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"Yo , man, where the strippers at?"
Marcel Benoit mopped the sweat from his brow and continued loading the cooler. If it were up to him, Caesar would be at his dorm instead of at the bachelor party, but since the college senior was the groom's younger brother he'd had no choice but to invite him. "Caesar, for the third time, they're not strippers. They're massage therapists."
"Right, and I'm saving myself for marriage!"
Ignoring him, Marcel ripped open another case of Bud Light. It was a typical August afternoon in Seattle, and although dark fleecy clouds sailed across the sky, the air was warm. His uncle's estate was the perfect place for Will's bachelor party, and as he watched one of the groom's portly cousins dive into the pool, he made a mental note to add more steaks to the grill.
"The massage therapy thing is just their cover. All the girls who work at Destination Wellness offer extra services." Marcel's head whipped up. "They do?"
"Hell, yeah," Caesar said, before adding, "for an additional fee, of course."
"Why didn't you say anything sooner? If I had known it wasn't a reputable spa I never would have used it."
"I know. That's why I didn't tell you!" Wearing a crooked half smile, he slipped on his gray aviator sunglasses. "You could use some TLC, man. You've been miserable ever since that Sarita chick dumped you, and hooking up with a hot babe would do wonders for your psyche. I know you get plenty of heat from the girls on the Seattle University campus, but the sisters who work at Destination Wellness look like centerfolds!"
Marcel glanced over at the group of guys playing poker. As best man, it was up to him to keep the groom on the straight and narrow. If he didn't, Will's fiancee would go ballistic. Since it was too late to cancel the six massage therapists, he'd just have to keep Will close and be on the lookout for any home wreckers.
"I'm going to go call my girl," Caesar announced, fishing out a Heineken from the cooler. "See you later, man."
"When's the grub going to be ready?" hollered the groom, packing a handful of tortilla chips into his open mouth. "I'm starving. Hook me up with a hot link or something!"
Chuckling, Marcel turned back toward the grill. He added more steaks to the bottom rack, slathered them with a coat of barbecue sauce and closed the hood. "Listen, before you guys get wasted, I'd like to make a toast."
The groom lowered his cards. "All right, but make it quick. I'm on a winning streak," he said jokingly.
Everyone quieted down and Marcel began.
"Will Arroyo was one of the first people I met when I moved from Mauritius five years ago. He helped me get settled into my new place, showed me around Seattle and hooked me up with my first job." He raised his beer bottle in salute. "I wish you nothing but the best, man. You've always looked out for me, and if not for you I probably would have frozen to death that first winter!"
The guys chuckled, but no one laughed harder than the groom. "Marcel was a sorry sight, ya'll. One day I rolled up on him waiting for the bus, and he had no gloves, no cap and no jacket. His teeth were chattering so loud that he startled the children standing nearby!"
More laughs rang out.
"Will, it's not too late to back out," one of his younger cousins said. "I'll gas up the Lincoln Navigator, and we can hit the road. Vegas, anyone?"
The guys laughed, but Will declined the offer. "I can't wait to marry Thalia, you guys. She's my dream woman. Outgoing, funny "
Everyone groaned, and Marcel bit back a laugh. Will drove a Harley-Davidson and loved extreme sports, but he got choked up every time he talked about his fiancee.
Some guys have all the luck, Marcel thought, taking a swig of his beer. He was the oldest of six, but all of his siblings were married with children. Tired of the single scene, he was looking forward to meeting the right woman and starting a family of his own. Sarita wasn't coming back, and in light of what he'd discovered about her in recent weeks, he should be thanking his lucky stars that she'd dumped him and sunk her claws into a rich pro athlete. Sure, he could have used some of the money in his trust fund to win her back, but after talking things over with Will he'd quickly come to his senses. That money was for his future, not to blow on a gold digger who had no conscience.
And then there was the fact that his student visa expired soon, and there were too many new applicants for him to get an extension. If he didn't find an engineering job by then, he'd have to return to Mauritius. Marcel missed his family, but he didn't want to go homenot when he'd worked so hard to make a life for himself in Seattle.
"Are there any more of those egg roll things?" Will asked, pulling Marcel from his reverie. "I'm starving, and the steak's nowhere near done."
