“Where do you have her?” Lucian asked.
“She’s waiting in the lower sitting area,” Richard answered.
Because his brother would only walk at a sedate, proper pace, he easily sidestepped him and Richard, making his way downstairs before Dev even reached the top of the staircase.
His strides were long, his own notably ridiculously expensive Stefano Bemer shoes silent on hardwood floors as he made his way to the same room he’d broken the news of his father’s passing to Richard and Livie. He neared the open archway and came to an absolute, complete stop before even entering the room.
There was a moment, the tiniest second, where he realized there was going to be a before and there was going to be an after to this moment. He’d kind of felt that way last night, when he walked into a small, no-name bar and got his first look at the nurse Dev had hired.
Seeing her again was like seeing her for the first time all over.
Lucian had no idea what he had been expecting when he first laid eyes on Ms. Julia Hughes. Someone older? Possibly matronly? Who knew? But he was as shell-shocked then as he was last night.
Sitting on the edge of the Victorian-era couch, completely unaware that he could see her, was the woman he’d had his fingers inside of less than twelve hours ago.
She was . . . fuck, she was beautiful.
Beautiful in a way that wasn’t often seen anymore. The kind of beauty that was from eras that no longer reigned.
Her deep brown hair was secured in a neat knot with the exception of one strand that fell against her cheek. It was the same strand he’d tucked back last night. He still wanted to see her hair down, to know if his suspicions were true. He knew, just knew, it had to be thick and long.
The shape of her face was a perfect heart. Delicate brows arched over eyes he knew were the warm color of whiskey. A pert nose and high cheekbones that were even more pretty when they were flushed pink and her mouth . . . oh sweet Jesus, her mouth was a work of art. Lips so lush that a man would live his entire life without ever having the honor of tasting them, of knowing how they felt against his own month or around his cock.
Yeah, he was thinking some shit.
And he hadn’t even gotten to taste them.
Like when he first saw her, he could see her face rendered on canvas. It wouldn’t be easy. He knew there was a lot of emotion in that face, emotion that was always hard to translate in paint. Even the slight furrow in her brows would be difficult to capture.
It would be a challenge.
Even though she was sitting, poised stiffly and uncomfortably on the edge of that couch, he knew she had a body of dreams. Full figured, soft and silky in all the places he wanted to explore.
There was a buzz in his veins as he stared at her, a heat that was burning him from the inside out. Flames that would engulf him whole, and what a way to burn.
Ms. Julia Hughes had been a very, very pleasant surprise.
Unlike his brother, he was more hands-on. Instead of hiring an investigator, he’d done the field work. The whole purpose of the trip to Pennsylvania was to scout her out since he hadn’t been able to find anything online about her. Went to where she’d worked and pretended to be interested in enrolling a family member. All he had to do was smile and say a few flowery words, and he was able to dig up some info from her old boss.
Well-liked by coworkers and patients.
They were going to miss her.
And while he’d been there, he’d overheard the friendly blonde talking about the party. Pure luck that had put him in the right place and the right time without being seen. He’d gone to that bar with the full intention to engage her in conversation, get a feel for her, and honest to God, that was all he’d planned.
But then he saw her.
Then he talked to her.
And then he’d wanted her.
He was vaguely aware of his brother approaching him. Knowing he should look away, he found that he couldn’t, that he didn’t want to.
“Lucian,” Dev warned quietly.
He ignored his brother as he inched closer. When he first saw her last night, he had a purely primitive reaction to her and it had been too long since that had happened. Too long.
“I mean it.” Irritation was evident in Dev’s low tone. “Don’t even think it.”
He wished his brother would shut up so he could gawk at his nurse in quiet privacy. “Now how would you know what I’m thinking?”
“Are you seriously asking me that?” he challenged in a low voice. “You only care about two things. One of them involves fucking out what’s left of your brain cells.”
Lucian arched a brow as he looked at him, because he couldn’t argue with that. “What’s the other thing I care about? Tell me. Since you know more about me than I apparently do.”
His brother’s brows slammed down. “The reason why she’s here.”
“True,” he murmured, unable to argue with that either.
But when he turned his attention back to his nurse, his sister—God help him—was the furthest thing from his mind.
Lucian wanted to . . . he wanted to paint her.
And he couldn’t remember the last time he wanted to do that. That urge had peaced out on him a long time ago, but now his fingers itched.
For the first time since, well, forever, he looked at a woman and really thought about what his great-great-grandmother had said about the men of the de Vincent family. Maybe she’d meant that they fell in lust fast and hard, without reason or hesitation.
Because oh yeah, he was experiencing some hard-core lust. Walking away from her last night had been one of the craziest and out-of-character things he’d ever done.
“Lucian,” Dev repeated. “I want you to leave her alone.”
“Too late for that,” he replied.
Dev stiffened as he stared at him and then his eyes widened slightly. “Where did you go yesterday?”
Winking in his brother’s direction, he strode forward, leaving his brother and his concerns in the hallway, where both belonged.
Ms. Hughes jolted at the sound of his footsteps and finally, finally lifted her chin and those thick lashes. He saw her eyes widen and could track the confusion pouring out of them as she recognized him, and when those plush, unbelievable lips parted on a soft inhale, the tiny breath went straight to his dick.
He couldn’t help it.
Lucian bowed in front of her with a flourish aristocrats would’ve been envious of, extending a hand to her.
Those warm brown eyes dropped to his hand and then rose to his face. The pink in her cheeks deepened and spread. She gave a little shake of her head. Disbelief was etched into every inch of her face.
As if through a tunnel he heard his brother say his name again, this time closer, and this time with a little more warning to it. But he didn’t care. This was Dev’s fault, after all, because what the hell had his brother been thinking when he hired her? Not that he was complaining, but for real? Did Dev not find a picture of her during the background check, and think, well, this may not be a wise idea?
Too late now.
Because he knew he could’ve had her last night.
Because he still wanted her.
And Lucian always, always got what he wanted.
This wasn’t real life.
That was what Julia was thinking as she watched Taylor bow in front of her. This was some kind of dream. Maybe she was still back in her apartment, in bed. Or maybe she fell and hit her head somewhere in the airport. There was no way Taylor was here.
In such a shock, she barely processed him plucking up her hand.
“Ms. Hughes?” he said in that same deep voice that sent a fine shiver down her spine.
Her mouth dried.
“Allow me to introduce myself,” he drawled, his lips curving in a small way that hinted at all kinds of trouble.
She blinked slowly. What in the hell? She knew who he was. Intimately. Like real intimately, but that didn’t answer why he was here.
Her mouth opened and she drew in a deep breath that went nowhere. She started to rise, but found that she couldn’t get her legs to move. Air scorched her lungs as she stared up him. This couldn’t be happening. She’d just seen Taylor in Pennsylvania, and he had been . . . he was just some hot guy she met in a bar. He couldn’t be standing in front of her, thousands of miles away.