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Tempting the Best Man, Page 2

J. Lynn

  For a brief, unwanted second, she was thrown back to her junior year of college, to the night she had visited Chase’s club for the very first time and stood in his posh office. Full of hope, full of wanting…

  Snapping out of her stupor, she sat up, her spine rigid. “They sent you?”

  He chuckled, as if she’d uttered the funniest thing in the world. “I volunteered, actually.”

  “You did?”

  “Of course,” he drawled lazily. “I had to come see what little Maddie Daniels was blowing.”

  Chapter Two

  About a second after those words left his mouth, Chase realized his mistake, but damn, he didn’t regret them. A fierce, hot, and downright sinful flush stole across her cheeks and down her throat. There was a part of him—a ruthless fragment—that would break legs and crush hands to see how far that blush travelled.

  But like he’d learned before, at the last possible second, Maddie Daniels was a line not meant to be crossed.

  Her pouty lips thinned and anger flared in her hazel eyes, turning them more green than brown. Her eyes shifted colors based on her emotions, and lately he’d seen them green more times than not.

  “That was kind of crude, Chase.”

  He shrugged. Civility wasn’t his middle name. “Are you going to stay in the car or get out?”

  Maddie looked like she would have to be torn from the car. “Am I supposed to just leave it here, along the side of the road?”

  “I called a tow truck, and they’re on their way. If you pop your trunk, I’ll get your stuff.”

  Her gaze finally moved past him, and he felt his chest ease. “Nice car,” she said.

  Chase looked over his shoulder at the black Porsche gleaming in the sunlight. “It’s a car.” One of three he owned. He wished he’d brought his truck instead, but the thing guzzled gas like nothing else. Turning back to the little problem at hand, he stepped aside. “Maddie, are you coming with me or not?”

  She stared up at him, almost defiantly, which was laughable. Maddie was all of five foot three and probably weighed a buck ten. He towered over her and could easily throw her over his shoulder with one arm.

  Their eyes locked.

  With each passing second, pulling her out of the car and throwing her over his shoulder seemed more likely. Maybe he’d give her a spanking he damn well knew she deserved.

  Cock said yes by swelling almost painfully in his jeans.

  Common sense said no with the punch to the gut.

  If Chase was anything in life, he was his father—successful at a young age, determined, wealthy, and carrying the family gene enabling him to fuck up any serious relationship within ten seconds.

  And everyone, even Maddie, knew he was just like his father.

  So it’s definitely time for a better tactic, he thought, taking a deep breath. “There’s a slice of cheesecake your mom put aside with your name on it.”

  Maddie’s eyes glazed over. He’d seen that look a few times before. Chocolate and desserts had given her that post-sex-bliss look ever since he could remember, and that wasn’t helping with the problem in his jeans.

  The car door flew open without any warning, and he narrowly avoided accidental impotency by jumping out of the way.

  “Cheesecake,” she repeated, grinning. “Does it have strawberry topping?”

  He fought a grin. “With a side of chocolate for dipping, just like you love.”

  She popped her hands on her curvy hips and cocked her head to the side. “Then what are you waiting for?” She pushed a button on her keys, and the trunk popped open. “Every second that passes between me and that cheesecake, the more dangerous this trip will get.”

  This trip was already dangerous.

  He stalked to the back of her truck while she grabbed items from the backseat. Only one suitcase rested in the trunk. Maddie was always a light packer. He’d dated girls who couldn’t stay a night away without three outfits and a dozen pairs of shoes. Maddie was low maintenance, a product of growing up with a bunch of rowdy boys probably.

  Grabbing her luggage, he slammed the trunk, then rounded the rear of her car and drew up short. Jesus Christ…

  She was bent over, tugging a long garment bag from the backseat. The thin linen of her pants stretched over the round ass he knew she worked hard for. How many times had he watched her on the elliptical at the gym? Too many times to count.

  He really needed to start working out at a different time.

