Travis opened the driver’s-side door and climbed out, turning to lean up against it. By Georgie’s third attempt to back into a parking space, Travis was shaking his head.
He was prepared to question why she didn’t simply pull in headfirst, but the words died on Travis’s lips when Georgie came into view. No skirt this time, but he felt that low stirring in his belly regardless. Maybe even stronger this time around. She’d traded her clown suit for a loose summer dress and sandals that crisscrossed up her legs and tied below the knee. Hair that she’d hidden beneath an orange wig earlier was in a braid that sat on one shoulder. As she drew closer, he noticed a light sheen on her lips that made him think of bites taken from fresh fruit.
Every inch the sweet girl next door . . . until he let himself notice her tits. Kill me now. They’d been pushed up and separated and put on display in the V of her dress. Why couldn’t he look at her body and remain objective? He’d never had this problem before. Much of his life had been spent crossing paths with gorgeous women, but this one made him feel like his clothes fit wrong.
A young guy walking past her in the parking lot did a double take. After tugging an earphone out of his ear, he said hello. As in hel-lo.
“Hi,” she said back, slowing to a stop and looking at the man with an oblivious expression. “Did you need something?”
Clearly shocked that his skeevy hello had earned him a positive response, the guy backed up like a dog who’d spotted a stray treat. “Now that you mention it—”
“No, he doesn’t need anything. Christ.” Travis inserted himself between Georgie and the idiot, pulling her up against his side. His irritation plummeted when he saw Georgie was genuinely confused. “He thinks you are attractive, Georgie. He just did a shit job of letting you know it.”
“Ohhh.” Travis watched Georgie clock the reporter stationed a few spots down. “And . . .” She gave him a conspiratorial nudge. “What would be the right way?”
They weren’t even inside the restaurant yet and the danger line was blurring. It was enough to walk into the establishment holding Georgie’s hand. Buy her drinks. Put an arm around her shoulders. People inside would get the hint and so would anyone who saw the resulting pictures. He didn’t need to lean in as he was doing now, his palm sliding down her bare arm to twine their fingers together. He didn’t need to draw those fingers to his mouth and kiss them. Twice. Slow. “You look fucking beautiful.”
“You’re right,” she breathed, staring at the knuckles he was still holding. “That is definitely the right way.”
With the taste of her on his lips, taunting him for his lack of control, Travis turned and dragged her toward the restaurant. “Now you know.”
“Wait.” She still sounded breathless. “Shouldn’t we, like . . . reconnoiter?”
He stopped and faced her. “What?”
“Reconnoiter. You know . . .” She spoke in a hush out of the side of her mouth. “Perform recon. See who’s in there. Form a game plan.”
“I have a game plan.”
She widened her eyes at him. “Care to share? I’m one-half of this team.”
A flash went off over Georgie’s shoulder. “We look like we’re having an argument.”
“Trouble in paradise. Today on TMZ.” She crossed her eyes at Travis and he found himself fighting a smile. “We will be having an argument if you don’t clue me in. I’ve never had a real boyfriend, let alone a fake one.”
“You didn’t need to remind me.”
Travis lost his smile. “I didn’t mean it to sound harsh, Georgie. Only that I’m aware how much more experience I have than you.”
She gave a dainty tug of her earlobe. “And you’ve had an official girlfriend?”
Knowing he’d been bested, he narrowed his eyes at her. “Point taken. I still know how to convince whoever is watching that you’re mine.”
Did he imagine her shiver? “How?”
His body’s response to that single word was chemical. This woman whose body called to him on an insane level wanted to know, in explicit terms, how he planned to put a claim on her. How he would lead everyone to believe they were regularly sweating up the sheets. It was curiosity on Georgie’s part, but his blood couldn’t help heating at the perceived challenge. Couldn’t help heating at all of her. The inquisitive eyes and secret smile that, dammit, really made him feel like they were on a team. Her tits. God, yes, her tits. The glow of the streetlamps on either side of the entrance made them look soft and touchable. It didn’t help knowing she’d never had her nipples sucked before him and had gasped and squirmed the first time it happened. Maybe he couldn’t be the one to suck them the next time, but letting everyone think he had would have to suffice.
