Rex paced the floor, striding around the edges of the ballroom and lurking in the corners of the surrounding rooms. He was aware that he was dragging an air of menace around with him, but he just couldn’t help it.
Where did she go?
It was not just his tiger snarling in frustration, desperate to track down his mate. After having her warm body in his hands, Rex could not accept that she was gone. It was almost as if she’d been an apparition, a dream.
On his way through the party, people kept stopping him to talk. He barely remembered the encounters by the time he walked away. He could have been mumbling nonsense for all he knew. The truly sad thing was none of the people that spoke to him were likely to notice or care.
He was too important, too rich. Rex could act as weird as he wanted, and all of these people who just wanted to get close to his money and status would pass it off as quirky.
Gianna was different. He could feel it. She was a seeker of truth, always looking for the inner heart of everyone she met. There was a place inside Rex that was dark, small, and sharp. It was like an ache behind his heart. There, his true self resided, hiding from the world. It ached now as if he knew he had finally found the person he could show it to.
He paused by the dance floor, his nose high. He tried to catch Gianna’s scent, but as before, he was only able to track her to the outside terrace. He’d caught a fleeting trace of her by the front doors, but it hadn’t lingered. He hoped that didn’t mean she’d gone home.
There were too many people packed together, their bodies too hot for him to be able to make out Gianna’s scent. Sometimes perfumes and deodorants downright irritated him. There were very few scents his tiger found to be bad, and people masking their pheromones with too much artificial perfume sometimes unsettled him. It was as if they had something to hide.
He sighed, slowly walking to the nearby table. He grabbed a handful of the exquisitely made little finger foods, barely tasting them as he chewed and swallowed. He went to pick up a glass of champagne, then he decided he’d rather find the bar and get a decent shot of scotch.
As he turned to hunt down the nearest source of hard liquor, he almost jumped in shock to see Gianna walking casually through the crowd toward him. Her hips swung back and forth with the power of each sure stride. Her high shoulders and straight back showed off her magnificent chest, her breasts bouncing a little with the movement of her body.
Even her hands clasping her small purse looked neat and demure. Her hair cascading down her back made her look like a queen, a ruler, a conqueror.
And here she comes to conquer my heart.
“Rex!” she said, smiling. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Me too,” he answered, shaking his head. “I mean, I was looking for you, not for me.”
She giggled, putting her hand over her mouth a little. He was entranced watching her hand move away from her full, lush red lips. He was so caught up in watching her that it took him a moment to realize she had been speaking, and he’d missed every word.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, trying to sound apologetic. “But can you repeat that?”
She folded her arms under her beautiful, big soft breasts, and they jiggled, bouncing upward.
Please don’t do that.
“I said, I’m sorry for running off on you. I feel it was rather rude, and I didn’t want you to be offended. Of course, that was before you mentally dropped out of the conversation. You could at least listen to me when I’m trying to apologize.”
He smiled, loving the fire in her eyes, the sharp edge to her tone. She was beautiful in every possible way. He loved the softness, the surrender in her when he’d kissed her. Now he was in love with her strength, the glow that occurred when she was full of indignance.
A true queen. A match for an alpha. Her spirit, her heart, and her courage are a match for my own.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just so happy to see that you were still here. I did literally drop out of the conversation for a moment. You look very lovely, and I hope you can forgive me for being so captured by your physical beauty that I forgot to listen to your words.”
She softened all over. He watched in wonder as her shoulders relaxed, her fingers loosened on her purse, and her red lips parted in a small smile.
“I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“What girls?” he asked, genuinely confused. He racked his brain for a full minute as he tried to understand what she was saying. Gianna raised an eyebrow.
“The girls you go out with. I’ve seen them chasing after you. Surely, you are picking up girls all the time.”
He laughed softly, shaking his head. “I don’t go out. At all. I’m always busy with the company. I wouldn’t have a single clue about pickup lines or other tricks.”
She frowned as if she didn’t believe him, but her smile got just a bit wider, and her eyes softened even more. He was detecting the smallest changes in her body. Increased blood flow in some places, a rising heat between her legs. There could be no mistaking it.
She wants me.
“Well, at any rate, I shouldn’t have just run off,” she said. “I just needed some air. Your kisses made me a bit … lightheaded. I promise it won’t happen again.”
“What won’t happen again?” he grinned. “The kisses? Don’t break my heart, Gianna. A life without your kisses would be torture. Don’t deny me the passion of your lips. It’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“There you go again,” she whispered, “with the poetry. What’s going on with all the poetry?”
He grinned. “No idea. It’s all you.” He reached out and took her hand very gently. “I certainly hope the kisses will happen again … please don’t tell me never.”
She blushed a little. The heat that was rising in her concentrated in her cheeks, and he was mesmerized by it. Without thinking, he reached out and brushed her thick black hair back from her face.
Want to kiss her! Right now, have to!
