Home > Bared to You (Crossfire #1)(3)

Bared to You (Crossfire #1)(3)
Sylvia Day

"Do that." He extended his hand again, and his grip was solid and confident. "I hope to see you."

The apartment smelled fabulous when I got back home and Adele was crooning soulfully through the surround sound speakers about chasing pavements. I looked across the open floor plan into the kitchen and saw Cary swaying to the music while stirring something on the range. There was an open bottle of wine on the counter and two goblets, one of which was half-filled with red wine.

"Hey," I called out as I got closer. "Whatcha cooking? And do I have time for a shower first?"

He poured wine into the other goblet and slid it across the breakfast bar to me, his movements practiced and elegant. No one would know from looking at him that he'd spent his childhood bouncing between his drug-addicted mother and foster homes, followed by adolescence in juvenile detention facilities and state-run rehabs. "Pasta with meat sauce. And hold the shower, dinner's ready. Have fun?"

"Once I got to the gym, yeah." I pulled out one of the teakwood barstools and sat. I told him about the kickboxing class and Parker Smith. "Wanna go with me?"

"Krav Maga?" Cary shook his head. "That's hardcore. I'd get all bruised up and that would cost me jobs. But I'll go with you to check it out, just in case this guy's a wack."

I watched him dump the pasta into a waiting colander. "A wack, huh?"

My dad had taught me to read guys pretty well, which was how I'd known the god in the suit was trouble. Regular people offered token smiles when they helped someone, just to make a momentary connection that smoothed the way.

Then again, I hadn't smiled at him either.

"Baby girl," Cary said, pulling bowls out of the cupboard, "you're a sexy, stunning woman. I question any man who doesn't have the balls to ask you outright for a date."

I wrinkled my nose at him.

He set a bowl in front of me. It contained tiny tubes of salad noodles covered in a skimpy tomato sauce with lumps of ground beef and peas. "You've got something on your mind. What is it?"

Hmm...I caught the handle of the spoon sticking out of the bowl and decided not to comment on the food. "I think I ran into the hottest man on the planet today. Maybe the hottest man in the history of the world."

"Oh? I thought that was me. Do tell me more." Cary stayed on the other side of the counter, preferring to stand and eat.

I watched him take a couple bites of his own concoction before I felt brave enough to try it myself. "Not much to tell, really. I ended up sprawled on my ass in the lobby of the Crossfire and he gave me a hand up."

"Tall or short? Blond or dark? Built or lean? Eye color?"

I washed down my second bite with some wine. "Tall. Dark. Lean and built. Blue eyes. Filthy rich, judging by his clothes and accessories. And he was insanely sexy. You know how it is - some hot guys don't make your hormones go crazy, while some unattractive guys have massive sex appeal. This guy had it all."

My belly fluttered as it had when Dark and Dangerous touched me. In my mind, I remembered his breathtaking face with crystal clarity. It should be illegal for a man to be that mind-blowing. I was still recovering from the frying of my brain cells.

Cary set his elbow on the counter and leaned in, his long bangs covering one vibrant green eye. "So what happened after he helped you up?"

I shrugged. "Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"I left."

"What? You didn't flirt with him?"

I took another bite. Really, the meal wasn't bad. Or else I was just starving. "He wasn't the kind of guy you flirt with, Cary."

"There is no such thing as a guy you can't flirt with. Even the happily married ones enjoy a little harmless flirtation now and then."

"There was nothing harmless about this guy," I said dryly.

"Ah, one of those." Cary nodded sagely. "Bad boys can be fun, if you don't get too close."

Of course he would know; men and women of all ages fell at his feet. Still, he somehow managed to pick the wrong partner every time. He'd dated stalkers, and cheaters, and lovers who threatened to kill themselves over him, and lovers with significant others they didn't tell him about...Name it, he'd been through it.

"I can't see this guy ever being fun," I said. "He was way too intense. Still, I bet he'd be awesome in the sack with all that intensity."

"Now you're talking. Forget the real guy. Just use his face in your fantasies and make him perfect there."

Preferring to get the guy out of my head altogether, I changed the subject. "You have any go-sees tomorrow?"

"Of course." Cary launched into the details of his schedule, mentioning a jeans advertisement, self-tanner, underwear, and cologne.

I shoved everything else out of my mind and focused on him and his growing success. The demand for Cary Taylor was increasing by the day, and he was building a reputation with photographers and accounts for being both professional and prompt. I was thrilled for him and so proud. He'd come a long way and been through so much.

It wasn't until after dinner that I noticed the two large gift boxes propped against the side of the sectional sofa.

"What are those?"

"Those," Cary said, joining me in the living room, "are the ultimate."

I knew immediately they were from Stanton and my mom. Money was something my mother needed to be happy and I was glad Stanton, husband #3, was not only able to fill that need for her but all her many others as well. I often wished that could be the end of it, but my mom had a difficult time accepting that I didn't view money the same way she did. "What now?"

He threw his arm around my shoulders, easy enough for him to do because he was taller by five inches. "Don't be ungrateful. He loves your mom. He loves spoiling your mom, and your mom loves spoiling you. As much as you don't like it, he doesn't do it for you. He does it for her."

Sighing, I conceded his point. "What are they?"

"Glam threads for the advocacy center's fundraiser dinner on Saturday. A bombshell dress for you and a Brioni tux for me, because buying gifts for me is what he does for you. You're more tolerant if you have me around to listen to you bitch."

"Damn straight. Thank God he knows that."

"Of course he knows. Stanton wouldn't be a bazillionaire if he didn't know everything." Cary caught my hand and tugged me over. "Come on. Take a look."

I pushed through the revolving door of the Crossfire into the lobby ten minutes before nine the next morning. Wanting to make the best impression on my first day, I'd gone with a simple sheath dress paired with black pumps that I slid on in replacement of my walking shoes on the elevator ride up. My blond hair was twisted up in an artful chignon that resembled a figure eight, courtesy of Cary. I was hair-inept, but he could create styles that were glamorous masterpieces. I wore the small pearl studs my dad had given me as a graduation gift and the Rolex from Stanton and my mother.

I had begun to think I'd put too much care into my appearance, but as I stepped into the lobby I remembered being sprawled across the floor in my workout clothes and I was grateful I didn't look anything like that graceless girl. The two security guards didn't seem to put two and two together when I flashed them my ID card on the way to the turnstiles.

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