“I haven’t eaten, either. Let’s go get something.”
“Naw, I don’t feel like getting out. The food here is amazing. The chef is a foodie genius from the Caribbean. I think I’ll place an order for them to bring here.”
“In that case,” London said as she slithered over to his side of the couch, “why don’t we start with dessert first?”
She was halfway on him, leaning in for a kiss when strong hands gripping her shoulders stopped her progress. “Stop acting like London. I want to get to know Clarisse.”
London sat back in a huff, attitude evident.
Ace was unmoved. His posture remained casual and relaxed, but his next words were firm. “That strong man you mentioned earlier? You’re looking at one. And we not only go after what we want, we plan when the party will happen. And then we lead the dance.”
There are circumstances in life that sometimes derail even a strong man’s plans. That happened when London was summoned first by her cousin and then by her mother to return to the Drake mansion and bid some of the relatives who were leaving goodbye. Their impromptu lunch date was changed to a late dinner date instead and Ace was able to keep the original appointment on his itinerary—the one that he’d been ready to cancel in a heartbeat for a certain spoiled, entitled, irresistible woman named London—no, Clarisse.
His celebrity hidden behind a Raiders baseball cap and shades, Ace climbed into a golf cart for a tour of the winery. It would be conducted by the company’s vintner, Dexter Drake. This was a rare occurrence. Normally the wine shop manager performed this task. But as life would have it, Dexter was a fan of the OTB line, with several of their designer duds lining his closet. So when he heard Ace was taking the tour, he offered to conduct it.
“It’s really great to meet you, man,” Dexter said once they took off. “Your designs are amazing. They fit my personality and style to a T.”
“Thank you, Dexter. I appreciate that.”
“Are you the designer?”
“I’m the visionary behind what people are wearing, but can’t claim total ownership of the final pieces. I sketch out what’s in my head and hand it over to a team of amazing designers who then add their own spin that often takes the look to a whole other level. In the end it’s a collaborative effort.”
“Whatever you’re doing is working. I never thought I’d go for the double-breasted look again, but the new spin with the super narrow lapel, short coat and high-waisted slacks… Genius.”
Dexter’s phone rang. “Excuse me a moment.”
For Ace the call was a welcome interruption. Dexter seemed like a nice guy and all, but Ace’s mind was consumed with London. She’d acted miffed that he hadn’t called her. Had she actually been hurt, or was that just an act? The way he remembered it, she couldn’t have cared less. He recalled how he’d felt the first time he saw her—stunned by her beauty, aroused by her fire, frightened by the intense feelings her presence evoked. She’d walked in the room as if she owned it and brightened the whole place. She was carefree, obnoxious, bubbly and bold. Quiet by nature, suspicious by life, he’d immediately wanted to know her. But her largesse had reduced him to the gangly, acne-prone preteen he was before a six-inch growth spurt and a face-cleansing regimen had begun his transformation. He wanted to approach her, but to say he’d been intimidated would not have been a stretch. They’d flirted from opposite sides of the room. She’d seemed interested. He still didn’t approach. One of the setbacks to being a teenage heartthrob—no time to perfect the rap game. All the women he’d been involved with had come to him.
So their chance meeting in the hallway had been perfect. Even though he’d begun the conversation with a lame comment about her name. Thankfully, she hadn’t cared. Much. Later, when her publicist brought them together, he’d been more relaxed. They’d clicked. Most of the night he’d asked the questions. Then…she’d asked one. It led to their finding an empty room in the huge castle her agency had rented out and exploring every inch of each other’s bodies for forty-eight hours, interrupted only once to eat and recharge their batteries. But then he’d gone back to the United States on tour and she’d become the toast of Incomparable, and they’d lost touch. A few more casual meetings had followed, but never a chance to reconnect more intimately.