Well, yes. That was the plan.

Ryan put his hands on his hips. “You want vintage and edgy?”

Where was he going with this? “For my day-to-day wardrobe, yes.”

“And for the ball gown?” Jaci’s shrug was his answer. “I’m taking you shopping,” Ryan told her with a stubborn look on his face.

Ryan...shopping? With her? For a ball gown? Jaci couldn’t picture it. “I don’t think... I’m not sure.”

“You need a dress, and I am going to get you into one that isn’t suitable for a corpse,” Ryan promised her, his face a mask of determination. “Tomorrow.”

“It would be a lot easier if you just excused me from the ballet,” Jaci pointed out.

“Not going to happen,” Ryan said as his eyes flicked from her face to the bed and back again. And, just like that, her insecurities about her clothes—okay, about herself—faded away, replaced by hot, flaming lust. She saw his eyes deepen and darken and she knew what he was thinking because, well, she was thinking it, too. How would it feel to be on that bed together, naked, limbs tangled, mouths fused, creating that exquisite friction that was older than time?


“Mmm?” Jaci blinked, trying to get her eyes to focus. When they did she saw the passion blazing in Ryan’s eyes. If that wasn’t a big enough clue as to what he wanted to do then there was also the impressive ridge in his pants. “The only real interest I have in your clothes is how to get you out of them. I really want to peel off that ridiculous shirt and those ratty pants to see what you’re wearing underneath.”

Nothing—she wasn’t wearing a damn thing. Jaci touched the top of her lip with her tongue and Ryan groaned.

“I’m desperate to do what we’re both thinking,” Ryan said, his voice even huskier coated with lust. “But that would complicate this already crazy situation. It would be better if I just left.”

Better for whom? Not for her aching, demanding libido, that was for sure. Jaci was glad that she didn’t utter those words out loud. She just stood there as Ryan brushed past her. At the entrance of her room, he stopped and turned to look back at her. “There’s a coffee shop around the corner from here. Laney’s?”


“I’ll meet you there at nine to go shopping.”

Jaci nodded. “Okay.”

Ryan’s smile was slow and oh so sexy. “And, Jace? I value authenticity above conventionality. Just an FYI.”

* * *

Ryan left the coffee shop holding two takeout cups and looked right and then left, not seeing Jaci anywhere. The outside tables were full and he brushed past some suits to stand in a patch of spring sunshine, lifting his leg behind him to place his foot against the wall.

He had a million things to do this morning but he was taking a woman shopping. There was something very wrong with this picture. He had a couple of rules when it came to the women he dated: he never slept over, he never took the relationship past six weeks, and he never did anything that could, even vaguely, be interpreted as something a “couple” would do. Clothes shopping was right up there at the top of the list.

A hundred million dollars...

Yeah, that was a load of bull. Jaci could turn up in nipple caps and a thong and it wouldn’t faze him. He didn’t care jack about what Leroy, or people in general, thought. Yet Jaci seemed to be determined to hit the right note, sartorially speaking. Something about their conversation last night touched Ryan in a place that he thought was long buried. He couldn’t believe that the sexy, stylish, so outwardly confident Jaci could be so insecure about what she wore and how she looked. Somebody had danced in her head, telling her that she wasn’t enough exactly as she was, and that made him as mad as hell.

Maybe because it pushed a very big button of his own: the fact that, in his father’s eyes, he’d never been or ever would be the son he wanted, needed, the son he lost. It was strange that he’d shared a little of his dysfunctional family life with Jaci; he’d never divulged any of his past before, mostly because it was embarrassing to recount exactly how screwed up he really was. That’s what happened when you met your father and half brother for the first time at fourteen and within a day of you moving in, your father left for a six-month shoot across the country. He and Ben were left to work out how they were related, and they soon realized that they could either ignore each other—the house was cavernous enough that they could do that—or they could be friends and keep each other company. That need for company turned into what he thought was an unbreakable bond.

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