Missed Connections: Stepping Out

Marie Harte

Getting over her cheating ex was hard, but Gwen did it. She’s not about to let her cousin be bamboozled by a loser too. But when she meets Mia’s date, he’s way sexier and better mannered than a cheating jerk has a right to b...
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Getting over her cheating ex was hard, but Gwen did it. She’s not about to let her cousin be bamboozled by a loser too. But when she meets Mia’s date, he’s way sexier and better mannered than a cheating jerk has a right to be.

After the headache of his own cheating ex, Conlan is done cleaning up for his sleazy future brother-in-law. To save his sister heartache, he intends to teach some floozy a lesson. But Gwen is one gorgeous schemer he can’t ignore. After a heated kiss nearly spins out of control, they part—more enemy than friend. Until they meet again, forced to work together.

Finding out Conlan isn’t who she thought he was floors Gwen. They do their best to push their misunderstandings aside, only to rediscover their fiery chemistry won’t go away. The more time they spend together, the more they come to like each other. But when business makes their pairing awkward, will Gwen trust in him enough to fall in love? And will Conlan take a chance on the one woman who could give him the happily ever after he only writes about?

Saw you looking at me at Sam’s party. You were wearing a red dress, one with a rose print. I was the tall, dark, and handsome guy who winked at you over the dessert table. But you never came over. Call me. I have what you’re looking for. Something sweet.

A first date at Donton’s, an exclusive restaurant known for its five-star cuisine, all courtesy of a missed-connection ad online--chance bringing two souls together. What could be more romantic? Maybe if the two souls wanting a second chance had in fact met before? Being a stand-in for her cousin was playing havoc with Gwen’s romantic ideals. Especially considering the “prize” sitting across from her.

She forced a smile at the man across the table, wishing for the fiction of a happily ever after. Fate could at least be kind enough to give her an ugly companion for the evening. If only her date’s outward appearance matched his inner character. But no, Conlan--aka The Cheater--was no ugly troll. He had short dark hair, full lips, a square jaw, and a dimple when he smiled. His body was nothing short of a fitness miracle, and his dark brown eyes were just her type. Too bad he had a pregnant fiancée at home, waiting on his sorry ass, while he tried to wine and dine Gwen out of her dress.

“You really are beautiful.”

He’d been complimenting her in myriad ways while they drank the wine he’d ordered, setting the groundwork for seduction, no doubt. Apparently he didn’t mind that she’d arrived in place of the woman he should have been meeting tonight. A good thing she and her cousin looked a lot alike.

Only a chance perusal through craigslist’s Missed Connections had clued her in to the man who’d supposedly been struck dumb by her cousin at a party. That rose-print dress Mia had worn always garnered compliments. Last week, when Gwen had been trolling the web for blog content, she’d read about a man desperately searching for her cousin. What were the odds?

Good old Mia had explained about the dirtbag, his pregnant fiancée, and the way he’d leered at her at Sam’s party. Then she’d laughed off the chance to put the cheater in his place. Gwen had other plans. She’d get material for her relationship blog, a shot at justice, and, hell, exercise her need to stick up for cheated-on women everywhere--a topic near and dear to her heart.

“You look even better tonight than you did at the party, Gwen,” Conlan said with a smile. “I hated we never got to be introduced. I mean, you were hot then, but tonight...wow.”

“It’s the dress.” She smiled back, pleased he’d been a little bit drunk at the party and that he didn’t seem to know or care that she wasn’t Mia. She hadn’t had to work hard at all to make him accept her presence tonight. The guy obviously wanted to get laid.

Still, the dinner itself wouldn’t have been so bad if she weren’t so physically attracted to the jackass. Typical of Mia not to warn her that this guy was hot all the way to his toes.

Her phone buzzed against the clutch in her lap. Speak of the devil... She smiled at Conlan and pushed back her chair. “I need to use the ladies’ room. I’ll be right back.”

