I looked at him, breathing in short bursts. I hadn’t thought it was possible to look intensely calm before that moment.
“I’ll get you another drink.”
As he went into the suite he passed Riley on her way out. She bounced down next to me. “So that looks like it went well.”
I snorted. “I guess.”
“So when’s your date?”
I had to work on being less obvious. “Tomorrow.”
“Good. If you said there wasn’t a date I was going to smack you.”
I turned to her. “You do know I’m still allowed to make my own decisions, right?”
Riley cocked her head. “Sometimes you need a little push to make the right one. Where’s he taking you?”
“It’s a surprise. He wants me to be ready in the morning.”
Riley crinkled her nose. “Doesn’t sound like the usual, whatever it is. Something tells me he’s not the kind of guy to invite a girl to walk around the park.”
“No, definitely not.”
“It’s one date. Worst case scenario, you probably get to do something exotic and fun with a guy who is stunning eye candy.”
I swallowed. “Worst case I lose my job.”
She laughed. “If bad boys got caught easily, they wouldn’t still be bad boys. You’ll be fine.”
The rest of the game passed in an increasingly tipsy blur. I spent the evening waiting for Vincent to touch me again from where he sat behind me—my shoulder, my neck, anything—but he never did.
As we left the arena, the only thing on my mind was the next morning. What could he possibly have planned that required starting so early?
My alarm clock buzzed at 7:00 a.m. I woke up face down on my pillow and promptly chided myself for taking full advantage of the complimentary bar in the suite last night. I drew my comforter over my head, desperate for the extra sleep, when I realized I was going on a date in an hour. A surge of anxiety pulsed through me and I shot from bed, shedding my clothes on my way to the shower. I turned the water on hot, hoping the heavy steam might relax me, but I couldn’t stop wondering what a surprise date with Vincent Sorenson involved. Rented out museums? Five-star restaurants? Yachts? I had no idea what I was going to wear.
I lathered up a bar of soap, running it across my torso and down my legs—shit, should I shave? I was planning on wearing jeans but I could hear Riley’s voice in my head, berating me for my informal outfit choice; she would insist on a skirt and I would eventually yield. I grabbed my razor and swiped the blade carefully over my legs.
I turned off the shower and grabbed a towel, quickly drying off before rummaging through my closet to find a modest blue skirt and a silken racerback tank top. I threw them on over a matching bra and panties set and walked into the kitchen to find Riley sipping liberally from a cup of coffee and flipping through People.
“I’m sorry, did I wake you up?” I bypassed the coffee, already jittery enough from nerves¸ and poured myself a generous cup of orange juice.
“Are you kidding me? I’ve been up for an hour, there was no way I was going to miss this.”
“Well you wouldn’t have missed much, I still don’t know where we’re going.”
She closed her magazine slowly and pushed it away before looking at me in contemplation. “Are you bringing condoms?”
“What?” I asked, the abruptness of the question catching me off guard.
“This,” she said, “is why I got up early. You have to think about these things!”
“No, Riley, I am not bringing condoms. It’s only our first date. A test date really.”
“Well, I commend you. It would take some serious restraint to keep me from tearing the clothes off of a guy like Vincent.”
I rolled my eyes over the rim of my cup. “Are you sure you don’t want to go on this date for me?”
“Come on, I was kidding. I’m just excited for you,” she said. “It’s your first official date in—”
“Don’t remind me,” I interjected, cringing at the thought that it’d been two years since my last relationship and months since I went on anything close to a date.
“You’re ready for it, that’s all I’m saying.”
“Yeah, I think I am,” I said softly, remembering my tryst with Vincent in his office, the way I had practically collapsed into him as he kissed me. I couldn’t remember a time when things had felt so natural.
“Well, the outfit is definitely cute,” Riley said, giving me a quick once-over.
“I thought you’d approve.”
“But I hope you plan on using a comb before you leave.” She laughed and gestured to the knotted curls my hair had dried into.
I glanced at the clock and darted to the bathroom when I realized I only had a few minutes left to get ready before Vincent was supposed to arrive. I grabbed a brush from the sink and tamed my hair into a stylishly messy bun, finishing just as a knock came at the door. I jumped in nervous anticipation and quickly applied a coat of mascara to my eyelashes.
“He’s here!” Riley sang out from the living room, her voice a high trill. She ran into the bathroom and ushered me out, thrusting my purse in my hands. “Have a good time, be safe, and tell me everything.”
