Nicholas stood in the popular lingerie shop, feeling completely overwhelmed. He was getting married in a few short days, and it was Lisa's idea for him to 'pick out something to take off' of her on their wedding night.
For most men, that thought would have been appealing; but for some reason, it just reminded Nicholas of how controlling Lisa could be. They'd been dating since college when they were introduced by his parents at one of their parties. They were the perfect couple, both coming from wealthy families. Their marriage was practically an arranged one.
Nicholas' parents had begun asking when he was going to propose to Lisa, stating it was the only logical next step in their relationship. He figured they were right, and did exactly that. Lisa, of course, was ecstatic. But for some reason, Nicholas hadn't felt all of the excitement over the last year that it had taken to plan the wedding. He'd felt like it had been the longest year ever, and was looking forward to getting the wedding over with.
Was that normal for the groom-to-be to feel? He didn't think so.
But he was in this for the long haul, he thought with a sigh as he looked around again.
"First time in one of these stores?"
The smooth, silky voice behind Nicholas caused his heart to knock to the front of his chest. He turned around slowly and came face to face with a gorgeous woman gazing up at him with a look of sympathy in her eyes.
Those eyes...were...mesmerizing, Nicholas though. Big brown, almond shaped eyes set in a mocha colored heart shaped face. Her tiny nose was scrunched up as she grinned at him.
Finally, he nervously ran a hand across the back of his neck. "Is it that obvious?"
"You look like you're about to jump out of your skin," she teased. "Do you need help?"
"Do you work here?" he asked.
She shook her head, causing her bouncy curls to swing across her shoulders. "No, just noticed you standing in the same spot for the last few minutes. Figured I'd offer my assistance."
She held out her hand. "I'm Azoriah."
He reached out and wrapped his hand around hers. He heard her light gasp, and felt the slight tremble of her body as he said, "Nicholas."
The warmth that enveloped his body at her touch was...bewildering. Azoriah was the one to finally pull her hand away. That was when he realized he'd been holding on way longer than was probably considered appropriate.
"Shopping for a girlfriend, I assume?" Azoriah asked.
"Fiancée, actually," he said. "Getting married this weekend..." That made the excessively long holding of her hand a bit more awkward.
"Are you getting married or going to a funeral?" she teased.
"Excuse me?" he asked, looking down at her, surprised.
"I'm sorry," she said. "It's just that...for someone getting married soon, you don't seem very enthusiastic."
"It's been pretty stressful," Nicholas admitted.
"Hmmm," the woman said, studying him intently. There was something about the way she scrutinized his face that sent a shiver of awareness up his spine. Finally, she turned away from him and looked at the display. "Judging from what you've been staring at, this is some kind of wedding night outfit you're searching for. Do you know her size?"
Nicholas blew out a breath and turned to look at the woman again. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he shrugged and said, "No, not really. She's shaped kind of like you."
"What about this," she waved her hand across her chest, "Area? Bigger, smaller?"
"Definitely bigger," Nicholas said. Lisa had some 'work' done a few years ago.
"I see," Azoriah said, turning away from him.
"Oh," Nicholas said, quickly. "Not that there's anything wrong with yours. I mean they're...you're...A very attractive woman." He was making a complete ass of himself. In truth, when she'd pointed out her own breasts, the first thing he thought of was how they looked like they were the perfect size to palm in his hand.
Definitely not something a man who was about to get married should be thinking.
"Don't sweat it, you can pull your foot out of your mouth now," she said, smiling. "If she's around my size, maybe go with a nice corset."
"A corset..." Nicholas repeated, watching her grab one off of the rack. She held it against her body and nodded.
"You can't go wrong with a corset. And she can wear it under her dress."
She held it out to him and he grabbed the hanger. Her fingers brushed his and he felt a zing of heat dance across his skin.
"Thanks," he said, clearing his throat.
"I hope I didn't take up too much of your time," he said.
She shrugged and held up her own hangers. "Just needed to grab a few new bras. Oh! You gotta get the matching thong to go with the corset," she insisted.
"Did you get matching thongs too?"
He wanted to cringe, not knowing what the hell possessed him to ask that question. But she seemed to take it in stride. She gave him a naughty grin and said, "No need...don't wear 'em."
Then she turned and strutted away and all Nicholas could seem to think about at that very moment was that sexy round backside he was watching sway from side to side had nothing on under the tight jeans she was wearing.
Zoey was standing in line watching the cashier shove gobs of different shades of pink tissue paper in the customer's bag several people ahead of her.
Damn it, she thought to herself as she squeezed her eyes shut, and attempted not to squeeze her legs together in public.
She just had to meet the most gorgeous man she'd ever laid eyes on in a lingerie shop, searching for something for his bride-to-be.
