PROLOGUE — GRANT
Two Months Earlier . . .
I pull open the door to the gym, my eyes immediately scanning the floor for the petite brunette who keeps me coming back here almost daily.
“Hey, Scott.” I wave to the man behind the desk as I walk toward the men’s locker room, still in my scrubs and fresh off a 12-hour shift. Do I like the attention I get from women in these scrubs? Hell yeah, and fuck any doctor who says otherwise. One of the perks of giving your entire life over to this career is the godlike adoration that comes with it.
I quickly change and double-check my watch: Pilates starts in four minutes. I toss my bag in the locker and head to the studio in the far corner of the gym. There she is, her chocolate curls pulled up into a high messy knot on her head, and her big hazel eyes crinkling at the edges as she smiles and welcomes the students to class. As compelling as her eyes are, my gaze doesn’t linger on them long, not when her full, natural D cups are on display in her green strappy sports bra. Her waist looks almost unnaturally small compared to her curvy hips and petite shoulders. She’s got a figure women pay tens of thousands to achieve.
Her smile goes from wide and earnest to falling when she sees me approaching the door. But it doesn’t deter me. Instead, I flash her my megawatt smile then throw in a wink for good measure.
“Looking fantastic as usual, Leigh.” I don’t even attempt to hide the way I’m dragging my eyes up her body.
“Dr. Rossi,” she says with a curt smile, ushering me inside before closing the door behind us.
“Hey,” I say reaching out and grabbing her hand as she starts to walk away. She looks down, pulling her hand out of mine before crossing her arms, which causes her tits to press together.
“I might need some special attention with my form tonight. I haven’t been sleeping well and I’ve practically been living at the hospital lately. I don’t know if you heard, but . . .” I lower my voice, “I was practically dumped at the altar recently and my brain has just been struggling ever since to make sense of everything.” Annoyance is written all over her face and I have a hard time not smirking at her. I pull my arm across my chest to stretch it. “I’m just crazy tight, so if you wouldn’t mind helping me tonight, I’d really appreciate it.”
“Does that line actually work on women?” She rolls her eyes and shakes her head at me, causing a smile to slowly spread across my lips. God, I love it when she’s pissed. “And for the record, you dumped August and everyone knows it, so don’t try to play the sympathy card here and use your failed relationship as hookup bait.” She flashes me one last look of disgust before flipping on her mic pack and walking to the front of the room.
“Okay everyone, welcome to tonight’s Pilates class. I’m your teacher, Leigh. Make sure you have a mat, a yoga block, and one of the small balls.”
Over the next 45 minutes, I twist and contort my body into different positions that challenge my muscles in ways weights don’t. I actually started taking this class just to get closer to Leigh, and then somewhere along the way I realized how much I actually enjoyed it.
We end the class with a five-minute yoga cool down. I fold my legs, pushing my body back onto my heels as I stretch my arms overhead then toward the mat as I move into child’s pose.
“Just breathe through it. Inhale through your nose deeply and release with a slow, controlled exhale out of your mouth,” Leigh says softly as she walks up behind me. The lights are dimmed for the final portion of the class, when she usually walks around, assisting with people’s forms and allowing them to deepen their stretches. I feel her crouch down behind me as she presses softly against my lower back, deepening the stretch in my hips. She’s there for barely a second, but the warmth of her fingertips still burns into my skin and her vanilla scent lingers.
“Thank you for coming tonight, everyone. I’ll see you on Thursday evening. Bring your used items up here and I’ll sort and clean them.”
I stay in the stretch a moment longer, listening to the sound of everyone packing up their mats and dropping their used items at the front of the room. The room is nearly empty when I stand up and grab a disinfectant wipe for my mat.
“I know I’ve asked previously, but when are you going to start offering private one-on-one lessons?” I toss my wipe in the trash before grabbing another and picking up a few used yoga blocks to wipe down.
“You really don’t need to help me, Dr. Rossi. That’s why I get paid.” She ignores my question, like usual.
“And I’m saying you could get paid even more if you offered private lessons.” She continues to ignore me. “But that’s right, you don’t need the money. I forgot. Daddy set you up pretty nicely, didn’t he?” That earns me an icy stare that could cut through glass. I just smile.
“I do offer private lessons—just not to you, so stop asking.”
I’d just bent over and picked up a ball, but she grabs it out of my hand and I chuckle.
“That time of the month, huh?” I know I’m poking a bear, but I’m a twisted fucker. Something about the way she glares at me—the challenge of getting past her walls—just makes teasing Leigh all the more tantalizing.
