He chuckles, and I think it’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh. I’m not sure how I feel about my wine induced braveness sparking amusement in a man so difficult to amuse.
“Smart decision, Ms. McMillan. Once you’ve slept off the wine, I suggest you begin studying again. I’ll test you on Monday.”
I open my mouth to protest and he arches his brow. It’s a testament to his natural-born authority that I’ve already come to know that arched brow as a warning. “I’ll be ready,” I state, and with a little rebel left in me, I don’t bother with ‘goodnight’. I head for the door.
I stop at Mark’s command and glance over my shoulder, fearful my escape isn’t as imminent as I’d hoped.
“Pain meds and a bottle of water before you sleep,” he orders.
My boss is dictating my preventive hangover care and I’ve just used the word ‘swords’ in reference to his obvious cock-fight with the man I just made out with in a public hallway. I am truly in an alternate universe.
“Yes sir, Mr. Compton,” I say and continue on my way.
I step into a starlit, chilly night and find Ralph and several of the interns are loading up in a cab. I hold my breath, hoping I won’t be noticed. Now that I’m staying at the gallery, my decision to drink too much jeopardizes the professional image I value. The door shuts behind Ralph and I sigh in relief but a sudden awareness turns my attention to my left.
My breath hitches as I find Chris, now wearing his leather jacket again, and leaning on a fancy black sports car I know is a Porsche 911. I know it’s a 911 because, in an ironic twist, my father will drive nothing else. Chris makes the Porsche look sexy in a way I didn’t think was possible. Not with my history with this car.
His lips curve, and his gaze burns a path up and down my body, and there is no question he’s here for me. He’d come here tonight for me, he’d claimed, but he and Mark clearly have a power play going on, and I became a token in that game tonight.
I start walking toward him, trying my best to appear steady on my feet. Why I thought wine was a good idea, when I never drink, is beyond me. He is watching my every step, and his stare is a hot caress stroking my entire body. I remember his hands touching me, his mouth on my mouth, and sensation builds low in my belly and tingles down my thighs. I want him. He knows it too, but I’ve been played with enough for one night. No, I amended. Enough for a lifetime.
“You left,” I accuse as I stop in front of him, the wind blessing me with a rush of his clean, male scent, and adding to my wobbling legs. I sway toward Chris and his hand settles on my waist, my hip and leg, pressing to his. Our eyes lock, and the instant charge between us all but sets sparks to the air. I am lost. So much for the bravado of being played with too much.
“I’m here now,” he says softly and there is a slight splay of his fingers on my waist.
I should push away from him, but I want to touch him instead. I curl my hand on top of my purse to control myself, the sting of him disappearing still present. “I thought you’d left.”
“I didn’t think you’d want to ride on the bike with your skirt on.”
“We didn’t talk about me riding with you. We didn’t talk about anything.”
“I planned to convince you and I would have been back long ago, but in my eagerness to return, I had a run in with a police officer who didn’t like my speed. He wasn’t forgiving, but I’m hoping you will be.”
My anger evaporates instantly. Not only did he go after a car for me, he managed to get a ticket in the process. A wave of dizziness washes over me and I press my hand to my forehead. “Considering how I feel, I think I should thank you for trading in the bike.” I drop my hand and it ends up on his chest, and his heart thunders beneath my touch. Because of my touch? Do I affect this man as he does me?
My gaze lifts, and the smoldering look on his face tells me I am right. I affect him as he does me. This cool, confident famous artist is reacting to me. ”I’m guessing you now realize I drank a little extra wine after you left?”
“I kind of got that idea.” He pushes off the car, his arm wrapping my waist to steady me and I am aware of every hard inch of him next to me. “Why don’t we go get you some food? I know a great pizza joint, if you like pizza?”
I’m relieved at the simplicity of pizza. “No fancy menu. No wine list. I’m sold.”
“Then pizza it is,” he agrees, and unlocks the door.
Once I’m folded into the soft leather of the passenger’s seat of the car, Chris surprises me by squatting down beside me. His hand settles on top of my leg. “The belt can be tricky sometimes.” He leans over me to pull it across me, his body intimately brushing mine, before he latches me into place. We stare at each other, the shadows dancing across our features. “We wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
No, but I think he will hurt me and I remember him warning me away from him. I think he believes he will hurt me, too, but there is a current between us, an understanding of a line we’ve crossed, of it being too late to turn back.
His fingers brush my cheek as he pushes to his feet, and shuts me inside the car, the darkness consuming me. I lean back into the plush leather, willing my head and stomach not to ruin this night.
Chris slides into the car beside me and I glance at his profile and I wonder what he thinks of me and my wine fest. “This isn’t like me. I never overindulge.”