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Chapter Sixteen

C H A R L I E

โ€œDo you have a date for tonight?โ€ Ian asked as he leaned back in the plush chair across from me.

โ€œNo,โ€ I replied, pouring us both a glass of whiskey.

The charity gala had been the last thing on my mind these past few days, a certain brunette overshadowing all my other thoughts. It was a foreign feeling.

And it scared me.

โ€œWhat about that sexy girl with all the tattoos? Youโ€™ve been spending a lot of time with her,โ€ he said, and I looked up.

โ€œWhat did you just say?โ€

โ€œPlease donโ€™t act like Iโ€™m stupid. Youโ€™ve been different since I saw you with her, a month ago.โ€

โ€œDifferent?โ€

โ€œYeah, more...cheerful, I guess. And a little distant.โ€

I opened my mouth to respond, but for the first time in my life, I had nothing to sayโ€” he knew.

And honestly, it didnโ€™t really bother me. I was more scared of Jordanโ€™s reaction, the feisty brunette dead set on keeping whatever was going on between us a secret.

โ€œWhatever,โ€ I mumbled, swirling the amber liquid around in my glass. โ€œSheโ€™s going to be there anyway. My sister invited her.โ€

โ€œInteresting,โ€ he said, raising his brows.

I ignored him, taking a sip of my drink, enjoying the burn of the alcohol as it seeped down my throat.

โ€œI have to leave in a few minutes to get dressed,โ€ I sighed, watching Ian nod slowly as he looked at his drink.

โ€œWell, I donโ€™t want to keepโ€”โ€

Interrupted mid-sentence, Ian and I looked up as one of the double doors to my office opened, my assistant appearing.

โ€œSir, I have Mrs. Abbot for you,โ€ she stated, and I beckoned her to let her in.

โ€œIโ€™ll be going then.โ€ Ian smirked, downing his glass and walking out of my office.

I sighed, sitting back in my chair as I watched my mother stride into the office. With her head held high, her perfectly made up, light eyes scanned the room until she reached my desk.

โ€œHi, honey,โ€ she greeted as she sat down, carefully placing her designer bag on the seat next to hers and straightening out her skirt.

โ€œHi, Mom,โ€ I said, frowning slightly.

My mother never came to the office, let alone visited me or Ashley while we were working.

โ€œWhat can I do for you?โ€ I asked, narrowing my eyes at her.

โ€œAre you ready for tonight?โ€ she asked, evading my question.

โ€œI am. Whatโ€™s going on?โ€

โ€œWell.โ€ She folded her hands together on her lap. โ€œDo you have a date?โ€

I rolled my eyes.

Why is everybody suddenly so interested in my date?

โ€œI donโ€™t need one.โ€

My mother scoffed, checking her watch. โ€œI thought youโ€™d say that.โ€

I crossed my arms, not liking where this was going.

โ€œWhat are you up to?โ€

โ€œYou cannot turn up to this event without a date, Charles. Think about your reputation,โ€ she warned.

"My reputation,โ€ I repeated softly, but she ignored me.

โ€œSo Iโ€™ve arranged something for you,โ€ she continued, smiling brightly.

There it is.

โ€œAnd?โ€

She rose from her seat, grabbing her bag and hanging it on her arm, before she turned her attention back to me.

โ€œLuna Radcliffe expects you to pick her up at eight,โ€ she said, walking out of my office before I could react.

The Radcliffes were close friends of my parents, and for the past decade they had tried to set me up with their only daughter. It had been a while since I saw Luna, and I was kind of hoping she had found someone else by now.

Guess not.


Sighing, I walked up to Lunaโ€™s apartment, knocking three times before tucking my hands in my pockets.

โ€œJust a sec!โ€ I heard her yell, the sound muffled by the door.

I leaned against the wall behind me, waiting for her to come out. Looking at my reflection in the window, I nodded in satisfaction.

โ€œIโ€™m ready,โ€ Luna said as she pulled the door open, stepping out in a sleek, light blue dress, the small train dragging slightly across the floor behind her.

โ€œYou look good.โ€ I smirked, holding up my arm for her to take.

She rolled her eyes, locking the door behind her before wrapping her arm around mine.

โ€œHowโ€™ve you been?โ€ she asked as we waited for the elevator.

โ€œGood, how about you?โ€

โ€œYou know, same shit, different day.โ€

I chuckled, holding the elevator doors open for her to walk in, before I followed her and pressed the button for the ground floor.

โ€œYour parents still trying to push you into the family business?โ€ I asked, looking at her bright blue eyes.

โ€œYeah,โ€ she sighed, dropping her head, looking at her feet.

Even with these high heels on, she was at least a foot shorter than me. Shorter than Jordan, too.

Why did Iโ€”

โ€œBut, I took matters into my own hands,โ€ Luna continued. โ€œI actually signed with Elite.โ€

I raised my browsโ€” not surprised that she was modeling for one of the biggest agencies in the world.

โ€œCongratulations,โ€ I said, following her out of the elevator.

We made more small talk as I drove us to the venue of the gala, and realized spending most of the night with her wouldnโ€™t be too bad.

โ€œCharlie, darling,โ€ Mrs. Radcliffe exclaimed as soon as Luna and I walked into the main room where the gala took place.

I was momentarily distracted by the beauty of the great hall in the Natural History Museum, especially the large marble stairs and massive chandelier that hung from the ceiling.

