Kinni Corbet attacks everything life throws at her with logic and order. That’s why there is no place in her neatly appointed world for Price Lyons. He’s everything she’s not, spontaneous, outgoing, unpredictable, and dangerous to her peace of mind. But when she agrees to release the tight grip she has on her bridesmaid duties in order to relax, she doesn’t realize that he’s part of the relaxation package.
When Price overhears Kinni agreeing to metaphorically let her hair down and enjoy herself, he can’t help but use the wedding favor to spend time with her. Maybe then he’ll be able to bring the desire he’s been harboring for her out of the shadows and into the light.
The crab cake hovered an inch from Kinni’s mouth, her eyes riveted on Roxy, the bride-to-be. “What?”
Her friend’s pouty pink lips curled into a smile full of white teeth Roxy’s big blue eyes rounding. “Instead of you giving us a gift, I’d like to gift you with a favor.” Her smile stretched a fraction wider. “A wedding favor.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. Besides, I already bought you and Kyle wedding presents.” Kinni lowered the appetizer and shook her head. “I spent hours picking out the right item combination, giftwrap, and bow.”
Roxy’s sunshine smile pinched into a grimace and she reached to pat Kinni’s hand. “And I appreciate all your effort, sweetie, but…” The tight lines of her face softened. “Hours? Really?”
This wasn’t the first time Kinni’s tenaciousness to detail had been called into question. Though her rigid personality was the reason she’d done well in law school, it had been the death of the only long-time relationship she’d ever had been in. Her ex had constantly complained about her need to loosen up. She’d tried, she really had, but after three torturous weeks of ignoring the towels he left on the bathroom, not rushing to clean the kitchen after they ate, and waiting until he left before vacuuming up his chip crumbs, her true personality crept back in.
No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t escape her organized and responsible ways, and he’d ultimately ended things between them.
Now she could see it was for the best. She was who she was and wouldn’t have been happy trying to be something else. Life had taught her being impulsive didn’t garner results. She’d accepted the fact that there probably wasn’t a man alive who could put up with her idiosyncrasies, and vice versa.
“All right, I’ll bite. What do you mean ‘gift me a favor’?” Discarding the crab cake altogether, she pursed her lips. “You’ve already given us our bridesmaid gifts and a day at the spa.”
“I know, but this is different.” As if cranking the dimmer switch to high, Roxy widened her eyes and her smile. “You’ve already done so much for us. Between the parties, wedding prep, and job hunting, I’m worried you’re spreading yourself too thin.””
Kinni lowered her voice and focused on her friend’s face, “Meaning?”
“Meaning, I want you relax, have fun, be in the moment.” When she didn’t reply, Roxy pressed on. “Look, everything you’ve done is perfect and we can’t thank you enough for all your help, but I feel guilty about how much time you’re putting into my wedding.”
Kinni’s gaze remained leveled on her friend. After all these years she would have thought Roxy knew how much she enjoyed helping out with an event like this. The charts and color-coding had given her weeks of pleasure, but making somebody who didn’t have the same love of all things orderly understand that was damn near impossible.
“So, if I hear you correctly, you want me to relax. That’s it?”
“Yes. I’m planning on only getting married once, and I want you to enjoy this last week of me being single. Really have some fun.”
“Relax and have fun…” The space between Kinni’s brows pinched together. “That’s the favor?”
“In a nutshell..” Roxy’s head bobbed from side to side, the blond ringlets bouncing like curly yellow ribbons against her cheeks. “I want you to say yes to relaxation and fun for a week.”
The muscles in Kinni’s jaw clamped down, repressing the NO! wanting to escape. Saying yes to the gifted favor wasn’t a problem, if she thought everything through first, analyzed all the variables and possible outcomes. There was still a lot to do for the wedding, things she’d started and couldn’t leave dangling unfinished. What Roxy didn’t understand was that those dangling tasks would drive her crazy over the course of the week, and relaxing would be impossible. Maybe she could fake relax. But knowing Roxy, she’d probably spring surprise visits on her just to make sure she in the moment.
Clearly sensing her resistance, Roxy clasped her hands together in a prayer pose. “Please.” She touched her fingers to her lips, her eyes boring into Kinni’s. “And you can still give us the gifts you bought.
Unable to say no, but still not compelled to agree, she finagled for more time. “I don’t see how any of this is a favor.” Especially to me.
“You’ve been such a great friend. Let me do something nice in return.” Roxy gripped her shoulders, placing her face directly in front of Kinni’s. “Please?”
Being caught in her friend’s pointed stare was like hanging helpless in a spider’s web. Instead of paralyzing and eating her prey, which might be a preferable outcome, the giant spider of perkiness was going to fun Kinni to death.
Her lips pressed together, but resistance was futile. “Fine.” The instant the word was out, she wanted to shove it back in her mouth. “I’ll relax and be in the moment, but only if it’s not going to endanger my life or throw a wrench in plans I already have.” She glanced around and lowered her voice. “And don’t tell anybody. I don’t need everybody telling what I should and shouldn’t do.”