The jerk stood when she did, showing a set of manners she wouldn’t have expected from a guy out to get some action on the side. Still aggravated by his questionable morals and more than ready to teach him a lesson, she put a hold on her temper, gave him a smile as she left, then hotfooted it to the bathroom. Once inside the lounge area, she pulled out her phone and looked at the text.

Gwen quickly called Mia back and blurted, “He’s here. And he’s really good-looking. You didn’t tell me that.” Not that being hot didn’t mean one couldn’t be a dick, but still... Forewarned was forearmed.

“He’s not bad,” Mia answered. “I can’t believe you went through with it. So what are you going to do?”

“I’ll stick to the plan. Make him buy me a totally expensive dinner, tease him at the end with the promise of a kiss and some more at my place, then ditch him after telling him what a lying, cheating scumbag he is.”

“Nice.” Mia paused. “So he had no problem meeting you instead of me?”

It had been Mia that Conlan had seen at Sam’s party last week. Mia he’d been making eyes at while his pregnant fiancée chatted with friends right freakin’ next to him over the buffet table.

“No problem at all. I can’t believe you didn’t tell him off at the party.”

“I’m not into confrontation. You know that. Just easier to ignore him and pretend he wasn’t there. Heck, I didn’t even catch his name. Just that he and his very pregnant lady friend are a couple.”

“Her being very pregnant didn’t seem to stop him from posting that ad on craigslist. I am so glad we ran that theme last week on the blog. Missed connection, my ass. Missed opportunity to kick him in the balls, I say. This guy needs a lesson in how to treat a woman.”

“Oh boy. Still not out of your man-hater phase, eh?” Mia sighed. “Seriously, Gwen. When are you going to let it go?”

“I’m not a man-hater. Exactly.” Catching her ex-boyfriend with her now ex-friend had been harsh, but not as harsh as realizing Perry had used her to finance his secret love life. Thank God Gwen hadn’t given him access to anything other than her low-limit card. And she’d been more than satisfied to put the police on his lying ass for taking the card without permission.

“Gwen? You there?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Gwen checked herself out in the mirror and fluffed her hair. She’d worn Mia’s rose-print dress, which looked painted on her, since she had a few extra curves her stick-thin cousin didn’t. The hooker heels added a nice touch, as did her huge cleavage, full head of teased hair, and caked-on makeup. Even Mia had admitted Gwen looked as if she should charge a hefty fee for sexual services rendered.

“I’m going back in. Time to milk this jerk for all he’s got.”

“Yep. There’s my girl. Once focused, you’re like a Doberman begging to be set loose,” Mia said drily. “Well, after you do your civic duty to wronged women everywhere, don’t forget to bring me a doggy bag.”

“No problem.”

“And don’t go anywhere private with him.”

“As if. I’m not stupid. Just angry.”

“That’s true.” Mia chuckled. “Good luck. See you at home.”

“Later.” Gwen disconnected and tucked her phone back in her clutch. She had no problem sticking it to this guy. In a weird way, he was providing a sense of closure she hadn’t been able to get with Perry, her ex. Though she’d gotten Perry in trouble with the law, he’d left quickly and quietly. No fussing or screaming for the sophisticated Perry Warrington.

In the five months since they’d broken up, she’d heard he was still seeing the tart he’d cheated on her with. Personally, she hoped they spent a long, miserable life together.

A glance at herself in the mirror made her pause. Beneath the bad hair, makeup, and painted-on dress, she looked...sad. “God. Maybe I am a bitter man-hater after all.” Not pleased at the revelation, she considered the situation and her feelings.

Five months was a long time to be so sour on men. Just because Perry had been a bastard, and okay, this Conlan guy wasn’t winning any points for loyalty, didn’t mean they were all bad. Mia had a steady guy who treated her right, and Gwen’s parents had been happily married for twenty-five years.

