Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

Previous: Chapter Eight
Next: Chapter Ten

Chapter Nine

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Tiana arrived at the venue of the event accompanied by her very handsome and charming companion – Bryant. He was more than a boost to Tiana’s ego with his good looks and polished personality. She was glad that she’d let him chat her up that night she’d gone to the bar with Josie. Both girls had ended up hooking up with two well-mannered hunks who’d been happy to drop the girls home with just a few chaste kisses.

Tiana had liked Bryant on sight. She had never really gone for the overly tall types but something about Bryant’s endearing grin had drawn her from the start when he’d offered to buy both girls a beer. She soon found out he was single, working in IT, and ready to mingle. With Tiana, apparently.

Now here they were, walking into the prestigious hall that was brightly lit in a sweep of colors that added an Oscars-night feel to the event. There were beautifully set tables spread all around the hall, with spaces cleared for dancing. Pillars and drapes dotted the corners, and as the venue filled with more elegantly dressed guests the night took on a glamorous spin.

Tiana was glad she’d taken a lot of effort with her appearance; she’d chosen a nude-colored gown that fell in Grecian folds to the floor, the bodice cut in a modest mono-strap design. She’d opted to forgo exposing any cleavage and instead, left one shoulder bare to reveal her skin. Her hair was pinned up while some thick, wavy locks had been left to frame her jaw.

Her make-up was a little more dramatic, her eyes smoky and lashed thickly while her lips held a deep pink shade. Judging from the admiring glances she kept getting from her companion and other guests, she felt she’d hit the right note for the evening.

On their arrival there was a drinks reception to be followed by a three course dinner with wine. The organizers had planned for an after-dinner speech, awards presentation as well as a live auction to be followed by entertainment to close the evening. Judging from the buzz the event had received as well as the celebratory atmosphere surrounding them, Tiana told herself it was going to be a fun night. If only she could stop wishing she had Jordan by her side instead. She knew how well they fit together. He was just the right height, above six feet without towering over like Bryant did, making her feel like a dwarf next to him. He was a really nice guy, seeing to her every concern and looking as handsome in his tux as any other man in the room. But still. He was no Jordan.

And just as if she’d conjured him up with her thoughts, there he was.

Tiana could hardly believe what she was seeing. Jordan walked into the hall with a beauty that looked like she’d stepped straight off the runway at New York fashion week. She stood almost as tall as Jordan and Tiana couldn’t help staring at her in her silky red dress that seemed sewn on her; every inch fit so snugly to her perfectly slim frame that it was a wonder how the woman could move. She had a face so beautiful you could spend a whole day looking for one single flaw and never find one. Cheekbones seemed almost diamond-shaped, with a small, blunt nose, wide eyes and lips shaped like a bowtie, and painted as red as a dress. She was fucking gorgeous.

Tiana couldn’t get over the shock that Jordan was here – and with some cover model on his arm. There was no doubt she was a model; it was in the way she moved and gestured as she laughed at something Jordan leaned in to say in her ear. Tiana had to blink several times to tell herself she wasn’t seeing things.

This time she was staring at Jordan and it was like she’d never seen him before. In his black tux, tie and dress shoes, he’d never looked hotter. In Tiana’s eyes he outplayed every man in the room with his whipping good looks. His dark hair seemed freshly cut, framing his head perfectly while his clothes looked every inch as expensive and well-made as they had to be.

Tiana looked at his face with an unwavering stare and it was almost like she was willing him to meet her gaze. She kept telling herself it had to be some clone or maybe Jordan had a twin she knew nothing about. Anything to explain how he could be here, with someone else; and looking like he owned the room.

He must have felt her burning regard because he chose that moment to glance her way. Just like that, his dark and dangerous handsomeness smacked her in the chest, making her pulse pound and her pussy twitch just holding the line of his piercing grey gaze. In that moment, the hot hours of passion they’d shared sped through her mind like a flashing reel of film, leaving her breathless and weak-kneed.