“My lips are sealed, not even to Kyle.” Her friend mimed locking her lips and throwing away the key. Then she wrapped Kinni in a hug and squeezed. “You’ll have a good time, I promise.”
“Uh huh.” After extricating herself from the overzealous hug, she stepped back, needing space. “Okay then, this was fun.” She enunciated the f-word. “But, I need to use the lady’s room.”
If possible, Roxy’s mouth stretched into an even wider smile. “You won’t regret agreeing to this.”
Kinni mustered a single nod and a half smile before escaping to the bathroom. Though she’d already said yes, what she needed was a little reassurance that she wasn’t going to regret her agreement. Roxy was always super supportive of everything she did, and rarely asked for anything from her.
In college Roxy had not only befriended her, but insisted Kinni be part of the close circle that made up their group today. Even though she’d never totally fit, none of the women had batted an eyelash about accepting her.
No matter how painful Roxy’s request would be, she’d do it. What was the worst that could happen?
Had he heard right? Did Miss Rigid, Kinni Corbett, just agree to relax for an entire week? Price glanced over his shoulder and watched her stride across the room to the exit. Her long black hair swung with purpose but still managed to remain neat, as if no strand dared fall out of ranks. His gaze drifted along her trim torso and settled on her firm tight rear end. There was no denying the woman was gorgeous—like smokin’ hot beautiful. She was a dark and sultry like Kate Beckinsale, and lean like Gwyneth Paltrow. In his opinion, the perfect combination. Too bad Kinni’s personality always got in the way.
Though the group had gone to college together, they’d never clicked, which in his opinion, was a terrible shame. It’s not like he hadn’t tried—several times, but she’d shot down his attempts at flirting with a few well-targeted comebacks that had left no room for rallying. Even now classifying her as his friend was pushing it. She was standoffish, way too serious, and though he didn’t know for a fact, suspected she disapproved of him. It was probably because he was everything she wasn’t. Fun. Spontaneous. Outgoing.
Despite the fact that she was tightly wound and probably high maintenance, he’d had several fantasies involving Kinni. He couldn’t shake the notion that a lot of pent-up sexual frustration hovered under all her buttoned-up perfection. A guy could dream, which is exactly all he’d done so far.
His gazed followed her until she disappeared around the corner. He popped the square of cheese in his mouth and slowly chewed, contemplating the unexpected opportunity fate had dropped in his lap. The one thing he did know about Kinni was that she was painfully literal and true to her word. If she told Roxy she’d relax, then she would go out of her way to keep her promise, even when it probably wasn’t necessary. Maybe he’d be able to use this in his favor. All he’d have to do is offer her exactly what she wanted wrapped up in the guise of friendship.
A smile quirked the corner of his mouth while ideas raced through his mind. He could have a lot of fun finding out what made Miss Corbett tick and at the same time get her to loosen up. Keep it simple and friendly, otherwise she’d know something was up. He needed to be subtle, get her to spend time with him, and break down her defenses slowly and show her what a great guy he was. If things never progressed to the next level, he’d chalk it up to fate. At the very least they’d be better friends. It might not be the outcome he wanted, but it was better than nothing.
Having fun had always been one of his top three priorities in life, and he made sure to put the same effort into enjoying running his hotel business as he did is extracurricular activities. That’s probably why he’d never connected with her. Their priorities seemed to be at the opposite ends of the spectrum, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to try to make a connection with her. He’d dealt with tough clients before and had always been able to win them over. “This just might work,” he muttered.
“What will work?”
His head snapped up. Damn, he hadn’t noticed her come back in. “My schedule.” He scrambled for an explanation that might include her. “I have my final tux fitting tomorrow. I thought it was going to interfere with a conference call I have slated, but it’s all good.”
“You should use a time management app.” She picked up her near empty glass and downed the last drops of wine. “They really help. I’d be lost without mine.”
“Great idea.” He nodded and pointed to her empty glass. “Let me get you a refill. What are you drinking?”
Hesitantly she released the glass. “Merlot. Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” He’d planned on getting the wine and returning, but she followed, stopping beside him at the bar. “One merlot and one vodka martini, please.” After giving the order, he turned to her. “So Kinni, I was wondering if you would do me a favor.”
Her lip curled at the corner. “Another favor?”
“Excuse me?” he said, playing dumb.
“Never mind.” The set of her shoulders stiffened and she crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s the favor?”
“Would you come with me to pick up my tux tomorrow? I need an honest opinion about the fit.” He didn’t, but figured it was a good way to spend time together. She’d get a chance to see him away from the guys and hopefully change her opinion of him. “How about it?”
“Why don’t you take one of your—” She mimed air quotes. “Assistants to help you.”
“First of all, the women I date aren’t my assistants. Secondly, my assistant is a he not a she and unfortunately, Larry’s knowledge of fashion doesn’t extend much beyond corduroy suits with elbow patches. Lastly, I need an honest opinion, and I know you’ll give it to me.”
