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"So is this a tradition now?" Mavis asked, sitting heavily on the padded bench beside Reese. "This after-Christmas party?"
Reese smiled, sipping his Jack and Coke. "It could be," he told her, setting down the tumbler. "We had so much fun last year, we decided to do it again."
Mavis smiled, tucking vivid--fake--red hair behind her ear as she looked out over the crowd. "I approve."
They clinked glasses in a toast, then watched the crowd. The White Tiger wasn't anywhere near full, but it was fuller than usual for one o'clock in the afternoon. Everyone was dressed casually, most in festive Christmas sweaters or shirts and many with bright red or green stocking caps. Tinsel and wreaths still decorated the walls. All in attendance were either friends of Luc or Reese or friends of those friends. Only those with a connection got into the club, which was officially closed for the holiday. The skeleton staff, however, was pretty happy working since they were getting double their normal salary, and that was on top of the holiday bonus they'd already received. All in all, it was a festive gathering.
"So." Mavis turned to him, bending her knee on the bench between them and cradling her drink in her lap. She was an artist Reese had met at a number of gallery showings, and they'd become quite good friends over the past few years. "What did Luc get for you this year? A yacht? A fleet of cars? An island in the Mediterranean?"
Reese chuckled, smoothing a hand over his curly black hair. He was back to his natural color for the first time in two years and it still kind of felt weird to see it and not see blue. "All of the above, of course," he lied, knowing she'd seethrough it.
Mavis sighed. "Must be nice to be a kept man. Harkens back to the days of artists and wealthy patrons. I'm so living in the wrong century." Wearing a heavily brocaded corset over a long black skirt, she'd dressed the part. She turned back toward the crowd. "And such a luscious patron, too. Where is he, by the way?"
Pleased with the party and still buzzing from an amazing two weeks on holiday with Luc, Reese didn't even bristle at Mavis's taunt. She knew it wasn't true anyway. He waved toward one of the balconies. "He was up there the last time I..."
His heart went cold. Some of the buzz left his brain as he caught sight of Luc.
"Where did she come from?" he muttered.
He didn't answer immediately, trying to school his first reaction. The guests at this party were all supposed to be friends, but he knew any scene would find its way to the gossip rags. So he wouldn't make a scene. Why would he? Nothing was happening.
But why was she here?
Karin Marks. The actress who had played Luc's love interest in the movie and who would play the same in the sequel they'd both signed on for. Cute, with shiny, curly black hair, she wore a ridiculously low-cut red sweater, which all but exposed her perky little breasts. "Little" being the operative word. She barely had any. Two little bumps were all that told you she was a girl and not a guy. She stood with Luc at the balcony railing. No. She almost stood on top of him as she held his arm like she was entitled to it.
"Is that who I think it is?" Mavis asked.
As though feeling Reese's glare, Luc scanned the crowd below. His auburn hair was pulled into a loose tail, exposing every gorgeous, carved line of his face. Sensual lips caressed the rim of the tumbler he brought to his lips as those sable eyes darted over the partygoers. Since the lights were all up, he easily caught sight of Reese. He smiled, raised his other hand to his lips, and blew Reese a kiss.
Reese would not gloat. He wouldn't. But he did smile at his boyfriend--his!--and waved.
Beside Luc, Karin glanced toward Reese, her expression cool. She reached over to say something to Luc, splaying her hand over one side of his chest.
"She does know about you and Luc, doesn't she?"
"Oh, she knows." He lifted his drink to his lips. "She doesn't like me much."
Mavis laughed. "I can just imagine. She's got a lot of nerve, though."
"A lot, yeah."
"What is she? Sixteen?"
Reese chuckled. "Acts like it, but she's supposedly in her twenties somewhere."
Luc was still watching him even as he responded to whatever Karin said. Reese grimaced. Luc sighed, shoulders slumping.
You can be the biggest fucking asshole in the world when it suits you, Reese recalled from a recent heated conversation with the redhead. Why the hell don't you show her that side of you?
I've got to work with her, Luc had explained. It hadn't helped that the conversation had taken place after a public screening of the movie. Reese had had to watch scenes where Luc held her, where Luc kissed her. Even one scene of them in bed naked--although Luc had assured them that they had not actually been naked. But that woman's bare breasts had touched Luc's bare chest, no doubt about that.
"I need a refill," Reese murmured, standing as he emptied his tumbler.
Mavis nodded and stood, walking with him toward the bar. She got sidetracked on the way there, so Reese ended up reaching the bar alone. He chatted briefly with a few friends who were also at the bar, ordering another drink while trying to tamp down his annoyance.
Trina, the bartender, had just set down his drink when an arm slid around Reese's shoulders from behind, yanking him back against a very familiar chest.
"Hey, tiger," Luc murmured, nuzzling Reese's ear.
Reese glared at him in the mirror behind the bar. As glares went, it was mild, but Luc got the point.
He lowered his head, pressing his cheek to Reese's. "I didn't know she'd be here."
"I thought she was in California."
"Turns out she's got family here in New York."
"So she just suddenly decides to up and see them?"
Luc groaned softly, face buried in Reese's neck.
"Terrific." Reese sipped his drink over Luc's arm.
"Whatever. Not like you could help it, I guess."
Luc studied him in the mirror. "Why do I get the feeling that you're madder than you sound?"
Reese gave him a false smile, patting the arm banding his shoulders. "Because you know me well."
Luc bit the side of Reese's neck, then laved it with his tongue. "I'll make it up to you later."
Reese chuckled darkly. "Oh, yes. You will."
Luc laughed, pressing Reese closer to the bar. Reese was wondering if they might have to duck out of the party for a while to take care of the erection he felt against his butt, as well as the one in his pants, but Luc suddenly backed up. Reese watched, curious, as Luc reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He checked the number, then promptly flipped it open. "Hell, what's up?"