Vanessa’s practiced smile didn’t so much as flicker, but stayed clamped on her lips when she finally deigned to address Jen. Of course, the new Ice Age dawning in her blue gaze sent the temperature plummeting another fifty degrees. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your little friend, Brent?”
So she was supposed to play Lilliputian to Vanessa’s Gulliver. Jen’s temper climbed a few degrees. Guess again, Maleficent.
Brent sighed. “Vanessa Coulton-Brandenburg, this is Jennifer Casey. Jen, Vanessa. An ... old friend of mine.”
Since their gazes were already locked, only Jen caught the flash in Vanessa’s eyes. “Close friends,” she purred. Her rapier gaze drilled into Jen’s skull as her talons traced up Brent’s sleeve. Her immaculately plucked brows furrowed, as she tapped her lips with one bloody nail. “Casey? Now where have I heard that name? Got it.” She managed to sneer and chuckle all at once. “The MotorMail high-school teacher. Isn’t that sweet?”
Like the Goddess of Silicone would know sweet if it bit her shapely butt.
Casually dismissing Jen, Vanessa refocused on her prey. “Brent, darling, I’ve been trying to reach you for weeks. We have to talk.”
Again with the darling. Jen’s vision swam into the red zone. Message received. Vanessa and Brent had obviously been an item at some point. God knew what the man had been thinking, when a one-eyed cat could see Beach Bimbo Barbie wasn’t within a country mile of good enough for him. Brent needed a warm, sensitive woman. A simple, unpretentious woman who understood him. Not some avaricious, overpriced, undressed ... tootsie.
Furthermore, if Vanessa figured she still held the lease on Brent Maddox, she had another figure coming. Was she dense, or what? What didn’t she get about his cool, we’re history smile? Can you spell I’ve been ditched? The fact that he’d had sense enough to do the ditching made Jen want to kick off her spikes for a quick attaboy boogie.
Not that Jen couldn’t sympathize—on a purely abstract level, of course. Having Brent, then losing him, would crush a woman’s heart. Then again, she doubted Vanessa had a heart. What Vanessa had was the Mont Blanc pen to fill in Brent’s blank check.
Insinuating herself between Jen and Brent, the other woman—and that’s how Jen already thought of her—sidled up close to him, trailed her fingers up his lapel, toyed with the ends of his hair, and crooned, “I’ve missed you,” thus detonating a teensy atomic bomb in Jen’s brain. Totally appropriate, since war had just been declared.
Luckily for Brent—collateral damage being a distinct possibility—he chose that moment to shift away from Vanessa. Taking advantage of the minute space he’d managed to put between himself and the piranha in Prada, Jen stepped neatly into the breach. Cutting this glossy predator off at the knees would be one of life’s pure pleasures, and Jen didn’t doubt for a moment she’d take her down. Granted, she lacked the other woman’s sophistication and artfully displayed ammunition, but daily skirmishes with rooms full of teenagers kept the sword of psychological warfare razor sharp.
Anticipation was a heady froth in her veins, as she tucked herself cozily against Brent’s side, ignoring his quick, delighted grin. The smile she sent Vanessa was sweet enough to rot every tooth in the room.
“Oh, so you’re the Vanessa Brent told me about!” Gazing happily up at Brent, she added, “You didn’t tell me she was pretty.”
Vanessa’s eyes narrowed. “Oh, really?” She flicked a glance at Brent. “What, exactly, did he tell you?”
“Not a lot. If I remember correctly, your name came up when we were discussing ...” she looked at Brent again. “Was it plastic surgery?” Back at Vanessa. “Pretty sure that was it. You were right, Brent. They look completely natural,” she bubbled as Vanessa’s lips worked soundlessly, and her face turned an interesting shade of puce. “I’m awfully glad to meet you; I look forward to meeting all Brent’s friends.”
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