No Reservations

Salon Games - 2


Stephanie Julian


New Year’s Eve

“I’m afraid you don’t look like you’re having a very good time. As one of the hosts, I have to say I’m slightly offended.”

The deep, masculine voice cut through the haze that had developed over Kate Song’s attention, drawing her gaze upward until she looked into the darkest blue eyes she’d ever seen.

If she were the romantic type, which she really wasn’t, she’d say they were the dark blue of a calm sea set in an arrestingly handsome face.

Strong forehead. Straight nose. Gorgeous cheekbones. Dark hair cut a little too long to be considered conservative but not long enough to be rebellious.

Even if he’d been wearing anything other than the custom-made tuxedo—like say, the penguin costume that unfortunate fool in the corner had chosen to wear to this high-class New Year’s Eve party—he’d still look exactly like what he was.

A rich playboy with endless pockets and probably an ego twice as big.

And he stared at her as if she were next on his to-do list.

Buy small European country before breakfast. Acquire Fortune 500 company after lunch. Host fancy shindig at night.

Why he’d added Sweet talk sour-looking guest at fancy shindig to that list, she didn’t know. And couldn’t afford to indulge.

“Then I’d have to reply that your powers of observation leave something to be desired.”

Kate made sure she kept her tone disinterested and let her gaze slide back to the dance floor. Her best friend was out there, dancing with a gorgeous guy who’d practically swept her off her feet the second they’d arrived at this party.

Annabelle had needed this night out and Kate hadn’t wanted her to go alone. Even Kate’s fiancé, Arnie, had realized how much this would mean to Annabelle. He’d told Kate to go, have fun.

He certainly hadn’t meant for her to flirt with a gorgeous stranger while she was there.

Low, amused laughter from above made her eyebrows arch as she slid another glance his way.

“Wow,” he said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been told off quite that politely before.”

One corner of his masculine lips had quirked up and his eyes had narrowed.

And her heart gave a little flutter.

No way. None of that tonight.

None of that ever, apparently.

Crap. Just . . . crap.

Hell, she couldn’t even get her snarky subconscious to lay off tonight.

She didn’t have to force a chagrined smile as her gaze lingered this time. And found her attention captivated.

He truly was a beautiful man. And she didn’t mean he was pretty.

No, he was distinctly, utterly masculine in a way that made her want to rub up against him and purr.

Danger ahead. Especially for an engaged woman.

Who was having doubts left, right, and center lately.

Sighing, she gestured to the seat next to her. “I’m sorry. Would you like to sit? I have to warn you, though. I’m probably not going to be very good company tonight.”

“And why is that?”

Because I can’t decide what I want to do with my life. Because I’m engaged to a man I’m not sure I love enough to marry.

“Because I foolishly thought these shoes would be a smart idea, and now my feet hurt.”

He laughed, low and a little husky and so very enticing, as he slid into the chair on the opposite side of the round table.

“Well, I’m glad to know it’s not the company.”

It definitely was not the company. Despite her assurances to Annabelle that she would be fine by herself, she wanted the company. Hadn’t wanted to be sitting here, alone, looking like a spinster chaperone.

Annabelle would freak if she thought she’d been neglecting Kate and would refuse to leave her alone for the rest of the night. Then Annabelle would miss out on the fun she seemed to be having with the blond, blue-eyed Adonis who’d arrowed in on her from their first moment at the party.

So Kate would suck it up while she sat here and talked to this seriously handsome playboy.

And what could it hurt? After all, it was just a conversation between two adults who didn’t know each other amid a crowd of people who weren’t paying any attention to them.

She stuck her hand across the table. “I’m Kate.”

He took it for a firm shake, not holding on too long. Just long enough for the heat to seep from his skin into hers. She almost embarrassed herself by curling around his fingers and not letting go. “Tyler. Very nice to meet you. Now, about those shoes . . .”

