Authors: Jasmine Hill
Tags: #Erotic Romance Fiction
“Robert, this is beautiful,” Lucy breathed in appreciation.
Robert smiled proudly. “It is, isn’t it? The organisers did a wonderful job. Come, let’s find out where we are sitting.”
They found their table in the middle of the ballroom. A long-stemmed red rose and a box of chocolate love hearts were placed at each of the ladies’ seats. Lucy was impressed with the thought that had gone into making the occasion so special.
Robert pulled out her chair, and just as she was about to sit, she noticed Camille seated opposite her. She froze for a fraction of a second, indecision rippling through her before she quickly claimed her chair. She couldn’t make a scene and risk embarrassing Robert by asking to switch tables. She shouldn’t have been surprised to see Camille—but she was. Some part of her had wanted to think that Rhett wouldn’t be so obvious and heartless as to seat them together, but she supposed that he hadn’t had much choice in the matter. It was her fault. She shouldn’t have come, she should have given Robert an excuse that she was otherwise engaged and not put herself through the torture and awkwardness of sitting with Rhett and his fiancée. At the time, she had just been trying to convince herself that it wouldn’t matter. What a fool she was!
She busied herself reading the menu whilst surreptitiously studying the woman opposite her. Camille looked stunning in a fitted red gown that plunged daringly low in the front to reveal a full cleavage and smooth, pale skin. Her black hair was piled high on her head, exposing a slender neck and lovely diamond earrings.
Well, she couldn’t compete with that, Lucy thought bitterly, taking a sip of champagne to try to quell her nerves. She glanced around the rest of the table and was surprised when she couldn’t find Rhett. Seated to the left of Camille was a handsome young man who appeared to be quite attentive towards her.
Where is Rhett?
The position to Lucy’s left was vacant, but she couldn’t read the place card and she didn’t want to appear rude by blatantly picking it up to inspect it.
As she was pondering the absence of Rhett, she spotted him striding across the ballroom towards their table. He looked hot and incredibly sexy dressed in a black tux and bow tie—like Channing Tatum as James Bond!
As he drew closer, his eyes locked on hers and she found herself mesmerised by his intense green gaze. Warmth flooded her cheeks and she wriggled in her seat anxiously. How had she thought that she would be immune to his charms? He was so blatantly sexual and predatory that the mere sight of him had her panting with lust.
Just as Rhett drew within hearing distance of the table, Camille, her back to him, suddenly looked up and directly at Lucy. “Aren’t you the decorator?” she almost sneered. “I wouldn’t have expected
to be here.”
Lucy didn’t miss Robert’s wince at Camille’s words. “Lucy is my guest, Camille.” He spoke easily, but Lucy noticed an edge to his voice.
Robert leaned close and gave Lucy’s hand a reassuring squeeze just as Rhett slid smoothly into the chair next to her.
Rhett’s eyes narrowed on Robert’s hand clasping hers and, seeing his son’s expression, Robert laughed. He leant back and clapped Rhett on the shoulder, shaking his head in amusement.
She looked at Robert questioningly when he ducked his head to speak low in her ear. “I invited you, Lucy, in the hopes that you and Rhett could work things out. I must admit that initially I had hoped that we could explore something between us. But then I discovered that my son is rather smitten with you and I had to do my bit to assist him.”
Lucy shook her head in disbelief. Was Robert not aware of Rhett’s fiancée?
“My father means exactly what he said,” Rhett spoke quietly from her other side. “He initially invited you because he wanted you as his date. But we spoke yesterday and he appreciates that I’d like to get you alone to listen to what I have to say. It was the only way I could think of to compel you to hear me out.”
Lucy was astounded and beyond confused. “I don’t know why you think you deserve that privilege,” she whispered harshly. “Not after Camille’s little revelation about your relationship.” She kept her eyes trained on her event programme, not wanting to risk causing a scene and generating unwelcome interest from Camille.
“I need to talk to you about that,” he said under his breath. “But not here at the table. After the main course there will be a break in speeches and proceedings. We will talk then.”