She could feel him standing behind her as he called out to her. He was so close. Not inappropriately close, but still close enough that she could feel the heat he emanated from his body.
She shouldn't have noticed that heat, that subtle attraction that floated between them. It didn't matter that this complete stranger, that she'd been instantly drawn to, seemed like he'd rather be walking on hot coals instead of down the aisle...well grooms didn't walk down the aisle, the bride did…
Zoey shook her head, clearing her rambling thoughts...it didn't matter what his demeanor about getting married was. The point was that he was getting married.
With that thought planted firmly in her mind, she finally turned around to face him.
And stifled a groan at the sight of the sexy grin filling his full tempting lips. Her panties would have melted right off...if she'd been wearing them.
"I can't thank you enough for helping me, Azoriah."
There he went saying her name again, causing her insides to quiver.
She smiled at him as she said, "Please, call me Zoey, all of my friends do."
His smile grew wider as he said, "So, I've already earned the honor of being considered a friend?"
"I can help the next person in line."
Zoey looked over her shoulder and noticed the line moved up some. It was quite busy in the store, with guys searching at the last minute for sexy things for the significant others, including Nicholas.
He must be getting married on Valentine's Day, she thought. His fiancée must be a complete cliché.
Zoey bit the inside of her cheek to tamp down the sudden wave of jealousy that surfaced from out of nowhere. She had no right to judge and envy a woman she didn't even know.
She looked up at Nicholas and shrugged. "I think after you've discussed unmentionables with a person, that kind of automatically bumps you up to friends."
"Good to know," he said, nodding his head. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. "In that case, you have to swing by for a visit." He held a card out to her.
"The Spot," she read quietly. Then she saw his name on the card with the title of owner underneath.
"Come through, and drinks are on me," he said.
"Next in line!"
Zoey turned and noticed the cashier waiting on her.
"Thanks," she said to Nicholas as she tucked the card into her back pocket. "I'll definitely swing by sometime."
"Looking forward to it."
So was she, she thought as she moved to pay for her purchases. Probably more than she should be.
"Nick! What are you doing here?"
Nicholas smiled as he removed his jacket. Jack, his bartender, was wiping down the bar. Nicholas took his time walking through the sitting area of his piano bar, The Spot. He perused the tables and how they'd been rearranged for the bar's first speed dating event.
"Just came to check things out," he murmured.
"Came to make sure no one screwed anything up?" Jack added.
Nicholas looked up at Jack, who was also his business partner.
"It's not like that," he said, stopping in front of the bar. "You know I trust you guys to run a smooth ship in my absence."
"Then why aren't you absent?" Jack asked. "You're getting married in a few days."
"And I still have a business to run," Nicholas said. "We are launching a brand new event here. And while, like I said, I trust you, I should still be here to do my part in helping."
Jack eyed him for several seconds before shrugging. "Whatever you say."
The truth was Nicholas had been antsy ever since his trip to the mall earlier that day. He'd met with Lisa, who'd demanded to see her 'gift' to make sure she approved. She had, but Nicholas hadn't been as pleased about it as he should have. He spent the rest of their lunch date with his mind elsewhere. Specifically on the beautiful stranger with the burgundy, curly hair. He felt like a complete tool for thinking about Zoey while Lisa droned on and on about the wedding.
Needing to clear his head, he did the one thing that gave him the most peace these days. He went to work.
"Hey, Nick!" Marnee, Nicholas' hostess, said with a bright smile as she came from the back.
"Hey, Marnee," Nicholas said, making his way over to her. "It looks good in here."
"Thanks! This is so exciting," she said, bouncing from one foot to the other. "There have been so many sign-ups for the event. I think we may have to scale down the conversation time from eight minutes to five, to make sure everyone gets a chance to talk."
Nicholas took the clipboard from Marnee and looked it over. She was right. The list had doubled since the last time he'd looked at it.
"How about instead of cutting their conversation time, we extend the event by an hour? That way everyone can still get their eight minutes," he suggested, handing the clipboard back.
"Got it, boss," Marnee said, with a wink.
"I'm going to head to my office and work for a while until it's time to open later tonight," he said to Jack and Marnee, who nodded before they got back to work preparing for the bar's big new event.
"Where are we going?" Zoey demanded of her sister, Tris. "You've been secretive all week."
"Okay," Tris said, peeking over at Zoey. "I guess I can tell you, since we're on our way. I signed us up for a speed dating night."
"You did what?!" Zoey shouted.
"See!" Tris whined. "This is exactly why I didn't tell you. Come on, Zo! I don't want to do this alone."
"Then you should have asked one of your friends to do it. You know I hate shit like this, Tris."
"It'll be fun!" Tris insisted.
"Well enjoy yourself, but I'm not participating."
"Zoey," Tris started. "When was the last time you went out on a date?"