“I know I’m going to regret asking this, but in what world does this actually work for you?” She juts a hip out, with the ball resting between it and her hand. “Is that why you’re still single at, like, 50, because you can’t seem to understand that negging isn’t a thing anymore and that it’s fucked up?”
I toss my head back and laugh. She’s got so much spice for being barely over five feet. It’s always the short ones.
“Fifty? Damn,” I whistle. “Is 37 the new 50?”
She shakes her head and walks away, but then turns back around and walks up to me. “You know what? Actually . . . never mind.” She shakes her head but I reach out and grab her elbow.
“What?” I ask.
“Maybe if you didn’t rely on your looks so much and you put in some effort to actually build a personality that wasn’t centered on being an asshole, you’d find a nice woman who could stand you long enough to stick around.” I can see the look on her face change in a split second. She’s proud for speaking her mind but regret instantly mars her complexion.
I run my hand over the scruffiness of my five o’clock shadow before reaching over my shoulder with one hand and pulling my shirt over my head. Her expression morphs from doubt to a very dramatic eye roll.
“So you find me attractive?” I wink, tossing my shirt to the floor and taking a step closer to her. My 6’3” frame is towering over her. I stare down at her tits as they rise and fall with her breathing.
“You’re an actual pig, you know that?”
“You didn’t answer my question.” I smirk, stepping a centimeter closer. I can see her pulse in the small dip at the base of her throat and I have to mentally stop myself from leaning down and running my tongue over it.
“No, I don’t.” She widens her stance, placing a hand defiantly on each hip as she says the words—trying to convince herself.
“Then tell me something, Leigh.” I reach down, brushing a stray curl that has fallen loose away from her eye. “Why is it that you haven’t walked away?” Her tongue darts out as her lower lip curls. I don’t let her answer yet. “How come every time I stay after class,” I lower my voice as I dip my head, “you let me invade your space? You stand here, letting me tease you, tempt you? Is it because you like being teased, Leigh? Hmm?” I step forward and she retreats, her back hitting the mirrored wall of the studio. I place a hand on the mirror behind her, reaching down to tip up her chin so she’s looking at me.
“Is it that you’re hoping—praying—each week I’ll go a little further?” My voice is a low rumble at this point and I lean down until our lips are mere inches apart. “Or is this what you need so that when you go home and touch yourself, you can easily imagine all the filthy things I’d do to you on this studio floor?”
“Go fuck yourself,” she says before pressing against my chest and making a beeline toward the door.
“Oh, I plan to, sweetheart . . . a few times,” I say after her.
CHAPTER 1 — LEIGH
I tap the horn outside Stephanie’s apartment. I see her pull back the curtains and wave, letting me know she’s heading out. Steph and I hit it off pretty quickly when I met her at The Lariat, the local bar everyone hangs out at where she’s the bartender. She’s tall and thin, the exact opposite of my petite, curvy frame. She’s friendly and shy but has an air of mystery about her. Nobody really knows too much about her, other than the fact that she moved here not too long ago from an even smaller Colorado town.
“Let’s gooooo!” She laughs as she stuffs all 5’9” of her lanky frame into the passenger seat of my red Audi coupe. “I ended up getting off work a little late, which left me behind when it came to packing and cleaning up my apartment . . . but, ugh, I’m so ready for some girly time in Denver.” She pushes her seat back, attempting to stretch out her long legs as much as possible before sighing and looking over at me with a huge smile.
Steph and I have been planning this little getaway for the last several weeks. After I ended things with Remi Frederick—then he and August eventually figured out they were meant to be together and got married—my social life has been nonexistent. Even when I dated Remi, my sex life was nonexistent. That’s the problem with dating a man who’s in love with someone else: he isn’t really into trying to get you into bed. Lesson learned. Needless to say, I need to get laid.
“You and me both,” I say, putting the car in gear and heading out onto the open road.
“So we’re staying at your parents’ house?” Steph asks, opening a bag of chips.
“Yeah, they live in Boulder, which isn’t too far from Denver. I still can’t believe you’ve never been to Boulder,” I say, and Steph shrugs.
“I haven’t really been anywhere. Never even been on a plane.” She pops a chip in her mouth, unbothered by my slack-jawed reaction.
“Well, my parents’ house is huge, so no need to pay for a hotel, and honestly, they’re social butterflies and love when I bring people over. So be warned, they will be all up in your space wanting to make sure you’re comfortable and have everything you need . . . and then some. My mom hasn’t gotten the memo yet that I’m soon to be 26.”
