“No! don’t touch!” Andie smacked the hand reaching for a puff.
“Bitch!” Jose tucked it under his chin.
“Don’t touch. They are for the guests.” And she was in no mood to be polite about it. The last two days had been hectic as all get out. The Evermay open house was a rousing success. The first two nights broke all kinds of records according to Jane and Dee. All Andie knew was that people were eating a lot. Last night they’d run out of cupcakes and she’d had to pull out cake layers and ice them at the last minute. Tonight though was the big night and she was breaking out the croquembouche. A tower of crème puffs dipped in a sugar syrup so that they crackled in your mouth. She still had another four dozen to fill and the dipping to do then there was the spun sugar to be made. She was in the Zone and would tolerate no wandering fingers snatching her puffs. Andie had been able to get herself out of the first two nights by helping with the food prep and catering, but Mrs. Drake had insisted she join in the party tonight.
The swans were the last thing to put together and then she’d be done.
“Why don’t you go help Jane.”
“I’ve been helping. I need nourishment.” Jose pouted.
She and the cousins were doing some last-minute decorating adjustments. Each night was slightly different and it was a load of work. Carolyn was helping, even Delilah was pitching in.
It had been three days of gold and silver lights and glitter for the open house. Tonight was the last night.
“Oh damn are those crème puffs?”
Dammit. Layla was a freak for crème puffs.
“No.” A bold faced lie, but Layla could eat a crème puff a second. That was sixty creme puffs in a minute. The 240 crème puffs making the tower would be gone in four minutes.
“They sure look like crème puffs.”
“They will be, but I don’t have the crème in them yet.”
“Oh.” Layla deflated.
Jose opened his mouth. Andie shoved her elbow in his ribs and shot him a glare of death. She’d never been much good at glaring, but she’d been watching Min. She must have picked it up, because Jose clamped his mouth shut.
Layla didn’t look convinced but then “Oh my what is that divine smell?”
“Ah, it’s probably the zucchini bread. The Mrs. makes it with nutmeg as well as cinnamon.”
“Hmmm? Zucchini?” Jose drifted over to Bark, “Oh my that looks divine, is that cheese?”
“It’s the Mrs. recipe. I top it with cheddar and broil it a bit. Mr. Drake’s cousins enjoy it immensely.”
“Oh…” Jose’s eyes glazed over.
Layla was not so easily thwarted, but Barker left the tray on the counter and came back pushing a cart laden down with a variety of sandwiches and sweet breads. And silver carrafes. The aroma of fresh brewed coffee filled the room. He lifted the silver carafe, pouring the dark brew into a pretty cup, “Coffee, Miss Layla?”
Got her. Layla floated over, entranced. Taking the cup she sipped and fell into a stupor.
Barker plated a slice of zucchini bread for Jose.
“Careful now,” Barker warned, smiling. “It’s hot.”
Jose pinched off a bite and blew on it furiously His eyes promptly rolled back in his head. “Oh oh that is divine.” He went back for another, larger pinch, “Dee. Vine.”
That pulled Layla out of her stupor, she slipped a long arm around Jose and broke off a piece, blew and popped it in her mouth. “Holy Shit! That is amazing.”
Barker plated the rest and added it to the tea cart, “If you could be so kind as to let the ladies know I’ll be bringing out tea directly.”
“Bringing out the tea. The tea. Oh yes, yes, I’ll… just go… yes.” Jose danced out of the room, a sparkle in his eyes and twinkle on his toes. Layla followed at a much slower pace, sipping the entire way.
Andie turned to Barker, aka – miracle worker, “Thank-you.”
“Not at all.” Barker said, “Decorating for the open house is a great deal of work. By day three, things can get somewhat hectic. I find that a nice afternoon tea is just the thing to soothe short tempers that can arise due to fatigue and a lack of proper protein consumption.”
“You are the best.” Barker was literally priceless.
“You should take a break as well, Miss. I can set you up in the solarium. It’s quite peaceful.”
“Thank you, but I’d like to get these finished first.”
If she’d known how hectic the rest of the afternoon was going to be she’d have taken Barker up on tea in the solarium.
As it was, she’d barely finished placing the spun sugar bow on top of the tower when Jose dragged her bodily out of the kitchen shoved her in a car to race back to Olympus. He’d then tossed her in the shower with a tap to his watch and a “Ten minutes no more.”
