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The townhouse was fashionably elegant, but on a quiet street, and the place had the air of being unoccupied.
Except for that small yellow glow that indicated someone was there.
Shaking his head, Christian climbed the steps and tried the key. It worked perfectly, the latch clicking open neatly, and the door swung open on well-oiled hinges. Inside, the place smelled slightly musty, as if it was unlived in, and he stepped into the foyer.
His voice echoed a little and he cleared his throat and tried again. "Hello?"
Bloody Adam, Christian thought irritably. If his older brother thought this was funny...
He froze. The voice was light, melodic, and unmistakably female, and it came from behind him. Whirling around, he saw that a woman stood framed in the doorway. The evening was warm and she wore her wrap only loosely around her slender shapely shoulders. Her gown was low-cut and elegant, and her lustrous blond hair caught in a loose chignon at her nape. Dark blue eyes framed by lush lashes gazed at him, and as he watched in utter astonishment, she stepped inside and quietly closed the door behind her.
"I see we arrived about the same time. That's convenient, I suppose."
His mind was a blank. Lauren DeSerre appearing out of nowhere was such a shock he literally had no voice.
When he didn't speak, her smooth brow furrowed slightly. "Adam rather assured me you would be happy to see me here. If that isn't the case..."
Cognizant thought returned, and with it at least a sense of politeness. "Of course, I am delighted to see you," he stammered, sounding to his own ears like an idiot. He swallowed and saidmore calmly, "Forgive me. All my brother did was hand me a card with this address on it. When I arrived to find an empty house, I wondered if Adam had decided to play a joke on me." He paused, gazing at her and taking in her stunning beauty. "I confess I'm still not certain that isn't the case," he added quietly. "Why are you here?"
She blushed then, color rising becomingly to her cheeks. "He didn't tell you?"
Christian shook his head. God, she is so beautiful ... those eyes, slightly almond shaped and gorgeous, and her skin, so smooth like ivory, and that body...
"I'm told it's your birthday."
What that had to with anything he wasn't sure, but he was truthfully too off balance by her arrival to think quite clearly. "Yes, it is," he admitted, well-aware she probably still viewed him as a boy, and not a man.
Lauren smiled then, a small enticing curve of her soft mouth that made his pulse increase the pace. "I thought we might celebrate it together here tonight."
Of all the things he expected her to say, that was the last. Speechless again, he just stood there, telling himself he must have a fever and be hallucinating. Maybe he was asleep, and this was a fantastical dream...
"Upstairs," she added simply.
Upstairs. Where there are bedrooms.
"You aren't serious." He didn't even sound remotely like himself and he cleared his throat. Hastily, he amended, "I mean, I hope you are, but I can't quite believe this."
She moved for the first time, taking a slow step toward him. "I take it the idea appeals to you?"
He might be young, but he caught the sense of her female power and her awareness of it. Catching the faint fragrance of her perfume drift in the air, he nodded. "Yes."
It was embarrassing, but he already was well on his way to having a full-blown erection. That fast, just from a few suggestive words and a whiff of her signature scent.
"I know about the flowers you have been sending me." Her tone was soft. "Your notes were very ... endearing. Thank you."
"You are welcome, of course." If Adam hadn't apparently arranged this, Christian would want to kill him for telling her.
"Your brother owns this house as an investment of some sort," she said, glancing down the darkened hallway. "It's unoccupied at the moment, but he did send someone to prepare one of the bedrooms." She smiled almost mischievously. "I certainly hope there's champagne so we can toast your special day."
Christian didn't give a damn about his birthday. He just hoped he wouldn't wake up from this particular fantasy. She gazed up at him expectantly and he automatically offered his arm, something he'd done hundreds of times when escorting ladies various places, but the light clasp of Lauren's fingers sent heat spiking through his body.
His cock stiffened further.
There was a set of stairs at the end of the hallway, and at the top, he discovered the source of the light came from a well-lit and spacious bedroom. The bed was made up in satin sheets and an embroidered coverlet already neatly turned back in invitation for occupation. There was not only champagne in a bucket of cool water, but also chocolates, and some fresh strawberries, almost impossible to obtain this time of year, in a small silver bowl. It was a nice gesture, as Adam knew he particularly favored strawberries, but how his brother thought any kind of food would matter when Lauren DeSerre apparently wanted to spend the night with him was a mystery.