Still consumed with thoughts of his future, Marcel stood and strolled through the double French doors leading into the house. Bright and inviting with thick columns and an elegant curved staircase, the Beacon Hill home had been decorated with pharmacy lamps, bright ornamental pieces and plush couches. The focal point of the living room was the grand piano, and as Marcel passed it, he wondered why his uncle would pay thousands of dollars for something he never used.
Inside the pantry, Marcel rummaged around in the freezer. Arms filled with boxes of frozen foods, he closed the door with his foot and started back toward the kitchen. He heard a car horn beep and glanced out the window in time to see a black Range Rover pull up in front of his uncle's house. Marcel didn't recognize the car, but when he saw a dark, shapely sister slip out of the driver's seat he stopped short. As I live and breathe, I've never seen a more stunning woman. Blown away, he wondered if the ebony angel was the masseuse he'd spoken to on the phone last week. Dominique Dominique King. That was her name. A gorgeous name for a gorgeous woman, he decided, watching her with growing interest.
His eyes raked over her svelte body. Sleek, glossy hair fell casually down her back. It was hair he wanted to touch and stroke and bury his fingers in. Though casually dressed in a white tank top and shorts, he could tell this sister with the sky-high cheekbones had very expensive tastes. Her face had a natural glow, and her movements were graceful. Peering through the glass, he fought a strong, overpowering desire for a woman he'd never met but was desperate to.
Does this count as spying? Deciding it didn't, he inched closer to the window. Sweat began to soak through his T-shirt as his eyes explored the beautiful stranger. Unable to turn away, he took in every curvaceous inch. Man, she's something. Worried he might be spotted, he shielded himself behind heavy burgundy drapes.
Doors opened and slammed. Five women wearing pink Destination Wellness T-shirts joined the driver at the back of the SUV and helped her unload the trunk. Caesar wasn't kidding when he said the sisters at Destination Wellness were centerfolds. Carrying cases in hand, they marched up the cobblestone walkway in single file. Well, everyone except the driver. She didn't walk; she glided.
Snapping to, he streaked into the kitchen, dropped the boxes on the counter and checked his reflection in the hallway mirror. By the time the doorbell rang, he was ready to meet the sister with the smoky eyes and winsome curves.
"You must be Dominique," he said. "I'm Marcel. We spoke on the phone last week."
"Of course, it's nice to finally meet you."
Her voice was the sweetest sound he'd ever heard.
"These are my coworkers." She gestured to the women behind her. "This is Electra, Jasmine, Suzette "
Like a twister in a deserted field, his thoughts ran wild. Dominique wasn't wearing a wedding ring, but he knew there was no way this chocolate beauty was single. If by some stroke of luck she was, she probably had brothers chasing her down at every turn.
"Can we come inside?"
"Yes, of course, please come in."
When Dominique stepped past him, he leaned in and inhaled her scent. Mesmerized. That was how he felt when her fragrance drifted over him. Marcel was drawn to her, intrigued, filled with feelings he thought died when his ex-girlfriend, Sarita, had callously dumped him. But as he admired Dominique's perfectly coiffed hair and French manicured nails, he realized she was way out of his league. A woman like Dominique King would never look twice at a guy like him, so the quicker he dealt with his attraction to her, the better off he'd be. "Can I interest you ladies in something to drink? The bar is fully stocked with water, juice and beer."
The women smiled politely but shook their heads.
"This is a lovely home," Dominique said, glancing around. "Did you want us to set up in the living room or out in the backyard?"
Marcel thought for a moment. He wanted the groomsmen to have a good time, but he didn't want anyone pushing up on Dominique. Getting into a fistfight over a woman he barely knew would be juvenile, but he'd fight to the death before he let Kevin or Raheem steal her out from under him. "How about half of you stay here and the rest work outside?"
Dominique shared a confused look with the brunette standing beside her. "Okay, I guess that would be all right. Aja and Heather will stay here with me and "
Marcel heard someone behind him, but he didn't turn around. Dominique was speaking, and she deserved his undivided attention, which he planned to give her plenty of.
"My, my, my, what do we have here?"
