Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 110
By the time I got back home, the rest of the world was waking up. I glanced at the clock above my television. It was too early to phone Hanson. I needed to speak to him before our charity ball tonight. But it would have to wait.
I got into the shower, cleaned myself up, and dried my hair before I tried phoning him. When he answered, he sounded groggy.
“Did I wake you?” I asked.
“It’s fine,” he said.
“Did you find a suit?”
He groaned. “I have a contact. She’s got one ready for me. I’m picking it up at lunch. Relax your panties.”
I rolled my eyes. Hanson Bell had made over a billion dollars from playing football and he didn't even have a suit. Why was I not surprised?
“Just be ready at six, okay?”
“Yeah, you said,” he answered.
I was about to hang up when Hanson said my name. “Lacey?”
“Yeah?” I asked, pressing the phone back to my ear.
“Let’s go out to dinner before the event.”
I hesitated before I answered.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
I walked to the kitchen and turned on my coffee machine. I needed a pick me up if I was going to have to deal with Hanson today.
“It’s not like a date or anything,” he said. “You said we had to discuss the event before we go. We both have to eat. Why not combine it?”
I swallowed. “It’s strictly business.”
“Of course,” Hanson said. “I wouldn’t dream of anything else.”
Yeah, right. Hanson would dream of exactly one thing and one thing only, if I had sized him up correctly.
“Meet me at Zuma,” he said. “I’ll send you a car.”
“I’m sure I can find it,” I said.
Zuma was one of top Japanese restaurants in Miami. Of course, for someone like Hanson, going to places like Zuma or KYU or the White Room was right in his price class.
“I’m sending you a car,” he insisted. “It will be easier to go together that way.”
I had to agree. I never like to be carted around by a man, and certainly didn’t want to be right now, but I guess I could compromise for one night.
“I’ll be there,” I said and hung up.
I looked at my phone. This was just professional. He’d said so himself. Nothing to worry about. Besides, he’d been trying to get to me from the moment I’d met him. It hadn’t been easy to keep him at arm’s length.
Hanson had something about him that made me want to respond to him. It made me want to give him what he was asking for. That wasn’t going to happen. He was a client, and I was stronger than that. I had managed to shut him down so far.
Dinner tonight wouldn’t be a problem.
Chapter 12 – Lacey
I opened my closet and looked around. I had nothing I could wear that would work for a black-tie charity ball. I had been to a couple of upper-class parties with clients, but nothing as formal as the one we were going to tonight.
I really wasn't one to talk about Hanson. But it wasn't as if I was some big baller like he was. If so, I would definitely have a closet of amazingly expensive and fancy clothes.
But as it was, I needed to go shopping. I dialed Kina’s number.
“Come shopping with me,” I said. “I have a hot date, and I need to look the part.”
“Oh, with who?” she asked.
“Just a client,” I said. “But I need to spend money to fit in, so we’re talking boutiques.”
Kina agreed right away, and I picked her up on the way into town.
“We have to go to JDO Couture,” Kina said. “You said you needed to spend money. That’s the place to go, in such a situation.”
I smiled and let her direct me. We parked and walked into the boutique. It was the kind of place that made you feel like a goddess as soon as you stepped through the door. A shop assistant came to us with a broad, dark red smile.
“Welcome to Jus d’Orange Couture, ladies. How can I help you?”
“I’m looking for something formal,” I said.
“And sexy,” Kina added. “She wants to look sexy.”
I glanced at Kina. She was smiling at me.
The shop assistant brought me an array of dresses in my size, which was extra impressive because I hadn’t told her my size. Then, I was led to a dressing room where I could try them on.
“So, a date with Hanson Bell, huh?” Kina asked, sitting outside the dressing room.
“It’s not a date,” I said, trying to get into the first dress. “It’s business. It’s for him. If it were a date, it would be for me.”
“So, if it’s business, whose place do you go to for sex afterward?”
I shook my head.
“I’m not going to sleep with him,” I said. “He’s a client. It’s a rule.”
“Is it your rule or the company’s?”
I turned around and looked at myself from all angles. I stepped out of the dressing room to show Kina.
“I don't know but it should be both," I said, after considering it. “Either way, I don’t sleep with my clients.”
Kina shook her head at the dress. “I don’t think this is the one.” She looked at me. “You wish you could sleep with him, right? He’s a football player. I can just imagine what his body must be like. How good he must be in bed, as an athlete.”
I locked myself in the fitting room's cubicle again.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “I’ve seen what there is to see. If you've seen one set of abs and a big dick, you’ve seen them all. And believe me, I've seen a lot."
I wiggled out of the dress and tried another one. “Besides,” I added. “If it’s this hard to get in and out of these dresses, I don’t know how I’ll have time to get around to the sex.”
Kina giggled again.
"I need to lose a good ten pounds so I can start fitting dresses better," I said.
