Propositioning the Playboy
The Blue Room Series Book 2
Rule #1: Don’t fall in love. Rule #2…see rule #1…
Grace Williams doesn’t need a hero. She can take care of herself, thank you very much. Surviving foster care and becoming a respected scientist certainly taught her how. Now, she’s finally ready to do something for herself and have a baby. All she’ll need is a genetically blessed donor who won’t get any ideas in his head about sticking around after the job’s done. And she has the perfect gorgeous, commitment-phobic donor in mind.
Liam McNamara doesn’t want a relationship. Being abandoned by his mother at a young age and his failed marriage cured him of any romantic notions he might’ve had. But when his best friend’s sexy older sister asks him for a favor, he can’t say no. And if he manages to give her a few—or a few hundred—orgasms in the process? All the better. It’s a winning proposition all the way around.
It’s not long before their best laid plans are blown out of the water by the last thing either of them expected to get out of the deal—genuine feelings. Maybe love isn’t such a losing proposition after all…
“I have a proposition for you.”
Liam McNamara pulled his gaze from the busy club around him and looked up at the gorgeous brunette standing above him. Grace Williams. His buddy Jake’s older sister. Hands folded neatly in front of her, she stood smiling at him, warmth and expectation in her gaze as she waited for a response.
One he couldn’t give her because his tongue had lodged in his throat. Grace wasn’t the kind of woman you’d normally find in The Blue Room. From the moment he and the guys opened the club, they’d wanted to create a safe place for people to explore their deepest fantasies. They prided themselves on providing all the amenities of an upscale Bed and Breakfast while sticking to the motto “no risk, no commitment, no holds barred.” Definitely not a place you’d find someone as straitlaced as Grace.
To top it off, she looked incredible. Compared to most of the women here tonight, her black dress was modest. The scoop neckline barely showed her collarbone let alone her cleavage, and the hem fell below her knee. Hell, she looked like she was ready for a board meeting rather than a night of no-strings sex, but it worked for her. And well.
“Close your mouth, Liam. You’ve seen me in a dress before.” Amusement glinted in her cool blue eyes as she pushed her glasses up her nose with the tip of a finger.
Right. He was staring, mouth hanging open like a damn flytrap. Pull it together, man.
“Not that I remember.” It didn’t help the snugness of his jeans any, either, knowing she was a hundred and ten percent out of his league. With a Ph.D. in chemistry, Grace worked in the pharmaceutical industry, developing drugs that saved people’s lives. Her intelligence had always turned him the hell on.
And Jake would kill him for even thinking that. Did he know his sister was here?
He dragged a hand through his hair and gave Grace the friendliest smile he could muster. “Have to admit I am surprised to see you here, though. If you’re looking for Jake, I’m pretty sure he’s, um, occupied about now.”
The details of which he had no idea how to explain politely to Grace.
“I didn’t come to see Jake.” She dropped into the seat beside him and crossed one shapely leg over the other. “I came to see you, actually. Like I said, I have a proposition for you.”
Proposition. From her shimmery pink lips, the term acted like gasoline tossed on his inner fire. It burned through his brain, filling his mind with tormenting images he shouldn’t be thinking about. Images he’d promised Jake he wouldn’t think about in relation to Grace. Namely, her luscious curves naked beneath him.
Never mind that he had memories of something similar. At least, what little he could remember. The softness of her skin and the warmth of her body in bed beside him to be exact.
He released the thought before it could torment him further and turned his head, scanning the crowd out beyond him. “You have my number. You could have just called me. I’m home most nights by six. Why come all the way out here?”
Located on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and ten minutes from the nearest town, the mansion that housed The Blue Room wasn’t exactly a quick jaunt around the corner.
“Well, I didn’t come here just to see you. Figured I’d kill two birds with one stone, as the saying goes.” She relaxed back into the sofa with a heavy sigh. “Besides. If I waited any longer to ask, I was afraid I’d lose my nerve.”
“Why don’t you ask what you came here to ask then, hmm?” Before he went crazy.
She straightened in her seat, shoulders stiffening with resolve. “I want you to father my child.”
