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Undercover Love(3)

By:Lucy Score



Bitch. “Thanks.”

Victoria turned her attention back to Steven. Ashley tuned them out as they chattered, studying the interior instead. It was the opposite of Victoria’s polar icehouse of glossy white tiles and ecru walls. Here, dark woods and deep colors reigned and, according to Google Maps, the entire back of the house had pretty spectacular river views.

She trailed her fingers over the stately entryway table. It was a fantastic piece, slightly distressed and undeniably masculine in its bulk and lines. Something that would sell in a day at Dwell. Victoria’s stepbrother either had excellent taste or a really good decorator.

A door down the hallway opened and Ashley froze in place.

The man who stepped out was easily the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had thick, dark hair and a stride that ate up the distance between them.

Power, confidence, perfection.

Ashley shut her mouth, which had unfortunately fallen open. He entered the foyer and she was treated to a closer look. Sculpted bones and a strong jaw under a ruthlessly trimmed beard. Sharp angles and smooth plains. It all blended into a face fit for an angel. A fallen one.

No wonder the office wives fanned themselves when they talked about him.

He wore the tailored charcoal suit with a careless comfort. His silk tie had thin stripes of forest green that matched his piercing eyes. Piercing eyes that she could see clearly because the man had stopped less than a foot away from her. Crap.

She tried to rearrange her features into a serene expression, or at least one that looked less pained. He watched her intently, not speaking.

“There you are, Jason.” Victoria’s cultured tone from the opposite side of the foyer cut through Ashley’s haze. “Steven, this is our host, Jason.”

The Adonis extended his hand to Ashley and — with only a second’s hesitation — she mechanically placed hers in his warm, strong grip. It wasn’t a handshake, she thought as he tugged her a half step closer. It was a suggestion.

“Hello.” His voice was like whiskey. Smooth with a slow burn that lit her up from the inside.

She felt a jolt travel up her arm. She was holding a live current.

“Hi.” It came out as part squeak and part whisper.

“Jason!” Victoria barked.

Ashley watched a cloud, shades darker than irritation, pass through those emerald eyes.

He shifted his gaze from her flushed face to his stepsister, still holding Ashley’s hand firmly in his. “Yes, Vicky?” His eyebrow raised mockingly.

If killer bees could shoot out of eyes, Ashley was pretty sure Jason would have been anaphylactic on the word “Vicky.”

“This is, Steven,” Victoria repeated.

“Hello, Steven.” He managed to sound both disinterested and dangerous. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Steven must have sensed the same in his tone because he laughed nervously. “Don’t believe everything your sister tells you,” he joked.

“Stepsister.” Jason corrected crisply. He immediately turned his attention back to Ashley. She felt her cheeks flush. “And you are?” His tone was lower, warmer now.

She cleared her throat. “I’m Ashley.”

“Steven’s fiancée,” Victoria said pointedly.

Jason ignored her. He brought his other hand to cover their joined ones. “A pleasure.”

Why did that sound like a threat? And why was she suddenly picturing sheet-shredding sex?

Then, just as suddenly, he released her and turned on heel. Ashley sagged against the table and blew out her breath.

“Friendly guy,” Steven joked and Ashley could tell he wasn’t happy with the dismissive treatment.

Blatantly rude. Blazingly sexy. He obviously didn’t think highly of Victoria either. Who was he? Enemy or ally?

###

Guests began to arrive and Ashley busied herself making small talk. She was used to being on her own at these events. Steven found it easier to work a room without her tagging along, which was fine with her. There were only so many times she could listen to the “deal that came down to the bet on the ninth hole” story.

“Ashley! You look great!” A lovely woman with a short, dark pixie haircut approached and gave Ashley a quick hug.

“Cara! I’m so glad to see you.” Ashley returned the hug. “I wasn’t sure if you and Kevin were coming tonight.”

Cara’s husband, Kevin, worked with Steven at the firm. Cara was an attorney with a hefty caseload of pro bono work who also ran marathons and volunteered at her daughter’s school once a week. At five feet nine with enviable fashion sense she could have easily been a willowy runway model. Tonight’s ensemble was a sexy eggplant wrap dress that complimented her flawless bronze skin and a chunky, mixed metal necklace with matching chandelier earrings. Cara was never short on wow factor.

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