She refuses to be tied down, but he plans to change her mind...
Opposites attract, which is exactly why Meade Forbes has zero interest in the uber-smart Ryder. Reading thesis papers and watching documentaries on astrophysics is for her own private time and not to be shared with a man. When she’s ready to play, she wants to clear her busy brain and drown in muscles and nonsense. Not to mention Ryder is a single dad. Meade is completely ill-equipped to be a mother figure to a teenage girl. Despite the fact that Meade’s in her mid…okay, late thirties, she still hasn’t figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. Her job pouring cocktails on the beach suits her just fine for now.
Ryder needs to quit thinking he’s found his soulmate. And he also needs to stop making her want to try him on for size for just one night.
Please just think about it. Money is no object, and I’ll make it worth your while.
Meade Forbes’s conversations with the billionaire had gotten oddly comfortable. To be one of the richest people on earth, he certainly wasn’t above begging. And what was he doing texting her directly anyway? He had people for that.
He wanted her, and he wasn’t afraid to let her know how much. If this was a guy she’d met at a bar, she’d consider it stalking with the amount of times he’d reached out to her. But he wasn’t after Meade for a fling. He wanted her full-time. The question was…did she want him?
She tossed her phone into her purse and got out of her car, heading toward the library. As she approached the circulation desk, her heartbeat accelerated as she blinked the Clark Kent cutie into focus. It was the guy she had met at the art showing at that fancy house in Alys beach back in July.
He’d mentioned having seen her at the library…even knew the last book she had read. At the time, she couldn’t decide if that was cute or creepy. Then after he’d walked away, leaving her wishing he wouldn’t have, she decided she didn’t mind the intrusion.
Every time she’d come into the library since then, she’d glanced around for him. She’d always come up empty, but here she was, six weeks later, and there he stood. He’d been dressed up at the party, but here, he wore a T-shirt and jeans, and his body wasn’t hidden like it had been in his dress pants and button-down. The muscles in his biceps filled out the T-shirt sleeve quite nicely. He picked up a stack of books and walked through a doorway, leaving the circulation desk and giving her a view of his very grabbable ass.
The teenage girl who was sometimes working when she came in walked up to the counter. “What ‘cha you got there?”
“I’m returning these books, but there’s a page missing in this one. I wanted to point it out to you.”
“Jerk. What kind of psychopath rips a page out of a library book?” she asked Meade.
“Not cool, right?”
“I’ll get these checked in,” the girl said, grabbing the stack. She looked at Meade’s T-shirt. “I’m sorry, but you have got the most perfect collection of female rock star T-shirts ever.”
Meade looked down at her shirt, trying to remember which one she put on. “Oh. Thank you.”
“I had no idea who Blondie was, but after seeing your T-shirt last time, I totally added her to my playlist, and she is like freaking awesome.”
Meade refrained from explaining that Blondie was a band and Debbie Harry was the lead singer. “Yeah, pretty awesome.”
“Who is Liz Phair?” The girl had her phone out with her thumbs flying across the screen.
“Look up ‘Supernova,’” Meade said.
The girl shoved an earbud in one ear and stood there, bobbing her head. “Stellar.”
Meade hated to bug her, but she did need her for one more thing. “Umm, I had a hold on a book that’s come in.”
“What’s your last name again?” she asked.
“Bottoms,” Meade said, giving the name of the woman who she rented her efficiency apartment from. Meade had mentioned her love for the library and how she couldn’t get a card since she was just a short-term renter, and the woman had sent Meade her local library card in the mail. Meade was consistent with her rent and didn’t complain about anything, which paid off.
The girl walked over to a shelf behind her, and the nerd came back through the doorway. When he saw Meade, he stopped in his tracks and pointed. “Meade, right?”
Meade didn’t like the way her stomach fluttered at his remembering her name. Hot as this guy was turning out to be, she was not into nerds. Meade went for younger guys with no interest in discussing protons, neutrons, or whether or not black holes were real or theoretical. Meade liked men who had no idea who Neil deGrasse Tyson was, even though he’d been the reason she’d become interested in astrophysics.
