Grace rubbed her brow as Rachel’s words rang in her head. A Chihuahua? Jeez!
Poor Rachel. Surely there was some way to help that poor woman.
Then again, it would be infinitely better to have a Chihuahua looking up her skirt with lust than a Greek love-slave.
“Oh, Lanie,” Grace breathed, “how do I let you get me into these things?”
Before she could contemplate that further, her intercom buzzed.
“Your eleven o’clock canceled, and while you were seeing Ms. Thibideaux, your friend Selena Laurens called six dozen times, and I am neither exaggerating nor kidding. She left a stack of urgent messages for you to call her on her cell phone ASAP.”
Picking up the phone, Grace called Selena.
“Oh, thank God.” Selena spoke before Grace could say a word. “You have got to get your butt down here and take your boyfriend home. Now!”
“He’s not my boyfriend, he’s your-”
“Oh, you want to know what he is?” Selena asked with a note of hysteria in her voice. “He’s a friggin’ estrogen magnet, that’s what he is. I have women mobbing my stand even as we speak. Sunshine loves it, she’s sold more pottery this morning than she ever has before. I tried to get him home earlier, but I can’t even make a dent in this crowd. I swear, you’d think we had a celebrity out here. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Now get your butt down here and help me!”
The phone went dead.
Grace cursed her luck. Buzzing Lisa, she told her to cancel her appointments for the rest of the day.
As soon as she reached the square, Grace saw what Selena had meant. There had to be at least twenty women surrounding Julian, and dozens more gaping at him as they passed by.
The ones closest to him were elbowing and pushing each other, trying to gain his attention.
But the most unbelievable of all were the three women who had their arms draped over him while another one took a picture.
“Oh, thank you,” a woman in her mid-thirties purred to Julian as she snatched the camera out of the hands of the woman who had taken their picture.
She cradled the camera to her breast in a way meant to draw Julian’s attention there, but he didn’t seem the least bit interested.
“This is just so wonderful,” she continued to gush. “I can’t wait to get home and show this to my critique group. They’ll never believe I found a real-life romance-novel cover model in the French Quarter.”
Something about the rigid way he stood made Grace suspect that Julian didn’t care for the attention. But to his credit, he wasn’t openly rude.
Still, his smile didn’t reach his eyes and it was nothing like the one he’d given her last night.
“My pleasure,” he said to the women.
The giggles that erupted were deafening. Grace shook her head in disbelief. Women, get some dignity!
Then again, given Julian’s face, body, and smile, she felt a little giddy every time he looked at her, too.
So who could really blame them for acting like pre-pubescent girls at a shopping-mall rock concert?
All of a sudden Julian looked past his sea of raging hormonal admirers to meet her gaze. Grace arched an amused brow at him.
Instantly, his smile vanished. His eyes focused on her like a hungry predator that had just found its next meal. “If you’ll excuse me,” he said, then waded through the women and headed directly toward her.
Grace gulped, noting the instant hostility of the women who frowned en masse in her direction.
But worse was the sudden, raw surge of desire that tore through her, making her heart pound out of control. And with every step he took, it increased tenfold.
“Greetings, agapeemenee,” Julian said, lifting her hand up to place a kiss on the backs of her knuckles.
A heated wave of electricity danced up her spine. And before she could move, he pulled her into his arms and gave her a hot, soul-wrenching kiss.
Instinctively, she closed her eyes and savored the warmth of his mouth, his breath. The feel of his arms holding her close to a rock-hard chest. Her head reeled from it.
Oh, but the man knew how to give a kiss! Julian had a way with his lips that defied explanation.
And his body… Never had she felt anything like those lean, hard muscles flexing around her.
It was only the barely audible “hussy” one of the women sneered that broke the spell.
“Julian, please,” she whispered. “There are people watching us.”
“Do you think I care?”
He pulled his head away from hers with a low growl and set her back on her feet. It was only then she realized she’d completely surrendered her weight to him, and he had supported it without effort.
Her cheeks scalding, Grace caught the envious stares of the women as they reluctantly dispersed.
His face showing the depth of his displeasure and reluctance, Julian let go of her and stepped back.
“Finally,” Selena said with a sigh. “I can almost hear again.” She shook her head. “If I’d known that would work, I’d have kissed him.”
Grace gave her a sideways smirk. “Well, it’s your own fault.”
“How do you figure?” Selena asked.
Grace indicated Julian’s clothes with a wave of her hand. “Look at how he’s dressed. You don’t bring a Greek god out into public wearing shorts and a tank top two sizes too small. Jeez, Selena, what were you thinking?”
“That it’s one hundred and two degrees out, with one hundred and ten percent humidity. I didn’t want him to die of heat stroke.”
“Ladies, please,” Julian said, placing himself between them. “It’s far too hot to stand out in the street fighting over something as trivial as my clothing.” He swept a hungry look over Grace, then smiled a smile that could make any woman melt. “And I’m not a Greek god. I’m just a minor half-deity.”
Grace missed what he was saying for the fact that the sound of his voice captivated her. How did he do that? How did he make his voice so erotically charged?
Was it from his deep, rich accent?
No, there was more to it than that, but for her life she couldn’t figure out what.
In truth, all she wanted to do was find a bed somewhere and let him have his way with her. To feel his luscious skin beneath her hands.
She looked at Selena and caught the way Selena stared hungrily at Julian’s bare legs and rump.
“You feel it, too, don’t you?” Grace asked.
Blinking, Selena looked up. “Feel what?”
“Him. It’s like he’s the Pied Piper and we’re all mice enchanted by his music.” Grace turned about and noted the way women stared at him, some even craning their necks to get a better view of Julian.
