Reese held a glass of champagne for her. “Happy?”
She took it, grinning as she clinked it with his. “Very.”
He chuckled and turned to face the painting she had purchased. The artist was relatively new but was someone Reese knew and appreciated. “It’s a beauty.”
She thought it was lovely, but having his opinion on it match hers cinched the deal. “Well, since I can’t buy one of your
paintings, this is the next best thing.”
He smiled, tossing long black bangs from his clear blue eyes. “Thank you for understanding. With everything else that’s going on…”
She held up a hand to stop him. “Say no more. Fully understood.” He’d demurred when she had asked if he’d paint something for her. It was unfortunate, but Reese’s life was so busy these days that he rarely had time for the actual creation of art. More of his time was spent talking
about it, or doing things that were entirely unrelated. Like running the White Tiger, the nightclub he and Luc owned. Gretchen meant to speak to Luc about that. It was a crying shame to not have more of Reese’s works in the world.
But that was for another time. Sipping the pink champagne, she nudged him with her shoulder. “Thanks for helping me pick it out.”
He nodded. “I think it’ll go great with the color scheme you mentioned.”
“Mmm. I suppose this means I can’t change my mind now.” She laughed at his eye roll, then glanced behind him. People she knew and people she knew of milled in the open white space of the gallery proper. One particular person was missing. “Where’s Luc?”
“Went for a smoke?”
“Yep.” He sighed. “Maybe I should have listened to him and let him stay home. He does so many of these gallery things for me, and it’s really not his thing.”
She faced him, reaching up to needlessly adjust his tie. He did look so nice in a suit and tie, even if it wasn’t a look she was used to seeing on him. With his hair back to his normal glossy black, one would hardly tell he was the bohemian artist boyfriend of a famous rockstar. “Honey, he’d endure anything for you.”
“I know. That doesn’t mean I have to make
They were so cute.
Before Reese, Gretchen would not have said that Luc would ever settle down. If she’d had to peg a lifemate for him, it would have been Brent. Not that she would have ever suggested it, of course, since the two of them had barely acknowledged they were fucking on the sly, but she’d never known two closer friends. She was pleased, however, that Reese and Hell had come into their lives. She wouldn’t have vouched for how long a real romance between Luc and Brent would last. Now, however, they were both deeply in love with men who loved them in return, and she couldn’t be more pleased. In fact, she was a tad jealous. She’d never had anything resembling the solid relationship Luc had with Reese or Brent had with Hell.
Not that I want one, she reminded herself.
Tucking her hand into the bend of Reese’s arm, she drew him away from the painting. It was late and sufficiently long enough after the auction proper that the crowd was beginning to wane. She’d have to decide with Reese and Luc soon if they wanted to go to one of the after parties or if they’d just call it a night. Surprisingly, home sounded like the preferable option. “Have you guys set a date?”
“Not yet. We’re thinking maybe New Year’s. It’d be one year after he proposed.” She adored the little smile that curled his lips at the very thought. He reached up to comb the hair back from his eyes. “Don thinks Luc’s part of the shoot will be done long before then.”
She smiled squeezing his arm. “You don’t know how happy I am that you two are tying the knot.”
Reese chuckled. “I still don’t really believe it. We don’t need
to do this. I’m shocked that he wants to.”
“I’m not. He wants to make sure that everyone knows who you belong to.” She gestured at a knot of tastefully -- if colorfully -- dressed men who were watching them from one corner. “So the wolves don’t take you away.”
“Ha. I believe those gentlemen are looking at the lovely woman in the slinky dress.”
She smoothed a hand over her hip. “Maybe some of them, but I’m quite
sure the one in green is looking at you.”
Reese snorted softly. “He can look.”
Chuckling, they reached the patio that had been set aside for the guests who smoked and, sure enough, spotted Luc in his stylish navy suit standing by a row of potted bushes, talking to a man in a silver gray suit.
The man was stunning, which was saying something when he was standing next to Lucas Sloane. Even if she was immune to the charms of the men in Heaven Sent, Gretchen was more than aware of their assets, and each of them was fantastically gorgeous. The man standing beside Luc more than held his own. He was Luc’s height and build, although he might have a bit more bulk. If she had to guess, he was of recent Greek or Italian ancestry because he had that dark, dusky skin and sleek raven black hair. The hair was shaven close around his neck and ears, then moussed into a perfect wave on top. A neatly trimmed black Vandyke beard framed a mouth that laughed openly to reveal straight white teeth. Heavy black brows shielded soulful bedroom eyes that turned out to be dark brown. She found out this last when they focused on her when she and Reese were just a few paces away.
Noting the direction of his companion’s gaze, Luc turned. He smiled on seeing them. “Hey, there you two are.” He reached up and patted the man’s broad shoulder. “Archer Thanos, this is Gretchen Hobbes. She manages my band. And this is my one and only, Reese Schuyler.”
Archer extended his hand to greet Reese first since he was closer, shaking his hand before he smiled again at Gretchen. “Yes. I know who Ms. Hobbes is.”
Oh my, she thought, surprised by the quiver of excitement that made her heart pitter-pat. She hadn’t felt that sudden lust in years.
She switched her champagne to her left hand so she could extend the right toward the lovely man. “Nice to meet you.”
His hand was warm. “The pleasure is mine.”
“I believe you’ve called my office. Regarding a video game?” If she’d known he looked like this, she might have called him back sooner.
He nodded, keeping hold of her fingers. “Yes. My team and I at Thanos Gaming have come up with a concept, and we think Heaven Sent is perfect for it.”
Raising a brow, she cocked her head. “How fortuitous that we’re both at the same function.”
His grin confirmed that perhaps this meeting was not coincidental.