“Can we walk around?” she said, surprising him. She backed up a step, so his hand fell from her cheek. “I’d like to mingle … just to make sure I have everything I need for my story.”
He was disappointed but forced himself to hide it. He hoped the tension wasn’t obvious in his face as he crooked his arm for her to hang on to.
“Of course,” he said. “Let’s work the room.”
They walked slowly around the edges of the dance floor, stopping at almost every table so Gianna could shake hands and share a quick word. Rex tried to be patient. Even though she didn’t linger at any of the tables, he could feel his impatience rising. His tiger was practically lashing its tail back and forth as her scent worked on him, sinking through his skin to infect his blood.
He watched her lean over to hear something whispered by a soft-spoken heiress, his eyes devouring the sight of her pale skin caught between the black straps of her low-backed dress. From her tiny, slender waist, beautifully big hips swelled into curves that he could worship for days. He couldn’t wait to fill his big hands with them, learn every inch of her body with his fingertips.
As they moved to the next table, Gianna turned and looked over her shoulder at him. Her plump red lips caught his attention again. He never wanted to stop kissing her. He was drawn to her mouth as if he was caught, a helpless steel shard attracted by her magnetism.
He imagined kissing her as if they had all the time in the world. He’d trace her shoulders while slowly exploring her lips with his own. He’d slip the straps of the dress down while he flicked his tongue against hers. He’d hold her close, his hands reaching for those beautiful curves as he drank her scent and her taste from her mouth.
He realized he’d dropped out of reality a little, and, if anyone had been talking to him, he’d been responding with the charisma of a stone statue. No one seemed to have noticed, though. They were still moving from table to table. Gianna was being her friendly, bubbly best to get people talking about themselves and the event.
The crowd parted nearby, and Rex cursed softly under his breath. Voren Stercus was striding toward them, a big, insincere smile beaming from his face. Rex hated everything about the man. The overly friendly, fake smiles. The hard set of his shoulders, his handshake that always felt more like a competition than an expression of friendship. He scowled, making no attempt to hide it.
“Hey, buddy!” Voren said, clapping him on the shoulder. “Long time no see! How is everything?”
Rex gritted his teeth. Just because they went to grad school together, Voren assumed they were best friends. He was constantly trying to get Rex to invest in his shady deals, and he seemed to think having a few classes in common years ago entitled him to Best Friend privileges.
“Hello, Voren,” he replied. “Hope you’re enjoying the event.”
“I sure am!” Voren’s enthusiasm was sickening. “Are you? It looks like a great opportunity to network. What have you got in the pipeline these days?”
Rex sighed, exhaling slowly through his nose so no one would notice. Voren didn’t give a fuck about what Rex had cooking. He was just making an excuse to insert his own idea and try to get Rex in on it.
I’ve turned him down so many times. You’d think that he’d give up by now. I can’t decide if he’s tenacious or just stupid.
“I tell you what,” Voren said, clapping him on the shoulder again. “Why don’t we meet for lunch or something, somewhere more private. We could …”
“Excuse me,” Gianna said, stepping in between the two men. Rex was so shocked that he couldn’t react. She literally pushed him back so she could shake hands with Voren.
“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said, her voice smooth and confident. “I’m Gianna Lee.”
“I know you,” Voren said cautiously. “You’re a very informed reporter.”
Voren’s tone was guarded and careful. He obviously didn’t want to offend Rex. Rex smiled, feeling actual joy rising in him at seeing Voren so uncomfortable.
“I heard you asking Rex for a meeting,” she said enthusiastically. “I’d love to see your house. It has historical features that are almost a hundred years old, doesn’t it? The design work is perfectly unique. No reporter has ever gotten a good look at it. I would love it if you’d let me take some photos and ask some questions about it for an article.”
“I thought you did serious news,” Voren said, smiling. He was obviously falling for her charm.
Gianna laughed lightly. “I’m here covering the fashions at a charity ball!” She placed a hand on his arm, giggling. “So, obviously, I’m taking a break from the serious stuff.”
She turned and looked up at Rex, blinking her big, deep, blue-violet eyes. Rex felt his breath catch in his throat. He knew that she was going to have this effect on him every single time he looked into her eyes, and he would revel in it for the rest of his life.
“Please,” she asked, looking eager and expectant. “Let’s have a lunch date or dinner at Voren’s. You guys can have a business chat, and I can put together a groundbreaking article on the manor. I would love that so much.”
Voren was watching Gianna with open admiration. Rex gritted his teeth slightly. He hated to give Voren the satisfaction, but he would never deny his mate. Not when she was staring up at him with those wide, pleading eyes. He couldn’t deny her anything, especially if she wanted it so badly.
“All right,” he said, trying not to sigh. “We’ll organize to go to Voren’s. I’ll happily escort you.”
“Great!” she beamed, bouncing a little. He tried to focus on the bounce of her breasts and the knowledge that he’d be seeing much more of her.
Making her happy is all that counts. For that, I’ll put up with Voren, and for no other reason.