Bachelor Party
     Who would’ve thought jumping out of a cake at a bachelor party ​​would pay so well…and cost so much!

     ​Cassidy Jones hasn’t got a clue how she ended up in bed with the ​​dangerously attractive bachelor at last night’s party or how

​​he’ll explain ​​it to his fiancée when she storms into his bedroom, but when Penelope Winthrop bares her claws at Cassidy, she

​​refuses to let this snobby socialite treat her like trailer park trash. Drat, her Irish temper always ​​chooses the most inappropriate

​​moments to emerge.

     ​Blake won’t be manipulated by his younger brother or Cassidy, no ​​matter how alluring she is. But was she a pawn or a willing

​​participant in ​​his brother’s plot to stop the wedding? He’s not sure anymore, and for a ​​man who has always prided himself on

​​being in complete control, he suddenly feels as though he’s adrift on a sea of raw emotions as he’s haunted by her beauty and

​​dreams of a passionate night spent in her arms.

​     When fate throws them together once again, Blake knows this is his ​​chance to get her out of his mind once and for all.

Chapter One

     ​​Good Lord, what had she been thinking about when she took this job? A pickle stuffed in a jar would have more room than she

​​did. What if she never got out?

     ​A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of Cassidy Jones face. She wiggled her nose. The drop landed on her chest and slid

​​between her breasts. Cassidy grimaced, arched her back and flattened the front of her suit against her bosom.

     ​“Ouch!” she cried out as one of the fake gold coins jabbed her in the side.

     ​One other subject she wanted to discuss with Tom. He hadn’t mentioned this costume. Not that there was enough to really talk


     ​The costume consisted of little bits of red silk in strategic places and filmy gauze that hid nothing in all the others. And lots of

​​stupid gold coins. Every time she moved they clanked like wind chimes during a tornado.

​“Are you ready?” a strange voice whispered.

​“Yes.” No, not really. “I should’ve stayed home and watched TV,” she grumbled. “Except I don’t have one.”


​Oh, as if tonight’s bachelor wasn’t going to suspect someone was inside the fake, three-tiered, cardboard cake?

     ​She didn’t have time to debate that thought as the monstrosity began to roll. “Hey, slow down,” Cassidy yelled when a board

​​poked her hip. The cake came to a jarring stop. Her head bumped against the side. She snaked a hand upward to massage the

​​tender area.

     ​“Sorry about that,” the voice apologized. “I’ll knock three times. That’ll be your cue to jump out”

​     She heard doors opening, followed by loud clapping and cheering. Jeez, she hadn’t done her math. Dallas, Texas + bachelor

​​party + ​​alcohol = trouble. Maybe she should’ve considered this job more carefully.

​     The money had sounded so good she hadn’t thought about anything else. Not that she could’ve turned it down. Bills had to be


     ​Knock. Knock. Knock.

​     No time to worry now. She’d just have to make the best of a bad situation. Cassidy pushed on the lid.

     ​Nothing happened.

     ​“You’re supposed to jump out,” the voice whispered urgently.

     ​“I can’t,” she whispered right back.

     ​“Hey, Andy, did you scare her off?” someone yelled.

     ​Cassidy gritted her teeth, grunted, and shoved with all her might. The top popped like a can of soda and landed on the floor with a

​​dull thud.

​     Wonderful oxygen. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting the cool air wash over her.

     ​“As much as Andy likes sweets, maybe he kept her for himself,” someone else spoke. The room filled with laughter.

     ​Maybe staying inside the cake wasn’t such a bad idea. There seemed to be plenty of fresh air now and. . . .

     ​“What’s wrong?” the faceless voice asked.

     ​The poor guy sounded frantic. Besides, she doubted Tom would be willing to pay her for staying inside. Cassidy tried to stand but

​​her legs wouldn’t cooperate. Frowning, she tried again. “My legs are numb. I can’t move.”

     ​Hands reached inside and tugged her to a standing position. A zillion needles attacked her legs. She rubbed them as her gaze

​​​swept the dimly lit room.

     ​There were maybe twenty small tables covered with white tablecloths. She estimated twice as many men, their gazes locked on

​​her. Cassidy’s hands stilled. She let out a deep breath when she saw two waitresses moving between the tables. At least she wasn’t

​​the only female there.

​     “Smile!”

​     She frowned instead. Right into the eyes of a blond Adonis. If a man could be described as beautiful, he fit the picture. He looked

​​about twenty-one or twenty-two, at least a year or two younger than herself.

     ​“Smile,” he repeated, showing a perfect set of pearly white teeth for emphasis.

     ​Automatically, Cassidy complied, tearing her gaze away to look around the crowded room again. She almost missed him. Her

​​vision shifted back to one of the pillars and the person leaning against it.

     ​If the man beside her could be called light, this man could be called dark. He reminded her of a thundercloud about ready to let

​​loose with a bolt of lightning. Cassidy had a feeling he’d aim it right at her.

