Authors: Jessica Gilmore
As before, she refused to look at him as he linked her arm around his.
“You look beautiful.” He laid his hand over hers and squeezed. Forget her decree. He wasn’t ready to let her go yet. Changing her mind was exactly the distraction he needed.
She bunched her fingers into a fist, but didn’t look at him.
“You girls outdid yourselves with the decorations.”
She rolled her amber eyes. “You could care less about the decorations.”
“Not true. As a director, I admire a well-organized scene.”
“I’m sure Tori will be glad you approve. It’s her vision.”
They reached the end of the aisle. Lauren immediately pulled free of him.
“Don’t wander off. We’ll be doing photos in a moment.”
“Yes,” he tossed out with droll humor. “I got a copy of the itinerary.”
That drew her gaze as she narrowed her eyes at him. “Behave.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Where’s the fun in that?” He leaned close, inhaled her sweet scent—honeysuckle and soap—and whispered, “Meet me in the laundry room in twenty minutes.”
A blush added color to her rose-dusted cheeks. But, oh, such warm eyes weren’t meant to give off chills. Her hands went to her shapely hips, but before she could speak she was drawn into a hug as friends and family descended on the wedding party.
“You’re a piece of work,” she managed in an aside between greetings. “What about your date?”
“I’m stag tonight.” He shook hands and nodded as people stopped in front of him. In a short break between one guest and the next he sent her a sultry look over his shoulder. “There’s been no one since you.”
“What? I’m supposed to feel sorry for you?” She snorted, then had to paste on a smile when her grandmother gave her an odd look. “Spare me, please. You’re a world-class director. You could have a woman on your arm with the snap of your fingers.”
“I pine for you,” he said, and lifted Grandma Randall’s hand to his mouth to kiss her fingers. “So nice to meet you. It’s easy to see where Tori gets her beauty.”
The older woman twittered prettily and moved on.
“Flirt,” Lauren admonished him.
He grinned. “She loved it.”
“Only proves my point. You won’t be alone for long.”
“Come on—I barely know anyone.” There were a few film industry people here, but the biggest portion of guests was made up of Tori’s family and friends. “You’re maid of honor to my best man. We’re scripted to be together.”
“Hmm. You’ve spent half the time behind that camera. I don’t know why you need company at all.”
Implying he was lacking at his duties? Why did he allow her to get to him? Yes, she was lovely, but he’d dated some of the most gorgeous women in the world. She was a bit of a brat, and she constantly challenged his authority. But one whiff of her scent and he could think of only one thing: getting her alone.
The thinning crowd shifted, bumping Lauren into Ray. He grabbed her to keep her from toppling. His fingers framed her hips as he drew her close.
He lowered his head and kissed the vulnerable curve of her neck. “The laundry room door has a lock. We won’t be gone long.”
She melted against him. The corner of his mouth kicked up in satisfaction as he mentally tracked the fastest route to the utility room. They both had bedrooms inside, but the laundry room held sentimental value. Best of all, no one was likely to look for them there.
In the next instant she’d elbowed him in the gut and twisted from his grasp. “Hands off.”
He immediately held his hands up in a sign of surrender. He looked at her more closely. “Are you okay? You’re a little pale.”
She looked away. “I’m fine. I just choose not to let my hormones rule me today. It’s my sister’s wedding. I’m not going to steal away with you.”
Lauren’s assistant appeared, ushering the wedding party back to the gazebo.
“No one will miss us after the photos are done.”
.” She planted a hand in the middle of his chest and lifted a pleading gaze to him.
He stepped back. “Pardon me.”
He’d never forced himself on a woman and he wouldn’t start now. If she didn’t care to act on the desire her standoffishness couldn’t completely disguise, he respected her decision. He’d only pursued her because she helped distract him from the wedding heebie-jeebies.
Shoulders back, he gestured her forward.
For the next twenty minutes he stood where instructed, smiled when told, and snapped his own shots when he wasn’t needed. Finally the photographer released the wedding party. He trekked to the reception with Lauren’s brother Nick.
They exchanged pleasantries. “How’s work?” Ray asked.
“Busy. I know I shouldn’t be happy about that.” Nick ran the trauma unit at a Palm Springs hospital. “But I prefer action to twiddling my thumbs. How about you? Is there a new film I should be looking forward to?”
“I wrapped up
Gates of Peril
in December. It’ll be out over the summer. I’m still in the planning stages of the next one.”
“I’m going to hold you to that invite to a premier you issued at Thanksgiving. Not only will I enjoy the movie, it’ll be serious chick points.”
Nick introduced Ray to more family and he got some nice group footage. Lauren had a large, fun family. Grandma Randall did like to flirt. She snagged his arm and showed him off. It made him think of his own family. He owed his grandmother a call. She had raised him from the age of ten, when his parents had died in an auto accident. Her birthday was this week.
Having delayed as long as possible, he wandered over to the head table. Along the way a curvy redhead caught his eye. She showed her interest with a come-hither gaze. He kept on walking. He already had all the woman he could handle tonight.
At the head table he slid into his seat next to Lauren. Tori’s parents sat on the other side of the happy couple. Unwilling to sit in uncomfortable silence for the duration of dinner, he turned on the charm.
He kept the conversation light and impersonal, which put Lauren at ease. Stories from the set were always entertaining, and he finally drew a laugh from his companion. It gave him almost as much satisfaction as when she had melted against him earlier.
