After a few more sips, Emmy appeared beside me, beaming her megawatt smile in my direction. “You look amazing,” she squealed, sizing me up. “I’ve never seen you wear that dress. Very sexy,” she nodded.
“Thank you.” I didn’t mention it was a new ensemble I’d bought just for this event on the small chance that I’d run into Braydon. It had cost me a fortune, but I didn’t care. I had to look my best; it was practically in the Dealing with Your Ex handbook. I smoothed the wine-colored stretchy fabric over my hips and smiled at my wardrobe choice. The dress left very little to the imagination. It hugged all my curves and displayed the girls nicely—the top of the dress draping down rather dramatically to showcase my décolletage and ample cle**age. It was a little more—okay a lot more—than I’d normally show off, but hell, it was a special occasion. It wasn’t every day I got invited to an Armani fashion show afterparty. The back of the dress also fell away to reveal my lower back, and the gray suede pumps were the perfect complement to my ensemble.
“How’s everything going? How was the show?” I asked, taking another gulp of my beverage. It was going to go straight to my head, but, damn, this thing was good.
I listened while Emmy filled me in on their day, that everything had gone great—and just when I was working up the courage to ask if she’d seen Braydon, she beat me to it: “And I thought we’d run into Bray. He was in a bunch of shows today; I heard he opened the Calvin Klein show in a pair of briefs, sexy nerd glasses, boots, and a scarf,” she said with a laugh. “But I haven’t seen him anywhere.” She said something about the emphasis of the show being on men’s accessories, but I tuned her out and daydreamed about Braydon strutting down a catwalk in a pair of nut-hugging briefs. Mother, that would have been a sight to see. The Calvin Klein show would surely be up on YouTube . . . I knew what I was doing later. In fact, I wondered if it’d be possible to sneak into a corner unnoticed and look it up now on my smartphone. No, best to wait for tonight, when I could provide myself some relief.
Emmy rattled on about some snafu behind the scenes while guys were changing and an overzealous photographer rudely tried to sneak in a shot, when suddenly I felt the air around me shift. A warm current zipped along my spine and the hair on the back of my neck tingled. I spun around and spotted Braydon across the room.
He was facing me, but hadn’t seen me yet. Probably because he was engaged in what looked like a riveting conversation with a woman. His eyes crinkled with mischief and his crooked smile beckoned her on. Her back was to me, but I could only imagine she was a model. I cataloged our differences. Where she was sharp angles and thin legs poking beneath her dress, I was soft curves and rounded flesh filling out mine. I felt inadequate. But rather than studying her, my eyes fell back to him.
Emmy’s voice quieted, realizing what had captured my attention. “Oh,” she mumbled.
He tossed the girl in front of him a crooked smile and my heart tripped over itself, knowing just how it felt to be treated to that beautiful, dimpled grin. God, just being near him was brutal. I wanted to rush to him, throw my arms around his waist, nestle in against his chest, push my fingers into his messy hair, and kiss his full mouth, which I knew was soft yet demanding at the same time.
My eyes slid down his body and a current pulsed through me. My gaze fell from his face to his broad chest, down to his long muscular thighs covered in dark slacks. I caught movement and dropping my eyes lower, I caught the faceless blonde with her hand over the front of his dress pants. She was toying with his belt buckle rather suggestively while balancing on tiptoes to whisper something near his ear. Her manicured hand continued caressing his manhood. I felt bitter acid rise up my throat in protest.
Emmy’s sharp intake of breath signaled she’d spotted the rather noticeably indecent display as well. It had been a terrible idea to come here. This was his world, and I wasn’t a part of it anymore. I never had been. He’d clearly moved on. I hadn’t. Not one bit. My heart ached for him. And my stomach churned violently in response to seeing him with another woman. I needed to leave. I rose from my seat on shaky legs and turned toward the exit.
Braydon’s eyes latched on to mine and everything we’d previously shared slammed into me with ferocious force. I locked my knees, fighting to remain steady in the too-high heels.
I dropped my gaze to the floor and mumbled something to Emmy about it being no big deal. A complete lie, of course. I felt desperate and sick, my stomach filled with acid.
His eyes burned into mine as if to inquire how badly he’d f**ked things up with me. My mouth remained relaxed as I fought for control. I wouldn’t release the venom I so desperately wanted to, which would let him know just how hard this was for me. Before I had time to figure out my strategy, Braydon was just steps away, his eyes still locked on mine like a cheetah stalking its prey.
My stomach tightened into a knot. I knew I wasn’t strong enough for him to make some smart quip and joke about what we’d shared. I’d lose it completely if he was just going to downplay what we’d had. But as he approached, his face turned serious, his jaw tight with tension. He looked troubled.
Tears swam in my eyes. Tears I couldn’t let him see. The door was twenty feet away. So close yet also way too far. I had to make it. I needed the freedom, the fresh air, a Braydon-free zone. Just as I was starting for the door, a firm hand caught my wrist and spun me to face him.
“Talk to me, kitten.”
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