     ​If he didn’t want to be at the bachelor party, why had he come?

     ​She shivered. No smile. No warmth. The dark man gave her the willies. Pasting a wide smile on her face, she dragged her

​​attention back to the crowd. “So, who’s the lucky bachelor?” she called out in a bright voice. She might as well start earning her


     ​“Don’t know about luck, but the man of the hour is over there.” Loud guffaws followed his words.

     ​Cassidy glanced in the area he pointed. Horn-rimmed glasses and a silly grin. Nothing spectacular but she supposed someone

​​had found his good qualities since he was getting married. If only he weren’t sitting so close to the ‘thundercloud.’ Something about

​​that man bothered her.

     ​She shook off the feeling and let the blond Adonis help her out of the cake, and then, with an elaborate swing of her hips, Cassidy

​​sashayed over to stand before the one they’d pointed out and went into her dance routine.

     ​More laughter filled the room.

     ​Was her dancing that bad? Mortified, she wondered if she could get away with crawling under one of the tables and pulling the

​​white cloth over her head. A tempting thought, except Adonis was already hurrying toward her.

     ​“Not him,” he said with more than a touch of exasperation. “Him.” He pointed toward the thundercloud.

     ​“You’ve got to be joking,” she said before she thought.

     ​The dark man frowned in her direction.

     ​Who in their right mind would marry the grim reaper? He looked as if he were at a wake rather than his bachelor party. Yes, he

​​was handsome, but good looks weren’t everything.

     ​A hand in the middle of Cassidy’s back nudged her until she stood in front of him. A shiver of apprehension washed over her when

​​she looked into his steely gray eyes. She should have asked Tom for more money.

     ​She swallowed past the lump that formed in her throat. Not even a hint of a smile crossed his face.

     ​Slowly his gaze slid down her length. Her skin went hot, then cold. He raised his head and met her eyes. She’d seen that kind of

​​look before.

     ​She’d grown up in Marlow. Like most small towns there’d been cliques. Everyone had their own group. Except Cassidy.

     ​Cassidy’s grandmother had raised her, and that Social Security check had only gone so far. But the older woman had given her

​​much more than money could buy: lots of love and strong Irish pride.

     ​Cassidy hadn’t tolerated the sneers back then and she’d be damned if she would now. Her spine stiffened. She had a job to do.

     ​​With a flick of her head she tossed her chestnut hair over her shoulder. Her gaze locked with his in silent challenge. One eyebrow

​​quirked upward as if he dared her to evoke any other emotion in him besides boredom.

     ​Raising her hands above her head, she struck the castanets together. The dimly lit room grew silent, except for the rhythmic


     ​Slowly she began to move, her hips undulating one way while her upper body moved in the opposite direction. Arms outstretched

​​to the side, always clicking, hypnotizing.

     ​Someone turned on the tape recorder which Tom had supplied. Sensual, erotic music filled the otherwise silent room. Closing her

​​eyes, Cassidy let the song flow over her like gentle rain on a spring day. She became a part of the music, no longer aware of the man

​​or his silent challenge.

     ​Faster and faster the pace picked up and she went with it. Her hair brushed across her shoulders like a lover’s caress as the

​​music took hold and wrapped around her.

     ​Sounds throbbed, vibrating off the walls. Bare feet spun around and around. Her lips parted. She poured every emotion into her

​​moves, and when the music stopped, she sank to the floor, chest heaving with exertion.


     ​Then deafening applause.

     ​Her head came up and met his gaze. Sweat beaded his brow, but instead of triumph, she felt a twinge of fear. His eyes darkened,

​​reflecting a hot, burning need as his gaze stripped her bare. His bold look made her pulse race as the music never had.

     ​Cassidy wanted to rim as fast and as far away as she could. Instead, she turned her back to him, taking the drink someone

​​shoved into her hand. Her mouth suddenly dry, she swallowed half of it before taking a breath.

     ​Iced tea. Exactly what she needed. She drank all of the refreshing liquid and another magically appeared.

     ​Four glasses later, she didn’t care one whit about what the dark man thought about her. In fact, the tingling sensation she’d felt

​​when their eyes met had probably only been the cool air hitting her skin after she’d finished her dance routine.

     ​She glanced across the table at Adonis. Such a nice young man. So unlike the other one who looked like he never smiled.

     ​Cassidy reached for her tea, but her hand missed. She giggled. “What kind of tea is this, anyway?” Her tongue felt so thick she

​​could barely talk, and the darn room kept tilting back and forth, back and forth.

     ​Adonis smiled and handed her another full glass. “Long Island tea,” he yelled over the music that filled the room. “Here, have

​​some pretzels. They’re nice and salty.”

     ​Funny, she’d never noticed this brand of tea in the supermarket. She munched on some pretzels, and then took another long

​​swallow of tea. Casually, she looked around the room, frowning when she didn’t see her adversary. Not that she cared if he’d already

​​left. Still, she couldn’t help wondering why she felt a little disappointed when she didn’t see him.

