Home > The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(6)

The Mismatch (Bad Bridesmaids #3)(6)
Author: Noelle Adams

“I’m sorry, Charlie,” Ariana said, briefly touching his sleeve. “I’ve held them off for almost a year now by talking about how you’re focusing on the novel. But it’s not working anymore. So either get a girlfriend quick or run the dating gauntlet again.” She paused for a long moment before she added, “Or just tell them you’re happier single and you don’t want a partner.”

“But I do want one,” he murmured, too rattled to guard his words. “I just don’t want one that they pick out for me.”

“Who do you want?”

The image of Taylor came to him, but he immediately dismissed it. Because part of him did want her—in bed, for sex—but certainly not as a lifetime partner. That would be ridiculous, and he was never ridiculous.

“Charlie?” she whispered, as if they might be overheard in the otherwise empty hallway. “Is there someone after all?”

“No.” He cleared his throat. Shook his head hard. “No, of course not. I’d tell them I’m happy as I am now, but I know from long experience that they won’t believe me.”

“So what are you going to do? Just deal with all the dates again?”

“I don’t know. I’ll think of something. Thanks for letting me know.”

He walked away then—and out of the building, even knowing that it might hurt his family’s feelings and give them more fuel for worries about him.

Surely other thirty-year-old men didn’t have to deal with families like this. How the hell had this even happened to him?

The Charles he envisioned in his mind could simply tell them no, thank you and have them accept it, but the Charles of reality had to sort through this tangle some other way.

Maybe Taylor was right. Maybe he was too nice. Maybe he did need to be a little bit bad, just to prove to himself he was his own person and he wasn’t trapped by his own good manners and his family’s sensitivities.

When he stepped outside, the first thing he saw was Taylor, sitting on one of the marble steps that led to the reception hall, clearly unconcerned about the state of her elegant dress or the coolness of the night air.

He had a choice then. Head for his car and drive away from all this.

Or do what he wanted to do—even though he knew it was a mistake.

The internal debate took less than five seconds, and then he was on his way over to Taylor.

 

 

two

 


TAYLOR WAS USED TO feeling out of sorts. She basically lived her life that way. But there was a certain stability to her out-of-sortsness she’d learned to cultivate over the years, and her conversation with Charles had entirely toppled it.

It was annoying.

She’d returned to her friends in an attempt to feel more like herself, but she could still feel Charles’s eyes on her, even when he wasn’t looking in her direction. She didn’t like the feeling, so eventually she went outside to sit on a step and get some fresh air.

She could probably leave. Serena and Keith had left about twenty minutes ago. There was no reason she needed to stay longer unless she wanted to. And she didn’t want to. She didn’t want to talk to Charles again. Or anyone else. She wanted to go home and make a cup of tea and read a book and shed the prickles of today off her psyche.

Instead of standing up, walking back into the building, collecting her stuff, and heading for her car, she sat and stared out at the carefully tended lawn and flower beds in the moonlight.

Nothing noteworthy had happened with Charles. Nothing that should have made her feel like this.

Close to him. And wanting to be closer.

Things like that simply didn’t happen to her.

She again remembered that day so long ago when he’d caught her trying to stupidly walk the top of that stone wall in their neighborhood. She seriously could have killed herself that day—out of emotional desperation and sheer stubbornness—and he was the only person in the world who knew.

She remembered his face back then as he sat beside her in silent companionship.

She remembered his face at the table this evening, eyeing her with resigned familiarity but also something else.

Something deeply and quietly hot.

She was giving herself a firm inner lecture about forgetting all such looks and stray thoughts and trying to work up the momentum to leave when a voice from behind her surprised her so much she jumped.

“Taylor.”

She whirled around, knowing who she’d see even before her eyes landed on the dark blue eyes and sober face of Charles. He stood above her, staring down with unwavering seriousness. “What are you doing out here?” she asked.

“Getting some fresh air. Like you.”

She frowned. “Really?”

“No. Not really.”

He’d surprised her. She didn’t understand why or how he could do that so easily. “Then what are you doing?”

He lowered himself down to sit on the step beside her, stretching out his long legs. He had really nice shoes on. Neat and stylish and expensive. “I was leaving and saw you, so I came over here instead.”

The words seemed perfectly sincere. She was used to social hedging—usually harmless and done for courtesy’s sake. But his bluntness was almost a relief.

He wasn’t a game player any more than she was.

“Oh.” She paused, thinking for a moment before she added, “Why did you do that?”

“Because I had an idea and wanted to know what you thought of it.”

“What idea?”

She had no clue what he was about to say. Not the least sliver of a hint. So she was completely taken off guard by his calmly announcing, “I’ve decided it might be time for me to be bad. Or maybe just take a step I normally wouldn’t. And I wanted to know if your offer to help me with it had been a serious one.”

Her heart lurched into a gallop, and it took her a minute to get any words out. “You want to... to be...”

“Bad. Do something wild. Are you willing to help?”

“I...” Her cheeks were burning, which was strange and unsettling. “Y-yes. I’m willing. But I’m not sure what you’re suggesting. Do you want to... to...”

“Have casual sex. You said it was possible to have it without hurting anyone as long as we were on the same page. So I’d like to have casual sex with you.”

She was almost wheezing with shock, and she was sure it didn’t make a pretty or appealing picture. But she couldn’t believe this was actually happening. Charles Kensington. Sober and quiet and well-behaved and respectable.

Bluntly asking if she wanted to have casual sex with him.

He was hot. And somehow hotter than ever right now as he eyed her with silent gravity as he waited for her response.

Of course she wanted to have sex with him.

“I would be... good with that,” she finally managed to say, hoping she didn’t sound too excited or silly. “You were thinking just a one-night thing, right?”

“Yes. Just one night. If your offer still stands.”

“It does.” Now that her shock was subsiding, she was feeling a little more like herself. So she was able to say, “I’m kind of excited about being your first time.”

“First time for casual sex. Not my first time at sex.”

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