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The lovers surrender no.., p.18
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       The Lover's Surrender (No Exceptions), p.18

           J. C. Reed
 
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  “Does this mysterious place happen to start with a V?”

  “No, baby. It’s your heart.” He kissed my cheek, then my neck, and came to hover at my ear. “The day I fell in love with you, I got lost in the rhythm of your heartbeat. It’s safe to say I still haven’t found a way out, and I doubt I ever will.” He held up his hand. “That’s not to say the V place isn’t a favorite of mine as well. In fact, it’s my number one trip.”

  God, the slightest hint at sex made my heart flutter and my core quiver.

  He passed me a drink. “I got you freshly pressed orange juice.”

  “Thank you,” and took the glass out of his hand. I took a sip, then another, realizing that not only was I thirsty, but the baby inside me was demanding food. It felt as though I hadn’t stopped eating since finding out I was pregnant.

  But food had to wait.

  “Jett?” I turned to him, eyeing him. “The strangest thing happened when you were gone. I met Grayson.”

  “Who?” His green eyes turned a shade darker as he cocked his head.

  “Grayson,” I repeated, taking another sip. “You know, my ex boss.”

  “Right.” He paused shortly, his gaze probing mine. Probably to assess if it had been a good idea to leave me all alone. “Where is he?”

  “Oh, he left.” I smiled at him. “He’s a busy photographer.”

  His eyes narrowed, and his lips curved down. “So I gather you talked?”

  “Yes.”

  “About what?”

  Even though his face remained expressionless, I could detect the hint of mistrust and the streak of jealousy that always seemed to make me wary of any man who so much as looked at me.

  My heart fluttered. Even though jealousy wasn’t a good thing in a relationship, I loved it about Jett.

  “Don’t worry. Nothing special. I told him I couldn’t do the job anymore, that I quit.”

  “That’s all?” He sounded so genuinely relieved I felt like laughing.

  “Yep, that’s all.” My lips twitched involuntarily. “Except…come to think of it, he mentioned something quite interesting.” I cocked my head and watched his reaction.

  My implication had the desired the effect.

  Jett’s eyes went a shade darker and he froze. For the first time ever I had him muffled. I stepped toward him and wrapped my arms around his waist. To the others, it probably looked like I was hugging him, but I just wanted him to close to me.

  “He told me that you bought my pictures. But the way I see it, that’s not possible because that would imply that you’ve been spying on me.” I gave a short laugh as my fingers traveled up his chest and settled on that one special place where his heart was located. “Right, Jett?”

  His nervousness disappeared instantly, and his lips curved into a nonchalant smile, matching my grin. “Well, I might or might not be the owner of a very fine collection.”

  I stared at him.

  Was it all just a figment of my imagination or was Jett proud of it?

  “So you admit it?” I frowned.

  “Do you want me to lie?” He cocked his head, amusement flaring in his eyes. “In my defense, you’re really good. I would never have pegged you for a pin up girl, but, fuck—” he made a whistling sound “—you know how to turn me on.”

  I dropped my hands before people began to stare. “Is that your way of saying that I shouldn’t have quit?”

  “No.” He pulled me back to him but not too close. “It’s my way of saying that you’re too good to be in that kind of job. And I’ll admit—” he let out an exaggerated sigh “—I cannot stand other people jerking off over your pics. If Grayson hadn’t agreed to our deal, I would have tracked down every guy who owned a copy and cut off their dicks.”

  I let out a nervous laugh. “You wouldn’t have.”

  “I would have.” He gritted his teeth. “It was bad enough that Kenny stared at you.”

  I smiled. “You don’t strike me as a jealous person, Mayfield.”

  He adjusted his tie. “I’m not jealous, I’m just protecting what is mine.”

  Seriously?

  “You have no reason to be jealous,” I said.

  “I know that, but it is the thought of losing you to another man that’s unbearable.”

  “Jett?” I placed a finger on his sexy lips, muffling his words. “You won’t.” In that moment, the crackle of a microphone was replaced by an announcement. “I think the show’s about to start.”

