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Devon McKee felt like a hyena at high tea. He did not belong at a fussy rehearsal dinner in a country club. But he was a groomsman, and the wedding party and all the relatives had been invited, so here he was. Chatting with his buddy's Great Aunt Mildred and trying to resist the urge to add about four ounces of rum to his plain Coke.
If he added the rum, he'd be all too responsible for the consequences. He might do things that he'd regretand his head still ached from the bachelor party the previous night.
Mark was getting married, and for Mark's sake, Dev would do his best impression of a gentleman, comical though the act might be.
He'd known Mark since college and he loved him like a brother. He might heckle him about going over to the Dark Side, but he was secretly enviousand that was just plain weird.
Dev first spied the girl of his dreams through Aunt Mildred's hairdo, which was teased and sprayed to an awe-inspiring volume, in spite of its sparseness. Aunt Mildred's haira spiderweb combed into an upside-down urn shapewas almost transparent, gossamer in the overhead lighting.
Through it, Dev got a glimpse of the girl. She had a smile like a Swiss bank account: secure, glamorous and a bit secretive. A regal neck and aristocratic shoulders, revealed to perfection in her short, navy silk dress. Dark blond hair with shimmers of gold throughout. And legs that were nothing short of spectacular.
Devon, once the lead guitarist for the Miami band Category Five, was a connoisseur of such things. He'd always been a leg mannot that he disliked cleavage or sassy asses. Far from it. And he saw plenty of those now that he'd opened a successful South Beach bar.
What he didn't always see wasno other word for itclass. This woman dripped it the same way many others oozed availability. She fit in perfectly here in the country club's garden room.
His first coherent thought was that he wanted to lick those incredible legs of hersbut not through Aunt Mildred's hairdo. So he extricated his hand from the old lady's and told her he'd return with a glass of champagne for her.
Dev swam, sharklike, through the crowd and up to the bar, where he secured two champagnes before he continued toward the delicious woman, his dorsal fin flying high. In no time at all, he was in front of her. He opened his mouth, sure that one of his famous one-liners would emerge and make her giggle.
But nothing happened. His mojo, his schmooze, his charmthey'd deserted him. He searched blindly for a word, any word, even a grunt. But he'd been struck dumb.
Finally, Dev closed his mouth.
She lifted an elegant eyebrow, clearly amused at his expense.
Embarrassed and trying to recover, he dropped his gaze to her breasts. She had very nice ones. C cup, he estimated. Friendly, they seemed to surge toward him, eager to make his acquaintance.
"Hi," Dev said to them. "Uh. Mark thought you might like some champagne." A lame line, but workable.
Naturally enough, the breasts did not respond. Instead, their owner did. "Mark's not even here yet." Her voice was rich, smooth, spicy like the Jamaican rum he craved.
He blinked at her, feeling like an idiot. Mark hadn't arrived yet.
"But the twins never turn down tiny bubbles." She smiled at him and neatly plucked both glasses from his fingers, holding them in front of her breasts. Then she raised one to her lips. "So thanks."
From somewhere over his shoulder, Dev heard a hoot of male laughter that could only have come from Pete Dale, another groomsman. Pete would have to witness Dev's humiliation. But he'd deal with him later.
Dev slowly raised his eyes to the woman's, heat suffusing his face. This was the worst encounter he'd had with a girl since ninth grade. "I. .urn. I guess I deserved that."
Her smile dissolved into laughter and she handed him back the other champagne glass. "Admit it. Mark had nothing to do with you coming over here."
Devon hated champagneit tasted like sour tonic water to himbut he upended the flute and drank half the contents in one gulp. "Okay," he said. "I do admit it. What's your name?"
"I'm Kylie Kent. You?"
"Devon," she repeated, thoughtfully. "How do you know Mark?" he asked. "I'm his aunt."
"His aunt. Even though he's older than I am. It's kind of weird, but true."
Dev digested that, working out the math. He guessed it was possible that Mark's father or mother had a much younger sister.
Kylie was doing some thinking of her own. "Wait Devon you're Mark's rock-star friend?"
"I was never more than a minor local celebrity."
"Mark mentioned you. And I guess that explains the leather pants."
"Er." He'd never before felt the need to explain those, but now, in her presence, he wished he'd worn something boring and khaki. He wished he'd tamped down his spiked, rocker hair and maybe even left his gold chain at home. He was crashing and burning here, big-time.
"Not that they're not very nice leather pants," she added, evaluating them.
"Yeah, okay. You hate my pants. Whatever." He raised his chin and angled his head down at her. If she weren't so damned hot, he'd be cutting his losses and walking away right now. Dev, heretofore the coolest guy in Miami, felt like the city's biggest dork. It wasn't a feeling he liked.
