I raised my brows at his arbitrary choices, but I put them on without a protest. I could at least see how they fit, and how they looked.
The shorts were very short, but stretchier than they looked, and oddly comfortable. I hadn’t ever owned a pair of white shorts that I could remember. I checked my panty line carefully, a little worried that my pink thong would show through, but the material seemed solid enough. The top was comfortable, hanging rather loosely to my hips. I decided I liked James’s choices as I studied the outfit in the mirror. It was flattering but tasteful. Well, as tasteful as short shorts could be.
I was nearly done with my easy hair and minimal makeup by the time James emerged from the closet, dressed and looking fabulous, as always. His attire was different than any I’d seen him wear before. He wore white linen shorts that clung to his hips deliciously. My eyes lingered there the longest. He wore a loose, brilliant blue dress shirt, sleeves rolled up and open at the collar. The color set off his eyes and his tan to perfection.
I was surprised that he was dressed down. I didn’t imagine that anyone at his resort had ever seen him in anything but a three-piece suit. He looked like he was about to go on vacation in the Hamptons, not spend a few hours working.
“That looks nice,” I told him as he approached my vanity, hovering behind me. “I’m surprised to see you in anything but a suit, though, for the hotel.”
He just shrugged, studying me with that razor focus of his. He reached past me, digging into the silver box of jewelry that had followed us from Wyoming. I’d taken off my collar before showering, and he clasped it back around my neck without a word. I fingered it as he reached back into the box, pulling out a pair of huge, princess cut diamond earrings I’d never seen before. He put them on me without a word, pressing against my back intimately.
“It’s all too much, James,” I said, but didn’t take them off. He seemed to need to do this, to shower me in gifts. I should have put up more of a fight, I knew, but his warm gaze stopped me. It pleased him to do this, and it killed any urge I had to stop him when I realized just how much it pleased him.
He reached into the large jewelry box again, pulling out a good-sized black jewelry box. I pursed my lips, knowing he had done yet another outrageous thing.
He opened the box, showing me matching diamond cuffs. The were thick, twinkling with more tiny diamonds than I could even guess at. It didn’t escape me that they looked like jewel encrusted shackles.
He studied my wrists, running a light finger over the abrasions still visible there. “These will have to wait a few days, I think.” He snapped the case closed, putting it back.
He pressed a palm flat against my stomach, pressing me harder against him. His other hand snaked down to my inner thighs, pressing past my scanty shorts and panties. It was shocking how fast and easily he could access me there.
I sucked in a breath as he worked a long finger into me. I sought out his hot gaze in the mirror.
He watched his hand as though transfixed. “My dresser is getting you more shorts like this. Not only do your legs look phenomenal, I can also do this anytime I please. Gotta love that kind of access.”
Regrettably, he extricated his finger rather quickly, kissing the back of my head. He sighed heavily before moving away. He went back into my closet, returning with two pairs of shoes that I hadn’t put in there. He slipped on a pair of white loafers that set his golden skin off to perfection, handing a pair of bright blue wedge heels to me. I saw immediately that they matched his shirt.
In spite of myself, I smiled.
“It seems you know the contents of my closet better than I do nowadays, Mr. Cavendish.” My tone was arch as I bent down to fasten the heels onto my feet. They were comfortable for three and a half inch heels, I had to admit.
He didn’t respond, just smirked, waiting for me.
“How did you get so much stuff into my house without my noticing?” I asked.
He pursed his lips, taking my arm and leading me out of the bedroom, making a beeline for the front door. “Stephan let my dresser in. When will I be getting my own set of keys?”
I stiffened. It didn’t escape me that he had somehow turned the conversation around on me. “Why would you need them?”
He sighed, aiming a hooded look at me as we walked out the front door. I didn’t even question that we would take his car. I couldn’t picture him in my own small car.
A new, creepy photographer had taken up residence on my sidewalk. However, he wasn’t snapping pictures when we walked out. He was far too occupied arguing with an intimidating Clark. Clark shifted in front of the man, blocking us from his view as soon as we were spotted. I couldn’t imagine the man got any clear pictures of us as James ushered me swiftly into the car. Clark didn’t get out of the man’s face until we were safely ensconced.
“Very good, Clark,” James said as Clark slid into his seat.
Clark nodded and began to drive. “I fired Stimpson, Sir. I’m very sorry about what happened this morning. I thought he was more reliable, or he never would have gotten the job.”
“Thank you,” James said, clutching my hand tightly. “Was he at least successful at retrieving all of the pictures taken?”
Clark’s voice was quietly furious when he answered. “He claims he did, but it’s impossible to say. I only have his account of events.”
James’s grip tightened almost painfully. “I should have handled it myself,” James said darkly.
