I scribbled down, Roman/Togas/Fruit/Champagne/Fountains onto the first page of her file. “I don’t know what you think, Carly, but how about having the bar and wait staff dressed as gladiators?” I suggested in a quiet voice.
“Oh, yes, that would be great.” Her eyes widened. “And I could dress up as an Empress and Brick as the Emperor. We could have crowns and everything.”
“It would work well,” I said, though I did wonder if Brick would actually agree to an Emperor’s costume and a crown. I guessed Carly would have to use her womanly powers of persuasion for that one. “The Romans were great ones for parties,” I went on, “lots of overindulgence and wild entertainment.” But please don’t ask for lions, I prayed silently. I had enough to cope with being in the same room as my nemesis, and lions would tip my sanity over the edge.
“I don’t think we’ll have lions, though,” Carly said. “I’ve never been a big cat lover. Those teeth and claws just give me the creeps.”
Phew. “And would you like the invitations done in both English and Latin, with the dates in Roman numerals?” My mind was racing through all the standard questions.
“Oh, yes, definitely, great idea, and what about chariots?”
“Well that was a lousy result for the first period,” a deep voice boomed.
“Yeah, crap. Get me a beer, Brick,” Rick ordered.
“Get it yourself,” Brick replied.
I tensed. Thoughts of chariots fled and I reached for my coffee in the vain hope I could hide behind it if Rick came to the fridge, which was dead opposite me.
“Grab me one too?” Phoenix asked.
“Yeah, yeah, what did your last slave die of?” Rick muttered, his voice coming from just over my right shoulder.
“Can’t you do chariots?” Carly asked, her eyes studying mine.
“I’m not sure,” I said, wishing I had an invisibility cloak. This was soul-squirmingly embarrassing.
He was in front of me now, a mere ten feet away, tugging open the fridge door and clinking bottles of beer together. I tried to force my gaze from the curls of hair at the nape of his neck, away from the sheer size of his deliciously broad back, from the memory of those tiny dots of blood seeping through his shirt—wounds that had been caused by my frenzied passion during those three wonderful, heart-stopping orgasms he’d just about blown my mind with.
He turned, placed the beers on the opposite side of the breakfast bar and picked up an opener. His face was relaxed, his eyes soft.
Then he saw me.
His lips dropped into a flat line, his jaw tensed and his swirling brown gaze locked on mine. As I sucked in a breath, I saw him do the same, his chest swelling with the sharp intake of air.
“If chariots are a problem then that’s okay,” Carly was saying, “as long as we’re both there and our families are with us that’s the main thing, I just need a hand with the details. I haven’t done anything like this before.”
“I’m sure we can figure out chariots,” I said with a tremble in my voice, swallowing down a lump in my throat the size of a damn coliseum.
“Oh, okay, great.”
Tension fizzed between Rick and me like a live wire, the air above the breakfast bar sizzling with awareness and unspoken words. Finally I tore my eyes from his. Damn, the man is even better-looking than I remembered.
I banged down my coffee. Reached for my pen and scribbled chariots, then underlined it twice, with hard, heavy strokes. The tinny sound of the beer lids hitting granite rattled toward me and I resisted looking up at him again.
“What about food?” Carly asked. “Any thoughts?”
“Um, well.” Come on, brain, work. “I guess lots of fruit, like you already said, and cheese, olives and bread. And the wine could be served in ceramic pitchers, that’s how the Romans would have served it.”
“Oh, you have so many lovely ideas, Dana, I’m thrilled Mae recommended you.”
I smiled a tight, forced smile. Oh god, this is just the most nerve-jangling thing I’ve ever had to endure.
Without a word, Rick stepped past me. He didn’t pause, he just headed back to the couch, leaving a hint of his incredibly sumptuous aftershave wafting in the air, just enough to send every cell in every erogenous zone I possessed into a skittering frenzy.
“Would you like me to show you around?” Carly asked. “So you can get a feel for the size and see where to add in the chariots and fountain?”
“Yes, perfect, yes, please do.” I grabbed my stuff. I had to get out of there before I either exploded with suppressed desire or became a boneless heap on the floor, unable to function anymore because of sheer embarrassment. But thank goodness he hadn’t said anything about our meeting in my office. That would have been mortifying in front of a client.