Page 53 of Buying the Bride

He searches my eyes, and I’m not sure what he’s looking for, but he seems to find it. He drops his hand from my chin to my shoulder, his thumb tracing absent circles on my skin. I take a deep breath, trying to control my heart and I get a hint of cologne that only makes things worse. What is he doing to me?

I’ve had a handful of boyfriends and one-night-stands in my life, but nothing has ever affected me as viscerally as Andrew’s looks or touches. This is only a touch on the shoulder. What on earth would happen if that hand went elsewhere? I shudder, and his thumb stops moving. He’s looking at me, and that hungry look from the audition is back. “Dance with me,” I breathe. It’s barely loud enough for him to hear over the music, but he does. I can see the words surprise him.

He’s opening his mouth to answer me when a loud, drunken shout comes from behind him. “Xellum! My man, how are you?”

Just like that the spell is broken and whatever moment we were trapped in together is gone. Andrew’s hand drops from my skin, and I feel it’s echo like a brand. It’s probably for the best. He was probably about to say no, that he can’t dance with me, that we can’t do this. I’d rather be interrupted than actually hear him say that.

I knock back the champagne he handed me, and walk away while his back is turned, talking to the man who called his name. I find Fleece at the bar near the dance floor, already buzzed and giggly with another model friend of hers. She throws her arms around me as I appear. “Delia! My friend. The woman of the hour!” She raises her glass. “I love you, you know that?”

I laugh. “How much have you had already?”

“Just a couple, but they make good drinks here. I would know.”

“Yes, you would,” I say, grabbing what’s left of her drink and finishing it. “Want to dance it off with me?”

She jumps up off her stool and nearly trips. “I’ll dance it off and then I’ll have more!”

I pull her with me through the party into a room that looks like it’s entirely made of stars and is the center of the dancing. “I’m certainly not going to tell a bartender how much she can drink.”

“Damn right!” Fleece raises her hands above her head and lets the music take her, and I follow suit. The lights and the music, it’s all perfect. I dance with Fleece as the alcohol starts to go to my head and I feel really good. I really didn’t think that this would be my life, but right now I’m not complaining. I spin around with Fleece, arm in arm, laughing as we dance. I can’t remember the last time I felt this carefree.

The song changes to something just a little slower, the beat moves through the room and makes it seem a little darker. A handsome man takes Fleece’s hand and then they’re dancing together, moving together like they’re one. Fleece has always been a good dancer.

I dance on my own, I don’t need to be swept of my feet or attached at the hip to have a good time at this party. A hand touches the small of my back, and I turn to decline the dance when my mouth goes dry. It’s Andrew. “I believe,” he says, “that we were interrupted.”

I let him pull me closer, so our bodies are pressed together as he leads. “We were,” I say. “But I thought you were going to say no.”

“Why would you think that?” His hand strokes his hand down my back, fingers resting right where the fabric meets my skin, so close to skimming under my dress. That same arousal I felt earlier roars back to life, and I press closer to him, doing some roaming of my own. I can feel the body that his clothes are hiding, and just the thought of what it might look like has my mouth watering.

Andrew Xellum is notoriously private when it comes to his own life. I couldn’t find any shirtless pictures of him anywhere, and believe me, I tried. But what I feel beneath his shirt, and what I can feel growing hard in his pants, would be well worth waiting for. His hand strokes down my back again and I get goosebumps. “You avoided me after the last show,” I say. “And I heard that you don’t do this with people who work for you.”

He moves us in circles with the music, hips locked together as we move. It’s so dark in here—the lights having faded to nothing but the starry backdrop—that I can barely see anyone else. It feels like we’re alone.