“And this is his business partner, Trevor Bishop.”
Walsh steps back, and I have my first close up of the fish I’m baiting tonight. Only I’m the one hooked, immediately. I’m careful not to show it, but that stunned look I’m used to seeing on other people’s faces? All over my inside face.
This force of flesh and bone and muscle wrapped in heat looms over me. Trevor Bishop’s presence burns holes in my composure. I could tell from across the room he was attractive and built like a mountain lion, lean and strong and broad. It’s only now with proximity that his absolute confidence meets mine head on. He tilts his head to the left, his chocolate-colored eyes steadily considering me, and I swear he knows. Even though I’m sure my face doesn’t give it away, I swear he knows that as I stand in front of him, inhaling his clean scent and waiting for his first smile, windmills turn in my belly.
“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Baston.” His lips, wide and full, give me a smile punctuated by dimples. And he has a southern drawl.
Fuck me now.
That’s not a figure of speech. I quite literally want him to toss me over that hulking shoulder, find a dark corner somewhere and screw me so deeply into a wall we leave a dent. Or in a bathroom stall. Hell, he could drag me over to the elaborate buffet table and take me from behind right there by the ice sculpture.
One dark brown brow, a few shades darker than his hair, rises. Holy crap, I haven’t responded yet.
“Um, nice to meet you, too, Mr. Bishop.” I take my time so my tongue doesn’t betray the muddled mess of haywire hormones I am right now.
His eyes drift over my shoulder, forcing my mind and manners back to Rip.
“Oh, yes. I’m sorry. How rude.” I turn to Rip, who immediately claims my elbow and draws me into his side. All of a sudden he’s territorial. I can’t blame him. If my girlfriend was within five feet of this man, I’d handcuff her to me for the night. “This is Michael Ripley.”
“Great game Sunday.” Trevor shakes the hand Rip isn’t manacling me with. “I’m a Falcons fan myself, but I can appreciate a good toss no matter the team. That’s some arm you got there.”
Rip’s hold on me relaxes a bit. Clever Trevor, disarming him that way. Well played. Will I be able to strip this fish of his defenses as easily?
Once seated, Rip, Trevor, Harold and Walsh fall into a discussion of football I don’t even try to follow. Apparently neither does Kerris. She’s texting someone with a small frown on her face, and mumbles something to Walsh about a sitter. I settle into my seat beside Trevor, taking a few moments to compose myself and strategize how I can get that hook in his mouth.
“So you were in Dubai?”
The question startles me a little, I was so lost in my musings. I turn slightly in Trevor’s direction, creasing my lips politely.
“For a shoot, yes.” I toy with the clamp on my clutch resting on the table. “And my friend Ardis married a prince over there. I like to visit her every once in a while.”
“A real live prince, huh?” He teases me with a quirk of those full lips.
“Don’t be too impressed.” I lean a few inches closer to him and lower my voice. “He’s a prince in name only.”
“If he’s a prince in name only, what does that make him in deed?”
I can’t hold onto the humor when I recall the bruises shackling Ardis’ throat and wrists, or the black and blue mark on her cheek like a brand. I refocus my eyes and sober my mouth.
“I thought you ladies kissed all the frogs to find the prince.”
“It happens that way in fairy tales, not in Manhattan.” I sip my champagne. “Or in Dubai, apparently.”
“So that accounts for your tan.” His dark eyes make a slow, thorough inspection of my features.
“Hmmm. What accounts for yours?” I toss a skein of silvery blonde hair back so he gets an eyeful of the bare line of my neck and shoulder. His eyes move down my neck, warming the skin like a touch, before he looks back into my eyes.
“Haiti.” He laughs a little, lounges back in his chair and links long fingers across a flat stomach I imagine is corded with muscle. “Well, and my father is Lumbee, so some of my tan’s natural.”
He laughs again, his teeth white against his skin. I really like that it’s because of something I said.
“Lumbee Indian, a tribe found mostly in Lumberton, North Carolina.”
“So your mother’s responsible for the red hair?”
“She is.” He brushes a hand over his neat hair, disrupting it into a coppery spill on his forehead. “I was spared the freckles, though.”
“I’m sure there’s one or two.”
His eyes are suddenly hot chocolate, heating up a little as they hold mine.
“You’re welcome to try to find them.”