He smiled thinly, inclining his head slightly in recognition even as Tiana gasped in utter shock and outrage. It was him.

Before anything more could pass between them, his attention was seized by a group of organizers who showed him to a vantage table close to the stage. Jordan didn’t spare Tiana another look as he placed his hand low on the back of the woman by his side, guiding her along as he returned the greetings of the other prominent guests as he walked by.

I don’t believe this, Tiana thought stormily as Bryant found them their table and they were seated by one of the many waiters. Tiana’s eyes kept flying to Jordan’s end of the hall as she wondered how on earth this could be happening. Why was he here? She couldn’t figure out how come he was attending as an escort to his model-type companion. Was that why he’d stood her up? He’d had a hotter client to take to the ball?

When she’d first asked him, he’d assured her he could make it only to change his mind when she’d called to confirm. He should have told her he was a guest as well, or was attending with a guest. Whatever. She didn’t care. He was little more than a stranger to her and it didn’t matter if he was actually the governor – which he probably was if the attention people were paying him was anything to go by.

The evening took on a surreal quality all of a sudden and it was all Tiana could do not to betray her inner turmoil to her attentive and amiable companion. The live jazzy music playing in the background seemed to buzz in her ears as she gulped down glass after glass to calm down her nerves. Her PR firm had spent several hundred dollars for the tickets to the event and it was being organized by one of her favorite charities – in aid of medical research – all these reasons keeping her from jumping up and leaving the room to sort through her confusing emotions.

She barely tasted any morsel of the well prepared three-course meal. As more and more minutes passed and her eyes were drawn to Jordan’s lively table, she began to wonder just who he could be. Was he some kind of dignitary she hadn’t heard about? How could he be getting so much attention? Of course she always suspected that his male escort pursuits were just one part of his lifestyle. But seeing him sitting there, fitting so perfectly with the dignified and opulent environment, made her realize that there was far more to Jordan than met the eye.

Even worse was watching him with that model next to him, their heads bumping intimately as they shared one conversational tidbit or the other. Her teeth gritted around her soup spoon as she watched Jordan flick his companion’s long dark hair off her slender shoulders in a proprietary manner. For some reason Tiana felt he was making some kind of point with his choice of female partner. Jordan had known Tiana would be there and she could only tell herself he was sending her a very clear message.

But things got even more bizarre as the dinner ended and the host for the evening announced the after-dinner speech was to be delivered by one of the charity’s top patrons as well as key city finance expert, Jordan Hancock.

Huh? What the hell?

Tiana straightened in her chair, watching in amazement as Jordan rose from his chair to widespread applause, walking up to the podium and shaking the hand of the host before speaking into the microphone.

When he spoke he was the same collected, cool and charming Jordan she recognized, but he was also different. Tiana listened with widening eyes as her gigolo made a short yet arresting speech that had the crowd tuned in right to the end where he closed off with a well-received joke that had everyone laughing good-naturedly as he asked them to enjoy the rest of the evening.

“Are you okay?” Bryant asked, his large hand on her arm and his deep voice tinged with concern. Tiana turned to him, blinking.

“I’m perfectly fine,” Tiana said on a voice sounding too squeaky for her liking. “Why do you ask?”

“You don’t look too good, sweetheart. We could leave if you’re feeling unwell.”

Bryant’s well-meaning hand closing over hers would have been calming but Tiana had too rough a tempest whirling around inside her. Nothing about the evening made sense but even she knew she’d had one jolt too many. Giving him a grateful smile, she nodded as she only just managed to remember to pick up her shawl and clutch. “Yes – please. I suddenly don’t feel too good.”

Tiana was glad for Bryant’s strong supporting arm as they made their way out of the crowded hall just as the host announced that the live auction was about to start. Tiana was more preoccupied about making it out without stumbling as her mind filled with conflicting thoughts she couldn’t shake off.

Previous: Chapter Eight
Next: Chapter Ten
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