Copyright © 2012 Teresa Noelle Roberts
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Hoping to dispel the tension roiling inside her by doing something, anything, Selene took a drink but got nothing but a few melting ice cubes.
She started back toward the buffet table, then turned, still walking, and said to Betsy, “Back in a few. I’m going for more… Oh God, I’m sorry.”
The last bit was muttered into a broad chest.
A large, firm hand patted her reassuringly on the shoulder.
An affable male voice said, “No problem. Saves us the trouble of having to come up with some lame reason to introduce ourselves. I’m Nick McCutcheon.”
Selene looked up.
Her breath caught.
She’d managed to bump into someone absolutely gorgeous. Where had he been hiding? He must have sneaked in while she was talking with someone far less interesting.
Tall. Broad-shouldered. Amazingly blue eyes. Mahogany-colored hair in a neat ponytail. Good cheekbones. Confident, assured posture. A charming smile. And he must have shared Garth’s bottle of Eau de Alpha Male.
Nick might not match her fantasy Sexy Pirate, Ruthless Billionaire or Demon Lover in every particular—face it, jeans and a retro Hawaiian shirt just weren’t as devastating as knee-high boots, a bare chest and a cutlass, a custom-made tux or whatever scrap of leather Demon Lovers wore—but he came damn close.
And he had an air of good humor about him that she hadn’t considered for her fantasy lovers but would be something she’d definitely want in a real-life one. Even a dom couldn’t be all imposing and serious and stern 24/7, or he’d be impossible to deal with.
She was pressed up against him, feeling the heat of his body. Smelling him—green, herbal cologne overlying a spicy, masculine scent that she thought was just him.
Her body tingled. She wanted to cling to him, pull him closer, kiss him.
Do a hell of a lot more than kiss him. The only problem would be deciding which delicious fantasy to beg him to fulfill first.
Jesus. Talk about moving too fast.
She forced herself to step away. “Selene Daniels. And again, I’m really sorry, but at least my glass was empty or you’d be wearing iced tea.”
“Let’s get you that refill, then.” He walked with her over to the buffet.
No, he walked her to the buffet as if he were escorting her into a formal dinner. The proprietary air might have been weird from someone else but worked on him.
“Is this your first time here?” Nick asked.
“More that you don’t look familiar, although I haven’t been around much in the past few months, so for all I know you’ve become a regular since I was gone.”
She felt herself blushing. Damn her fair skin anyway. “No, first time here. First time at anything like this. I’m even new in Boston. Moved here at the start of summer term; I’m at Lesley for social work.”
Blushing and running on at the mouth—way to sound adolescent! She was usually much calmer than this, even talking to a sexy man, but Nick’s presence, his sheer sexuality and aura of dominance, turned her into a nervously babbling teenager.
Nick’s body language changed subtly, making him look bigger somehow, more commanding. “You’re lovely,” he said, almost as if it had taken him by surprise. “You’d look even lovelier in a cage next to my bed. I’m looking for a new sex slave. I think you ought to start begging for the opportunity to please me.” His voice purred with silky menace, quite unlike his earlier slightly flirtatious but basically friendly tone.
Selene backed a step away, bristling and sputtering. Gorgeous guy or not, kinky event or not, this remark was way out of line. He made Creepy Craig sound normal by comparison.
Even if the idea of being his little sex slave, locked in a cage until needed, was something she’d go home and dream about while she and her Magic Wand spent some quality time together. Definitely a hot fantasy—but you just didn’t say something like that to someone less than five minutes after meeting them.
He had a twinkle in his eye, though, a slight smile playing on his lips. Maybe he wasn’t serious.
She hoped he wasn’t serious, because she didn’t want to have to do something vile to him with a plastic fork. She didn’t think the plastic would be up to the task.
Craig had been almost as outrageous, and he had been serious.
She didn’t want to believe Nick was serious. But if it was a joke and she stabbed him with a fork, it would be hard to recover.
Only one thing to do, then. Treat it as the joke it had to be—loudly enough that, if she was wrong, she’d make a fool of him.
She gave in to her impulse to crack up, and crack up loudly. “I see you like teasing the newbies,” she exclaimed between whoops of laughter. “That’s number five from Alison’s Doms to Duck list, right? Or was it six?”
The twinkle in his eye got brighter, and he broke into a goofy yet charming grin that reminded her of the kind of likeable geek boys she’d dated in college, the kind who’d sometimes forget plans because they were caught up in a computer game but could always get her to forgive them by making her laugh.
“Give the lady a Kewpie doll! She got it in one! And she passed the common-sense test.”
“Test?” She couldn’t decide whether she should be annoyed or amused and settled for a little bit of both. She probably ought to be more annoyed than she was, but between the smile, his general brain-melting sexiness and the fact that it was kind of funny, the annoyance couldn’t work up a good head of steam. “What would constitute failing?”
“Trying to take me up on it.” Then his face changed, got a little more serious. “I’m glad you laughed. I was trying to be clever and realized just too late that it might not have been the smartest thing to do. If it hadn’t come off as a joke, you’d have been justified in throwing your drink at me or remembering you had to walk your nonexistent dog and leaving. It was out of line.”
“No problem.” Any irritation with the “test” dissipated in the wake of the apology. “I can’t imagine anyone taking it seriously for more than a second or two.”
“You’d be amazed. I’d bet that kid would buy it and probably kneel and start begging. Notice I didn’t try it on her.” He pointed toward a little Goth waif with tousled dyed black hair wearing a minute black T-shirt that read “Take Me”, a microscopic black leather skirt and a collar that looked like it came from PetSmart. Her nametag read “slave kat”, the lower case apparently deliberate. If someone hadn’t been checking ID at the door, Selene would have guessed she was still in high school.
“I cheated this time, though. I saw you talking with Alison when I came in, and she looked like she was actually enjoying the conversation. That’s a good sign.”
He smiled again, a smile that went better with the silken-menace voice he’d used earlier. “I wasn’t kidding about the lovely part. The rest was a joke—a bad one—but I got this teenage urge to bring the conversation around to sex, even in a silly way, as soon as I saw you.”
Selene’s ears—and nipples—perked up.