Home > Until I Break(9)

Until I Break(9)
Author: M. Leighton

He looks quizzically into my eyes before he scans my face. “You’re blushing,” he states. There’s a long pause before he continues. “Maybe tomorrow you can show me what you were thinking about.”

He continues staring for a few seconds more before he urges me into a slow walk at his side. “Smile,” he says as we enter the main room. “Or people will think you’ve been doing something you shouldn’t.”

I glance up at him to judge his expression, but I see only his profile.

How does he do that?

It’s like he’s inside my head.

As well as under my skin.

Following Alec’s suggestion, I plaster a smile on my face and look casually around the room. I doubt anyone here would guess that I’m wondering how I got here. And I don’t mean “here” as in this address. I mean “here” as in so wrapped up in a man I’ve only just met.

Only it doesn’t feel like we just met. It feels as though I’ve known him longer, that I know him intimately.

I’m relieved when I spot Chris across the sea of glamorously clothed patrons. Within seconds, she looks up and sees me, too. I watch as she makes her excuses to the couple to whom she’s talking and starts toward us.

As she moves closer, I have a moment of insecurity about masquerading as something I’m not—a gorgeous, confident woman. Like Chris.

She’s like a cover model come to life in a scarlet sheath that sets off her golden skin and platinum hair. She’s just the type of arm candy one would expect to see with a man like Alec Brand. I’m nothing more than an imposter. A wallflower in a clever costume. But surely no one’s fooled. Surely they can see the real me.

I glance at Alec from the corner of my eye. His face gives away nothing.

“You’re here,” Chris says enthusiastically as she glides up to my side.

“Of course,” I say, as if there was no doubt, which there absolutely was.

“You say that as if it was a foregone conclusion that you’d be here.”

“Wasn’t it?”

Chris rolls her eyes. “Are we even talking about the same person?”

“Where’s Mom?” I ask, redirecting her.

Chris cranes her neck, looking toward the center of the room. “Oh, she’s somewhere around here. You know she’ll find you before long. That woman has a sixth sense.”

“Tell me about it,” I mutter.

Chris finally turns back to me then her eyes flicker to Alec. Her smile is brilliant, like she just now noticed he’s with me. “I’m sorry. I’m so rude! I’m Chris, Chris Wells, Sam’s sister.”

“Chris and Sam?” He directs his question to me, cocking his brow again. I’m beginning to love that gesture. It says so much without him actually having to say a thing. He turns back to Chris. “Alec Brand,” he says, inclining his head slightly. The action is almost regal. It suits him, making me wonder about his life. I haven’t even gotten that far in my head. And it’s not as though I don’t care; I’m insanely curious about the real life Mason. It’s just that, so far, my brain seems to stop working when he’s around.

“Yes, I remember,” Chris replies, still smiling broadly.

Alec nods. “Ah, the coffee shop. Right,” he says, his smile a mere curve of the lips. Pleasant yet bland. I feel a little thrill that he’s not flirting and doesn’t seem to be instantly enamored of her like most men. Most of them lose their wits completely when she smiles.

But not Alec. In fact, he seems almost oblivious to her beauty and charm, a fact that makes me like him that much more. It also makes me that much more intrigued.

I wonder that he doesn’t seem surprised at the lack of family resemblance. Our coloring, our features, our build—nothing is even slightly similar. We couldn’t be more different. He seems not to have noticed, and if he did, must not think anything of it. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s equally blasé about the differences between me and my parents.

“A drink?” Alec asks.

“Yes, please. I’ll have a rum and Coke.”

He nods once and turns to Chris. “Would you like a refill?”

“Rum and Coke for me, too, please,” Chris says, holding up her half empty glass.

With another nod, he moves away toward the bar. I worry my bottom lip with my teeth as I watch him go.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” Chris asks. “Are you trying to find a way to sabotage yourself, just like you always do?”

I turn a frown on her. “I don’t sabotage myself.”

“Yes, you do. You let your past screw up your present all the time!”

“No I don’t.”

Chris shakes her head. “We’ll see.”

“Just because I prefer not to subject myself or anyone else to certain…shortcomings, that does not mean I’m letting my past screw up my present. It simply means that I can use wisdom and discretion.”

“Well, I’m glad that, for the moment, you’re turning off ‘wisdom and discretion’.”

I glance toward Alec again. He’s walking back toward us with two drinks in one big hand and one in the other. “Boy did I ever,” I say softly.

“Well,” Chris begins, taking one of the drinks from Alec’s hand when he extends it toward her. “I suppose I ought to go rescue Greg. He’s been captured and is currently being held against his will.” She tips her head to indicate a group of blue-haired elderly ladies encircling one handsome, blond Greg on the other side of the room. “Don’t you know he’s got some powerful pheromones to penetrate that kind of cobweb.”

I grin. I’ve long since given up on trying to curb Chris’s colorful commentary.

She turns to Alec. “It was great seeing you again, Alec.”

“The pleasure was mine,” he says politely.

“I hope to see you again,” she adds pointedly. I feel my face go up in flames. “You know, Sam here is pretty irresistible.”

Oh God, oh God, oh God!

I hold my breath, hoping she’ll stop there. Chris has a nasty habit of embarrassing me.

Alec glances at me, his expression unfathomable. “I get that feeling.”

Chris’s face splits into a broad smile. Her eyes flicker to me and I know what she’s thinking. I wait anxiously, praying she’ll hold her tongue.

“Well,” she begins. My heart stops. “I’m off to play heroine.” Chris winks at me and I exhale.

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