  “Ready to take our seats?” Jett asked.

  “Is there going to be food?” I joked.

  “After the show, I’m taking you out for dinner,” he said and kissed my forehead. “Come on, baby.”

  I sighed inwardly and followed Jett to the row of seats overlooking the entire runway. He motioned at the chairs with our names, and I sat down, food forgotten as I stared at the magnificent display before my eyes.

  The runway had been set up to look like a bridge over water and was illuminated by a complex lighting design with the lights shifting, magnifying, and fading at various intervals. I had never seen anything like it, but then again, I had never attended a fashion show, and most certainly not something as elaborate and expensive as this.

  I had barely taken my seat when arms wrapped around me, and a familiar voice almost shrieked in my ear. It almost sounded like…

  “Sylvie.” I jumped up in surprise.

  “Surprise.” She slumped onto the chair next to me with her usual grace and regarded me and Jett for a long moment, her eyes sparkling. “Congrats on getting engaged. That’s like the best news ever. I was so happy when I heard you two were tying the knot.”

  Jett’s eyebrows rose in surprise a moment before he erupted in laughter.

  “Okay.” Sylvie shrugged and rolled her eyes. “At first, I was like, ‘run, run the hell faster,’ but after I heard about the ring part, I was like, ‘hey, that’s a pretty good deal.’ But seriously, I wish you guys nothing but the best. By the way, you look stunning.”

  “So do you.” I blinked in succession, then looked from her to Jett and back to her. “What are you doing here?”

  “I invited her,” Jett said, amused. “You gals deserve a bit of fun. Given that this is your thing”—he pointed around him with the enthusiasm of a sleeping pill—“I thought I might use my social influence to get you one of the best seats here.”

  “Thank you,” I whispered. My stomach churned again when I spied a waiter carrying trays filled with champagne flutes and what looked like mouthwateringly delicious things to nibble on. And he looked like he was heading for us. Or at least in our direction.

  “Oh, I want one of those,” I said before I could stop myself.

  Jett laughed, the buzz of his cell phone interrupting the sound I had grown to love so much.

  “Oh shit. It’s work,” he mouthed. “I have to take this. Be right back.” He stood and waved his cell at me. I nodded, my attention focused on the waiter as he approached us. I declined the champagne but grabbed a few tiny, salty bites that would have to do until I could get my hands on real food.

  “I’m so happy we’re here,” Sylvie said the moment he was gone.

  “Me too.”

  “He’s holding a secret engagement party tomorrow,” Sylvie said the moment he was gone.

  I turned to her. “How do you know?”

  “Kenny told me.”

  “Aren’t you supposed to keep it a secret?”

  “I’m your best friend. Of course I have to tell you. And I should tell you too that Jett included a note with the question if I wanted to be your maid of honor. Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Not only did he get us in, he also paid for the dress.”

  Given Jett and Sylvie’s history, I sensed that was about the greatest compliment he could get.

  I took a bite of the delicious thingy in my hand and regarded the silvery sheath enveloping her from head to toe. It was beautiful and probably very expensive. Jett had definitely splurged, and while I wasn’t a
fan of wasting money, the fact that he was trying to get on well with Sylvie pleased me. They were the most important people in my life, and I wanted them both to be around when the baby was born.

  “I’m sure you’ll cut him some slack in the future,” I said jokingly.

  “Depends on the way he treats you.” Sylvie’s gaze brushed my ring finger, and I held it up, fighting the urge to giggle, do a happy dance, or worse. I decided to save that for some other time, when we were alone, far away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi and their flashing cameras.

  Sylvie gasped and then grabbed my hand, making a loud surprised sound that had a few people turning their head. “It’s beautiful. Princess cut. Perfect in every way. I so want one of those.”

  “You’ll get one eventually. Just wait and see.” I smiled at her, wondering whether to ask the one question I knew would either make or break Sylvie’s evening. In the end, mentioning a guy’s name wasn’t worth it.

  “I can’t believe you had no idea he was going to propose,” Sylvie said. “So romantic.”