She’d been overly tense all day. Probably from having to hand control over to her assistant. The woman was nothing if not bossy. The deejay announced the first dance: a waltz to
When You Say Nothing At All
. Tori and Garrett took the floor, and after a few minutes Ray led Lauren out to join them and pulled her into his arms.
“Close your eyes,” he bade her. “It’ll be over in a minute.”
She glanced at him through her lashes. “You’re being very nice.”
“Hey, I can take a hint when it slaps me in the chest.”
“I’m sorry.” She laid her head on his shoulder. “I’ve been such a brat.”
He tightened his arm around her waist. “No more than usual.”
She laughed. “You’re just saying that to make me feel better.”
“Is it working?” He laid his cheek against the silk of her hair. “Should I brave another invitation to move indoors?”
She pulled her head back, eyed him speculatively. “To the laundry room? There are more comfortable rooms available inside, if you’re truly interested in tempting me.”
“Hey, I have fond memories of you in a laundry room.” He kissed a path to her ear. “Remember?”
She sighed. “I remember. It wasn’t one of my finest moments.”
“Oh, I disagree.” He twirled her and brought her back against him. “You were more than fine—you were extremely hot.”
“My parents were playing poker in another room!”
“You wild child, you.”
She grinned. “It
“Excellent.” Blood surged hot through his veins. “Let’s go.”
With her hand in his, he started off the dance floor.
“Stop.” She dug her heels in. “Fun as this is...” she waved between them “...there’s no future to it. I can’t keep dodging into closets with you.”
“I’m a responsible adult. I have to think of...my reputation. Eventually someone is going to notice if we keep disappearing together.”
He scowled, positive that wasn’t what she’d been going to say. “Dynamite, this is Hollywood—being seen with me can only up your reputation.”
“Humble, much?” She shook her head. “Seriously, whatever was between us is over.”
He stood watching her walk away, appeased only slightly by the look of regret he’d seen in the depths of her eyes.
* * *
This night was never going to end. Lauren gathered empties and carried them to the tray near the bar. And turned to be confronted by the bride.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Nothing.” Lauren fought the urge to hide her hands behind her back. She waved them instead. “See? Nothing.”
“Uh-huh.” Tori grabbed one of her hands and drew it close as she wrapped her arm around Lauren’s. “Because it’s
day, I’ll pretend I didn’t see you clearing the tables.”
“Forgive me. Blame it on habit.”
“Only because I had to stop myself from doing the same thing twice.”
“Oh, that would never do.”
“That’s what Garrett said.”
As they neared the dance floor Lauren demanded, “Where are you taking me?”
“Here.” Tori drew her right into the middle of the dancers swaying to a soft ballad. “I’ve danced with all my favorite people today except one. You.”
Lauren’s stomach jolted at the idea of swirling to music even as her heart overflowed with joy. She stepped into her sister’s arms and hugged her close. If she moved slowly enough she’d be fine.
“Be happy,” she whispered. “More than anything, I hope for your happiness.”
“I am. Happier than I’ve ever been,” Tori assured her. “Garrett
“And you get him. It’s why you click.”
“I want this for you.” Tori’s eyes glittered with happiness, with a need to share her bliss with the world. Her gaze flitted to the head table, where Garrett and his best man lounged back with a couple of beers. “Maybe you and Ray?”
“Oh, no.” Lauren automatically shook her head. “Sorry to disappoint, but that’s ancient history.”
“Why?” Tori challenged. “Because he causes you to act spontaneously? To have a little fun? I think he’s been good for you.”
“Good for me?” She laughed. Oh, he did wonderful things
her. But good
her? Not by a long shot. “Think about it. He’s a master manipulator.”
“He’s a director,” Tori reminded her. “It’s what he does, not who he is. He’s not Brad, Lauren. He’d never hurt you.”
Easy for Tori to say. Lauren would rather not risk it. Something told her Ray’s power to hurt would put Brad to shame.
“Ladies, you make such a pretty picture we had to come join you.” Garrett smoothly stepped between them and brought their linked hands to his mouth, where he kissed the back of Lauren’s fingers before twirling her around and passing her over to Ray.
Her world spun as he moved off with Tori.
“Hey.” Ray’s strong arms held her steady. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. No.” She leaned her forehead on his chest, prayed for her stomach to settle. No such luck. “I’m going to be sick.”
Lifting her skirts, she took off at a run. And,
she wasn’t going to make it. But then a hard arm curved around her back and swept her along. She reached the bathroom off the kitchen with no time to spare.
Ray held her hair while she emptied her stomach. She was mortified—and grateful. She wanted him to go but was also glad he was there.
“I’m so sorry.” She flushed and slowly lifted her head. Wait—why was she apologizing? It was
kid causing this inconvenience! A fact he was sure to catch on to with this display.
“No need to be. We’ve all had a tad too much bubbly at one point or another.” He pressed a damp cloth into her hands.
She lifted it to her face, reveled in the coolness. When she lowered the cloth he held a dripping bottle of water out to her. She gratefully accepted it.
“Oh, man, I could kiss you right now.”
He smiled and tucked a loose tendril behind her ear. “Sorry, Dynamite. All trips to the laundry room have been cancelled for the night.”
Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Carpenter
The Heiress’s Secret Baby
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Gilmore
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