Page 22 of Claiming Cinderella

“I thought you were an asshole,” I mumbled the word like I’d just said something much worse.

“A what?” He cupped his ear and leaned in.

“I thought you were an asshole,” I stated much more clearly and with my head held a little higher.

“Ouch.” He held his heart and winced. “You’re brutal. I like that. Would you like to come up and see that view from up there?” He pointed to a big beautiful balcony, and I had to admit the night sky would have been much amazing from up there.

But I hesitated. “I’m not sure.”

“Why not?” He nudged my side. “I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“How do I know that?” I folded my arms across me, as the wind chilled my shoulders.

“I just gave you my word.” He met my eyes, and I shrugged like I wasn’t impressed.

“Besides, I could grab you something for your chills up there, but down here,” he looked around. “You’d have to settle for my coat.” He started to unbutton his coat, and I grabbed his hand.

“It’s okay. I’m not cold, but since you insist, I’d love to go up there with you.”

A slow smile spread his perfect lips, and it was enough to make my heart beat faster. He took my hand and led me through the crowd, careful to keep me from bumping into anyone, and then we took to the stairs walking slowly hand in hand. He’d stop behind me on the landings, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was checking out my ass. The thought of his eyes on me made me feel tingly inside, and I wondered if he really liked me like I hoped.

The Twins could have put him up to this, then again, they’d warned me off of him, and now they were nowhere to be found. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were watching from afar. Or if they’d really kill me if they knew I was with him.

Once we were upstairs, where there was a bench to sit, he’d shut the doors behind us. “Hope that’s okay with you, but I’d like a little bit more privacy with you.”

“Shouldn’t you be down entertaining your other guests. I hate to keep you all to myself.” I second-guessed myself. Why was he giving me such special treatment?

“I’m more interested in you.”

“Why?” I let loose a deep breath. “Sorry, that came out a little harsh, but I can’t help but wonder why me.”

“Why not you? You’re fascinating and beautiful. I like that you have something to talk about. Most want to talk about me and my money, but I don’t think it impresses you one bit, so I’d like to hear more about you and your passion.”

“You mean the jewelry?” His nod surprised me, and I kept proceeding with caution, still unsure if this was some colossal prank.

“Yeah, how on earth did you learn to make your own jewelry? Designing it must take time too, and you’re so good at it. That piece you have on is timeless.”

“Thank you. I learned from my mother.” I wasn’t about name-dropping, but I also couldn’t hide who I was.

“Your mother made jewelry too? Did she ever sell any?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, she was Layla Ford, I’m not sure if you’ve—

“Heard of her? Are you kidding? Your mother is my mother’s favorite jewelry designer, and she’s got several custom pieces in her personal collection.” He shook his head like he couldn’t believe it. “You’re just as wealthy as others here.” He gave me a sideward glance like I’d been lying to him about who I was.

“Not exactly. I’m afraid my mother’s illness drained our account, and I’m having to live with friends and work as a personal assistant.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have spoken out of turn like that.” His face turned red, and he raked his hand through his hair.

“It’s fine. I know, I find it hard to believe too. My mother built a fortune, and that dreadful disease took everything. It’s okay though. I’m lucky to have my mom’s best friend looking out for me.”

His eyes narrowed a bit, and then he smiled. “So, you want to follow in her footsteps?”

“She’s taught me everything she knows, so yeah. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I will do it someday too. I was actually hoping that by coming here, I’d meet a few of the right kind of people. Maybe someone in the business who could show me a thing or two, help me get a foot in the door.”

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