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Bridget Reilly hides what she sees as a deformity behind a pair of dark glasses. Fortunately, they also hide her lust for the gorgeous Navy SEAL living next door. When a masked ball provides an opportunity to enjoy a glorious night of anonymous erotic sex with the hottie of her dreams, she’s all over that. She soon realizes she’s replaced one disguise with another and revealing the truth is not an option.
Bridget knew Clay was a SEAL, often deployed on missions for weeks at a time. He’d bought the house for the same reason she’d purchased hers—to have some permanence and stability in his life. Bridget figured she’d probably never have a home of her own otherwise and apartment living had just gotten too old for her. Clay said he wanted a place to unwind that was all his. A place where he could put down roots. Do whatever he wanted.
Every so often she’d see a woman in the backyard with him, or sitting beside him in his car as he backed out of the driveway. Tall, leggy brunettes and redheads, with typically classic good looks. The sound of their intimate laughter was a knife straight to her heart, because she knew she’d never share those kinds of moments with him. She dreaded the day he brought a wife home with him and she was forced to watch them wrapped in a haze of happiness and sexual satisfaction.
“Well.” She wiped her suddenly damp palms on her shorts. “I’d better go in.”
“Me, too. Big night tomorrow night.” But he made a faced as he said it.
“You don’t look like it’s too big. Or that you’re too happy about it.”
He shrugged. “My team captain happens to live in San Antonio, too, just by coincidence, and his wife is involved in some big charitable ball that’s going down tomorrow night. The one that kicks off Fiesta. He made everyone on the team who lives around here buy a ticket. Not only that, he insists that we have to go.”
And of course he’ll be going with a gorgeous piece of arm-candy.
“Surely your date will keep you from being too miserable.” There. That was the right casual tone, wasn’t it?
“No date.” He ran a palm over his hair. “No one I could ask to rent a costume and dress up for a masquerade. Bad enough I have to do it myself.”
“No gorgeous babe hanging around these days?” She hated herself for asking the question, no matter how casual she tried to make it.”
His laugh was humorless. “Not lately. Must be losing my charm. Or maybe it’s just that I’m starting to lose interest in all show and no go. I’ll just guts it out.”
Bridget nodded but both her mind and her heart were racing. She knew all about the Masquerade. Joni’s boss was also on the committee and Joni had been pestering Bridget for weeks to buy a ticket. The cheapest ones were a hundred bucks, though, and not something Bridget wanted to dig into her stash to buy.
But Clay was going without a date. Well, well, well. An outrageous idea was percolating wildly in her brain.
“So I guess you’ve got your costume then?”
“Yeah.” Lines of displeasure grooved his cheeks. “Thank god at least most of my face will be covered so there’s no chance anyone will recognize me.”
Bridget cocked her head, all kinds of possibilities suddenly speed-racing through her brain. “You have a full face mask?”
He nodded. “In a manner of speaking. I’m going as a pirate. Figured that wasn’t too embarrassing. Got a scarf thing to wrap over my head and a big black mask that matches it over my eyes.”
A pirate. Bridget filed that piece of information away in her mind.
“Women love pirates.” She hoped her tone was casual enough. “They’ll probably be hanging all over you.”
Clay snorted. “I doubt it. The women who show up at these things seldom come alone and the ones that do aren’t worth the price of a drink.”
“Maybe tomorrow night you’ll be surprised.” She wet her lips. “Tell you what. I’ll make a bet with you.”
“Uh-huh. I predict you’ll meet a mysterious woman. She won’t even tell you her real name. She’ll tempt you and tease you and make you want to sweep her off her feet.”
Clay’s mouth kicked up in a grin. “That right? You guaranteeing it?”
“I said I’d bet with you, didn’t I?” She shoved her hands in the pockets of her shorts, waiting tensely for his answer. “Well? You gonna put your money where your mouth is?”
He laughed. “Okay. A bet. Loser buys dinner.”
“You’re on.” She held out her hand.
Clay’s grip was firm and warm. Bridget had expected that, but she hadn’t been prepared for the jolt of electricity that sizzled up her arm and through her body. She pulled her hand back quickly, doing her best to ignore the gleam of mischief in Clay’s eyes.
“I certainly hope so,” he teased.
Bridget’s cheeks turned hot. This was just harmless flirting, something Clay probably did as naturally as he breathed. But for her this was a scarce commodity. Once men got a look at her eyes all flirting was off the table.
“I-I have to go.” She hurried up the driveway, calling over her shoulder, “Good luck. And I expect a full report.”
“If it turns out the way you predict,” he answered, “don’t look for too many details.”
If only this works.
”Confession time day after tomorrow, okay? We’ll meet over the fence.”
“Only long enough so I can tell you where I want you to take me for dinner. Get ready for an expensive meal.”
“We’ll see. “Night, now.”
She nearly ran into the house, her mind racing. She might never realize her goal of introducing herself in public as a published author but she at least had the possibility of one night with the man who filled her dreams. And one night was better than none.