Home > Trouble(8)

Trouble(8)
Author: Tia Louise

The conference room at Antiques Today has a brilliant view of downtown Columbia. A massive mahogany table is situated in the center, surrounded by butter-soft black leather chairs, and a projector hangs from the ceiling, pointed to a fifty-inch flatscreen television.

In the center is sparkling and still water, coffee, and tea, and a pair of servers have arranged platters of finger sandwiches and fruit on the credenza.

“Good afternoon, Miles. Spencer.” Daisy breezes into the room in jeans and a flowing white top, pausing to kiss my cheek. “Can you believe I’ve never been in this room?”

I glance around the austere space. “We rarely use it.”

“Why have it?” She picks up a tiny sandwich and takes a bite. “Mmm… Chicken salad.”

“For moments such as this.” Miles holds out a hand. “Would you like a snack, Miss…”

“Winthrop. Joselyn. I’m good, thank you.”

My eyes snap up, and she’s here.

She’s dressed in a charcoal suit perfectly tailored to her tall, statuesque frame. It’s expensive, Armani, I’d guess, with a white silk blouse under the jacket. The top button in the center of her chest gives me a peek at her soft cleavage, and her glossy red hair is brushed over one shoulder in smooth waves.

She looks amazing.

“Sorry, Miles,” Daisy covers her mouth as she swallows her bite. “I forgot you haven’t met my cousin. Sly, this is Miles Klaut, founder of Antiques Today. He’s a legend in the business and not at all as scary as he seems at first.”

“Do I seem scary?” Miles puts a hand on his chest and winks up at her. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Winthrop.”

I step around the table, and her eyes flare when she sees me in a most satisfying way. “It’s nice to see you again, Joselyn.”

“Spencer.” Her voice is quiet, slightly husky, pure sex. “How are you?”

“Much better now.” I give her a rare smile, and she blinks away quickly, cheeks flushing.

Don’t be afraid, Sin.

“Spencer said you’re an artist when it comes to flowers.” Miles motions to the chairs, and she and Daisy sit.

“An artist?” She arches an eyebrow at me, and I lightly shrug.

“I described what I saw. Would you like something to drink?”

“I’ll have a water, thanks.” She takes a chair, and I hand her a bottle of Pellegrino before rounding the table to sit across from her.

From this angle, I can study her beautiful face as we chat. Miles leads the discussion, explaining his ideas, and Daisy is quick to catch up with him. She lists potential venues and themes and the pros and cons of each.

Leaning back in my chair, I let the two of them run with it, preferring instead to memorize the flicker of dark lashes over ocean eyes. The afternoon sun highlights the red streaks in her hair like fire, and I notice a faint sprinkling of freckles across the top of her cheeks. Her skin is like ivory. She’s a rare beauty.

“Sly has connections with one of the best caterers in the area, and of course, she’ll handle all the floral arrangements.”

“Did you have anything in particular in mind?” Her voice is smooth like whiskey, with a hint of smokiness. “We’re lucky that we can get almost anything here.”

“I think the New Englanders would be most impressed by tropicals.” I lean forward, joining the conversation.

Daisy lights up in her unique way, nodding quickly. “Did you bring your portfolio, Sly? Show Miles the one you did with the tiger lilies.”

“I didn’t…” Joselyn looks worried, glancing from her cousin to Miles to me. “It’s in Fireside. I-I wasn’t planning to do this anymore.”

“No need to apologize, Miss Winthrop.” Miles smiles at her, giving me a knowing glance. “Anyone who can make an impression on Mr. Freeze here must be worth her salt.”

Her pink lips part, and a wicked image flashes across my mind.

“Who’s on the guest list?” Daisy climbs onto her knees in the chair, leaning on her elbows, and with her hair in a ponytail, she’s like a kid planning a birthday party.

Miles eats it up. Nothing makes him happier than people jumping onboard his unnecessarily elaborate plans. “I’ve got Brimfield and Skinner. Grafton—”

“Oh! I hope they send Heather. She’s so fun. I’d love to show her my store.”

“I’ll put in a special request for Ms. Olsen to attend.”

Joselyn sits quietly in her chair, chewing on her bottom lip. She’s different today, quieter, and I don’t like it. She can’t be intimidated by all this. She’s far too talented to be insecure. Something else is troubling her, and I want to know what it is.

At the wedding reception, she had the nerve to mock me, and it was annoying as fuck and ridiculously adorable.

I want her to do it again so I can pull her across my lap and spank her creamy, white ass. Then I’ll smooth my palm over her soft, pink cheeks. Then I’ll follow with my lips…

Her eyes are on me, and I try another smile. She blinks hesitantly before finally returning my greeting with a small smile of her own. That’s better.

“I think we’ve got a great start.” Daisy is on her feet.

“How soon can we make it happen?” Miles stands as well, and they’re eye to eye.

“Two weeks?” She glances to her cousin. “What do you think, Sly? Will that give you enough time?”

“I think so.” Joselyn is still distracted.

Daisy glances to Miles, “Yes?”

He’s beaming. “I’ll send invitations as soon as you verify the venue.”

“I’ll make some calls on the drive home.” Daisy lifts a small leather bag off her chair. “Now I’ve got to hit the road. I’ve got a husband to feed.”

The pituitary case.

“Is it after five already?” Miles takes her arm, and they’re like a tiny power duo. “I’ve got a date with my Netflix. I just started the Cecil Hotel doc. Very nice to meet you, Miss Winthrop.”

They head for the door, and I wait as Joselyn collects a small clutch, which I assume holds her phone. “She was always his favorite,” I tease, as if I care Miles prefers Daisy.

“She’s a pixie.” Joselyn picks up the empty bottles, placing them in the trash.

“You don’t have to clean. Maintenance will take care of it.”

Her cheeks flush, and she shakes her head. “I’m used to doing all the jobs.”

“Daisy told me you’re self-employed.”

“Trying to be. I recently had a change in circumstance.”

“You fired yourself?” I place a hand on the open doors of the elevator, holding them for her.

“What?” She blinks up at me, then realizes I’m joking. “Oh, no. Just… personal stuff.”

I’m intrigued, and I can’t let her go. “It’s after five on a Friday. Let me buy you a drink.”

The elevator dings when we reach the bottom floor, and she hesitates. “I shouldn’t.”

“Still with the boyfriend?” If she says yes…

She doesn’t answer immediately, and her eyes flinch with something like anger.

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