Slipping her feet into ankle-breaker Jimmy Choos that exposed her painted toenails when the dress moved, she picked up her simple black clutch and took a deep breath, released it as slowly. “I’m his friend, and he needs a friend tonight.”
The intercom buzzed, Butch letting her know they’d cleared Noah through.
“A friend,” she repeated again and walked to the door.
She opened it just as a gleaming black limo came to a stop in front of it. Noah exited from the front passenger seat a second later, and all the breath just whooshed out of her. He was always gorgeous, reminding her of a young lion in the summer when his hair turned streaky gold, but today he could’ve stood in as Prince Charming or as James Bond, depending on the smile he pulled out.
But the smile he gave her was wary.
“Wow.” Coming to the door, he stared at her, a sexy, beautiful man in a classic tuxedo that perfectly fit his frame. He was built like a model, she thought suddenly. Lean muscle, wide shoulders, slim hips.
“Wow yourself,” she replied after catching her breath. “You do clean up pretty.”
Some of the wariness receded. “Shall we go?”
Suddenly unable to bear the strain and distance between them, she said, “Feel in the mood for a friendly wager?”
He tilted his head to the side.
“As soon as the photos of you in this tux start hitting the airwaves, I bet Thea starts getting calls from designers who want to dress you or get you to front their campaigns.”
“Not happening. One night does not turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.”
She knew the fashion world far better than he did, was conscious it could turn on a dime and that the rules were different for men and women. As long as Noah looked this hot in their clothes when he wore them, the designers wouldn’t care what he wore the rest of the time. In fact, the contrast would only heighten interest. “So, bet?”
She tapped a finger against her hip. “If I win, you have to hunt down this specific plant I want for my garden—it can only be ordered from a cantankerous old gardener in Kyoto, Japan who refuses to sell to anyone he hasn’t met in person and vetted.”
“So let me get this right,” Noah said, eyes narrowing. “I’d have to not only fly to Japan, I’d have to win the approval of a crusty old man who might kick me out on my ass without a plant?”
“In that case, if I win”—that troublemaker’s grin that had been missing till now—“you have to get onstage at the next Schoolboy Choir concert, whenever that might be, and sing a duet with me.”
Her mouth dropped open. “And humiliate myself in front of thousands, maybe millions, if the video goes viral? I don’t think so.”
“You have a good voice.”
“For karaoke!” She folded her arms. “You’d only be humiliated in front of one old man who won’t even care who you are.”
“Fine, chicken.” Her grim-eyed response made his grin widen. “You just have to sing solo in front of the guys, Molly, and Thea. Song of my choice.”
“Done.” She set her alarm, then pulled the door shut.
Noah put his hand on her lower back as they moved to the limo, and that was when Kit realized exactly how bad a choice she’d made with this dress. That sexy vee at the back? It meant his rough, callused fingertips would rasp against her skin each time he placed his hand on her back—and no matter the dip in her stomach, the shiver that wanted to ripple over her skin, she couldn’t tell him to stop.
If she did, it would make them appear stiff and awkward in photos. That would spark far more rumors than if they acted naturally, one friend agreeing to act as a date for a family event of the other. So she’d suck it up and deal with the fact that in spite of her decision to move on, the chemistry was stronger than ever, electricity crackling over her skin.
“So,” she said once they were in the limo, the soundproof privacy screen up, “remind me of everyone in your family.”
Bracing his arm along the back of the seat, he undid the buttons on the tuxedo jacket and turned toward her, the crisp white of his shirt stretching across his chest. “My father is a criminal lawyer—Robert.”
“Not just a criminal lawyer,” Kit interrupted. “He’s a pretty big deal, right?”
“Yeah. He’s a shark.” A shrug. “Mom’s Virginia, a political lobbyist turned lady-who-lunches; she sits on countless charity boards to salve her conscience for having no moral compass.”