When she’d protested that it was only 4:00 in the afternoon. Jose shook his head and said something about beauty and time and being unforgettable. Sensing the Coco rant coming she jumped in the shower. The name for the penthouse at Damien’s offices. It had gotten confusing what with her grandmother staying at the Fugue penthouse Jose had decided they needed names. The one at Damien’s office was christened Olympus because of the Greek key design feature. She was wrapping the towel around herself when the Demi strolled in, a white dress shirt unbuttoned at the throat tie loosened. The beginnings of a five o’clock shadow gracing his jaw. Hair that looked like he’d been raking his hands through it all day. Rumpled. He looked rumpled It looked good on him. “Oh, um hey.. um Jose´ is here.”
“Yes, I heard.” He reached out and she was against him his hands sliding around her waist, “You look good wet, kitten.” His lips nuzzled, that shadow a rough caress on her cheek, and oh…well.. that….was just ..sexy…
“I…um.. need to…oh..” Her voice died when Damien started nibbling his way down her throat. He was an expert nibbler.. “Um…”
“Yes?” She felt his talented mouth smile against her throat.
“I ….get..a..um…ready…” One hand moved lower, cupping one cheek of her ass, kneading.. stroking. Her thoughts scattered like dry leaves on the wind.
Jose’s voice shouting pulled her right back to reality, “No Greek God nookie. You’ll have plenty of time for ravishment later. Don’t make me come back there Missy.”
Damien pulled back, his perfect brows shooting up, “He wouldn’t…”
“Uh,” Her snort came out, “You have met Jose´ right?”
She was in her sweats on a bar stool in the kitchen. Jose´ darting around her with makeup brushes, sponges, hair combs, and a very intense plumb lipstick, she saw when she picked up the tube and twisted it up.
“Isn’t that a little dark.?”
“Excuse me, Miss Fashion Challenged.” Jose´ snatched the tube out of her hand, “Have I ever steered you wrong?”
“But it’s dark.” Other than sending her to a ball half-naked and she wasn’t sure that counted.
“It’s sheer.” He grabbed it back and placed it on the counter, “And no buts. This is your first appearance as a couple. You will be flawless. Majestic. Ethereal. A triumph.”
“I have said it.” He proclaimed, with an exultant wave of sheer plumb, “Now here,” He reached into his pocket and produced a nutrition bar, “Trust the expert and eat your protein. We don’t want you to pass out after half a glass of champagne.
Sufficiently cowed, she was obediently sipping her protein shake and eating her protein bar -and sheesh, how much protein did a girl need, anyway – when Sin in a suit came strolling into the room. Black pants and white shirt, only half buttoned a bow tie hanging loose on his neck hair still damp from the shower curling around his ears. Andie sighed, very glad to already be sitting down, so she wouldn’t collapse in a heap on the floor when her ninny knees turned to jelly.
Jose´ demonstrated his focus by only halting for the barest few seconds. “Very nice,” He gave an approving nod, “Fit is everything with a Tom Ford.
“Barker says the same.” Damien said, walking up to them all loose-limbed elegance, took Andie’s hand and placed a lingering kiss to her palm. The gesture was so surprisingly tender, her eyes misted. She could see Jose through them though, standing behind Damien and pitter-pattering his hand over his heart, mouth forming a silent extravagantly drawn out, “soooooo sweeeeeet.” Then, setting aside his beautifying power implements, “I’m just going to go check something. Somewhere else. As in- not here. Out of seeing and hearing range.” He sashayed away and down the hall, raising his hand over his head, he waved a peace sign back at them, “It should take about two minutes.”
Damien quirked a brow, “Subtle.”
“Oh yes, Jose´ is all about subtle.”
“I have to go, kitten.” Damien lowered her hand but still held it, his thumb brushing lightly over her palm still tingling from his kiss, “I need to be there early. Max and Simon will be providing your transportation. I’ll meet you at the car and escort you in.”
“All right,” It came out breathless. Ninny Ninny Ninny.
“I’m not sure what to expect as far as the press goes. Usually there are only two or three reporters in attendance, but Jane said she’d had in influx of last minute interest. Please be careful and do as Max says.”
He leaned down, till his lips hovered over hers, his free hand slipping under her hair at her nape.
“A kiss for luck,” His mouth took hers in a brief but devastating open lip kiss, “Hmm,” he nuzzled his nose over hers, “More, I think. I’m giving the press tour this year.” He sealed his lips over her mouth, his tongue stroked the inside, a tiny sound rose in her throat when he lifted his head. She was so easy.
“See you soon, kitten.” He winked. Then turned away, waving to Jose´ who had reappeared, “Thanks for all your help, Jose´.”
“Oh, anytime sugar-buh..uh….Damien.”
She and Jose watched him until he’d cleared their sight.