Mia had a point about letting go of her anger. Perhaps if Gwen hadn’t felt so torn by Perry’s betrayal, she might have moved on by now. But they’d been living together after a year of dating. She’d finally tried to commit, and he’d hurt her, badly.

Still, she’d do better to fix this jerk, then get back on the happy train. How could she honestly dispense advice in her relationship column and blog if she couldn’t take it when given?

She spent a few more minutes giving herself a pep talk, then left the bathroom ready to face Mr. Cheater. After tonight, she’d turn a new leaf. Be that happy, carefree, if a bit guarded, young woman ready to face having a social life again. Gwen tugged her bra and plumped her breasts a bit more. She just had to get through this dinner first.

CONLAN KEPT HIS smile in place, determined to fix the mess his dickhead of an almost brother-in-law had created. What the hell had Aaron been thinking to post that stupid notice online? Fortunately, Conlan had caught the rat bastard corresponding with the woman and stepped in to fix things. So while Aaron was working to salvage his relationship with Conlan’s sister--a relationship Conlan hoped to hell she’d end--Conlan planned to teach Aaron’s date how to respect another woman’s fiancé.

While he waited for her to return to the table, he had to admit Aaron had good taste. Though the woman’s makeup seemed a little heavy to him, he couldn’t fault her generous curves or the beauty underneath the eyeliner and lipstick. She had striking blue eyes, clear and bright against her black hair. Granted, she’d teased said hair into a rat’s nest, but the strands licking her neck tempted him to reach out and touch.

He hadn’t figured she’d be so tempting, assuming instead he’d be meeting a woman with loose morals who had no problem cheating with an engaged guy.

His blood pressure thundered when he thought of Aaron stepping out on Lisa. Again. Conlan should have told Lisa the first time the guy did it, but Aaron, once a friend, had begged him not to. Said it was a one-time mistake he’d never repeat.

Yeah, right.

Learning about Aaron’s attempted hookup had broken his silence once and for all. That particular tiger had no plans to change his stripes, and the sooner Lisa understood that, the happier she’d be. Baby or no baby, Aaron didn’t need to be in Lisa’s life. Period.

He heard some noise behind him and turned to see a couple arguing. The maître d’ stopped by to speak with them, and they toned it down. But he saw an unhappy man glaring at a frustrated woman. And beyond them, another couple frowning at each other.

It was like the entire restaurant seethed with negative emotion. Deciding to get at least something positive out of the evening, Conlan figured he’d write about tonight’s experience. Con’s Concerns, a featured segment in the local paper, had been growing in popularity--mostly due to Conlan’s honesty and bluntness when discussing topics that disturbed him. He knew both men and women had a lot to say when it came to relationships.

Gwen returned, swaying her hips in what appeared to be an unconscious movement, because when she saw him notice her, the sway stopped altogether. She returned stiffly to her seat, giving him a strained smile.

Despite her come-hither glances and the way she had of thrusting her chest toward him when she spoke, Gwen seemed to be having a problem putting on a happy face.

Another story there. Maybe she’d gone through a bad breakup. Perhaps some guy had broken her heart, and she needed the solace of acceptance from another man. He felt his first twinge of conscience. Trying to teach this woman--whom he didn’t know at all--a lesson might be more than he should try handling.

“Your fiancée doesn’t care that you’re out with me tonight?” she asked in a purr.

The guilt disappeared. She knew about Lisa and didn’t care. “Nah. She’s tired. The kid’s dragging her down.” He reached across the table and took her hand in his, annoyed to find her skin so soft, then drew circles in her palm with his thumb. “No reason you and I can’t play together, beautiful.”

To his consternation, the touch and scent of her went straight to his head and made his pants uncomfortable.

“I can’t wait.” She winked and ran a finger down the vee of her dress.

Doing his level best not to stare at her amazing breasts, he drew his hand back and forced a smile, saved from commenting when the waiter returned with their food. They made small talk as they ate, though he noted with amusement she’d ordered the most expensive item on the menu. If she thought he was paying for it, she had another think coming. He planned on ditching her and the meal in record time as soon as he finished eating.

