I know my job is to just sit and look pretty, but I’m tired of that nonsense. I’m smart and resourceful; maybe if I go above and beyond my typical duties, Kennedy will trust me to handle some real cases. Cases where I need to learn to shoot a gun and put my newly learned self-defense moves to work.
Sure, looking deeper into Matt Russo’s background isn’t going to have me running through the streets chasing down bad guys, but at least it will show that I’m taking initiative.
“Well, hello, twenty-five Matt Russo Facebook pages. Let’s see, only one is from South Bend, so let’s go with that,” I say aloud, clicking on his name.
“Wonderful. Profile is set to private. What the hell, Matt? No one sets their profile to private unless they have something to hide. Do you have something to hide, Mr. Russo?”
Backing out of Facebook, I click on the next site that Google found on him: LinkedIn.
Let’s see here. Matt Russo is a graphic designer currently employed by Bolder Design Studio. I already knew this information, so this isn’t helping me at all. He’s an art nerd just like my ex is a computer nerd. No matter how cute he was last night, he’s probably just as much of a tool as Andy. I don’t know why that thought makes me sad. I don’t even know the guy. Just because he didn’t recognize me in the bar last night doesn’t mean he’s a stand-up person without a secret girlfriend.
But man alive, those blue eyes . . . I wonder what they would look like without the glasses. I wonder if they would darken if he was in my bed and I was taking his pants off.
Shit! What the hell is wrong with me? Matt Russo will not be in my bed, ever.
There’s a reason why I’m always attracted to nerdy assholes. I don’t know what that reason is right now, but I’m sure there is one. I am going to focus on finding out if Matt Russo is really a cheater and that’s it. I am not going to think about whether or not he’s got a six-pack hiding under that sweater vest.
Deciding to nip this thing in the bud, I pick up my phone and dial the receptionist at Bolder Design Studio. The sooner I can end this case, the sooner I can find a hot guy who looks and acts nothing like my ex and bang the memory of glasses-wearing, sweater-vest-donning, computer geeks out of my system.
While the phone rings, I clear my throat and put on my best dumb-blonde act.
“Bolder Design, how can I help you?” the receptionist answers.
“Hi, this is Chloe-with-an-e Marin,” I respond with a giggle, using the name of the woman Kennedy found her husband boning when she came home from a tour in Afghanistan. “You’re going to think I am such an idiot, but I was supposed to have a meeting with Mr. Russo this evening so he could help me design my new adult video website and I TOTALLY forgot the time and where we’re supposed to meet.”
I know I’m laying it on thick. Whatever. I hate that Chloe bitch and I firmly believe she does porn on the side.
“Hold on just one second. Let me pull up Mr. Russo’s calendar.”
I giggle again for added effect while I hear her clicking away at her computer through the line.
“Here we go. Hmmm, I don’t see anything on his calendar with you tonight, Miss Marin. He does have a dinner scheduled at Blake’s Seafood at five, but he must have forgotten to add your name.”
I’d like to thank the Academy . . .
“That’s it! Blake’s at five. You are such a doll!”
I quickly thank the clueless woman and disconnect the call. Glancing at the clock on the wall, I see that I have an hour and a half before I need to get to Blake’s. Just enough time to run home and freshen up. I’m assuming that Matt is smart enough not to put the name of his rendezvous location with his suspected mistress on his work calendar, but you never know. Running over to Lorelei’s desk, I grab the Nikon out of the top drawer and shove it into my purse. Maybe I’ll get lucky and catch him canoodling with a waitress in a dark corner. I can snap a picture and be gone, never to think of naked Matt Russo again.
Walking through the door of Blake’s Seafood Restaurant, I scan my reflection in the mirror next to the hostess station. I know it doesn’t matter what I’m wearing since I plan on hiding in a corner and spying on Matt, but it’s impossible for me to go out in public without looking good. Every once in a while I’m recognized by a fan, which is actually a plus in this line of work, because the guy I’m trying to catch cheating would never suspect that I’m an investigator.
