Page 52

Ava nearly snorted. Since Petra lived in a fifteen-million-dollar apartment on Park Avenue, her little cocktail party probably meant a guest list of fifty, a black tie affair with a quartet from the New York Philharmonic providing entertainment.


“As a matter of fact, I won’t allow you to say no, Ava.”


“Be honest, Petra. How elaborate is this party? And what’s the dress code?”


Petra sighed. “Twenty guests. Just appetizers. New York casual. Really, it’s practically a barbecue.”


Ava laughed at the image of stylish, elegant and immaculately coiffed Petra in jeans and a gingham-checked shirt, serving fried chicken.


“Glad I amuse you. Show up any time after seven-thirty. And feel free to bring the gentleman in the hat. Ta.”


The gentleman in the hat might be optional after he got wind of their tabloid appearance.


Almost on cue, the door opened and Chase walked in.


She should be used to his jaw-dropping physique by now. The massive biceps, bulging triceps, thick forearms, bulked up chest, the delts, the quads, the glutes, the eight-pack abs. God she loved his abs. She loved to dip her tongue between the hard ridges of muscle, tracing every work-honed line. Especially after he worked out. Losing herself in the musky, salty taste of his skin.


“What? Do I have pigeon shit on my clothes or something?”


Her eyes snared his. “No. Just admiring the goods. Seeing you half naked…you are a damn beautiful man, Chase.”


“You been hitting the minibar first thing?”


“No. I don’t tell you enough how unbelievably attracted I am to you. Seeing you like that stops me in my tracks.”


“Ava.”


She marched over to him, pulling her three-inch height advantage. “You compliment me all the time. Why can’t I do the same? You think it’s insincere?”


That intense blue gaze never wavered. “No. You ain’t blowing smoke up my chaps just to get into them. I just don’t know what to say. Everything I think of sounds fucking wrong. And I sure as shit don’t want you to think I don’t appreciate it, because I do. So I’m left with saying nothin’ at all.”


As they stared at each other, uncertainty morphed into heat.


Ava bent down and brushed her lips over his ear, waiting for his shiver, because he always shivered—and he didn’t disappoint. She nipped his rigid jaw, loving how his stubble felt on her lips. “I want to suck you off. Right now.” She lowered to her knees and hooked her fingers in the waistband of his stretchy shorts, then yanked them down. She looked up at him and said, “Shirt. Off.”


One tug and it was gone.


She reached between his legs and rolled his balls over her fingers as she suckled the cock head until he was fully erect.


Chase emitted a sound that Ava understood as more.


And she didn’t tease and tempt. She wanted to drive him to that point of pleasure so hard and fast he didn’t know what hit him. She used her hand. Her tongue. The deep suctioning power of her mouth. She loved she could render him as powerless to her touch as he rendered her.


Chase didn’t touch her roughly until he muttered, “Fuck,” and his shaft tightened. Then his hands gripped her neck, his thumbs pressing to keep her jaw fully open as his hips pumped into her face. Warm spurts hit the back of her throat and flowed over her tongue as she swallowed.


His legs trembled and his harsh breathing sliced the air. He stumbled back and his bare ass landed on the bed. The covers made a whoosh as his upper body fell back and he uttered another, “Christ Almighty.”


Smiling, Ava untied his shoes and slipped them off. The fact Mr. My-Ticklish-Feet-Are-Off-Limits didn’t stir when she removed his socks was an excellent indication of how thoroughly she’d rocked his world.


The bedroom phone rang and she leapt up to get it. “Hello? Oh. Damn. I lost track of time. No, don’t let him leave. Tell him I’ll be down in ten minutes. Or if he prefers, he can park back by the service entrance so he doesn’t have to keep circling the block. Great. Thank you.”


She saved her work and shut down her laptop. She twisted her hair and attached a hairclip. Her clothing choices were dismal, but her shopping excursion would fix that. She threw jeans, a white T-shirt and ballet flats into her bag.


Chase rested on his elbows when she returned to the bedroom to say goodbye.


“This is short notice, but my friend Petra called and she’s having a cocktail party tonight. I told her we’d go. Which works out because I’d already made hair and makeup appointments at my favorite salon.”


“Who’s Petra?”


“An actress I worked with when I started out in LA. Petra aimed her goals much higher than acting and snagged a New York financier who dabbled in the movie production biz as her husband. Arthur is thirty years older, and she’s very New York high society now, but for some reason she’s always kept in touch with me.” Ava slung her bag over her shoulder. “Think about coming to the party with me, okay?”