“Sweet Hottie McHot-Pants. That man is smolderin.” Jose´ did some vigorous hand-fanning, “Honey, call 911 I’ve got a fire down below.’”
“Oh, like you don’t turn into a helpless pile of girl-goo every time he walks into the room.” Andie shut her mouth because…
The beautifying went on and on and on some more. She was manied, pedied, buffed, coiffed, and curled. Jose was torturing her with the evil tweezers of death when Layla and Dee stepped off the elevator, carrying garment bags and a makeup case. Dee was heading for them, saying something about checking the fridge for chicken, but Layla took note of the tweezers grabbed Dee and jetted down the hall.
Once Jose got the tweezers out, it was every girl for herself.
Finally, she was ready to don the dress. Jose made her close her eyes. Why she didn’t know, until she’d opened her eyes.
Now she stood in front of the full-length mirror in the bedroom Layla had claimed staring at herself and her dress. Her stunning, magical, too-beautiful-for-mortal-eyes dress.
“Oh my God.” Andie fingered the whisping silk floating around her, “What…how…this isn’t my dress.
She’d chosen a perfectly lovely dress from Tommy’s rack. This was not it.
Layla who’d come out of the ensuite bath, holding her hair up, cursing through the bobby pins in her mouth and looking like the cover of Vogue, in skinny black satin pants, a short glittering jacket and black heels that could double as lethal weapons, dropped her hair and pulled the pins out of her mouth so she could mutter holy shits over and over.
Dee set down her chicken sandwich, “That is the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen, like not just dresses – anything. Sunsets, Monets, the Sistine Chapel, hell, Paris in the fucking spring. Damn. Just Damn. She looked down at her own short silver metallic rocker-girl dress with its leopard print, “I feel kinda dowdy.”
Andie couldn’t take her eyes off the mirror. “Where did you find this?”
“Tommy got it in two days ago. It’s an Ellie Saab. Never been worn.” Jose said, moving around her fluffing the skirt, “One of the most beautiful gowns she’s ever done, and THAT my dear is saying something. He called me immediately, of course.” He rose with a sniff, all kinds of smug. Andie gave it to him. Because holy cow. If you could take a midnight blue sky, sprinkle it with stardust, and have it magically float around you, then you would have this dress. It was simply breathtaking.
“It fits perfectly.”
“We already had your measurements.” Jose said, “All he had to do was nip in the waist a bit and raise the hem. Now be a good little hag and slip on your shoes, Cinderella.
Andie eyed the lovely deep blue beaded stilettos with the icepicks for heels. “Uh…”
“Don’t even think about it.” Jose’ placed them in front of her, then took her elbow and aided her step in them, “This is your first appearance with Damien as a couple and your debut into Washington society.”
“According to Layla, that’s nothing to celebrate.”
Layla took a break from pinning her hair to snort. “You got that right sister.”
“Celebrate, no.” Jose conceded, “But, begin as you mean to go on? Yes.”
Another snort and a, “Got that right, brother.” Then Layla released a string of expletives and threatened to shave her head.
Jose rolled his eyes and went to assist. Taking the pins and the brush from Layla, he smacked her hands down and began wrapping sections of hair around his fist and pinning them in place, while continuing his exhortation, “Keep in mind Andie, this is also the first time anything like this event has been done on this scale. You contacted the churches and the community centers. You arranged for the choirs to perform. You set up the silent auction to benefit the local boys and girls club. AND YOU got it all done in under eight days. To borrow a quote from one of my favorite men, “You are the change you’ve been waiting for.”
“I had help.”
“Never-the-less, it was your idea.” He slid a final pin in place and Layla’s hair sat in a sleek side- chignon, “You will wear shoes worthy of this moment.”
Uh-oh. Andie knew what was coming. So did Layla, who waved her hand in frantic neck slicing motions behind Jose’s back. Coco rants drove her bananas. Andie derailed with a preemptive summary, “Right. I’ll glide in worthy shoes, be unforgettable, acknowledge accomplishments and embrace my future.”
Jose´ Humpff’d her.
She tapped her watch.
“Fine,” He handed her a sleek beaded clutch, “But there’s always time for Coco.”
“Hold on to your whiskers kitten, here we go.” Damien took her hand and helped her from the limo and immediately she was blinded by flashing lights, a roar of noise hit her ears. At first it was indecipherable babble but as her ears adjusted she was able to decipher questions coming from behind the velvet rope line.
“Who are you wearing?”
“Is it true you’ve moved in together?”
“Are there plans to redecorate the Penthouse?”
“Is it true you snagged Damien Drake with cupcakes?”