"It doesn't matter, but that's neither here nor there, because this wouldn't even qualify as a date."
"It's just one night, Zo," Tris huffed. "You sit at a table, talk and get to know a few guys. What's the harm in that?"
Zoey glared at her sister, who'd pulled into a pay to park lot. Tris turned to Zoey, with her lips pouting.
"Don't you pull that shit on me," Zoey grumbled.
"Please," Tris begged, looking up at Zoey with wide pitiful eyes. "Please Zo."
"Ugh!" Zoey hollered. "Fine, let's go." She shoved the car door open and stepped out, letting her ankle booties hit the ground.
"You look hot by the way," her sister complimented.
Zoey looked down at her midi-length hip hugging skirt and crop top that showed off her waist chain that was hooked to her belly button ring. She'd decided to wear her wild hair in a faux mohawk. Her make-up was light and subtle with the exception of her lipstick which was the same color as her bright hair.
Tris paid for parking then stuck the ticket on the dash of the car.
"Come on," she said, speeding up her walk. "This spot is a couple blocks down."
"What's the name of this place?" Zoey asked, wishing her sister wasn't in such a hurry.
"That is the name of the place," Tris said. "The Spot."
Zoey froze at her sisters words. "The Spot?" she asked.
Tris turned and looked at Zoey. "Yeah, it's this piano bar. A real laid back spot. They have performers there all the time and they have a poetry night, even an open mic night. This is the first time they've had a speed dating event. I guess their trying it out, hoping to hook some folks up for Valentine's Day."
Which is exactly why Tris was so eager to get there.
Zoey mind was suddenly on Nicholas, the handsome man she'd met at the lingerie store earlier.
"Damn it," she whispered. She hadn't planned on visiting his bar, even though she'd said she would. After she got home and she couldn't get him off of her mind, she decided that it was probably a bad idea for her to be around him again.
"You okay, Zo?" Tris asked.
"Uh...yeah," she said, and began walking again. There was no way she was getting out of this, so she decided to just bite the bullet and get it over with.
Nicholas looked up when he heard a knock on the open door to his office.
"Five minutes till show time, boss," Marnee said.
"Really?" Nicholas said, looking at the time on his laptop. "Shit, I totally lost track of time."
"Well you'll want to get out here and check this out," Marnee said, smiling.
Nicholas stood and stretched the kinks out of his back. He followed Marnee out to the main area and was surprised at how packed The Spot was.
"Wow," he said, quietly.
"I know," Marnee said, looking around. "This should be great."
He looked at his watch. "It's time. I'll get things started, introduce you and then let you take over."
Nicholas took to the stage and grabbed the microphone. He was about to speak, when the door swung open and two women rushed in. One with familiar, shockingly burgundy hair.
Her eyes met with his and he felt his heart squeeze a bit. He gave her a small nod and then began his introduction.
"Good evening and welcome to The Spot's first speed dating event." He waited for the applause to die down before continuing. "The rules are quite simple. The ladies will sit, while the men rotate to a new table every eight minutes. My lovely hostess here, Marnee, will ring this bell to indicate when it's time to switch. There will be an intermission in between. At the end of the night, if there is anyone who you'd like to get to know more about, you can put their name down in the interest forms that were handed to you when you first came in. We will collect the forms and any matches will be contacted. Are you ready to get started?"
The crowd once again applauded, then he turned and looked over to Marnee, who hit the bell to start the event.
Nicholas' eyes immediately went to where Zoey was sitting, watching the first guy sit down. She gave him a smile that didn't reach her eyes. It was a different smile than when she'd smiled at him when they met. When Zoey smiled at Nicholas, her whole face transformed, sending a warm sensation through his body.
He blew out a breath and stepped down off of the stage and headed for the bar. He didn't typically drink when he was on duty, but tonight he was making an exception.
The night had been a success. Nicholas probably would have been able to bask in it more, if he hadn't been busy watching Zoey for most of the night. She'd looked completely bored out of her mind. Once the event was over, Nicholas couldn't help himself and skimmed through the forms searching for her name. He had no business feeling relieved when he didn't see that she'd filled out her form of interest for anyone she'd met.
After the event was over, their inhouse band took to the stage, playing jazz standards well into the night. Zoey stayed to hear the band. In fact, she'd moved closer to the stage as the crowd thinned out and seemed to be enjoying the music.
"Last customer needs a refill, table six. Sex on the Beach."
Nicholas looked up when he heard the waitress. That was Zoey's table. He looked around the bar and sure enough she was the last patron in the bar.
Jack whipped up the drink and placed it on the tray for the waitress. Nicholas scooped it up. "I've got this one," he said.
"You sure?" the waitress said.
"Yeah," he said. "In fact, you guys go ahead and clock out. I'll finish up, cash out the last customer and lock up for the night." He slowly made his way over to the table, watching her body as it swayed from side to side. When he finally reached her table, the band was ending their last song, and she stood clapping her hands.