  She didn’t know the half of it.

  “The fight preceding Jett’s proposal was anything but romantic, to be honest.” Heat rushed to my face as I pictured Jett’s sexy body. “It was very sexy, and very bare if you get my drift. He really stripped down.”

  Literally.

  I blushed again.

  “It doesn’t matter as long as you have this little baby to show off.” She laughed when the lights began to go off one by one and people flooded in to take their seats.

  “I think the show’s starting,” I said, trying not to gawk at all the celebrities around us. “Where’s Jett?”

  Sylvie shrugged. “Probably hiding to avoid this. You know how men are.”

  “Yeah, but he wanted to be here.”

  I pulled out my cell phone and dialed his number. He replied at the second ring.

  “Where are you?” I whispered.

  “Babe—” A slight pause. His voice sounded strained. A honk sounded off somewhere. Was there traffic noise in the background? “You know that’s not really my thing. Catch you in ten minutes when the show’s over?”

  The show was going to last more than ten minutes.

  He was bailing on me.

  “What? No!”

  “Sylvie’s there. I’m sure she’ll be great company,” Jett said. “After the show’s over, I’m going to take you both out on dinner. Love you.”

  And with that, he hung up. I stared at the phone incredulously, then peered at Sylvie.

  “What did you expect?” She rolled her eyes. “I bet Kenny persuaded him to go for drinks, and Jett jumped in wholeheartedly. Probably didn’t even need much persuasion.”

  “Wait. Kenny’s here?”

  She nodded, confusion crossing her face. “Yeah, how else do you think I got here?”

  For some reason, Brian’s words popped into my mind. He had been secretive, strange even.

  He’s a good guy, but he’s extremely revengeful. So when he says he’ll deal with a situation, I usually choose to believe he’ll do just that. He’s been saying that for weeks.

  Combine that with the fact that his partner in crime was here, it was the perfect recipe for trouble.

  Something didn’t add up.

  Coupled with the fact that Jett had gone to so much trouble to get us in, buy both Sylvie and me dresses, even though he hated anything fashion related, didn’t sit well with me.

  And then Kenny was here as well. Jett hadn’t even mentioned him.

  “Call me suspicious, but I think they’re trying to get rid of us.” I raised my brows at Sylvie.

  “What do you mean?”

  I sighed. “Brian said something strange.”

  “Hey,” a woman behind us said. “We’re trying to watch this.”

  “Sorry,” Sylvie mouthed to her, then turned back to me, in a quieter voice “You’re going to listen to that guy?”

  “I have no choice.” I shrugged. “Something is up. We have to go.”

  She shot me a panicked look, probably fearing my next words.

  “Grab your handbag,” I said and stood. “Come on.”

  “I saw that one coming.” She heaved an annoyed sigh. “Stewart, I swear I’ll make you watch Jason Statham movies on replay for the rest of your life if you drag my ass out of here without a very good reason.”

  A viable threat.

  Jason Statham movies were the stuff of my nightmares. Under different circumstances, I would have probably thought twice, but not today.

  “I think I heard traffic noise in the background.” Ignoring her, I dashed through the crowd, heading outside.

  The fact that we were heading in the wrong direction slowed us down, but eventually we reached the red carpet and the parked taxis.

  “Where is he?” I mumbled, scanning the busy street.

  There were people everywhere.

  It took me a while to spy the striking black sports ride with its tinted windows stuck in traffic. I had seen it so many times that I would have recognized it anywhere.

  “There’s Kenny,” Sylvie almost screamed. “Hey—”

  I clamped a hand over her mouth. “Are you crazy? You can’t draw their attention to us.” I scanned the street for Jett and spied him standing next to Kenny.

  They exchanged words, and then they got into his car.

  “What are they doing?” I asked and grabbed Sylvie’s hand, dragging her behind me, both balancing on high heels and shivering in our evening gowns.

  “You can’t possibly be serious,” Sylvie protested, but that didn’t slow me down. “I don’t know how you can walk in this dress.”

