He pulled me against him suddenly. I stiffened, but he just pushed my cheek into his chest. “You’re an infuriating woman,” he said into my hair. I tried to shove away from him for that comment, but I couldn’t seem to budge him. “I would be happy to walk you back to your room, but I’m not leaving you here when you’re acting like this.”
“You don’t know anything about me. I may act this way all the time,” I said, but the words were muffled into his shirt.
He was wearing the softest T-shirt I’d ever felt. I was suddenly nuzzling against it. I realized that I hadn’t even seen what he was wearing. It wasn’t a suit, and I hadn’t even gotten a chance to check him out.
I pulled back, looking with fascination at his casual attire. His shirt was a navy V-neck T-shirt with a small pocket over the left side of his chest. Right over his nipple, I thought. It was fitted, showing off his sleek muscles. And it was sooo soft.
I started running my hands over it, and he didn’t stop me. He wore casual gray slacks with navy running shoes. He looked positively edible.
“Someday soon I’m going to tie you up and tease you just the way you’re teasing me right now, with no hope for release for at least a night.” His voice was soft and earnest. His words stilled my hands immediately. Apparently I wasn’t doing a great job of scaring him off. Yet.
I snapped my fingers at him as I got an idea. I was steadier on my feet as I pulled completely out of his arms. Just a few minutes without imbibing was improving my balance.
“I have a surprise for you,” I told him ominously, and stalked toward the Karaoke DJ.
I whispered my request in the strange man’s ear, and he nodded, shooting a look at James.
I put a finger over my lips. “Shhh. It’s a surprise for Mr. Beautiful.”
James watched me stoically as I climbed onto the tiny stage. Surprisingly, there was no one in line, so I got to go immediately. Before I’d gone to the bathroom there had been a line nearly out the door of people waiting to perform. Now the place was just getting emptier by the second.
That was fine with me. This hot mess of a show was all for James Cavendish.
I couldn’t help it. I started to giggle as the first notes of S&M came on and I saw his eyes widen. I got myself under control enough to start singing to it when the words came on the screen, shooting him sassy looks and even throwing in a little bit of wiggling to the beat. I even bent down to flip my hair at a small pause in the song. Oh, lord, that almost knocked me off the stage.
He moved closer at my reckless action, as though to catch me if I really did fall off.
I got a little off track when Melissa strutted over and started talking to him. Did she really have to stand so close to him? Apparently, she did. She even pressed against him as she spoke into his ear.
He didn’t seem to mind either, talking to her now more than he was watching me. It seemed to be a very serious conversation for two people who had just met. Or did they know each other?
That’s it, I decided. I was going to find out.
The music hadn’t even stopped when I stomped off the stage.
James gave me a small smile as I approached. Melissa wasn’t touching him anymore, but she was still standing way too close to him.
“Thank you for the surprise, Bianca. I won’t forget that for as long as I live.” His voice was warm and full of good humor. Dammit. That had not been what I was going for.
“Do you two know each other?” I asked abruptly.
James looked a little surprised. “We just met. She works with you, right?”
“So what were you talking about?” I asked pointedly.
“She said she was a good friend of yours. I was asking her about you.”
I looked at Melissa. She looked a little miffed, but hardly deterred. If she had any clue how much James was worth, she’d really be all over him.
I toyed with the idea of telling her. That might solve the whole situation right there. For reasons I didn’t want to analyze, I decided against it almost immediately.
She studied me briefly, and her expression brightened. She grabbed my hand suddenly, all bubbly girl again. “Come on, chicky,” she said to me fondly, leading me back to the Dj.
I didn’t have to wonder what she was up to for long. She had us duet-ing a version of ‘Back that thing Up’ in no time.
I mostly tried to rap to the vaguely obscene lyrics while watching her in fascination. She quickly had her ass to the audience, doing some pretty impressive booty dancing.
I was more stacked than her in the chest department, and mine were very much natural, but she had waaay more junk in the trunk. And I had to admit it was very nice junk. And she very much knew it.
She threw smiles over her shoulder at the crowd as she crouched nearly to the floor. Yep, she was backing that thing up.
I was rapping, “Call me big daddy when you back that thang up,” when Stephan caught my gaze from the crowd. He’d left his spot at the bar, where he’d been in close conversation with Melvin since we’d come out of the bathroom.
Ah, damn. I had interrupted them with my antics. He had finally gotten a chance to make his move, and I had distracted him. I felt instantly guilty.
He was giving me wide eyes. I could tell he was about ready to carry me home. He would not approve of operation ‘hot mess’, I knew for sure. He’d been acting as my protective older brother for too long to just idly stand by while I drunkenly embarrassed myself.