He closed the privacy screen after that, brooding quietly for most of the drive. It wasn’t until we were nearly at the hotel that he spoke. The impressive resort was visible from far away. I watched it as we drew closer and closer.
“Have you been to the property before?” he asked.
I remembered all of the buzz when it first re-opened two or three years ago. It was one of the swankier casinos on the strip, with five star restaurants and a nightclub hotspot that was quite famous, and I had heard a lot of people mention the large shopping mall attached to it. But I rarely went on the strip, and when I did, it was usually to meet with friends, and never at the more overpriced hotel/casinos.
He kissed my hand. “I’ll have to show you around on the way to the spa. Stephan said he’d meet you there. It sounds like he got quite a few friends to come, considering that it was such short notice.”
I smiled, thinking of Stephan’s reaction to a spa day. It sooo wasn’t his thing. “Did he gripe about the spa?”
James grinned. “He did. But I told him you missed him, and it was enough. Has he never done a spa day before?”
I shook my head, laughing. “Neither of us have. That sort of thing is ungodly expensive.”
We pulled up to the huge entrance that read Cavendish Hotel&Casino as he spoke. “Well, you’ll be getting the royal treatment today, I can assure you. And you can go every day of the week, if you want to.
I will inform the staff that you have carte blanche status.”
I didn’t bother to protest. I knew I wouldn’t be making much use of that extravagance. I felt spoiled enough just going today.
He led me through the shopping mall first, as that was where we had entered. He wrapped a possessive arm around the back of my waist, his hand gripping my hip warmly. I put my hand over his as he ushered me around, giving me a short but thorough tour of the shops. He introduced me to several managers throughout the mall, but I knew I wouldn’t remember hardly any of their names.
Only the female owner of the casino’s famous tattoo shop stood out. She had dark hair streaked with blue and a pouty red mouth, every inch of her exposed skin covered in ink. And she had a lot of of exposed skin. She wore a half shirt and cut-off jean shorts that were so short they made mine look overly modest.
She smiled at me warmly, but I stiffened immediately at the sight of her. I had seen her and James photographed together in several pictures online. It was rumored that they’d had a steamy affair. There was a reality TV series filmed at her shop, I suddenly recalled reading. Her name was Frankie, and I tried not to be openly rude to her, but it was a struggle.
James embraced the woman, showing an easy affection with her that made my vision go a little red and hazy. He introduced me simply by name, not giving me a title or explaining our relationship. We moved on quickly.
I was tense and stiff after that meeting. I knew it was unreasonable to be jealous and moody after that, but I still couldn’t shake it. James led me through the shopping mall and the restaurants, through the expansive casino, and lastly, through the hotel portion and into the spa.
I was happy to see my group of friends as James led me into the swanky waiting lounge that led to the salon and spa.
It was an impressive group on such short notice. But then again, who would turn down a free spa day?
Stephan was waiting in the luxurious waiting area, flanked by a laughing group that consisted mostly of girls. The only exception sat rather close beside him. Javier looked happier than I’d ever seen him as he laughed at something Stephan had said.
Marnie, Judith, Brenda, and Jessa flanked the cute couple, chattering excitedly.
Marnie and Judith jumped up, squealing in delight when they spotted James and I. They hugged me, thanking James as they did so, talking over each other and giggling all the while.
I glanced at James. He smiled indulgently, waving at Stephan, who waved back with a nod, as though answering a silent question. The two men in my life seemed to be developing their own language of sorts. Perversely, I found that fact both heartwarming and disconcerting.
James addressed the group. “Please, everyone, enjoy yourselves. Don’t hesitate to avail yourselves of any of the spa and salon services that you wish to. It’s my treat, of course.”
He just smiled and nodded when all six of them thanked him at nearly the same time.
He turned to me, leaning down to kiss me softly on the cheek. “I’ll miss you, Love. Take your time. I’ll be awhile. If you need to get ahold of me, call my cel,” he whispered the words into my ear softly, then departed.
No one even bothered to wait for James to get out of earshot before they started talking about him.
Everyone seemed to be in agreement. James was dreamy, and sweet, and fabulous in every way imaginable. I took all of their dreamy gushing and goodnatured advice with a wry smile.
Stephan rose and kissed my cheek, smiling. “You’re glowing. Things going well?” he asked, his voice pitched low, but I still heard him over the loud women, who were still extolling James’s obvious charms.
I just nodded.
“Are you glad that you finally agreed to see him?” he asked, his voice almost chiding.
I shot him a look, but knew he had a point.
A spa hostess approached me, looking harried. “I’m so sorry, Ms. Karlsson. We are ready for you now. I apologize for the wait. Which service would your party like to begin with.”
I just blinked at her for a long moment. I didn’t even know what services there were, and I hadn’t even been waiting for more than maybe five minutes, tops.
I looked to my group for help. “What first?” I asked them. I figured someone there had to have a preference.