The Consequence of Seduction

  Because he was different. I wouldn’t be cheering him on while he married some hot model and had ten kids.

  I’d be depressed.

  “Hey, it’s only three more rides.” Reid tugged me closer to him. “Besides, after this Max scheduled dinner and drinks.”

  “As long as we don’t have to parachute out of an airplane to get them,” I joked.

  Max snapped his fingers. “Now there’s an idea I’d like to explore.”

  “Explore this.” Reid flipped him off.

  Max grinned. “Just look at you two, already joined at the hip. In another life I could have been a relationship expert.”

  Becca gave him a patronizing pat on his back while she mouthed, yeah, right to us.

  The elevator ride was again too short.

  “Freaked out?” Reid whispered in my ear.

  “A bit.”

  “Hmm.” He tugged me back, then quickly turned me around, and his mouth met mine in an urgent kiss. I opened my mouth only to have his wicked tongue slide right past my lips. Shivering, I tugged him closer as his hands roamed across my back, while his tongue drew slow circles around mine.

  When we broke apart, the doors were closing again.

  Max shoved his foot in between them. “Hurry up, kids.”

  “What”—I heaved—“was that for? I mean . . . there weren’t any cameras.”

  “There weren’t cameras in my apartment either,” he pointed out. “And maybe”—his mouth met mine again, his lips peppering me with light, soft kisses—“I did it because I wanted to. Ever think about that?”

  “But why?” And seriously why did I care that he was kissing me? He was kissing me!

  “I like you.” He pulled back.

  The doors shut again.

  Max’s foot wedged its way through as a loud beeping sounded. “Seriously, guys, this is getting embarrassing, you can kiss on your own watch!”

  My cheeks heated. “I like you too.”

  “Great!” Max shouted. “We all like each other. Awesome. Can we go now?”

  “Tonight.” Reid tugged a piece of my hair forward, then wrapped it around his finger. “After dinner, you and me . . . dancing . . .”

  “Just us?”

  “No cameras. No publicity stunt. We only have to hit those three clubs, and we can do that tomorrow, right?”

  I nodded dumbly.

  “Good,” he whispered. “Our second date.”

  “Great guys, real great. Do you realize you can get arrested for this shit? Just holding up an elevator because you can’t keep your pants on and—”

  “Coming!” Reid called and grabbed my hand as we got off the elevator.



  Jordan was a better sport than I expected, even when Max started screaming, mid–roller coaster ride, “I think I heard a clicking noise. Holy shit, we’re going down!” Sure, she might have gasped and then clenched my hand so tight I was a bit concerned my bones were going to snap in half and I’d have to wear a cast for the next six months, but the real kicker was when Max convinced her that the bungee that shoots you off the building was the easiest of all the rides because you only go up and then pop right back down.

  Not the case.

  I had to wonder if Max was the reason Becca switched from bottled to boxed wine. You know, to save money on her own brand of therapy?

  By the time we made it back to Aria, it was already dark. Time for dinner and drinks, and, according to our laminated schedule, gambling.

  Though only a few tables were Max approved.

  Because that’s what he did—he micromanaged so much that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he did background checks on all the dealers for the tables he wanted us to go to.

  Paranoid freak.

  I shared a suite with Jordan and Jason. Colt and Milo were stuck with Max and Becca.

  “Odd man out sucks,” Jason grumbled once we were back in the room, if one could call a freaking apartment a room. Jason grabbed a beer from the stocked bar and sat on the couch facing the TV but didn’t turn it on.

  Jordan whizzed by me in a panic-stricken flash. “Be right back.”

  “Whoa.” I grabbed her wrist. “Where you going?”


  I frowned. “We just got back in.”

  “Yeah.” She fidgeted, then jerked her hand free and patted her hair. “But I forgot hairspray.”

  “I have hairspray,” Jason called out.

  “Girly hairspray,” Jordan corrected. “I’ll be right back. We don’t have reservations for another hour or so anyway.” Her smile was wide, her eyes unfocused, and I could have sworn she was sweating, but before I could say anything more she was out the door.

