“You look amazing,” he leaned in and said to Gretchen as the wedding cake was served. Julian wasn’t interested in dessert. He had a hard time tearing his eyes away from the exposed line of her neck and shoulders. He ached to run his fingertip along her bare skin and leave a line of kisses in its wake.
Gretchen smiled at his assessment, her cheeks blushing adorably. “Thank you. You’re looking pretty dapper yourself.”
“Meh.” He dismissed it. He wasn’t interested in talking about himself tonight. He wanted the focus to be on her. “I can’t wait to get you out on the dance floor and show you off to everyone.”
Gretchen stiffened slightly, looking at him with concern in her dark eyes. “Dancing? We’ve never discussed the subject of dancing before. I’ve got a lovely pair of two left feet.”
“You can’t be that bad,” he dismissed.
“No, you don’t understand. My mother was a professionally trained ballerina. She tried to teach me to dance for years, then finally declared I was about as elegant and graceful as a rhino in heels.”
Julian flinched. That was a horrible thing to say to someone, much less your own daughter. No wonder she’d gone this long thinking she wasn’t worthy of a man’s attentions. “We’re not doing that kind of dancing,” he insisted. “I’m going to hold you close and we’ll just lose ourselves in the music. Nothing fancy, just dance floor foreplay.”
“Foreplay?” Her arched brow raised curiously.
“You betcha.” Julian knew a lot of guys didn’t like to dance, but those guys were damn fools. If they only knew how a good slow dance could prime the pumps, they’d all sign up for ballroom dancing lessons.
As if on cue, the bandleader invited the whole wedding party out onto the dance floor. “Here’s our chance,” he said.
“Aren’t you supposed to dance with the maid of honor?”
He turned to see her step out onto the floor with another man. “I guess not. Would you care to help a lonely gentleman out?”
Gretchen nervously took his hand and let him lead her out onto the dance floor. The song was slow and romantic, allowing him to take full advantage of the moment. He slipped his arms around her waist, pulling her close. It took a minute for her to relax, but eventually, she put her arms around his neck and took a deep breath to release the tension.
“See? This isn’t so bad.”
“You’re right. And if it wasn’t for the frantic flashing of cameras taking pictures, I might be able to relax.”
Julian shrugged. He’d learned long ago to tune all that out. It was hard for an actor to stay in the moment if he couldn’t ignore the camera in his face, the lights shining on him and the boom mike hanging overhead. There were really only two photographers tonight; the rest were just guests taking photos like at any other wedding. They were harmless.
“This moment is what the whole week was about. Let them take their pictures. Let them plaster it across their celebrity gossip magazine pages and make you a household name if that’s the price for bringing you into my life.”
Gretchen gasped softly at his bold words. He’d surprised himself with the intensity of them, but it had felt right at the moment. As time went on, he realized that he just couldn’t let this go when he returned home. He didn’t know how they could manage it or if it would work at all, but he wanted to try. He would be a fool to let such a sweet, caring woman drift out of his life.
The moment was perfect, like one carefully crafted by one of his directors. The lighting was dim with the occasional beam dancing across them. The music was soft and seductive, their bodies moving in time with it. Every inch of her soft curves was pressed against him. When she laid her head on his shoulder, it was as if the world had ceased to exist. The wedding guests, the cameras...all of it felt as if it was suddenly a million miles away and they were dancing all alone.
Her touch made his skin prickle with sensations, but none could come close to the lightness inside him. With Gretchen in his arms, he felt as though he could do anything. He could take on that gritty script, he could pursue a more serious acting career without compromising his brother’s care, he could have everything he wanted...including her.
It had been only a few days, but he had Gretchen to thank for opening his eyes to the possibilities. He intended to talk to Ross about it tomorrow morning. That script was everything he wanted, and a part of him needed to try out for it. He might not get it, or he might wish he hadn’t when the critics got a hold of him, but he needed to try.