It was true he had no shortage of women. Owning three trendy hotels in Seattle meant a constant stream of people in and out of his life. Some were genuinely nice and others only wanted something from him. He didn’t think he’d have to worry about Kinni falling into that category. On the contrary, from her narrowed gaze and ramrod stiff posture he suspected any kind of genuine affection he could coax from her would be hard won.
“What time is your appointment?”
“Ten o’clock.” He waited for a response, but when she simply continued to peer at him he added, “Is that a yes?”
“All right, I’ll meet you there.” She lowered her arms. “But I’m going to be honest about your tux.”
“Great, that’s what I need. And…” He attempted his most innocent and non-threatening grin. “How about I take you to lunch as a thank you?”
She shook her head. “That’s not necessary.”
“Come on. You’re being so nice by helping me out.” He reached out and gently chucked her on the shoulder, which was totally lame and slightly embarrassing. “Let me do something nice for you.”
Her eyes darted to somewhere behind him, probably at Roxy, held, and then cut back. She crossed her arms over her chest again, but this time she seemed to be shrinking away from him. Her shoulders lifted to her ears and she grimaced. Her answer squeezed from her, as if it hurt to pronounce the word. “Okay.”
“Great.” He clasped his hands, making sure not to touch her again. The poor thing looked like she was ready to bolt. “I’ll see you at the tux shop at ten. Do you know where it is?” She nodded, but didn’t reply otherwise. “Great,” he said again. “Thank you so much.”
“It’s fine,” she muttered. A few seconds of strained silence stretched between them until she turned back to the room and rested her elbows on the bar. She tilted her head towards the maid of honor, Dani. “How long are they going to keep staring at each other and hope no one notices?”
He mirrored her pose, watching Jamie’s gaze darted to Dani, hold, and then cut away. “Until they combust from the sexual tension.”
Last year the two had broken up after several intense months of dating. Jamie had never given him any details, and he wasn’t one to pry.
“I agree. It’s like watching some primitive mating ritual.” The bartender slid a glass of wine toward Kinni. She picked it up, sipped, and slowly swallowed, her gaze never leaving their two friends. “I hope she’s not going to do anything stupid, like sleep with him.”
“Why is that stupid?” Price twirled the olive around the glass. “They’re both adults.”
“On an emotional level Jamie is like a ticking bomb for Dani. She’s still into him, no matter how much she denies it. And logically he’s a poor choice for her.”
“How do you figure.” He sipped his martini, his attention centered on Kinni. Hearing her views on the couple might give him some insight on how she approached relationship.
“Well, he lives in Florida, and she lives here in Seattle. It would be a bad career move for Dani to leave her editorial position, especially since she’s been promoted to senior editor. And I can’t imagine Jamie leaving the family business. So there’s very little chance that anything could work out between them.”
“Maybe they’re still in love,” he pressed.
An unfeminine snort slipped from her. “It’s taken nearly a year for Dani to get over the two of them being in love. Something miraculous would have to happen for the result not to be the same if they tried to patch things up.”
He couldn’t argue with her, but he sure hated how cynical her opinions sounded. Call him old fashioned, but he liked the possibility of rekindling an old love. “What about absence making the heart grow fonder.”
“Come on.” She turned to him, shaking her head and giving him a pinched expression. “When has that ever worked? It’s hard enough making things work when a couple is near each other. Toss separation and odds of failure increase dramatically. And—” She jabbed a finger in the air. “The longer the separation lasts, the less chance that things will work out.”
“I suppose soulmates are out of the question?”
She turned back to the gathering. “Soulmates are just people who share common goals, values, and beliefs. There isn’t anything magical or ordained by Heaven about it.”
“Call me a romantic, but I believe there are things about love that can’t be explained away.” He held his glass up. “No matter how eloquent the argument. That being said, might I suggest a little wager?”
She propped one elbow on the bar and leaned toward him a fraction, her interest clearly roused, “What kind of wager?”
“I bet they hookup sometime during the wedding week, and you think they won’t, right?”
“Correct. And what does the winner get?”
“Let’s say a favor from the loser, within reason.” Making the prize generic gave him a little leeway on options depending on how their relationship progressed over the next week.
“Nothing sexual unless there’s mutual agreement.” He gave her a half-cocked grin. “Then I’m happy to oblige.” Pink tinged her cheeks and her eyes darted away from his face. He could see the wheels in her mind turning. The woman liked a challenge, the fact she was a lawyer proved it. And for him having this bet gave him more reason to talk to her. To tempt her a little more, he added, “I could help you move furniture or organize something. Whatever you want.”
She looked at him again, her eyes bright. “Okay, you’re on. Within the next week Jamie and Dani have to get back together or else you owe me a favor. Whatever I want.”
“Whatever.” He held out his hand. “Shall we shake on it?”
Her palm was warm against his and it was tempting to step into the handshake to be closer, but he had to play it cool. Though he might lose the bet, if he played his cards right and didn’t push her too fast, he might just win the battle.