  “Girls.” Jason sighed from the couch. “Think she’s really getting hairspray?”

  I was still eyeing the door. “Doubt that woman goes anywhere without packing at least three bottles of it. You’ve seen that wild hair.”

  “It’s sexy.” Jason chuckled darkly.

  “What was that?” I had half a mind to smack the bottle from his hand, then hit him over the head with it. Repeatedly.

  Jason looked up from his beer, his eyes narrowing in amusement. “Someone’s got it bad. How long you been sleeping with her?”

  Hands shaking, I walked over to the bar and started pouring alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol, in my tall cup. “We haven’t slept together.”

  Another chuckle from the couch. “Is this for lack of trying? Or is your game really that off? Man, never thought I’d see the day where your eyes didn’t just magically cause a woman’s bra to fall to the floor.”

  I groaned. “That only happened once.”

  “Still happened.” Jason pointed his beer at me. “Why would you want to let all of that go—over some girl who’s probably going to choose her job over you any day of the week?”

  I tried not to let his sour attitude get to me, but I was feeling defensive and dejected all at once. Ever since Jason’s failed wedding it was like he’d been against any sort of relationship. His glass wasn’t half-full, it was half-empty when it came to relationships. I had to remember it had nothing to do with Jordan and everything to do with him.

  “We’re just having fun,” I lied, dumping ice into my drink and stirring with my finger because looking for something to stir it with just seemed like it needed way too much brain power and I was still concentrating on what Jason had said. “Besides . . .” I took a slow sip of the drink and choked—light a match and I could do a pyrotechnics show. “I highly doubt she likes me like that.”

  Jason put his feet on the coffee table. “Are we in high school? Because I’m pretty sure I said that in high school when Sara refused to go out with me.”


  “Or was it Laura?”

  “What are we talking about?”

  Jason shuddered. “Laura, definitely Laura. Sara gave me the creeps, asked to lick my algebra textbook.”

  “Because why?” I asked sitting on the opposite couch.

  Jason smirked. “Because it had been on my bed.”

  “Gross.” I held up my hand. “I don’t know how you and Colt survived high school without getting maimed.”

  “Oh, we were maimed all right, in all the best ways.”

  “You do realize you’re talking about underage girls, right?”

  “Damn it.” Jason frowned. “Maybe you’re not the only one who’s lost it.”

  “You have to have it to lose it, bro.”

  “Ass.” He tossed the remote in my direction. I ducked in time for it to go careening past my head. “You know what I mean. I haven’t had a date since . . . Jayne.”

  “Let’s not count her.” I took another sip of my lighter fluid. “You didn’t love her, and she lied to you about being pregnant, oh, and I’m pretty sure had I not intervened you’d be sharing a home with her and forced to paint her toes while she watched Real Housewives.”

  Jason shuddered.

sp; “Honey”—I mimicked Jayne’s voice—“remember it’s book club night! No, not the cab, grab the merlot! You’re so stupid! Hot dogs are NOT one of the basic food groups. Do you even know what’s in those chicken wings? Organic! I said organic bananas! No, I won’t have sex with you! Did you even shower last night? Baby, turn the lights off, you know I get headaches when the lights are on. Sorry, not tonight, I have a headache.”

  “You done yet?” Jason winced.

  “Baby,” I continued, “you never talk to me anymore. What are you thinking? Wait, are you thinking about that slut at the station? Give me her number! You cheating bastard! I saw the way she looked at you over doughnuts and coffee.”

  “Don’t eat doughnuts,” Jason interjected.

  “But”—I sniffled—“I just get so scared of losing you! Don’t leave me. Promise you’ll never leave me!” I wailed.

  Jason gave me the finger. “Ever think of playing a chick in your next movie? You have that nails-on-the-chalkboard voice down terrifyingly well.”

  “What can I say?” I shrugged. “Talented and sexy.”

