Jackie’s system pointed me in the direction of some nude heels with a red sole. These ones came with a note.

This dress needs stilettos. Please, I am begging you to change your mind on the wedge stance.

Jackie

The note made me laugh. I was almost beginning to enjoy tormenting that strange woman. I knew some fashionistas, but she took it to a whole new level. The idea that she had chosen every outfit, shoe, and bag so carefully, and then apparently left notes on some of them, just cracked me up.

I took the little yellow note to the bag closet and grabbed the tiny nude clutch with the matching number. At least it had a long strap.

I sent out a few texts before I went downstairs. The first one went to James.

Bianca: I’m going to Red for Stephan’s party. Will I see you there?

He responded quickly but shortly.

James: You will.

Cryptic man.

The second text went to the security contact on my phone. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was, but I’d prefer to keep them informed of my actions, as opposed to having them just wait for me at all hours.

Bianca: I’m going out. Heading downstairs now.

The response came back in under a minute.

Security: Roger that.

I thought that was an odd text response, but I just went downstairs.

Blake was waiting for me, wearing a black suit and looking as severe as always. I nodded at her.

She nodded back. “The others are waiting for us downstairs, Ms. Karlsson.”

We got into the elevator.

“You know you don’t have to call me that,” I told her. It was worth at least one try.

She looked startled. “Of course, Mrs. Cavendish.”

I slapped a hand to my forehead. Literally. “Don’t call me that. Call me Bianca.”

“That’s against my orders, Mrs. Cavendish.”

Hand to the forehead. Again. “Okay. Call me Ms. Karlsson, then, please.”

“Of course, Ms. Karlsson.”

I wouldn’t be trying that again. I had most definitely learned my lesson.

I was flanked by the rest of my security the second we stepped into the lobby of the swank building. I had the surreal realization as we walked through that lobby that all of the rich people were watching me, as though I was a person of note. I supposed having a team of bodyguards would do that for anyone.

Johnny walked slightly in front of me and to my left. He shot me a rather familiar glance over his shoulder, very obviously eying up my legs.

I blinked slowly, a little shocked that James wasn’t just being crazy possessive about the Johnny issue. That had definitely been a look, and he couldn’t be guarding me that well if he was that distracted.

“Looking hot, Ms. Karlsson,” he said under his breath, reaffirming my opinion.

And the point goes to Crazy Cavendish, I thought.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Mr. Controlling

Blake and Williams rode in the passenger cab of the limo with me, Johnny and Henry up front. It was a very short drive. I got the VIP treatment from the car to the club, being ushered in without a soul even trying to make eye contact with me. I even got a little perfunctory bow from the bouncer. Being the owner’s girlfriend had some bizarre little perks.

I was led to a VIP section that was already packed with familiar faces. The party was well under way. A loud shout went out from the crowd when they spotted me.

I had to smile. “You guys been at it for that long already?” I asked as Marnie and Judith rushed me, nearly spilling their red martinis in the process. I got side hugs on account of their drinks.

Jessa was right on their heels.

We all laughed as we realized that we were all wearing different shades of red.

“I heard the name of the place, and it just seemed like a good idea,” Jessa said, laughing. She swept a hand down her red halter dress as she spoke. She had a spectacular figure, with long legs, a small waist, and high breasts.

Judith was wearing a red mini skirt with a white off the shoulder top, Marnie a black skirt with a red ruffled blouse. They had planned it, of course, and wore matching red heels.

“This place is luxe. Can’t believe we got VIP here without having to blow anybody!” Marnie shouted over the noise. She came off a little louder than I think she intended, because she got several looks from the various crews for that one.

One of those looks was from Jessa. “Really, Marnie? Do you always have to go there?” she asked, laughing.

Marnie shrugged, her cute nose wrinkling. “I never said I was a classy chick. Far from it. Judith is the classy one in our duo.”

Judith raised her brows. “Now how damn sad is that?”

I felt a hard chest press against my back, but I didn’t stiffen or draw away. I knew the height and feel of that chest just perfectly. It used to sleep against my back when we’d huddled together for comfort, safety, and warmth.

Stephan wrapped his arms around me, kissing the top of my head. “Glad you came, Bee. It’s never the same without you.”

I smiled, turning my head to look at him. “I feel the same, Steph.”

As though reading my mind, he bent so I could kiss his cheek.

“Where’s Javier?” I asked as he pulled back, looking around for the other man.

“Bathroom,” he said, moving away. He had to do some mingling, I knew. That was just how he operated.

“I heard about the drama with Vance last night,” Jessa said after he walked away. “Rumor is he and Javier were making out in a bathroom…”

I grimaced. “I’m not surprised that’s the rumor. Javier’s side is different. He says that Vance pushed him against the wall and started kissing him. According to Javier, Vance just pushes him around like that to try to get a reaction, and Javier didn’t push him away because he’s learned that the best way to deal with Vance is not to react.”

