Home > The Maddest Obsession (Made #2)(7)

The Maddest Obsession (Made #2)(7)
Author: Danielle Lori

He ran a hand down his tie, eyes crinkling with amusement. “There’s a reason we’ve just ambushed you, and it wasn’t to talk about how cute I am.”

My expression pouted in mock confusion. “Trying out new conversation, are you?”

Vincent and his group chuckled. I took a sip of champagne.

Awareness tickled in the back of my mind, and my gaze drifted to the ballroom’s double doors. My glass halted at my lips.

Broad shoulders. Black suit. Smooth lines.

Blue.

Something in my chest crackled and sparked, like a firecracker on hot pavement.

Agent Allister stood inside the doorway with a blonde by his side. She held onto his elbow, and he held my gaze.

You can always tell by the eyes.

I envied him at that moment.

His were an ocean beneath ice, where nothing but the darkest creatures could thrive, while mine were a wide open plain.

He saw everything.

Every bruise.

Every scar.

Every slap against my face.

I didn’t want anyone’s pity, but what drove me even crazier was that he was indifferent to it all. I’d forgotten what his voice sounded like but, somehow, I could hear what he would say to me now.

Suck it up, sweetheart. You know nothing of pain.

Contempt pulsed, hot and heavy, in my chest.

It was irrational, I knew, but I blamed the man for putting the idea of sleeping with Nico in my mind.

I blamed him because it was easy.

I blamed him because he was cold enough it wouldn’t hurt.

The fed’s gaze took in the group of men surrounding me. He looked away, but I saw the brief thought in his eyes before he and his blonde drifted into the crowd. He thought I was a flirt; a tease. He thought I was unfaithful.

And now, I couldn’t even deny it.

Hatred closed around my lungs and stole my breath.

“I was just telling them about how we first met,” Vincent said. “Do you remember?”

I brought my attention back to the group, a hot edge flowing from my chest to my grip on the stem of my glass. Forcing a smile to my lips, I responded, “Of course I do. You bet against my horse and lost, naturally.”

“That, I did.” He dropped his gaze to the floor, clearing his throat with a smile. “But I’m talking about me getting tossed and then asking you to run away with me to Tahiti. And you saying no because you’d already been there, and Bora Bora was next on your list.”

On cue, everyone laughed.

I bit my cheek to hide a smile. “I was trying to save you from embarrassment, but it seems you’re a glutton for punishment tonight.”

“It seems so,” he chuckled. “Morticia is up and running again, and I’m still betting she places this weekend.”

“Oh, Vincent,” I said with disappointment, “you just love to throw your money away, don’t you?”

The crowd grew in size until I couldn’t see beyond it, with bets and horse statistics being tossed into the center.

“Gianna, are you coming to the Fall Meet this weekend?”

“Gianna, are you betting on Blackie?”

“Gianna, what about the afterparty?”

It took thirty minutes to extradite myself from the conversation, and by that time, I’d drunk two glasses of champagne and needed to relieve myself. I used the restroom and then headed toward the donation table, hoping to hand in my check and make a clean exit.

When I saw Allister’s back where he stood in front of the table speaking with one of the socialites in charge of the event, I stopped in my tracks. Hesitation settled in my stomach, and I took a step in the opposite direction, but, No way. I hated the man, though what I loathed even more was that his presence intimidated me.

As if to prove something to myself, I waltzed up to the table and stopped close enough beside him my arm brushed his jacket. He glanced down at me before looking back to the middle-aged woman he spoke with like I was merely a part of the décor.

“Well,” the blonde socialite said, a blush warming her cheeks, “my daughter couldn’t speak more highly of you, and I’m so glad you could make it. I know how busy a man like you must be. The crime in this city has been growing every year.”

“It’s been my pleasure entirely, ma’am.”

I couldn’t hold in a quiet scoff.

Allister’s lips tipped up, though he didn’t glance my way.

The words he said to me one year ago filled with his voice once again. Refined, slightly rough, with an amused edge like he always knew something the other didn’t.

The socialite glanced my way for a second before dismissing me and gazing at the fed, but then, as if she’d just processed what she saw, looked back at me.

She stared without a blink. “I’m sorry . . . can I help you?”

I pulled the check I’d written out of my bra and handed it to her. She held onto a corner gingerly, until she unfolded it and looked at the amount.

“Wow,” she breathed. “This is incredibly generous. Thank you so much.” She scribbled something on a slip of paper and then handed out a clipboard. “I just need you to complete this short form, please.” When I only stared at it, she pressed, “Donor information and a tax receipt.” Her voice lowered. “You can claim this on your taxes.”

“Oh, I don’t pay taxes.”

She blinked.

Allister grabbed the clipboard. “She’ll fill it out.”

“Okay . . . great.” She took a step to the side before drifting away.

“Tell me, do you think before you talk? Or do you just let things spew out?”

“Well,” I said, frowning, “that time, I didn’t think, no. But how am I supposed to know about taxes? Antonio said he doesn’t have to pay them.”

“Everyone has to pay taxes. It’s the law.”

“Oh, the one you’re so good at upholding?”

He shoved the clipboard in my direction. “Fill out the form and shut your mouth before I have to arrest you for tax evasion.”

“Seems a little counterproductive, considering you’d have to let me out as soon as my husband finds out.”

A muscle in his jaw tightened. “He’s your savior, is he?”

I tensed at the dark tone in his voice—a tone that made me feel as if he knew more of my story than he should.

“He’s my husband,” I replied, as if that said everything, when, really, it said nothing at all.

I grabbed the clipboard. However, he held onto it for a second, his gaze touching my face before he finally let it go. He turned to look out into the ballroom, bringing a tumbler of some clear liquid to his lips. Probably water, knowing what a killjoy he was.

“You look like you got lost on your way to a grunge concert.”

“Fortunately, no,” I said, filling out the form. “I would be pissed if I missed it.”

“What did you do to your hair?”

“What?” My lips formed a pout. “You don’t like it? I did it for you. I heard you like blondes.”

“You been thinking about me?” he drawled.

“Every day, every hour. You’re always there, like a fungus, or an incessant bug swarming around my head.”

A corner of his lips tipped up.

Setting the clipboard down, I leaned a hip against the table, rested the pen against my chin, and looked around the ballroom. “By the way, where is your blonde?”

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