The Consequence of Seduction
I rolled my eyes. “I think I know how this ends.”
“You buy the box because you think you want variety, but if you’re really honest with your greedy little self, all you really want are the caramel ones. But they don’t sell chocolates that way, so you do what everyone else does. You follow the crowd and try ones you know you’re going to hate. Why?”
I swallowed. “Because you’re trying to find the caramel ones.”
Max nodded. “Exactly. You think, maybe this time I’ll get lucky, only you’re left disappointed when it turns out to be some weird coconut shit.”
Max nodded. “Or even dark chocolate, which, let’s be honest . . .”
“Isn’t caramel,” I finished. My eyes for some reason filled up with tears as Max put a hand on my shoulder.
“Exactly.” He nudged my chin. “I think we both know where this is going.”
“You’ve found your caramel,” Max said softly. “But you’ve refused to bite.”
“Biting,” Max said with a shrug, “can be scary . . . terrifying, hell, what if you don’t even like caramel anymore?”
“RIGHT?” I shouted, half wondering if Max had pumped illegal drugs into the air vents and we were both high on ’shrooms, because, let’s be honest, Max actually making sense was scarier.
“There’s only one way to find out if he’s the chocolate for you,” Max said soberly. “I think you know what you need to do.”
“Bite,” I whispered.
“Louder. I didn’t quite get that?” Max cupped his ear.
“Bite,” I said, a little louder.
“BITE THE CHOCOLATE!” I shouted, then thrust my fist into the air for good measure.
“Max,” Milo called.
I turned on my heel.
Colt, Milo, and Becca were all standing in the doorway.
“Just don’t let him tell you to be the doughnut.” Milo nodded. “That translation gets lost really easy.”
“Eye of the tiger.” Max sighed. “If you listened better you would have had Colt faster. I can’t work in these conditions!” Max raised his hands into the air and then, as if remembering our talk, grabbed the garment bag, thrust it into my hands, and nodded. “You got this.”
He eyed me up and down, then up again, his eyes watering slightly as he took in my hair.
I patted my head.
“Maybe, just . . .” He tucked it behind my ears. It popped loose.
With a curse he tried it again.
This time my hair nearly poked his eye out.
“Damn it!” He flailed back and nearly landed on the couch. “Okay, what if you just let your hair be free. Maybe it’s trying to tell you something.”
“Well,” I said, sighing, “it’s naturally wavy and just . . . huge. I straighten it and—”
Max held up his hand. “You what it?”
“Straighten,” I said slower.
“Aw, it’s like you’re brand-new.” He smiled patronizingly and without taking his eyes off me yelled, “Colt, as a man—though the jury’s still out on that one,” Max said out of the corner of his mouth, “what say you? Straight hair or fluffy sex kitten hair that goes roar?”
Colt took a step away from Milo and said, “Roar.”
Milo charged him.
“Max’s fault.” Colt held up his hands. “And baby, I love you regardless of your hair.”
Milo was midswing when she dropped her hand and kissed Colt on the mouth instead.
“Take that in your bedroom,” Max yelled. “Animals.”
Becca came up to me and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “Why don’t I help you with your hair and makeup? Max has done enough thinking for one night . . . after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
“Or was it?” Max tapped his chin.
“Go,” Becca directed. “Take a shot of whiskey, put on some cologne, and make sure your hair doesn’t look like crap. I won’t have you trying something trendy just because we’re in Vegas.”
Max grinned. “You take such good care of me.”
“Take your pills!” Becca directed.
“He’s on pills?” I whispered.
Becca rolled her eyes. “Advil. He likes to be preventative when he drinks.”
“Ah.” I nodded. “Smart.”
“As a nail,” Max fired back as he nearly collided with the couch, then stumbled up the two stairs and down the hallway.
“So.” Becca laughed. “I’m guessing he told you to be a food group?”
“In order to get your man.”
I winced. “Chocolate caramels.”
She nodded knowingly. “So let’s envision those while we sex you up.” She led me down the hall.
“Does it scare you when he starts making sense?”
She shuddered. “Keeps me up at night . . . it really does.”
“Where the hell is she?” I smacked Jason because I had to get my aggression out somehow and drinking more seemed like a horrible idea considering I was already feeling my last drink. Besides, this was a date, and I wanted to be able to experience every part of it.
Every part of her.
Water it was.
Regardless of what I was drinking, water, alcohol, I’d still feel drunk off her, the way she moved, spoke. Everything about her was distracting. I always wanted to taste more of her, feel more, share more.
“You’re getting that look again,” Jason grumbled, rubbing his shoulder and taking a step back while I checked my watch for the tenth time.
“Just go ahead.” I sighed. “She isn’t back yet and her text said she was running late—”
The door swung open.
So did my jaw.
I punched him for reacting, the bastard!
He kept staring.
Because who wouldn’t?
Jordan, aka the most gorgeous female I’d ever had the pleasure of staring at, was standing in the doorway.
High nude heels.
Legs for miles.