  “Call it a necessity.”

  “More like stalking your guy.” Sylvie let out a laugh.

  “Oh, shut up.” I set my jaw and tightened my grip around her hand so I wouldn’t lose her in the crowd.

  Why hadn’t Jett said anything about leaving? And where the heck were they going? As we reached the road, the traffic lights changed and Kenny’s car began to move out of the parking lot.

  Fuck!

  They were about to drive away.

  In that instant, a taxi stopped a few inches from us and a couple got out. I raised my hand, hailing it before it could speed off.

  “Don’t lose the black sports car,” I instructed the driver and settled in the backseat with Sylvie, my gaze fixed on the road ahead.

  My heart raced so hard I was sure it would burst out of my chest.

  Even Sylvie seemed nervous. Her hand wrapped around mine and she gave it a light squeeze. “This is so exciting.”

  Okay, maybe not nervous.

  But then she didn’t know about Gina and the letter.

  “Where do you think they’re going?” Sylvie whispered, her own suspicion finally piqued.

  “No clue, but I guess we’ll find out soon enough,” I muttered.

  We drove for a long time, more because of the heavy traffic rather than because of the distance, before we reached the Manhattan coastline along the Hudson River. Kenny’s car took a sharp turn and stopped in the distance, killing the taillights. We parked at a safe distance, far enough away that they wouldn’t notice us, but close enough that we’d be able to follow if they left.

  “Isn’t that the North Cove marina?” Sylvie said.

  “I think so. What are they doing here?”

  Sylvie shrugged her shoulders. “No idea. Maybe enjoying the view?”

  “Maybe,” I said, unconvinced.

  In the distance, I could see the yachts floating at docks scattered along the river, their decadent lights casting golden reflections on the dark water. Sylvie must have noticed the same.

  “Maybe Jett owns a boat and Kenny wants to check it out. You know how men are,” Sylvie whispered even though no one could hear us.

  Straining my brain, I tried to remember whether Jett had mentioned owning a yacht there. I didn’t think so but that didn’t mean he might not.

  He owned one bac
k in Italy.

  “Or maybe they’re just hanging out.”

  “This late when they could go to a bar?” Sylvie whispered.

  “You’re right,” I muttered.

  “Are you getting out?” the driver asked.

  I peered at the car ahead.

  “Not yet,” I said. “Just wait.”

  The driver huffed and began to busy himself with his cell phone, which was fine by me.

  We sat in silence for at least ten minutes, then another ten. When nothing happened, I breathed out a sigh of annoyance. The sports car was bathed in darkness. Even if it weren’t for the safe distance, the tinted glass made seeing inside impossible.

  What the fuck were they doing in there? Were they even still in the car?

  Both my curiosity and suspicion were killing me. I had to know, not least because Jett had promised no more secrets.

  I exchanged a glance with Sylvie.

  “You know,” she whispered so the driver wouldn’t hear us, “this kind of reminds me of those movies where they meet with a drug lord, or they do an exchange of some sort. If you get the meaning.”

  “You’re being silly.”

  My blood froze in my veins. What if she was right?

  “We’re going to have a look,” I said to the driver after paying and making sure to tip him generously. “Can you pick us up in ten minutes?”

  “You sure that’s a good idea?” Sylvie asked when the driver took off.

  “Something isn’t right.” I peered at Kenny’s car again. “I want to talk to them and find out who they’re waiting for.”

  “Is this really a good idea?” Sylvie repeated, then yanked at my arm, pulling me down. “Look. They’re getting out.”

  I peered over her shoulder. Sure enough, Kenny and Jett had exited and rounded the car, and were now sitting on the hood, watching the coast.

  “I don’t like this,” I whispered. “Come on. I need to talk to Jett.”

  We had barely moved from the spot when a deafening bang echoed through the night, followed by two more. They sounded like gunshots, only much louder.

  Fire lit up the sky in the distance.

  My heart stopped, and a quiet scream escaped my throat.

  Flickering orange flames rose above the water, ascending into a spiral of smoke.

 
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