Rule's Obsession

By: Lynda Chance

"I'm a hairdresser." She took another sip and attempted a smile as she tried to discreetly edge away from the man without drawing attention.

"You own your own salon?" The older woman asked.

"No." Angie named the shop where she worked, although she was very sure these people didn't even know it existed, much less where it was located.

"And that's where you met my son?" she asked with no apparent animosity.

"Yes, ma'am." Angie forced the smile to stay on her lips as she wiped away a drop of condensation from her glass.

"Your make-up is quite unusual." The older woman looked her over curiously, but not in a rude way, to Angie's relief.

"Thank you, I guess. It suits me."

"Why yes, it does. And I did mean it as a compliment. You're very beautiful," Mrs. Rule said in a softly sincere tone.

Well, that was sweetly put. Angie knew for a fact that she wasn't beautiful, but how could she not like this woman for pretending that she was? After her earlier surprise when she'd found out her son hadn't come alone, the older woman had done nothing but try to make Angie feel welcome. What was it exactly that Damian was hoping to accomplish with this ruse? "Thank you. I love your dress." Angie had never been one for small talk, and she hoped she didn't sound awkward.

"Oh, this old thing?" Mrs. Rule slid her hands down the folds of her dress. "It's one of my favorites."

Angie glanced around the beautifully decorated room. "You have a lovely home."

"Thank you so much, sweetheart. I love this old house; it's where we raised our children."

Angie ran her eyes swiftly over the room. The house might be old, but it was immaculately decorated and updated. She took a sip of champagne and latched onto the topic she was sure would keep the other woman talking, so she herself wouldn't have to. "How many children do you have?"

"One daughter who's my youngest, Erin. She couldn't be here tonight. And three sons. Nick lives in the city although he told me he couldn't make it tonight, either," she said with an expression that Angie couldn't read. "And my youngest son, Garrett, is out of the country. But, of course, Courtney is here and she's like a daughter to me as well."

"Y'all must be very close then," Angie said, not knowing how to reply and wondering for a brief moment what it must have been like for Damian to have grown up with so many siblings. She herself was an only child and having a sibling was something that she missed when she had time to think about it.

"Well, I've raised her since she was seventeen. Her mother was my best friend."

"I'm so sorry," Angie said, not really knowing how to respond, as an anguished look crossed the other woman's face. It held so much pain that Angie assumed the girl had been orphaned. She glanced away to give her hostess a second to regain her composure.

As her eyes landed across the room, Angie noticed a tall man enter from a side door. He looked around, as if he were taking in everything the room held with a single glance. She sucked in a breath as she recognized his undeniable resemblance to Damian.

Once Mrs. Rule regained her composure and began talking about her youngest son and his travels, Angie surreptitiously watched as the newcomer slid behind Courtney on silent feet and wrapped his fingers around her wrist. The younger girl's face paled as she froze in place but didn't move, and the man, unquestionably one of Damian's brothers, leaned down and whispered something close to her ear. The girl's face drained of all color and then immediately filled with heat, and before Angie could make out anything more, the man abruptly pulled her from the room.

The maneuver was accomplished so quickly and silently that Angie doubted anyone else had noticed. Damian didn't appear to realize that the woman who'd been standing next to him was no longer there as he continued conversing with the men around him.

Mrs. Rule excused herself to check on dinner, and immediately, the man who'd been hovering next to Angie zeroed in on her, making her hackles rise. He slid his slimy gaze up and down her body and her stomach curdled in reaction. "So, you cut hair for a living?" he questioned in a pretentious, nasally tone.

Angie took an obvious step back from him. "Yeah."

His eyes gleamed, making her feel a bit more nauseated. "Do you give massages too?"

Angie never had time to form an answer or, for that matter, feel insulted. An arm snaked around her waist from behind as she was pulled into a hard, warm body that had about as much give as finely tempered steel. "Robertson," Damian hissed under his breath. "I don't believe I care for your tone or your question."

Angie saw the blood drain from the other man's face as he took a step back. "I didn't mean anything by it."

"No?" Damian bit out.

"I was only trying to make conversation."

The harsh look on Damian's features made a lie of the congenial nod he gave. "You know, I've never cared for you. I've put up with you only because my mother seems to enjoy your company." Angie felt his fingers tighten on her waist as his words turned menacing. "But all bets are off if you attempt, in any way, to fuck with my girl here. You insult her one more time, you'll find yourself without a friend in this city so fast it'll make your head spin. You get me, man?"