Relax—everything went exactly as you planned, didn’t it?” Alicia’s best friend, Selene, spoke around pouted lips as she painted her mouth a violent shade of red in the gallery’s powder room.
“Yeah.” Alicia stared into the mirror. There should have been a big grin on her face. Hell, she should feel happy, confident. Smug, even. She’d gotten what she wanted: a night with Travis to settle all the old regrets from years ago. And she’d enjoyed it, enjoyed him, and gotten the tickets to the exhibit. She’d triumphed and even rubbed it in a little—he’d missed his flight and was stuck with the hotel bill. It should feel good, finally getting back at him for embarrassing her in college. She should be laughing. Instead, she felt like she’d swallowed something hard and cold.
“Well, buck up, chickie. We’re here, rubbing shoulders and making contacts. Travis never knew what hit him, and he’s probably still trying to decide if he’ll ever recover.” Selene glanced over at her and grinned.
“Right.” Alicia flicked her hair over her shoulder and bared her teeth at the mirror. The problem was she wasn’t sure she’d recover. The sex had been incredible. She licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry as she thought yet again about Travis’s hard body and the way he’d taken control in bed. That hadn’t been part of the plan, but it had been her favorite part of the night.
She shivered. It was a damn good thing she’d woken first, taken the Wyeth tickets and run. Otherwise she might have stayed, and that was not something she was about to consider. Travis was in sales, for God’s sake. She’d already gotten rid of one cutthroat asshole. She didn’t need to get involved with another.
What she’d found attractive in Travis at State was the same thing that had drawn her to her ex-husband Richard: an aggressive competitiveness that at first seemed so sexy. It had been a disaster in a marriage. Sleeping and screwing with Travis’s plans was a sort of payback to all the guy players out there, every one of them just like her sleazy ex. She’d gone for it, and she’d won.
“C’mon. You look awesome, and I—” Selene blew a kiss at the mirror, “—am ravishing, of course. Let’s go.” She led the way out of the powder room and Alicia followed. The hallway quickly branched into the first gallery room, where people mingled and took in the beauty of a varied collection Andrew Wyeth’s best, and last, works.
Alicia wandered toward the watercolor collection along the back wall. Despite weeks of coveting the contacts the exhibit, and events like it, might bring her private charter business, the idea of making polite conversation left her repressing a sigh. Selene walked with her for a moment but then peeled off to chat with a small group of men hovering near an appetizer station. She had a wicked look in her eye. Alicia shook her head and grinned as she silently wished the single men in the group luck.
Against the brick red of the backdrop wall, the first watercolor landscape’s pale colors caught Alicia’s attention but didn’t hold her interest for long. She walked on to study the next and then the next until she found the first portrait on display. Wyeth, the “Painter of the People,” had always been one of her favorite artists and the reason the exhibit had snagged her interest. Planning a way to turn her love of art into a way to bolster her business was a bonus. She would have come to the exhibit anyway if the place hadn’t been sold out. How had Travis managed to get her a set of tickets? She shook her head. Why are you thinking of him again?
Alicia studied the clean lines of the painting before her. The face of the woman stared back at her. Barely smiling, she still had a lush sensuality that seemed to express contentment, satisfaction, and perhaps sexual completion. “Like I haven’t thought about sex enough,” she muttered to herself.
“And here I’d begun to believe you didn’t think about it enough.”
Alicia froze at the deep tones of the voice coming from behind her. Oh, no. It couldn’t be. She glanced over her shoulder and then back at the painting, grimacing at the realization that Travis had followed her to the exhibit. Of course he’d known she’d be here—he’d given her the damn tickets.
“Travis. Come to see the exhibit for yourself?”
“Not exactly.” He laid a hand on her shoulder, gently, possessively.
Her heart pounded in at his touch.
“I came to see you. The way I see it is, you still owe me a flight. You skipped out on me last night and now here I am, stuck in
and no trip to Boston
on the roster.”
She glanced up at him, checked to see if there was any anger in his eyes. His voice sounded like deep velvet plush, and beyond being wickedly sexy, it held the slightest hint of danger. Her nipples peaked inside her silk dress. “Hardly my fault you slept through the flight.”
“No? I think it might be. Keeping you under control wore me out.” He glanced at the painting. “And it gave you the same look she has, right there.”