  But he couldn’t peel his eyes off her for the life of him. Maddie may be tiny, but she rocked some hellish curves, and even though she wasn’t the type of woman he usually went for, she was beautiful in her own way. Perky nose and plump lips, cheekbones covered with a speckling of freckles. Long hair, currently pulled up, normally reached the middle of her back.

  The kind of hair—the kind of body—a man could easily get lost in. Aw, hell, it was more than that. Maddie would make some son of a bitch a happy man one day. She was and always had been the complete package: smart, funny, strong-willed, and kind.

  And that ass…

  Chase pivoted around, inhaling through his nose, half tempted to drop Maddie off, drive into town, and pick up the first chick who looked his way. Or grab Maddie’s rear.

  She brushed past him, casting a weird look over her shoulder. “Are you dazing out on me? Let me guess. Bambi or Susie kept you up late? I can never tell them apart.”

  “You’re talking about the Banks twins?”

  Maddie cocked her head to the side and waited.

  “Their names are Lucy and Lake,” he corrected.

  She rolled her eyes. “Who names their kid Lake? Oh! If you have kids, you can call them River and Stream.” Shaking her head, her eyes narrowed. A knowing look crossed her face. “So you’re still dating them?”

  Honestly, dating wasn’t the term he’d use for the tall, lanky twins. “I’m not dating them at the same time, Maddie. Nor have I.”

  “That’s not what I’ve heard.”

  “Then you’ve heard wrong.” But that look of hers spread. Clamping his jaw shut, he followed her. No point in correcting her assumption because his reputation was probably right up there with his father’s already.

  Opening the back door, she frowned. “Haven’t made it to your room yet?”

  He placed her bag in the trunk alongside his own. “Haven’t checked in. I’d only arrived about fifteen minutes before your rescue call went out.”

  She smoothed invisible wrinkles from her pants, chin tucked low. “I didn’t need rescuing.”

  Chase arched a mocking brow. “That’s not how it looks to me.”

  “Just because I blew—”

  “Say that again.”

  Maddie lifted her gaze to his again, and he felt their soulful depths in his gut. She could always take his breath away with a single look. “Say what?”


  She rolled her eyes. “That’s real mature.”

  “Anyway, you blew a tire and I had to come out here and get you. How is that not me rescuing you?”

  Huffing, she spun around and returned to her car. With her purse in hand, she stalked over to the passenger side of his Porsche.

  He grinned. “You should always have—”

  “I know. A spare,” she said, cutting him off and sliding into the car.

  Laughing under his breath, he climbed in and sent her a sidelong glance. She was staring out the tinted window; her hand clutching her cell phone like a lifeline. He casually adjusted himself and prayed he got himself in check before her family swamped them again.

  The first five miles back to the vineyard where his buddy was getting married were quiet, not terse, but definitely not the most comfortable of experiences.

  He should just ignore it. “Why are you pouting?”

  “I’m not pouting.” She cut him a dark look.

  “Could’ve fooled me, Maddie.”

  “Stop calling me that.” She dug around in her bag and pulled out a p
air of sunglasses. She slid them on and then turned to him. Cute. “I hate it when you call me that.”


  She said nothing.

  He sighed and went with a safe topic. “Your brother is really happy.”

  Beside him, Maddie relaxed a fraction. “I know. I’m really happy for him. He deserves this, right? He’s so nice that any other girl would take advantage of that.”

  “He does.” Chase’s gaze flickered off the road. She was staring at him still, and he hated that the sunglasses blocked her eyes. He had no idea what the little terror was thinking behind those dark shades. “Lissa’s a good girl. She’ll do right by Mitch.”

  Maddie sucked her lower lip in and then said, “Mitch will do right by her.”

  A small smile tugged at his lips. “That is true. Though, marrying? Never thought I’d see the day when he settled down.”

  “I really don’t want to hear about his escapades.” She ran a hand over her hair, smoothing the few loose strands which had escaped her chignon. “I haven’t eaten yet.”

  “Would a full stomach be better?”