And holy shit, those curvy hips all leading up to a trim waist, and . . . I’m sure there’s something more romantic I could say about her breasts.
But being a guy, all I could think was breasts, tits, breasts, tits, in that order.
Throat dry, I swallowed as my eyes locked on her face.
Forget her body.
Her smile was cautious. It was the smile every girl has when she wants her guy to say something complimentary, something epic, something she tells all her friends.
“Uhhhhhhh.” I blinked.
Jason elbowed me.
“Uhhhh,” I repeated, this time shorter.
“Words.” Jason coughed.
“Words,” I repeated like an idiot. “Big words.”
Jordan’s grin grew. “So you like it?” She placed her hands on her hips, and honest to God, my fingers twitched at my sides. They freaking twitched because they were so damn excited to get to hold her hand.
“You look beautiful,” Jason said for me, in my place, like a bastard. Should have knocked him out when I had the chance. He kissed her hand.
I let out a low growl.
Jason looked back at me and laughed. “What was that? You think she looks pretty too? Want me to pass her a note or you think you got this, champ?”
“There’s a special place in hell for cock blockers,” I fumed. “Just saying.”
“Ha.” Jason grinned. “It’s probably right next to Max’s cell.”
“Truth,” Max said from somewhere down the hall, but I wasn’t sure if he actually heard Jason or was just used to saying truth all the time whenever he finished giving ridiculously horrible advice.
“Jordan?” I held out my ha
“We’ll be just outside,” Jason called, shutting the door behind him so that we were alone, away from Max’s watchful eyes.
“Beautiful,” I blurted. “You look beautiful, gorgeous, pretty, cute, breathtaking.”
“Mouthwatering.” I licked my lips. “Mind-numbing. World altering.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of words.” She laughed.
“I have more, want to hear more?”
She nodded excitedly.
“Heartbreaking,” I whispered, tugging her into my arms. “Soul shattering.” I kissed her neck and dug my hands into her wild wavy hair and groaned.
“Max said straight hair’s for losers. Does that mean wavy is for winners?” she teased, her cute little body arching while I continued kissing down the side of her neck.
“Winning. From here on out, I forfeit, you win. Make a special note of that.”
“Deal.” She let out a breathy sigh.
“How the hell am I supposed to go out in public with you tonight?”
Jordan pulled back, her eyes etched in hurt.
I cupped her chin. “You look good enough to eat. And I’m not the only guy who’s going to think that. Holy shit, that’s Max’s plan! He wants me to go to prison.”
“No prison.” Jordan winced. “PR nightmare.”
“We could spin it.” I chuckled darkly and turned her in my arms so her back was to me. My body liked that a bit too much. I’m sure she was well aware of my current situation. “You never know, I may get a part in the next Mission: Impossible movie because I kicked someone’s ass with a shard of glass, a napkin, and a peanut.”
“I’d love to see that trick.” Jordan reached her hand behind her. Fingertips grazed the button of my jeans, then moved lower.
I let out a little groan.
The door burst open. “Dude.” Max shook his head slowly. “I did not play fairy godmother to your Cinderella so you could sex her all night in the privacy of the suite I paid for.” He opened the door wider so everyone in the hallway could see that Jordan was copping a feel and my body was ready to explode. “According to my schedule, we’re going to be five minutes late to dinner. Now get a move on before I go all evil stepsister on her ass and rip her dress, steal her shoe, then kill Gus-Gus.”
“They don’t kill Gus-Gus in Cinderella,” Jordan pointed out.
“Really?” Max crossed his arms. “I thought Lucifer got that chunky little bastard. Well, I guess I can be wrong once every decade.” He shrugged. “Now, let’s go.”
Jordan pulled away.
“Maybe.” I jerked her back. “Keep walking in front of me so Max doesn’t think Gus-Gus is my happy word.”
“Got it.” She laughed.
Cameras flashed during dinner, and even though I expected it, it still sucked because I wanted more privacy. But I knew after dinner and drinks I would get Jordan all to myself.
“According to the schedule”—Jordan laid her schedule on her empty plate—“we have free time until tomorrow morning.”
I stood and held out my hand.
“Wait!” Max stood. “But Ohana means family, and family sticks together!”
“Where the hell did you put that?” Jason grabbed the schedule and turned it over.
In small writing, writing that you’d have to be an Avenger to read correctly, Max had written, “OHANA RULE: if anyone says the word Ohana, alone time is hereby revoked and group must stick together. Never leave a man behind. America.”
“And again,” Milo shouted, “you’re Canadian!”
“I’m a dual citizen!” Max fired back. “An alien born in a foreign land.” His eyes narrowed. “Besides, I live here, in the States, yo!”
“Aren’t we all so glad you do?” I sang and flipped him off.
“Ohana, bitch.” Max did a little bow. “Now, off to the club of my choosing. P.S. Make sure you stop for the photo op.”
“Photo op?” everyone shouted at once. I groaned into my hands. That was the last thing I wanted.