She tugged gently, and he let her fingers slip free of his. His gaze stayed steadily on her. Feeling warm, she glanced at Luc. “I take it you’ve discussed it?”
Luc chuckled, stubbing out his cigarette in a tall standing astray beside him. “Sounds cool to me. But I’m not the gamer. I already told Archer he’d have to talk to Johnnie or Hell for someone who knows all about it.”
“I’d love to send the prospectus to all of you.” Archer’s gaze remained on Gretchen. “Along with anything else you might like.”
Beside him, Luc noticed and exchanged raised eyebrows with Reese. She didn’t miss the double meaning that had been directed at her either.
She sipped her champagne as Archer gave her a quick once-over, delighted he seemed to approve of the sleeveless pale green sheath that flared just a little to the hem above her knees. It happened to be a color she knew she looked good in. Gave her pale skin some color and made her orange-red hair stand out, not to mention bringing out the green of her eyes. “That would be lovely,” she finally answered. “Send it to my office, and I’ll have my assistant set up a time when we could talk.”
He took a step closer, long black lashes partially hooding his dark eyes. “Perhaps we could talk right now?”
Heat surged in her belly. She was not normally tongue-tied and was quite used to dealing with overbearing men, so it was odd that coherent thought suddenly fled. She cleared her throat and glanced past his shoulder at where Luc and Reese were grinning broadly at her. Was that a flush she felt in her cheeks? “Well, I…”
Archer folded her free hand back into his, raising it so he could brush dry, velvet lips against her knuckles. “Please?”
She heard Luc laugh softly, damn him. Instantly, she decided not to be embarrassed. She was an adult woman. She’d played more than her share of the field during her time with Heaven Sent. Not all
the men who followed them were gay. So what that she’d only had a handful of real dates in the last year. There was no time like the present, right?
Resolved, she stepped even closer to Archer and gave him a return smile. “I think that sounds like a fine
idea. Do you mind if I steal him?” she asked Luc.
“Not at all.” Luc’s grin was broad when Archer turned back to him. “Looks like we might be talking again real soon, Archer.” They shook hands.
“I hope that’s the case.” He offered his arm to Gretchen.
She took it, ignoring Luc’s taunting toast to her behind Archer’s back.
There was a narrow, open gate at the far end of the patio that led to a relatively deserted courtyard.
“This is beautiful,” Gretchen murmured when they came to stop before a moonlit fountain. The water wasn’t flowing, but the polished marble of the sinuous, almost humanoid sculpture in the middle shone in the pale blueish light.
Archer’s presence at her side heated her blood, not that it was necessary on such a warm, summer night. “May I say that you’re beautiful?”
She turned a coy look up at the man gazing down at her. “I thought we were going to talk video games?”
“Isn’t that your business?”
“It is. And I do
want to discuss including Heaven Sent in my next project.” He slid the backs of his fingers up her bare arm. “I find it hard, however, to concentrate when I’m alone with such a gorgeous woman.”
“Flattery will not have any bearing on a decision about Heaven Sent and your game.”
He shook his head. “I would hope not. Sex and business are best kept apart.”
“Mmmm. Sex already?”
“I can hope.”
She glanced over her shoulder toward the open gate. Two other couples were enjoying the peace of the courtyard. She put her back to Archer and strolled toward a bench in a sheltered corner. “Are you sure I’m that easy?”
He followed readily. “I’m quite sure that you are not.”
She stopped, ostensibly looking at the flowers dotting the bush beside the bench. “And yet you think just like that I’m going to have sex with you?”
“Oh no.” Warm hands closed over her bare shoulders, and the heat of his body warmed her back. “I expect you to make me work for it.” Lips brushed the side of her neck. “What fun would this be otherwise?”
“Hmmm. You are
rather sure of me.”
“Hope springs eternal.”
She laughed, tilting her head to allow him better access. “If I did
give in to you, where would you propose we consummate?” She gestured at the bench. “Here?”
“Oh no. I wouldn’t want an audience like this. They don’t deserve you.” He reached around to pluck her nearly empty champagne flute from her fingers, and his warmth briefly left her as he set it on a low wall of the bush’s planter. “I propose to take you somewhere.”
Hands slid down her arms to encircle wrists. “My place. Your place. The hotel on the corner.” He brought her arms up to cross them over her breasts, enveloping her in male-scented heat. “Anywhere you like.” Lips caressed the sensitive skin just behind her right ear. “Somewhere where I can take my time making love to you.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“There are people inside who could vouch for me.”
She laughed, surprised to hear something of a girlish giggle coming out of her. “Would they now?”
“They’d say you’re a good guy?”
He paused to suckle her earlobe, his tongue toying with her diamond stud. “I doubt that. They would
say you could trust me tonight.”
She sighed, letting him hear her pleasure. “My, my. You are good at this.”
Teeth gently bit the shell of her ear. “I’m even better at other things.”
“Mmmm. If I give in, that’s hardly making you work for it.”
His tongue traced the rim of her ear as one hand dropped from her wrist to span her belly. Gentle pressure pulled her back so a promising hardness pressed her lower back. “I’ll work hard in other ways.”
She purred her appreciation. “I must admit, I’m intrigued by these other things
you’re good at.”
“Shall we go?”
Oh why not? It had been so long since she’d just taken a man to bed, no strings attached. And this one was not only interested, he was one of the most gorgeous men she’d ever met. Given the company she kept, that was saying something. What could it hurt?
Gently shaking his hold, she turned in his embrace, reaching up to encircle his neck. “I mean it. No strings attached.” She caught his gaze and held it so he could see that she was serious. “We might do business together eventually, but tonight is an entirely different matter.”
Big hands caressed her back. “Understood.”
“You’ll find I can be quite a coldhearted bitch when it comes to business.”
“I would expect nothing less.”