Page 16 of Dirty Promise

Kia and I were the same size and we always shared clothes, though her clothes were far more expensive than what I could afford. I was taller, so her skirts and shorts tended to be on the shorter side. One of her regular length dresses on me would turn into a mini. Since I don’t own a single thing appropriate for an art gallery, I decide to finally open one of Kia’s boxes.

When I see what her mom has given me, I’m both excited and heart-broken. Thousands of dollars’ worth of designer labels. All of her favorites, things I coveted for years, are all mine now. I would give every single one of them away if I could have my friend back.

Lifting out a little black Chanel cocktail dress, I fight the tears as I put it up against me and look in the mirror. Then I hug it as if I can still feel her in it.

“Wish me luck, Kia,” I say.

I do my hair and makeup first, wearing nude shadow and a bright red lipstick. I pull my hair up to show off the body-hugging backless dress. Then I finish it off with a pair of studded Louis Vuitton’s to give the look more of an edge—it’s an art show, after all.

Max rings the doorbell right at seven. Checking myself one last time in the mirror, I let out a long breath and open the door.

“Holy …” he says, the word trailing off when he sees me.

He looks pretty amazing himself, wearing black slacks, a white button-down shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and a nice black watch. There’s just something about tattooed guys wearing nice watches that really does it for me. It’s a weird thing, but it’s my thing, and if I weren’t so worried about messing up my hair and makeup, I’d drag him inside and tear his clothes off right now.

I didn’t realize he was holding onto something until he hands it to me. A gift.

I take the box. What could this be? Opening it, I look up at him and smile. It’s an audio book of Pride and Prejudice.

“So you can listen to it on your way to work when you don’t have time to read,” he says.

Oh my God, he’s so thoughtful.

“Thank you so much!”

I throw my arms around him, squeezing him in a tight hug. His hands wander over the bare skin of my back. It tickles yet feels amazing. I’m so turned on right now.

“We should get going,” I say.

Before I can’t control myself around you anymore.

The top of his jeep is back on as we drive to the gallery, so my hair stays in place. The art gallery is in another trendy part of town with hipster coffee shops and organic food trucks parked along the sidewalks. It’s just as I imagined it would be. A little pretentious, a little weird, a lot of people who are either dolled up or look homeless—artsy types. We go inside. It’s packed full of people. I’m immediately captivated by the art on display. They’re beautiful and so detailed. Most of the paintings have ‘sold’ signs in front of them. His friend must be a popular guy. And those prices! Holy shit. Not a single piece of art was sold for under 10k. Who the hell has that kind of money to throw around? All of these people, apparently.

Waiters walk around serving champagne. Max snags us two glasses.

“Does all this art belong to your friend?” I ask him. I don’t see a name on any of them. There’s a signature in the corner, but without putting my nose right up to it, it’s too small to read.

Some of it is tattoo art in water color, some are portraits using acrylic or oils. All different kinds of mediums, but it all has a similar feel to it and looks like it was done by a single artist.

“I wouldn’t exactly call us friends, but yep, every one of them. What do you think? You can be honest. I don’t really even like the guy.”

I walk from painting to painting. He follows silently behind me. I think he wants me to criticize them, but I can’t. They’re far too beautiful for that.

“They’re perfect. I’ve never seen anything like them before. That detail, I’m … speechless.”

“Speechless. Really?”

I hand him my flute of champagne and step closer to a painting of a little boy standing in the rain, reaching out toward a woman who is walking away. Looking at it, I feel a profound sadness. It reminds me of Kia leaving me and suddenly tears are welling up in my eyes and I’m struggling to keep them back. I can feel Max’s eyes on me, watching.

Tags: Penny Wylder Billionaire Romance