His tone left no room for argument, and she had to admit that she was intrigued as to what he would say for himself.
The meal and speeches seemed interminable to her. Both Robert and Rhett were extremely attentive and polite and they conversed easily about a variety of subjects, but she was anxious to be alone with Rhett and hear his explanation. The ill-concealed display of irritation and malice that Camille was shooting in her direction was also starting to wear thin. Lucy studiously tried to ignore her, but it was difficult when she was seated directly opposite. She couldn’t understand why Rhett wasn’t seated next to Camille and, odder still, why the young man to Camille’s left seemed to be her date. The whole situation was confusing and awkward and she was thankful that Robert was taking great care to ensure that she was included in the general conversation.
When Lucy had discovered that Robert was complicit in Rhett’s plan to get her alone, her initial reaction had been one of annoyance. Now that she had thought about it a little more over dinner, she found that she was relieved. It meant that Robert was now aware that there was something more than a professional connection between her and Rhett and she could only assume that he didn’t disapprove.
She just had to wait now until the programme was clear for her to hear Rhett’s explanation.
Rhett watched Lucy out of the corner of his eye. She was chatting animatedly to his father and Gerard, one of their business associates. He had been blown away when he saw her this evening, the other women paling in comparison. The dark silver colour of her gown suited her complexion perfectly—and what a dress! She looked sophisticated and stylish and when she turned to leave the table he noticed the deep, plunging back, which added a sexy, daring edge. At the sight of her sashaying across the floor, his cock throbbed with need.
And her scent! It was fucking hard to keep his hands to himself, particularly when he was sitting right next to her. Whatever perfume she was wearing was light and subtle and evocative of exotic places and sunsets. He just wanted to bury his face in her hair and inhale her.
In comparison, Camille managed to look cheap and slutty, although he supposed a lot of those sentiments were triggered from the nasty demeanour she was radiating. The red of her gown was too severe for her colouring, and if it plunged any further in front, they would all be in danger of seeing a lot more than her cleavage. She had a good body, but displaying it so blatantly was rather off-putting. He much preferred the understated elegance of Lucy and her gorgeously bared back, which just made him want to see more of her, a feast for his imagination. If seeing Lucy in that dress affected him so intensely, then no doubt every other bastard in the place was also affected by her. He glanced around the table once more and took stock of the other men. Everyone seemed to be behaving courteously, although Gerard seemed to be a little too eager in his attentions towards her.
Rhett looked at his watch and checked the programme. A little over twenty minutes should see that they could excuse themselves. Before he had arrived, he’d checked that his plans were in place. Now he couldn’t wait to get Lucy alone and out of the vicinity of Camille and her venomous attitude.
* * * *
Lucy was starting to become agitated, although Gerard was offering pleasant and diverting conversation. She was becoming increasingly worried about Camille and her possible intentions. Her pointed glances in Lucy’s direction were quite snide, as were some of her comments. More than a few times, she had felt Rhett stiffen beside her in obvious discomfort.
She looked at her watch and noted that she had five minutes until Rhett had asked to meet her in the lobby. She excused herself to the other guests, grabbed her clutch purse and made her way to the Ladies room to freshen up.
Lucy reapplied lipstick and brushed a light coat of powder over her face before she fluffed her hair. She was pleased that her makeup seemed to be holding up. She supposed that the cool air conditioning had helped with that. She checked her dress and smoothed it over her hips before twisting and checking that the back was in place. Happy that she looked her best, she left the restroom.
She had just exited through the door when she ran into Camille—literally. Startled, Lucy apologised and attempted to step past her, but Camille blocked her way.
“I want to talk to you,” Camille slurred.
Lucy looked the woman over and realised with a jolt that she was drunk. Her hair was coming undone from its updo and her bright red lipstick was smeared across her mouth, giving her a rather alarming, clown-like appearance.
“I don’t have time to talk right now, Camille,” she said quietly and tried once again to move past her. She desperately wanted to avoid becoming involved in a scene with an angry, inebriated woman.