His eyes roamed her body, taking notice of the sexy tattoo on her lower back.
"Shit," he whispered to himself.
"Sex on the Beach..."
Zoey's skin prickled at the sound of his voice. She told herself she hadn't stuck around for him, but for the great music.
She turned around and looked up at him. She watched as he placed the drink on her table.
"I hope you don't plan on paying for these drinks," he said. "I told you that if you came in, drinks were on me."
"This is a great place you've got here," Zoey said.
"Thanks," he said. "I have to admit, I didn't expect to see you so soon."
"Neither did I," Zoey said. "In truth, I didn't know we were coming here until right before we arrived."
"The woman you came here with..."
"My sister, who dragged me to this event."
Nicholas looked around. "Where is she?"
"She decided she wanted to head out after the event. We were getting ready to leave when the band started playing. I decided to stick around."
"We're out of here, boss."
Zoey looked up and saw some of his employees at the door.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Nicholas called out, waving.
"Get some rest," the bartender shouted back. "You're getting married in a few days."
She watched as the last of the people filtered out of the bar, leaving just the two of them alone.
Zoey took the opportunity to take a sip of her drink as Nicholas said his goodbyes and studied the profile of his face. His five o'clock shadow gave him a rugged look. As he grinned to his friends, a dimple appeared in his cheek.
"So," he said, turning back to her. "The speed dating wasn't your cup of tea?"
Zoey shook her head, returning his smile. His incredibly sexy smile that revealed a perfect set of teeth.
"What tipped you off?
"Oh I don't know," he teased. "Probably the sheer boredom on your face the entire night."
Zoey rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry, you put on a great event, but it just wasn't something I could get into. There's no way you can really find out enough information in such a short amount of time to decide whether or not you want to get to know them more."
"You don't think so?" Nicholas asked, his eyebrow raising.
"Nope," she said.
She watched as she pulled out his phone. "Let's give it a try."
"Give what a try?" she asked, confused.
He went to the clock app on his phone and opened the timer. "Let's see what information we can find out about each other in eight minutes."
Zoey laughed. "You're serious?"
"Why not?" He shrugged.
She stared at him for a moment and then shrugged. "What the hell, let's give it a try."
He set his timer for eight minutes then started.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I have my own photography studio. Why a piano bar?"
"I love music and liquor," he responded.
Zoey threw her head back and laughed. "Do you play any instruments?" she asked.
"As a matter of fact, I play the piano."
"I think so. Are you from here?"
"Born and raised. You?"
"The same. Do you want to get married one day?"
She looked up into his eyes when he asked her that question. "Uh...sure. One day. You?"
"If I didn't want to get married, I wouldn't be doing it this weekend."
"I don't know about that," she murmured, breaking eye contact with him.
She looked up at him again.
"What do you mean by you don't know about that?" he asked.
She shook her head. "It's nothing."
"It's obviously not 'nothing'," Nicholas said. He leaned back in his chair and looked at her. "You seem to be a person who speaks their mind. I'd like to hear what you're thinking."
"You sure about that?" Zoey asked.
Zoey sighed and started. "It's just...every time you talk about getting married, or when when your employee just mentioned it, there was something in your eyes that...faded. It's like the life force gets sucked out of you."
Nicholas was silent for a long time. So long, the timer went off. Nicholas leaned forward and grabbed his phone.
"I guess you're right," he said. "You really can't get to know a person in eight minutes."
He stood abruptly. "I've got to close up for the night. When I'm done, I'll take you home."
"I can get home myself."
"It's late, Zoey," he said, turning away from her. "I wouldn't feel right unless I knew you made it home safely."
"I didn't mean to offend you."
Nicholas looked over at Zoey. He'd been quiet since their conversation at his bar.
"Don't worry about it, Zo."
He could feel her eyes on him. She wanted to say something else, but she kept her mouth shut.
Nicholas pulled his car up to a parking spot, and turned it off. He got out, went around and opened the door. He reached down for Zoey's hand and when she placed it in his, that spark he'd felt with her earlier shot up his arm.
She pulled her hand away quickly when he helped her out the car. He followed her into her apartment building. Once they were at her door, he said, "It was nice meeting you, Zoey."
He was about to turn and walk away when Zoey suddenly blurted out, "Do you love her?"
"Love her," Zoey said. "Do you love your fiancée?"
He was caught off guard with her question and found himself irritated by it. "What kind of question is that?" He asked.
"It's a simple question actually," Zoey replied.
He sighed, running his hand over his head. "I wouldn't be getting married if I didn't."
Zoey laughed. "People get married for all kinds of reasons, Nick. And you can't even say it."
"Say what, Zo?"
