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Standing in a room filled to capacity with the expensively dressed men and women of New York City's social elite, Dean Maxwell was in the midst of contemplating creative ways to torture the eldest sister who'd wheedled him into attending this event when he saw her. Petite, dark-haired, stunning, and looking like she wanted escape as much as he did. Without a second thought, Dean made his excuses to the trio of women who'd cornered him upon his arrival and subsequent desertion by his dear sister.
He made his way across the crowded room. His target turned to talk to someone who drew her attention and Dean stopped completely for a moment, his breath trapped in his chest. The woman wasn't wearing a bra. The calf-length, silky, black gown wrapped around that slender body plunged dramatically in the rear to the small of her back, exposing nothing but a long expanse of smooth, pale skin that he alternately wanted to touch and to cover from other male eyes at the same time.
The primitive possessiveness startled him, but he didn't question it. When his heart started beating again, Dean had to force the white-knuckled hand gripping the champagne flute to relax before he snapped the stem in two. Five more feet and he was able to overhear the conversation between her and her apparently unwanted companion.
"No, really, I'm fine right here," she was saying, her voice low but insistent. Dean could hear the underlying note of frustration in her cool tone.
"Babe, you're looking flushed," her companion countered as he snaked a hand down to her hip with ease and familiarity. Anger flickered hotly through Dean. "Let's just step out onto the balcony for a bit. The fresh air'll do you good. Clear your head. And we'll be able to talk privately."
"Here's the champagne you asked for," Dean interjected firmly, stepping forward. She spun around and he found himself staring into eyes the color of good Scotch whisky. For the second time that night, breathing was forgotten.