Meade shifted her weight backward, moving a few inches away.
The guy put both hands on his chest. “I’m Ryder, Desiree’s friend. We met this past summer.”
Meade looked down, nodding. “I remember.”
He glanced at the book in the girl’s hand. “Mae Jemison.” He thought about it a moment with his eyes shut, and then opened them. “Astronaut, right?”
The young girl came back over, rolling her eyes. “What was your first clue?” She showed the book cover to Meade, which contained the word astronaut.
“I didn’t see that, I swear,” he said.
Meade just glanced at him and then dug in her purse for her library card, unsure what to make of him.
“Don’t you have books to shelve?” the girl asked him.
He held up both hands like he was being robbed and backed away. “I’m going.” He gave Meade a smile before making his exit.
The girl let out an exhaustive sigh, taking Meade’s library card from her. “Could he be more obvious?”
Meade didn’t say anything, not sure what she meant.
“Cree-pee,” the girl said in a sing-song, watching the guy push a cart down an aisle. “I mean, you’re just trying to come in here and read a library book. You shouldn’t be accosted by some weird dude.”
“I know, right?” Meade said conspiratorially, not wanting to be left out of the teenage bonding.
She waved Meade off. “He’s harmless. It’s not like he’s going to look up your address in this computer and go over to your house and watch you sleep at night.”
Meade paused, looking at this girl, rethinking having used the library card.
She slid the book to Meade. “He hasn’t dated anyone in like a million years. I don’t think the geek would have a clue how to even ask.”
Meade narrowed her gaze at the girl. “You’ve known him a while?”
“Oh yeah. He’s my dad.”
Meade was not expecting that.
“We’ve got a new couch back in autobiographies.” The girl grabbed Meade’s returned books. “You should check it out.” She headed off.
A dad. Figured. Meade did not want to get mixed up with a guy who came with a sassy teenage daughter who Meade very much liked, but who was probably not a picnic twenty-four seven. She should take this book and head to her favorite spot on the beach. But she did want to check out that new couch. And she wasn’t quite ready to leave just yet. Nothing made her happier than a library.
The girl at the front desk had not been lying about the couch. It was super comfortable. Meade could’ve taken a nap on it if the book hadn’t held her attention. She was ready to go home though and get something to eat. She hadn’t eaten since a midmorning bagel. She had to get better about eating, but not today. Her weight was always up and down. She didn’t mind going hungry all day, but then when she did eat, it wasn’t anything healthy. For this reason, she carried too much weight in her stomach…just the right amount in her boobs and butt though. If she could lop off her belly, she’d be thrilled.
She stood up and stretched, ready to take the book to the return bin. On her way there, she spotted the girl from the front desk sitting at a table with a desk lamp, frowning as she used her pencil eraser. Her head was in her hand as she pinched her forehead.
She approached the girl. “What are you working on?”
She met Meade’s gaze and her shoulders fell. “Freaking calc. It’s kicking my ass.”
Meade rewound her brain back to high school. It’s not like Meade had thought about calculus recently, but her brain never let go of anything, unfortunately.
“Do you need some help?”
The girl met her with a hopeful gaze. “Do you know calc?”
“Can I see your book?”
Her hopeful expression dropped, and she handed Meade the book. “My dad tells me to watch a video. I think he just doesn’t know how to help me. I’ve been great in math my whole life, which is why I’m in calc as a sophomore, but the semester just started, and I’m already behind.”
Meade settled into the chair next to her, flipping to the start of the section. “Give me a minute with this. Take a walk or something. Listen to that Liz Phair song,” she said with a smile.
“Go,” Meade said, already settling in with the book.
By the time the girl got back, Meade had worked a few problems.
The girl sat down, staring at the paper in front of Meade with wild eyes. “Did you just do that?”
“The way they are teaching this is messed up, but I assume that’s how your teacher wants it done.”
