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Beautiful distraction, p.5
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.5

           J. C. Reed
 

  It sure helps that he’s handsome and not exactly the epitome of hospitality because she likes a challenge.

  He probably won’t be much of a challenge for her.

  And then my gaze settles on the only picture frame in the room.

  It sits on top of the fireplace, mirroring the slow dance of the flames.

  I can’t help that I’m drawn to it like a magnet. With a peek behind me to make sure he’s not watching us from the doorway, I head over and lift it up.

  My body freezes and my eyes narrow.

  Seriously, what did I expect?

  CHAPTER FOUR

  I inspect the radiant smiles of a loved-up couple: he’s all dark hair and brooding eyes, arms wrapped around a blonde with sun-kissed skin and blue eyes that seem to come alive through the picture.

  I don’t know why, but disappointment courses through me. Jealousy rears its ugly head. The blonde is without a doubt beautiful. Her skin is glowing, her eyes shimmering. She looks young, carefree, happy. They both do.

  I turn around to Mandy and hold up the frame, trying to keep my voice steady. “He’s off-limits,” I say. “He has a girlfriend. Maybe even a fiancée or a wife.”

  “So what?” Mandy retorts. “You don’t know everything about men and relationships, Ava. Nothing’s ever off-limits. Besides, we’re not planning on marrying him, right? And last I checked, I saw no ring on his finger,” she whispers and turns around, signaling that the conversation’s over.

  I shake my head. I know exactly what she’s planning on doing: adding another notch to her bedpost or forcing me to add one to mine. She’s had so many, it’s both impressive and time-consuming. Or tiresome. Whichever way one might want to see it. I’m not a wallflower either, but my conquests pale in comparison to hers.

  “See, cheating’s where I draw the line.”

  “What?” Mandy says again after catching my glare. “You can’t change a cheater, just like a leopard can’t change its spots. That’s nature.” Her tone sounds resolute, as if she’s made up her mind already.

  For some reason, I’m not comfortable with Mandy chasing him, but I keep my reservations to myself. That’s another beauty of our friendship: we allow the other to make mistakes, which we call life lessons.

  It’s all pretty deep and spiritual.

  It’s a thing between us no one else understands.

  But the more I think about her kissing him, or anyone’s lips on him for that matter, the more the thought makes me sick. Why’s that? I don’t own him. And I sure as hell shouldn’t feel disappointment at the prospect that he might be seeing someone.

  But I do.

  “It’s still cheating.” I put the picture frame back on the mantelpiece and join Mandy, right before Mr. Hot Guy returns with three cups of steaming liquid that smells of black tea, cane sugar, and—

  “I didn’t know what you wanted, so I added a bit of rum to it,” Mr. Hot Guy says, pushing a hot mug of tea into my hands. My gaze sweeps over his fingers. No ring. No shadow. Not even the presence of a faint tan line. For some reason, relief floods through me.

  As I grab the mug out of his hand, I cringe at the surge of pain shooting through my fingers, but I don’t complain, in case he changes his mind and decides to throw our unwelcome asses out after all.

  “Thanks,” I mumble and follow his invitation to take a seat on the large leather sofa overlooking the fireplace.

  I sink into the luxurious cushions and let my gaze slide over everything and anything but Mr. Hot Guy, who’s taken his seat opposite from me and seems to regard me with a frown lodged between his brows.

  “You look familiar,” he says after taking a gulp of his beverage.

  My breath hitches, and I almost choke on my drink. With a nervous glance at Mandy, I turn my eyes back to him. “Excuse me?”

  “I’m sure I’ve seen you before.” His gaze locks with mine in a strange battle. “I just can’t remember where. Care to refresh my memory?”

  What the hell!

  Is he suffering from short-term memory loss? Because I’m pretty sure he recognized me on the porch, so why the question? Taking a deep breath, I catch the glint in his eyes.

  He must be playing with me.

  The sudden knowledge angers me. Mr. Hot Guy is off-limits, and Mandy isn’t exactly the kind of person you can tell everything without her wanting to meddle in one’s private affairs. And then there’s his girlfriend. I’ve no idea what he’s trying to achieve, but I don’t do cheaters. Ever.