"That you love her!"
He shook his head and turned away from her.
"You don't even know me," he mumbled.
"I know how a man looks when he's marrying the love of his life in a few days. And you don't look like that. Your eyes don't light up at the mention of your fiancée, not like they do when you look at..."
He turned to face her when she didn't finish her sentence.
"When I look at what?" he asked.
Zoey shook her head, taking a step back and hitting the wall next to her apartment door. "Nevermind. Forget I said...forget I said anything."
She pulled out her key and turned to her door.
"Zoey..." he whispered. He reached out and grabbed her arm, wrapping his hand around her wrist.
She looked up at him and he noticed her breathing had become labored, her chest rising and falling.
He was too close to her. He need to back up and walk...run as far away from this mysterious, yet enigmatic woman as possible. But instead, he found himself moving closer, until their bodies were pressed together. Until his knuckles were grazing her cheek, letting him feel just how supple her skin was. It felt better than he'd imagined, though he shouldn't have been imagining it. He shouldn't have been touching her.
His hand cupped the back of her neck, before his mouth covered hers. His eyes drifted closed and a soft moan slid from her throat. He felt her mouth open beneath his and it felt like his world seemed to come alive. Her tongue slid across his and his body ignited instantly.
Zoey ground her lithe body against his and he felt her heat grind against his erection.
Never had he been so turned on by a simple kiss. Lisa had never made him...
And that's when his eyes snapped opened.
He was kissing a woman, who wasn't his fiancée. He broke the kiss off and stumbled back until he hit the opposite wall.
He stood there staring at Zoey, whose lips were swollen from his kiss. He opened his mouth to say something, but he couldn't figure out what. So he shook his head in confusion.
"I...I gotta go..."
Then he turned and hurried down the hall, away from Zoey.
Nicholas looked at the table napkin Lisa had shoved in his face. It was one of the napkins that would be at the reception. He then looked at his fiancée, who was in full Bridezilla mode the day before their wedding. He now understood the ball and chain reference. It felt like he was on his way to prison, instead of a wedding.
He blew out a breath, trying to ease the throbbing at his temples.
"Yes, Nicky–" Nicholas hated the way she called him 'Nicky'. Always had. "–That's the problem."
Nicholas shook his head confused. "How is that a problem? I thought the color theme was blue and silver."
"Nicky!" Lisa growled, slamming down the napkin on the table. "Have you just been completely absent during the entire planning of this wedding? The colors are not blue and silver. They're cerulean and platinum!"
Nicholas blinked a few times before asking, "There's a difference?"
He regretted asking that instantly as Lisa's eyes filled with tears. Nicholas had to restrain himself from rolling his own eyes as Lisa amped up the drama.
"You haven't been paying attention, Nicky!" she wailed. "I've been here, all this time, making these plans for our wedding. The wedding of the decade! Everyone who's anyone is going to be at this wedding and when they get to the reception, they're going to see how incompetent our wedding planner is that she can't find something as simple as table napkins in the color of cerulean!"
She was damn near screeching at the end of her rant, causing people around them to stare.
"Calm down," Nicholas whispered. "The wedding planner has been more than accommodating to all of your demands, Lisa. And I doubt anyone is going to care about a piece of paper that they're going to throw away."
"They're cloth, not paper," she corrected. "And I care. Obviously you don't."
"About a napkin?" Nicholas asked. "I'm sorry, but you're right, I don't. I care about us preparing to spend the rest of our lives with each other."
"Oh Nicky, you're getting sentimental again," Lisa said, pulling out her powder compact and dabbing her nose and cheeks.
"Shouldn't I?" he asked. "Shouldn't we both? We're about to make a lifetime commitment to each other."
"We knew what we were getting into when we started this thing," she sighed. She snapped her compact closed and looked up at him with a smile. "Now, the wedding rehearsal is tonight. I expect you to be on time, not getting caught up at that pub of yours."
He shook his head not bothering to even correct her. He knew she hated that he owned a bar, just as much as his parents did. They all thought a 'man of his stature' should be doing something better with his time. Apparently, spending hours on the green with a golf club was more productive in their minds.
He found it ironic that he'd taken piano lessons at his parents' insistence, to be 'more cultured'; but when he'd decided to open a piano bar, they'd gone ballistic. As did Lisa. But he hadn't cared. He'd gone off and done something that made him happy.
Sitting there looking at Lisa, he wondered to himself...
Would marrying her really make him happy?
He thought about Zoey and the kiss they'd shared last night. Just the thought of it made his body fill with a warmth he'd never known. He wondered what she'd thought of the kiss, how it made her feel. He also felt all kinds of guilt that he couldn't seem to filter through. Guilt for kissing another woman. Guilt for enjoying it. Guilt for just taking off and leaving Zoey standing in the hallway of her apartment complex.