  She snorted.

  “Remember that girl he was dating his sophomore year in college?”

  Her eyes went wide, and his grin spread. “Oh, God—the one who actually started naming their kids on the first date?” she said, laughing. “What was her name?”

  “Linda Bullock.”

  “Yes!” She popped up in her seat. “She had Mitch scared to death, calling him at all hours of the night. He got so mad when you told me about her.”

  “She camped outside our dorm after one date.” Chase shook his head. “Pretty girl, but man, she was crazy.”

  They were coming up on the vineyards quickly. Before he knew it, Maddie would be surrounded by those who loved and cared for her, and he’d be back with his brothers, watching them troll the guest list for the ladies.

  As if she were reading his thoughts, she glanced at him. “I bet you and your brothers couldn’t be happier.”

  “Why is that?”

  Her lips formed a tight smile. “It’s a wedding, which means easy pickings.”

  “Are you saying I need easy pickings?”


  He chuckled and said, “I think you know better than that.”

  A red blush stained her cheeks under the sunglasses. Seeing her face flame attractively was almost worth going there with her, rehashing memories that needed to stay memories.

  “Okay,” she said. “You don’t need easy pickings. I’m not saying that.”

  “Then what are you saying, Maddie?”

  Frustration rolled off her as she ran her hand across the buttery leather of the car seats in long, languid strokes that made his dick twitch. “Lissa has a lot of pretty friends. Not the Banks twins, but still.”

  Chase nodded and then reached up for the sun visor, pulling out his own sunglasses. “She does.”

  “So, like I said, you and your brothers are going to have fun.”

  “Maybe.” He reached across the seat, tapping his fingers off her forearm to get her attention and point out the long rows of grape vines slicing through the valley on his left. Immediately, she jerked back, and he raised his brows, kind of offended. “Touchy?”

  “No. Sorry. Too much caffeine.”

  Then it struck him. Sometimes Chase forgot that their relationship wasn’t like it used to be, and damn if that didn’t suck.

  She cleared her throat. “So, when are you guys going to get married?”

  Chase barked with stilted laughter. “Good God, Maddie.”

  “What?” Her frown pulled the corners of her lips down. “It’s not an insane question. You all are getting up there in age.”

  Shaking his head, he laughed again. He was twenty-eight, not an old man. Chad, his middle brother, was thirty, and his oldest brother, Chandler, was thirty-one. None of them approached marriage with open arms. Not after seeing what it did to their parents. Or, in reality, what his father did to his mother. It was why the three of them had practically grown up in the Daniels’ household.

  Maddie leaned across the seat, punching him in the thigh with a little fist. “Stop laughing at me, jerk.”

  “I can’t help it. You’re funny.”


  Grinning, he took the next left to the private road leading up to the vineyard. “I don’t know about marriage, Maddie. You know what they say about us.”

  “Who’s going to take a risk on the Gamble boys? Or take a ‘gamble’ on the Gamble boys.” She gave a small shake of her head. “We aren’t in high school or college anymore, Chase.”

  His gaze drifted from the sleek line of her thigh, up to where the buttons of her blouse parted, revealing a tantalizing swell of breast.

  “Yeah,” he said, focusing on the road. His knuckles ached from how tightly he was gripping the stick shift. “We’re definitely not in school anymore.”

  There was a quick grin before she turned back to her window, appearing to soak in the rolling hills, but then she had to go there. “You’re not like your father, Chase.”

  “You of all people should know that I’m exactly like my father,” he snapped back, voice harder than he’d intended.

  Maddie’s gaze swung back to him, her cheeks paling and then flushing. Her mouth opened, but she clamped it shut and turned back to the window.

  He groaned. “Shit, Maddie, I didn’t mean it like—”

  “It’s fine. Whatever.”

  Fine and whatever were words he knew were code for pissed off. They were the same words his mother had used time and time again when his father didn’t come home at night or disappeared on an unexpected business trip.

  Chase cursed again.

