. Even in a crowded club with two women making it clear that they expected to fuck him, he felt empty inside. He finished another drink and considered pouring another one. He bought the bottle, why not drink it dry and bang two models? That’s what he’d always done before.
Javi shook his head and poured a shot. The bottle empty, he tapped his fingers on the table, willing his order to show up faster.
He needed to fuck. And soon. When he was inside someone else, he could stop thinking about her and how badly he’d messed up. For a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, he could forget what a shit he was. His head was crowded with regrets and voices from the past that he needed to stay silent.
But he just wasn’t interested in any of his present options.
He considered Yvette and her friend—he remembered now, Lauren— for a long second before fully abandoning the idea of leaving with them. He didn’t need to wake up the next morning with a dry mouth and two people who didn’t care about him. His hiatus from fuckery was about to become permanent.
Right then, he decided to settle up the bill and leave.
“Yvette, querida.” Her face snapped toward him immediately at the Spanish endearment as Lauren nibbled on her ear. “I’m going to get out of here.” When Yvette reached for her purse, he stopped her with a hand.
“Stay here and have fun. I ordered you some treats. Enjoy.”
“Is something wrong?” She moved Lauren’s face away from her neck, and the other woman smiled a lazy, sexy grin. God, what was wrong with him? Fucking those two would make any sane, straight man happy. “Do you want just me?”
Yvette moved to stand, and Lauren’s beautiful face twisted into a grimace. His stomach growled, and he thought of his way out. “No, I’m not feeling well.” He patted his belly. Maybe he’d stop for some food on the way home. He winked at the two women and they both smiled at him. “I’ll call you.”
He wouldn’t be calling either of them, but the lie would get him out of there faster.
The two women started kissing again; he hadn’t spoiled their fun. Almost any other man on the planet would be falling all over himself to join them, but he’d been there and it didn’t do anything for him anymore. Stuck in his emo thought loop, he didn’t register that the waitress approaching wasn’t just any waitress until she was right in front of him. It was her. Maya Pascual. Maybe he hadn’t wanted a threesome with two models because he’d somehow sensed her, smelled her on the air, and she’d sucked his desire for anyone else out of the room without him even knowing it.
He didn’t know how to process her being here, working here. The last he’d heard, she was back in New York, painting. But it was her in front of him like a mirage.
She stopped in her tracks as if she couldn’t quite believe it was him either. One side of her mouth curled up in a smile, the kind she used to dole out when she was about to say something sarcastic and wildly inappropriate. Then, she looked over at Yvette and Lauren. Her gorgeous face twisted into a mask of disgust. She looked as though she’d smelled something bad, but that didn’t keep her from walking closer to him.
He opened his mouth to explain what she would certainly pillory him for before she took a bottle of Ciroc on her tray, thumbed off the cork, and started pouring it on him in long stripes until the bottle was empty.
The cold liquid against his face was a shock, but it wasn’t enough to make him back up or move out of the way. Not when he was close enough to smell her again. He wondered if it was the same. He could reach out and touch her if he wanted to, and he actively fought the urge to bury his face in the skin at her neck.
“I should light you on fire, cabrón.” The glint of rage in Maya’s eyes backed up the suggestion that she turn him into a human candle. Jesus, she was hot when she was angry. Feeling her against him burned. His head was all messed up, but his dick reacted like it always had when Maya was around. It knew where it wanted to be. More than anything.
* * * *
Maya had always been impulsive. She tried to behave, toe the line, follow the rules, but then some idiot always did something to piss her off. But even her mother and her priest would forgive her for her reaction this time. Not only did she have to wait on this bastard, but she had to find him about to engage in a threesome with women she thought she recognized from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Fuck him.
She’d known it was a bad idea to take this job and make a temporary move to Miami. But her brother had convinced her that she needed to get out of Brooklyn in order for her career to move forward—that a smaller market, filled with Latin people with money, was a better launching pad than New York’s crowded art scene.
Now that she was less than an arm’s length from Javi, she realized moving here was a terrible idea. Now that she could feel his body, she realized how disastrous moving here was.
She’d fantasized about what she’d do if she saw Javi again. In her nightmares, she ran into him with a hugely pregnant Karrie. That smug grin from that stupid puta had haunted her dreams for eight years. This was worse. Because not only had he rejected her, he wasn’t the man she’d always thought he was. So, she’d been wrong—not him.
By now, the models were standing and gawking at her. The tall brunette looked like she was about to light into her when Javi raised his hand. The other girl’s mouth shut, just like that. That motherfucker always got his way. Even with supermodels.
But not with her. Not anymore. When she’d seen his wedding announcement in the New York Times, she’d cut off all contact. Unfriend. Unfollow. Delete contact. She’d deleted his account from her life.
She’d successfully avoided news about Javi Hernandez and his whole family for almost five years. All that effort, only to run into him about to break the marriage vows he’d rejected her for.
Cutting him off had been for her own good as much as his. She’d never been a part of adultery, and she wasn’t about to start now. Oh, fuck. She’d have to tell Karrie that her husband was cheating on her with models. Even though Maya had hated Karrie on sight, she didn’t want to be the one to wreak that kind of devastation, not with how she’d grown up.
Of course, Karrie would probably assume that Maya was fucking her husband. God help her, Maya had wanted Javi from the second he walked into the Philadelphia bar she’d worked at. He had never been just good to look at. Everything about him had enthralled her. One night, she’d stared at him roll whisky around in a glass, committing the way his fingers rested against the vessel so deep in her memory that she could still call it up while she masturbated. Her face heated thinking about the fact that no one—no one—had supplanted Javi in her fantasies. Thinking about his dark laugh and long, lean body was guaranteed to get her off every single time. And she’d never touched him. They’d never kissed. Because he was with Karrie.