What she must have thought about him for leaving without barely saying anything. He should have at least apologized. He needed to apologize.
"I have to go," Lisa said, snapping Nicholas out of his thoughts. He simply nodded, trying to figure out his next move.
"I'll see you tonight."
"Don't be late," she demanded again, as she stood, slung her purse over her shoulder then took off.
No kiss goodbye.
No sentiments of love.
Just an order, before dismissing his presence.
Nicholas sighed, paid for their lunch and then pulled out his phone.
Zoey sat on a bench at the local water gardens snapping photos as people rushed by. Most of them were heading back to work after their lunch break. Zoey kept looking through the eye of her camera lens, but she couldn't focus.
Every time she tried, images of Nicholas filled her mind. It scared her the way a man she'd just met affected her so strongly. Especially since that man belonged to another woman.
But the way he'd kissed her last night. He'd kissed her like she belonged to him. His lips felt like they'd branded her. Hell they still tingled right now at just the memory.
She shook her head. She saw the remorse in his eyes after that kiss. He obviously didn't feel the same way she did. He'd simply had a lapse in judgment.
"You just need to forget about him," she mumbled to herself. "This time tomorrow, he'll be married."
She lifted her camera to take another shot and gasped. She shot up from her seat, grabbed her camera bag and took off in the opposite direction. Away from Nicholas.
"Zoey!" he called out. "Please, wait."
"How did you find me Nick?" she called over her shoulder.
"It wasn't that hard to find you on Google," he teased. "I went by your studio and your assistant said you were here."
She stopped and whirled around to face him.
"I just need to talk to you for a minute."
"Why are you here, Nick?" Zoey asked.
"I came to apologize."
"No need. It was pretty clear how you felt when you took off last night."
"That's why I came to apologize. I'm sorry for leaving the way I did."
"As opposed to what? What would have been the alternative? You staying? Us going into my apartment? You and I know you're not that kind of guy to cheat on his girl. And I'm not the kind of girl to come between two people"
"But what? What do you know, Nicholas?" she asked, rolling her eyes.
"I know I've never felt the way I did kissing a woman the way I felt when I kissed you last night," he said. "I know Lisa hasn't made me feel in five years, what you've made me feel in five minutes."
"Nicholas," Zoey whispered.
"I don't know what do, Zo." The desperation in his voice made her heart ache.
Zoey sighed and looked down. "Do what makes you happy, Nick," she said, then turned and walked away.
Nicholas pulled up to the hotel and gave his keys to the valet. He was early for the rehearsal. The last thing he needed was to hear Lisa complaining about something else.
The ceremony was being held in the outdoor courtyard of the hotel. Nicholas made his way there first. He noticed he was the first one there, so he sat down in one of the chairs.
He thought about his earlier conversation with Zoey. She told him to do what made him happy.
Was he marrying Lisa because it would make him happy or because it would make their families happy?
The sound of the bushes rustling followed by a familiar giggle caught his attention. When that giggle morphed into a moan, Nicholas stood. The manicured hedges were high and on the other side was a walking trail. Nicholas came around to the other side and froze.
There was Lisa, shoving her tongue down the throat of one of the groomsmen, as he had his hand shoved up her skirt.
Nicholas stood there for several moments, watching the couple grope each other, completely oblivious to his presence. He should have been livid to find the woman he was supposed to be marrying in the arms of another man, but instead he felt relief.
Finally, he lifted his fist to his mouth and cleared his throat.
Lisa and the groomsmen broke away from each other.
"Nicky!" Lisa gasped.
"Please," Nicholas said, lifting his palms. "Don't mind me. I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to head home."
"Wait, what?" Lisa cried as she chased after Nicholas' retreating back. "What do you mean you're going home? We still have the rehearsal to get through."
Nicholas turned and looked down at Lisa with raised eyebrows.
"You're joking right?"
"Of course not, I'm sure you were somewhat uncomfortable about what you saw back there. But once we're married, I'll make sure to be more discreet."
"Be more...Lisa. What are you talking about?"
"Nicky, let's be real. We both know we're not getting married for love. We're getting married for the stature it will bring our families."
Nicholas stood there staring at her in disbelief.
Lisa huffed and folded her arms. "You can't honestly tell me that I've been the only woman you've ever been with in all the years we've been together."
His mind instantly drifted to Zoey, and Lisa picked up on it.
"I knew it," she said pointing at him. "So what's the big deal?"
"The big deal," Nicholas said. "Was that I’ve only shared one kiss with another woman. A kiss I felt like shit about afterward." Although he was beginning to feel less and less guilty about it. "I planned on going into this marriage fully committed to you and you alone. I have no intentions of sharing you."
"Well," Lisa said, rolling her eyes. "I have no issue with sharing you. So you could have done much more than kiss that other woman."
