Trashed / Page 18

Page 18


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At long last, the bathroom door opens and I catch a glimpse of red, and then my heart stops beating, my lungs seize, and my dick goes rock hard.

“Jesus, Des.” I stand up, move closer. “You’re…there just aren’t words for how incredible you look.”

She smiles brightly, shrugging one shoulder. “It’s just a dress I’ve had for awhile. Never even worn it.”

It’s not an elaborate or expensive dress, but it’s molded to her goddess body like it was made especially for her. It’s strapless, the cups pushing her incredible tits into mouth-watering prominence, and the hem hangs to brush the tops of her toes on one side while not quite hitting her knee on the other. It’s unbearably sexy without being slutty.

Her hair…god, her hair. She’s brushed it to shining perfection, leaving it loose to scintillate in waves around her shoulders and down her back, and she’s put on just enough makeup to accentuate how lovely she is, highlighting the bright brown molten brilliance of her eyes and the tanned clarity of her skin.

I wrap my hand around the small of her back and pull her closer to me. “Des…I’m speechless.”

She’s wearing a pair of simple black heels, so the difference in our height is almost eliminated. “Really?” She sounds skeptical.

I shake my head. She really doesn’t understand what she does to me. “You’re so gorgeous it’s sinful. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the evening without attacking you.” I tug her body flush against mine. “You’re so fucking sexy it actually hurts to breathe looking at you. Now come on, the carriage is waiting.”

I don’t think she’s ever been complimented this way, judging by her unsure reaction. Eventually she shrugs and then looks me over again. “You look pretty damn sexy yourself,” she says.

I just smile at her and offer her my hand. She takes it, and we go to the entrance, brace ourselves, and run for the carriage.

* * *

I bought this dress on a whim, a year ago. At full price it’d have been so far out of my reach I wouldn’t have even bothered trying it on, but it was on clearance, so I gave it a try. I’m not an insecure girl most days, and I’m also not vain. But when I put on that dress, I knew it looked good on me. Damn good. So I bought it, even though I never went anywhere that such a dress would be appropriate. And more baffling still, I stuffed it and a pair of heels into my bags when I packed for the summer on Mackinac. Why, I wasn’t sure, even then. I collected trash and drank with the other co-ops and locals. Why the hell would I have brought an evening gown and heels? But, for reasons unknown, I did, and now I’m glad I did.

I’m also glad my hair is long enough to cover the upper edge of the tattoos on my back that peek up over the dress, because I’m pretty sure an event like this isn’t the kind of place to go around showing ink. I wonder if Adam saw the ink? I wonder what he would think if he saw it all, if he likes tattoos or if he’s against them.

And then I wonder why I care.

The ride from my dorm to the hotel is quick, which doesn’t leave me a lot of time to mentally prepare. We’re pulling up under the covered portico, and there are two lines of uniformed hotel employees forming an umbrella tunnel from the carriage up to the famous covered porch.

My heart is suddenly hammering. Above, where I know the porch to be, cameras flash like nonstop lightning. The carriage door opens, and the wind buffets against me, carrying the sound of a thousand voices all raised at once. A white-gloved hand appears in front of my face, and I take it, stepping out onto the red carpet leading up the stairs to the porch and then into the hotel parlor. The line of umbrellas protects me from the rain, and I take a step away from the carriage to make room for Adam. He descends, tugs his tux jacket straight, and then his eyes fix on me.

He offers me a smile, and I see nerves in his eyes. If he’s nervous, I should be terrified.

And I am.

“Ready?” he asks, extending his elbow to me.

I wrap my fingers around his arm. “No?”

He laughs. “Yeah, me neither. I hate these things.” He glances past me, up the stairs to where the flashes pop endlessly, and then back down to me. “Listen. This might be…crazy. They’re not expecting you, so they’ll have a million questions. Don’t answer, okay? Just smile, give them a few poses, and don’t let them see your fear. They’re like sharks, you know, they can smell it.”

“They?”

He frowns. “The paparazzi? Photographers, journalists.”

My knees quiver. “Paparazzi?” I’d either forgotten or hadn’t realized there would be media at this thing. What the hell did I get myself into?

He rolls his shoulders, lets out a quick breath, and smiles at me. “You know what? Don’t worry about it. All you need to do is be you. You’ll be the most beautiful woman in the room, guaranteed. Just be confident, okay?”

Confident. I can do that. He asked me to go with him. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t want me here. He thinks I’m the most beautiful woman in the room.

I stiffen my spine, straighten my shoulders, lift my chin, and smile back at him. “Let’s go.”

His grin widens, and his eyes roam my face, and then down my body. He leans in, touches his lips to my ear. “That’s my girl.”

His girl? I should be so lucky.

He moves forward and I go with him, watching the steps. I’m not used to high heels, so the steps present a challenge, requiring focus. I hear cameras clicking and flashes popping, voices clamoring louder and louder, and then the stairs level off and I’m surrounded by a wall of humanity behind red velvet ropes, and all of them are shouting at me, at Adam.

“Adam! Adam! Where’s Emma Hayes?”

“Who’s your date, Adam?”

“Who is she?”

“What’s your name? Tell us your name!”

“How tall are you?”

“Over here, Adam!”

“Give us a smile, beautiful!”

My heart isn’t beating. It’s not even in my chest anymore, it’s somehow simultaneously in my stomach and my throat. I force my lips to form a smile. Adam’s hand descends to my opposite hip, resting on my waist, his thick arm a supportive bar at my back. He takes three steps through the barricaded crowd, then stops, guides me into a pivot so we’re facing one bank of the journalists.

His arm remains around me, and he is actually holding me upright for a few moments. There are so many of them. The flashes blind me, illuminate me.


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