With a smile, she stuck out one leg to show off the offending platform-soled, spike-heeled black patent leather pumps . . . and realized she was exposing more skin than she normally showed unless she was wearing a bathing suit or going to bed.

More than a dozen petal-shaped pieces of tulle created the skirt of her handmade fairy costume, and those pieces fell open to reveal her thigh all the way to the bottom of the barely decent, green satin underskirt.

She’d known when she’d been creating the matching costumes for Annabelle and herself that they were sexy, racy, and like nothing she’d ever worn in public.

And that had been part of the appeal. To display a little piece of her life that she normally kept hidden to people she didn’t know and would never see again.

Kate took pride in the fact that the beautiful costumes held their own among the other custom-made pieces at this high-class party in one of the most exclusive hotels in Philadelphia. A party she never would have attended had it not been for Annabelle’s recent breakup.

“They’re beautiful.” Tyler’s voice deepened as his gaze lingered a little longer than necessary on her leg.

When he lifted his gaze, it wasn’t a fast or furtive journey. But neither was it salacious.

She didn’t feel uncomfortable.

She felt sexy. Enticing. Utterly female.

More so than she’d ever felt in her life.

Her heart racing, she pulled her leg back beneath the table.

“Yes, well, they’re definitely not made for dancing for any length of time.”

“Surely one dance wouldn’t be too painful. Or you could take them off.”

Was he asking her to dance? His gaze held hers and heat flashed through her body, flushing her cheeks with color. She regretted removing the half mask she’d worn with her costume. It might’ve hid the blush.

“I’m not sure that would be such a good idea.”

But it would probably be amazing.

His gaze never wavered. “And why is that?”

Because I want you.

The thought didn’t surprise her, but she couldn’t be sure she meant it.

Did she really want this man? Or was it just that he seemed to want her?

Did it matter?

Seriously, what could one dance hurt?

Watching Tyler’s steady gaze narrow, Kate felt her lungs constrict until she struggled to draw in a deeper breath.

A dance with another man wouldn’t matter one bit.

A dance with this man . . .

Would upset her carefully crafted world.

Because, yes, she wanted him.

Her breasts felt heavier, her nipples tight. Her sex clenched and she felt herself get wetter with each passing second.

It took her fiancé Arnie several minutes of foreplay to work her into this state.

This man had induced it in seconds with only a single touch.


Hell if she knew. Several other men had asked her to dance. None of them had produced this reaction.

Why him?

Blinking, she transferred her gaze out onto the dance floor and, after a few seconds, caught a flash of Annabelle’s bright hair.

“Because I’m engaged.”

He didn’t respond right away but his attention never wavered.

“And he’s not here with you tonight.”

Tyler didn’t phrase it as a question, but she didn’t hear any condemnation in his tone, either.

“No. My friend and I came alone.”

“Are you enjoying the music, at least?”

She couldn’t decide if she was upset that he didn’t push her to dance with him, or relieved. “The band’s very good. Just not my style.”

“What do you like?”

He actually sounded interested. Another point in the guy’s favor. They just kept racking up. “Classical, mostly. Some trance. Film scores. I like to create a mood while I work but I don’t want lyrics interrupting my train of thought.”

“I know exactly what you mean. Do you play an instrument?”

She let a smile curve her lips. “Violin. My father’s Korean and my mother was Italian. They always claimed it was in my genes. And I enjoy it. It’s just not my first love.”

“And what is?”

“Fashion design.”

“I can see you have a talent for it. You made both costumes, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“They’re beautiful.” His gaze slid down then, but again, she didn’t get the sense that he was ogling her. “The attention to detail is amazing.”

Her heart tripped over itself. Yes, Annabelle had gushed about them, but hearing this man praise her design made her flush with pleasure.

His gaze caught hers again and held.

And Kate felt her world shift.



Tyler Golden stopped just outside the Adamstown antiques store where his brother, Jared, planned to make a very public display of intention.