She looked away again, hiding another smile. “Wow. You’re like something straight from a romance novel.”
A laugh, deeper this time, rumbled from the pits of Julien’s stomach. “What do I call you?”
They walked toward her table, her arm secured in his elbow while her opposite hand rested on his forearm. Julien could see them outside himself, walking together in the midst of the glittering crowd. They looked good together. The way the eyes around the room followed them gave him his confirmation.
“Arihi,” she said when they reached the table.
He pulled out her chair. “Arihi. That’s…different. Is it Polynesian?”
She sat and looked up at him, surprised. “Melanesian, to be exact. You must be well traveled.”
“I’m an avid reader.” He took the seat next to her. “And a connoisseur of geography, if you will.”
It was required, when he was jetting out all over the sphere of the globe to do things that were not always within the guidelines of international sanctions. Matter of fact, he was often not on the right side of the law, as it was written. Ethics, yes, but not always the law.
“And what can I call you?”
“Ju—” He cleared his throat. “William. William Talvio.”
It was the first time he’d ever hated having to use a fake name. What if they ended up in his hotel suite tonight? He would prefer she call out his name mid-climax than a man who hadn’t existed prior to six months ago.
Her head tilted to the side. “You’re the guy everyone’s buzzing about.”
“Everyone’s buzzing about me?”
She nodded, reached for her goblet of water, and took a sip. “Yes. They’re all impressed that you’re so young yet so, I guess, gifted?”
Julien rested his hand on the back of her chair, needing to feel just a little bit closer to her. He was surprised he heard any word she said with how hard he was looking at her. It was probably the best use of an eidetic memory, the ability to never forget even the smallest detail of her face. Like that birthmark behind her ear that reminded him of Germany on a map. And the piercing at the top of the auricle.
“I’m just rich,” he said. “Young and rich. That’s about it.”
She drew another sip from the glass. “In what industry?”
“Tech. Specifically, network access control via a Secure LAN Controller.”
“With upgrades or have you figured out how to do it without add-ons to avoid the usual delays?”
His c*ck hardened. “We immediately support network access control.”
“You know a little bit about it?”
“Just a little bit.”
He scrubbed a hand over his mouth and down his jaw, wiping just in case he’d accumulated drool there. “Beautiful and intelligent.”
“I could say the same about you.”
Julien shifted in his seat and slid a bit further underneath the table to hide his erection. “So…what brings you here?” he asked.
Her bare shoulder lifted. He imagined his mouth on her skin, sucking and licking his way to her neck. Nibbling her. Branding her.
“I’m actually here with my sister,” she said.
“Is she as beautiful as you are?”
She grinned. “Well…”
“Ari, I don’t think this was a good idea.” A woman flopped down opposite them, and Julien felt his heart trip. Two of them. There were two of them.
Praise be. Hallelujah.
“I can’t stop thinking about him.”
Ari cleared her throat. “Uh, Mo, I’d like to introduce you to William Talvio.”
The woman, the twin named Mo finally noticed Julien sitting next to Ari. She first found his eyes and then let her gaze fall to what he realized was the closing gap between his and Ari’s bodies. He hadn’t even recalled moving.
Mo wore her hair bone straight. Her dress was silver with two straps instead of one and open down the middle. Together, they looked like a holiday ornament treasured and passed down through family over generations.
She extended her hand. “Moana Johnson.”
He leaned forward and kissed the back of her hand. “Nice to meet you, Moana.”
“Mo is fine.” She slipped her hand away, rested her jaw in the same hand, and propped her elbow up on the table. “At least you’re getting your freak on, Ari.”
“We’re just talking,” Ari clarified.
“Just talking?” Mo scanned him again. “If you don’t at least let him sniff it before the night is over, I’ll be very disappointed in you.”
Julien choked on a laugh and reached for his own glass of water. Ari closed her eyes, shook her head.
“Why are you shaking your head?” Mo asked. “We had an agreement. After my breakup, any sex to be had would be through you. By some kind of twin passive diffusion, or something, maybe I’ll get some kind of pleasure.”
“She’s upset,” Ari explained, turning to Julien. “She and her boyfriend recently broke up.”
“He dumped me,” Mo cut in.
“Somebody dumped you?” Julien frowned. “Who was it, freakin’ Leo DiCaprio?”
Mo giggled. “Leo would’ve never been able to dump me. I would’ve stalked his ass.”
Ari held her hands out to her sister. “I’ll never let go!”
Julien laughed along with them, enjoying the authenticity of their banter. Up until then, he’d been suffocated by the air of bombast events like these usually carried.
“You’re a gorgeous woman,” he told Mo. “If he dumped you, that’s his loss. And I’m not just saying that. I’m already in love with your sister, and we just met.”
In a gesture more familiar than he’d been expecting, Ari swatted him on his thigh. “You’re…I don’t know what you are.”
“Your date for the night.”
She studied his face. His gaze fell to her mouth, her lips full and soft and magnificent with just a touch of color. He would kiss them before the night was out, confirm if they felt and tasted like marshmallows.
“I think I can work with that,” she said, finishing the water in her glass. “For the night only, though.”
Julien failed to bite back his smile. “That’s all I ask.”
“You have to be good.”
He made a cross over his chest. “Promise.”
Later that night, back in her hotel room, he kept his promise to be good.
Ari was propped on a table in her suite, legs spread wide. His tongue was between them, licking along her slit where she was sweet and salty and wetter than any woman he had ever met in his life.
“William…more. Please, don’t tease me.”
He eased back and stroked her cl*t with his thumb. “Call me Julien.”
Her lids could barely open. “Julien?”
“It’s a nickname,” he lied with much more effort than usual. “What my, uh, family calls me.”
“Okay…” he leaned forward, tortured her with another slow lick, “…Julien.”