Max shrugged. “Look, the media wants a piece of Reid and Jezebel. The worst way to feed a shark is to yell, blood, blood, blood! So either we panic and bleed all over the cameras, or we seal all over them, feed them without them realizing they’re even hungry, then go on our merry little way.”
“So now we’re seals.” Jason tipped back his drink and held up his hand for the waiter.
“Feeding the sharks,” Colton added.
“Guys.” Max pinched the bridge of his nose. “We give them what they want, then we party like it’s 1999.”
“Were you potty trained then?” Jordan asked. “Just curious.”
“You bastard!” Max shouted in my direction. “Who told?”
“Wait, what?” Jason coughed. “Dude, you would have been like six!”
“OHANA!” Max shouted louder this time, his face red. “Ohana means no tattletales . . . Reid.”
“He had a very serious fear of toilets,” I said cheerfully, lifting my glass in a salute in his direction.
Max scowled. “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have told me that’s where bad little boys go when they pee their pants!”
“Nice. Reverse psychology for the win!” Colt held up his hand for a high five while Max started cursing like a sailor.
“Fine.” I stood and stretched. “Let’s get this over with.” Because I knew the faster I did his bidding, the sooner I’d be with the girl in the red dress.
Jordan reached for my hand.
“Are you okay with this?”
“Sure.” Her smile seemed forced. “After all, this is why we came, right? I mean, it’s about your image, Reid, I haven’t forgotten that.”
“Funny.” I kissed her mouth. “I have.”
“Yeah.” I pulled her into my arms. “Seems a girl in a red dress is taking up all space in my brain these days.”
“She sounds hot.”
“She’s so much more . . . than hot.” I kissed her mouth again. “She’s everything.”
The photo op at Hakkasan nightclub brought me back to reality. Up until now I’d been in the clouds, skipping away, pushing thoughts of my actual job into the crapper while Reid whispered sweet nothings into my ear and Max tapped fairy dust all over my head.
The only positive about my situation was that I didn’t have to act. There was no forced emotional attachment because it was already there.
So when cameras flashed and people asked us about our relationship, I squeezed his hand because I felt something. I giggled when he kissed my cheek because he made me laugh.
And when Reid wrapped an arm around my shoulder and kissed my head, I sighed while longingly gazing up into his eyes like he’d just promised me a Kardashian-style wedding with Max as the officiant.
Because let’s be honest, Max wouldn’t want it any other way.
The club was something right out of a futuristic movie set. Lights—green, red, blue—flashed all over the place, and the entire effect was enough to give me a headache, which in turn made me feel extremely old.
“Up here,” Max yelled back at us as we made our way to the fifth level of the club. It was more private and overlooked the main floor. VIP tables were scattered upstairs along with a separate DJ and bar. Everything was blanketed in cool blue and violet colors. We made our way into a semiprivate room.
The colors were even dimmer in that room, blues and whites filling the floor-to-ceiling LED screens.
“You like?” Max turned around in a circle. “We can actually customize the room to look anyway we want.”
“Nice.” Reid nodded, then checked his watch.
I elbowed him; he winked back.
I swallowed dryly and folded my hands across my lap. That lasted all of five seconds before Reid grabbed one hand and placed a glass of champagne in the other.
“What are we to
“Marriage,” Max shouted. “And real orgasms, none of that fake shit you guys keep trying to sell me every night.”
“Huh?” Colton asked. “They perform for you?”
“Not in that capacity, psycho.” Max rolled his eyes. “I say we make a toast to Reid’s career. If this weekend goes like I think it’s going to go, you two kids are one marriage away from an Academy Award.”
Reid chuckled, then lifted his glass higher. “So, to success?”
“Success.” We all lifted our glasses. The champagne tasted bitter, not smooth. But maybe it was me, I was the problem.
Because every publicist wanted success for their client. You’d be stupid not to—well, stupid and most likely homeless. But that wasn’t the point.
Was it so wrong that I wanted to sabotage Reid? That for the first time in my life I wanted my client, his talent, all to myself? Why share him with the world when they would never appreciate the man he really was? And why take the chance that once he was in the public eye—fully in the public eye—they’d ruin him anyway?
“Hey.” Reid tilted my chin toward him. “No frowns tonight.”
“Sorry.” I managed to smile. “Just thinking about work.”
“Don’t.” He set my glass down and reached for my other hand. “Does this feel like work?”
“Hmm.” Without warning he grabbed the back of my head and fused our mouths together, his tongue invading without proper invitation, just dominating me until I felt breathless for more. “And this? Is this work?”
I leaned forward for another kiss. “If it is, can I get overtime?”
Reid smirked, then kissed me again and again, peppering light kisses across my mouth that had me nearly crawling into his lap just so I could get closer, experience more.
“For once in your life,” he whispered above the music, “don’t overthink . . . this isn’t about my career or about yours. Let’s make tonight about us.”
Max shouted, “Ohana!” above the music, then pointed at both of us as if to remind us that there would be no skipping out.
“And Max.” Reid nodded solemnly. “Because if we don’t include him, he’ll just include himself and then I’m going to kill him and we really will land in a Vegas prison.”