At first I thought Ryan Justice didn’t like me, but over the years I’ve noticed it isn’t dislike, no matter how hard I try to annoy him. The annoyance I once read in his eyes has turned out to be hunger. The more I poke at him and push him away, the more that hunger grows. Or maybe that’s my own I’m feeling. I should stay as far away from him as possible, because he could break me. I’ve already had one man almost shatter me, and I don’t think I could survive another, no matter how bad I want it.
I turn my head and look across the crowded ballroom to find him leaning up against the wall with his eyes on me. Just like I knew they would be. Like they always are. He looks casual in his suit as he tries to appear nonthreatening, which is impossible when you’re built like him. His size is intimidating, and even more so when he’s got well over a foot and a half on you, like he does me. I know he hates the suits, because when we’re at work he always ditches the jacket and rolls up his sleeves, revealing the tattoos that coat his thick arms. It’s the one thing that always seemed off about him. The tattoos never matched the good ol’ boy attitude.
It’s as if everyone in the room knows not to block his line of sight on me, because even in this crowded room no one has stepped in his way. If I want out of his view, I’ll have to leave and find somewhere else to stand. That’s where the real inner battle begins. To move or not to move. As much as I hate the staring, I want it. I’ve been pushing for it, no matter how much I try to lie to myself that I haven’t. I’ve come to crave it.
This dress is exhibit A of that fact. I picked it out with him in mind. I asked myself what would Ryan—or Captain America, as Mallory and I call him—think of this dress. Would it piss him off like it does when I wear a sports bra and skintight shorts to our training exercises? At first I didn’t do it on purpose, but when I saw it bothered him, I did it more.
It’s a head game I’m playing. No matter how much I tell myself Captain isn’t for me, I can’t stop trying to get his attention. I guess it’s more like provoking him, because his attention is always on me. I like it when I get the rise, even though I push him away when he gets too close. God, what is wrong with me? I’ve become one of those girls who play games. That isn’t me, but I find I’m not always me when it comes to him. I’m different. Or maybe it’s not different, exactly. He draws out a part of me that I don’t want coming out.
I pull my eyes away from him and turn, giving him a side view. The black strapless dress reaches all the way to the floor, fitting snugly against me. It looks conservative…until I move. There’s a slit that runs up one side, all the way from the floor to the top of my hip. It bares my leg, my thigh, my hip, making it impossible to wear underwear. Top that off with the killer heels I have on and for once I feel tall. My legs seem longer with the tall heels and cut of the dress. I feel sexy, which is something I’m not used to. However, over the past few weeks I’ve found myself wanting to be more than just plain Paige.
I move through the room, cataloging everything, even though we aren’t officially on the clock tonight. We’re here only as light security, but the need to know my surroundings is always there. Tonight, as always, Captain and I are to protect my boss and half brother, Miles Osborne, and his girlfriend, Mallory. Mallory is my best friend, so I’ve always got her back, and tonight is no different. We’re meant to blend in, but if something catches our eye we’re to point it out to the security on call. The charity event is auctioning off millions of dollars in different pieces, so there’s plenty of staff to handle this. Miles just likes to take extra precautions. There are art pieces, jewelry, and God knows what else here that cost more than one person makes in a lifetime. So you can’t blame the heightened awareness that’s buzzing through the room.
Moving through the crowd, I try to see if I can lose Captain in the shuffle. I can feel him following me, and I want to shake him. Nothing is happening at the event and I’m getting bored as each second ticks by. The space is locked up tight, and no one looks out of place. I don’t foresee anything happening and I might as well have a little fun. I turn, trying to see how close he is, but I’ve lost him in the crowd. He’s normally easy to spot, towering over everyone in the room, but now he’s the one hiding.