Blind dates are lousy enough. But a set-up at an office party? Single mom Madison Harper lacks the patience to tolerate another miserable date, no matter how sexy her best friend swears this mystery man is. With the promise of a rare night out, and the curiosity of who he might be, Maddie decides, what the hell, it’s only one night, right?
Jilted and heartbroken, British CEO Liam Waterson has room for one relationship in his life: his work. Though he intends to stay home, he relents to meet a stranger for the annual Christmas dinner at the Knickerbocker Hotel. It’s not as though he has to enjoy himself.
At first sight, Maddie and Liam fall prey to insta-lust. If they can behave and endure the party, what presents will be waiting after that one winter night?
Eyeing the velvety Santa cap on the marble fish regurgitating water in the fountain, Maddie cocked a brow.
Something’s fishy, all right.
Maddie turned at Aisha’s call. Determined to figure out what her pal was up to, she set her hand on her hip and tapped her heel.
“Hm, hm. You sure do clean up nice, girl. I knew that dress would look like sexy hot magma against your fair skin.”
She wasn’t about to let Aisha off the hook. “Why am I meeting you here?”
Per Aisha’s instructions, Maddie had driven her own car to the private parking garage for Waterson Inc.
“Well, you’re meeting him here. Liam.” Aisha poked her arms through her coat.
“Here? At your—” Horror dawned. “Oh, Aisha. A coworker? You’re setting me up with a coworker?” That had to be worse than the set-up with one of Aisha’s husband’s cousins.
“No, not exactly. Well, we’re both employees here, but I don’t work with him.”
“I kind of work for him.”
“Oh Jesus Christ almighty.” Maddie shot her gaze to the vaulted ceiling. “Your boss? I’m going on a date with your boss? How freaking old is he?” I knew this was a bad idea.
“No, no. He’s not old. He’s not my boss. He’s my boss’s boss’s boss.”
Maddie nodded and slapped her arm to her side. “Yup. Yeah, that’s great.”
“Oh, calm down. It’s not going to be as bad as it seems. Look, I’ve got to get home and change. Evan and I will see you there.”
“See me there? Is this a double date? Or you’re going to the party, too?” Confusion trumped Maddie’s annoyance. All her other blind dates had been disasters she’d shouldered solo.
A man in a smart gray suit walked by, slipping a scarf on his shoulders. “Hey! Aisha! See you at the Christmas party?”
“Yup.” Aisha held up a hand as a wave to the passerby, and she gave Maddie a timid smile.
Maddie gasped. “Your office Christmas party?”
Aisha winced. “This is it. I swear. After this, no more blind dates. The karma will kill me.”
Maddie closed her eyes. “Aisha…”
“Hey, it’s still a Christmas party.”
“Your office party. This isn’t a celebration. Office parties are awkward episodes of colleagues respecting the rankings of the office caste system while trying to pretend they are chummy pals.” During college, and before the twins were born, Maddie had held a position as a legal secretary. She recalled not one holiday gathering that spoke of actual enjoyment or good times.
“At least it will be a jazzed up one. It’s at the Knickerbocker. Crystal Ballroom.” Aisha winked. “Big Band music.”
Maddie pursed her lips and smacked her arm. “Oh! You are so paying for this.”
Aisha pulled her in for a hug. “But I love you. And you love me. This is what friends do.” She backed up and held Maddie at arm’s length. “I have to run home to get my man dressed and ready to go. You’ll be fine. Liam’s not that bad of a guy.”
Her mouth dropped. “Not that bad of a guy?”
“I mean, for you.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Maddie refused to let go of Aisha’s coat sleeve.
“Nothing. Maybe you can get him to seem … human? He just, well, I think he needs someone like you. Bossy. Fun. Silly.” Aisha ripped her coat free from Maddie’s grip. She blew her a kiss. “Someone who helps a girl out and agrees to go on blind dates to office Christmas parties.”
Maddie fast-stepped to chase Aisha.
“Ho boy. You getting fast playing all that tag.” Aisha giggled as she ran off. “Love you, girl. See you in a bit!”