Dylan Steadman has never seen his stubbornness as a bad thing. It’s always been easy for him to make up his mind and stick with it. It’s why he works a lot, why he doesn’t need to make time for a girlfriend, and why he recently decided to move across the country for a new job. His brothers and sister and happily settled, and now that all eyes have turned on him, he needs a change. He does not need a relationships, and moving to Colorado lets him breathe. What he didn’t see coming was Kat, the much-too-young-for-him employee at his new restaurant.
Kat Perry doesn’t have a family. She doesn’t even really have friends, but that’s by her choice. Her new manager, Dylan, has all the things that she should avoid: the muscles, the eyes, the smile, and the kind of white-knight syndrome that she doesn’t know what the frick to do with. Dylan should be easy enough to disregard since she’s managed to hold people at arm’s length her whole life, especially when a relationship is the very last thing she wants
But she can’t ignore him, not when he befriends her, and definitely not when they tap into combustible chemistry that threatens to burn down everything around them. So instead of fighting it, they come to an agreement- just friends with a bunch of benefits on the side. Easy, right? Not exactly.
Especially when the heart gets involved.
“I made potato salad,” she blurted out, blinking rapidly at me, but not walking through the door. “I’ve never made it before, and maybe you guys don’t even like it. Not everyone likes mustard, you know. Or potatoes. And we don’t even need to eat it. You know what? I can just leave it in my car.”
She turned to march back to her car, but I snagged her elbow and gently pulled her into the house. “Kat,” I said when she wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Thank you. I’m sure it’s delicious.”
“It’s probably not.” Her eyes were still firmly trained on the bowl while she set it on the kitchen counter. I swallowed a laugh. Her nerves were like a physical presence separating us from the rest of the group. But there was something so endearing about it, and about the way that she’d obviously dressed up to hang out with us. Her skirt was a blinding orange, cut short and fit tightly around her slim hips. Her tank top was zebra print, and matched the strappy black and white sandals that wrapped up her shins. She must have done her hair too, because the messy strands looked a bit more uniform, held back by a bright pink headband.
“You look very nice,” I said carefully, as I typically made it a habit to not compliment the appearance of women who worked for me. But I couldn’t help it. She looked like a fluorescent highlighter, bright and blindingly fun in the masculine space of Garrett’s house. Her face whipped up to me, a lop-sided smile of gratitude spreading over her face.
“I’ve never been to a guys’ night.” She shrugged, finally looking more at ease. “It was either this or my Broncos jersey and yoga pants. I decided to embrace my role as the lone feminine presence.”
Then she looked around the counter, saw the lack of any real food beyond what she’d brought along. Her face flushed and she blinked away from me again. So I shoved Leonidas at her, and the distraction worked. She cooed and cuddled him, laughing delightedly when he tried to climb up her shoulder to sniff at her headband.
Garrett ambled into the kitchen and ruffled Kat’s hair. “Hey, sprite. How’s it hangin’?”
Kat narrowed her eyes, shifting Leonidas in her arms. “I’m not positive how to answer you. Don’t men ask that question in regards to their penis?”
#2 Light Me Up (features Dylan’s brother Tate)
#3 Tell Them Lies