Sassy & Sultry Romance

Cate Tayler 

© Copyright 2017-2018 Cate Tayler. All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt from Love Me LIKE YOU DO

 

Haley Wood had the strongest urge to clock someone.

Maybe it was the three glasses of champagne talking. Or maybe it was the fact she was here, at her best friend’s engagement party, alone. Maybe it was because of the hawk-nosed man currently holding a conversation with her breasts.

Most likely it was Calista’s cousin, Stelli, practically dry-humping Haley’s boyfriend across the room.

Ex-boyfriend. Though, while technically correct, it didn’t feel right to characterize Will in that way. He was one of her closest friends. When they’d started dating, she’d made him promise that no matter what happened between them, they would remain friends. He promised. And then she broke his heart.

In all fairness, she broke her own heart, too. But it was for the best. Which was why, even as buxom brunette wrapped her tentacles around his muscular arm and pressed her overripe melons against him, she remained in place, struggling to pull air past the tight knot in her chest.

“I’m known as The Oracle down on High Street, you know. I know how to make money, lots of it and fast, you know.”

Haley dragged her eyes from the spectacle across the room to the annoyance in front of her, a friend of Calista’s fiancé, Miles. He was well-groomed and conventionally handsome. She might have been interested, if he didn’t keep helping himself to an eyeful of her breasts. Pervert. The girls did look spectacular tonight, thanks to the push-up contraction she’d bought on impulse. Without it, they would have been lost in the folds of her strapless cocktail dress, instead of riding high and proud. The vivid persimmon of the dress brought out the golden undertones of her bronzed brown skin and set off her grandmother’s antique gold pendant lay just above the cleavage which had so enraptured this lech.

His gaze flickered once more and the tip of his tongue darted out. “You know how much I made last quarter?”

She sighed. “They can’t talk. They don’t have minds of their own, you know.”

He glanced at her. “Sorry?”

“My breasts,” she said, tightening her grip on the flute, resisting — barely — the urge to fling her drink at him. Instead, she tipped her head back and let the remaining bubbles slide down her throat. “Excuse me.”

She shoved her empty glass into his hands, ignoring the puzzled look on his face, and sauntered away. Will was still wrapped up in the brunette, almost literally, and Calista and Miles were in the corner talking to some guests. As usual, her best friend’s fiancé had his arm around her, lifting his hand periodically to touch Calista’s hair or caress her arm. In the center of the Party Room, Ethan and Lainie Thomas sat at a table, laughing while their five-month-old son, Jared, was cooed and fussed over by Calista’s aunts, each jockeying to take their turn with him. She turned away from the intimate vignettes playing out before her. In a room so crowded she could barely turn without bumping someone, she’d never felt so lonely.

Her warm champagne buzz was turning into a unsettling vibration. Fresh air would do her good. Her face hot and flushed, she headed toward the side door. It opened directly into the parking lot, so people using the Party Room attached to Athena’s wouldn’t have to cut through the diner itself.  She was grateful, it meant she could slip out unnoticed. She stepped into the balmy late September night and turned her head in the direction of the water. There wasn’t much of a breeze coming off the water, but she would take what she could get.

She closed her eyes and breathed in, twitching her nose at the tangy bite of salt air skimming across her face and cooling her skin. Better. She exhaled and opened her eyes, the nearly jumped out of her skin.

“Holy hell, Jules!” she exclaimed, clutching her hand to her heart. “You scared the living bejeezus out of me!”

Juliet Winslow chuckled. “Sorry, Hales. I thought you’d seen me walking up from the restaurant.”

She pointed with her thumb over her shoulder toward the the front of the building. Athena’s was on Main Street, aptly named as the major road on and off Mystic Point. Across the street was The Mystic Point Marina, where the elegant French bistro, Elan, stood. Juliet was their Executive Chef.

“Not working tonight?” Haley asked.

“I’m taking a break,” Juliet said. “But I wanted to pop my head in and say hello.”

She took in Haley’s outfit, right down to the gold peep-toe wedges she wore, and raised an eyebrow. “Damn, Hales. You look hot.”

Haley’s cheeks heated again and she shifted uncomfortably on her feet. “I feel ridiculous,” she admitted. “Like I’m trying too hard. I should’ve stuck with jeans.”

“Is it for you-know-who?” Juliet asked, tilting her head toward the door.

She shook her head. “No, I didn’t dress up for Will.” She was being honest. Will wasn’t the type of guy to be impressed by glitz and glam. He’d loved her in a Jets jersey and sneakers. Although he did appreciate some girly things, like the black satin and lace corset with matching garter belt she’d surprised him with on his birthday last June. Before he had to go and ruin everything by proposing to her.

“I knew Miles’s family and friends would be here, so I wanted to look extra nice for the rich crowd. Maybe land myself a hot billionaire like Calista,” she joked.

Juliet clucked her tongue. “Have to get over Will, first.”

“There’s nothing to get over. I’m the one who ended it, remember?”

“Yes, I remember the mistake you made.”

“It wasn’t a mistake,” Haley insisted. “We want different things in life. We’re better as friends.”

“I’m just disappointed it didn’t work out, you guys were great together.”

“We still are. As friends.” Haley nodded her head at the building, where Will was probably still being manhandled by that girl. “He’s fine about it, too. Trust me.”

“If you say so.”

“Where’s Pat?” she asked Juliet, changing the subject.

“We broke up.” Juliet shrugged a shoulder. “My hours have been too crazy to give him the attention he deserves, and honestly, if it were meant to be, I’d have felt like making the time.”

Haley nodded. Last year, she’d said something similar to Calista about Will. Calista hadn’t felt for Will what she’d thought she had, or she wouldn’t have let her parents’ problems distract her from dating him. Obviously, Calista’s gut had been right, even if she hadn’t realized it at the time. Haley was a big believer in trusting your instincts, and if your instincts told you something wasn’t right, you should listen.

“I’m going inside.” Juliet reached for the door. “You coming?” She’d hidden out long enough. “Right behind you.”

(c) 2017-2018 Cate Tayler. All Rights Reserved.