  Two can play this game.

  Planting a fake smile on my lips, I stare him down. “I’m sure we haven’t. You must be confusing me with someone else.”

  “No.” He shakes his head. “I have a feeling we’ve met before. Ford, right?”

  “The car?” I shrug. “It’s a popular brand.”

  “I’m sure it is.” His eyes lock with mine, forcing me to keep his heated gaze until I feel myself melting under his scrutiny. “But my feeling’s never wrong.”

  “It is this time.”

  “You sure?” he asks.

  “You’re mistaking me for someone else.”

  “Ava’s driving a white Ford,” Mandy butts in, not really helping. “Where do you think you met her?”

  I lift a hand to stop him before he gets a chance to reply. “It’s none of your business, so butt out.”

  “Whatever.” Mandy shrugs.

  “Maybe I am confusing you with someone else,” Mr. Hot Guy says.

  “You are.” I groan inwardly. Not because he’s trying to expose me so openly in front of my best friend, but because I’m forced to look at him…and don’t like what I see.

  In the indirect light of the fireplace and several table lamps, he looks magnificent…and oh so intimidating.

  He’s beautiful, no doubt about that. His features are something you usually see on movie posters, and his clothes barely hide the Adonis body underneath them. But what makes him dangerous material to any woman’s heart—and panties—are his magnetic eyes.

  The kind that whisper sweet promises of nights filled with endless lust and clutching at the sheets in ecstasy.

  The kind that draw you in with no guarantees of a tomorrow. Or even post-sex breakfast in bed. Come morning, he’ll be gone, carrying your damp panties in one hand and your heart in the other. His eyes narrow on me, taking me all in, from head to toe.

  “Hmm.” He leans forward, and his knee almost brushes mine. The gesture is so intimate, I can almost feel his touch on my skin.

  Why won’t he just drop it?

  Maybe he really has no idea where we’ve met.

  Irritated, I turn away, sipping on my cup of tea and burning my tongue in the process because I don’t know what else to do with myself.

  “I don’t think we have met,” Mandy says. “I never forget a face, and most certainly not someone like you. I’m Mandy, and this is Ava. We’re from New York, by the way.” She points her hand at me and leans forward, her ample bust on full display.

  “Kellan Boyd,” Mr. Hot Guy says, ignoring her attempt at flirting.

  Kellan?

  I fight the sudden urge to say his name out loud, just to hear what it sounds like on my tongue.

  I lean back and deliberately turn away from him as I watch Mandy’s reaction.

  Her whole posture’s changed. She looks kind of agitated. Is that shock etched in her features?

  But why?

  “Did you just say Boyd?” she asks slowly. “Like the Boyd brothers?”

  Licking her lips, she crosses one leg over the other and brushes a strand of blond hair out of her face. The gesture is so innocent and yet provocative I almost cringe. She peers at me meaningfully, like I’m supposed to understand something major. I shrug my shoulders at her.

  Does she know him?

  Am I supposed to know who he is? Because I sure as hell have no clue.

  Do you know who I am?

  I remember his question. I didn’t know the answer then, and I sure as fuc
k don’t know it now, so I shoot Mandy a questioning look.

  “The Boyd brothers own a string of nightclubs,” Mandy explains to me in an excited whisper.

  “That would be my brother, Cash. I’m just an investor,” Kellan says coolly and raises his eyebrows. “What’s someone from NYC doing around here?”

  He’s an investor.

  I barely have time to digest the news before Mandy opens her mouth. “We’re going to—”

  “A road trip.” I shoot her a venomous look that instantly shuts her up. As much as I love Mandy, I will not give off the impression that I’m in Montana to visit a stupid gig. And most certainly not that I’m a fan, and most certainly not a groupie, no matter how many chicks out there think Mile High’s great.

  Mandy replies with a shrug, as though it’s something we do all the time, “Montana’s always been at the top of my places to see before I die.”

  Which is a blatant lie, but out of her mouth, it comes so smoothly even I almost believe her.

