, Bonus Novella
She was standing at the bar, sipping what looked like a bourbon or rum or tequila as she scanned the room. Most women I’d met didn’t like strong alcohol, though, so I was sure I had to be wrong. I moved up next to her—not too close, not too far away—and signaled the bartender. As he moved my direction, I said, “Large Laphroaig. On the rocks.”
A nervous look crossed the bartender’s face. “That’s a very rare bottle, sir. I’m not sure we have that.”
“I’m sure you do,” I responded in my practiced Spanish accent. “I’ll wait while you find it.”
Beside me, the blonde lifted her auburn brow that didn’t match her hair color and sipped her drink, continuing to look out over the crowd of people drinking, laughing, flirting—some even dancing to the low, sultry beat of some jazz number I didn’t recognize.
The bartender disappeared into a back room and returned several minutes later with a bottle in his hand. “Turns out we did have it.”
Shocker. The masters of the universe running this masquerade didn’t drink the cheap shit themselves.
The bartender added ice to a glass and began pouring. Beside me, the blonde’s perfume—something that included gardenias, my favorite flower—drifted to my nose. Another enticement I couldn’t refuse.
I pulled a generous tip from my wallet and set it on the gleaming wood as the bartender handed me my glass.
“Thank you, sir,” he said in his clipped British accent.
I lifted the glass to my lips and took a large sip. As the bartender moved to help someone else, the blonde said, “A whisky connoisseur. That or you were just trying to see how cheap our host is.”
I smirked and turned toward her. “They always hide the good stuff.”
“Sounds as if you know from experience.”
Her accent was very posh. And very un-commoner. A dead giveaway she was from the upper British crust and not the mind-washed kitten she was pretending to be.
“Here? No.” I worked to accentuate my own accent so she wouldn’t realize where I was really from. “But at rich parties like this, they always keep the good stuff hidden.”
I offered my hand. “Marc Garcia. I’m in the computer business.”
I figured that was a boring enough cover. And a partial truth to my name would keep me out of trouble.
“Computers, hmm?” Her silky fingers slid over mine for a split second before disappearing way too fast. “What are you doing here, Mr. Garcia?”
There was definite interest in her eyes. I hadn’t been wrong earlier when I’d thought she was checking me out. The little minx was as attracted to me as I was to her. She was just working hard to hide it.
But I could also tell from the spark of curiosity in her eyes that she was feeling me out, trying to discover just what House Castellano in Spain was doing at this party. Most of the attendees were from House Merrick in the UK. A few from House Richelieu in France. No other Houses had been invited.
“One of my British business associates invited me. We’re negotiating a big deal on some, well”—I purposely acted evasive just like a jackass newbie making shady deals with these people would act—“surveillance software. I think he was hoping this party would persuade me to accept his offer.” I glanced over the masked couples and frowned as I sipped my drink. “Afraid to say, it’s really not all that exciting from where I’m sitting, though.”
She smirked and lifted her glass to her lips. “And what do you find exciting, Mr. Garcia?”
Blood rolled through my veins and gathered in my groin as I pinned my eyes on her. “Very proper British women who eye-fuck strangers across the room and act shocked and dismayed when they’re called out for it.”
For a heartbeat, she didn’t respond, then slowly swallowed what was left in her glass and turned my way. “I wouldn’t dream of appearing shocked and dismayed.”
She stepped in close, and I realized she was much more petite than I’d originally assumed. Even in her four-inch heels, she had to push to her toes so I could feel her breath against my skin.
And holy hell, did I feel it. She breathed so hot over the scruff on my jaw, a blistering need whipped through my body, making me hard in a heartbeat. “And if I was really interested, Mr. Garcia, trust me. I wouldn’t be doing something as boring as eye-fucking you from across the room.” The scent of gardenia melded with the whisky on her breath when she lowered her voice to a sultry note and added, “I’d be dragging you into a back room and literally fucking that dirty mind right out of you.”
Holy mother of God…
She lowered to her heels, pinned me with a steamy look mixed with a hefty dose of trouble, and took the glass from my hand. Tipping it back, she swallowed the last mouthful without breaking eye contact, then set my empty glass on the bar. “Mm. You were right. That was good.”
She pushed away and wove through the crowd. Blood pumping hard, I looked after her, unable to do anything more than stare at her sexy ass and those gorgeous legs.
Fuck. Me. I was as hard as stone and even more determined to make that little siren surrender to me. Screw what my House wanted. Screw what my associates wanted. I had to have her.
I would have her one way or another.