Hustled To The Altar

By: Dani Collins



Con tilted his head. “I don’t understand why she bought it. She doesn’t need the coverage.”

“You know what she’s like when she decides someone needs encouragement to turn their life around. He spun her a yarn about how he was starting over after being downsized. I’m sorry I didn’t stop her, Con. I know it’s my job to keep her from—”

Con interrupted her. “It’s your job to be on hand if she needs anything, not curb her from making decisions. If she wants to spend her money on health insurance she doesn’t need, that’s up to her, but if it’s been stolen, we should call the police.”

“I did. They can’t do anything without physical evidence. He insisted on cash, walked her to the bank even, and said the policy would come in the mail.”

“There’s nothing else we can do, then?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Oh.” He bent over the table.

She waited.

He studied the table, moved to stand near her and took another shot.

“Who are you and what have you done with Conroy Burke?”

“What?”

“I expected a Tarzan yell and a leap for a vine.”

“Maybe later. I’m kind of busy here.” He indicated the table.

Wow. Ditching Performance Games had mellowed Con out to near comatose. She almost checked for fever but reminded herself he was always obsessed when he was deep into game design. A woman could be giving birth on the pool table and he’d say, “We’ll save that for expert level.”

“I’ll leave you to your game, then.” She was not disappointed and she was not looking for excuses to hang around. Even so, she snuck a peek at this game that had him so enthralled and noticed all the balls were bunched up at one end. Con broke better than that. Intrigued, she started to walk around him for a closer inspection.

He dropped his cue stick like a gate in front of her.

“You’re always so protective when you’re doing R&D. I just want to look.” She lifted the stick and continued to the end of the table. He had used chalk to draw a sailboat on the felt and was filling the outline with snooker balls.

“The object of the game is to keep them out of the holes and put them inside the picture?” she guessed.

“So far it’s a one-person game. I’m trying to figure out how to introduce competition.”

“This is the reason you sold the company, isn’t it? You want to concentrate on designing games.”

“There’s no adventure in selling them.” He spoke from directly behind her. “What do you think?”

She turned, not sure if he was asking for her opinion on the game or on his decision to sell. Before she could form a response, her bones melted at the sight of him. She reminded herself it was perfectly logical to react this way. Just because they were moving in divergent directions didn’t mean Con had lost the qualities that attracted a woman. He smelled good, like men’s shampoo and fresh air, and looked good in a bad boy way. His chin was fuzzed with a couple of days of beard and, even though he could afford Armani, he wore a disgraceful denim jacket with a frayed collar.

Her gaze roamed down the front of his white T-shirt—clean but with a pinhole near the collar—to where it draped over his waistband. A rivet must have fallen away from his jeans because a corner of his pocket was dangling. Lower, the faded denim clung to his thighs before coming apart in loose threads at his knee.

When she got back to meeting his eyes, he was grinning. “Like what you see?”

“Crude. But there’s potential.” Oh, he was dangerous. One minute in his company and she was making leading comments, behaving as recklessly as ever. Time to leave.

He set the cue stick aside and hooked a finger in the shoulder strap of her dress to lightly tug her closer. “Potential?”

“You could do a putting-green version for golf,” she suggested, veering the conversation back to impersonal topics, decelerating her heart rate back to the speed limit.

“I’ll give it some thought. I have other ideas I’d like to hear your opinion on. Now that we’re talking.”

“Hell hasn’t completely iced over, handsome.” She placed her palm in the middle of his chest, forcing him to release her. She had to get away from him before he overwhelmed her. She had hoped this meeting would provide closure, but this wasn’t closure. This was an addict getting a last fix before going into rehab.

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