“Ready or not, here I come,” she whispered to her reflection in the mirror.
She walked carefully down the corridor to the elevator and waited, waited, waited for the doors to open. Finally, the elevator arrived and then slowly transported her to the ground floor where it disgorged her and six other hotel guests into the lobby. A quick scan of the lobby revealed that her date was waiting. He smiled faintly at her in acknowledgement, she nodded back. Well, if she was a minute or two late, too bad, she thought.
She turned at the sound of her name on the executive vice president’s lips and said, “Yes, Mark?”
“You look very nice,” he said, dispensing with the polite courtesies. “Where are you going?”
“I have a debt to settle, remember?”
“You have a job to do—the job you were hired to do,” he reminded her sternly.
Again, anger ignited and began to simmer.
“I am doing my job, honoring the debt incurred in obtaining entrance back into the hotel after an unplanned and ill-advised expedition into the city that the board insisted I accommodate and accompany,” she hissed at him.
“Moderate your tone, Cassia,” he chided. “Frank is far too busy to be occupied with administrative work.”
“I have your debt to settle,” she said, enunciating carefully.
“We’re in, all’s good. Ditch the guy and do your job.”
Cassia thought she’d go cross-eyed with exasperation and not a little anger. She said nothing, not trusting her tongue. The executive vice president seemed to realize that she was at the edge of losing her temper and forced the decision: “You’ll either do your job at the banquet or you can consider yourself unemployed.”
Cassia blinked. Still not trusting her tongue to remain civil, she turned on her heel and walked toward the tall man who waited for her, impeccably and elegantly garbed in what had to be a custom tailored tuxedo. Dimly, she realized that her palm itched. Probably to slap her client. She resisted rubbing her hand against her dress so she wouldn’t muss the lace and silk. Thuggery must pay very well, she thought nastily and clenched her fist.
Vladislav straightened from where he leaned against a faux marble pillar in the hotel’s opulent lobby as the woman walked toward him with short, jerky strides. Fury vividly colored her cheeks. He thought she looked magnificent. A smile tugged at his lips and it apparently did nothing to soothe her for she only drew herself up straighter and looked him dead in the eye, even though she was several inches shorter than he even with the stiletto heels.
“Let’s go,” she snapped.
Keeping his amusement quiet, he reached for her free hand—the one that was clenched into a fist—and brought the knuckles to his lips. He gently pressed his mouth against the skin and was rewarded with a small gasp of surprise even as her fist relaxed. He looked into those incredible violet eyes and was satisfied to see the militant glint soften. He turned her hand over and pressed the palm against his mouth. Again he whispered the words of claiming, his lips brushing against the warm skin, and then there was a sting and a tingle followed by a soothing lick.
“Stop that!” she hissed at him, tugging unsuccessfully to free her hand.
He licked her palm again just for the taste of her. Then gently kissed it and released it. She snatched her hand back and glared at him. She glanced behind her and flushed at the looks of leering speculation and contempt from conference attendees who witnessed that little display. Cassia’s shoulders dropped and she asked quietly, “Can we go now?”