"No you don't," she protested. "You fill them out perfectly"
Kina was always saying I looked perfect just the way I was— like a mom even more than a friend. But as I looked in the mirror I had to admit she might be right this time. I never wore dresses this fancy but they did look good being rather form fitting against what Kina always calls my "bootylicious curves."
"This is definitely the dress," I told Kina, turning sideways and then front and back, inspecting myself from every angle as I was sure Hanson would be doing later.
“What time are you meeting this guy?” she asked.
“That’s early for a charity thing, isn’t it?”
“It is. We need to cover some details first. We’re going to dinner.”
I walked out of the dressing room again to show Kina dress number two.
She let out a whistle that I could tell was for the fact that I was having dinner with Hanson, as much as it was for the dress I was wearing, which really hugged all my curves.
“Dinner before? And then a romantic formal event where you save poor kids lives by donating money to a hospital wing? Sounds like a date to me. And I know for a fact that you have sex after the first date.”
I smiled, shaking my head. It was strictly business.
“So, this one?” I asked. “Or do I have to keep trying? This is hard work.”
“I think you look stunning. But what do you think?” she asked. “How do you feel in it?”
"I was definitely thinking this was the one."
"Good," she said. "We both agree on that then. Because I think that Hanson isn't going to be able to resist putting his hands all over those fine curves of yours."
I turned to a mirror and looked at myself again, just to be double sure. I'd need the perfect pair of shoes and elegant jewelry to complete the look, but it looked good . If Hanson had managed to get the right kind of suit, we would look good together.
Of course, that wasn’t wh
I figured every girl deserved a night on the town with a handsome, rich, celebrity athlete. Even a hardworking, no nonsense girl like me.
Chapter 13 – Lacey
I felt sweaty when I got home, even though it was probably due to nerves because Kina and I hadn't even had to shop for very long since one of the first dresses I had tried on had been perfect. That never happened to me so I was hoping it was a sign that the rest of the night would go just a smoothly.
I showered for the second time today, and used enough product on my hair that it would stay where I put it. It was a bit longer now than when I’d first cut it, and I could style it around my face into something softer and elegant than I usually wore it.
I preferred my hair short. I liked it out of the way, and I wasn’t the type of woman that wanted to seduce a man with my locks. Still, I wanted to look feminine, and tonight, I had managed.
I was happy to see that the dress looked just as good on me at home as it did at the store— that rarely happened, either. Usually I could swear the store's mirrors worked some kind of voodoo magic to make me look better in the clothes than I actually did, so that I would make an impulse buy I'd later regret when I got home and back to reality. They probably all knew I was too much of a procrastinator to ever return clothing on time.
But tonight was different: this dress still looked good even without the store mirror magic. It was tight around my body, accentuating my curves and showing off my back and shoulders. The bodice clung to my body all the way down to my hips before it flared out in a skirt of organza. Crystals decorated the bodice. With it, I put on silver jewelry, black shoes, and grabbed a matching clutch. I put on smoky makeup with dark red lipstick.
I turned around in the mirror and liked what I saw.
The doorbell chimed at the front door, and I opened it. A man in a black suit and chauffeur’s hat stood in front of me and bowed slightly at the hips.
“Miss Townsend,” he said. “Your car awaits.”
I threw my phone, lipstick, keys, and a credit card into my clutch and closed the door behind me. I followed the chauffeur to the street. A black limousine waited for me on the curb, and I stopped in my tracks. The chauffeur walked to the back door and opened it for me.
“Miss?” he said.
I swallowed, looking at him. This was a bit much, wasn’t it?
When I slid onto the leather seats, I changed my mind. Okay, sure, it still may have been a bit much, but this was nice. I could get used to this, dressing up, being driven around by a chauffeur in a luxury car, and going to an expensive restaurant.
We stopped in front of Zuma and Hanson Bell stood outside, waiting for me. He smiled when I got out of the car. He looked me up and down before he thanked the chauffeur and gave him a time to collect us again.
“You look ravishing,” he said.
I couldn’t help but blush. When was the last time a man had called me ravishing? I would have to say the answer to that was never.
“You clean up pretty well yourself,” I said.
Hanson wore a tuxedo, complete with bow tie and satin lapels, that made him look classy and refined. He smiled and held the door open for me. The hostess led us to our table.
I had never been to Zuma before. I’d only read about it. It had high ceilings and a bar to the side where Japanese chefs prepared sushi and other foods. We sat down at a light wood table with soft green leather seats, and a waitress brought us our menus.
“This is a great place,” I said, looking around. It was full. “How did you get reservations so easily?”
Hanson shrugged. “I’m Hanson Bell, remember?”
I nodded. Right. Special privileges and connections and all that. I glanced at the menu.
“I don’t know what to choose,” I said. “Everything looks so good.”
“Let me decide. I’ve been here before.”
