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The Offer
Author: Karina Halle

PROLOGUE

Six Months Earlier

“Live with no regrets.”

“What was that, sweetheart?”

I slowly raised my gaze from the blank spot on the grass I’d been staring at for the last five minutes and saw the tall silhouette of a man as he crossed in front of the floodlights, coming toward me. I blinked a few times then looked back to the ground. His face was in shadows but I knew who he was. His Scottish accent told me everything I needed to know.

I cleared my throat and finished off the glass of wine in my hand. The raucous sounds of the wedding were dying down and I was surprised that Bram McGregor was still here. He was the best man while I was the maid of honor, but I never pegged him to be the type to stick around for very long, even at his own brother’s wedding. Bram’s eyebrows had been wagging at every female that walked within a five-meter distance, myself included, and he’d seemed so bored during the ceremony that it looked like he was trying to stifle a permanent yawn.

“Sorry,” I said, clearing my throat. “Talking to myself.”

“I can see that,” he said, sitting down beside me on the stone bench and bringing with him a whiff of cigars and sandalwood.

We were around the side of the Tiburon Yacht Club’s lawn where the wedding had taken place. I had stumbled upon the bench and the garden, with the lights of the city across San Francisco Bay twinkling in the background. I was ready to call it a night and just wanted to be alone before I headed back to my apartment to relieve the babysitter. Even though my best friend Stephanie was getting married to a great guy, Bram’s brother Linden—and don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t be happier for her—it was a wedding, I was single and feeling worse about it every minute that passed.

“So, live with no regrets,” he repeated, casually leaning forward on his knees and lacing his fingers together. If I was sober I would have felt a bit embarrassed that he had caught me talking to myself, but as it was I couldn’t care less. What Bram thought of me was the least of my problems.

I shrugged. “It’s my motto.”

He snorted and I immediately glared at him.

“Hey,” I said, my face growing hot. “Most people have mottos.”

The corner of his lips twitched up into a smile. He was a handsome man, I had to give him that. But after my ex fucked me over so loyally when I was pregnant, leaving me alone to raise our daughter, playboys were on my hit list and Bram McGregor was definitely a playboy. Which meant he was public enemy number one and nothing but a whole lot of trouble and hot air.

I’d made it my goal in life to avoid trouble. I wasn’t about to start now, just because of his Scottish brogue, grey eyes, dimpled smile and built physique. And, you know, other terrible attributes.

“I don’t,” he informed me, as his eyes slid to mine, mouth lifting up. “But does it count if other people have mottos about you?”

I didn’t want to ask him what he meant by that, yet somehow my mouth was opening and I was taking the bait.

“People have mottos about you?” I asked.

His smirk deepened. “Women do.”

“I see,” I said, trying to think of something clever that would take him down a peg. “Once you go Bram…”

“You won’t give a damn,” he filled. He looked up at the dark sky and tilted his head, considering. “Or I’ve heard one night in my bed and your legs are forever spread.”

My lip curled in mild disgust. “That’s terrible.”

He shrugged. “Don’t knock it till you try it, sweetheart.” He paused. “I guess that’s another motto for you.”

He eyed the empty glass in my hands, then me, and blinked as if seeing me for the first time tonight. For a hot second I was glad that Stephanie had picked out the most flattering cocktail-type bridesmaids dress from Anthropologie. Then I had to remind myself, once again, that I didn’t care what he thought of me.

“What?” I asked, my skin prickling at the fact that his gaze was skirting over my body for just a little too long.

“Why are you out here alone and sober?”

I twirled the stem of the wine glass between my fingers. “I’m not sober.”

“I suppose you’re not alone either,” he said. “Can I get you another drink?”

“You’re offering?” I don’t know why that surprised me but it did.

He stared at for me for a moment, his dark brows knit together. Then he relaxed, his grin widening lazily. It reminded me of a cat stretching after a nap.

“I never let a beautiful woman pay for a drink,” he said.

Though part of me (a small part) thrilled at the fact that he called me beautiful, especially after how rough my dating life had been lately and how the only person that called me beautiful lately was Ava (okay, and Steph before the wedding, once I was magically transformed through hair and makeup), I wasn’t about to let his slick words charm me.

I gave him a steady look. “Do you really think I’m going to fall for that pick-up line?”

He let out a laugh, eyes twinkling in the dark. “Pick-up line? The best man can’t get the best woman a drink? You know, I heard you were no fun, I just didn’t believe it. Not with that body.”

I was stunned. My face flushed hot and somehow I found my words. “Who told you I was no fun?”

His smile was softer now but it still looked like he was having the time of his life toying with me. “It doesn’t matter. I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but I guess they were right after all.”

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