He was on my flight to Vegas the next morning, doing his rich man stalker thing. He was even more attentive than usual on the flight that morning, rarely taking his eyes off me, as though afraid I would just disappear. As seemed to be his habit, his most distant mood was being followed by his most attentive.
Still, I was busy from wheels up to wheels down, with barely a moment to spare for him, aside from the expected service. We had a decent tailwind speeding up our flight time, so the trip was nice and quick.
We were staying at my place. I carpooled with Stephan. A car full of security tailed us closely. James was meeting us at the house.
He was waiting in my driveway, and looked to be yelling at a paparazzo when we pulled up.
“Shit,” Stephan cursed. “Wish I had your garage door opener. We’ll go directly into mine, and you can just jump the back fence into your yard. You shouldn’t have to deal with that mess.”
I sighed. “My security will have a conniption if I go anywhere before it’s been searched, even your garage.”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “They’ve even been giving me the royal treatment. Did you know that I have a bodyguard when I go out now, too?”
I hadn’t. I just stared at him, dumbfounded. I’d been so oblivious lately. But I felt an instant wave of relief, and got the warmest feeling in my chest. I loved that crazy man. So much.
He parked in his driveway, and we gave the security plenty of time to flank the car before we got out. Stephan and I shared a look before we got out of the car. The look said, ‘This is crazy.’
James was at least done yelling at the photographer as we approached the house. He saw me and strode to us. Clark was blocking the paparazzo with consummate skill. So well, in fact, that I couldn’t even see the man.
James took my arm, his face tense in annoyance. He nodded at Paterson to go ahead into my house. A bodyguard that I didn’t recognize was already going into Stephan’s house.
We waited just outside while Paterson searched the first room.
“Bianca! How does it feel to be living with a porn star? When are you planning to release your own video?” the paparazzo shouted loudly to our backs.
I turned into James before the man had even finished yelling. He’d gone tense, and I knew what he wanted to do. I threw my arms around his neck. He hugged me around the ribs, but his head was turned in the direction of the obnoxious man.
“Let’s go inside. Somebody get the door open!” I said loudly.
“Do you like to be spanked too, Bianca? I’ll spank you anytime you want!” the foolish man shouted.
My hug turned into a death grip. James would have to take me with him if he went after the man. I sent a wild look at our security, who all seemed useless to me at that moment.
“If James hits that guy, I’m firing you all!” I shouted at them. “Get us inside, or get that man out of here!”
Finally, mercifully, we got into the house. James ended up carrying me inside, since I wouldn’t let go of him.
I didn’t realize that Stephan wasn’t with us until I let go of James. I glanced around.
James was still seething, but he sounded calmer than he looked when he spoke. “You stopped me, but there’s only one of you, and I wasn’t the only one getting riled up.”
I was out the door again before James saw my intent. He caught me just outside, his arms wrapping around my shoulders. There was no need, though.
Stephan and Clark were striding towards us, grinning.
“What happened?” I asked Stephan. There was no sign of the photographer.
Stephan shrugged. “I went to give Clark a hand with that prick, but he had it handled.”
We all looked at Clark.
He shrugged. “I just explained some things to him, and he left. Some other paparazzi might come here, but that guy won’t be back.”
“What did you say to him?” I asked, beyond curious. Those photographers were hard to shake.
Clark laughed. He had a great laugh. “I just explained to him that what I would do to him if he didn’t leave would affect him for the rest of his life, whereas I would only serve five to ten for it. And I explained that the millions of dollars that would be waiting for me on the other side of that five to ten, combined with the mood he’d put me in, would make doing the thing more than worthwhile for me. He just sort of went poof after that.” He gestured with his hands as he spoke.
We laughed, and the tension that the horrible man had created vanished just like that. I hadn’t realized that Clark was so funny. He was normally so straight-faced, but he was smiling freely now. Maybe Stephan and I were growing on him.
The house was cleared, and we made it to my room without any further incident.
“I’m surprised that you were able to come to Vegas again so quickly,” I said to James as we were undressing in my closet. “Are things going smoothly in New York?”
“Things are going fine. I would have come even if they weren’t, though.”
I glanced back at him.
He gave me a sad smile. “I can’t sleep without you anymore, Love. And letting you stay here in this house, where that man attacked you, well, I just can’t do it again.”
“There’s an entire team guarding the place.”
He shrugged. “I told myself that, and I even went a weekend letting you stay here without me, but I know my own limits, and I just can’t do it again, not after he killed that woman.”