On and on it went.
Thank goodness for the velvet rope line…and Holy Crap! A velvet rope line!
She kept her head ducked. Trusting Damien to lead her safely up the steps and through the fervor that had taken over EverMay.
Men in black and white. Ladies in gowns and glittering jewels. And boy were there a lot of sparkly people. They divested of their coats handing them over to a properly pressed Barker, who looked extra spiffy in a classic black and white tuxedo.
“Just how many tickets did they sell to this thing.?”
“A record number, I believe Miss.” Barker said, taking their coats and handing them off to a young man. Maybe an underbutler or a footman.
EverMay was decked out and lit up. An icy winter garden with twinkling lights and the sparkle of crystal, gold, and silver.
They were entering the living space when they were cut off by a woman who looked remarkably like Jane, but Andie had never once seen that woman look so… animated.
“Andie!” The woman had actually picked up her long elegant black gown and trotted over to them. Trotted.
“Ask me?” The look-a-like demanded.
“Uh ask you what?”
“How much money the chocolate raised…”
“Never mind. Six sculptures Just six. Over forty-thousand.”
“Forty-what?” No way she heard that right.
But Jane’s double wasn’t listening, “Oh my God! Oh MY GOD. Look at the crowd around the table offering your Chocolatier classes.” Then the Jane look-a-like fist pumped the air. “This is the shit!” And grabbing her gown once more she raced over to the shit.
“Uh….” Andie blinked at the girl’s black and silver train, “Who was that woman and did she just call my chocolate shit?”
“Kitten, I’m afraid life as you know it is over.”
“Uh Damien, that ship sailed the night I walked into a room full of naked and leather, got slipped the mickey of all mickey’s, got sexed up against a wall by a billionaire and woke up the next morning in said billionaire’s bed.”
“Ah, right. While I’m not a billionaire, a valid point none-the-less. But I must warn you, Jane gets excited about fund-raising and last I heard your chocolatier course was up to sixty-seven thousand…”
“You’re shitting me.” Andie stopped short, nearly colliding with a waiter, but between Damien’s quick reflexes and the waiter’s YouTube-worthy 360 spin while holding a tray full of fully loaded champagne glasses, disaster was averted. She was so impressed with the move she forgot to be embarrassed.
“Sorry,” She sent the young man an apologetic smile, “And that was amazing.”
“Not at all.” His answering smile was all white teeth and charm, “I’d have done flips to keep from ruining that dress. Ellie Saab, right?”
Andie felt her cheeks heat, “Yes.”
“Flawless.” He clutched his chest with his free hand, winked and darted away.
“Even the staff falls under your spell.” Damien gathered her back to his side and propelled them towards the open doors into the ballroom, “I can’t take you anywhere, kitten.”
Her eyes hit the ceiling, “He was gay. And excuse me, but a man who gets strange boobies shoved in his face on a daily basis has no room to talk.”
They’d made it into the great room. There was a group of young children in matching shirts and dark pants grouped around the fire place. Andie recognized Bennie’s curly hair and saw Candace directing and grouping the children. The singing was scheduled in forty-five intervals three songs for each choir. Four choirs all together. The jazz quartet would play in between so people could dance if the so chose. As they were doing now. The floor had been cleared for dancing. The swirl of color and flash as people danced by was distracting and a bit dizzying, so it took her a second to realize the arm holding hers had dropped. She looked behind her to see Damien’s broad back. He was leaning against the wall between two gently flickering evergreens, his head resting on his raised arm. As she came up behind him she saw his shoulders shaking.
“Damien?” She placed one hand tentatively on his shoulder at the exact moment there was an explosion.
She stumbled back, as Damien Drake flipped around fell back against the wall and proceeded to laugh out loud.
Like really loud.
Really. Very. Loud.
And just freaking sexy.
Not fair. She sounded like a whooping crane when she laughed. And here he was all helpless-laughter-sexy-gorgeous.
That rich as caramel laughter fell out of him and caught the attention of… well pretty much everybody.
The dancer’s stopped dancing. The chatters stopped chatting. The flirters stopped flirting. Even Candace had taken a break from lining up the children to gape and fan her face. Not that Andie blamed her.
And there were whispers. Andie heard a “Is that Drake?,” a “No, can’t be.”, a “Is he drunk?”, a “Don’t be stupid.”, and a “Holy Shit!”
Damien kept laughing.
Then, right behind her, a jovial, “You must be Andie.”
She spun around to see a handsome man looking to be in his early to mid fifties, graying hair at the temples, and warm eyes that held more than little shock, “I’m Gregory, Damien’s step-father for lack of a better word.”
