Chapter 23

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The warehouse was full of rich people, beautiful people, and the lucky few who were both. From across the sea of highlights and updos, tuxes and tiaras, he stood like a mannequin. Somewhat in the crowd, but also apart from it.

I saw him, and my entire self—body, mind, and soul—leapt. Elliot.

I knew he hated society events like this. Everyone dressed in clothes that cost enough to feed starving families for a generation, all in the name of raising money for some trendy cause on another. The choking stench of hypocrisy was overwhelming.

Fiona had told me about the gig. Some young, up-and-coming designer had hired a dozen professionals to model his wares at the event to show everyone how beautiful people looked in his clothes and to start the buzz about his new collection.

Fi had convinced him to take the job.

I watched as a rich, bored housewife walked up to him.

"Goo-ood evening," she drawled, just before a pair of over-manicured fingers reached for his left cheek. "Who are you wearing tonight? Me?"

He stiffened as he turned to face his latest molester. "Good evening, ma'am. This is from Mario Max's new collection."

I swallowed a laugh. That wasn't what she asked, and calling her ma'am would send her into a middle-aged crisis call to her plastic surgeon.

He groaned and rubbed his face as she stormed away. He looked miserable.

I couldn't wait any longer.

"Something wrong, Sweet Tooth?"

He spun at the sound of my voice, eyes wide like he couldn't believe I was there. His eyes devoured me, scanning first over my face then my body, as if he had to reassure himself that I was really there.

When he saw what I was wearing, his jaw dropped.

"Like what you see?" I asked.

He took it all in. I stood at least four inches taller than usual in a pair of black stilettos. My legs were encased in silky black stockings. The rest of my attire was concealed by the tan trench coat knotted tightly around my waist and buttoned all the way up to my neck.

It had taken all my courage to walk out of the house like that.

His gaze stuck on my hair. Well, not my hair. On the platinum blonde, Marilyn Monroe sex kitten wig.

He stood silent, mouth agape and apparently unable to form words. Just as I had hoped.

"I'll take that as a yes," I said. One slow, seductive step at a time, I moved closer. "Wanna get out of here?"

He nodded, mumbling something that sounded like, "Yuh-hun."

"Good." I dropped to a confessional whisper. "I can barely remain upright in these shoes."

That spurred him into action. In a flash, he took me by the hand and headed an emergency exit that had been blocked open in the back, navigating the overwhelming crowd. I ignored the jealous stares of women who wondered why I got to take him home. He was mine. All mine.

The exit led into a back alley illuminated by a million white Christmas lights. Several guests, needing their nicotine fix but not allowed to smoke inside, stood around looking fashionably rebellious.

I was about to ask him to find somewhere less crowded when he squeezed my hand and headed down the alley, around the corner, and into the connecting side alley that happened to be miraculously empty.

Not willing to take a chance, I double- and triple-checked the area.

"Are you sure this is safe?" I asked.

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