I nodded, my mind going a little blank at the thought of planning a wedding. “Of course. Small or large, you’ll certainly be on the guest list. I can’t say the same thing for your sister-in-law.”

She laughed. “I would hope not. She’d try to burn the place down, the crazy twit.”

That made me laugh. Crazy twit seemed like a perfect way to describe Jules, and I was sure that Sophia must have been even more fed up with her than I was, since she’d married into her family.

We mingled for a time, but I cut loose from James when I saw a restroom. Blake followed me in, even hovering outside the stall, but I was growing accustomed to it. Her relentless stoicism was even starting to grow on me.

I didn’t take long in the restroom, but I heard some sort of commotion outside of my stall right before I re-emerged.

Blake was standing so close to another woman that I didn’t even recognize her at first. I noticed that the bathroom attendant was absent before I caught enough of a glimpse of the woman to make out who it was.

“Jules,” I said coldly when I saw her. “Blake, you can let her loose. I’m prepared this time, and she didn’t bring her partner in crime.”

Jules was decked out in a black, one-shoulder sheath. She looked polished and beautiful, but looks meant nothing if your insides were spoiled rotten.

Jules was smiling, a sharp malice in her eyes, when I saw her fully. Knowing her, that meant trouble. “I just wanted a word, Bianca. It’s really kind of pathetic that you’re so scared of me that you need a bodyguard now.”

Blake had stepped out of the way, but she was braced to pounce on the other woman.

I smiled at Jules. It was an unpleasant smile. It felt unpleasant. But I was done putting up with her crazy little scenes.

“Congratulations on the engagement. You must realize that it’ll never last with James. He’ll tire of you before the ink is dry, but good luck with that.”

“That’s what you wanted to say? What a waste of both of our time.”

“No. That was a side note, actually,” Jules replied, looking noticeably more agitated at my response. “What I came here to say to you is that I was the one that released that sex tape. I stole it from Jolene years ago, afraid she would do something crazy with it. She told me about it one night when she was hopped up on opiates, and so I knew she had a loose tongue. At the time, I wanted to save his reputation, as I couldn’t let my future husband be seen in such a light. I just wanted you to know that it was me that put that out there. If he’s going to go out of his way to be seen slumming it with you, then his reputation is already shit, so I wanted to make it shit.”

I was so disgusted with her that I felt my mouth moving into a sneer. I hadn’t even known I had it in me. “You’re pathetic, you know that? He was never even your boyfriend, let alone your future husband.” I held up my left hand, showing her my engagement ring. “James isn’t subtle. He would have made himself plain either way, if he had any intention of marrying you. What did you even have to gain with any of this?”

She shrugged. “I wasted a lot of my prime years—“

“On a delusion,” I interrupted her, unable to stop myself.

She looked ready to spit. “Revenge. I did it for revenge. It was that simple. And it felt good.”

She was so smug when she said it, as though she’d accomplished something great, that I just snapped. “Well, it didn’t work. He’s still standing. Now get a fucking life.” I was moving to her as I spoke. She and Jolene had caught me off guard when they’d cornered me before, and gotten the better of me in a physical altercation, but I’d been through hell and back, and I had no doubt in my mind that I could take the spoiled bitch.

I grabbed her by the hair before she saw my intent, and she barely even struggled as I dragged her across the room and into a stall. I dunked her head into the toilet while she pulled at my wrist, being very careful not to get my own hand wet. I held her there for one, two, three, four, five seconds before pulling her up and yanking her back out of the stall. I pushed her away from me, still only touching her hair.

She turned to me, looking shocked and scared and furious. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

I smiled at her, showing a lot of teeth. “Revenge. I did it for revenge. It was that simple, and it felt good,” I said, quoting her own ridiculous words back to her.

“I’ll have you arrested! I’ll-I’ll sue you!” she sputtered.

I laughed. The bitch was an amateur. “You got rid of your only witness so that you could have it out with me. There’s not a mark on you, and do you really think that my bodyguard is going to act as an eyewitness against me? I’d suggest you leave as quickly and quietly as you can, so that I’m not tempted to do it again. This was a waste of your time and mine. So go, and get yourself a fucking life.”

She gave me one more hate-filled glare before she ran out of there like the place was on fire.

I glanced at Blake. She was smirking. It made me laugh again. “You think she’ll leave me alone now?” I asked her, wanting her professional opinion.

She nodded. “Walking through that ball looking like that is probably the most humiliating thing that princess has ever had to go through, so I’m going to say yeah, she’s most likely out of your hair now.”

I nodded. “Good deal. That was the point. Enjoying myself was just a bonus.”

Blake stifled a laugh.

I was still washing my hands, wanting to get all of the Jules off, when Lana and a frantic James burst through the door. I just raised a brow at them.

