Sometimes the only wonderful thing about him is his lies.
Megan is tired of dating players. Despite the misgivings of her two closest friends, Megan finds her new Mr. Wonderful on the Internet. But the better things get with Mr. Wonderful, the worse things get with her friends, especially her friend Jared, the biggest player of them all. But when things start to unravel, she can’t quite tell who’s playing whom, or just what to expect when Mr. Wonderful lies…
Jared’s hands stilled on his empty water bottle. “So you’re saying you think I could run the gym all on my own?”
“You pretty much already do. I know you have an accountant who handles all of the payroll and stuff, but other than that, you’re already running the place yourself.” A grin stretched across my face. “And I think I might be able to help you with the billing. It’s really easy. Just a little bit of software and voila!”
He looked like a kid at Christmas. The shadow left his brilliant blue gaze and his face relaxed into a warm smile that transformed him from merely attractive to irresistible. My stomach did an unexpected flip flop and I recoiled in surprise.
Jared was my friend. I loved Ollie. I shouldn’t be going gaga over Jared no matter how happy I was that he was going to be able to make his dream of sole proprietorship come true. So why did I have this urge to get out of my chair, climb into Jared’s lap, and start making plans for this new venture?
I stood abruptly, more to cover my sudden unease than anything else. “So, I guess I’d better see if I blew a fuse, right?”
He got to his feet with a chuckle. “That’s right. I guess we’d better go make sure you didn’t trash the whole electrical system when you decided to put your phone charger down the garbage disposal.”
I hurried to the narrow door that led downstairs. Normally I look for any excuse to avoid the cold, claustrophobic confines of my cellar. Now I was practically beating the door down in my hurry to avoid any more awkward moments with Jared.
“Do you have a flashlight?” He peered down the rickety wooden steps to the inky blackness below.
“There’s a light switch along here somewhere.” I felt my way along the damp limestone wall and found the warped plastic plate. “Aha!”
I flipped the switch. Nothing happened.
“I’m guessing that switch is on the same circuit as the light above your sink. What about that flashlight?”
Flustered, I turned around to find myself practically smashed up against his chest. I stepped hastily away on the pretext of grabbing a flashlight. I fumbled and dropped the heavy thing, nearly smashing his foot.
He gave me an appraising gaze. “Are you all right?”
I couldn’t meet his eyes, choosing to stare at the cellar steps instead. “I hate going down there.” It was the first excuse that came to me.
A warm, steady hand settled on my shoulder. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’ll go down first.”
My skin burned where he touched me, as if I could feel the very essence of the electricity that made up his charismatic personality even through the fabric of my shirt. Keeping my gaze averted, I nodded. “Thanks.”
Taking the flashlight from my suddenly numb hand, he eased his way down the old wooden steps, swinging the light slowly to and fro to better see where he was going. I followed, too distracted by my reactions to his proximity to worry so much about the dank cellar.
“Where’s the box?” He glanced back at me over his shoulder.
I gestured to an alcove on our right. “In the corner behind the stairs.”
It was cold down there. The weather had been pretty mild for January, but the subterranean world of my ancient cellar never rose much above freezing. We sidestepped a few boxes and plastic storage containers clumped into tidy piles at the bottom of the stairs.
“You really hate it down here, don’t you?” His soft drawl was loud in the close room.
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it’s like you come down and dump everything right at the foot of the steps and run back up.”
I didn’t bother to argue with his assessment. He was right. I knew it was childish, but I always felt as if the boogeyman were hiding down there waiting for me to come down and spend a few minutes organizing things.
“Here we go.” The flashlight beam finally bounced off the subdued gray metal of the fuse box. “Can you hold the light for me?”
I grabbed the heavy flashlight, being careful not to clock him in the head with it and glad to have something to focus on. He fiddled with the cover before setting it aside. I was appalled at the mess of wires I saw wadded up inside the box.
“Look at it! It looks demolished, like something chewed on it!”
His low laugh took me by complete surprise. It was sexy and appealing and it made chills dance on every inch of my skin. “This is just what a fuse box looks like, especially in a house as old as this one. You really should have an electrician come out and bring it up to date. But honestly you’re lucky it’s as good as it is. Most of the houses in this area are worse.”
He selected a few more wires and adjusted something I couldn’t quite make out. “Yes, seriously. You were really lucky. See this fuse here?” He poked a cylinder shaped thing. “It just got blown.”
“You probably think I’m a total idiot. I know I do. But look at that!” I gestured to the wires. “If Anna were working in the electrical industry, things would not be this disorganized.”
His shoulders shook with mirth. “That’s one of the things I love the most about you, Megan. You always know how to make me laugh.”
I had nothing to say to his compliment, if it was one. I was still trying to process his word choice. One of the things he loved about me? Jared loved stuff about me? Was that normal for a friend? I mean, I love stuff about Jared. Like the way his eyes dance when he smiles, and those dimples, and I love how he looks at me when I’m saying something, as if there’s nothing in the world he’d rather listen to. But I’m a woman. We notice that kind of thing. I didn’t know guys could be like that.
“You know what else I love?” He fiddled a bit more with the fuse box. “I love that you’re straightforward. I never have to wonder where I stand with you. Like upstairs, if you had thought it was a bad idea for me to buy the gym, you would have said so. With you, what you see is what you get, and that’s rare. I should know.”
I might’ve missed that last comment if I hadn’t been straining my ears to hear every word out of his mouth. I wanted to ask him about it, if he was talking about the endless parade of women through his life or something else altogether. But I couldn’t think past the idea that he’d just called me honest and straightforward, and there I was having weird, inappropriate thoughts about him. Well, straightforward or not, I wasn’t going to share any of that with anybody. Those were just things I’d have to get over on my own. After all, once Ollie and I got a little more serious, I’d never think about Jared in that way again.
Funny, but I hadn’t thought of Ollie at all since going down the cellar steps with Jared. He clicked something into place and a lone orange bulb flickered to life at the bottom of the stairs. “There you go. Good as new. Although I can see why you hate coming down here. There’s almost no decent light to see by.”
I turned my head toward the lonely light bulb in question, but when I turned back to comment, I promptly forgot what I was going to say.
Sandwiched into the tiny space beside my fuse box, there wasn’t much room for the two of us to begin with. But he’d moved after replacing the dull, gray cover and now stood less than a hairsbreadth away from me. By some awkward circumstance of movement, we were now pressed intimately against one another, face to face.
He was unbelievably warm in contrast to the damp cellar air. His body heat shimmered over my skin in waves flavored by his distinctive scent. I inhaled in sudden surprise and became shockingly aware of every warm, hard inch of his muscular body pressed against mine. Nibbling my lower lip between my teeth, I peeked up at his face.
Jared wasn’t smiling. A strange intensity lingered in his eyes, drawing his features into a tight mask that I couldn’t read. He was breathing deeply, chest rising and falling in rhythmic concert with mine. My eyes were drawn to the outline of the barbell he wore beneath his snug T-shirt.
Searching for something to break the inexplicable tension, I latched onto the idea of the body piercing. “Does that hurt?” I asked, reaching up between our bodies to touch it.
Jared inhaled sharply, hand settling hard over mine and pressing my palm flat against his chest. My fingers tingled at the first feel of his warm, supple pectoral muscle. In contrast, the barbell was a cool point of contact between us. I could feel his heart thundering beneath my hand and wondered what I’d done to create that sort of reaction...