The woman is gesturing wildly again, speaking of Dahlia Fowler—interesting. Her wrists are flying this way and that and I swear I can hear the jangle of the bracelet’s clasp the moment it comes undone. She doesn’t falter in her conversation, as her complaints against Dahlia are long and numerous and there is much nodding in agreement from her audience.
Even more interesting.
I turn my head as discreetly as possible, catching out of the corner of my eye her wrist and the bracelet I covet. It’s so close.
It’s so loose.
I plan the moment of attack. On three, it’ll happen.
I laugh at something the woman I’m flirting with says, throwing back my head and putting every bit of acting skill I have into the movement, as if I’m overcome.
Stepping backward, my entire body grazes my gesturing mark, and I bump into her. She gasps, as does the other woman, and they both lean forward, reaching for me at the exact same time.
I reach for the bracelet and slip it off the woman’s wrist.
I slice my other hand into the air, knocking the glass of wine from my companion’s hand, creating the distraction I need. The glass falls to the ground with a tinkling crash, the glass scattering everywhere, remnants of alcohol spattering across our feet. I step back, the bracelet going into my coat pocket with a flick of my wrist, and the woman with the now missing bracelet reaches toward the other one as I step back, the both of them gasping over the spilled liquor and their ruined shoes.
“Chéri, did you …” The film financer’s mistress makes a motion across the top of her hand. “… cut yourself? Oui?” She nods toward my left hand.
I hold my hand out to inspect it. There’s a small slice across the tip of my index finger, which probably happened when I made contact with my companion’s drink. “I did. I’ll go look for a first aid kit.”
I duck out and leave them chattering among themselves, my heart racing like a kettledrum inside my chest the entire time. I don’t look back, keeping my strides even, my gaze directed straight ahead. I push open the very double doors Rose Fowler just made her escape through, the humid night air clasping me in its sticky embrace, and I make my way across the terrace, then down the stairs, before I head toward the lit rectangular pool. The water glimmers a bright turquoise and the fountain in the center flows with a gentle rhythm, the sound soothing in the otherwise quiet of the night.
In a few minutes, the woman will notice her bracelet is gone, if she hasn’t already. Just beyond the pool is the beach, and I’ll walk among the shadows close to the line of palm trees before I cut through one of the hotels down the way, where I can make my escape. Hopefully no one will notice me.
But I barely make it past the pool when I hear a familiar voice.
“Well, well, if it isn’t my savior.”
Slowing my pace, I turn to find Rose sitting on the edge of a lounge chair near the pool, her shoulders hunched and those long, sexy-as-fuck legs spread wide so they’re both bare, the long slits in her skirt revealing them. An empty glass dangles from one hand and a bottle of Champagne hangs from the other.
She offers a smirk of a smile, her delicate brows rising in some sort of challenge. Someone already looks a little drunk. We haven’t been apart longer than fifteen minutes. Twenty, tops.
Slowly I approach her, telling myself I’m an idiot for even stopping. “Drinking alone?”
The smile grows and it lights up her entire face. “Something I rarely do, but yes. I am. Unless you’d care to join me.”
I don’t. I do. I’m torn.
“And if you don’t, I understand.” She waves me away, then brings the bottle to her lips and takes a swig. She sets the bottle on the ground beside her and then reaches forward, slipping her strappy little sandals off one foot, then the other. “They were killing me,” she mutters, rubbing the bottom of her foot.
I watch in fascination as she bends over her feet, offering me a spectacular view of her cleavage. Her breasts are full and if the front of her dress slips down any farther, I’ll catch a glimpse of nipple. “Maybe you should slow down …” I start to say, but she pops up to her feet, throwing her arms above her head as she starts to spin in a circle, her frothy skirt flowing around her.
“I don’t want to slow down. I always slow down and that’s so incredibly boring.” She drops her arms and looks up at me, her eyes sparkling, an almost manic expression on her face. “I think I want to swim.”
Without another word she walks over to the pool and stares at the water, her bare toes curling around the edge of the pavers that surround the pool. A warm breeze washes over us and she tilts her head back, her eyes sliding closed as she throws her arms out to her sides and holds them palms up.
“Have you ever done something reckless?” she asks, her voice soft.
All the fucking time. “Have you?”
She opens her eyes and looks over at me. “I asked first,” she says before she resumes her position.
“Yeah. Haven’t we all?”
“No. Not me, not really. I may act all tough, like I take no crap, but that’s all it is. An act. I prefer things to be safe. I don’t like to take risks. And I am definitely not reckless.” She drops her arms to her sides for the briefest moment before she’s reaching under her arm and unzipping the dress. The top gaps, revealing nothing but bare skin and that she’s not wearing a bra.