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Excerpt: Almost Married

Excerpt: Almost Married

Book 2: Clover Park Charmers

Dave drove like a maniac from Eastman where he'd just finished up his extra-help session for some students after school. He couldn't believe the hold this guy Griffin held over Steph. Like he had any right after a five-year separation. He'd spent most of the night going over Steph's shocking news, reminding himself this was nothing like Sherri, this was a real separation, but still feeling uneasy about it. And really not happy about the dishonesty. Were there other things she'd kept from him? A relationship couldn't work without honesty.

But, dammit, when she called and he heard the pleading in her voice, the near desperation, he knew he had to show up at her place. He could tell she didn't want to be alone with Griffin. He would go because she needed him.

Hell, who was he kidding? He loved her. He missed her after just one day of being apart. Him showing up at Steph's place would help her. Griffin would sign the divorce papers, and Steph would be free to live her life. With him.

He pulled up to her place, parking on the street behind a stretch limo. A prickling of unease went through him. Was Steph's husband a multimillionaire? He got out of his Ford Fusion and walked briskly up the steps. So what if her husband was rich? Money wasn't everything. Steph wouldn't care about that. They were both teachers. She understood the intangible rewards of teaching, like that moment when a student's face lit up as they grasped a new concept. Those moments were gold.

He hit the intercom. “It's Dave.”

“Come on up,” Steph said, buzzing him in the front door.

He took the stairs two at a time, smoothed his hair, and knocked.

The door swung open. “You got here fast,” Steph said.

“I might have broken the speed limit a few times,” he admitted. He was usually careful never to break any traffic laws. He'd never even gotten a ticket before.

She kissed him on the cheek. “I missed you,” she whispered.

His chest ached. “I missed you too.”

A voice drawled from the sofa. “Aww…isn't that sweet?”

Dave strode in to meet the man who stood between him and his woman. The other man stood, nearly as tall as Dave, but with more bulk. There was something familiar about the guy—the leather, the tattoos, the long hair. Shit.

“You're Griffin Huntley,” Dave said. He only knew this disturbing fact because his sister, Christina, was a Twisted Star fanatic. Chris went to all of their concerts on the East Coast. She even had a poster of Griffin in her bedroom like a teenaged girl.

Griffin flashed a smile that held little warmth. “In the flesh.”

Dave turned to Steph in horror. “Your husband is a freaking rock star?”

Steph put a hand on his arm. “It's no big deal.”

“And what do you do?” Griffin asked.

Dave stood tall and proud. “I'm a math teacher.”

Griffin raised a brow. “Sexy.”

Dave saw red. What he did wasn't glamorous or sexy, but it was important work. And Steph, also a teacher, was the woman he loved. How dare Griffin put down both of them in their chosen professions? This guy probably wouldn't know a square root from a binomial.

He got in Griffin's face. “You got a problem with teachers? Because in case you hadn't noticed, Steph and I are both teachers.”

“I don't got a problem with teachers,” Griffin shot back. He put his hands on Dave's chest and gave him a shove. “I got a problem with a guy horning in on my woman.”

Dave shoved back, but Griffin didn't budge. Dammit. “Then there's no problem because she's not your woman.”

“Maybe we should take this outside,” Griffin said, challenge in his eyes.

Steph stepped between them. “Enough! Griff, you've met Dave, so now you can sign the papers. I won't ask for a cent from you.”

Griffin eyed Dave. “I'm not losing my wife to a geek like you.”

“She deserves better than a player like you,” Dave spat.

He'd seen Griffin on plenty of tabloid covers at the supermarket with models in bikinis. Steph was more beautiful than any of them. This guy was a complete and total moron not to see what he'd had in Steph. Plus she was smart and nice, which was also important to a guy seeking a partner, not just a fuck buddy, though he still wanted to be both to Steph. Badly. Dammit. Why did Griffin have to show up before Dave had managed to get Steph into bed? Him and his stupid morals. What kind of chance did he stand against a famous rock star? Rock stars could do whatever the hell they wanted and get away with it.

He was still mentally berating himself when Griffin snapped his fingers right in Dave's face. Dave met his eyes and scowled.

Griffin crossed his arms. “I said,” he drawled, “game on, geek.”

Dave's hackles rose. He was very competitive and always won the online chess and scrabble games he played with the best players the Internet had to offer. “Game fucking on!”

“Dave!” Steph exclaimed.

Dave glanced at her and went back to staring down his opponent. “I'm not afraid of a little competition.” Bluffing was very important in one-on-one male confrontations. He lifted his chin to look down at the enemy. “I was a mathlete in high school.”

Griffin burst out laughing.

Dave shoved him. Caught off guard, Griffin stumbled back.

“You'll pay for that,” Griffin said, charging toward Dave.

Dave quickly took refuge behind the sofa. Griffin leaped over it, grabbed him, and they hit the floor with a thud.

“Griff!” Steph shouted. “Get off him this minute!”

“Ahh,” Griffin moaned, grabbing one of Steph's hands. She had both her hands in his long hair and was pulling pretty hard if his eyelids lifting into weird, curving slits was any indication. He got off Dave, assisted by Steph's grip on his hair.

“Both of you get out,” Steph said, hustling them toward the door. “There's a ridiculous amount of testosterone in here. I can't believe two grown men are acting this way.”

Griffin grabbed his jacket. “This isn't over,” he told Steph before walking out the door.

After the door shut behind Griffin, Dave turned to Steph to explain his manly display. “I can't let him treat you that way.”

Steph shook her head. “Just go.”

“I'm not giving up,” Dave said fiercely. “He doesn't deserve you.” He would fight for the woman he loved. And he would win.

“Bye, Dave.” She pushed him through the doorway and shut the door in his face.

He stood there for a minute, calculating his chances of getting back into her apartment, decided they weren't good, and headed downstairs. Thankfully, the limo was already pulling away. He needed time to formulate a plan. The most romantic sweep-her-off-her-feet plan that didn't involve money or rock-star sex appeal.

That should come easily, he didn't have either.

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