I was relieved when he didn’t immediately come and carry me from the stage. But my relief was short-lived as I saw him speaking earnestly to James. James was listening intently, nodding in agreement.
I got distracted by the lyrics screen as the the beat got faster for a moment. I substituted any words I couldn’t say that started with N with the word chicky. I thought it fit rather well into the song, and was mentally patting myself on the back when the song ended.
Melissa laughingly hugged me when we finished. She was breathless from all that shaking. Did she suddenly like me? Or was this some kind of a show for James’s benefit? With what I knew of Melissa, I suspected the latter, but I didn’t really care just then.
I approached the two tall men who looked to be having a serious conversation that I was positive was all about me.
James sent me a wide-eyed look. He looked shocked about something.
I stalked up to Stephan and bumped his shoulder with my own. “What are you telling him?” I asked him, my voice angry. “Go sit back down at the bar, Stephan. I am just fine.”
Stephan leaned down to me. He seemed visibly upset, and I was on alert at once. What the hell was going on with these two?
He hugged me, speaking into my ear. “Please don’t be mad at me. I know it’s not my place to butt in, but I just had to see what kind of a guy he is. I think he’ll treat you well. And if he doesn’t, I told him I’d kick his billionaire ass.”
I scrunched my nose up at him. “That’s why you thought I’d be mad at you?”
He didn’t look any less upset, so I knew that wasn’t it. He couldn’t look me in the eye, and he was trembling a little. He hated it when I was mad at him. He had serious issues with people being upset with him, and especially with me being mad. Issues that stemmed from some truly horrible things that had happened to him when he was a kid. I’d been his only family for years, so he feared my anger. He had this irrational fear that if he ever made me really angry with him, I would desert him, like his family had. I’d told him many times that it would never happen, but he still didn’t know how to cope with any kind of conflict.
He was shaking his head, and I could see a certain panic in his eyes that I dreaded. It did a great deal towards sobering me up. “What is it?” I asked him.
“I told him that you were a virgin,” he whispered in my ear. I stiffened. “I just didn’t want him to hurt you. Or to…have the wrong impression of you with the way you were acting. Please don’t be mad.”
I couldn’t seem to help it. I was instantly mad. I pushed him back, pointing at him. “Go. Back. To. Your. Seat.”
He obeyed, doing a pretty good impression of a ‘Charley Brown walk’ back over to Melvin. I had probably just ruined his whole night, but he had no right to share personal information about me. Especially not with Mr. Beautiful.
I turned back to James, glaring. “So, are you done yet? You can see now that this is not going to happen. My V-card should be more than enough of a reason to make someone like you run screaming in the other direction.” Maybe Stephan had found me a better final solution to this strange problem, I realized, even as I spoke.
The shock was long gone from his face. Now his face was carefully blank. The blankness didn’t quite reach his eyes, though. They were as intense as ever. “Come here,” he told me.
A few feet separated us. I closed the distance before I thought to defy him. He fisted a hand very, very carefully into my hair, pulling my head back slightly. He leaned down to my ear. “I’m going to ruin you,” he breathed. “I’ll be your first, and I’ll fuck you so thoroughly that I’ll be your last, too. You won’t want any other man after I’ve gotten my hands on you. Every last inch of you.” A shudder ran through my entire body at his roughly whispered words.
My brow furrowed. Had he somehow sensed I was a virgin even before Stephan told him? Is that why he was pursuing me? Did he have some weird fetish? “So you prefer virgins?” I whispered the question back at him.
His brows shot up in surprise. “I’ve never been with one, so no. But I can’t say I’m displeased with the notion. In fact, I love it that I’ll be your first.”
I didn’t even bother to tell him that he was assuming a whole lot right there. I was suddenly very tired. Tired enough to pass out. And we had to be up at five a.m to get ready for the morning flight. “I’m ready to go,” I told him. His face brightened instantly.
“Good. Let’s go tell Stephan.”
Stephan wouldn’t even look at me as we approached.
“Bianca is calling it a night,” James told Stephan. “I’ll see her to her room. What time should I set her alarm for?” I rolled my eyes. There he went, talking about me in front of me again.
“Five,” Stephan and I answered at the same time. The men nodded at each other cordially, Stephan never looking at me.
I knew it would bother him all night if I didn’t tell him he was forgiven. I stepped forward, kissing him softly on the forehead.
“I’m not mad at you,” I told him, and was surprised that it was true. He’d had no right to do it, but I knew he was only trying to protect me. It had been his job for years now, and it was a job he took very seriously.
He sniffed a little, and I was shocked when I saw one tear slip down his cheek as he looked at his lap.
“Thank you,” he said, and I heard the relief in his voice. He was so relieved that he was crying, when he never cried. That was how strongly my anger affected him.
“Please don’t,” I told him. It broke my heart to see him like that.