Unexpectedly His(8)

By: Maggie Kelley



Taller than her by a good six or seven inches, even with her one stair advantage, he gazed down at her. His perfect mouth curved into a playful smile. “That is your name, right?”

Marianne’s face scrunched up behind the glasses. Had she fallen down the rabbit hole into an alternative universe? The easy manner. The smile. The teasing tone.

Was he flirting?

With her.

Outside New York Sport Club.

His gaze moved over her, taking in the daisy-covered halter and coordinated Spandex pants, practically burning a heated trail through the polyester-polyurethane copolymer. He was definitely flirting, and the look in his eye made her wish she was wearing her oversized college sweatshirt. Or a suit of armor. She wrapped her arms around her torso to hide the spandex and glanced down at her faux-camo sneakers.

“What do you say, Marianne?” he asked, in a playful tone that sounded as if he’d been calling her that forever. “Will a six-week engagement work for you?”

Her eyes snapped to meet his. “An engagement?”

In her limited experience, men like Nick Wright rarely skulked around Zumba studios, flirting with women whose names they could scarcely remember, so the words “six-week engagement” left her a little confused.

From the look of him, Nick felt the same way. “Jane didn’t tell you?”

Marianne blinked over at him from behind the glasses. “Tell me what?”

Nick ran a hand across his clean-shaven jaw as if he were about to broach a tricky subject. “No calls or messages, maybe a text?”

A text?

Her pathetic heart slammed into her chest so hard she could scarcely breathe. Had Jane told him about her dad’s party? Was he supposed to be her date? A hot blush stained her cheeks. “A text? Um, no…well…yes.”

Nick lowered his chin in a slow nod and waited intently for an answer. When none came, his dark brows rose as he asked, “Which is it? Yes or no?”

She blinked again. “To the engagement issue or the text question?”

Nick glanced around the stone plaza as if searching for an escape route. Not that she blamed him. She must look like a lunatic in her rec specs and Zumba gear.

“Is there some place we could go to get a cup of coffee?” he asked.

Definitely an alternative universe. Nick Wright asking her out for coffee. The idea that he might know about the cake resurfaced, but she shoved it aside. “I don’t drink coffee.”

“You don’t drink coffee?” he said, rubbing his hands together. “Okay. Good to know. How about tea? Do you drink tea?”

“I drink green tea—and fruit smoothies.”

“Green tea.” He nodded. “Excellent. Can I buy you a cup of green tea or a smoothie?”

Marianne nodded, unable to stop the smile from spreading across her face at the thought of a mini date with Nick. “There’s a juice bar inside. Will that work?”

“Let’s hope so,” he said, before throwing out that full-wattage smile, the same one he’d given her the first time she’d seen him, the one that had left her literally speechless.



The juice bar bustled with its usual crowd, young mothers whose kids were spending time in the gym’s childcare facility while mom worked out, a few professionals logging workout time during their lunch hours, and a plethora of Manhattan cougars, all of whom had their not-so-discreet eyes aimed at Nick. His pinstriped suit stood out in the sea of bright, floral spandex, but that wasn’t why they were looking. Nick stood out everywhere.

Marianne sipped her tall blueberry acai and tried to ignore the way their eyes locked onto Nick’s spectacular backside as he walked toward the corner table where she sat quietly waiting. She tried not to worry about the disbelieving looks thrown in her direction, looks that said a woman like her failed to rate a man so flat-out delicious. Not that it mattered. Despite Friday night’s birthday kiss, he didn’t belong to her. The cougars were right. She didn’t rate.

An especially pretty one gave him a come-hither smile and tossed Marianne a dismissive once-over that stung like a slap across the cheek. Nick turned away and settled his gaze on Marianne, giving her a lingering look that sent Come-Hither Smile slinking back to her coffee. Arrogant, yes. Presumptuous, absolutely. But he’d defended her, a fact that sent a thrill racing up her spine. He winked and folded his long body into the plastic chair across from her. Eat your heart out, cougar. Maybe she didn’t rate, but right now, he was with her. Potentially hers for the next six weeks.

Marianne cleared her throat. “So, you need a fiancée?”

He flashed another of his charming, arrogant smiles and she practically melted into her smoothie. “And you need a date.”

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