I could tell the second I laid eyes on her that she was going to give me shit. The way she looked me over with thinly veiled disgust and squared her delicate shoulders. How she marched my way with purpose and efficiency across the floor of the art gallery. It was enough to make my dick stir despite having just come in from the frigid New York weather—not an easy feat when the temps had plummeted and my manhood had climbed nearly to my throat to avoid the cold. She narrowed her eyes at me, and my cock twitched again.
Nice to see you’re out of hiding there, sport, but you’re barking up the wrong tree with this one.
She looked entirely too hostile for the filthy things my poor, misguided penis had me thinking.
“Excuse me, but the gallery is closed for a private event.” She was gorgeous in her simple black gown and blazing red heels. She wore a thin gold chain at her neck with a small diamond pendant and matching earrings. Her shiny blonde hair was pulled up in a severe twist, her makeup understated and alluring. Her stunning green eyes were the only sparkle she needed, and they were serving her well.
I liked her understated style.
She had a hint of a southern drawl, and I liked that, too.
“I’m aware,” I told her, nodding over her shoulder. “I was told I could stop by before the event to have a look around.”
She scoffed, folding her arms across her chest and once again looked over my worn jeans, dark shades, and hoodie—the last of which was pulled up to cover my head and part of my face. “I wasn’t aware that the Unabomber was on the guest list.” Her nose wrinkled in the most adorable way, and I nearly laughed.
Seriously, I was popping the biggest ‘hot for teacher’ boner just watching her disapproving frown. She reminded me of the TA I’d had a crush on back in high school—only ten times sexier. “I’m assuming you’re referring to the poker player who used hoodies to obscure his face rather than the actual terrorist.” She had such an expressive face; no way would she ever be able to play poker.
“I’m undecided,” she offered in a clipped tone as she glanced around, presumably looking for backup. “And you need to leave. Guests will be arriving soon; ones who are fully aware and respectful of the dress code for events such as this.” Her eyes narrowed, and she surprised me by stepping closer, entering my space. “I’ll not have you disturbing anyone or disrespecting the work being showcased here tonight. Now, I’ll ask you one last time to please leave.”
“Emily? Is there a problem here?” An older gentleman approached from the back room, his brow furrowed as he took in my attire and returned his attention to her.
So, her name is Emily. Hmm, I like it. Suits her.
She quirked her mouth and watched me as he approached, answering without looking away. “This…” Her lip curled in distaste, and I had the insane urge to bite it. “Party crasher won’t leave. He says he was told to ‘stop by’ before the show tonight to look around.” God love her, she even used air quotes, and her southern accent was ramping up as she got progressively more irritated.
When the older man didn’t respond, she looked from me to him. “Arthur, did you hear me?”
I’d kept my eyes predominantly on her, but realizing his silence, I flicked my gaze to him and found him staring wide-eyed in my direction. “Are you…?”
I nodded quickly and returned my attention to the trim, golden-haired spitfire who was still in my personal space. So close, in fact, that I could smell her perfume, which was amazing: crisp and light, with a fruity note that made me want to lick her.
She glanced up at me and stepped back as if she was just realizing how close we were standing. Satisfied that she was at a safe distance, she looked back to the older man expectantly. “Well? Anyone want to clue me in? Preferably while we’re all still reasonably young. I have to get things ready in case the artist shows.”
“I thought the artist was a recluse, secretive to the point that no one had actually met the man,” I interjected, suppressing a smile.
She gave me an annoyed look. “It’s rumored that he sometimes attends his showings as a guest, just to see how his work is being received. On the off chance that the rumor is true, I want everything perfect in advance of his arrival.” The way she spoke made it clear she was a fan of the artist, so much so that her fluid green eyes actually danced despite her annoyance at my intrusion. She managed to fangirl without gushing, which was something I wasn’t used to seeing. In my line of work, gushing, crying, and even being hit with a hail of still-warm panties was the norm from fans.
Maybe if I took off my glasses she’d gush a little.
Would she even recognize me? I wasn’t as front-and-center as the rest of the band, being that I was always behind my drum kit, but I still had a pretty massive following. Thus, the need for anonymity when I was out and about.
“Emily, maybe you should run along and finish up. I’ll take care of Mr.—um, this gentleman.” The man looked at me with a shrug, not sure what to say to her but having clearly decided she needed not be privy to my identity.
I bent forward and gave her a disarming smile. “The artist thinks you’ve done an amazing job already. Don’t touch a thing. It’s all perfect.”
“And how could you possibly know that?” she snipped.
I straightened up and tilted my head down, letting the corner of my mouth quirk up in an ironic smile as I peered at her over the top of my glasses.
She just stared at me for a minute, her initial frown morphing before my eyes. She went from annoyed to confused to excited to mortified in the span of a few seconds before making a long gasping sound low in her throat. “Oh, shit.” Her face went white, and one hand came up to clutch her chest over her heart like it was hammering behind her ribs.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. It was a spur of the moment decision. The owner and curator had both signed NDAs, but she hadn’t. I wanted to be worried about it, but standing there, watching her slowly turn green, I just couldn’t muster enough self-awareness to care. All I could focus on was her and how she staggered back, apologizing profusely before running off in the direction of the ladies’ room.
The curator—I believe she called him Arthur—looked at me sheepishly. “Obviously, that wasn’t the welcome I’d envisioned for someone of your reputation and talent. I can only assume it fell short of your expectations, as well.”
If he’d seen some of the greetings I’d gotten over the years from the droves of Thrill of the Chase followers, he wouldn’t have bothered asking such a stupid question. “I’ve had better,” I deadpanned.