Liam blinked, tried for a moment to process her words. Opened and closed his mouth a few times. The only sound that would leave his throat was laughter. It bubbled up from his belly, halfcocked and as insane sounding as he suddenly felt. Like he’d found himself in an alternate universe where fantasy had become reality. There was only one way he could envision making a baby, and it included his cock buried deep inside of her. Something he’d vowed that night five years ago never to allow to happen again.
“Oh, that’s a good one.” With one last hiccup, he pushed to his feet. He needed to get the hell away from her before he did something he’d regret—like take her up on said offer. Or make one of his own. “If Jake put you up to that, tell him he got me.”
Still chuckling, he headed for the bar on the far end of the long room. As he slid onto a stool, he looked over at Max, who stood a few feet down the counter pouring a glass of red wine for one of the guests. “Give me a shot, would you, man?”
Max nodded, and Liam dropped his head into his hands, tried to focus on the room around him. The murmur of distant conversations. The music. Anything but Grace. Except the blasted image she’d left him with kept teasing him. Pulling her out of the ballroom to somewhere quieter and less crowded. Peeling her out of her dress and discovering the treasure trove beneath.
Getting the pleasure of running his hands over her skin.
Soft. That’s what he remembered about her, about that long-ago night. Her smooth, velvety skin. Unfortunately, thanks to the copious amounts of alcohol they’d had, it was all he could remember. At least until he woke up beside her the next morning.
Which was how he also knew what she looked like naked, her dark hair spread all over the pillow beside him.
The kicker was, she didn’t appear to have any memory of it. He’d managed to get dressed and slip out of the room before she’d woken.
A shot glass appeared in his line of sight. He looked up in time to see Max tip a bottle of tequila over the glass, filling it to the brim. “What’s eating you?”
Of course, Max would figure out something was bothering him. Max had been tending bar since he was old enough to drink. He was good with people and rarely misjudged someone. He also knew Liam normally preferred wine. He only did the hard stuff when he wanted to get so drunk he couldn’t think anymore.
Liam opened his mouth, but his response never got the chance to leave his tongue as Max’s gaze shifted to something behind him. The slow grin curling across his friend’s face told Liam who’d stepped up behind him. His attraction to Grace wasn’t a secret. He’d had a thing for her since the day she walked into the room he’d shared with Jake at the foster home. That place was where he’d met Jake, Max, and Hunter. They were family, and they didn’t keep secrets.
Max, however, never passed up an opportunity to tease him about it.
“Sucks to be you tonight, man.” Max chuckled and shook his head.
Liam glared at his friend. “Ha. Ha.”
The warm, fruity aroma of Grace’s perfume curled around his senses as she slid onto the stool beside him. Max leaned his hands on the bar, his gaze shifting to her. “I’m surprised to see you here.”
Desperate to keep his mind out of Grace’s panties, Liam knocked back the tequila and tried his damnedest not to eavesdrop.
Grace folded her hands on the counter. “Thought I should come check the place out at least once.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re taking time to let your hair down for a while. Jake tells me you work all the time. Now…” Max straightened and tossed his head in the direction of the wall of alcohol behind him. “What can I get you to drink?”
Grace laughed softly. She had the kind of laugh that made you smile along with her, light, airy and genuine. Liam only just managed to resist the urge to turn his head and watch the way it made her whole face glow.
“White wine, please.” Grace shifted in her chair, her knee brushing his thigh. The sensation of being watched crept up the back of his neck like soft fingers. “It wasn’t a joke, Lee.”
Resisting the overwhelming temptation to smooth his hand up the shapely thigh still resting against his, he pushed his shot glass across the bar at Max. “I need a refill.”
One side of his mouth quirked upward, but Max did as requested and refilled his glass.
“I can see the whole room from here, did you know that?” Max’s voice held an air of nonchalance, as if he were merely commenting on the weather, but as he pushed the second shot across the counter, he caught Liam’s eye.
Grace turned on her stool and scanned the room. “So you can. Is that done on purpose?”
Max returned the bottle of tequila to the glass shelving lining the back wall. “Yup. That way one of us is in here at all times.”
Grace turned back around, brows raised. “You don’t participate then?”
“I do on occasion. When the mood strikes me.” Max pinned Liam with a direct stare. “Just so happens, however, I’m a bit beat tonight. The pub was swamped last night. Didn’t get home until after five this morning, then had a photo shoot to do for a friend’s wedding. Not sure I have acrobatics in me tonight.”