  Driving up the winding road, he fought the urge to apologize. It was better this way. For several years, Maddie had been nothing more than Mitch’s kid sister. Yeah, he was protective of her, but that was a given. That one night, so many years ago, had mucked up things between them forever. And if Chase knew anything, he knew there were no do-overs.

  Just like there had been no do-overs for his parents.


  On the way into the main lodge, Madison did her best not to stare at Chase, not to get drawn into that swagger of his, fall into the web he had no idea he was weaving just by being next to her. So she stared straight ahead and ignored him.

  An elderly couple inched their way down the pathway, their hands joined together tightly. The looks they shared were so full of love that Madison felt a pang of envy. That was the kind of love she had dreamed of as a little girl—love that didn’t dull after the decades but only grew stronger.

  The woman’s thick-soled shoes slipped on one of the pebbles. Her husband easily caught her arm, but her purse dropped off her other arm, spilling the contents along the white stones.

  Madison rushed forward, kneeling down as she quickly scooped up the lady’s belongings.

  “Oh, thank you, dear,” the old woman crooned. “I’m getting terribly clumsily in my old age.”

  “It’s no problem.” Madison smiled, handing the purse back. “Have a nice day.”

  Returning to Chase’s side, she found him smiling at her. Not a full smile that showed off those dimples, but a small, private one. “What?”

  “Nothing,” he said with a slight shake of his head.

  The moment Madison stepped inside the cozy atrium of Belle’s Vineyard, her family attacked her. Bone-breaking hugs were given by first cousins, second cousins, a few people she didn’t even recognize, and an uncle. Hugs that lifted her clear off her feet and left her a little dizzy.

  But when she saw her brother beyond the atrium, standing before several long tables covered in white linen, a wide smile broke out across her face and she took off.

  Mitch was tall, like their father, and his brown hair was clipped close to his skull. With his all-American good looks and sweet disposition, he usually had a legion of women swooning at his feet. Many of them
included her friends. The single ones were no doubt mourning this weekend, but he’d only ever had eyes for Lissa.

  He caught her halfway and spun her around. “We were starting to think you were boycotting the wedding.”

  “Never!” She laughed, clasping his arms. Not since Christmas had she gotten to see her brother. He and Lissa had moved to nearby Fairfax and with their busy careers, it left little time for family reunions. “I’ve missed you.”

  “Now come on, don’t start crying on me already.”

  She blinked. “I’m not crying.”

  “Good.” He enveloped her in another massive hug. “I think you may’ve grown about two inches.”

  Laughing, she wiggled free. “I stopped growing, like, ten years ago.”

  “Try twenty years ago.” Her father’s booming voice carried from the head of the table. This bear of a man was probably aghast that one of his offspring could’ve auditioned for the Lollipop Guild.

  Over Mitch’s shoulder, Lissa waited with a welcoming smile. Pulling free of her brother, Madison approached the slender blonde and gave her a tight hug.

  “I’m so happy you’re here,” Lissa said, pulling back. Tears filled her gray eyes. “Everything is perfect now. Come, your mom is saving you dessert.”

  Trailing after her, Madison glanced over her shoulder. Mitch had his hand on Chase’s shoulder and they both were laughing. A heartbeat passed, and Chase looked up, his eyes meeting hers.

  Madison looked away and nearly ran straight into Chandler. Bigger and brawnier than all the Gamble brothers, he was easily the most intimidating. All three brothers shared the same strong features and extraordinary blue eyes, but Chandler was larger than the other two by a good three inches.

  “Careful, squirt,” he said, easing past her. “Don’t want to run over one of the bridesmaids.”

  Squirt? “Thanks, Godzilla.”

  Then he had the gall to ruffle her hair like she was twelve.

  She swung on him, missing by a mile, which was impressive considering how bulky he was.

  Chandler laughed as he joined Mitch and his brother. So far, she hadn’t spied the middle brother. Chad was a notorious prankster and no one was safe when he was around.