Author:Kristen Ashley

    “Anya,” she cut me off again. “I’ll… text… you… tomorrow.” Then she gave big eyes to Nick who was looking at me and didn’t notice. These eyes indicated that I was missing the fact she had her golden goose in her snare and I needed to vamoose, and pronto, so she could work her magic.

    I didn’t like this. You didn’t leave a man behind but you really didn’t leave a man behind with Nick Sebring.

    But other than drag her kicking and screaming out of the apartment, down fifteen floors and into a taxi, I didn’t know what to do.

    So I muttered, “Tomorrow.”

    She grinned at me.

    I frowned at her and tried to communicate seven thousand words about Nick being a jerk with my eyes. But she just turned back to him, lifted her hand to his cheek and turned his face to her.

    Really, Vivica was right. Sandrine was living in a fantasy world. She’d had a Daddy who treated her like she was precious, told her she was beyond beautiful and spoiled her rotten. Then she’d had a high school boyfriend who did the same. Then in college, another boyfriend, the same. From birth to twenty-two, she’d had the golden life gliding on her beauty and feminine wiles. She hadn’t cottoned onto the fact that, after leaving college five years ago, she’d entered the jungle. And further, the particular jungle she chose to hunt in had bigger, more ferocious predators even after a number of them had already chewed her up and spit her out.

    With no choice, I called a soft, “Goodnight,” and turned away.

    I received no farewells.

    I didn’t look back.

    I headed to my coat and luckily I had something to do while I did it so I didn’t have to feel the eyes on me or see the looks. As I wended my way through bodies and muttered vague, “excuse me’s”, I was pulling my little (cheap but cute) purse open to pull out my cell.

    By the time I got to the mouth of the hall, I had it out.

    The apartment was strange. I thought this because it was huge. I’d never been in an apartment that large before. I didn’t even know they came that large. But it also had a bizarre layout.

    Bizarre or not, it was cool and even if it wasn’t my thing and it didn’t look all that great now stuffed full of bodies and the detritus of a party, I couldn’t say it wasn’t stunning. It was.

    You walked into a wide hall at the side of which one wall had two doors (closed) the other was just a wall that delineated the hall from the kitchen. This hall led to the living room which was mostly sunken, three steps down to the seating area. But around its perimeter was an elevated, wide, dark wood-floored area and two sides of the living room were surrounded by floor to ceiling windows.

    Another hall led off this just as you hit the living room area. It was L-shaped. This had two doors down one side, one at the end and then you turned down the L and another door at the end of that hall.

    Nick’s gorgeous bedroom. Where my coat was.

    I wandered down the hall toward my coat, head bent, activating my phone. I got to the bend in the L when my phone went blank in my hand and my feet stopped as I stared at it.

    “Crap,” I whispered, hitting the on button to no avail. I tried again. No go again. “Crap,” I repeated my whisper.

    I needed a new phone. I knew this. I was saving for it and was only two paychecks away from buying it. My phone lost its charge in an hour and had been doing so for the last month and a half. My next phone was going to be a good one, not a cheapie. This was not because I wanted to keep up with the gadgets. This was because I’d been through three cheap phones in as many years and I felt this investment was sound. If I had a phone that cost three times as much as the ones I’d been buying but lasted for three years with zero headaches, I’d be ahead of the game.

    I looked to the end of the hall where Nick’s bedroom was and was about to start walking again but my body froze solid.

    This was because on the floor in the hall was a huge pile of coats.

    I stared, shocked. I, myself, had put my coat on a pile on Nick’s bed. Now they were on the floor in the hall.

    I looked from the coats to the end of the hall.

    The bedroom door was open, the lights on and blazing, unlike before when I put my coat there and the lights were dim, romantic. An indication of a promise of what was to come for the girl who would be lucky enough (gag) to join Nick there later.

    Jeez, some drunk idiot tossed all the coats in the hall. I hadn’t seen anyone acting like an idiot but there were people who were careening beyond inebriated to sloshed. This happened at an open bar where the booze was plentiful and flowed freely seeing as it was free.

    I pulled in breath and walked to the coats. Doing a knees closed squat, I held my cell and purse in one hand and pawed through the coats with my other one. Finding mine, I yanked it out and straightened. I did this with my eyes aimed down the hall but unfocused. Then they focused when I spied the shiny silver, thin, curving, unbelievably cool cordless phone in a black dome base sitting on the nightstand in the bedroom.

    That phone was the means to a taxi. One without having to ask someone in the living room if I could use their phone, interrupting Sandrine and Nick again or hoofing it on the sidewalk in hopes I’d find a payphone then standing outside in the cold to wait.


    I carefully skirted the coats, having to step on some as it was impossible to move around them without doing this, and walked into the bedroom to the phone. I didn’t look around even though I wanted to take a closer look. I wanted more to get the heck out of there.

    I picked up the phone from its base thinking the same thing I thought the first time I walked into that room. The room smelled odd. An attractive blend of some heady masculine aftershave or cologne and cigarette smoke. Yes, cigarette smoke. But it blended strangely well together making the room seem wicked but in a good way. Now, the cigarette smoke was the stronger of the two when before it was the aftershave/cologne smell and this was less attractive but more wicked.

    I thanked the powers that be that taxis, something I rarely took because I could rarely afford them, had their numbers emblazoned on all their cars and had dialed in the four and one of the four, one, two, four, one, two, four number when I heard a low, smooth, very deep, definitely annoyed man’s voice asking, “What the fuck?”

    My head swiveled and I froze in mid-dial.

    The tall man with dark, disheveled, longish hair and freakishly masculine, markedly attractive features was standing in one of the two sets the arched French doors that led to the balcony across the room. He was smoking, he’d lost his overcoat and I saw he was wearing a deep lilac, slim-fit tailored shirt that showed he not only was tall but broad, lean and had a torso unmistakably packed with power,

    Oh, and he was pissed.

    Oh my.


    Oh crap.

    “Uh…” I mumbled then mumbled no more as he swiftly knifed sideways, clearly to stub out his cigarette then his angry, dark gaze sliced back to me as his long legs started bringing him to me.


    “You got a cell in your hand,” he informed me. “You need to hit my room and my phone?” he asked.




    He was moving across the room so I again shut up.

    This room, too, had a sunken level. The large bed was on the normal level and it was covered with a black satin comforter (yes, satin) with black satin cases on the pillows (satin!) which meant satin sheets. The black lacquered headboard was very tall, as tall as me. The footboard was at least half a person high. The head of the bed was flanked with two black lacquered nightstands that were elegantly shaped and topped with lamps with slim, glossy black bottoms and wide but squat ivory shades. The bed was sitting on an ivory rug that had a slender black border edged in a thicker ivory.

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