While Max did own a pub over in Seattle, his bowing out tonight was an excuse, and Liam knew it. All the guys participated. Hell, Max had come every weekend since his fiancée’s death eighteen months ago. Liam didn't get why that worked for him, but it served some purpose. Which meant his buddy was giving him an out.
Liam knocked back the shot and set the empty glass on the counter. “You don’t mind if I go wait for my blind date upstairs, then?”
Normally, the parties in the ballroom served as a way for guests to get to know each other, find partners on their own. Tonight, they’d decided to shake things up a little. The guys had come up with the theme, Love in the Dark. They’d paired each guest with a secret partner and gave everyone a fun list of “rules.” He’d been looking forward to something different…right up until Grace showed up. Now the only woman he’d be thinking about tonight was her.
Max smiled as he picked up a damp cloth and wiped down the counter. “Nope.”
“Thanks. I appreciate it.” Liam tapped two fingers on the bar and pushed to his feet. He darted a glance at Grace, who watched him with a curious frown. “I’ve…got a headache brewing.”
“Can’t imagine why.” Max smirked, his words little more than a mumble but loud enough Liam had caught them.
Liam glared at his friend, his face heating. “Hunter’s got something special planned with Jenna tonight, so if you have any trouble, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.” He turned to Grace, praying the smile he offered didn’t look as phony as it felt. “Good seeing you. Enjoy your evening.”
Sights on the ballroom entrance, he strode toward it as fast as his legs would carry him. He’d barely reached the staircase when heels clicking on the hardwood floors rang through the hallway behind him in rapid succession.
The sound of Grace’s voice stopped him three steps up. Damn. Clearly, he wasn’t getting away so easily.
He drew a deep breath and forced himself to turn. She stopped at the bottom of the staircase and tipped her head back to peer up at him.
“Just give me five minutes.” She clasped her hands together, eyes wide and searching his. Pleading with him. “Please.”
How the hell was he supposed to say no to that? He couldn’t, that’s how. Never could. It’s what had gotten him into trouble five years ago. She’d finally completed her Ph.D. and had wanted someone to celebrate with, but Jake’s daughter had come down with a nasty cold. So, Liam had offered to celebrate with Grace.
He folded his arms. “This means a lot to you.”
He sighed and jerked his head in the direction of the hallway behind her. The least he could do was hear her out. “The library’s just down the hall.”
She nodded and started down the hallway. Liam followed with less enthusiasm, hands tucked in his pockets, lest he be tempted to forget his promise to Jake and seduce her right out of her dress. If she were anyone but his best friend’s sister, he wouldn’t have hesitated.
The thirty-second walk had to be the longest of his life. One where he tried not to watch the sway of her heart-shaped ass or envision all the delicious ways he could get her out of that dress.
Or all the ways he could work around it.
The click of her heels on the hardwood floors kept him company. Along with her scent. Warm and musky with a hint of peaches and cream. It made his stomach rumble and his cock twitch. He remembered that scent too, the way it clung to her skin. He’d smelled her for days afterward.
By the time they entered the library he was wound like a freaking top and hard as a brass rod. Until she’d stopped in front of him, he’d looked forward to tonight, the way he did every weekend. Losing the week’s frustrations in warm, willing curves. He loved women. Their shape. Their luscious scent. Their soft skin. And here was Grace, looking like she’d walked right out of his fantasies, and she wanted to talk about making babies.
God help him.
He crossed to the tan leather sofa and took a seat on the arm. “All right. I’m listening.”
Grace stopped a few feet in front of him and pulled her shoulders back, as if she were preparing to fight the board of some big company. “First of all, I’m not asking you to play daddy. I just need you to make a donation.”
“A donation?” Oh, he knew what she meant, but he wanted to hear her say the words. It was childish, but if he was going to squirm his way through this conversation, he for damn sure didn’t want to do it alone.
Her eyes narrowed. “Sperm, Liam. You do understand how babies are made?”
He laughed and held up his hands. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t nice. Apparently, the subject brings out my inner twelve-year-old. We’re here”—he waved a hand in the direction of the doorway, indicating the house around them—“of all places, and you want to talk about sex.”
She cleared her throat. “Not sex. Babies.”
“That’s how babies are made, Grace.” He shouldn’t have said that, but the way her face flushed made the tease worth whatever torture would follow. Damned if she wasn’t more beautiful with her cheeks glowing.