She took a bite of the lobster, and a drop of butter clung to her lips. She licked it off, staring at him as she did so. Such an obvious move, one that shouldn’t have worked. She was a home wrecker after his sister’s fiancé. Yet his cock didn’t seem to care. It wanted some of her tongue over him.

He drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, Gwen, what do you do for a living?”

She shrugged. “I do whatever it takes to pay the rent. And I do mean whatever. So, handsome, let’s talk about you. How long have you lived here?”

“I was born here. You?”

“Moved down from Seattle ten years ago. My cousin and I share a house on the west side.”

“Yeah? I live on the west side too.” Near my pregnant sister.

Gwen’s smile grew. “How convenient.”

They talked about the weather, the construction on a popular thoroughfare, and he was about to ask her about the party where they’d supposedly met and how she knew Sam, the host, when the mother of all fights broke out behind him.

Something slammed into the back of his head and took him to the floor. After a dizzy moment, he righted himself and watched two men fight while a woman screamed at them to stop.

He watched in fascinated shock. Apparently the arguing couple had been joined by a third.

Gwen tugged him back, and they stood with the other patrons out of range while the men beat the crap out of each other. He thought about interfering before he realized the trio didn’t need his help, now that two policemen had entered the restaurant behind the waiter.

“You’re a mess,” Gwen said to him.

He felt the back of his head, and his hand came away bloody.

“I think the woman threw a bottle at one of the guys, but it missed and hit you.” She pointed to a bottle on the floor nearby. “Don’t worry. Your head doesn’t look too bad.”


She snorted. “Yeah. Tough to explain that to your fiancée when you get home, hmm?”

Again, she admitted to knowing about Lisa, yet she had no problem sitting across from him and having dinner.

Gwen leaned into him and whispered, her breath fanning his ear and delighting the rest of his body despite his throbbing head, “But who says you have to get home right away?”

He let her tug him out of the main dining area into the hallway leading to the restrooms. She pulled him with her into the ladies’ lounge.

“Um, Gwen, I don’t think--”

“Shh.” She quickly scanned through the small lounge and the bathroom, then returned and locked the door. “It’s empty, but it won’t be for long.” She had him sit down on a chair and left, returning with a wet, wadded-up paper towel.

When she put the cold mass against the back of his head, he hissed. “Shit, that hurts.” Okay, they were alone in the bathroom. Time to set her straight with a lecture about respect and fidelity. Except she rounded the chair to face him, and he couldn’t seem to look away from her beautiful breasts and those hard nipples crying out for some attention.

“Big baby.” She gave him the wad to hold against his head while she straddled his lap. Her crotch rubbed against his hard-on, and to his mortification, he thought he might come from a few rocks of her pelvis against him. Clothes and all.

“What are you--”


Her smile looked less pleased than predatory, and why that should get him hot and bothered, he didn’t know. She thinks she’s hitting on Aaron. Grow some stones and shove her off, Conlan.

“You--” he tried again.

Her finger on his lips silenced him. “I saw you looking at me at Sam’s party. Your girlfriend was right next to you, all big and round with your baby. But you didn’t care, did you? You wanted the hot girl with the big tits and tight ass.” She blew him a kiss, her laugh angry. “Well, sexy, here I am.”

She ground against his erection, seeming to wait for something. Then she swore and kissed him hard, her lips punishing against his mouth.

Despite his intentions, Conlan reacted. In a big way. He kissed her back, grinding up against her, the sexual chemistry between them impossible to ignore. He had to remind himself that this wasn’t the place or time for a quick fuck. And especially not with this woman, who had the morals of an alley cat.