     ​“Looks like the bachelor left early so he can be ready for the big day tomorrow,” she said. Adonis had told her earlier in the

​​evening that the wedding was the next day. “Guess it’s time I left, too.”

     ​The other men had dispersed into their own little groups, all but ignoring her, as the blond man seemed to monopolize her time.

​​This had to be the weirdest bachelor party she’d ever been to. Come to think about it, this was the only one she’d been to.

     ​But all things must come to an end. She stood. The room began to spin wildly. She sat back down with a hard thud.

     ​“You okay?”

     ​“I feel kind of strange. All fuzzy.” Adonis came to stand in front of her, a worried frown on his face. She blinked twice, squinted,

​​then rubbed her eyes as he began to blur.

     ​“Here, let me help you,” he offered.

     ​Taking his hand, Cassidy stood. Her legs felt like rubber bands.

     ​“I think I’d better drive you home.”

     ​“That might not be a bad idea.” She couldn’t imagine why she felt like this. She’d only drunk iced tea. Could she be coming down

​​with the flu?

     ​Adonis put his arm around her and guided her to the door.

     ​“I don’t feel so good,” she mumbled.

     ​“Don’t worry. Andy’s here. I’ll take care of everything.”

     ​She smiled, letting him half carry her out to his car. For some reason her feet didn’t want to cooperate.

     ​The drive wasn’t long, only a few minutes, which seemed a little strange since it’d taken her a lot longer to get to the party. Not

​​that she was worried. Adonis had been too nice and polite to be any real danger.

     ​He even helped her to the apartment door. Cassidy couldn’t remember going up in an elevator before, though.

     ​So many strange things were happening to her tonight. A bachelor who didn’t look like a bachelor, the tingling deep within her

​​when she’d looked into his eyes, then the fact he’d disappeared. He was there, then he wasn’t. That suddenly struck her as funny

​​and she giggled.

     ​Her attention was drawn back to her present situation as Adonis propped her against the wall and unlocked the door. Grinning,

​​she ran a hand over the wallpaper. “Look, they changed the color,” she commented. About time management cleaned up the

​​hallway. It was usually dark and dismal.

     ​Cassidy felt herself sliding sideways, but Adonis caught her. “Thank you ever so much.”

     ​“Time for bed.” He helped her inside and closed the door behind them.

     ​Yes, that sounded nice, she thought as he led her toward the bedroom. Her eyes narrowed as she tried to focus. She could’ve

​​sworn her room was in the other direction.

     ​He pushed the door open. “Watch the chair,” she said as they made their way forward. She giggled. No chair. But who cared?

​​Nothing seemed to matter right now. Of course, if Adonis would turn a light on she could probably see. The room was so dark

​​Cassidy could barely make out the bed, even then it seemed to dip and sway.

     ​Strong hands helped her to sit on the side. Hooks and buttons came undone and the costume magically disappeared.

     ​She heard a quick, indrawn breath of air close to her ear, but the sound didn’t sink into her muddled brain.

     ​“He may not thank me in the morning and you’ll probably never forgive me, but I can’t let him make the biggest mistake of his life.

​​Sometimes little brother has to take matters into his own hands.” Cassidy had no idea what Adonis was talking about and didn’t really

​​care. Her head hit the pillow. Instantly her eyes closed. She snuggled beneath the cover as the door clicked shut.

     Sometime during the night the sheet disappeared. Groggily, she turned over, her body inching toward the warmth that radiated

​​from ​​the other side of the bed, only stopping when it wrapped around her, filling her very soul.

     ​Sensual dreams followed. One right after the other. Instead of Adonis, the dark man invaded her world, his body enveloping her

​​own. Hands searched and found. Caressed and fondled. Sweating bodies strained to find erotic fulfillment. And when release came,

​​Cassidy knew she’d never before experienced anything of this magnitude.

     ​​But then, this night was meant for dreams.

     The next morning Cassidy slowly came awake, a warm delicious sensation curling around her. She opened her eyes, but the

​​bright sunshine pouring in through the window made her head pound. She quickly closed them, shutting out the offending rays as the

​​euphoric feeling of only a moment ago faded.

     ​Lord, she felt like she’d been run over by a semi. What the heck happened last night? Bits and pieces slowly formed in her mind.

​​Her brow furrowed in thought.

     ​Adonis had kept giving her tea, insisting it would make her feel better. Suspicion began to form. Great! She’d fallen for the oldest

​​trick in the book. Heat radiated through her body as more memories flooded her brain of the erotic dreams she’d had last night But

​​he . . . no, of course not. They were only dreams. Adonis had been too nice. Too polite.

     ​A masculine groan, followed by a movement from the other side of the bed made her draw in a quick breath. I’ll kill him, she fumed

​​as she flipped over . . . and came face to face with steely gray eyes.