“Maybe we should just stay at your place, at least until he’s caught. I wonder if we could talk Stephan into staying there with us. I would feel—“
He pushed me back against the wall of the closet, tangling us both in clothes. He kissed me. “Thank you. I’ll handle Stephan. We can nap here, and go to my place tonight, after you have a meeting with Danika. She needs your approval for some things, and she’s in town for the day.”
We took a three-hour nap, waking up at our leisure. Between the shower sex, and James going down on me in the closet as I tried to pick out clothes, it was well over an hour after we woke up before we were ready to go to the casino for business.
I wore a navy and black, color-block pencil skirt. I paired it with a loose fitting royal blue silk blouse with three-quarter sleeves. I didn’t know what Jackie would think of the outfit, but she hadn’t paired my clothes in this closet, and I liked the ensemble.
After I’d done a quick job on my hair and makeup, I stepped into white heels, and watched as James finished getting ready. I was done first for once, and it was a show worth watching.
He was buttoning up his slacks as I perched on the bed, my eyes glued to his hands. He arched a brow at me as he shrugged into a white dress shirt.
“Enjoying the show?” he asked as he buttoned the shirt.
He grinned. “I feel like I should be dancing for you. You have an unmistakable glint in your eyes, Bianca. I’m not a piece of meat, you know.”
I just smiled back, watching his every move.
He tucked his shirt into his slacks, shrugging into a dark gray vest that matched his slacks. He looped a yellow tie around his neck, his clever fingers making short work of it, before he buttoned the severely tailored vest.
“I love your hands,” I told him.
“We’re running late,” he murmured.
I let my eyes show him just how much I didn’t care.
It was another half an hour before we walked out the front door.
James walked me to the gallery before going to his office to do some paperwork. He greeted Danika with a smile.
“Just come to my office when you finish,” James told me. “Blake or Danika can show you where it is.” He gave me an affectionate kiss on the forehead before taking his leave.
Danika watched him go. She smiled at me. “He’s so different with you. It’s a lovely thing to see.”
I smiled back.
Danika wore a very modern take on a woman’s suit, with pleated, slate gray shorts, and a baggy white men’s shirt that was belted at the waist. She looked delicate and lovely. I thought she was the most elegant woman I’d ever met. Her hair was parted down the middle, and as she bent down to show me some detail of her plans, it trailed into her face like a silky black curtain. I wondered again what had happened between her and Tristan, but I shook myself out of the pointless musings. We had lots of work to do, and I could hardly ask.
We worked well together. Danika was never pushy, but she did finally get me to settle on a date for the showing. We scheduled it for the first Friday after my furlough began. James would be ecstatic. I was nervous—so nervous that I felt a little nauseous just thinking about it.
“Do you have any other big plans for after you take your leave?”
I smiled, remembering our plans. That was something I could get very excited about. “James and I are going to Japan.”
She raised her elegant brows in surprise. “Well, that’s exciting. My mother was half-Japanese. I didn’t know her well, but I’ve always had a fascination with Japanese culture.”
I smiled. “I have no blood-ties there, but I’ve always been interested in the culture, as well. We’re going there because James said pick a spot on a map of the world, and I knew just where I wanted to go.”
She smiled back, tilting her head. “Well, have fun. I bet the locals will get a kick out of you two.”
I laughed. “Yeah, right? I don’t suppose we’ll blend in.”
She pursed her lips. “Do you ever? I don’t see too many supermodel couples strolling around together.”
I wrinkled my nose at her. “James is the supermodel.”
Her lovely brow wrinkled in consternation. “So it’s like that, huh? You’re going to need to work on your self-esteem, girl, to be with a man like that, otherwise it could be the end of you two.”
I blinked at her. Her tone had been gentle but firm, so I didn’t take offense. I just didn’t agree. “I don’t have low self-esteem. I just know that I’m not in that league.”
She shook her head stubbornly, her silky black hair moving across her shoulders with the movement, her rosebud mouth pursing. “That’s ludicrous. Answer one question for me. Have you ever been approached by a modeling scout before?”
I flushed. “Not by anyone serious. A few people have said something, but I knew they were just trying to scam me.”
She gave me a sympathetic look. “Seriously, as someone who has a real hetero-girl-crush on you, you need to work on your self-esteem. You’re stunning, and you need to just acknowledge the fact and then get over it.”
The whole conversation made me uncomfortable. “Um, thanks. So did we have any other details to go over for the showing?”
She sighed and shook her head. “No. Let’s go grab Frankie and get something to eat. I can’t come to town and not see her. She’d kill me.”
We had an impromptu girls’ lunch. I wasn’t sure if it was a late lunch or an early dinner.
Frankie greeted me with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and a huge grin. She wore her usual half-shirt with daisy dukes, showing off her myriad tattoos.