But his hands didn’t seem to care. They crept up her waist to cup her breasts. He squeezed her hard nipples and drew back from the kiss so that he could breathe in her scent when he rubbed his face between her huge tits. Her moans made everything worse, because he was a heartbeat from unzipping his pants and shoving inside her. He didn’t need to touch her to know she’d be wet, as caught up in their hellish chemistry as he was.

Not totally his fault, considering he’d spent the last six months celibate, too busy working and dealing with the ex from hell to engage with a woman. Now horny, pissed off, and with the potential for meaningless sex looming right before him, he had half a mind to fuck her and be done with the whole mess. Some lesson, but then, she seemed to want it as much as he did.

Someone knocked on the door. “Anyone in there?”

They froze. She pulled back, oddly enough staring at him in both disgust and horror.

“Be right out,” she called.

He felt the way she looked.

She scrambled off his lap and put her dress to rights. “You’re a scumbag, and I wouldn’t do you if you were the last man on earth,” she spat in a low voice.

Quite the change of heart from a woman whose tongue had moments ago been down his throat.

Ignoring his erection, he stood and glared down at her, embarrassed he’d nearly come at her hands. “Same back at ya. What’s wrong? Did you suddenly remember my pregnant fiancée and realize what an unfeeling bitch you really are? Better close those legs before you catch something, sweetie.”

She narrowed her eyes, twin beams of blue death aimed his way. “Why don’t you crawl back to your baby’s mama? Even better, do her a favor and leave her alone. You’re a poor excuse for a man.”

She had the nerve to flounce away. She unlocked the door and shoved past a gaggle of startled women.

He followed, furious that he’d nearly lost his head with Aaron’s leavings. They skirted a huddled mass of people talking and circling around the brawlers now in cuffs on the floor.

“I’m not done talking to you,” he warned.

She continued toward the front door. “Well, I’m done with you.” To a nearby waiter, she said, “This guy’s trying to skip out on the check. I’d grab him before he skates.”

The waiter looked alarmed and yelled for an officer’s help.

Conlan swore as he stopped to deal with the check. Gwen kept going.

Before he knew it, she was out the door and gone, and he was stuck with a two-hundred-plus-dollar dinner bill, a headache, and the memory of Gwen’s supple body over his cock.

Some lesson this had turned out to be. What a hell of a night.

Copyright © Marie Harte


Customer Reviews

A Delicious Mistaken Identity Romance Review by Angie Just Read...
Blend the ultimate revenge date and mistaken identity times two and you have an exciting start to a red hot romance.

When published author and newspaper columnist Conlan Dawson discovers his future brother-in-law's intention to cheat, Conlan knows he must protect his pregnant sister at all costs, even if it means he has to misrepresent himself and his motives to the home-wrecking woman his sister's fiancé planned to meet for dinner and a hook-up. Plus, he's sure the experience will give him something to write about in Con's Concerns, his featured segment in The Insider local newspaper.

Gwen Wilcox has a bone to pick with the unknown male who directed a blatant come on to her pretty cousin at a party, while the scumbag boldly stood next to his very pregnant girlfriend. Posing as her cousin and meeting the would-be cheat for a dinner date, then putting the lowlife in his place will provide interesting fodder to write about in her relationship blog and in the articles she writes for The Bend Voice.

Two strangers set on coming on strong, getting the other hot and bothered, and then getting even seems like the perfect payback plan, but, maybe, not so much when both parties later realize the other was not the distasteful quarry they were originally after; that the burning attraction was very, very real, and all that subterfuge is really rather hard to get past.

Author Marie Harte's witty and well-presented plot makes this one of the most delicious mistaken identity romances I've read in quite a while. Conlan and Gwen are a powder keg waiting to go off and the initial dilemma they co-create via revenge date leads to antagonism that doesn't easily melt away when their professional lives suddenly converge and neither can they seem to leave the box of matches alone. STEPPING OUT has it all--humor, passion, lots of steam, and a decidedly pleasing conclusion that leaves you longing for another tempting tale from the talented Ms. Harte.
(Posted on 7/4/2014)

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