"I don't hate them at all," Kylie said. "I want them myself."
"No kidding?" Dev asked. "Here, you can have 'em right now." Tongue between his teeth, he went for his fly. After all, he had to recover his man card somehow.
She laughed. "Maybe we should get to know each other a little better first."
"Yes." She tilted her champagne glass towards her perfect lips and drank.
"Well, but I was getting the distinct feeling that you didn't want to get to know me better, so I thought I'd speed things up a little bit." He grinned his signature, megawatt, killer grin. The one that used to inspire girls to throw their panties at him up on stage.
She shook her head at him.
"What?" He waggled his eyebrows at her. "You," she pronounced, "are a mess."
"You think I don't know that?"
She pursed her perfect lips. "But you have a peculiar, repulsive appeal," she said thoughtfully.
Dev blinked. He wasn't sure he liked the sound of that.
She nodded, drumming her fingers on her glass. "I think you might do."
"Mmm, hmm. You just might." But then she turned on her heel and walked away, her actions, like her words, sending damned confusing signals.
How could a guy be repellent and have appeal at the same time? It didn't make any sense.
Devon upended his glass again and sucked down the rest of the hated champagne. Then in three long strides he caught up to Kylie and stepped in front of her. "I'll do? Do what, exactly?"
She flashed that Swiss-bank-vault smile again. Then she patted his cheek. Her touch sent an electric current through him, from his jaw to his toes and then up to toast his balls.
"Me," she replied. Then she walked off again, leaving him staring in her wake.
Kylie forced herself to keep her shoulders straight and didn't permit herself to turn around as she walked to the ladies' room. She was pretty sure that Mr. Black Leather Pants was still standing there with his mouth hanging open, and she relished the moment.
Kylie, girl, you've still got it. Or you can at least fake it. See?
Nobody needed to know that she was a loser who couldn't keep her own fiance's interest. Nobody needed to know that she'd lost him to internet porn.
Kylie entered the fussy, overdecorated ladies' lounge and stepped up to the wide gilt mirror, where she took a quick inventory of her face. Eyeliner: currently unsmudged. Blusher: fine. Nose: a smidgeon shiny.
She reached into her bag for her compact, pleased to note that her hands were steady. She powdered her nose, adding a layer to what she thought of as her "war paint" for the evening.
She studied her reflection critically. Everything was more or less symmetrical. She had nice hazel eyes. She was no dog. So why had Jack felt the need to
Who knew. Why had Tiger Woods cheated on his absolutely stunning wife?
Well, sweetie men do like variety, you know. Maybe some racy lingerie, a wig or a little role-playing would help.
Kylie jammed the compact into her purse with a little more force than necessary as she remembered her older sister's well-meaning hints. Note to self: never complain about your sex life to your relatives!
Not only was her sister's advice annoying and humiliating, but it also conjured up all kinds of horrible specters about what she might have gotten up to over the years.
Kylie shuddered and pulled out a lipstick. There was nothing to touch up, but she did anyway, killing time before she had to return to the garden room. Small talk wasn't her favorite thing.
At least it's only internet pictures, her sister had said. Yeah, sis. Right. A lot you know.
It would have been better, really, if Jack had cheated on her with a real womanor even two. Imperfect women with stressful jobs and ungrateful children and PMS.
But she simply couldn't compete with a constant parade of flawless, airbrushed beauties and their bountiful beaver shots.
Jack could pull them up at any time for his viewing pleasure. And he did.
How pathetic he was, sitting in the dark with his porn. So why did she feel like the loser? She was crazy.
Kylie had finally had enough of the repeated talks and the repeated broken promises to stop. She'd dumped his sorry ass.
If only she didn't remember what Jack was like before he'd discovered OxyContin and internet porn. He'd been handsome and charming, with a bright future in medical equipment sales ahead of him.
He'd been a blue-blazer kind of guy, definitely not the type to show up to a coat-and-tie dinner in, say, black leather pants.
But Jack was now unemployed and boozing it up in T-shirts that said things like I'm with Stupid, and Property of So-and-So's Athletic Department. He needed a barber badly and a life even more.
And it was time for Kylie to focus on what she herself needed: to wash Jack out of her hair for good. She needed a distraction.
A male distraction, one with no conscience so she wouldn't feel at all bad about using him for her own psychological and physical purposes.
Yes, she needed some acrobatic, sweaty, therapeutic sex with a hot stranger. A stranger who wouldn't want a relationship, since she was done with those for a while. A stranger who was ready to peel off his inappropriate pants within moments of finding out her name.
Devon McKee had honed right in on her. Devon, with his I'm-a-sex-god eyes and his background full of rock 'n' roll groupies, was just the ticket. Her ticket to ride.
He'd do quite handsomely.
And she was sure he'd do her well.