“I want you to stay away from Rhett. He’s mine,” she hissed and jabbed a manicured, red talon in Lucy’s direction. “He’s
fiancé. We are getting married.”
“I’m sure that Rhett will inform me of anything that he would like me to know, Camille. Now if you will excuse me.”
Before Lucy could make another move to break away from her, Camille had her backed up against the wall. Camille was significantly taller than she and that, added to the unpredictability of Camille’s intoxicated state, started to concern Lucy.
“You know what you are? You’re nothing but a nasty, gold-digging cougar,” she sneered in Lucy’s face, sending waves of alcohol-soaked breath in her direction.
Lucy gasped. The air left her lungs and her chest tightened.
Still reeling from the verbal attack, she saw Rhett appear behind Camille.
“What the fuck are you doing, Camille?” he asked, his voice ominously low.
Upon hearing him, Camille whirled around. “Rhett, I was just speak—”
Rhett shook his head and stopped her with a raised palm and an icy glare. “Don’t, Camille. I heard everything. This has gone on long enough.”
He turned from Camille, grasped Lucy gently by the wrist and pulled her towards him. “I’m sorry. I should have come after you when I noticed that Camille had left the table.” He turned to glare once more in Camille’s direction.
“You have really shown your true colours this evening and you wonder why I broke things off with you? It was because of this sort of shit, Camille. You are one nasty, self-centred piece of work. I can’t believe I ever thought that I could spend the rest of my life with you. I told you that it wouldn’t work between us, that we’re too different, and this just proves it.”
“Rhett, p-please. Think about our families.”
Camille tried to grasp his arm, but Rhett shook her off and turned his back on her.
“Lucy, come with me,” he spoke quietly in Lucy’s ear and urged her forwards, his hand on her elbow.
Lucy allowed him to lead her away from the now weeping Camille. She wanted to leave the vicinity. Their encounter outside of the Ladies room had started to draw attention and the situation was becoming incredibly awkward.
“If you come with me, I will explain everything,” Rhett said, hurrying her towards the elevators.
She just nodded and matched his brisk pace, suddenly very eager to hear what he had to say.
Five minutes and fifteen storeys later, they were standing in front of the door to one of the hotel’s suites.
Lucy’s palms were clammy and her stomach was fluttering. She looked at Rhett and once again, her breath hitched at the raw sexuality emanating from him. His hair was appealingly mussed from where he had been running his hands through it and his powerful chest was vibrating with obvious anxiety.
He gave her a tight smile then fished a card out of his jacket pocket and swiped it through the security door mechanism. He stood aside to allow her to enter before him.
She crossed the threshold and gasped in delight. Vases of roses stood on every surface, their velvety red petals looking almost too perfect to be real. Their floral perfume wafted around the room, enveloping her in their rich aroma. Droplets of moisture speckled the blooms, reflecting the light and bestowing an almost magical quality on their surroundings.
Roses are red
, the first line of the classic love poem, flitted through her mind. Dotted around the vases, and placed to best effect, were candles. The soft, shimmering light created by the tapers and the heavenly scent of the roses formed an atmosphere so romantic as to take her breath away.
She froze in awe, mesmerised by the beautiful scene before her. She cast her gaze towards Rhett who stood to her right, hands in his pockets. At some stage he had undone the top button of his white dress shirt and his black bow tie now hung loose around his neck, giving him a rakish air. He looked at her anxiously, tension tightening the skin around his eyes.
“This is beautiful, Rhett,” she breathed in appreciation. “I can’t believe you did this.”
He smiled his full-wattage, panty-dropping smile and walked towards her. The anxiety left his face as he grasped her hands in his.
“I was worried about your reaction,” he murmured. “I was afraid you might think it a little extreme.”
Lucy laughed. “Well, it is definitely a little over the top, but I love it.”
“Come,” he said earnestly, taking her hand and leading her towards a lounge suite. “We need to talk.”
She settled into the plush leather seat and he sat beside her.
“Champagne?” he asked as he reached for a bottle of Moët et Chandon that had been cooling in an ice bucket.