  “Really?” Mr. Hot Guy—Kellan—doesn’t sound too convinced. “Judging from your shoes, I would have thought Club 69 was more your ambience.”

  His statement sounds more accusatory than nonchalant. If I were Mandy, I’d feel insulted by the fact that he thinks he can judge me by the shoes I’m wearing. She might be more the urban type, and Club 69 is her ambience, but she has a huge heart for animals and the environment. She’s definitely not some airhead. It’s not something a nice guy would imply, but to my astonishment, Mandy just laughs and lets his comment slide.

  Wait a sec!

  What the fuck did he just say?

  It takes a second or two for the penny to drop. I spin my head so quickly, a surge of pain shoots through my neck. I narrow my eyes to regard him, ignoring the fact that he’s staring at me with the same irritating frown on his face.

  Club 69.

  Mandy said the Boyd brothers own a string of nightclubs. His name is Kellan Boyd and he’s an investor. I might be jumping to conclusions, but that sounds like he’s an investor in his brother’s club.

  Which would explain why he was driving away from the club on a Friday evening rather than arriving to party the night away.

  I bite my lip hard, unsure how to respond.

  Kellan keeps staring at me, one brow raised, as though he’s waiting for my confirmation that I know who he is. But it’s obvious from the knowing look in his magnetic eyes that he doesn’t need it. Maybe it’s a test to see whether I realize that he’s half-famous or something. His oversized ego probably demands that every woman on this planet know his name and pant it in her sleep. I may not know him, but the two encounters we’ve had so far have led me to draw my own conclusions of the kind of person he is.

  Bedroom perfection.

  Arrogant prick.

  Every woman has that one guy she’d like to fuck.

  Well, he’s mine. In my fantasies, that is.

  However, I can’t deal with someone like him. He’s too confident. Too sexy. Too experienced. And he’ll see right through the fact that I’m deeply, truly, madly attracted to him, even though he’s absolutely not the kind of man I’d ever go for.

  Ever.

  I don’t want him to know that I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

  “Do you like your drink?” he asks. His eyes are on me. It’s clear the question is directed at me.

  “It’s good,” I say.

  The sudden change in topic has made me wary. My tone doesn’t escape Mandy. Her gaze shifts from Kellan to me and then back to him, the big proverbial question mark etched on her forehead. It’ll only be a matter of time before she sees the connection, and when she realizes he’s the guy I told her about, she won’t be able to keep her mouth shut.

  “I’m a huge fan of Club 69, by the way,” Mandy says. “I visited the new opening three months ago.”

  “You did. Was she there, too?” Kellan asks with a glint of amusement in his eyes.

  “No!” I exclaim.

  “Yes,” Mandy says in that same moment, adding, “she drove me.”

  “Makes sense. That’s why I remember her.” Kellan’s smile turns into a grin. “She looks just like someone whose car bumped into mine.”

  I choke on my drink.

  He can’t be serious!

  “Really?” Mandy chimes in, giving me her you-didn’t-tell-me glare. Slowly, she leans forward in mock interest. “She didn’t mention—”

  That he’s so hot.

  I can almost see the thought written across her forehead.

  “She didn’t mention my new Lamborghini?” Kellan cuts her off. His tone carries the annoying hint of fake surprise.

  Mandy’s jaw drops. “You drive a Lamborghini?”

  “Mandy, you’re not helping,” I mutter.

  “I do.” Kellan nods, his eyes not leaving mine. “It cost me a few bucks to repair the chip she caused.”

  “A few hundred?” Mandy’s gaze is going back and forth between Kellan and me.

  “A few thousand,” Kellan says coolly. “But it’s okay. It was worth it because I got to meet her.”

  For a moment, I’m stunned and actually believe his words…until his gaze oh so innocently brushes my chest and settles there for way too long.

  I wish I could slap his stupid grin right off his face, but instead, I find myself strangely breathless.

  “Oh, my God,” Mandy suddenly exclaims. “That’s why you mentioned Club 69. You’re—” Her voice breaks off mid-sentence as her gaze sweeps from me to Kellan and then back to me.