Jessa nodded, pursing her lips. “I’ve seen Vance do that. He’s still crazy stupid in love with Javier. He’s been pushing him around like that for years. Vance needs to move on.” She shot a strangely malevolent look Damien’s way. “Kind of like a certain stubborn pilot I know…”

I shot a look at Damien myself. Jessa definitely had a point there.

“I believe Javier,” Judith said loudly. “I’ve seen how Vance treats him. He does crazy shit just hoping to make Javier snap.”

“I’ve seen it, too. He wouldn’t stop touching him at a party last year, even though Javier was clearly telling him to back off. Finally Javier slapped him across the face, and I’d swear that made Vance happy, from the look on his face when it happened.”

I felt a wave of relief at their reaffirmation. I really did want to believe Javier’s side of it. Wanting and believing were just two different things, unfortunately. Still, their words gave me hope that Javier wasn’t just playing the drama game with Stephan, which was my biggest fear.

“I wouldn’t mind getting slapped by Javier. He’s fucking hot,” Marnie said.

That surprised a laugh out of all of us. Of course she went there.

Damien approached our group, Murphy in tow. He looked a little weary as he eyed up our laughing group. “Why do my ears always burn when I see you all laughing like that?” he asked.

Marnie held up her hands, as though showing a good ten-inch measurement. “Don’t worry, babe, it’s all flattering.”

Damien rubbed his temples, looking pained.

Murphy nodded, rubbing his chin and looking impressed. “I knew it!” he said.

I couldn’t help it that made me laugh harder.

“Yeah, he has a big dick, but him running away after the sex kind of cancels that one out for me, personally,” Jessa said wryly.

I was shocked. I hadn’t known that Jessa and Damien had hooked up. Jessa never did the casual hook-up thing. Or so I’d thought.

Marnie held up her hands, making a rather large circle with her fingers, clearly illustrating girth. “This right here is what makes up for the running away part.”

Murphy cursed loudly. “I fucking knew it!”

Marnie broke down in adorable giggles, clutching her stomach. Judith was right there with her. They high-fived.

I felt a little sorry for Damien, since he looked like he was in real pain, but I still couldn’t stop laughing.

Stephan walked up to us, shaking his head and smiling. “Poor Damien. What did he ever do to deserve such relentless teasing?”

Marnie answered, of course. “He fucked too many of us, and he was too good at it, that’s what.”

“Speak for yourself,” Jessa said. “There was nothing too good about my experience. Size isn’t everything.”

“Ooouuch,” Murphy said, drawing out the sound. “Buuurrn.”

Jessa shrugged. “Not a burn. Just stating facts.”

“Brutal,” Murphy said.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder and turned to find Javier just behind me. He looked a little nervous as he bent to my ear.

“Can we go somewhere and talk?” he asked.

I studied him, wondering what was going on now, but I just nodded. “Sure. Where to?”

I followed him to an empty section along the bar that attached to our VIP section. The bartender approached us instantly.

“I’m fine,” I told him.

“I’ll take another of your house specials,” Javier said.

I studied him. He looked a little glassy-eyed. I didn’t think I’d ever seen Javier drunk before, but I suspected that I might be seeing it now.

I sat in one of the cushioned stools at the bar.

He didn’t sit, but moved close to me, leaning in to talk in a low voice. “I know you’re worried about Stephan being with me. You think I’m not good enough for him. You think I’m trouble.”

I opened my mouth to protest, even though most of what he said was somewhat true, but he continued in a rush. “I get it. I’m not trying to argue with you. I just wanted to clear some things up.”

I nodded at him to go on.

“You don’t have to worry about me hurting him, Bianca. If anyone is going to get hurt here, it will be me. I haven’t even gone out with a guy since he dumped me. And that was, what, over a year and a half ago? I pined for him, Bianca. I know he’s too good for me. I know he’s too good for anyone. Every guy I know has a crush on him. He’s damn near perfect. And I am bat-shit crazy in love with him. I thank God every day that he stays with me. I wouldn’t mess this up for anything.”

I felt a relief at his words that threatened to floor me. But there were still some things that he needed to clear up…

“What about the Vance nonsense? If he’s been so awful to you, why on earth would you still be hanging out with him?”

He winced. “He wrote me a very long, drawn-out letter, talked about squashing our beef and moving on. For once, he sounded really sincere about it, and he and I were friends before we were a couple. He was a good friend, just a horrible boyfriend, and a worse ex. His letter had me thinking that we could go back to being casual friends. I wanted that, because so many of the guys on his crew are friends of mine, and I’d like for it to be less awkward every time he and I are in the same room. It’s been so long since we were together. I just don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten over it. Thinking that he finally had was just something I wanted to believe, I guess. It won’t ever happen again. I’m so done with him.”


Tags: R.K. Lilley Up in the Air Erotic
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