“Should we go over and say hello?”
Lydia’s voice jolts me from my fog. “I guess so,” I say unevenly. “He’s making it pretty obvious he knows us.”
“Us,” she snorts. “Sure.”
I’m unprepared for Lydia to take my elbow and drag me across the dance floor, but my heart sings with rapture the closer I get to Elijah. One week has passed since I’ve seen him and all my senses are making up for lost time. My nose searches the air for eucalyptus, my fingers curl in on themselves wanting to remove that tie. I don’t know what I’m expecting when I reach him, but it’s definitely not what happens. When I’m a few feet away, Elijah drops his beer on the bar and sweeps me up in a bear hug. I barely gulp down my pitiful sob of pleasure in time.
“Your nose is sunburned, Goose,” he says gruffly, into my hair. “It’s cute.”
My eyelids flutter. Is it possible to stay locked in these arms forever? It’s the safest and warmest I’ve ever felt in my life. “I went kayaking today.”
“Did you?” He pulls back to peer down at me. “You’re full of surprises.”
“Better than just being full of shit, like you.” His laugh shakes my whole body—and that’s when I remember we’re in public and everyone is watching us. “You shouldn’t be hugging me this long. It looks…”
“Maybe it looks like what it is.” I’m reeling from those seven stupefying words when he says, “Hey, Lydia. Where are you headed?”
“I have to be mommy bright and early tomorrow. My Uber is already waiting outside.”
Elijah still hasn’t taken his eyes off me. What is happening here? Heat is like an anchor in my belly, pressing down and turning my panties sodden. “I’m going to make sure she gets into the car safely.” His attention dips to my mouth and the vibration of his growl wreaks havoc on my lady parts. “When I come back, we’re going to have a drink.”
I nod dumbly—a first for me—disengaging myself to hug Lydia goodbye with a promise to hang out again soon. Elijah leads Lydia from the bar and I watch through the front window as he stoops down to shake the driver’s hand before sending them off with a tap on the roof. Realizing I’m still standing in the same exact spot like a nincompoop, I hop onto the closest available barstool and command myself to woman up.
Although…what is happening here? Has the week apart made a difference? Does he…want me? As a—gulp—girlfriend?
Even as my heart trips all over itself, panic sets in. This is not the plan. I’m not the one that ends up in the mansion with Elijah, floating down the staircase in a silk robe every morning. Or hosting galas like Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve come to terms with that. Haven’t I?
“Bourbon, please. Neat.” Elijah takes the seat beside me with a tug of his tie, such classic male charisma, I want to smash a glass. “What are you drinking, Addison?”
“Hold on,” the bartender says, stabbing the bar with his index finger. “You’re the Getaway Girl, ain’t you? You’ve been dancing over there for an hour and I didn’t place you.”
Elijah turns to me with a tight smile. “Dancing only with Lydia, I hope.”
I’m a hot second away from letting him know I can dance with Lucifer, if I so choose. But the words melt on my tongue like sugar. Later. Later, I’ll tell him. When I’m not giddy over him being possessive of me—at all—let alone in front of a stranger. “That’s me,” I manage smoothly. “Still haven’t gotten the imprint of his backside out of my passenger seat.”
That sets the bartender off howling and even Elijah can’t keep a straight face. “I’d be honored to buy this round, folks,” the bartender says. “What are you having, miss?”
“A gin and tonic, please.”
The man moves away and Elijah looks me over, starting with my shoes, working his way up my bare thighs. “I guess I should be grateful you’re not wearing the high heels.”
I lift a shoulder, let it drop. “I’m not looking for a man.”
He takes a slow drink of his bourbon when the bartender sets it down. “Maybe you’d be willing to reconsider for me?” Humor tugs on his lips, but his eyes watch me closely. “Even though you prefer blonds.”
That earlier panic rears up again, in the midst of my joy. Is he asking to be my man? In what capacity? And where did this decision come from? It’s not like Elijah to be vague. Not at all. It’s as if he doesn’t even know what he’s asking me. “Why don’t we talk for a while?” I thank the bartender for my drink, then take a deep breath. “Have you made any progress with the governor about developing Montague Street?”
Elijah is clearly amused by my sudden professional tone, but there’s an overriding pleasure that I remembered the details of our conversation. “Yes, I have. I spoke publicly on air this week about my vision for that plot of land and the governor was asked to comment. Caught him off guard, but we’ve got the attention of community organizers now—and support is building, along with pressure. He can’t ignore that. And I don’t think you’re as bored with politics as you sometimes pretend to be.”