The Insiders

Page 82

Oh, dear Lord.

He chuckled softly and pressed a kiss to my cheek before whispering, “You look beautiful.” Then he bent, his mouth sliding and hovering over my mouth.

My breath. Gone. Again. He could do that in one look. Then he was nodding to me and the girls behind me. “I’ll be at the door.”

My whole insides were trembling.

Torie was shaking her head again. “Is he always like that?”

A weak and shaky laugh was my only response, and her eyes widened at that.


I nodded to that one. “Wow.”

“Okay. Let’s finish up.” Tamara had pulled my hair back into a messy braided bun behind my head. Loose tendrils framed my face and were sprayed for volume, with a few pink roses stuck overtop the bun. My dress was an A-line V-neck with spaghetti straps that pressed over my top. It didn’t look tight, just smooth, like it was hugging me. The bottom had a slit up the thigh, with a shimmering silver-blue tint. As I moved, I felt the dress sliding sensually over me. There was no back, so no bra, and I felt the air graze over my back. It felt nice.

I headed out to meet Kash. He opened the door, and I heard him draw in his breath.

His hand came to my back, splaying out protectively, and he bent close. “Are you wearing underwear?”

I only grinned at him. “You’ll find out tonight.”

His hand pressed on me harder, and his eyes flashed. “If you think I’m waiting for tonight, you’re mistaken.”

I had to stop, lean against Kash for a second. His hand smoothed down to my hip before sliding up my back, and he caught my nape. He held me still, positioning my head back, and he dropped a kiss to my mouth. He held me there, his lips demanding over mine, but then he groaned. His body tightened, and he forced himself to lift up again.

“You make me want to forget the world.” His lips whispered kisses to the corner of my mouth and up my jaw before he found the crook of my shoulder.

I was shaking. He wasn’t alone.

I placed a hand to his chest, needing to help hold myself upright. He centered me, and his hand found mine, covering it. He lifted his head up again, a deep raw need in his depths as he raked me over again. “You okay?”

I shook my head. I couldn’t talk. I knew what I had to do.

He started forward.

But then I did. I knew exactly what to say.

“Wait.” I pulled him back.

He faced me completely, and I spoke low, because I wasn’t going to repeat myself.

“You and me, tonight, you’re not driving anymore.”

His eyebrows pinned together.

“We’re talking, and when I say ‘talking,’ I’m referring to using our vocal cords to make sounds that can string along sentences.” I stepped close, my hand on his chest. I felt him stiffen, but I wasn’t done. “If you and me are going to be a you and me, we’re actually going to be a you and me. That means you talking, me talking, you listening, me listening. Equal. Got it?”

And I didn’t wait. This time, I led the way outside.



There were people everywhere. They were wealthy, privileged, powerful, and I was officially freaking. Forget that they were here for me, though I knew that was just the excuse. When Peter Francis threw a party, people came. That was the sentiment I felt, and I knew it was true as I saw three politicians, a mega pop star that I was fangirling over inside, and—oh boy—a queen of a television network. She was laughing with a group of television anchors and my mom.

My mom?

I stopped walking. Kash stepped next to me, following my gaze.

He chuckled, but it was strained. He hadn’t said a word about my “talk” to him. “Why am I not surprised to see Chrissy Hayes fitting in like she owns this house?”

I threw him back a frown. “Speaking of that, have you gotten a feel on the dynamics between her and my dad? And Quinn? They’ve all been tight-lipped about letting any of that out. It’s weird.”

He shrugged, tugging me forward now.

A server went by with champagne, strawberries inside, and I snagged two. I wasn’t even going to pretend I got the other one for Kash. He wouldn’t drink, so call me Two-Hands Fister. It was my party. I could drink if I wanted to.

“I think there’s history between the two that neither wants to talk about,” he said.

As soon as people started noticing us, conversations quieted. Eyes turned to track us. One would think they were watching me. Nope. I wasn’t buying it. All those gazes were on Kash, then dipping to his hand, which was now on my back as, yep, I was holding both of my champagne glasses. Classy.

I could fix that. I quickly drank one of the glasses.

Kash was pulling me over to where Matt was sitting. He was with his usual group of friends, sitting on the lounge chairs by a glass-enclosed fire pit. Matt jerked his head up in a nod, grinning as we drew nearer. He moved to meet us, separating from his group, and one of his hands went into his tuxedo pocket. “You two look fucking smashing.” His eyes were twinkling. He looked me over. “Shit, Bailes. You look hot, even for a sister of mine.” His lips tugged further upward and he motioned around the entire backyard. The party tables were set up on the bricked patio, behind the mausoleum, but the people had spread so they were standing on the greens that were a part of the estate’s private golf course. A few even were on the basketball court, and I saw a couple kids running around shooting hoops at the far end. Cyclone was with them.

Seraphina was standing in a group of other girls. I made a mental note to find out the names of each and every one of them. I remembered the online journal I hacked from Seraphina’s account. It hadn’t boded well then, and it boded even less now.

Big protective sister was here to stay.

We stayed with Matt and his friends, friends who were very keen and interested and now suddenly all wanting to be friendly with me. Shocker. They were also noticing the hand that Kash kept on my back.

I liked how we were.

I wasn’t leaning on him. He wasn’t claiming me. He didn’t pull me to his side, but he was next to me. There was some space between us, but his hand was behind me in case I needed him. It was almost perfect.

Matt sometimes stood on my other side, sometimes maneuvered in front of us so it was the three of us and his back was keeping everyone else out. Sometimes he just moved aside and grinned when people came over to “meet” me.

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