millionaire episode 4

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Mixed Up with the Millionaire Episode 4

Everett﹒

Piper awaited me outside of La Paloma so we could walk into the rehearsal dinner together. A sign at the hostess stand directed us down the hall to the private party rooms. 

She paused at the closed door. “Are you sure this isn’t too awkward?”

Grabbing the handle, I swept my other hand to her low back and ushered her inside. “I’m certain.”

In fact, I’d been counting down the minutes until this exact moment.

A familiar bolt of energy lit up my insides when my eyes landed on Tinsley. She leaned provocatively against a freestanding bar set up on one side of the room wearing a black and white houndstooth dress that hugged her enticing curves. She’d paired it with a red cardigan, six-inch patent leather heels, and cat eyeglasses. A black feather floof held back one side of her white-blond pin-up curls.

Before Tinsley, I never gave much thought to how women dressed. But I paid attention when she visited ECI once a month for the company’s computer and security maintenance checks.

She favored dresses and skirts and the easy-access clothing had inspired a long list of naughty deeds I’d perpetrate if I was ever allowed to hike them up. Even though I couldn’t see from this angle, cherry drops dangled from her lobes, her favorite earrings when she sported red. My favorite among her crimson accessories: the lipstick painted on her full lips.

Lifting her glass in thanks to the bartender, she turned and spotted our entry. Her face flash-froze in a gritting smile before she stalked away. I tucked away the spark of hope her annoyed reaction created and searched the room for the second person I was eager to see.

Blaze sat with his back to the entrance, speaking to an older couple. From this view, he easily passed for a nine-to-five hipster. His teal blue button-down stretched across his shoulders and his ginger hair skimmed the top of his shirt collar.

But circle around to the front…

As we got in line at the bar, his profile revealed shaved sideburns and temples and an extended goatee. Titanium rings pierced his lower lip, right nostril, and both earlobes. Tattoos ran from the first knuckles of his fingers up his forearms where they disappeared beneath rolled shirtsleeves.

In his hand, he twisted a tumbler filled with dark, amber liquid that transported me back to the engagement party where I’d thrown back Maker’s Mark like it was water. A rare departure from my always in-control personality. But the more he and Tinsley had flirted and the closer their bodies pressed together while dancing, the more the ten-pound boulder pinballed in my stomach.

And not because of the alcohol.

When their lips had finally sealed in a heated kiss, I’d launched off the wall into the fray of dancers. I’d maneuvered right behind Tinsley just shy of touching her for fear of breaking the spell or losing my alcohol-induced courage. When he noticed my impossible-to-misconstrue position, his eyes widened. I returned his stare, the electric blue of his irises darkening to a stormy ocean. The intensity sent another shock through my system. No, not a shock. A wake-up call.

“Everett?”

I blinked out of my reverie.

“I’m sorry,” I said to Piper as we stepped up to the bar to give the server our drink orders.

“No. I’m the one who should apologize. I thought since neither one of us could go with the one we wanted, it might be better to wade through it together.”

I squeezed her elbow. “I’m glad you thought of it. I’m enjoying myself.”

“Then I’d hate to see what you look like when you’re not having a good time.”

“That would be anytime I’m dealing with my family. And I like you too much to do that.”

She reached for the Merlot the bartender slid to her. “Mom or Dad?”

“All of them. Mom, Dad, my sister…” Realizing where my unchecked thoughts were headed, I reached for the bourbon as soon as the glass landed in front of me.

“Join the club.”

I tossed back a healthy swallow, waiting for the initial burn to fade. “What do you mean?”

“You fit in well,” she said steering us to an empty table. “We all seem to have family issues. Where we had to find our own units because the ones we grew up with left us with scars.”

“Perceptive.” I pulled a chair out for her and then sat next to her.

“Can be. When I’m not locked in my room crying over being dumped for my own good.” She used air quotes.

“He’s an idiot. There’s some stellar guy out there for you.”

She leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs. “Not you though. You only have eyes for someone special.”

My eyes roamed the space to settle on Tinsley. She narrowed her eyes as if warning me to pay her no attention. Then to Blaze, who stiffened in his seat when our wandering gazes connected. The three of us chose tables as far away from each other as possible, but the physical distance did nothing to dampen the snap-crackle-pop in the air.

“I can help you,” Piper said.

“Help me?”  

“Tinsley is totally into you but she needs some nudging.”

I couldn’t help my scoff. “She needs kid gloves.”

Piper uncrossed her legs, scooted her seat closer, and whispered in my ear. “I’ve worked with her enough to know she’s not a kid gloves kind of person.”

From my peripheral, Tinsley squirmed in her chair and Blaze appeared uncomfortable as well. Piper laughed in triumph before winking at me with mischief. She dipped her head, her long mahogany hair cascading over her shoulder. 

I followed her lead and tucked the strand of hair back. “She’s not a boss-around person either.”

“So you go in sideways. She’s practically seething that we’re here together.”

Jealousy was a tricky emotion, powerful enough to snap otherwise sane people into raging monsters. A longing sensation infiltrated my chest, to be desired for me. Not out of spite or envy. Nor for my money or my name. But as an individual worthy of attention and love.

Episode 3 | Episode 5

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I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense why-choose stories.

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