Holiday Husband by Erin McCarthy

Shit. Now what? Did I follow her or just leave her to her own devices?

“Sir?” the doorman called out to me. “Don’t you need a cab?”

Easy decision. I followed her. I wanted to make sure she got in a cab safely and was away from her ex who clearly didn’t handle rejection well. I waved to the doorman. “Keep the tip, thanks for trying. We’re going to walk.”

“There are no cabs!” she lamented as she walked faster than I would have ever thought possible in those very high heels. “We don’t have time to wait for a car service. What is it with this town? Nine million cabs when you don’t need one, zero when you do.”

I scanned the street and she was right, there was a serious dearth of taxis.

She grabbed my forearm and squeezed. “Oh, no, I think I see him coming out the front door. Walk faster!”

Her voice sounded so urgent that I came up with the only solution I could think of. “Come on.” I took her hand in mine and tugged her across the street at the intersection, taking long strides. I’d spotted a horse and carriage at the ready waiting for someone to want to take a ride. “Hop in,” I told her.

For some reason I expected her to suggest I was insane or to hem and haw and debate it endlessly. Not this woman. She gave me a grin, took the hand I offered her, and climbed into the carriage.

Now this was much more interesting than a stuffy corporate party.

Chapter Two

“You’re a problem solver,” she said, as she sat down on the carriage bench. “Thinking outside the box. I love it.”

I paid the driver and told him, “I’ll give you a nice tip if you get us out of here in the next thirty seconds.” Then I vaulted myself up onto the seat beside her. “For every problem, there is a solution,” I told her.

“I don’t really think that’s true at all,” she said. “I still haven’t found a good strapless bra.” The carriage started rolling forward. “But I appreciate the quick thinking.”

And now my thoughts were on her breasts again. “You’re welcome,” I said shortly. I glanced behind me but I didn’t see any small-prick loser charging down the street after us. I felt confident I’d spared her that.

“So you’re my knight in shining armor?” She looked me up and down. “Or my knight in shining Armani?”

That label both amused me and made me uncomfortable. My daughters would say I was mostly grumpy, frequently no fun, and really embarrassing. “No woman should have to endure threats because some dude with a fragile ego can’t handle being broken up with. And I hate parties. I was only going because I had to, so you saved my ass too.”

“You hate parties?” She gaped at me like I’d suggested letting the air out of all the balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. “Who hates parties?”

“Me.” The ass-kissing that came my way as head coach of a pro football team, the juggling a tiny plate in my big hands, the fucking up and forgetting someone’s name. Not my thing.

“Do you hate puppies too? And rainbows? And ice cream sundaes? Walks on the beach and dinners with Grandma?”

I eyed her, amused, and more intrigued than I had any right to be given she was fresh off a breakup. “No. Just parties.”

She feigned a sigh of relief, pulling my jacket tighter across her chest as the carriage clip clopped down Fifth Avenue. “Phew. Not totally evil. What other things do you not hate?”

“I don’t hate carriage rides with beautiful women.” At least not tonight. The blonde was entertaining.

She clapped her hands in applause. “Good one. Well done. Hey, what’s your name, besides Hater?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Hater? I don’t think I deserve that. But my name is Brandon. And you are?”

“Dakota.” She nudged me with her knee. “I love parties and sushi and dancing.”

“Nice to meet you, Dakota. I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.” I didn’t like either one, at all really, but the song references seemed like a perfect fit, more so than anything truthful I could tell her. I didn’t think she’d enjoy hearing that working out, calling offensive plays, and braiding my daughter’s hair were some of my favorite things.

I really liked having sex too, but again, that had been shoved way down on the priority list, unfortunately. A new job, a new city, my girls. Those took precedent. If I could have handpicked a woman to run into me on the elevator from a lineup of women, I guarantee I would have chosen Dakota. She was tall, gorgeous, fit, with those full lips that were giving me all kinds of dirty thoughts.