I nodded. I didn’t usually let men take the lead. I hated being indecisive, but I wanted to get down to business. I couldn’t forget what I was doing here. The limo and dressing up and the expensive restaurant made it all feel like too much of a fairy tale.
I waited until Hanson ordered for us before I started.
“Okay, so about tonight,” I said. “I already told you what it’s all about. We’re going to this event so that you can mingle with the people who influence our society.”
Hanson frowned. “I’m going to be out of my league, then.”
I chuckled. “Maybe, but if people start associating you with people that influence society in a good way, they’ll start labeling you that way, too.”
He nodded. “Okay, I can understand that. I become good by association, then.”
“It’s a mindset,” I said. “And you’re showing them that you’re attending a cause that matters. People love a winner, but they love a hero more.”
“Selflessness,” Hanson said, pulling a face like the idea left a bad taste in his mouth.
“Tonight's event is for the children,” I said. “It’s a good cause. Don’t you like children?”
Hanson shrugged. “I do. I guess one day, I would like my own. Just not now, you know?”
“What about you?” he asked.
I looked at him. This topic of conversation wasn’t exactly where I’d meant to go with this.
“I like children,”’ I said. “I just don’t want any of my own.”
Hanson frowned. “Why not?”
“Personal taste, I guess.”
That, and I knew that it was a responsibility I would never be able to take on.
“Every woman wants children. It’s in your nature.”
“That,” I said, "is a sexist comment. It’s exactly what you need to watch out for when you focus on your public image. We’re not breeding machines or objects of pleasure.”
Hanson held up his hands. “I was really just asking why you don’t want kids,” he said. “No offense implied. I get it, I get it— not every woman is maternal.”
There was a sparkle in his eye, as if he had said what he did just to get the reaction out of me that he had received. He liked pushing my buttons. In more ways than one. And I hated that I kind of liked when he did it, too.
I nodded, trying to act unphased. “It’s fine. All I’m saying is that attending these kinds of events isn’t so bad. You’re really doing it all for yourself in the end. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”
I was changing the topic. I needed to. He was getting me all flustered— hot and bothered in more ways than one. It was time to steer our conversation back to professional topics.
“You’re making it sound so glamorous,” Hanson said.
I chuckled. “It is. You can’t tell me you don’t feel good, being dressed like this, on our way to a place where everyone is doing something good?”
“I can tell you that seeing you dress like that makes me want to help you un dress.”
I laughed, unable to hide my surprise. He was really shameless. And I couldn't help but love it.
“You can’t do this,” I said.
“You have a beautiful smile.”
I was blushing. I felt the flush creep onto my cheeks, and there was nothing I could do to hide it. I didn’t even have long hair to hide behind.
“I’m serious, Bell.”
He held up his hands. “If it’s going to make you address me by my surname again, I’ll stop it.”
His face was serious, but his hazel eyes were still smiling at me, and they made me feel a little unbalanced.
When the food arrived, I was grateful for the distraction. I had to take a moment to pull myself together again. This man knew exactly how to get a woman to unravel.
Chapter 14 – Hanson
She was a vision in silver, and she was smiling. I hadn’t seen her smile since I’d met her. It was the sexiest thing she’d worn since we’d met. When we were out to dinner, she was a different person. It was like taking her o
When we stopped in front of the Cruz building, my chauffeur Carl opened the door for us, and I got out first. I held out my hand, and Lacey took it, appearing from the car. She looked like she belonged in this world of black ties and parties. I had a lot of money, and I was less comfortable and confident in this surrounding than she looked.
How many people did she deal with? How often did she come to places like this? She looped her hand through the arm I offered her, and we turned to the tall, upright building that had been a part of the face of luxury events for years.
We walked through the double doors that led into the building. The place was magnificent, with a giant stair case leading to the second level right in front of us. Pillars and checkered floors to the left led to a bar that stretched along the length of the room.
Everywhere, men and women were dressed to the nines. Men walked around in their tuxes and tails, and women sashayed on their arms, making them look better.
Classical music, not my taste but not terrible, floated from hidden speakers, and the murmur of conversation and clinking of glasses provided the soundtrack for the evening.
“I’m going upstairs to talk to a few people,” Lacey said as soon as we were inside. “Why don’t you walk around and make some introductions? Network a bit. And if a reporter approaches you, feel free to explain why you’re here. Stick to the basics, though. You believe in this charity and want to help out. I know that you do feel that way, when you aren’t distracted by other things. And try not to drink too much.”
I liked the way she mentioned me being distracted by other things. It seemed that she and I were on the same wavelength.
She let go of my arm, and I realized she was leaving me.
“I have to do it all alone?”
She smiled. “You’re a big boy. I’m sure you know all about charming people.”
Her smile was playful, and her eyes were sharp. She turned with a swish and walked up the stairs, ascending like a goddess.