“Ah, it’s um nice to meet you.” She placed her hand is his extended one he covered it with both hands in a gesture that was much warmer than just a handshake.
“So, are you responsible for this shocking display?”
Damien snorted and laughed harder.
Oh shitty shit.
Andie bit her lip and desperately searched her sluggish brain for a way around that question. No way was she saying the word ‘boobies’ to a man she just met.
“Bro, what the hell?” Nathan came up beside them, leaned close to his brother, and sniffed. Damien reached out to push him away, but missed and fell forward, his hands falling to his knees. Tears rolling from his eyes, and still howling.
Dee arrived, bopping Nathan on the back of the head, “Don’t be stupid, Nate. Damien barely drinks. Smoking pot is out.” She turned eyes full of fun on Andie, “So?”
“So… uh…do they need me in the kitchen?”
Distraction, oh please oh please oh please distract…..
“Hell, no! Girl, you aren’t taking that dress anywhere near the kitchen. Dee dashed her hopes Sooooo…” She made a gimme motion with her hands, “Dish.”
Oh shitty shitty shit.
She shot a look at Damien. He shook his head, trying to pull air into his lungs between howls. So there would be no help from the Demi-Jerk.
“My goodness,” The cultured voice came from behind her
She closed her eyes. Oh no no no no no….
“Son, do you need oxygen?”
Oh, double shitty shitty shit.
Sure enough Damien’s mother was there, Jane behind Evelyn’s wheelchair staring at Damien like he had two heads, “I didn’t know he could laugh.”
“Right?” Dee said.
“My dear,” Evelyn’s eyes sparkled, “Whatever did you say to him?”
“Uh…” Crap! She lost count of her shitty-shits. Damien was holding his ribs and making strange half-rasping howling noises. His face was purple. Maybe he did need oxygen. At least he wasn’t all sexy anymore.
Okay, well yes, he was.
“Is this where all the fun is hiding?” A large man with graying sandy blond hair and familiar eyes walked up to them.
“Blaine!” The woman at his side scolded. Sending an apologetic look to Evelyn.
Evelyn smiled, “It’s fine, Tessa. I know this isn’t Blaine’s cup of tea.”
“Mom, Dad, this is Andie.” Stan came up behind the couple and stuck his head between them. Hazel eyes just like his father’s winked at her, “So what did you say to get Mr. Stick Up his Butt to let loose like that?”
“Oh…uh….” Oh dear God, this was getting nuts.
Begin as you mean to go on. Well that was going well.
“Ah, come on now,” With a full-throttle, charm assault smile, Stan reached between his parents with one long arm, and gave the curl by her cheek a playful tug, “Fess up, sugar. You’re among friends.”
Stan had found the mute button. Damien’s laughter died, instantly. There was no dwindling down to a rumble, or a chuckle, or even a ‘whew’. Nothing. One moment he was laughing his ass off, the next he was still as death.
Damien rose up with the swelling calm of a sea before the breaking storm as he addressed the crowd around him, “Mother, it’s wonderful to see you. Dee, you should be aiding Candace in coordinating the entertainment. Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt good to see you. Nate, don’t be an idiot. Gregory, we’ll catch up later. Andie,” He pulled her into his arms and onto the dance floor, “You owe me a dance.”
And without taking his stormy gaze from hers, “Stan, touch my girl again and I’ll beak your arm.”
“Yeah yeah,” Stan was not the least impacted by the threat, “Still say you should’ve promoted that girl instead of firing her.”
“Hold on Kitten,” Storm eyes locked with hers, then she was being whirled across the floor. The other couples became nothing more than blurs of color that Damien deftly moved them through and around until they were in the opposite corner of the ballroom. The dizzying array of colors stopped. She was tugged closer, the storm in Damien’ eyes turned to warm smoke, “Much better.”
“Really?” His Kitten popped a brow at him, “Are you sure this is this far enough? Maybe we should go dance on the lawn” fingers danced against his neck in irritation.
Biting back his grin was a monumental effort. Had someone told him one of his biggest relationship challenges would be resisting the near constant urge to smile like an idiot, he’d have laughed his ass off. Granted that activity had also been increasing exponentially as well.
Who’d have thought?
He leaned down so his mouth rested at her temple and let the smile loose, “I think Gregory really likes you.”
Andie jerked back with a snort. He wiped the smile off his face. Close one.
“That was five of the most awkward minutes of my life.”
“Really?” The monumental effort to hold his bland expression grew to Herculean, but the look on her face was worth the exertion.