As expected, though, all that flush did was fuel those fantasies he shouldn’t be thinking about. The one memory he didn’t have was the one he wanted the most—what she looked like in the throes of an orgasm.
To her credit, Grace didn’t otherwise react. Rather, she held his gaze, her expression all business. “Having a child is the only thing I can’t do alone. By its very nature, it requires a partner. Which is where you come in. It would be a contract between us. I need your sperm, and I’m willing to pay you. And as I mentioned, I’m not asking you to play daddy. In fact, I’d insist on—”
“Why me?” Because if she didn’t stop talking about sperm, he’d go insane. “All things considered, I would have thought I’d be the last person you’d ask.”
Grace dropped her gaze, smoothing a hand across her thigh, as if wiping off invisible crumbs. “Because you’re exactly the type of man I need. You’ve never made it a secret that you have no desire for commitment, which means you wouldn’t want to be a part of my child’s life much less fight me for it.”
“You’re right there. I wouldn’t.” He’d learned the hard way long ago that relationships weren’t for him. Everybody left at some point. First his mother, then his ex-wife Kristy. His first and only foray into serious relationships. He’d been barely nineteen when he met her, and he’d fallen hard. All bright-eyed and in love, they’d barely known each other three months when they got married.
Too quickly they discovered how little they knew about each other. She’d wanted kids, to start a family as soon as possible. He’d had big dreams of being head chef in an upscale restaurant. Eventually, she’d grown to hate him, and all they’d done was argue about every stupid little thing. Six months later, she left him and filed for divorce.
His life was simple now, and he liked it that way. He answered only to himself, and he could count on one hand the number of people he trusted, all of whom were in this house tonight.
He folded his arms. “What happens when the kid grows up and wants to know who his father is?”
Grace shrugged. As if it were the simplest answer in the world. Like it was nothing. “I’ll give him a version of the truth. Tell him his father was an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.”
“Which is where you should be going for this.” He stood and paced toward the door. The little devil on his shoulder was currently prodding him with a pitchfork and whispering, You know you want her, so lay on the charm and seduce her right out of that sexy little dress…
“I don’t want some stranger’s baby. I want someone I know, someone I trust. Maybe that’s weird, because women do it every day, but it’s how I feel.” Behind him, Grace heaved a sigh. “Look, I’m not asking you to have sex with me. I’m asking you to ejaculate into a cup.”
He swallowed a wry laugh, halting halfway to the doorway. Her explanation hadn’t helped one iota. Clearly, she had no idea he’d be picturing her while he did it.
He ducked his head and dragged his hands through his hair. Shit. Ten minutes with her, and already she had him walking a fine, thin line. Forgetting why he couldn’t have her.
He turned his head, looking sidelong at her. “Why not Max? Or Hunter for that matter?”
Anybody but him. He’d already broken his promise to Jake once, because he’d made the mistake of allowing alcohol to enter the equation. The next morning, he’d sworn to himself it wouldn’t happen again. And here she was, dangling a carrot under his nose.
“Hunter has Jenna now. It wouldn’t be right to ask that of him. And Max…I’m not as comfortable with him as I am with you.” Grace wrapped her arms around herself. “I was supposed to be married by now, you know that? I had my life all planned out. Married by thirty. Three kids, each spaced two years apart. Except here I am, thirty-five and still alone. The only thing I’m married to is my job.”
She looked up then, her pleading gaze pinning him to his spot.
“I’m tired of being alone. I want a child, someone to love and care for. Jake has Addie, and I want that. I want a family of my own.”
Damn. She had to go and lay that on the table. Growing up, Grace had sacrificed a lot for Jake. They’d been handed a shitty lot in life. She and Jake had ended up in the foster care system after their parents went to prison for selling drugs. From what Jake had told him, not all the foster homes they ended up in had been the warm, fluffy kind. Yet Grace had never let it stop her. Hell, everything she had, she’d worked her ass off for.
Her request was simple, too, something he could easily do for her. He had no doubt she’d uphold her end of the bargain, because Grace believed in things like honor. If she said she wanted no-strings and wouldn’t try to trap him, he trusted her. She was probably about the only woman in his life he did trust.
So, why the hell couldn’t he do this for her?