“Looking to change career paths?” I smiled.
“Rhys Striker is the founder of the company. He’s a good friend and tonight is his annual Chairman’s Ball. Since I am one of his original clients and investors, I’m expected to attend. And,” he leaned in and tugged at my lower lip with his teeth, “since you are my fiancé everyone is expecting to see you on my arm. Although right now the only place I want to see you is naked and on me.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled so our bodies were pressed together. “How about naked on the counter?”
My mouth met his, delivering a dozen languid, yet hungry kisses before he pulled back with a frustrated growl.
He rested his forehead against mine. Both of us were breathing heavily. It took me a moment to realize that I was no longer standing on the floor, but my feet dangled off the counter and Preston stood between my thighs. Hard and ready.
“I need you to remember exactly where we are right now, how your hands are pulling my hair, how your eyes are begging me to f**k you, how your pu**y is wet with want, because the second we get home tonight I am going to flip you against this counter and show you exactly where I want you.”
He took a step back and ran a hand though his thoroughly mussed hair. “Now, get moving and try on something from the closet I stocked for you last week.”
“I take it this is a fancy kind of thing.”
I smiled. And it felt forced and hurt a little. If I were being honest, I’d admit to the disappointment spreading through me. My plan for tonight, my world-class lasagna, a cable movie and pajamas-optional activity, was a no-go. It had been a long day. The good part had a cloud hanging over it. Hearing my father’s voice free of confusion was darkened by refraining, once again, from telling someone important in my life what was really going on.
I just needed a night of normalcy and calm. But like most things, my expectations needed to change. Preston’s life didn’t allow for a lot of snuggle time.
“Contract stipulates I accompany you to events so I’ll just go get ready.” I’d meant for that to sound playful, but it came out more sad than anything. Scooting around Preston, I made my way toward the bedroom closet. I started looking through the dresses on the hangers.
Preston stood in the door jamb, his forearms resting on the sides of the entry. “I’ll introduce you to a lot of people, but I’ll likely be tied up in conversations for most of the evening.”
“Okay,” I said, gently flicking through the clothes my eyes never meeting his.
“Maybe you’d like to invite Emma? May make you feel a bit more comfortable.”
I stopped mid-swipe at the latest Chanel number and looked at him. He was trying. I could see it on his face that he was attempting to genuinely make me happy.
“I would like that.”
A big smile splayed across his face like he’d just answered the right question to final Jeopardy. My chest instantly split open with the joy of seeing such an incredible man that elated.
A small laugh escaped because I had seen this kind of thing with my parents. My father was crazy about my mom. Every time she smiled, he got this goofy grin of pure bliss as if his whole life was wrapped around making this one woman truly happy.
But that smile…it made my heart race. Right now it was a gala. Tomorrow it would be something else. It would mostly likely never be a couch, junk food and sweatpants night. No matter what though, it was limited and conditional. Two words I needed to get acquainted with quickly.
“Great balls of Christ this place is insane!” Emma whispered in my ear as we walked into the Amory. The historic building was all red brick and simply beautiful. The inside main area could have been used for anything, from a concert to a car show, but tonight, it was decked out with silk laid tables and candles. A shiny wooden dance floor led to a large stage where the orchestra played.
“I thought you said you’ve been to these sort of things before?” I whispered back.
“Yeah, a few of Adam’s stuffy charities and parties but this is still…” she shook her head and I knew what she meant.
Tuxedos and ball gowns, and circling servers holding silver trays of finger food, littered the entire area. Emma lifted her chin in the air like she belonged there, and I followed suit. The wealthy and rich surroundings never really shocked me before, but this was on another level. Still, as far as these people knew, I was supposed to be there. Now if only I actually felt that way.
“I knew you were dating the boss but damn,” Emma whistled low. “By the way, I am totally happy I finally got to meet him. I can see why you put out so quick.”
“About that…” She turned and faced me, her short purple dress flowing around her hips. Though she was petite, Emma had a natural beauty most women would kill for. “Preston and I are sort of, more than dating.”
“What does that mean?”
Crap! That last word lodged in my throat like a sour Skittle I couldn’t spit out. Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself why this was happening—why I had agreed to this scam and why I needed to pull myself together and own it. People won’t believe we’re a happy couple if the bride-to-be looks unpleasant all the time.
“Preston proposed. We’re getting married.”
I tried to do that excited and happy face, but Emma stared at me like I was having a Tourette’s meltdown.
“Ladies,” Preston said, holding two flutes of champagne out. We took them.
“Thank you,” I said a little softer than I meant.
“Are you ready?” he asked quietly.
“Hold up, you two are getting married?” One dainty hand around her drink, Emma pointed at Preston.
“Yes. We are,” Preston said.
Emma let out a long breath. She was never one to pry or judge. In fact, she was more easygoing than most men, but her brows furrowed tightly, like she couldn’t decide what to say next.
Finally, she looked at me. “Is this what you want?”
The question hit me like one of Emma’s famously bragged about bitch-slaps. I didn’t know exactly what to expect her reaction to be, so the only thing I could do was stick to the truth the best I could.
I looked at Preston and smiled, then back at Emma. With all the confidence in the world on my side I said, “Marrying Preston is definitely something I want.”
“Okay then.” Emma held up her flute. “I’m happy for you guy.”