Still, he’d mind-fucked her so thoroughly that she’d been ruined for anyone else.
For Christ’s sake, no one had a right to look that good soaking wet and reeking of top-shelf vodka and supermodel pussy. She registered his longer hair, the close-trimmed beard, and the gym-honed body wrapped up in a bespoke suit. No tie; the hint of chest hair reminded her of how she used to fantasize about touching him like she meant it.
He looked down at his ruined blazer and back up at her with a hooded, panty-searing gaze. The same way he’d been looking at another girl—two women—getting it on for his benefit a few moments ago.
He’d rejected her in the past. And now he was humiliating Karrie by cheating on her in public. Maya hated how much she cared about that, but it was who she was. She never wanted to see a woman humiliated the same way her mom had been for decades.
She shook her head. “Cágate en tu madre, Javi.” Every single swear word and vulgar phrase she knew in Spanish rushed to the surface as she looked at him. Anger at him. Anger at herself and the rush of memories that made her nipples peak and rub harshly against the silk halter top she wore. Javi licked his lips and looked her up and down. She wished she had something else to throw. She thought about whacking him with her tray, but she’d probably already lost the gig; she didn’t need to get a bill for property damage. Or to be arrested for assault and battery.
The spark of amusement the thought of beating him senseless woke up in her told her that it might be worth it. Maybe it would wash away the anger and the irrational rush of jealousy she felt at seeing him again. She didn’t just hate Karrie. She hated the models. And she hated herself because, in the years since they’d been apart, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t go back and do things differently.
She was so pissed that she would go back and be the other woman for Javi. Only for him. And even though it would have gone against everything she believed in.
Then he wiped his face with his left hand. No ring. No tan line where a ring should be. Maybe they hadn’t gone through with the wedding. Maybe they were divorced. The possibility that he wasn’t married, represented by his bare finger, tantalized her. And she’d just doused him with vodka and said some pretty intense shit about his mother. But maybe he didn’t wear a ring to make it easier to cheat on his wife, and she was totally righteous in ruining that suit.
“What the fuck, Maya?” His words echoed through her brain. Seriously, what the fuck? Why did she react to him like she had something to avenge? She’d had years to get over the hurt, and he hadn’t done anything wrong. He might have hurt her, but he’d been honest—marrying Karrie instead of giving things a shot with her was what he wanted. He hadn’t chosen her. He didn’t want her.
And going off of him without all the information made her trashy and impulsive. Fine to crush beers with and have a laugh, but not wifey material. She was a hot head, and truly a bitch when she put her mind to it. Maya was not the kind of woman who married into one of Miami’s royal families. She was the kind that got kicked to the curb for a debutante. Or the kind of broke a debutante’s nose in a fistfight.
And would she have wanted Javi to choose her knowing that it would probably have ended with him cheating on her, like it had for Karrie?
Would she ever have been able to let him go? Or would she have sat waiting at home while Javi did God knows what, with God knows who all over Miami? She sneered at that pathetic mental picture.
Javi had saved her years ago by rejecting her love. If he’d accepted it, she would be nothing right now. A shell. Just like her mother. Thinking about her mother’s unhappiness ached.
Silently, she said her last goodbye to Javi. She let her expression soften and she drank him in, more handsome than ever, even though he was a royal dick and probably a cheater. He stood there, as if he was waiting for her to say something else. Like this was a cheery fucking reunion.
She turned to leave and his hand wrapped around her bicep to stop her. The rough skin of his fingers and palm lit sparks underneath her skin. He stepped close, the scent of vodka laced his breath mixed with some Javi-specific pheromone cocktail. “You’re not going to leave without a word. Not after you fucked up a $10,000 suit and told me to ‘spew shit on my mother.’”
“Javi, I—” She had nothing. Nothing adequate to say that would wash her words away. She was used to the hit-and-run—lovers, apartments, jobs. Never stay in one place too long. Let no one in, and don’t get hurt.
Touching Javi, who didn’t actually smell like pussy at all, really hurt. Him touching her let the full nightmare of seeing him again seep into her bones. The sting spread from where his fingers grazed her bare skin and wrapped around all the way into her heart and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe.
“Let me go.” He might not have heard her whisper over the pounding hip hop, but he hesitated. His skin seared to hers, and she still felt that thing that scented the air whenever they were together. She didn’t know how to describe it, but the atmosphere shifted when he touched her. Like the air just before a lightning storm. Being close to him certainly shifted her personal humidity.
Still he responded, his cigar-rough voice in her ear. “That’s what I promised you, didn’t I? I promised to let you go, and I did.”
She nodded, afraid she would choke if she used her words. She hadn’t wanted him to let her go. No matter what she was telling herself now, she’d needed him to say the other thing. To choose her. It had been so long that she didn’t think it could hurt anymore, but it ached. Her skin felt scarred over, stretched thin. He could tear her apart again if she let him.
She wasn’t going to let him.
“Even though that’s what I promised. I don’t want to let you go right now. I shouldn’t have let you go ever.”
She gasped. Before she could topple over or—worse—turn around and kiss him, she looked at his bare left hand and said, “Doesn’t look like you keep your promises anymore.”
She pulled her arm away, half hoping he’d stop her from leaving. When he didn’t, she got away from him as fast as she could.
Andie J. Christopher writes edgy, funny, sexy contemporary romance. She grew up in a family of voracious readers, and picked up her first Harlequin romance novel at age twelve when she’d finished reading everything else in her grandmother’s house. It was love at first read. It wasn’t too long before she started writing my own stories—her first heroine drank Campari and wore a lot of Esprit. Andie holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame in economics and art history (summa cum laude), and a JD from Stanford Law School. She lives in Washington, DC, with a very funny French Bulldog named Gus.