This time she definitely shivered in reaction to his change in tone. She stepped forward, fingering the end of her braid, and Travis stayed right where he was, head tilted, waiting until a sliver of paper couldn’t fit between their bodies. Her heat rolled into his belly and journeyed lower, waking up hunger he needed to be ashamed about, but couldn’t seem to stop when they were face-to-face. His arm moved on its own, snaking around the small of her back and tugging her tight against his body. “You want to know how I’m going to let everyone know you’re mine, huh?”
Georgie pushed against his chest and backed up. “No.”
Denial crammed his belly full. “No?”
She gave him a meaningful look. “Did you already forget this position you want is at a family-friendly network?” Her eyelids fluttered. “You shouldn’t be looking at me like that.”
Fuck. How did he continue to lose his common sense around this girl? Why couldn’t he look at Georgie and see all the logical reasons that being in a physical relationship with her would be bad?
Not to mention, she was right. Being caught making out with yet another woman on camera was a good way to get his name crossed off the short list.
Yet another woman.
He didn’t want to admit to himself that Georgie felt like anything but.
Travis gave a tight nod and led her into the Waterfront, camera flashes going off in their wake. Apart from the music pumping over the loudspeaker in the bar area, the room slowly turned dead silent. No one spoke or moved as Travis guided Georgie to the closest open stools. He could feel the eyes on them—knew she must, too—but she didn’t take her attention off him once. It set the organ in his chest to pounding, and by the time he boosted her sideways onto the stool, the conversation they’d been having completely eluded him. “Uh.” He swallowed. “What do you drink?”
“I’m rusty on ordering drinks. Most of the parties I’m invited to only serve Capri Suns.” She licked her lips in slow motion. At least that’s how it happened in his head. “My go-to in college was vodka and lemonade.”
“Don’t call me cute in my gladiator sandals.” She gave him a solemn look. “I’m battling a lion later tonight—you should come.”
Warmth invaded his chest. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”
He tore his eyes away from her pleased smile and gave their order to the bartender. That’s when Georgie finally seemed to notice that every eye in the place was trained on them. She sucked in a breath and he stepped closer on reflex, curving a palm to her shoulder. “You’re really good at this,” she whispered.
“What?” He looked down to find himself crowding her, his fingers playing with the tip of her braid. “Oh. Yeah, lots of practice,” he lied smoothly, abundantly aware he’d never been this affectionate in his life. Cursing himself for the way her eyes dimmed in response, Travis rushed to make it better. “Tell me more about your club.” The bartender set down their drinks and Travis handed Georgie hers. “The Just Us League. Do you have a motto yet?”
“All for one. And one for Paul. Paul is the stripper we hire for meetings.”
Travis broke off halfway through a chuckle. “That’s a joke, right?”
“Of course. A stripper named Paul would never get hired. He’d have to call himself Daddy Manroot or something.” She broke off with a laugh. “Your face right now.”
“It’s the face of anyone who hears the term ‘Daddy Manroot.’”
“Sorry.” She smiled around her straw as she took her first sip. “I really shouldn’t be telling you top secret club information. Can we keep everything between us?”
There it was again. That same team feeling. He . . . liked having it with her. “I’m a vault, baby girl.”
She made a wishy-washy sound. “I don’t feel too terrible discussing my sister, since she used to steal my Halloween candy, but Rosie’s situation is a different story.”
“Does it have to do with the newspapers Dom keeps finding stuffed under the mattress?”
“He knows about them and hasn’t said anything?” She took in that information and recentered herself with visible effort. “In other news, did you know Bethany wants to run her own project?”