The girl shuffled into her seat, looking at the paper in amazement.
“What’s your name?” Meade asked.
“Wait,” she said, squinting at Meade. “I thought your name was Emily.”
“Emily is the woman whose house I’m renting. She’s letting me use her library card.”
She waggled her eyebrows. “Rebel. Just like me.”
Meade handed her the pencil. “Let’s do some calc, rebel.”
Ryder had never considered himself a stalker, but no doubt he had been stalking his daughter with the very attractive Meade for the past hour. He found them sitting together and was ready to pounce on Annabella for not doing her homework when he overheard number talk. Meade had to be a math teacher the way she was explaining the concepts to Annabella with such assuredness and authority, but in a way that was digestible. Ryder did not have that kind of patience. When he tried to help his daughter with math, he found the new way they taught math tripped him up. He would refer her to videos recorded in the past few years so she was learning the right way. But Meade understood the new way.
The book was closed now, and the two of them were exchanging phones. Was that appropriate to do with a teacher?
He came out from his hiding place and made a production of walking over so he didn’t seem stealthy. “Did the two of you solve the world’s equations?”
“Dad, Meade is fantastic. She just taught me everything I needed for the test. I’m going to ace it.”
“That’s great, but I don’t think you should be calling her Meade. What’s your last name?” he said to the beautiful blonde.
She waved him off. “Just Meade.”
“Are you a teacher at the school?”
Meade cracked up. “Hell, no.”
“Meade works as a bartender on the beach,” Annabella said. “Is that not the coolest ever?”
Ryder was confused. This highly intelligent woman didn’t have some corporate job?
Meade stood, shouldering her purse. “Text me and let me know how the test goes.”
“For sure,” Annabella said, and then her phone dinged, and she was laser-focused on it as she thumbed away.
Meade walked toward the door, and Ryder followed after her. “So, you’re not a math teacher?”
“God, no. I don’t like kids. No offense to you. Your kid seems cool.”
“You don’t have kids of your own in school?”
“No.” She winced, shaking her shoulders.
“Then how did you know how to do calculus so well?”
She mumbled something that sounded like I don’t know as she tossed her book in the return. Had she already read it?
“Can I give you some money for the tutoring?”
She gave him a strange look as she pushed open the door. “I’m not gonna take your money.”
“What about dinner? Will you take that?”
She stopped on the sidewalk. “Look, it was no big deal.”
“It was to Annabella. I should’ve gotten her a tutor already. I just kept thinking she would catch on eventually. She’s always been good in math.”
“She’s a smart girl. It was a tricky concept.”
“Can we take you out to dinner to say thank you?”
“Yeah, right now.”
She glanced at the parking lot and then back at him. “Annabella’s mother wouldn’t have a problem with that?”
Ryder looked down at his shoes. “She’s not in the picture.”
“Me, too…for Annabella’s sake.”
Annabella came out the front door and joined them.
“I was just asking Meade if we could take her out to dinner tonight for helping you with your homework.”
“Cool. Where are we going?” Annabella asked.
“Ladies’ choice,” Ryder said, motioning at Meade.
“Can we go to Island Dreams?” his daughter asked.
He gave her a skeptical look. Island Dreams was more of a bar than a restaurant. “Do they even sell food?”
“Oh totally. Their chicken tenders are really good.”
“Chicken tenders? Seriously?” he asked her.
“I love Island Dreams,” Meade said, smiling at Annabella. “That’s my choice.”
Ryder looked between his daughter and this woman he found himself more than intrigued with. He’d thought she was attractive when he’d first seen her at Desiree’s art showing in July when she was dressed to kill in heels and a dress with a plunging neckline, but standing here in cutoff jeans, a T-shirt, and her blond hair tied into a messy little bun on top of her head with wisps hanging out all over, he was even more attracted to her.
They both nodded and smiled at him. He tossed up his hands. “All right, then. Island dreams.”
“I’ll meet you there,” Meade said, and then she was off, leaving him curious, and a little smitten.