Kimberly smiles, ever the perfect hostess. “Nice to see you again, Max.”
Max grins. “You, too, dear.” He takes her hand in his and lifts it to his lips.
“Excuse me.” A woman’s voice sounds behind me. Hardin and I step to the side, and Sasha prances through the small space. Her intimidating height and barely-there white dress help her claim the entire room.
“Great,” Hardin says, echoing my thought from seconds ago. He’s about as happy to see her as I am to see Max.
“Sasha.” Kimberly tries to appear pleased to see the woman but fails. One of the flaws of Kim’s genuine openness and honesty is that it’s hard for her to hide her emotions.
Sasha smiles warmly at her and takes a seat on the couch, next to Max. His dark eyes meet mine as if he’s asking me for permission to sit with his mistress. I look away as Hardin guides me to the couch directly across from them. Kimberly takes a seat on Christian’s lap and leans forward to grab a bottle of champagne.
“What do you think of the place, Theresa?” Max asks with his smooth, heavy accent.
“Um.” I stutter at the use of my full name. “I-it’s nice.”
“Would you two like some champagne?” Kimberly offers.
Hardin answers for me. “I wouldn’t, but Tessa would.”
I lean into his shoulder. “If you aren’t drinking, I probably shouldn’t either.”
“Go ahead, I don’t mind. I just don’t want any.”
I smile at Kim. “I’m okay; thank you, though.”
Hardin frowns and takes a full glass from the table. “You should have some, you’ve had a long day.”
“You only want me to drink so I don’t ask you questions,” I whisper, rolling my eyes as I do so.
“No.” He smiles, amused. “I just want you to have a nice time out. That’s what you wanted, right?”
“I don’t have to drink to have a nice time.” When I glance around the room, I can see that none of our company is paying any attention to our conversation.
“I never said that you did. I’m only saying, your friend is offering you free champagne that probably cost more than your entire outfit and mine put together.” His fingertips dance along the nape of my neck. “So why not enjoy a glass?”
“Good point.” I lean into him again, and he hands me the long-stemmed glass. “But I’m only having one,” I say.
Thirty minutes later I’ve just polished off my second glass and am contemplating a third in an attempt to not feel uncomfortable while I watch Sasha parading around the small space. She claims she just wants to dance, but if that were truly the case, she could go out to the public area of the club and dance there.
I cover my mouth as if I’ve said the words out loud.
“What?” Hardin, I can see, is bored. Very bored. I can tell by the way he’s staring at the black curtain and his hand is dragging lazily up and down my back.
I shake my head in a silent response. I shouldn’t be thinking those things about the woman when I don’t even know her. All I know about her is that she’s sleeping with a married man . . .
That’s probably enough to know. I can’t help but dislike her.
“Can we go now?” Hardin whispers into my neck and brings his other hand to my thigh.
“Just a little longer,” I say to him. I’m not necessarily bored, but I would rather be spending one-on-one time with Hardin than avoiding eye contact with Sasha or her nearly exposed underwear.
“Tessa, come dance . . . ?” Kimberly suggests, and Hardin tenses.
My thoughts flash back to the last time I went out to a nightclub with Kimberly. I danced with a guy just to spite Hardin, even though he was miles away. I was so heartbroken then, so sad, that I could barely think straight. That guy ended up kissing me, and I ended up completely molesting Hardin in my hotel room after he found Trevor there. It was a huge misunderstanding, but when I think back, the night ended pretty well for me.
“I don’t really dance, remember?” I say.
“Well, come do a lap or something.” She smiles. “You look like you’re falling asleep.”
“Okay, a lap,” I agree and rise to my feet. “Are you coming?” I ask Hardin, who shakes his head.
“She’ll be fine; we’ll only be gone a minute,” Kimberly assures him.
He doesn’t look pleased about her stealing me away, but doesn’t try to stop her. He’s trying to show me that he can lighten up, and I love him for it.
“If you lose her, don’t bother coming back,” he says.
Kimberly bursts into laughter and drags me through the curtains and into the crowded club.
Chapter one hundred and fifteen
Max sidles up to me and asks, “Where do you suppose she took Theresa off to?”
“Tessa,” I correct him. How the fuck does he even know her name is Theresa? Okay, maybe it’s a little obvious that’s her full name, but I don’t like his saying it.
“Tessa.” He smiles and takes a long sip of champagne. “She’s a lovely girl.”
I reach for a bottled water from the table and ignore his prodding. I have no interest in talking to the man. I should’ve gone with Tessa and Kimberly, wherever they went. I try to show Tessa that I can “lighten up,” and this is where it gets me. Sitting next to this guy in a club with shitty music.
“I’ll be back in a second; the band just arrived,” Christian informs us. He tucks his cell phone into his dress slacks and wanders off. Max stands and follows him, giving his date instructions to enjoy herself, to have more champagne.