“What is it about him that just pulls us against our wills?” Grace asked.
Julian arched one arrogant brow at her. “Against your will?”
“Well, honestly, yes. I don’t like feeling like this.”
“And how do you feel?” he asked.
“Sexual,” Grace said before she could stop herself.
“Like a goddess?” he asked, his voice dropping an octave.
“Yes,” she said as he took a single step toward her.
He didn’t touch her, but then he didn’t have to. His very presence overwhelmed her. Intoxicated her as he dipped that magnetic gaze to her lips, then to her neck. She swore she could already feel the sensation of his lips buried in the hollow of her throat.
And the man hadn’t even moved.
“I can tell you what it is,” he all but purred.
“It’s the spell, isn’t it?”
He shook his head as he reached one hand out to gently drag his forefinger down her cheek. Grace shuttered her eyes as a wave of fierce desire scorched her. It was all she could do not to turn her head and capture that finger between her teeth.
Julian leaned closer and nuzzled her cheek with his. “It’s the fact that I can appreciate you on a level the men of your age cannot.”
“It’s the fact he has the tightest gluteus rumpus I’ve ever seen,” Sunshine said, interrupting them. “Not to mention a voice and accent to die for. I really wish someone would tell me where I could get one of those.”
Grace burst out laughing at Sunshine’s unexpected comments.
Looking less than pleased, Julian turned to face Sunshine.
“Look at him.” Sunshine gestured toward Julian with the pencil in her charcoal-covered hand. She also had a smear of charcoal across her right cheek. “When was the last time you met a man so well toned that you could actually see the blood pumping through his veins? Your boyfriend is… well, way buff. Monster buff.” Then with a serious face, she added, “Lord, king buff.”
Sunshine turned her sketchbook around to where Grace could see her rendering of Julian. “See the way the light brings out the golden color of his skin? It’s almost as if he were really kissed by the sun.”
Grace frowned. There was some truth to that.
Julian leaned down at her, his blue eyes searing her with their heat. “Come home with me, Grace,” he whispered in her ear. “Now. Let me take you into my arms, strip your clothes from your body, and show you how the gods meant for a woman to know a man. I swear to you, you’ll remember it for the rest of eternity.”
She closed her eyes as the scent of sandalwood filled her head. His breath tickled her neck while his cheek was so close to hers, she swore she could feel his whiskers touching her.
Every part of her wanted to surrender to him. Yes, please, yes.
Her gaze dropped down to his shoulder. To the hard sculpting of his muscles. To the hollow of his throat. Oh, how she longed to run her tongue over the golden bounty of his skin. To see if the rest of his body tasted as good as his mouth.
He would be splendid in bed. There was no doubt.
But she meant nothing to him. Nothing.
“I can’t,” she breathed, taking a step back.
Disappointment filled his eyes. Then, his look turned hard, determined. “You will,” he assured her.
Deep inside, she knew he probably spoke the truth. How long could a woman turn down a man like him?
Shaking off the thought, Grace glanced across the street to the Jackson Brewery. “We need to go buy you some clothes that fit.”
“Can I help it if he’s a head taller than Bill and twice as broad?” Selena asked. “It was your bright idea for me to bring him along.”
Grace screwed up her face at Selena. “Fine. We’ll be in the Brewery if you need us.”
“Okay, but be careful.”
“Careful?” Grace asked.
Selena indicated Julian with her thumb. “If women start to stampede, take my advice and get out of their way. I still don’t have any feeling in my right foot from the last group.”
Laughing, Grace headed for the road, knowing Julian would follow her. In fact, she could feel him right behind her. His presence undeniable, he had an awful way of invading every thought and sense she possessed.
Neither one of them said a word as they crossed the busy street and headed into the first shop they reached.
Grace glanced around the department store, looking for Menswear. Spotting it, she made her way over to it.
“So, what’s your style preference?” she asked Julian as she paused by a display of folded jeans.
“For what I have in mind, nudity works best.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “You’re trying to shock me, aren’t you?”‘
“Perhaps. I have to admit I rather like the look of a blush on your face.”
He stepped toward her.
Grace retreated, placing the display of jeans between them. “I think you’ll need at least three pairs of jeans while you’re here.”
He sighed as he gazed at the pants. “Why bother, when I shall be gone in a few weeks?”
She glared at him. “Jeez, Julian,” she snapped in aggravation. “You act as if no one ever dressed you during your past incarnations.”
She froze at his hollow, empty tone. And the significance of his words.
Grace looked skeptically at him. “Are you telling me that in the last two thousand years, no one has ever bothered to put clothes on you?”
“Just twice,” he said in that same flat tone. “Once during a blizzard in the English Regency period, one of my summoners covered me in a frilly pink dressing gown before she shoved me onto her balcony to keep her husband from finding me in her bed. And the second time was far too embarrassing to mention.”
“You’re not funny. And I know no woman would keep a man for a solid month and not put some clothes on him.”
“Look at me, Grace,” he said, spreading out his arms to show her his hard, delectable body. “I’m a sex slave. No one before you ever thought I needed clothes to perform my duties.”
His heated gaze held hers enthralled, but what made her ache was the pain in those deep blue eyes that he tried so hard to conceal. A pain that touched her profoundly.
“I assure you,” he said quietly, “once they had me inside them, they did everything they could to keep me there, including one summoner in the Middle Ages who bolted her bedroom door, and told everyone on the outside that she had the plague.”
Grace averted her gaze as his words singed her. The things he described were unbelievable, and yet by the look on his face, she could tell he wasn’t exaggerating the tales.