Wide Aqua eyes stared at him in feminine outrage. Her cheeks puffed out. She blew out a breath. She opened her mouth. Ah, here it came. His tongue lashing…
He bit his cheek. Hard.
Meanwhile Andie clamped her mouth shut and the entire process started over again.
Damn, kitten was pissed beyond speech. This was new, and so fucking adorably curious he was halfway tempted to pick her up and carry her off somewhere away from wandering male eyes. There was no way any man watching her now wasn’t going hard as granite. If Stan ever witnessed this, he’d have to kill him.
He wondered how many passes it would take before she found speech.
“Are you kidding?!”
“Your entire family was waiting for me to spill the boobies and you were laughing your ass off.”
“Well, in my defense, kitten,” Knowing he was booking his reservation in hell and not giving a fuck, he chuckled in a way guaranteed to get her back up and spoke words sure to rub her fur the wrong way, “The look on your face, you were so panicked…..” His words died with a condescending chuckle.
His reward was instant and absolutely worth sweating out eternity in a fire-pit.
“Oh..oh you..oh.. you..” She snarled between hisses. Narrowing her eyes to slits she shot blue sparks at him, puffed up, blew out her breath, choked out a few more “yous” and “ohs,” then, clamped her mouth shut and very deliberately looked over his shoulder.
Holy Shit! He was getting the silent treatment.
He couldn’t stand it. He pulled her resisting body closer and dipped his head to her ear, “You’re cute as hell when you’re mad.”
She jerked her head back, cheeks flushed eyes sparking with rage, “That is the most condescending, horseshit, bull-balarky, man-crap…. “
Oh fuck. He tried. He did, but damn. Bull-balarky man crap? He was only human. He leaned over her shoulder, so she couldn’t see his face, but there was no stopping the shaking.”
“You’re laughing? You ass!” Damn if she didn’t shove him right in the middle of his chest, slap his shoulder with her tiny hand and storm off in a cloud of midnight sparkling silk. Every eye on the dance floor wide and watching, he followed the tiny powerhouse of feminine ire like the love-struck sap he was, “Kitten, I’m sorry. I am,”
“You better be.”
“It’s not my fault.”
“Oh, yes it is.”
“Ask any man in here, he’d say the same.”
“Horse-hockey!” She threw over her shoulder, “You men say that cute shit to get out of trouble.”
“No, we don’t. Okay, we might. But in this case, it happens to be true.”
“Uh-huh.” She snagged a glass of champagne from a passing tray and faced him one hand on hip and swigging.
“I swear on my honor, tarnished as it is, it’s one of the first things I noticed about you. Well, after you sobered up. You got all bent out of shape over my double ovens.”
“Oh, please.” She snorted in her champagne.
“I’d never seen anything remotely like it. I wanted to strip you naked, lay you down out and gobble…” That got her full attention. She slapped a hand over his mouth.
He clasped her wrist and pressed smiling kisses all over her palm before lowering it. “Really. Scout’s honor.”
“You were a scout?”
“Uh no,” He admitted, “But I am in earnest about this.”
“Uh-huh. Who got fired?”
Big eyes rolled, “We’ve exhausted this one, believe me.”
“All right, kitten. The intern, I told you about her, she mixed up the interviews.”
“The former employee?”
“Oh my God,” She set the champagne aside, shock on her face giving way to horror and then dismay, “You fired somebody over that?”
“Yes. Let’s dance.” He guided her back into the throng. He wanted his arms around her. Actually, he wanted to take her out of here and get her under him, but Jane would have a fit if he left before giving that tour. Jane’s fits were rather terrifying
He’d fired someone because of her. Someone had lost their job. “But it turned out all right and the economy is so bad.”
“She’ll be fine.” The Demi dismissed the piddly mortal, “Her Daddy is rich as Midas.”
“She didn’t even get paid. She was an intern and a useless one at that. She couldn’t even answer the phones.” The Demi looked all kinds of outraged. It was kinda’ funny.
“Well, those phone systems can be complicated and she was just filling in.”
“And she kept wanting to bring me coffee.” The Demi went form outraged to horrified. Huh, that was new.
“What’s so wrong with that?”
“Nothing if she’d asked once, but she kept interrupting me. I swear she asked me a half a dozen times and she was only there two hours.” Now he looked downright uncomfortable.
Curiouser and Curiouser. “Three times an hour.” Andie hid her smile, “That’s not so bad.”
“It was the way she said it, smiling …” The Demi looked down right horrified.
Oh, this was funny. The Demi was frightened by a little flirting. “Smiling? Oh the horror.”
