Right after exiting the auditorium, Damien spotted her at the bar. He didn’t realize it was Michelle until she smiled. He’d recognize that heart-stopping smile anywhere. She was stunning with her hair and face all done-up. A modern-day Dorothy Dandridge, whose image was still fresh in his mind from his last visit home. He’d watched, better yet, napped on the sofa while his mother watched Carmen Jones. He caught a few scenes of the movie during brief moments of consciousness, noting to himself how sexy the actress looked in that tight red skirt.
Damien fixed his eyes on Michelle for almost a minute, taking in her elegant beauty, before heading in her direction. He stopped suddenly when he saw some man standing next to her. She was on a date. But why him? Evidently, pretty boy candy ass was her type—that would explain why she’d avoided having lunch with him so many times.
She appeared to be having a great time with that dude, laughing at everything he said. Disappointed, Damien drifted outside to get some air for a few minutes.
“So you’d rather stand out here than speak to me? I thought we were friends,” Michelle said, looking around with her palms up, doing a pretty good imitation of him.
“I didn’t want to interrupt you and your date. You—”
“I don’t have a date.”
“Then who was that dude you were with?” Damien asked, trying to mask the edge with casual. “He was standing awfully close to you.”
“Awful is right. His breath was a little tart,” she said, fanning her nose. “He made some joke, and I had to throw my head back and laugh to keep from passing out. When I declined his offer to buy me a drink, he moved on to his next victim. That’s when I saw you.”
Damien’s mood flipped a hundred eighty degrees. Michelle cheered him up and made him laugh in a matter of seconds. He was glad she wasn’t out with some bad-breath loser, but he didn’t like that she was alone. He should be with her instead of Angelica Winthrop, the spoiled daughter of a North Carolina politician he met at a mutual friend’s barbecue in Cornelius last month.
Angelica had looked him up, asked him to dinner and invited him to spend the night. She was attractive, they’d had a nice time at dinner and it had been a while since he’d had sex. So he stayed over.
Three weeks in, he was ready to give her the fade out. She wasn’t the woman for him.
On several occasions he’d witnessed her treat her staff like trash, not worthy of her time, let alone respect. She talked down to people that she deemed beneath her. He’d also had enough of her ordering him around in bed like he was some inexperienced recruit. The last time they were together, she threw a fit when he wouldn’t choke her during sex. He was always down for a little freaky kink—a playful spank here, a little tie-me-up tie-me-down there. It was cool. But he drew the line at violence. He didn’t need that to get off. He was over her when she tried to provoke him with a slap to his face.
Dinner and a show were her attempts at making amends. He had decided to play along for the night, then he was done. After the show, he planned to drop her off at her condo, then turn in early.
“You’re not here by yourself, are you?” Michelle asked. “I—”
“No, he’s not,” Angelica said, clutching his arm as if to stake her claim. “And he was supposed to bring me a drink ten minutes ago.”
Shit. He was so caught up in Michelle he’d forgotten about Angelica’s wine. “I was getting some air first,” he said. “It was a little stuffy in there.
“It’s my fault,” Michelle said, glancing at Damien. “I was jabbering on and made him lose track of time. I’m a client of Anthony Construction’s. Mich—”
“How nice for you,” Angelica said, looking past Michelle, ignoring her outstretched hand. “Damien, are you done here? I want to go back inside.”
A surge of heat rose up his neck. He opened his mouth to put Angelica in her place, but Michelle beat him to it.
“Are you always this rude? Or are you just trying to seem more impressive than you really are?” Michelle asked, tucking her purse under her arm as if to free her hands in the event things got squirrely.
Angelica gasped. “Excuse me?”
“There is no excuse for your behavior. Damien was kind enough to accompany you to this wonderful event, even though he has a busy day tomorrow. The least you could do is show a little respect for one of his business associates. You need to use your manners and learn how to act in public. Good to see you again, Damien.” Calm and collected, Michelle turned back to the auditorium.
Angelica glared at him. “I can’t believe you let that...that woman talk to me that way.”
“You started it,” he told her, trying to stifle a laugh. “Michelle is one of my best clients, and you dismissed her like she was the freaking help. You had no—”
“You’re defending her? I can’t believe this.” Angelica stomped away from him, then whipped around. “Take me home. Right now.”
“What about the rest of the show? Intermission’s almost over. Let’s go back in, watch Simba do his thing, then I’ll take you home.”
Angelica folded her arms and pouted like some spoiled little brat. “Take me home now, Damien.”
In silence, he drove Angelica to her South End condo. When he moved to get out of the car, she stopped him. “Don’t bother, I can open my own damn door.” She got out, then leaned back in. “And lose my number.” She slammed the car door and stomped into her building.
Relieved, Damien cranked up Gnarles Barkley’s “Crazy” and cruised home—happy to leave behind and forget the Uptown socialite from hell.
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