Dominique trailed off when a man in blue swimming trunks swaggered into the room. Today must be my lucky day, she thought. It's raining men! First, she'd met Marcel Benoit and now another cutie was bounding toward her. This guy in blue trunks had a nice smile, but he wasn't nearly as handsome as Marcel. While Suzette made the introductions, Dominique discreetly checked out the soft-spoken millionaire she'd spoken to twice last week.
Marcel was the clean-cut, athletic-looking type. His skin was the shade of Hershey's Kisses, and she suspected his lips tasted just as sweet. He spoke with a slight but distinct French accent, and if that wasn't enough to excite her, he had the sexiest mouth she had ever seen. Though dressed modestly in shorts and a T-shirt, Marcel had a distinguished, almost regal bearing about him. Add to that his staggering wealth, and he was a perfect ten. His mansion was a bold, lavish display of his riches, and she was thoroughly impressed. Inside the garage, she'd spotted three luxury vehicles, a pair of jet skis and enough antique furniture to beautify the Vatican church.
Marcel Benoit was exactly her typeestablished, accomplished and successfuland she was determined to get to know him better. Mixing business with pleasure was never a good idea, but Dominique wasn't going to let anything get in the way of her spending quality time with the attractive millionaire.
"Why don't I show you ladies to the pool?" said the guy in the blue trunks, his pearly whites blinding. "The groomsmen are all chilling out back."
Marcel cleared his throat. "I thought it might be too crowded outside, so some of the women are going to work in here."
"Oh, there's plenty of room." Kevin motioned with his head toward the French doors. "Besides, it's much too nice outside to be cooped up in here. Don't you agree, ladies?"
Behind her, Dominique heard her coworkers giggle.
"Would you like something to eat before we get started?" Marcel addressed the group, but he was staring right at her. "I could show you to the food tables if you'd like."
Heart pulsing, mouth dry, she combed a lock of hair away with her hands. Dominique would like nothing more than to have some one-on-one time with the wealthy businessman, but the guy in blue trunks seemed intent on spoiling her plans.
"Marcel, you're in charge of the barbecue, remember? You finish grilling the steaks, and I'll help the ladies set up out back. Don't worry, man. I'll handle it."
The matter decided, Kevin took Dominique by the elbow and led her out unto the patio.
Fingers splayed, Dominique kneaded the muscles between the groomsman's shoulder blades, applying more pressure as she inched down his spine. Lying flat on his stomach, his eyes closed and his head cocked to the side, Tobias Carlson complained bitterly about his court-ordered child support payments and the financial toll his divorce had taken on him.
Dominique hated working bachelor parties, but since the clients were willing to pay more for the in-home service, she'd canceled her blind date and reported to work. As Tobias droned on about his twelve-room vacation home in Bel Air, Dominique searched the backyard for a distractiona tall, toned distraction with a titillating French accent. Her gaze fell on Marcel Benoit, and time stopped. His arms cut powerfully through the water as he swam the length of the pool. The wind blew warm against her face, intensifying her already sweltering temperature.
Watching him, she wondered why he wasn't already married. Her friends all liked bad boys, but she'd always been attracted to quiet, respectable guys. Good manners were a definite turn-on, and Marcel was polite and gracious. He wasn't the life of the party, but he didn't need to be. He was the best-looking man there, and although he hadn't tried talking to her again, Dominique was confident he would. They'd been sneaking covert glances at each other, pretending to be uninterested, but when their eyes met she felt a rush of divine pleasure.
With extreme interest, she watched as Marcel trudged up the steps of the circular pool. His body was overrun with taut muscles, and seeing his bare chest made her mouth water. To regain control of her loose mind, Dominique forced her eyes away. But as she glanced around the yard, she noticed that her colleagues were ogling him, too. Back off, vultures! He's mine!
"Your hands are magic," Tobias praised. "Are you available on Wednesday mornings? I could use a good rubdown after my weight class."
Dominique didn't answer. The extra money she made working weekends helped pay the bills, but she wasn't going to jeopardize her position at First Centennial Trust for anyonenot even a high roller like Tobias Carlston.
"Sorry, but I only work weekends."
Turing onto his side, he propped his head up with his elbow. Not only was he failing miserably at appearing cool but it looked like he was posing for a trashy magazine. "Then, we'll have dinner instead. Eight o'clock sound good?"