I kept it casual tonight with a royal blue cotton strapless dress that falls right above my knees with a matching pair of blue open-toed Gucci heels. Signaling to the hostess on the phone that I was just going to head to the bar, I make my way into the main part of the restaurant and to the corner of the bar closest to me. With my back to the wall and a drink menu up in front of my face, I peer over the top, scoping out the restaurant. I immediately spy Matt on the other side of the room in his own dark corner.
Mmm-hmmm, just what I thought. Hiding in a corner—all the better to make out with your mistress. Ordering a glass of white wine, I crouch low on my stool and keep an eye on Mr. Cheater McCheatpants.
After an hour, two more glasses of wine, and seven shredded cocktail napkins, my ass is starting to fall asleep on the bar stool and I actually catch myself yawning. This is pathetic. What kind of a cheater is this guy? All he’s done in the last sixty minutes is look at the screen on his cell phone and glance toward the door over and over again. Maybe his home-wrecker girlfriend stood him up. Serves the guy right.
Sliding off of the bar stool, I work out the kinks in my legs from sitting so long, staying close to the shadows in the corner. Turning back around quickly to make sure I don’t miss anything from Matt’s table, I slam right into a solid chest and my hands immediately press against it to steady myself. The smell of Burberry Touch cologne tingles my nose and butterflies flap rapidly in my stomach as I lift my head.
“Hey, you’re the woman from last night. Paige, right?”
Oh, shit. I’ve been made. Kennedy is going to kill me.
I stare into Matt’s eyes as he smiles down at me, his hands still holding tightly to my arms. It could be the wine talking right now, but Jesus, he’s really good-looking up close. He’s removed his glasses and his sparkling blue eyes are staring right down at my face, taking in everything he sees.
“What are the odds that we’d run into each other again?” Matt asks, the dimple in his left cheek forming when he cocks one side of his mouth up in a grin.
Oh, pretty good, considering I’m following you.
“It’s definitely a nice coincidence,” I tell him with a sultry smile. I don’t care if he smells like heaven and I have a weakness for dimples, I’m still here to do a job. Since I can no longer lurk in a dark corner and spy on him, maybe I can ply him with alcohol and get him to talk. It didn’t work last night, but he doesn’t seem as preoccupied as he did then. “Are you here alone?”
Matt nods his head and lets out a sigh. “I am. Is it pathetic that I’m sitting in the corner of a bar by myself on a Friday night?”
He laughs easily at himself and runs a hand through his hair, making the spikes messy, and for some reason I want to reach up and smooth them back down.
“Well, it looks like we’re both pretty pathetic tonight, since I was doing the same thing,” I tell him as I gesture over to my pile of shredded napkins on the bar next to my empty wineglasses.
“Several glasses of wine AND mutilated napkins. You must be having a bad week,” he laughs.
“One of my best friends fell madly in love and I have to go to a party later on tonight to toast to their happiness. Let’s just say it’s a good thing the bartender didn’t put any knives in front of me tonight.”
Matt chuckles and shakes his head. “Those napkins never stood a chance. At least now I know to keep sharp objects far out of your reach.”
A laugh bubbles up out of me before I can catch it. “I’m happy for them. Really, I am. I only think about stabbing my ex in the heart four times a day now instead of seven.”
“See? That’s progress right there. Pretty soon you’ll only be thinking about lighting all of his things on fire,” Matt replies with a chuckle.
“Oh, that ship has already sailed. You always burn their shit first, then you daydream about chopping off body parts.”
“I feel like this conversation escalated very quickly,” Matt says with another laugh and a raise of one eyebrow.
I have no idea why I even told him about Kennedy or Andy; it just spilled out of me. I’ve never spoken to subjects about anything other than how good they look and how much money they make. In this line of work, it’s always about them. Do whatever you can to make them feel special and important and they’ll be eating out of your hands in no time. It’s never taken me more than a few minutes to get a guy to show his true colors. A couple of seconds alone with Matt and I’m laughing and forgetting why I’m here.
Taking a deep breath, I slide my hands off of his chest and take a few steps back. I need to get into character.