  “But so very humble.” Jason nodded emphatically. “Also, thanks for that trip down memory lane where I ended up in hell and actually for a minute believed it was true—so true that my body still won’t stop shaking. Cheers.” He lifted his beer into the air and downed the whole thing.

  “Go on a date,” I offered. “It might help.”

  Jason licked his lips and eyed his empty beer bottle. “Yeah, maybe.”

  Silence enveloped the room. But it was the good kind of silence, the man kind, where sometimes a guy just wants to sit, drink his beer in peace, and think about absolutely nothing.

  And I mean it when I say nothing. If someone was to take a picture of what was happening in my brain it would be a blank slate.



  Just empty space.

  Guys needed that time to decompress, whereas girls used that time to break down and overanalyze every single moment of their day.

  “So.” Jason broke the silence. “You’re sure she’s not into you? In a serious way?”

  “Look.” I leaned forward. “I wouldn’t be upset if she was . . . hell, I’d take her however I could get her. She’s one of those girls that”—I had trouble keeping the dopey smile from my face—“you just want to be around. I don’t know, she makes me happy . . . everything about her, even her—” Jason jumped behind the couch and hid. “What? What’s wrong? I didn’t even touch my eye!”

  He peeked over the couch and grinned. “Sorry, I was just trying to stay out of the line of fire. You have that look.”

  “No, I don’t,” I argued.

  “You do.” Jason pointed. “You can’t stop smiling, your voice went all soft, and I could have sworn you started petting your drink with your hand. Your glass doesn’t have boobs on it, so stop caressing it or I can’t sit here with you. Also, if you get that look in your eyes again while we’re alone, just walk away.”

  I laughed. “Whatever.”

  “No, no whatever.” Jason stood to his feet. “You have the same look Colt wore during my wedding—you know, when he wasn’t trying to kill Max. And the same look Max has whenever he looks at Becca, which, let’s be honest, he’s always looking at her, always touching her. My point is this, you’ve got it, that thing that no guy wants until they have it and then they can’t imagine life without it.”

  I frowned. “You sound like you’re speaking from experience.”

  “I’m empty.” He ran his hand through his dark-brown hair. “I’m going to grab another beer and shower. You should get ready too. You know how Max gets when we’re late.”

  “One time, I was late one time!”

  “And he made you sing Boyz II Men at the top of your lungs in Central Park as punishment. Epic moment.”

  “Stupid YouTube hits.”

  “Hey, that helped you get that spot in Phantom. Admit it, the camera angle with those birds flying around you totally launched your ability to make women think you could be both dangerous and dreamy.”

  “Stop quoting USA Today.”

  Jason snickered and walked off.

  I stared at my drink. I needed to get ready, but where the hell was Jordan? And was Jason right? The smile was back. My face seriously stopped cooperating days ago.

  Because every time I thought her name.

  I smiled.

  And every time I thought about her not being in my life.

  My chest felt like it was going to split open and never fuse back together again.

  “Shit.” I chugged the rest of my drink, and then because I still didn’t feel better, I said “shit” again.



  I pounded on Max’s door, my anxiety getting worse by the minute. Reid, Jason, and Colt had decided to go down to the bar while Becca and Milo hit up the slots downstairs. I knew it would take forever to find the girls, and I could only hope that Max had one of their numbers so that I could call them and ask for help. Why hadn’t I realized I didn’t have anything good enough to wear for a night with Reid?

  “Max!” Pound, pound, pound. “Max.” Pound, pound, pound. I waited and then—“Max!”

  The door jerked open. Max was dressed for battle—dark skinny jeans with a dark V-neck shirt that should have made him look feminine but just showed off his lean body and bright eyes. “You’re late.”

  My hand was still in the air, ready to knock on his forehead. “I’m sorry, what?”

  Max checked his watch and sighed heavily. “I expected you five minutes ago.” He frowned and looked me up and down. “Hmm, you’re all out of breath—clearly your cardio needs work. Maybe join a gym when we get back and stop taking the elevator. Correction, stop taking the elevator once you get that epic elevator kiss. Until then, carry on.” He pushed the door open and held out his hand. “After you.”