“I will, I will,” I reassured her as I opened the front door. She escaped back into her room before Vincent could spot her in her pajamas.
He stood in front of me, six feet of muscled perfection fitted in jeans and a sleek black sports coat. He gave me one of his lopsided smiles and my heart skipped a beat. “Good morning,” I managed, suppressing the bashfulness that had suddenly overwhelmed me.
“You look great,” he said, placing his hand on the small of my back and guiding me out of the apartment building. I could feel his fingers gripping at the fabric of my shirt, the familiar gesture sending a flush of heat to my face.
When we got outside we stopped in front of a silver Camry, its square frame and dull paint job suggesting its old age. I’d expected a limousine or fancy sports car, something befitting his wealth. “Is this your car?” I blurted.
“You wanted discretion,” he said as we got in.
“Is this the part where you tell me where we’re going?” I teased as he began driving.
He shot me a grin. “Do you always make it this difficult for a guy to surprise you?”
“I like to be prepared, that’s all.”
“It shows. Those charts you put together for our first meeting must have taken some time.”
I looked at him, dismayed, as I recalled my disastrous performance in Cape Town. “Turned out to be worth it, I think they were the only redeeming part of our presentation.”
“Are you sure that little slip and fall act wasn’t planned?”
“I told you it was a mistake, but Richard will probably be implementing it into our future meetings.”
“I can’t blame him, it was my favorite part.”
“So you told me, but I’m not sure I want to be known for groping CEOs.” I tried not to sigh as I remembered the firm expanse of Vincent’s chest beneath his t-shirt.
“I guess I was just lucky I was there to break your fall.” He turned to me smiling, and I practically had to tear my gaze from the curl of his full lips.
“Something tells me you don’t trip over your own feet often,” I said, distracting myself from the lustful gleam in his eye. “Don’t surfers need to have pretty good coordination?”
“In that case, we’ll have to work on yours,” he said as the car came to a slow stop.
“What?” I looked out of the window, taking in the hazy tarmac of an airport parking lot.
“We can’t go to St. Thomas without surfing at least once.”
I clenched my jaw to keep it from dropping to my chest. I had to fight the urge to protest, running through all the reasons surfing made me nervous in the first place. But I knew I couldn’t sabotage a date with Vincent Sorenson because I was too afraid to stand on a board for awhile. “Is this JFK?” I sputtered as we got out of the car.
“It’s a private airport, actually. There weren’t any direct flights to the Caribbean so we’re settling for something more intimate.” He gestured to a small plane in the distance.
I had imagined the yachts and the sports cars, but I hadn’t been anticipating a private jet. Maybe Vincent wasn’t the bad boy I’d pinned him for. In fact, he was turning out to be pretty considerate. A date on a remote island couldn’t have been easy to organize and his little stunt at the Knicks game was more than generous—my friends certainly thought so.
“Well, I do like a challenge,” I conceded, deciding if he was willing to make an effort then so was I.
He grabbed me by the hand and pulled me towards the plane. “That’s what I thought.”
I had just been getting used to the idea of a private jet when I was met with custom leather seats, a glass coffee table, and a suede sofa all situated in the cabin of the plane. True, I hadn’t been on a date in a long time, but even if I had been, it wouldn’t have been anything like this. Dinner and a movie this was not.
“So much for discretion,” I said as I surveyed my surroundings.
“We’ll be all alone up here,” he said as he turned to me, his eyes falling briefly to the line of cleavage visible at the neck of my shirt before traveling back to my face. I glanced around, looking for a stewardess, but he wasn’t lying. The cabin of the plane was empty except for us—it couldn’t have been more discreet.
“Is it customary for CEOs to have their own private jets?” I was trying to sound nonchalant but I knew my awe was glaringly obvious.
“I admit, it takes some getting used to.” As we settled into our seats he placed his hand on the armrest between us, his long fingers splayed across the leather. I wanted to reach for it, to bring the knobs of his knuckles to my mouth and run my tongue over the shallow lines in his skin. I glimpsed the couch, imagining the small of my back sticking to its leather surface as Vincent leaned over me, the pressure of his muscled frame pushing me deep into the cushions. He would draw my legs around his waist, his hand cupping the space behind my knee as our lips opened around one another. I would grab his lean hips and push myself against him, eager for a friction I hadn’t felt in a long time.
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