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Smoothing her red dress, she waited for Preston, who got out on the other side. She’d worn the red dress because he liked the way she looked in it, and the heels because he loved how her legs looked when she walked in them— that was a no-brainer. Even the perfume she’d chosen had been one he’d bought for her because he said it turned him on. Yet after all this, he managed to look right through her. Hardly a word had been spoken between them since their argument the previous evening. Just more of the same thick-as-butter tension lingering between them.
Tea light lanterns, made of antique bronze, flanked the shallow stairs that led to the front entrance. Two young men held the doors open as they entered the massive marble foyer. The guests flowed in clusters, chatting among themselves in small groups as the combined scent of perfumes, colognes, and appetizers hovered over the open space like an overcast sky. Preston placed his hand on Iris’ back to guide her through the crowded room.
Iris reached for Preston’s hand and gripped it tightly in hers. She moved closer until her arm pressed against his. He didn’t object to her cozy interaction with him. Sighing inwardly with contentment, Iris studied the opulence around her. The event was originally supposed to be an engagement party for Richard and Prudence, but Prudence’s stepmother, Ann, thought it was a good idea that, in lieu of gifts for the couple, guests make a donation to the charity where Ann chaired the board. The idea went over so well and made her look so good among her peers that, soon enough, the engagement celebration had become a fundraiser.
Iris couldn’t deny the value of the fundraiser, but she knew the intentions of the woman behind it were not as pure. Ann, even in her most generous and thoughtful mindset, would never allow the spotlight to shine on Prudence. Her resentment was mostly due to the fact that Prudence planned to marry her late daughter’s husband.
Valerie. Now that was a sad story Iris didn’t want to think about, not on a night such as this, but it was inevitable that Valerie would be on all their minds, now that Richard was marrying her half-sister. But Valerie’s death was no reason for Ann to try to diminish Prudence’s night.
Finally finding Richard, Preston tapped his brother on his shoulder. Richard swung around and, in one sweeping motion, scooped Preston into a hug that lifted him off of his feet.
“Where have you been hiding?”
Preston tilted his head toward Iris, “With her.”
“Iris, you look absolutely beautiful.”
“Thank you, Richard,” she said, cutting her eyes at Preston for not noticing.
Richard patted Preston’s shoulder, “There’s John. Let’s go sit down.”
“We have two things to celebrate tonight,” John Clark began, holding his champagne flute up to toast the evening.
“Thirty-five years ago, Ann and I worked our fingers to the bone as we started the beginnings of JC Enterprises in my parents’ basement. Our motivation was the most precious gift in our lives, our baby girl, Valerie. She grew into a beautiful woman, a caring wife, and a loving mother. May she rest in peace,” John praised, then paused, clearly emotional.
“Which brings me to the second reason for our celebration tonight,” he continued. “That’s the engagement of my other daughter, Prudence, to Richard. She’s not only my beautiful daughter, but she’s also my brilliant Chief Operating Officer.
“I suppose no father believes there is any man in the world who is worthy of his daughter. But I can say that I can’t think of anyone I would rather welcome, once again, as my son-in-law than Richard Mayweather. I was pleased to call Richard my son-in-law when he married Valerie, and I’m just as honored to do so now. To Richard and Pru.” John raised his glass in the air.
The guests did the same. “Richard and Pru,” they echoed simultaneously.
Iris watched as Peter finished his sixth glass of wine, on top of the shots of Scotch he had earlier. Preston had his fair share of drinks as well, but he was in far better shape than Peter, who was becoming quite inebriated. What did she care? Peter wasn’t her problem anymore. Peter and Preston were, however, exchanging nasty looks with each other. Iris was seated between them. Whoever made the seating arrangements must not have known the history between the two brothers. They should’ve been at opposite ends of the table.
Iris wiped her mouth with a napkin and dropped it on her plate. Preston winked at her, fully knowing that Peter was watching. His hand moved towards her. Surprised, she sat silently as he rubbed his hand along the length of her thigh, feeling its softness, squeezing near her knee, pulling slightly to separate her legs. He eased his hand slowly up her inner thigh, circling his finger over the meatiest part until she gently grabbed his hand and tugged at his suit jacket to pull him closer.
“Let’s go. You’ve had too much to drink,” she whispered in his ear, somewhat shocked he had made a move on her. Not here, not now, especially in front of Peter.
Preston pushed away from the table and stood. Still holding Iris’ hand, he assisted her out of her chair. Richard observed his brother from across the table, but was engaged in conversation and didn’t have the freedom to inquire where they were going. Iris heard Prudence ask if they were leaving, but she didn’t answer. Peter’s attention had shifted to the woman sitting next to him. He didn’t notice they’d gotten up. Iris followed Preston out of the massive room and into the hallway while she called for their driver to pick them up.
“Where are we going? The door is that way,” she pointed behind them.
Preston placed his hand against the back of her neck, fingering her brooch necklace as he guided her away from the main entrance. The necklace was like a choker around her neck, very prominent. When he opened the door to the study at the end of the hallway, the necklace drew his attention down to her cleavage, which rose in unsteady breaths. His touch was inviting and ever since their fight last night, Iris craved it, but she wasn’t certain of the motivation behind their sudden rekindling. It bewildered her as much as it exhilarated her.
Closing the door, Preston felt for the lock, but there wasn’t one. Iris didn’t think it mattered. What were the chances of anyone walking in on them? Nearly zero. People were drinking, eating, dancing. Allowing herself to be escorted to the back of the room, his hands pressed into the wall behind her, and he leaned all of his weight into them, causing his cheek to brush against hers as he whispered, “You look sexy in that dress.” He took her clutch from her hand and tossed it onto the bookcase beside them.
Iris held her breath, not realizing she was doing so until she managed to inhale, more like a gasp, when he pulled her body into his. His hands roamed from her neck, down her shoulders, around the small of her back, and rested on her behind, squeezing, pulling her body closer to his. His erection pressed against her – full, hard, throbbing. His cologne, woody and masculine.
Her body was normally toned and strong, but in this moment it went loose and weak, succumbing to Preston. Her knees threatened to buckle. She feared they would. Even though she knew nothing had changed — him being angry at her — she allowed herself to give in a little, then a little more. She could have easily pushed him away, especially since he was somewhere between tipsy and drunk. But she didn’t. She liked the way he toyed with kissing her, lingering near her lips but not actually touching them.
He grabbed her hands and raised her arms above her head, gently pinning them against the taupe wall with the weight of his lean. He kissed her neck, taking a moment to linger there, clearly enjoying her floral fragrance, and worked his way down to her heaving cleavage. She tried not to enjoy it and fought against her feelings as much as her body would allow, but she relished every minute of it. From his warm breath to his soft lips to his mildly chapped hands caressing her — it was all an erotic and sensational thrill. And she completely submitted.
(c) 2013 Michele Kimbrough