“She batted her lashes at me.”
“She should be flogged.”
“Kitten, she offered to sharpen my pencil.”
“Off with her head.” Andie proclaimed and did some laughing of her own. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall.
“Laugh it up.” The Demi shuddered. SHUDDERED. “It was damn disconcerting.”
Bennie’s choir had finished their third and final song when Dee caught Andie and dragged her through the arched doorway to the dining room.
“Damn, girl this fund raiser is breaking records. Do you know how much money we’ve raised?”
“Damn right a lot…Oooh Creme puffs. look amazing.” Dee darted over to a series of small tables set up with various sweets> the tower of puffs wrapped in spun sugar rising above the various other treats.
Andie was proud of that spun sugar. It was not as easy as Martha Stewart would have you believe.
“Oh god, they’re good.”
“What?”Dee gaped, “No? You did this?”
Andie smiled, “I am a pastry chef.”
“Yeah, but this is… I’ve never seen one of these in real actual life.” Dee popped another, moaned, crossed her eyes, and clutched the table.
From her near orgasmic raction, Andie guessed she’d snagged a chocolate puff. Women had a tendency to be indecent about cho…
“Oh, oh God, that’s chocolate.”
Yep. “Some are chocolate, some mocha, some are raspberry and vanilla. I even stuffed some with buttercream…”
“Holy shit!” Dee whipped out her phone, “I gotta text the Sisses.”
“Aren’t they here already…”
“Well yeah, they’re out there somewhere, but I’m not leaving the puffs. Somebody might get crazy ideas.”
“Oh.” With Layla around it was probably best…. or not. Andie doubted the puffs would survive and Dee/Layla throw-down.
“Just ‘tween us girls,” Dee said, fingers still flying over her phone, “You might not want to mention the buttercream to Min. Not if you want the tower to remain standing. She’s having impulse control issues. Says it’s the hormones. I call bullshit.”
“I kept the buttercream ones separate since they’re coated in chocolate instead of sugar. They’re in the kitchen.”
Dee stopped texting. “My God, you’re an angel. Like an honest to God, halo-hiding, feathers-flying angel from up in heaven and shit.”
Andie wasn’t sure how to respond to that level of adoration, but then Dee’s eyes landed on something beyond her shoulder and narrowed to slits, “Well, damn, there’s Queen Bitch. She went out with Damien a few times last year and thinks she owns him. Delusional and evil. Dammit, here she comes. If she’s planning on grabbing a cream puff she’d better re-think. Just how in the hell has Layla not killed that treacherous waste of space?”
Andie knew who was coming.
Felicity joined them in a wash of expensive fragrance and elegant perfection. Her emerald green eyes set off by sparkling dress of iridescent black. She was beautiful, gracious, perfectly poised, and perfectly poisonous.
“Andie, isn’t it? I had to come say hello to the girl who has snagged Damien Drake’s attention for a full five minutes. We are all wondering how you managed it.”
Zing. There it was, with nothing but slight word emphasis an innocent comment became an insult. Although, as insults went it was pretty mild. Andie felt her eyes roll around. Feces really was a textbook bitch.
“It’s not complicated.” Dee answered, “She’s smart. She’s kind. She’s beautiful. That’s three whole redeeming qualities right there. Course I can see how that would puzzle you.”
The cool smile on Felicity’s face didn’t so much as twitch, “Dee, charming as always. How’s poor Min doing?” There was a delicate meaningful pause, “Such an unfortunate situation.”
Oh shit. andie had no idea what that meant but Dee sure as shit did. She went ram-rod stiff, crowded into Felicity’s space and hissed, “You want to shut your mouth, now.”
“Do I?” Felicity asked all wide-eyed innocence, but Andie saw the satisfaction behind all that poisonous poise. She was baiting Dee and Dee was stepping right into the trap.
Well, fuck that. Andie was sick to death of petty women and their petty shit.
Begin as you mean to go on.
All right then.
Inserting herself between the two she forced Feces to take a step back, “You know, I’ve heard that the little black dress can transform even most dreadful personalities into likable people.” She scanned the woman from her toxic blond head to her pointy and probably cloven toes, before adding, “But I never did put much stock in rumors.”
It took Feces a minute. She blinked. Her mouth dropped open. It clamped shut. There was some stuttering, a couple gasps, but no actual words.
That’s right. If you can’t say something nice, keep your Big. Fat. Fake. Silicone-infused mouth shut.
