Theron gave her a disgruntled look. “He’s toward the top,” he mumbled.
“Oh good, then you won’t mind if we spend time together at your cocktail party.”
“No,” he said through gritted teeth. “He would be a good choice. He’s successful, doesn’t have any debt, he’s never been married before, and he’s healthy.”
“Good God, tell me you didn’t hack into his medical records,” she said in disbelief.
“Of course I did. I wouldn’t suggest you marry a man who was in ill health or had defects that could be passed on to your children.”
He seemed affronted that she’d ask such a question.
She stifled her laughter and tried to look serious and appreciative. “So can I assume that any man at your party has been carefully screened and has your stamp of approval then?”
He nodded slowly but he didn’t look happy about the fact.
“Well then, this should be fun,” she said brightly. “A room full of wealthy, good-looking men to choose from.” She leaned forward and pretended to whisper conspiratorially. “Did you also find out if they were good in bed?”
Theron choked on his drink. He set it down and growled in a low voice, “Of course I didn’t question their sexual prowess.”
“Pity. I suppose I’ll have to find out myself before settling on one man in particular.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Theron snarled.
Her eyes widened innocently as she viewed his obvious irritation. He looked near to bursting a blood vessel.
His phone rang, and he looked relieved as he fumbled for it. After a few clipped sentences, he rang off and looked over at her.
“You’ll have to excuse me, but I have to go. I have an important meeting I can’t miss.”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “Don’t mind me. I was going up to my suite anyway.”
Theron motioned for Reynolds and then rose from his chair.
“Your security detail will see you up to your suite. And Bella, don’t try to go anywhere without them.”
T heron’s admonishment still rang in Isabella’s ears the next morning as she plotted her path past her security team. It wasn’t that she minded them going shopping with her. They might even be able to offer a male perspective on which dress looked best on her. She wanted to look good for the cocktail party, and not because of the men Theron had invited with her in mind.
As soon as she stepped out of her room, Reynolds fell into step behind her.
“Good morning,” she offered sweetly.
“Good morning,” he offered in return. “Where would you like to go this morning?” He pulled out his cell phone to call for the car.
“I want to do a little sightseeing,” she said. “I don’t know my way around the city very well, so I’ll have to rely on you.”
“What interests you?” he asked politely.
She pretended to think. “Museums, art galleries, oh, and I’d like to see the Statue of Liberty.”
He nodded even as he relayed her wishes to the driver.
The elevator opened into the lobby where they were joined by Davison and Maxwell. She halted in front of them, took one look and shook her head.
“Is there a problem?” Reynolds asked.
“Look, if you guys are going to shadow me, I’d prefer you didn’t look like something out of a mafia movie. Not to mention, I’d rather not broadcast the fact that I’m going around with three bodyguards. That will only make me more conspicuous.”
“What do you suggest then?” Maxwell muttered. He didn’t look entirely pleased with her assessment.
“Well, you could lose the shades. They make you look like secret service wannabes.”
Maxwell and Davison both removed the sunglasses, and Davison glared at her. She grinned in return.
“Now get rid of the tie and the jacket.”
All three men shook their heads. “The jackets stay.” Davison spoke up for the first time. To get his point across, he pulled the lapel, opening the jacket enough that she could see the pistol secured by a shoulder holster.
Her mouth fell open. She wasn’t a screaming ninny about guns. She well understood the need for them. She just hadn’t realized that Theron was that concerned over her safety. For a moment she wavered. Maybe breaking away wasn’t such a great idea. But then in her mind, having three hulking men made her much more noticeable than if she zipped to the department store and back for her dress.
“Okay, definitely leave the jackets,” she muttered.
They walked outside where the car had pulled around. Davison got into the front while Maxwell walked around to the opposite passenger door and climbed in. Reynolds opened the passenger door closest to her and waited for her to get in.
She faked exasperation and slapped her forehead with her open palm. “Wait right here. I forgot my purse,” she said.
“I’ll get it for you. You get in,” Reynolds said.
But she was already striding toward the hotel entrance. She turned back holding up a finger. “I won’t be a minute.”
Reynolds started after her, but she quickly rounded the corner and ducked into the men’s bathroom. He’d most definitely search the women’s room when he figured out she’d disappeared, but hopefully he wouldn’t think to look in the men’s.
She cracked the door just enough that she could look out. Reynolds hurried by and then he barked into a small receiver that hung from his shirt.
> Seconds later, Maxwell and Davison ran by the bathroom, their faces grim. She slipped out with no hesitation and ran for the hotel entrance, hoping they didn’t look back in the time it took her to get to a taxi.
She slid into the cab at the front of the line and offered the driver double his fee if he got the hell out fast. Only too happy to comply, he peeled out of the entryway and rocketed in front of two other cars. Horns sounded and angry shouts filled the air but the driver shook his fist and then grinned.
“Where you going, miss?”
She glanced up to see him staring at her in the rearview mirror.
“I’m not completely sure,” she admitted. “I need a dress. A really gorgeous dress that’ll make a man drool at a hundred yards.”
“I know just the place,” he said, nodding his head.
Not completely willing to forego any precautionary measures, she asked if he’d wait while she shopped, meter running of course.
He dropped her off in front of the upscale department store then gave her his cell number.
“Give me a ring when you’re checking out, and I’ll pull up and pick you up here,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said as she climbed out.
Making sure to keep in a clump of people, she entered the store. She wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to safety. She avoided corners, anything off the beaten path and stayed in plain sight of the security cameras. When it was time for her to try on her dresses, she had the extremely helpful saleslady accompany her to the dressing room. After all she needed an opinion.
After trying on six dresses, she found the one. It slipped over her body, hugging every curve like a second skin. The genius of the dress was in its simplicity. There weren’t any ruffles or frills, nothing to take away from the shape of her body. It was sheer with spaghetti straps, and it fell two inches above her knee. With a pair of killer heels, she’d have the men eating out of her hand.
She frowned as she realized it didn’t really matter what the other men did. Theron was the only one who mattered, and it was anyone’s guess how he would react.
She stepped out of the dressing room to show the saleslady. Her entire face lit up.
“It’s perfect, Ms. Caplan. Just perfect. With the right shoes, you’ll be a knockout.”
Isabella smiled. “Would you happen to have a pair of black shoes in a three-inch heel that would go well with this dress?”
The saleslady smiled. “I’ll be right back.”
A few minutes later, Isabella twirled and glanced down her legs at the shoes. The heels were basically toothpicks, but they did look gorgeous on her.
Not content to sell her an outrageously expensive dress—the shoes were nearly as expensive—the saleslady also insisted she accessorize with just the right jewelry—and handbag of course.
Two hours after she’d ditched her security team, Isabella settled into her cab and headed back to the hotel. When they pulled up, she collected her bags and leaned up to pay the driver.
“Thank you so much. I truly appreciate you waiting for me.”
“It was no problem, miss. Good luck at your party tonight. I’m sure you’ll knock their socks off.”
She smiled and got out then waved as he drove away. With a smile, she entered the hotel and headed for the elevator. The absence of her security team gave her pause, and then guilt crept in. She’d been so caught up in her shopping that she hadn’t even considered phoning Reynolds to assure him that she was okay, and she hadn’t ever provided him or Theron her cell number, so it wasn’t as if they could have called her.
With a sigh, she pulled out her cell as she inserted the key to her hotel room. She entered, punching Reynold’s number. Then she looked up and saw four very angry men staring at her from inside her room.