“Five, four, three, two, one, Happy New Year.” The party guests counted down in unison.
I already had one arm draped around Ramsay’s slender waist. She allowed me to roll her into my body so that we were touching from chest to pelvis as I kissed her. “Better than last year’s,” I grinned.
She pulled away from me and gave me a haughty look, raising one eyebrow.
I didn’t loosen my hold. God, she had lost weight working so hard on first, Tye and Billie’s wedding, then Cress and Brian’s and then this annual party. I could feel the bumps along her spine. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Last year, I had to track you down for my kiss. This year, you are by my side.” Where you belong, I added silently. Ramsay Kent was…elusive. We’d been involved to some degree for over a year but we’d yet to label our relationship. I was a patient man. It was one of the reasons that I was a success, I could settle in and wait.
“Well I suppose kissing you is better than some Random.” She turned her head to look around at the other party guests.
“Not going to work, Ramses.”
“What?” She drew her eyebrows together as if she didn’t know what she was doing.
“You aren’t going to make me mad, not tonight.” I told her resolutely.
“I’m working…I don’t know what time I’ll get out of here tonight, er, this morning.”
“It’s not a problem. You know I like to watch you work.”
One side of her mouth hitched upward in consternation.
“If I get bored, I go back and send the car to bring you home.” Of course I wouldn’t get bored. I got off on watching her run the show. Ramsay in command was a thing of duty. She could multi-task as well as any military strategist, make that better. Handling the rest of this party would be a breeze for her, just like assembling and breaking down my MILITARY GRADE SNIPER RIFLE – ASK STEVEN WEST was second nature to me.
“Are you sure?”
I pulled her to me and place a light kiss on her vibrant red lips, not caring if I now bore the same color. “Go make someone miserable.”
“Asshole,” she snorted as she fought a smile.
“Shouldn’t they be putting out the food?”
“Shit,” she hissed as she spun around on her three inch heels. “I’m really seriously considering cutting the gratuity that Tye left for them.” She took off in the direction of the kitchen.
I was admiring the sway of her ass encased in some kind of silky material that was as silky as her naked body. When I heard my name.
“Osi,” Tony Alessi was motioning for me to join the Limited Group at one of the large tables.
You could say that I’m lucky, I like the people that I work with. They’ve become my family. We were a tight knit and slowly expanding as we found our mates. As I looked at the wives sitting at the table, I saw the similarities that they shared. They were loyal, smart and strong, they had to be to be equal to their men.
Tony Alessi claims that he knew that Zoe was his the moment that he saw her. It didn’t matter that she was a few years older, he wanted her. They now have a toddler and he still walks around with a price on his head leftover from his days working undercover for the ATF. They take it in stride, although I’ve seen Zoe on the gun range and she has a dead-eye.
My boss, Lucas Forde met his wife Layla when she came in the office to request his help with a problem. Within weeks, he’d moved her into his condo and she was working the front desk at Limited. Eventually her problem got solved but Lay had suffered some damage. The good news was that she recovered and they now had three kids and most likely would go home and work on number four.
I could hear Billie’s laughter as I made my approach. She and Tyler Burke were married a month ago and I’m not sure they will ever stop the honeymoon. They deserve happiness, because they each had been through hell. You’d never guess by looking at her but Billie was abducted and held for three weeks by a madman. She had to break her own bones to escape. Four months ago, I along with others, were giving Tye chest compressions while waiting for the medics to arrive. He took two to the chest by the crazed wife of Billie’s kidnapper. I’m not sure that love can conquer all but after being around those two, I know that it can get you through the dark times.
Crecida Wyatt, well as of five hours ago now McGuire, held out her hand to me. “Osi, where’s Ramsay?”
My woman had not only planned this huge New Year’s Eve party for Indy’s elite but when Brian McGuire and Cress mentioned that they wanted a close friends and family only ceremony. She’d planned it to take place before the doors opened tonight. Yeah, she did it in just four weeks.
“Probably making some poor waitress cry,” Billie offered.
I let that go because “a,” it was probably true and “b,” Billie and Ramsay had been tight since their freshman year of college. If anybody knew the elusive Ramsay, it was Billie.
“I’ll find her.” Tye stood and took off in the direction of the kitchen.
I gave Cress’s hand a squeeze. “Setting the bar kind of high aren’t you?”
Her new husband smirked, “Well I have to stay competitive.”
Billie’s laugh was throaty and I will admit sexy. “A wedding and a baby…what are you going to do to top that Osi?”
“Who says I’m next?” I could be but that might involve drugging and kidnapping a certain redhead and the others might not approve.
“Better you than me, man.” Rick, the only other single male working at Limited announced.
“Sweetheart, that girl was going to pee her pants. You know how scary you can be.” Tye had his arm wrapped around Ramsay’s bare shoulders.