“Are you okay? What happened?” James asked, so obviously worried.

“We saw Jules tearing through the hallway, her hair wet, and her makeup a mess,” Lana added, studying me carefully.

I shrugged. “She stole that video from Jolene, and put it on the internet. She came here to tell me that. I didn’t take it well.”

James shot Blake a questioning glance, approaching me. “What happened?”

“I dunked her face in the toilet. She left. I don’t think she’ll bother me again.”

He reached me, running a hand over my hair with a soft touch. His brow furrowed for a moment as he processed that. He blinked a few times, then threw his head back and laughed.


Mr. Wretched

James hadn’t wanted me to, but just a few days after I’d returned to Vegas, I went back to my old house to collect some things. Most of it would be packed away and moved to the bigger house, but I’d wanted to go through things myself before I let strangers tackle the project.

I shared a car with Stephan and Javier, who were giving Stephan’s house similar treatment. Having Stephan nearby for the excursion had gone a long way towards easing Control Freak Cavendish’s mind about the whole thing. Not that he could have stopped me, though he didn’t have to leave work to escort me once he realized that Stephan was going. I didn’t know what he thought that Stephan could do that my escort of armed guards couldn’t, but that was just the way it was. The two men had bonded on a fundamental level that even I didn’t fully understand. I could only be grateful for it.

I had tags to mark where I wanted my things to be moved to, since much of the household goods would be going into storage, and some to charity. James obviously had all of his properties stocked to the nines.

I only had a few small boxes for packing right away, and they filled slowly with small keepsakes and photographs.

Blake hovered in the house near me, Paterson patrolling directly outside, with Henry patrolling the neighborhood. Williams had a family emergency in California, and so was taking some personal leave. They hadn’t been able to find him a replacement with just one day’s notice, which was one of the reasons James had been so nervous about letting me come back to the house without him, even in the middle of the day.

Their boss’s nervous reaction to this mundane outing seemed to have Blake on edge. I got nervous just looking at her. She kept pacing the house, looking out windows for no reason that I could see.

“Is everything okay?” I finally asked her.

She nodded, but her mouth was tight. “Yeah, just antsy today, I guess. I don’t see Paterson out there, but that’s normal. It’s not even time for him to check in yet. I don’t know what my problem is.”

This was the chattiest I’d ever seen her, and it only seemed to make me more nervous, because it was a tell of her own nerves. Whatever strange mood had such an unflappable woman so anxious wasn’t good for my peace of mind.

I went back to packing up some old pictures, smiling when I saw some old shots of Stephan and me. There were several shots from my twenty-first birthday party, when we’d run around like fools on the strip. Someone had taken about a dozen shots of Stephan giving me a piggy-back ride through the fountains at Caesar’s Palace. We’d been dressed up, and we looked like crazy people, with the bottom of his pants wet, and my heels dragging in the water. I smiled at the picture. It was a fond memory, right around the time when things had really started to look up for us. The smile on Stephan’s face warmed my heart, both now and then. He was grinning at the camera, and I was smiling at him, the fact that he was the dearest thing in the world to me clear in every line of my face.

I took the stack of photos to my purse, thinking to myself that I had to give some of the photos to Stephan, and find a place of honor in my new house to put at least one of them.

I was just digging into my purse, still smiling at the memories, when my phone started to ring. I checked the screen.

It was James.

“Hey,” I said into the phone, still smiling. “How’s work going?”

“It could be going better, but at least it’s almost done. My lawyers and Tristan’s agent are making some revisions, but that shouldn’t take more than thirty minutes or so, and then we’ll be done, thank God. Tristan is trying to bankrupt the casino for some two-bit magic tricks.” James had gone into work to hash out some details in Tristan’s new contract, and I could tell by his tone that the other man must be close by and that he was trying to harass him.

“Tell Tristan I said hi,” I told him.

“Bianca says hello,” he relayed on the other end.

“I’ll be heading over there when I finish,” James explained to me. “Are you about done?”

I glanced around the room. I was pretty sure that I’d gotten everything that I’d wanted to pack myself, but I wanted to give the place another once-over, to be sure. “Yeah. That should be perfect.”

“Tristan is coming over for dinner tonight. As if I’m not paying him enough to make rabbits disappear, now I have to make him dinner.”

“I have a new trick where I can make pretty boy CEOs disappear,” Tristan said loudly on the other end.

I laughed.

“Will you let the guys know that they’re invited, as well?” James said.

I could hear the smile in his voice.

“That sounds fun,” I said, meaning it. There was just something so playful and mischievous about Tristan. There was never a dull moment when that man was around. “I take it he got a favorable contract for next year’s shows,” I added.

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