Rule's Obsession

By: Lynda Chance


Her heart pounded in her chest as his hand slid back and forth over her cheek, the pads of his fingers feeling rough and supremely masculine. It took every ounce of brainpower Angie had left to concentrate on the conversation. "This was as gothic as I could make it and still retain my dignity. I'm twenty-seven, not seventeen." Her breath hitched as his fingers tightened on her skin and she had to force her vocal chords to continue working. "Black dress, sheer black stockings, black hair and nails. What more did you want?"

His eyes dropped to her mouth and lingered before snapping back up and blasting her with a hard, implacable expression. "I distinctly remember requesting the purple lipstick."

As the tantalizing scent of his after-shave rushed over her, she shook her head. "It just didn't work with the dress," she said softly.

"I'm paying you two-thousand dollars. I want the purple lip color. Do you have it in your bag?"

She did. She'd thrown it in, just in case. "Yes."

"Put it on," he grunted, his finger sliding over her bottom lip.

Angie fumbled with the clasp of her tiny black shoulder bag and withdrew the lipstick, fighting her nerves the entire time. His hand dropped away and she popped the top from the tube and began to apply the loud, obnoxious color. She needed no mirror; her stepmother-at-the-time had taught her how to apply lipstick without one when she was a teenager, telling her that it was something every woman should know how to do in a pinch. It was difficult with fingers that were trembling, but when it was accomplished, Angie looked back to him.

His gaze sharpened as he studied her, a dangerous glint highlighting his eyes as they roved over her. His lips flattened as if he were pissed about something and the blood pumped furiously in her veins as he hissed out, "Yeah, you're as sexy as fuck."

Her pulse quickening erratically, Angie watched, as if in a trance, as he pulled a silk handkerchief from his pocket and began wiping at her lips, dragging the material back and forth over her skin until she knew there couldn't be a trace of color left. When he was finished he sat back, his stare bold and assessing. Angie struggled to form words. "Why did you do that?"

At the same moment she acknowledged that she was dying for his touch, he spoke in a gravelly voice, "You were right. It doesn't work. There's sexy . . . and then there's sexy. You don't need any help and I don't need the complication."

Her heart dropped in disappointment even as she knew that he was right. He might not need the complication, but she damn sure didn't need someone like him in her life. Even if the thought of going to bed with him was so tempting it was sending a river of longing through her bloodstream.

The car pulled up to a house awash in lights and movement. The atmosphere seemed convivial, and they hadn't even stepped from the vehicle yet. She ran her hands down her skirt and attempted to get her unruly emotions under control.

****

Angie gripped her champagne glass with fingers that trembled. She listened with only half an ear to the conversation going on around her.

She realized immediately that this had been a mistake. It was more than obvious that Damian's mother was trying to set him up with the young woman who'd been introduced to Angie as Courtney Powell.

When they'd first arrived ten minutes before, Mrs. Rule had appeared crestfallen when she'd seen Angie with her son. As she'd led them around, Damian's mother had introduced the younger woman to Angie as 'my goddaughter and Damian's dear, dear friend,' and Angie had absorbed the not-so-subtle hint that her son was already taken.

Expecting to dislike this Courtney girl for a reason she couldn't quite figure out, Angie had been surprised that the girl seemed quite nice. When they'd been introduced, there had been an obvious look of relief on the younger girl's face when she'd realized that Damian had brought a date. She'd given Angie a smile that contained real warmth.

But his mother certainly appeared to be disappointed and Angie experienced a sudden guilt that she hadn't expected to feel at the subterfuge.

Now, as she stood in the middle of the living room of this 'mini-mansion', Angie sipped champagne and tried to hold up her end of the conversation, while her hostess gently interrogated her. Damian had been pulled away by a man she assumed was a business acquaintance, and he stood across the room in a larger circle of guests that included Courtney. His mother had manipulated that, and Angie could see by the tense line of his jaw that her move had angered him. He didn't seem to be annoyed with the younger girl, just . . . oblivious. But still, Angie couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for her, even though it had been apparent to Angie that the other girl didn't want his attention.

Angie stood rooted to the floor, knowing damn good and well that she shouldn't have agreed to this. She began counting down the hours until the evening ended and she could disappear from these people's lives just as quickly as she'd come onto the scene. If it hadn't been for Janice and this seemingly simple way to grab some fast cash for her friend, Angie would never have agreed to the scheme.

"What do you do, dear?" Damian's mother asked as the man to the immediate left of Angie listened in on the conversation and inched just a tad too close for her liking.