"A lot of good that'll do me," Louisa said, pointing to her ring.

"Hey, what he doesn't know can't hurt him," Ruth replied. "It can be like... Soph's engagement present to you. A little bon voyage to the single life!"

I couldn't help but grin at Louisa's indignant expression. Sometimes, I still wondered how we were such a tight group. Louisa was as reserved as Ruth was free spirited, and I worked too hard to be much of either. But nonetheless we'd been friends since university. Somehow, we just clicked.

"I haven't been single for four years," Louisa said.

Ruth giggled. "Oh lighten up Lou, I'm just messing around. Obviously they'll both be for me."

At that moment, the front door of the bar opened, and another sharply dressed man walked in. It took me a few moments to realise that I recognised him.

"No way," I said, my eyes flicking to my friends. They were both staring at him as he crossed the room, mouths hanging slightly open. After a quiet word to the guard, he vanished into the back.

"Did one of you spike this with a little something extra when I wasn't looking?" Ruth asked, glancing down at her drink. "Because I swear that was Chase Adams."

Chase Adams was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. A home grown Australian hero, he'd had a string of high profile hits in recent years, although he was known more for his washboard abs, axe-blade jaw, and baby blue eyes than any kind of real acting talent. I'm not really the sort of girl who lusts after celebrities, but his presence made things even more interesting. Before, I'd assumed the event was something corporate, but now, I didn't know what to think. None of the other guests had been familiar. Were they minor celebrities I just didn't recognise? Or perhaps Chase was just there as a friend? My head was swimming with a million questions.

"Nope," Louisa said, "I saw him too." She gave her lips a little involuntary lick. "No date either."

"Such a pity you're not single anymore, hey?" Ruth replied with a smirk.

Louisa shot her a withering look, but she couldn't maintain it long.

"So Lou," I said, "still not even a tiny bit curious?"

She glanced at the doorway once more and then sighed. "Maybe a little. But that doesn't change the fact that it's crazy to try and do anything about it." She nodded at the gargantuan man who stood guard in front of the door. "That guy looks like he eats a bowl of nails for breakfast each morning. We're not going to just giggle and bat our eyelashes past him."

I glanced over once more, sizing him up. She had a point. He looked like a secret service agent from some sort of presidential thriller movie. Clean shaven and unsmiling, his barrel chest and tree trunk arms filled the doorway. In stereotypical elite security fashion, his eyes were hidden behind a pair of dark wraparound glasses which looked vaguely ridiculous given the late hour. The coil of an earpiece dangled down one side of his jacket, and every few minutes he'd reach up and press on it, whispering furtively for a moment. Reporting in with the boss, probably.

And all of a sudden, a plan began to take shape in my head.

"Probably not, but maybe I can do one better," I replied. Without giving my brain time to object, I scooped up my drink and stood. I knew it was foolish, but my curiosity was almost overpowering now. I had to know what was going on back there. "Either of you coming?"

Louisa stared up at me like I'd lost my mind, but Ruth merely looked amused. "I think I'd rather just watch," she said, clearly certain that I was about to make a massive fool of myself. I wasn't entirely sure she was wrong. My plan was thin at best. But with a more than healthy dose of Dutch courage circulating inside me, I didn't really care. I was going through that door or getting kicked out in the process.

"Alright then. Let me show you how it's done girls."

And with that, I turned and began marching across the room.

I was basically the perfect level of drunk. Blissful, carefree, a little giddy, but not so far gone that I was slurring or staggering. But the guard didn't know that. The closer I got to him, the more I played it up. As his head turned my way, I threw up a vapid smile and began to stumble a little, gazing around the room in inebriated wonder.

The drunken flirt had gotten me past more than one lengthy club queue in my youth. Don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself to be a knockout or anything – I'd kill for a few more inches of leg, and skin that tanned instead of cooked – but I have certain assets that when emphasised, draw men's eyes nonetheless. The right kind of skirt, a few strategically unfastened buttons, and the rest is usually easy. Unfortunately, Louisa was right; it was going to take more than a smile and a little cleavage to make it through Mr Serious. But I had a special twist in mind for him.

As I arrived in front of the guard, I rocked backwards on my heels, blinking rapidly, as though spotting him for the first time. "Well hello handsome," I said in my best drunken drawl.

The man's lips tightened. "Miss, I'm sorry but this is a private area."

I giggled and batted my eyelashes. "Oh come on now, I just want to talk. Doesn't it get lonely just standing here by yourself all night?"

"I'm fine, but Miss please, I need to keep the doorway clear."

I pondered this for a few seconds. "Well then, I have an idea. How about you come and join me for a drink over there. You can watch your little door sitting down, and I won't be in the way anymore!"

He stared down at me, unblinking and stony faced. "Miss, I'm sorry, but I'm on duty. Please return to your table."

My stomach tightened. I'd been planning on playing it more slowly, but he obviously wasn't in the mood to chat. It was now or never. "Surely you get a break?" I said, leaning in closer to brush his arm. "Even a man like you needs a—oh god I'm so sorry!"

He uttered something sharp and flinched backwards, a red stain already blossoming on his chest. I gaped up at him.

"I've ruined your shirt." Setting my now empty wine glass on a nearby table, I reached for some napkins. "I've always been so clumsy. I can't seem to go a day without spilling something. Here, let me clean you up."

As I talked, my eyes flicked to the small plastic receiver that was clipped to his breast pocket. I knew enough about security equipment to know that most earpieces had one. It sent and received signals from the main hub. The question was, had I hit it? In the dim light of the bar it was hard to tell.

I stepped closer to dab his shirt, hoping to get a better look, but he caught my arms in one strong hand. "You've done enough," he said, all politeness gone from his voice. "It's time for you to leave."


Tags: Maya Cross The Alpha Group Billionaire Romance
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