Living the Charade(4)

By: Michelle Conder

Well, hell, that was a first. He knew Sam would get mileage out of it for the next decade if he could.

He turned to see where her cute friend was but she seemed to have disappeared.

‘Not that I know of,’ Sam replied to the stunner beside him, barely managing to keep his tongue in his mouth. ‘I’m Sam Ventura and this is my brother Valentino.’

Tino stared at his brother. No one called him Valentino except their mother.

Switch your brain on, Samuel.

‘I do know you!’ she declared confidently. ‘You’re at Clayton Smythe—corporate litigation, L.A. office. Am I right?’

‘You are at that.’ Sam smiled.

‘Ruby Clarkson—discrimination law, Sydney office.’ She held out her hand. ‘Please tell me you’re in town this weekend and as free as a bird.’

Tino willed Sam not to blow his cool. The blonde had a sensational smile and a nice rack, but she was a little too bold for his tastes. His brother, however, he could see was already halfway to her bedroom.

Some sixth sense made him turn, and his eyes alighted on the friend in the black suit with the provocative red trim at the hem. She glanced at her empty table and her mouth fell open when she scanned the room and located her friend.

Then her eyes cut to his and her mouth snapped closed with frosty precision. Tino saw her spine straighten and grinned when she glanced at the door as if she was about to bolt through it. His eyes drifted over her again. If she’d bothered to smile, and he hadn’t just ended a short liaison with a woman who had lied about understanding the term ‘casual sex’, she was exactly his type. Polished, poised and pert—all over. Pert nose, pert breasts and a pert ass. And he liked the way she moved too. Graceful. Purposeful.

As she approached, he took in the ruler-straight chestnut-coloured hair that shone under the bar lights, and skin that was perhaps the creamiest he had ever seen. His eyes travelled over a heart-shaped mouth designed with recreational activities in mind and the bluest wide-spaced eyes he’d ever seen.

‘Ruby, I’m back. Let’s go.’

And a voice that could stop a bushfire in its tracks.

Tino felt amused at the dichotomy; she should be leaning in and whispering sweet nothings in his ear, not cutting her friend to the quick.

‘Hey, relax. Why don’t I get you a drink?’ he found himself offering.

‘I’m perfectly relaxed.’ Her eyes could have shredded concrete as she turned them on him, but still he felt the effect of that magnificent aquamarine gaze like a punch in the gut. ‘And if I wanted a drink I’d order one.’

Well, excuse the hell out of me.

‘Miller!’ Her friend instantly jumped in to try and ease the lash of her words. ‘This is Sam and his brother Valentino. And—good news—Sam is free for the weekend.’

The woman Miller didn’t move, but the skin at the outside of her mouth pulled tight. She seemed about to set her friend on fire, but then collected herself at the last minute.

‘Hello, Sam. Valentino.’

He noticed he barely rated a nod.

‘I’m very pleased to meet you. But unfortunately Ruby and I have to go.’

‘Miller,’ her friend chided. ‘This is a perfect solution for you.’

This last was said almost under her breath, and Tino directed an enquiring eyebrow at Sam.

‘It seems Miller needs a partner for the weekend,’ Sam provided.

Tino eased back onto the barstool. And what? They were recruiting Sam?

He cocked his head. ‘Come again?’

‘No need,’ the little ray of sunshine fumed politely. ‘We’re sorry to disturb you and now we have to go.’

‘It’s fine.’ Sam raised his hand in a placating gesture Tino had seen him use in court. ‘I’m more than pleased to offer my services.’

Services? Did he mean sexual?

Tino felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. ‘Would somebody like to fill me in here?’ He sounded abrupt, but clearly someone had to protect his little brother from these weird females.

‘Miller has to go away on a work weekend and she needs a partner to keep a nuisance client at bay,’ her friend Ruby explained helpfully.

Tino eyed Miller’s stiff countenance. ‘Tried telling him you’re not interested?’ he drawled.

She snapped her startling eyes to his and once again he found himself mesmerised by their colour and the way they kicked up slightly at the corners. ‘Now, why didn’t I think of that?’

‘Sometimes the things right in front of us are the hardest to see,’ he offered.

‘I was joking.’ She looked aghast that he might have taken her sarcastic quip seriously and it made him want to laugh. It wasn’t too difficult to see why she was in need of a fake partner, and he revised his earlier assessment of her.