Home > Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(14)

Unwrap Me (Stark Trilogy #3.9)(14)
Author: J. Kenner

“Yup. But it’s the kind of license that has to get approval from the CEO. So it has to be approved by Damien Stark.”

“Oh.” My euphoria starts to wane.

“Don’t worry,” Lisa says. “It’s an amazing product. And Preston actually had dinner with Mr. Stark last night and told him all about it. So you may even know before the new year.”

Jamie picks up her orange juice and lifts it as if in a toast. “Well, merry freaking Christmas,” she says. “This one may turn out to be spectacular.”

It really might, I think as we head back to the condo. Then I think some more as I try to work on a commissioned app that’s supposed to launch mid-January. And later, when I’m doing the dishes that Jamie habitually ignores, I actually fantasize about having my very own office space.

The possibility makes me giddy, but I also know that it could be a huge, massive disappointment. And I’m trying really hard not to get my hopes up.

“If you’re that worried,” Jamie says as we are driving to Malibu that evening, “maybe you should just ask Stark directly.”

I glance at her sideways. “What do you mean?”

“Evelyn said he’s coming tonight.”

“Really?” From what I’ve heard, Damien Stark is exceptionally particular when it comes to accepting invitations.

“Apparently they go way back. She’s repped him on and off since his tennis days.” Jamie glances at me as she waits for a light to change. “It’s weird, though, isn’t it? Stark’s the reason you don’t have a job at C-Squared. And now here you are trying to get him to license your stuff.”

“Small world,” I say, but it is a little weird. I’d just started at C-Squared when my boss pitched a new software product to Stark Applied Technology. Stark had turned it down—too similar to another product that was just about to hit the market. Unfortunately, although I didn’t know it at the time, I’d been hired to work on that account. When the anticipated deal went away, so did I.

“I’m not going to worry about it,” I decide. “It’s Christmas Eve. I doubt he’s even decided what he’s going to do, and he’s certainly not coming to talk business.”

“Maybe not, but I bet he’ll want to talk to you, anyway. You look hot, as always.”

I roll my eyes, although the truth is that I know I look good. I’d splurged on a new red holiday dress with a fitted bodice and flared skirt. It has a retro Marilyn Monroe thing going, and I paired it with exceptionally uncomfortable but sexy shoes that truly make the outfit.

Since I work out of my bedroom, I rarely have the chance to dress up. And even though I got more than my fill when my mother was forcing me to do pageant after pageant, when it’s for my own pleasure, I enjoy the whole makeup and hair and pretty outfit routine.

Next to Jamie, however, I’m a slacker. She’s in a skintight black dress that accentuates every one of her many curves. If there are directors at the party, I bet each and every one of them will want to sign her to their next movie.

“This is it,” Jamie says, pulling up in front of a stunning Malibu house. “I’ve been here once before. Her view of the beach is awesome. And her boyfriend is way younger and paints really erotic stuff. She’ll probably have his pictures on the walls, so fair notice. It’s good—really good—but a little over the top.”

“No problem,” I say, and now I’m more than a little curious.

A hired valet takes the car, and I follow Jamie to the door and am delighted when Evelyn herself greets us. She envelops Jamie in a hug, then turns and does the same thing to me. “So good to see you again. Let’s get you inside and put a drink in your hand.”

Since that sounds like a good plan to me, I happily follow her—only to stumble just inside the door.

Evelyn catches my arm and looks at me with concern, but I barely notice her. Instead, my eyes are glued on a man who is halfway across the open area, just one of many guests and yet he commands the entire room.

His face consists of hard lines and angles that seem sculpted by light and shadows, making him appear both classically gorgeous and undeniably unique. His dark hair absorbs the light as completely as a raven’s wing, but it is not nearly as smooth. Instead, it looks wind-tossed, as if he’s spent the day at sea.

That hair in contrast with his black tailored trousers and starched white shirt give him a casual elegance, and it’s easy to believe that this man is just as comfortable on a tennis court as he is in a boardroom. His famous dual-colored eyes capture my attention. They seem edgy and dangerous and full of dark promises.

I know that I am staring, but I’m struck with the oddest sense of déjà vu. As if all of this has happened before, but not in this reality. In a dream. In another life. In—

“Sorry about that step, Texas,” Evelyn says, holding me steady after my near fall. “I should have warned you.”

“No, it’s okay.” I tilt my head up and see that she is frowning at me with maternal concern. “That man—that’s Damien Stark, right?”

“Hard to miss, isn’t he?” she asks, and I nod, just a little dumbstruck.

Jamie takes my other arm. “Nik? Are you okay? Did you twist your ankle?”

“I’m okay,” I say, but that’s a lie.

Because I’m not okay—not anymore.

I’m not okay at all.

Chapter 6

I order a double Scotch from the bar near the door and toss it back as Jamie looks at me, bemused.

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