“But she was touching the food with her bare hands! You don’t know what she’s been doing with those hands, Tye.” Her cheeks were pink and it wasn’t from the expertly applied make up. She was furious.
“I eat hot dogs from a cart vendor, I’m pretty sure that I’ll survive.” He winked at me as he expertly handed the angered woman to me.
“That’s not the point.”
I knew that she was worked up because she wrapped her arm around my belly as I pulled her into my body. Ramsay rarely showed any public displays of affection. It was like she wouldn’t allow herself the comfort.
“Honey,” Billie got to her feet and moved in front of us, “I understand that it was wrong but let’s not tell the whole room, okay?”
Ramsay gave herself a little shake as if she was pushing all that anger and frustration back into the bottle. “I just want everything to be perfect.”
“Ramsay, it is. Tonight is even better than I expect.” Tye was looking into her eyes. “I mean it. Nobody else could have pulled this off but you.”
I felt her body lose some of its stiffness. “Well, it’s important, you know?”
“We know,” Billie added her tone softened, “and we appreciate it. We are so lucky to have you in our lives.”
“Oh Christ, stop getting mushy. You know that I can’t cry now.” Ramsay groused but I could tell that the words touched her deeply.
Tye and Forde’s father joined us. “Good, you’re all here. Want to do the toast?” Jerry initiated this act last year and I hoped that we would continue until we all were old and gray.
Ramsay headed toward the bar station in the corner.
“She’s going to be exhausted tomorrow,” Cress observed.
“She can spend it in bed,” Zoe smirked in my direction, “or she can put on clothes and come to party. It’s casual so maybe the Fashionista can take it easy.”
“She’ll be fine. She is in heaven right now. I know that she’s put in long hours but she loves this shit.” Billie sounded sure.
“So when are you two leaving town?” Rick asked the newest set of newlyweds.
“Day after tomorrow, we are flying out with my folks and then spending five days at the beach then back so that Cress can start class on Monday.” Brian glanced down at their enjoined hands.
“No more fun on school nights for you,” I teased the woman who was going back to school to study Public Policy.
“I think that between class, watching the girls and this baby, I won’t be awake past nine.” She patted her stomach where their child was growing.
Ramsay returned cradling a bottle. “Only the best for the best.” She placed the rounded bottle in front of Jerry.
He studied it. “What do we have here?”
A waiter appeared behind her with twelve short glasses.
“Something that my brother-in-law sent me,” Ramsay motioned for the glasses to be distributed.
“Is that a Limited Release Macallam’s?” Forde shifted the bottle so that he could read the label.
“Ramsay! You are spoiling us.” Jerry told her.
“I told Ollie that I wanted something special.” She shrugged and looked a little uncomfortable which was out of character with her usually poised self. “I know that it is important so, you know I wanted something worthy.” She then shot me a helpless look.
“Thank you. It is perfect.” I told her formally. I instinctively knew that would please her.
Jerry broke the seal and poured a healthy shot for those of us that had served. He then handed the glasses to Forde and I. “INSERT APPROPRIATE TOAST.”
The warmth burned down my throat as I took my shot.
“It gets to me every time,” Zoe was fanning her hand in front of her face fighting off the tears.
“Now please join us.” Jerry poured a few fingers in his now empty glass and passed the bottle to Forde who poured a splash into Layla’s glass and then his own.
The bottle made its way around our group.
We all held our glasses as Jerry spoke, “To those that serve.”
We repeated his words and took the shot. All except Cress who toasted and then handed her glass to Brian, who took it also.
“Thank you Ramsay,” Tony looked like he was going to ask for another.
She nodded and turned around to look at the line of people who were going through the buffet. “Foods ready. Any takers?”
“Before you go, how about a dance my party planning goddess?” Tye asked.
Ramsay looked at his outstretched hand and then smiled showing her straight white teeth. “Well all right Fred, show me what you got.”
The others were either getting another whisky or heading to the food. I moved to stand beside Billie. “I’m not much of a dancer but if you’d like?” I looked over my shoulder at the dance floor full of people dancing to some Frank Sinatra song.
“How about you sit down with me and let my feet rest.” She patted the chair next to her.
I was relieved that I didn’t have to try to keep from stepping on her toes.
“And if you see anybody approaching, give them one of your scary stares so I can grab ten minutes of quiet.”
I glanced down as she kicked off her shoes. “No problem, B.”
She slumped in the chair dramatically then sat up and giggled. “You certainly are agreeable tonight.” She gave me a sideways look full of questions.
“I can be agreeable.”
“I take it things are going well?”
We both knew that she meant with Ramsay. “She’s here.” Ramsay was in the process of moving her business and her fine ass to Indianapolis.
“That’s good, because she could go anywhere with her money.”