“Would you like to have a drink with me?” I ask, gesturing to the bar stool next to mine.
Matt looks back at the door for a moment. My hackles immediately go up when I realize he’s probably trying to decide if he should keep waiting for his “date” or take a chance on scoring with a new girl. He’s probably calculating the odds in his head and part of me hopes he’ll turn me down. What kind of a man cheats on his wife and cheats on his mistress? That’s just gross. When he turns back to face me with a smile and a shrug, I want to kick my own ass for being attracted to this douchebag.
“Sure, I’ll take you up on that drink. I think I owe you one anyway. I was kind of a dick last night,” he explains as he pulls out my stool for me and waits for me to sit down before taking his own seat.
“It’s fine. We all have bad nights,” I tell him with a reassuring smile as I lean my elbows on the bar so I’m closer to him.
“You can say that again. Although right now, I think I’m having more of a bad life instead of a bad week.”
Geez, this guy is really that depressed that his mistress stood him up? His poor wife. Why the hell didn’t I think of bringing a recorder with me? It would be a lot easier to just tape all this shit he’s spewing than try to get him to make out with me. Shit! The camera is in my purse. Now that I’m not going to be able to catch him with his mistress, I’m back to Plan A and need to get him to kiss me.
“Would you excuse me for a minute? I need to go to the ladies’ room.”
I give him a wink, grab my purse from the bar, and quickly head toward the hostess station, glancing back over my shoulder to make sure he’s not watching me.
Pulling the camera and a hundred-dollar bill out of my purse, I set the items down right in front of the hostess.
“I need you to do me a huge favor. I’ll give you another hundred dollars if you can get a few good pictures of me making out with that guy I’m sitting next to at the bar,” I tell her quickly, pointing to Matt, who still has his back to us and is chatting with the bartender.
“Awww, how sweet! Why don’t I just come over there now and take a picture? You don’t have to pay me,” the young girl replies happily.
“No, no, no. He can’t know the picture is being taken. I’m a private investigator.”
She looks at me in awe for a few minutes as I check over my shoulder again to make sure Matt is preoccupied.
“Wow. Are you, like, undercover? Do you work for the government? Am I being taped right now?” she whispers.
Rolling my eyes, I back away from the hostess stand.
“Yeah, sure. It’s top-secret government work. I could tell you about it, but then I’d have to kill you,” I reply with seriousness.
Don’t judge me. I’ll do whatever it takes right now.
“You can count on me.” She salutes me and clutches the camera close to her chest.
With a sigh, I turn around and rush back to Matt’s side.
“I ordered you another glass of white wine; I hope that’s okay,” he tells me with a smile as I take my seat next to him.
“Perfect, thank you.” I reach up and place my hand on his bicep, giving it a gentle squeeze, and act like it’s perfectly natural for me to be touching him—all part of the job. If you’re touchy-feely with a subject, it will make them more inclined to be touchy-feely with you.
Rubbing my palm up and down his arm, I swallow thickly. Holy hell, he’s got some muscles hidden under that button-down. I have to forcibly remove my hand from his arm, otherwise I might start looking for more muscle. Needing something to do with my hand other than molest him, I pick up my glass of wine and take a healthy swallow.
“So, what do you do for a living, Paige McCarty?”
The wine immediately goes down the wrong pipe and I begin coughing and sputtering. Matt reaches up and gently pats me on the back as I set my wineglass down. When I’m finally able to catch my breath, I turn to look into his eyes to see if he’s serious. I still find it hard to believe he has no idea who I am. There isn’t a man alive under the age of fifty who doesn’t know who I am. Maybe this is part of his shtick; his way of trying to charm me. Fine, Mr. Russo. We’ll play it your way.
“Actually, I’m a model,” I reply with a smile.
He blinks in surprise and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was genuine. “Wow, no kidding? Have you done a lot of work or are you just starting out?”
It’s my turn to stare at him in shock. This guy is really good. I almost believe him. I’m going to need to stay at the top of my game with him.