Page 49

He strolled the hotel ballroom, seeking distraction and looking for a certain petite blonde. Melody had done an impressive job as usual. Her fundraising and organization skills were legendary. A miniature orchestra filled one end of the giant room. Swags of silver and black fabric graced the walls and complemented the existing elaborate moldings. Fresh white roses and every other white flower he couldn’t name were displayed in intricate arrangements along the walls of the ballroom.

The theme was Under the Moon and the dress code was black and white. Most of the guests had followed the rules, but he saw a few siren-red dresses here and there. Nothing like a black-and-white party for a woman to make a statement.

The party was to raise funds for the Portland Dental Van project. Run by a nonprofit medical organization, the van was actually a pair of gigantic RVs that traveled the state bringing dental care to low-income areas.

Every person he spoke with had perfect teeth. Jack stopped at the bar and ordered a drink.

“Jack. Over here. I want you to meet someone.” Melody Harper tucked her hand through his arm and anchored him in place. His sister looked good. At forty-two her figure was slim and her face wrinkle-free. He suspected she liked to cheat nature a little bit. Melody was tall with dark brown hair and eyes that’d charmed many a man. She’d been divorced twice. Both men she’d married turned out to be fortune hunters.

Jack gave a last quick glance around for Lacey and put on a polite face for Melody’s guests. The gray-haired man and woman turned out to be the founders of the dental nonprofit. Trying not to stare at the man’s crooked, yellowed teeth, Jack rescinded his earlier generalization about perfect teeth and chatted with the Hamptons while Melody preened on his arm, delighted with her success.

He felt Melody tense and lose focus on the conversation. Turning to see whom she had in her sights now, Jack met a glaring brown gaze, fifteen feet away, which flickered from him to Melody and back again.

He caught his breath. Lacey’s simple black dress hooked behind her neck, leaving her shoulders bare and accentuating her curves in all the right places. She’d pulled her hair up into a soft twist at the back of her head and her diamond studs looked bigger than Melody’s. His gaze traveled down, past the hem just above her knees, and past the toned calves to spike heels that looked sharp enough to maim. Overall, she was stunning, and by the slant of her eyes, he knew she was still annoyed with him.

He didn’t care. All he wanted to do was sink his fingers into her hair and release the twist, letting it spill over her shoulders. A flick of his finger at the back of her neck would drop the entire dress to her deadly shoes. He swallowed hard and tried to ignore the electricity that hit his chest, lighting every nerve and tightening his grip on his glass.

Lacey couldn’t have known he’d be here. Seeing him must be a total shock. Good. She’d be a little off guard. He couldn’t have set the stage for their impromptu meeting any better. Now he just had to whip her away to dance and grovel out an apology. What could happen after that…?

“Ah, fuck.”

Lacey had turned away, giving him a startling view of her backless dress. It barely covered her ass and made Jack’s hormones stand at attention. But it was the tall man who’d handed her a drink and took her arm that’d staggered Jack.

What the hell? Jack’s heart gave a stumbling thud.

The prick held up his glass in a silent toast in Jack’s direction. “Who is that? Why’s she staring at you like that?” Melody’s protective older-sister instinct had been lit.

“I know them,” he muttered. Wasn’t the reporter supposed to be out of town? The guest list had shown Lacey and her father together. Jack had stupidly assumed they’d come together.

Melody studied the pair with assessing eyes. Jack knew she was estimating the cost of Lacey’s dress and jewelry. “He looks familiar. I think he works for the paper. I’ve seen him before, but I don’t know his date.” She cast a side-glance at her brother. “Apparently you do.”

The Hamptons excused themselves and wandered off.

Michael pulled Lacey toward the dance floor. “God damned fu…”

“Jack!” Melody rapidly glanced around. “Watch your language! What is your problem with that couple?”

Jack closed his mouth. He didn’t know where to start. His perfect game plan had just warped into a clusterfuck.

Jack took Lacey’s breath away. The sight of that man in a tux was what a bad girl’s dreams were made of. His shoulders were wide, his stance self-confident, and those gray eyes burned hot holes in hers. How could cool gray project so much heat? If she was a bad girl, she’d seduce him under his date’s nose without a second thought to how the other woman felt. The look in his eyes said all she had to do was crook her little finger and he’d be hers for the night.

What if her date eyed another woman the way Jack was eyeing her? Lacey would be furious. She should’ve known he dated other women. A man like him attracted beautiful women like hungry bunnies to a fresh carrot.

Where was her brain?

She wasn’t a one-night stand kind of girl. No matter how tempting…

She swallowed the sour disappointment in the back of her throat. They’d had what…one unofficial date? A group interview with the police? One kiss? She didn’t have any claim to him. Why shouldn’t he date? He’d never officially asked her out. Ah, hell.

They were simply two people connected by unusual circumstances. That’s all.