I gave a small nod
She put her hand on my forearm. “The thing is…”
I looked at her very white hand against my dark charcoal sleeve and then to her face. She looked so serious and worried. There was a wrinkle between her eyebrows.
“Ramsay is my best-friend, but…”
“She’s moody, difficult, sometimes bitchy.” I said with a smile.
“All of those things,” she nodded in agreement. “has she said very much about her family?”
“I know she has a sister.”
“Yeah, Bean, er, uhm Bennington.” She rolled her blue eyes. “Those names are crazy but I meant like about when she was a kid?”
“Not too much.” I didn’t talk about my upbringing either. I followed the don’t ask/don’t tell rule.
“I know that I’m breaking some kind of best-friends code but I like you and I like you for her.” She narrowed her eyes a little as if she was picking and choosing her words carefully. “Ramsay’s family is odd.” She then let out a snort and shook her head so hard that her long earrings moved against her neck. “And I meant that in comparison to my upbringing.” She made her eyes go big. “The thing is that they basically abandoned her for five years.”
“You mean what exactly?” I wanted the facts.
“Bean was in some fancy-smancy finishing school in Switzerland and she was in a bad car wreck. She was in a coma for a long time and then her parents put her in some private clinic that was run by a doctor who was doing cutting edge work.”
“That had to take a huge toll on the family,” I was trying to run a timeline in my head. I knew that Bean was older than Ramsay.
“Well…yeah. But here’s the thing, Osi…they left Ramsay in Denver. In their big house, with the staff.” She paused for a few moments. “I mean for years. They would fly her over to Europe for visits but they weren’t caring for her emotionally.”
“She was what twelve? How could they do that?”
She rolled her expressive eyes at me. “Come on Osi, you know that as long as a kid shows up for school, is clean and appears fed, who is going to ask questions? Ramsay’s private school was probably used to parents flitting off around the world and the kids left with staff. Plus when you paying fifteen thousand a year, do you think they are going to ask too many questions?”
“Money always smooths the way.”
“I only know this because she got drunk one night our freshman year and she told me about it. She’d broken up with a guy that she’d known growing up…she wasn’t into him because he was a total fucktard. She was upset because her mother had heard from his mother and was disappointed.”
I tried to imagine the two women drinking and sharing secrets.
“She said it was the first time she’d talked to her mother in months. She was upset because their only contact was because she was disappointed her. It broke my heart.”
“So her parents suck.” So did Billie’s and Layla’s.
Her voice went low and rough. “She doesn’t know what a healthy relationship is Osi. You are going to have to teach her. Be patient with her.”
“She doesn’t think that we are in a relationship.” I reminded her moodily. I couldn’t help it…her words rankled every time I replayed them in my head.
Billie smirked. “Dude, you two are in one, whether she wants to recognize it or not.”
“Right,” I let out a loud sigh.
She bumped her shoulder into my upper arm. “You can have easy anytime you want. Just look around there are five chicks checking you out right now. But a man like you, you like the challenge, the chase. That way the final victory will be sweeter. I just want you to stay in the game because my girl is not going to be easy.”
“Did you look in your crystal ball before coming tonight?”
“Yeah, I’ve developed psychic abilities and with Forde’s gut instincts we are going to take our show to Vegas.” She laughed. “The thing is, I care and no matter what, I’m going to like you, respect the man that you are.” She had turned serious.
“Thanks B, that uh,” a small laugh escaped. I hadn’t expected this. “It means a lot coming from you.”
She relaxed back in her chair. “Well, we diva lovers need to stick together.”
I laughed easily this time. She was a hundred per cent correct.
I sat with my back against the huge hand carved bar and watched Ramsay. She was lecturing the party-planner and the Catering Manager. The guests and hosts had cleared out about thirty minutes ago. She was pointing to something on what looked to be a contract.
I checked my watch, it was five after four. She looked to be going strong, her hair was still tightly wound in the french roll and her lips were still scarlet. Ramsay was always pulled together with a capital “P”.
“This is a great facility and it suits our needs but if this amount is lowered then I will make sure that Mr. Burke starts shopping for someplace new.” She put her hand on one hip and stood taller in what I’d learned was known as “the bitch stance.” “And by that I mean, I will be finding us a new location.” She flashed the haughty look that pissed the hell out of me when it was directed my way and now, turned me on. “So about that charge?”
The Catering Manager folded. “I’ll reduce it by half, but that’s the lowest I’ll go.”
“Fine. Thank you ladies. I think that is all.” She turned on her three inch heel and walked to me, stopping when she was between my thighs. “Hey.” Her voice had gone low.
I put my hands on her hips and tightened my legs, trapping her. “So?”
“I’m ready to go.” She gave me a flirty look under her lashes.
I pulled her closer to me and pressed my hard cock against her. “So am I.”