  “Where is everyone?” I glanced around the empty suite, feeling stupid for running to Max, of all people, for help.

  “Told them I had an important meeting.” Max handed me a glass of champagne and took a sip of his. “And I do, now. Sit, sit.”

  I had no other option but to sit, drink the champagne that had apparently been waiting for me for the past five minutes, and stare openmouthed while Max pointed to the chair opposite me, on which sat a black garment bag.

  “Yours.” Max yawned. “I hope you don’t mind, but before the trip I snatched one of your dresses while you were sleeping in order to get the right measurements.”

  “Sure, why would I mind that you snuck into my room stalker style and swiped one of my dresses for your own personal amusement? Nothing weird about that.”

  “Oh, good.” Max nodded. “Glad we’re on the same page.”

  Was anyone ever on the same page as Max? I’d really like to know. I made a mental note to ask Reid later.

  “Well . . .” Max handed me the bag. “Don’t just stare at it. Open.”

  I set my glass down and excitedly unzipped the bag. It was a gorgeous Dolce & Gabbana dress in my size.

  It was lacy and red.

  I couldn’t focus on anything else other than the fact that something red and lacy—something gorgeous, with a crazy price tag—was within my reach.

  “Lace doesn’t bite,” Max whispered. “But fun fact, it makes Reid want to, so there’s that.”

  “It’s . . .” I gulped. The front of the dress dipped really low, low enough that my boobs would definitely be having a good time tonight. The waist was tight while the rest of the skirt spread out in a cute sweetheart style.

  All in all, it was something I would have picked for myself had I wanted to spend almost two grand on a dress.

  Though I would have chosen black.

  And possibly gotten a scarf to cover up.

  Or a parka.

  “How’d you know?” I gently caressed the lace dress. “How’d you know I would panic and not want to wear anything I brought?”
  Max grabbed me by the arms and turned me very slowly to face him. “I have something to tell you.”

  “Wh-what?” I’d never seen him look so serious, all hints of amusement were gone.

  “I’m from the future,” Max whispered. “And I’ve traveled back in time to find you the perfect dress and save the planet from flesh-eating aliens masquerading as bad hair.” He grabbed a piece of my hair. “Oh, look.” With a tug he pulled it out, then hissed.

  I rolled my eyes. “Very funny.”

  “Or . . .” He smirked. “I’ve seen your closet. You’re Jordan Litwright. Prone to panic. I put two and two together. Oh, and I’m a genius—my mom says so.”

  “All moms say that.”

  “Remember.” Max released me and ignored my jab. “Your hair is your superpower, making you the Samson in this scenario. So Delilah’s going to have a hell of a fascination with your hair. Word to the wise, don’t let him cut it.” He leaned in. “You may lose your power.”


  “Magic girl power that has Reid, at this very moment”—Max checked his watch again—“most likely drinking and wondering what the hell you’re doing and why the hell it matters.”

  “You’re an odd duck.”

  Max got a teary-eyed gleam. “I’ve always wanted to be able to yell, quack, quack, quack, without having to use the excuse of watching Mighty Ducks one.”

  I laughed.

  “Or two, or three for that matter.” Max sighed. “Emilio!”

  “Okay.” I put my hand over his mouth. “Thanks for the dress, but maybe stop ruining the moment with your words.”

  I brought my hand back.

  Max opened his mouth.

  I shook my head.

  He pouted and slumped his shoulders.

  With a grin I pulled in him for a hug and kissed his cheek, then whispered, “You did good, Max. You did real good.”

  He hugged me back and whispered. “Only crazy bitches melt at midnight. Don’t go doing that disappearing act once things get hot and heavy. My advice is this . . . take it or leave it.”

  “I’m not sure I want your advice.”

  “Life,” Max said, spreading his arms wide, “is like a box of chocolates.”

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