Author:Kristen Ashley

    The minute I laid eyes on him, my stomach turned. He was good-looking, this was fact. He was also a jerk. This was impossible to miss. And he was something else, something I couldn’t put my finger on, something I didn’t like. Not at all.

    But to Sandrine, he had it all. Flash, dash, beauty…

    And money.

    Yes, my friend was a gold digger.

    Still, call me crazy, and I called myself that more than once over my years of knowing her, I loved her. She was a pain in the behind a lot of the time and I had to say her single-minded pursuit of The One, just as long as The One was gorgeous, built and loaded, kind of freaked me out sometimes, alarmed me others and flat out scared me on occasion. But at least she knew who she was and what she wanted.

    And this, I thought, surveying the scene, was what she wanted. She wanted to reign as queen at exactly this kind of scene. Free-flowing booze and champagne. Well-dressed lackeys. Sumptuous apartments with sunken living rooms, state-of-the-art kitchens and wraparound balconies. And we’d put our coats in Nick’s bedroom so I’d had a quick look. Seriously, one look at Nick’s bedroom and even I nearly reconsidered his jerk status, it was that gorgeous.

    Then, approximately a half a second later, I remembered nothing was worth putting up with a jerk. Not even a beyond gorgeous bedroom. Especially not a jerk like Nick.

    I put my mostly unconsumed drink on the black marble countertop that adorned the long bar that separated the kitchen from the living room and started to make my way to the balcony.

    I didn’t want to do this and this was the reason why I was hiding in a dark corner. I’d tried mingling but this wasn’t my scene and the people there knew it just as well as me. Sandrine told me I should buy a dress and keep the tags on, just tuck them in to hide them. She also told me to buy a pair of shoes and she’d go with me to make a scene if they wouldn’t accept the return because they were scuffed. But I thought this was uncool so I refused like I did all the other times Sandrine suggested this.

    She didn’t mind doing this and did it all the time. Sweat stains, martini stains, it didn’t matter. Once she’d even returned a pair of shoes whose strap broke while she was dancing. And it was the fourth time she’d worn them.

    Not me.

    So I was wearing a pair of high-heeled sandals I bought two years ago. They were cute, even, I thought, sexy but they were cheap, not even real leather. I’d taken care of them but still, they looked what they were. Same with my dress. TJ Maxx and not even a way out of season designer, just a no name. I thought it was pretty, it showed just enough skin, not too much, it fit like a glove and it was the perfect color for me but it wasn’t silk, satin or labeled. It was polyester and even at TJ Maxx I bought it on sale.

    And the eyes came to me, moving up and down, lips curling, noses scrunching, eyes rolling.

    This was the girls.

    The guys, eyes right to my breasts, hips or legs. At this point of the evening, they didn’t care if they banged class or someone who thought they could buy it. They just wanted to bang anything and would take what they could get.

    Sandrine had headed out to the balcony about half an hour ago with Nick. She’d not returned so this was my destination. Therefore, my journey was a long one, weaving through bodies, avoiding crossed legs or stepping over straightened ones of those sitting on couches, feeling gazes following me the entire way.

    It seemed to last an hour but probably lasted around two minutes.

    Then I was through the glass door and outside.

    It felt good out there, cold but good. No smoke, the stuffiness of too many bodies in a space gone, I allowed myself a moment to drink it in.

    Then I looked around.

    A couple to the right in a clinch. Not Sandrine.

    I turned my head left and nearly at the corner of the balcony I saw Nick had Sandrine against the floor to ceiling window. They were also in a clinch.


    I clicked over in my inexpensive (but cute) sandals and when I got somewhat close called, “Uh… sorry to disturb.”

    Nick’s head came up and both of their eyes came to me. Otherwise, they didn’t move a muscle.

    Nick’s eyes dropped to my breasts.

    Sandrine’s eyes widened in a clear but nonverbal, “What the fuck are you doing here?” She finally had him where she’d wanted him for a long while and she wasn’t happy to be disturbed.

    “Again, sorry,” I said quietly when I got close and looked to Sandrine. “Honey, I need to go home.”

    “Okay,” she replied immediately.“Text you tomorrow.”

    I blinked.

    We had a pact, never leave a man behind. Not to mention, we’d shared a taxi and since we were sharing one back and she’d driven to my house that meant such a treat was affordable.

    “Um… but –” I started.

    “I’m good,” she cut me off. “Nick can take me home when I go home.” Her head turned to Nick. “Right, Nick?”

    He didn’t move his eyes from my breasts for a moment before they drifted lazily to my face.

    “Why are you leaving?” he asked and I stared at him.

    What did he care?

    “Well, it’s getting late and –” I began to explain.

    He interrupted with, “Stay.”

    “Pardon?” I asked.

    “Stay,” he repeated then a grin spread on his face that I did not like, not that I liked much about Nick, as in nothing. His head turned to Sandrine who he still had pinned to the windows then back to me and in a low voice with unmistakable meaning, he said softly, “The three of us, we’ll have a party.”

    I blinked again even as I stiffened and saw Sandrine doing the same.

    Then I stated firmly, “No, actually, I need to go home which is where I’m going.” I looked to my friend. “Sandrine?”

    She looked miffed, not a little, a lot.

    At me.

    God, Sandrine.

    Then she looked at Nick and announced, “I don’t do three-ways. It’s just me or nothing.”

    He looked at me. “You uptight like that?” he asked.

    See? Jerk!

    “Absolutely,” I answered.

    “Shame,” he muttered then, still looking at me, “Though, figure, just you’d be enough.”


    “Seriously?” This came sharp and from Sandrine.

    Told you Nick was a jerk and something else and whatever that something else was, was not good.

    “Right, if that’s the gig then whoever’s stayin’ stays and whoever’s leavin’ leaves,” Nick went on and he did this eyes on Sandrine, who he had pinned to the windows but somehow, and it wasn’t lost on Sandrine or me, he was insinuating it was her he wanted to leave.

    God, I hoped this opened her eyes to this dirtbag.

    I should have known better. Those eyes came to me and she said, “I’ll text you tomorrow.”

    God, somehow, some way I needed to get her to snap out of it. I wished Viv was here with me. She’d lay it out. Then again, she had, more often and with less gentleness than me and Sandrine never listened to her either.

    “Sandrine –”

    “Anya, honey, I’ll text you tomorrow.”

    She was getting impatient. She was also living firm in the mistaken knowledge that her beauty (and she was beautiful), her style (ditto with the style, she had it in spades) and her abilities between the sheets (I had no idea about that one, though, according to her, she was fabulous) would twine Nick Sebring close and he wouldn’t want to break free.

    “Sandrine, I’m not comfor –” I started yet again.

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