“Aw, I’m sure they’ll be wonderful.” Steph smiles but it quickly fades as she gazes out the window. I haven’t pressed her too much about her life before Grand Lake. The few times I’ve asked about her family or her past, she’s become guarded and vague—a pretty strong signal that she isn’t interested in sharing that part of her life with me yet.
The two-and-half-hour drive to my parents’ house passes quickly as we chat about my job teaching Pilates, and where I’m at in my journey to open my own studio in town, which will be the first-ever Pilates studio in Grand Lake. When we arrive at my parents’ house, it’s just after 5 p.m., and they greet us at the door with open arms and fresh cocktails. They dote on Steph, my mom attempting to show her my baby book, childhood crafts, and photo albums while my dad offers her a tour and tells her how they designed and built their home.
“Okay, okay, you guys, I’m not marrying her. We’re only here for a short time but I promise that tomorrow you can show her all of these wonderful things. We have a dinner reservation in 90 minutes, so we need to freshen up and get over to Denver.”
“Oh my God, Leigh, your parents!” Steph says once they’ve left the room, her eyes watery as she places her hand over her heart.
“You’d think they didn’t have three kids and six grandchildren,” I laugh. I show Steph to the guest room she’ll be staying in across from my childhood bedroom. I pull out the red dress I picked out for tonight. It’s short, hitting midway down my thighs and clinging to my curves—leaving little to the imagination. It’s the kind of dress that says one thing: I’m here to get laid.
“Holy shit,” Steph whistles, eyeing me as I adjust my cleavage. “We picking up some dudes or what?”
“I wish,” I say sarcastically. I’m hoping to at least get a number though. Obviously, I wouldn’t dream of bringing a guy back to my parents’ house tonight, and especially not on a girls’ weekend, but the options in Grand Lake are about as dry as the Sahara right now.
“How’s this?” Steph twirls, showing me the dark purple strapless mini dress that adorns her modelesque frame.
“Do you even have to ask? You look like Heidi Klum on your worst day.”
We grab our purses, say goodbye to my parents, and dash out the door to make our reservation.
“Oh God,” Steph groans out as she rubs her belly. “I think I ate too much, but that lobster ravioli tasted like sex on a plate. I’m going to hit the restroom before we head out,” she says, popping up and sashaying across the restaurant as almost every head turns to stare at her.
I’m sitting at the table when only a minute later my phone buzzes with a text from Steph.
Steph: Oh my God help me
I blink at the message, confused. Did she mean to send this to me? I’m about to respond when another comes in.
I dash to the restroom to see her bent over the counter, her face close to the mirror as blood runs down her hand.
“Oh my God! What happened?”
“I’m not sure, but I think my ring somehow got caught on the back of my earring and I pulled it almost through my earlobe.” She winces as she tries to pop the earring back through with no success.
“Okay, don’t pull on it. We should get you over to the emergency room.” I grab a handful of tissues and hand them to her to press against her ear. I pull up my phone and hit Google Maps. “Porter Adventist is the closest.”
We pull into the hospital and rush to the front desk in the ER. A middle-aged woman peers over her half-glasses at us before going back to whatever she was doing on her computer.
“Hi, excuse me, we have an emergency. My friend pull—”
“Fill out this form and bring it back with proof of insurance and an ID,” she says, cutting us off.
“Can we just see a doctor really quick? I promise it won’t be a long visit. She just pulled her earring through her ear.”
The woman stares at me blankly before shoving the form in my hands.
We take a seat in the plastic chairs of the waiting room, Steph already bleeding through the tissues I’d grabbed for her.
“Let me grab a few more from the restroom, then I’ll help you fill this out,” I say, placing the clipboard on the chair and hurrying over to the restroom. I grab a huge handful of tissue paper this time, opening the restroom door and running back over to where Steph is seated, my heels clacking loudly on the tile floor. Only now, she’s not alone.
“Hey, I got a lo—Grant? I mean Dr. Rossi?” I trip over my heels and he reaches a hand out to catch me. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I’m a doctor and this is a hospital,” he gestures around with both hands.
“I meant why are you here in the ER. Aren’t you a—” I pause. I have no idea what kind of doctor he is, but I remember August saying he wasn’t an ER physician.
“I was walking through the ER and recognized Stephanie. I was doing rounds up on three, and just needed to stretch my legs. Here, let me take a look,” he says, pulling her hand away. She winces again. “Okay, let me grab a room real quick and I’ll take care of this for you.”