"How can you feel so indifferent about marriage?"
Lisa shrugged. "This was the life we were born into Nicky. We just have to deal with it."
Nicholas shook his head. "You may be fine with 'just dealing with it', but I'm not. I can't do this."
"The wedding is off."
"What the hell am I doing here?"
Zoey looked up at the prestigious hotel. The prestigious hotel that would, in a few minutes, be hosting a wedding.
An obvious glutton for punishment, Zoey had gone online and found his wedding announcement. It had been a bigger deal than she'd anticipated. Their wedding had made the society pages, among other popular pages.
She saw their engagement picture and Lisa was exactly like Zoey had imagined. Prim, proper and full of entitlement. But it was Nicholas' face that had called out to Zoey.
And now she was standing outside the hotel room.
She looked down at her clothes. Jeans and a shirt definitely weren't proper for a wedding, but she hadn't given her attire much thought as she rushed out of her apartment to the hotel.
What are you going to do? She asked herself. Run in there and yell, "Stop the wedding!"
Of course she wasn't going to do that. Overdramatic wasn't Zoey's style.
She'd sit in the back, and see Nicholas for one last time. That was all she could do.
"Ugh, I can't believe I got all dressed up for this wedding, only for it to be canceled."
Zoey stopped and turned when she heard a woman walking down the steps on her cellphone.
"I don't know," she continued. "Apparently it was the groom."
He called it off!
Zoey turned and began to take off, but she didn't know where to go. She didn't know his address. So she headed for his bar. When she got there, it was locked up tight.
"Damn it!" she said, frustrated. Not knowing any other place to look for him, she headed home.
When she got to her apartment, she trudged up the stairs, feeling exhausted. His piano bar was opening later in the evening, she thought to herself. Even if he didn't go in tonight, she could go back there and see if she could get some information from one of his employees.
Her boot hit the top stair of her floor and she looked down the hallway, her eyes growing wide.
"I've been looking for you," Nicholas murmured.
"I've been looking for you," she whispered back.
"I called off the wedding, Zo."
"I know," she said, nodding. "Why?"
"Because I realized that you were right. I didn't love her. We started dating after our parents introduced us. Practically got engaged and planned this wedding because our parents insisted. The whole thing was a big charade. This whole time, I just thought it was what we were supposed to be doing. I didn't even consider that it wasn't what I really wanted. On paper we were the perfect couple, she had the facade of the perfect woman. But you know what I realized?"
"She may be the perfect woman, but she wasn't the perfect woman for me."
She started walking down the hallway towards him, and when she finally made it over to him, she reached up, palmed his face and pulled his mouth down over hers.
Nicholas wrapped his arm around Zoey's waist, pulling her closer to his body. She sank against him as he took control of the kiss, deepening it. He felt her thigh graze his erection and he let out a heavy groan.
She tore her mouth away from his and the broken connection was felt immediately.
"Wait," she breathed.
"What's wrong?" he asked growing panicked.
He'd wanted to come right to her last night after he'd called off the wedding. But he'd decided to take some time to process everything. Plus, his phone started ringing before he had even gotten out of the hotel and had been ringing nonstop. Eventually, he just turned off his phone. He'd deal with the backlash of calling off the wedding later.
The next morning, he spoke with his parents, who were ballistic over his decision. He confirmed that he'd made the right decision in not going through with it, when all they seemed to be concern about was how bad all of this would make them look. According to them, he was ruining their plans to increase the family wealth.
Nicholas prided himself on being an intelligent man. But he couldn't believe how oblivious he'd been in all of this.
But this gorgeous woman, who he'd just had in his arms, had swept into his life and opened his eyes before he gone off and made the biggest mistake in his life.
Knowing he had to see her, he hurried over to her apartment. After several knocks and no response, he went over to the only other place he knew she might be, her studio.
That was closed too, so he headed back to her apartment. When he realized she still wasn't there, he decided to wait. He wasn't going anywhere until he saw her again.
"Nothing's wrong," Zoey said, looking at him. "I just thought maybe we shouldn't be doing this out in the hall."
Nicholas looked down one end of the hall, then the other. Finally he looked back at Zoey and nodded. "You're probably right."
She pulled her key out and unlocked her door.
Once they were inside, he turned and looked at her as she closed the door.
"Wait a minute..." he said, pointing at her. "You said you were looking for me too?"
He watched as her teeth sank down into her full bottom lip.
"Yeah...I...saw your wedding announcement online and went by the hotel. I didn't really have a plan. I just couldn't seem to stop myself from going. I heard a woman on the phone leaving the hotel saying you called it off. Since I don't know where you live, I headed over to The Spot, hoping you might be there."
He then explained how he went searching for her as well. "I'm glad I decided to come back and wait for you."
"So am I," Zoey said with a small smile.
