Beneath These Lies (Page 41)

Rix’s growl deepened. “Don’t throw that back at me. So long as no one knows about us, you’re safe.”

“I don’t even know what that means.”

“Guess I’ll have to show you.” Rix cupped my jaw and lowered his mouth to mine. “No lips but mine kiss you. I don’t fucking care whether you like it or not. Mine.” His other hand smoothed the hair out of my face. “No hands but mine touch you.”

“So you want me to tell him no?”

His grip on my face tightened slightly. “You’re gonna tell him no. Whatever he thinks you’re doing on Thursday night, you’re not. You’re gonna be with me. I’ll have your girl back, and we’ll figure out how this is gonna move forward. You got that?”

Finally. God, the relief of having a defined date was palpable. That was the best news I’d heard all day, and in exchange for that, I’d agree to just about anything, including canceling a date with Rhett.

After that kiss, I knew I didn’t want him the way I wanted Rix. Rhett was an honest, good guy, and I couldn’t keep jerking him around. This juggling two men business was exhausting, and I was ready to be done.

But even having made that decision, I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily get to keep Rix when this was all over. He’d made that clear. His life didn’t allow for attachments, and I needed to find a way to unattach myself before I was in too deep and set myself up for a fall.

Who would have ever thought I’d be worried about falling for him?

“You get me, duchess? That’s how it’s goin’ down.”

I slid my hand around the back of his head and raised up on my toes to press a kiss to his lips. “I think I get you.”

BECAUSE I WAS STILL A novice when it came to girl posses, I didn’t realize having one meant that they’d show up uninvited at your exclusive gallery openings. But halfway into the evening, Yve, Elle, and Vanessa came through the door of Noble Art.

“I need something for the lake house,” Vanessa said. “And I saw the flyer for Burton Ridgeway’s work, and I fell in love.”

“That’s only because you didn’t see the painting I snagged by Valentina’s anonymous artist friend,” Yve countered. She turned to look at me. “Did you get more yet?”

I shook my head. “No, sorry.”

“Let me know. I called dibs.”

“I’m here for the champagne,” Elle added. She shrugged. “I mean, let’s be honest. Someone’s going to pawn some of this stuff eventually, and I’ll get it for a song.”

Elle was a nut. But she was probably right. People pawned all sorts of things at Chains, where she worked with her boyfriend, Lord.

“Well, thank you so much for coming. Feel free to look around. Champagne is on the table in the corner.”

“Good looking out, girl.” Elle looped her arm through Vanessa’s and took off in the direction of the champagne.

I was turning back to Yve when I caught sight of a man across the street in a black T-shirt with a build like Rix’s. Was he watching me tonight?

“You aren’t listening to a word I’ve said, are you?” Yve drawled.

I jerked around to face her as she studied me. “Sorry. I thought I saw someone out there.”

“Is there something going on with you? You’ve been acting different lately.”

I wondered if she was referring to me actually going out and having fun, but I couldn’t be sure. “Things have been a little hectic lately. I’m . . . distracted.”

Elle and Vanessa came back with champagne and caught the last bit of my explanation.

“Distracted? I’m calling bullshit. You look like you’ve got man problems.”

Oh shit. I didn’t want to discuss this. Not right now. I scanned the rest of the gallery, looking for a customer who needed assistance, but Burton was speaking with one small group and Remy was chatting with another couple.

When I didn’t immediately answer Elle, she kept going. “Mm-hmm. Man problems, for sure. You find yourself an alpha to keep you busy at night?”

I thought of the man I’d woken up next to yesterday morning—who’d stroked himself while I painted. My cheeks flushed with color every time I thought of it. And then the one who was insisting on taking me to dinner on Thursday. What a mess.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Elle laughed. “Tell us about him.”

“Which one?” I said, not thinking before I spoke.

“Whoa, girl. You got two on the hook? You work fast.” Yve sounded incredulous.

“It’s a mess. I . . . I don’t know what to do. I’m trying to figure out how to let one of them down easy, but he just won’t take the hint. He knows there’s someone else, and I think he gets off on the competition.”

“They all do,” Vanessa said. “It’s an alpha thing.”

“Who are they?” Elle asked.

I froze because I couldn’t tell them about Rix, which told me once again that I was insane for even thinking that we could possibly have something. And did I really want to tell them about Rhett?

“I’d rather not say just yet.”

“Cagey. I like it.” Elle raised her glass to me and sipped.

“How do I get the one to stand down?”

“Hmm . . .” Yve tapped the side of her glass. “You could tell him you require a better-equipped man. Generally, insults about dick size work really well.”

“Oh no, don’t do that. You’ll damage the poor guy for life,” Vanessa said. “Just tell him you don’t feel the same way about him, and that if the other guy ever screws up, you’ll keep him in mind. Lets him down easy without breaking his heart completely.”