There was nothing silent about Dee. She erupted, full out cackling, no girlie-girl giggles for her. Fortunately, as the majority of people were in the ballroom, nobody seemed to notice. That is until Dee fell against a side table that happened to have a vase of white roses on it – a crystal vase, and that crystal vase toppled, rolled, and plummeted to the marble floor shattering on impact. They still might have gone unnoticed if Feces hadn’t shrieked and jumped back into the table with the crème puffs. The crème puffs Andie had meticulously stacked on that lovely silver tray. The table toppled, creme puffs flew, spun sugar spun, and the silver tray stuttered in a resounding chorus of Rat-tat-a-tats and Bing-bing-bongs. It sounded like the entire room was imploding against the marble floor and with Feces’ shrieking and wailing about water spots on silk and Dee’s full-out, painful sounding howls…well, that was hard to miss.
Every eye in the place was on them. Hell, even the choir stopped singing. One and all were staring into the dining room wide-eyed and fascinated as, with a bong-bong…bang-bong…bing and one last tiny ping, the tray settled silent. Leaving Dee’s cackles and Feces shrieking ringing into the rafters.
Evelyn was the first on the scene, Nate piloting her wheelchair, “Oh my dear, all your lovely crème puffs. What happened?”
Feces turned and huffed off. Dee kept laughing. So naturally, Evelyn looked to her.
Oh shit. “Uh…” Really, she should just swear off formal functions altogether.
Jane hurried over, taking in the mess, but her eyes got stuck on a still howling Dee, now bent over the table where the flowers had been standing, “What on earth?”
Nope, no more fancy-dress balls for her.
Layla was next, taking in the puffs on the floor, “The whole tray?” She asked, looking like she was going to break down and ball, “Please tell me there are more in the kitchen…”
“Uh, no I don’t think so.” Andie broke the news gently.
“Damn. Ten second rule.” Layla got down on the floor and started grabbing puffs and tossing them back on the tray, barely glancing up at Nate’s snicker, “Hey, don’t judge. Andie’s crème puffs are the best things you’ve ever put in your mouth.” Andie wondered if it was worth your stomache cut to ribbons by crystal shards, but as the vase went one direction and the puffs went the opposite Layla was relatively safe, still, “Layla there might be some glass…”
Layla didn’t bother looking up, ““Eh, I’ll blow on em.”
Nate snagged a retrieved puff from the tray, took a bite, groaned, and went for another. Layla wasn’t having any poaching. Long arms reaching around Andie, she picked up a huge hunk of broken crystal, “Back off buster or get shivved.”
Andie’s father and mother arrived, wearing identical sad faces, “The whole tray?”
Damien strolled over and even he looked disappointed. Then shooting her a raised brow, “What the hell is wrong with Dee?”
“Uh…” Yep, swearing off. She wondered if Evermay came with a family bible.
Dee just kept howling and pointing, taking shuddering breaths and trying to form words but ended up stuttering out, “Sh..sh ..she…sh she…shah-sheeeee…..” It ended on a squeal but there was no doubt she’d had stuttered out a “she”, and with the pointing in her direction Andie felt every pair of eyes swing to her.
Hopefully one pair of those eyes belonged to a judge. She’d need a judge. Somebody has to tell you to raise your right hand.
“Kitten,” One corner of Damien’ mouth twitched, “What did you do?”
“Uh….” Forget the Bible and the judge. She’d make do with a Grisham paperback and a clerk or one of those people at the bank who certified… stuff. What were they called, a Notary? Yeah that was it. She needed a Notary. Or a lawyer. Where the hell was the Jack the Jack-ass?
Finally, Dee took a huge breath, and sputtered out, “She’s a fucking rock-star!” Then went right back into laughing.
Andie could barely make out Jane’s, “Dee, there are children here.”
“Just what in the blazin blue balls?” Jose marched over, a whirl of authoritative energy in a royal blue silk shirt and black Armani tux. “Oh,” He assessed the damage, “Let me get something to clean that up…”
Barker was right behind him, with a broom and one of those box dustpans, “I’ve got it, sir.”
“Oh, geez,” Dee’s cackles finally slowed to a couple of giggles, “Andie, you are my hero.” She came up off the table, “Did you see her face?”
“So you did say something.” Damien gave her the quirked brow.
“Uh…” Andie looked around for a hole she could fall through, and wouldn’t you know it? Solid floor all around.
Thank goodness Dee caught her reflection in the mirror over the fireplace and screamed, “Make-up!” Cutting into her explanation. Good thing, because all she had was nothing.
“Coming, coming…honestly,” Jose came running over and grabbed Dee’s hand, tugging her down the hall and into a bathroom, “What did you do before I came along?”