“Thank you,” she says with relief as he gives her hand a squeeze and walks off.
“What are the odds?” I say, huffing in my seat as I hand Steph the tissue. “Such a pompous ass,” I mutter.
“Play nice, Leigh. He’s helping me so we aren’t stuck here for hours,” she whispers as he steps back over to us and ushers us into a patient room. He pulls out a small flashlight and takes a closer look at the situation as Steph explains what happened.
“Okay, nothing serious. I’m going to clean it, which will sting, but then I’ll put a topical numbing agent on it so I can pull the earring back through.”
I watch him maneuver around the room, wheeling over on his stool to the area where the supplies are kept. His long legs encased in black dress pants extend off the stool. If not for his dumpster fire of a personality, Dr. Rossi would be sexy as hell. He glances back over his shoulder, looking directly at me as his eyes leisurely take me in. My cheeks flush when he catches me staring and I have to reassure myself that I didn’t just think those thoughts out loud.
“Having a ladies’ night?”
“Yup,” I say, not elaborating.
“You both look stunning.” He smiles at Steph, who blushes and thanks him while I make no effort to hide my audible scoff.
He pulls his blue latex gloves on slowly, making eye contact with me as he snaps the edge of one against his wrist. “Well, I hope you’re being safe,” he says with a wink, and I can’t hide my repulsion.
I glance over at Steph, who gives me a confused look that’s instantly replaced with a string of curse words as he cleans the wound.
“Let’s give this a minute to take effect,” he says, placing the topical anesthetic to her earlobe before removing his gloves and tossing them in the trash.
“So, doc, you doing anything fun this weekend or just working?” Steph asks cheerfully and I want to kick her.
“As a matter of fact, no, I’m not doing anything fun and I’m not working. My shift is over in about,” he pulls his white sleeve up to look at his watch—a Rolex of course—“two hours.”
“You ever heard of a bar called Death & Co?” she continues on, and now I want to push her off the damn exam table. I cross my legs and my arms, pretty sure I couldn’t look more uptight, but between how cold it is in here and side-eye glances I keep getting from Grant, I’m extremely uncomfortable.
“Afraid not. You ladies hitting it up?” He leans back on the stool, his legs manspreading all over the damn place like a sexy daddy long-legs. What the hell did I just think? I grimace at my own thoughts.
Steph glances over her shoulder at me and I try to wordlessly convey my message of please shut the hell up and don’t you freaking dare invite this maniacal God complex asshole out with us, but instead I just smile at her.
“Yeah, if you’re free tomorrow night, that’s actually where we’ll be. We had planned to go tonight, but obviously not now.” She motions to her ear.
“Speaking of, can you feel this?” He pulls on another glove and gives her lobe a good pinch.
She shakes her head. “Nope.”
“Okay, let’s get this back in the right spot.” Using tweezers, he quickly pulls the earring back through her lobe and applies a bit of medicated ointment.
“It’s going to hurt when the anesthetic wears off, so to reduce that and any swelling or inflammation, take 400 milligrams of an NSAID every four hours. I’ll also send you home with some samples of this antibiotic ointment. If for any reason you do experience a fever or swelling, or if the skin is red and warm to the touch, call me.
He stands up and throws his gloves in the trash again and walks over to the door, placing his hand on the handle.
“You ladies be safe tonight. Have fun and don’t push it with that ear, Stephanie.” He nods and I offer a tight-lipped smile and hold my breath, hoping he didn’t even register her invite.
“Oh, and what time tomorrow night?” he asks and I can’t help but release the breath with a loud sigh.
“Eight. I owe you a drink,” she says, glancing over at me to confirm.
“I’ll see you then.” He winks at me again then closes the door as he leaves the room.
“What the hell?” I say, smacking Steph’s shoulder.
“Ow! Hey, I’m already injured here.”
“Why did you invite him?” I hiss.
“I was just being nice—something you should try a little harder at. Besides, you guys clearly have some weird sexual tension thing that you should just bang out.” I glare at her. “What? He’s hot. Just go for it. No one’s saying marry the guy, so just have a fling.” She wriggles her eyebrows at me and I can’t help but laugh.
She’s not wrong. Dr. Grant Rossi is the kind of hot that normally makes women lose their senses, and I’d be dead wrong if I said I hadn’t noticed. My wet panties would prove that.
“Let’s get you back to my parents’ house before you go offering to let him come over there too.”