  I shake my head, a warning look in my eyes.

  “No way.” She laughs. “This is him? The guy who hit your car? The one you said—”

  “Shut up.” I roll my eyes. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. The rain must have messed with your brain.”

  She laughs again. “Club 69. You were there. He’s the hot guy who propositioned you, and I’m quoting you there.” She points at Kellan like he isn’t sitting across from us, listening intently. “It’s him. I can see it written across your face.”

  Kellan’s eyebrows shoot up, and a glint of amusement appears in his eyes. “Hot guy, huh?”

  He throws back his head and laughs—a raucous, hearty laughter that makes his perfect chest vibrate.

  Suddenly, the generously spaced room is too small and I can’t breathe. My vision blurs.

  “Excuse me,” I say and jump to my feet, snubbing Mandy’s quizzical look as I grab her arm and yank hard. “I need to talk to you.”

  Somewhere, at the periphery of my perception, I hear Kellan mumble something about staying the night, but I can’t be sure because all I can think is that this trip was one big mistake I shouldn’t have made.

  CHAPTER FIVE

  “What are you doing?” I ask as soon as we’re outside. My voice is shaking. Not from anger, but from something indefinable. The temperature has dropped considerably, and the dark clouds are a lighter shade of gray, the wind softer.

  The storm’s calming down already.

  “No, what are you doing?” Mandy sounds annoyed as hell. “You didn’t fuck a Boyd?”

  “Obviously, not everyone’s life goal is to hook up with semi-famous guys,” I mutter. “Besides, is someone else occupying your brain? The guy has a girlfriend.”

  “Which you didn’t know when you first met him.” Mandy’s expression changes from anger to suspicion. “Why didn’t you tell me you knew him?”

  “I didn’t recognize him,” I lie.

  I don’t want to lie, but I need to. Mandy needs to drop the whole thing before I die from embarrassment.

  “Let me guess. You forgot to mention he drove a Lamborghini?” She throws up her hands in mock surrender. “Oh my god, Ava.”

  Why’s everyone obsessed with a stupid car? Particularly one that’s not even worth its price tag, if you ask me. I mean, most human beings couldn’t possibly afford the insurance rate, let alone the payment plan. And you can’t park the thing anywhere without
people gawking and at least a few thinking about stealing it.

  It’s insane.

  “Again, I had no idea,” I mutter.

  “Yeah, right. Even someone like you must recognize it,” Mandy says dryly. “There’s nothing forgettable about the car, or the guy driving it, for that matter.”

  She’s right.

  There isn’t.

  But I can’t admit that to her.

  “You could have fucked him,” she mumbles. “You know, get back in the game.”

  “Oh, my god. Will you just shut up about him?” I shoot her a venomous look and turn away.

  “Fine. Whatever. I was just trying to help.”

  “How so? By pointing out the one wrong decision I can’t change? Or that my love life sucks?”

  She scoffs but remains quiet.

  Of course, I regretted not taking him up on his offer three months ago. But what I regretted more was driving home and telling Mandy about it that night because the moment I did, she started calling all her friends to ask whether anyone might know him. Which they didn’t, obviously. Next came the Internet searches. The Friday nightclub stakeouts. And eventually, the reproach that I didn’t do what any woman with her panties in the right place would have done.

  “You know…” Mandy starts. Oh, I know where she’s heading, and I’m not having it. “You could always—”

  “Don’t say it,” I interrupt.

  She holds up her hands. “Fine.” And then she walks back inside, leaving me alone.

  The early evening air’s crisp and cools my head. After spending a few minutes on the porch, I decide that seeing Kellan again is of no importance because tomorrow I’ll be gone and his memory will be soon erased from my mind.

  When I return to the living room, Mandy’s nowhere to be seen. Kellan’s hard body is sprawled across the sofa, his long legs stretched out, his arm draped across the cushions.

  Fuck! I’m alone with him.

  My heart speeds up. The entire situation feels way too intimate. My tongue flicks over my dry lips as my gaze sweeps over the room in a desperate search for Mandy.

  Where the hell is she?

 
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