He took his time walking over to her, taking in her beauty.
When he stopped in front of her, he pushed a strand of hair out of her face.
"So..." Zoey murmured, as her eyes fluttered close when he slid his thumb across her bottom lip. "What happens now?"
"What happens now," he said, leaning into her, "is I kiss you again."
Zoey nodded. "That sounds like a good plan."
Nicholas cupped her face in his hands and he kissed her lips. Her hands slip up his chest and looped around his neck and he felt her soft body against his.
His hands moved down her face, his fingers danced over her neck before gently cupping one of her breasts in his hand. She let out a sigh of pleasure, before letting her own hands begin to roam his body. She began pushing him gently and he realized she was guiding him to her bedroom. The anticipation caused his body to harden even more.
The back of his legs hit the bed and she broke the kiss and gave him a little shove, causing him to fall back on the bed. He sat and watched as she slowly stripped off her clothes in front of him.
She pulled her t-shirt off, revealing her belly button ring in her toned tummy and a bra he'd recognized her holding the day they met. He looked down at the jeans hugging her sexy bottom and a memory from the day they met flashed into his mind.
"Were you telling the truth when you said you never wear underwear?" he asked.
She took a step in between his legs, which were spread slightly.
"See for yourself."
He went for the button of her jeans then stopped. He looked up at her bra again, running his hands across the lacy fabric.
"I remember this," he said, running his thumb across the hard nipple. Zoey let out a sound that was part laugh, part moan and her head fell back as Nicholas pulled her body closer to his and began plying her stomach with kisses. Finally, he made his way back to the button of her jeans. He flicked it open, then slowly undid the zipper.
His fingers slipped into the waistband of the jeans and his erection grew nearly painful when he felt nothing but skin.
He quickly helped her out of her boots, before then he pulled the jeans off of her completely. He pulled her onto his lap, her legs straddling his legs and he reached behind her to remove her bra.
He pulled a taut nipple into his mouth and took his time feasting on it while massaging the other.
Zoey pulled back slightly and pulled Nicholas' shirt over his head. The first contact of their bare skin touching set his body on fire. He slid a hand in between them and slid a finger between her silky folds.
"Nick," she gasped.
He went back to feasting on her breasts as his finger pumped in and out of her. Soon she began rolling her hips, wantonly riding his hand.
"I want more of you," she demanded.
"I'm all yours sweetheart," he growled against her neck.
He quickly got out of the rest of his clothes and into the bed. Still on top of him, Zoey reached over to her nightstand drawer and pulled out a stack of condoms. She opened one and slid it onto his dick, before lifting her hips and easing down onto him.
She took her time, letting her body stretch to welcome him completely. She felt so snug around him and he throbbed inside of her.
She lifted her body up and sank down again. She continued the same movement over and over.
Nicholas palmed her ass as she bounced up and down on him, her pace beginning to quicken. He soon found himself thrusting upward, as he watched her face.
Suddenly, Zoey's eyes flew open and she was looking down into his eyes as he felt her body tense and her walls clamped around him. Watching this beautiful woman come above him was probably one of the most beautiful sights he'd ever seen.
She continued moving on him, milking him over and over until he felt his body draw up tightly. He flipped her onto her back, hooked her legs over his arms and began to pound into her over and over.
Her cries of pleasure bounced off of the walls of her bedroom and he let out a primal roar as an explosive orgasm took over his body.
Exhausted, he collapsed against her slick body. Soon he rolled over, not wanting to crush her and she moved in closer to him. He wrapped her in his arms and soon drifted off to sleep, more content than he'd felt in a long time, if ever.
Zoey woke up several hours later to find a single rose on the pillow next to hers. She smiled, picked up the flower and took a sniff, appreciating the fragrant smell it exuded.
"Nice to see you finally woke up."
Zoey looked up to see Nicholas standing in the doorway with a box in his hands.
"What ya got there?" she asked.
"Lunch. Well..." He looked at his watch. "More like dinner now."
Zoey grinned and ran her hands through her hair.
"How are you feeling?" she asked Nicholas, whose eyes were drinking in her naked body in the bed.
"Never better," he said with a grin. "What about you?"
Her stomach chose that moment to growl.
"Hungry apparently," Zoey said.
"Good thing, I've already gotten that taken care of," he said, walking toward the bed.
He sat the box on the bed and Zoey hurried to the bathroom to get cleaned up. When she returned, Nicholas had the box open, revealing a heart-shaped pizza.
"Where did you get this?" she asked, with a bright smile on her face.
"Pizza place down the street is running a Valentine's Day special."
"Right today is Valentine's Day," she remembered.
"And it's turning out to be the best one ever for me."
"Me too," she said with a grin.
They spent the rest of the night eating, laughing, talking and making love. It was the start of something amazing.