“Fine. But where you goin’ now?”


“First to a yoga class near my salon. Then to the salon. Then shopping.” She pointed at him. “Don’t give me that lost puppy look, McKay. I believe you said no fuckin’ way when I mentioned shopping yesterday.”


He scowled. “I meant it. Any idea when you’ll be back?”


“I’ll text you.” She made it to the door when she found her back pressed against the wall and Chase’s mouth insistent on hers.


After he’d obliterated every thought from her mind, he released her. “Have fun today, Hollywood, because now I know how much you really love all that time-consuming girly shit.”


It wasn’t until she reached the car that she realized she’d forgotten to tell him about the press situation.


Chase wasn’t uncomfortable being by himself in New York City. He’d been there a half-dozen times, usually with a group, but any place he needed to get to was a taxi ride away.


He showered and dressed, walking away from the hotel into the shops in the East Village until he found food that appealed. Two slices of pizza would hold him for a while. The sun beat down, heating the pavement, reminding him the city smelled like ass. The tiny storefronts fascinated him. Everyone was in a hurry, except for the bums. Another thing he noticed? He wasn’t the shortest man around. Here, his height was average. Maybe even above average.


Much as he hated to admit it, he needed to find something suitable to wear tonight. His clothes were fine for rodeo and travel, but not decent enough for a penthouse cocktail party in New York City.


Once again he was reminded of the differences between them. He didn’t blame her for wanting to return to the lifestyle she’d been born into.


None of the shops looked promising for his preferred type of clothing. And he refused to dress in uncomfortable or trendy clothes to impress people he didn’t know. Leaning against a shady section of the brick building, he punched up a Google search and skimmed the results. The closest store was twenty-seven blocks away, according to Google Maps. He hailed a cab.


The familiar scent of leather and denim greeted Chase as he stepped into Western Spirit. The store itself relied more on kitschy country chic than plain country. Racks of high-end leather coats filled the aisle. Along the wall were vintage boots enclosed in glass cases. Vintage, another word for discarded and out of fashion. He peered at a beat-up pair of Tony Lamas, nothing fancy except the stitching on the snip toe, and the asking price was seven hundred bucks. A new pair didn’t cost that much. Shaking his head, he crossed over to the men’s clothing section.


He expected to be left to his own devices. His experience with sales staff in New York hadn’t ever been good. So he was surprised when the salesgirl immediately wandered over.


“You have an idea of what you’re looking for that I can help you find?”


Chase glanced up from the rack of long-sleeved western shirts and smiled. The Italian girl, who looked to be late teens, gasped, “Omigod. You’re Chase McKay!”


Holy crap. He wasn’t expecting that. “Good eye…?”


“Angelina. I can’t believe bull rider Chase McKay is in our store. I saw you ride at Madison Square Garden for the last two years. That was the most exciting part of the event when you rode Tick Tock for ninety points. My girlfriend Sarah and I still talk about it.”


“Well, I’m happy to hear it made such an impact on you, Angelina.”


“So has your injury healed enough to get you back on tour?”


This was one of his favorite parts of being part of the PBR, connecting with fans. “I hope so.”


She seemed to remember she was supposed to be selling him something. “These shirts are pretty basic. The ones with the custom embroidery are over there. Are those more your style?”


“Actually, I’m wanting something simple. And without sounding boring, I’m looking for white or black.”


“Classic choices.” She eyed the breadth of his shoulders. The length of his arms and torso. Then pulled out four shirts. Two white, two black. “These are the same brand but the fabric weight is different. Try them on. The dressing rooms are back by the boots.”


Chase bit back a groan. Why couldn’t he just buy the damn things and be done with it? He hated to try shit on. But he did.


Angelina scrutinized him after he exited the dressing room. “Definitely the heavier weight.”


“Sold. Now I need a coupla pairs of Wranglers.” He rattled off the size, cut, color and style.


“We have those. I’ll take them to the counter.”


As Chase dug out his wallet, he noticed Angelina’s focus kept drifting to the door. And when she caught him watching her, she blushed. “I don’t mean to be rude or nosy, but do you always have photographers following you around?”


“Almost never. Why?”


“One followed you here. He’s been waiting in the shadow of that grocery store awning since about five minutes after you walked in.”


“No shit?” Chase craned his neck and squinted at the man. “He’s pretty well hidden. How’d you see him?”

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