โ€œHello, Mrs. and Mr. Radcliffe,โ€ I greeted the couple as we walked up to them, joining them at one of the red velvet covered high top tables.

โ€œGood to see you, Charles,โ€ Mr. Radcliffe said as he patted me on the shoulder, hard.

He was always a little rough with everybody, crushing your hand as he shook it and almost beating your heart out of your chest as he patted you on the back.

โ€œLikewise,โ€ I croaked out, scanning the room for...someone.

โ€œI believe your parents are over there,โ€ Mrs. Radcliffe offered, nodding to another room behind them.

I couldnโ€™t care less why they werenโ€™t all standing together, and excused myself to go talk to my parents.

โ€œWait for me,โ€ Luna whispered, grabbing my arm as we walked to the other side of the hall.

โ€œLuna, I know our parents want us to be together, butโ€”โ€

She interrupted me by chuckling, stopping mid step.

โ€œOh, Charlie, youโ€™re not my type,โ€ she explained, and I cocked a brow.

โ€œIโ€™m everybodyโ€™s type,โ€ I retorted, and she laughed harder, making several people turn their heads in our direction.

โ€œYouโ€™re cute and all, but your sister is more my type.โ€

I watched her walk away, processing what she just said for a second before jogging after her.

โ€œSince when?โ€ I asked and she slowed her walk with a smile on her face.

โ€œDid I hurt your feelings?โ€ She smirked.

Feelings? Pride, maybe.

I ignored her teasing. โ€œDo your parents know?โ€

โ€œNot yet,โ€ she replied, looking over her shoulder for a second.

โ€œCharlie! There you are,โ€ Mom exclaimed in the same fashion as Mrs. Radcliffe, walking from behind the table and pulling me against her chest.

โ€œHi, Mom,โ€ I said, but her attention was already on Luna.

โ€œYou look amazing,โ€ she gushed, holding the girl at arms length as she looked her up and down.

I nodded to my father, grabbing a flute of champagne from a passing waiter, taking a big gulp.

My eyes were on the doorway, even though I couldnโ€™t see the dance floor, nor the entrance of the building.

โ€œHas Ashley arrived yet?โ€ I asked, casually leaning against the table next to me.

Just as Mom was opening her mouth to answer, my gorgeous sister came striding through the hall, a fuchsia colored, blindingly pink dress hugging her curves and grabbing everyoneโ€™s attention. Her wavy hair was styled perfectly, and she looked like she was made for this theme, radiating sophistication and glamour.

โ€œHi, honey,โ€ Mom greeted her, and Ashley returned her hug before turning to me and Luna.

I tried to be subtle, checking behind her, but there was no sign of Jordan.

โ€œLuna! Long time no see,โ€ Ashley smiled, and they started catching up while my eyes stared at the doorway.

Jesus. Whatโ€™s up with me today?

โ€œWhereโ€™s Ryan?โ€ Mom asked, sparing me from creating any suspicion.

โ€œHe couldnโ€™t come,โ€ Ashley explained, also grabbing a drink from one of the passing waiters.

โ€œYou came alone?โ€

Mom didnโ€™t even hide the judgement in her voice, always scared to have her precious reputation tarnished.

โ€œNo, Jordanโ€™s at the bar,โ€ Ashley said.

โ€œHmm,โ€ Mom hummed disapprovingly, making the reason why Jordan was avoiding our parents very clear.

โ€œIโ€™m going to the bathroom,โ€ I told Luna, leaving her with my family after she nodded and making my way to the main hall.

I scanned the room until my eyes caught something red.

Smirking as I recognized her tattoos, I made my way up to Jordan. I was only a few steps away when she turned, her long dark ponytail swaying from side to side as she did.

โ€œCharlie,โ€ she breathed out, looking up at me with those beautiful brown eyes.

โ€œJordan.โ€ I smirked, my eyes trailing over her body, a tight, red dress showing off her killer figure, and putting her body art rebelliously on display.

โ€œYou look hot,โ€ I said, sucking my bottom lip between my teeth as I continued to study her. She looked a little tense, awkwardly avoiding my eyes as she stood before me.

My smile faded the longer she stayed silent, until she sighed and finally spoke up. โ€œIโ€™m sorry about Monday.โ€

I peeked over my shoulder, checking that no familiar faces were looking our way, before I held out my hand to Jordan. She dropped her eyes with a puzzled look on her face, before she finally looked back at me.

โ€œMay I have this dance?โ€ I grinned, watching a little red spread over Jordanโ€™s cheeks.

โ€œOh, shut up,โ€ she said, taking my hand and following me to a corner of the room, out of sight of my family.

I pulled her against me, one hand gliding over the small of her back as she looked up at me, hesitantly placing her hand on my shoulder.

โ€œHowโ€™ve you been?โ€ I smirked, and she rolled her eyes.

โ€œIโ€™m sorry things were weird Monday,โ€ she said again, watching her hand on my shoulder.

โ€œLetโ€™s just forget about it,โ€ I offered, and she nodded.

โ€œDid you miss me?โ€ I continued, trying to get her to loosen up a little.

She sighed, closing her eyes for a second, undoubtedly rolling them before she looked back up. I was intrigued by her reaction, her eyes darkening and the corners of her lips curling up ever so slightly.

โ€œI couldnโ€™t stop thinking about you,โ€ she teased after quickly looking around, her hand gliding down my chest before she grabbed my junk.

My teeth bore into my lower lip as I tried not to flinch, my heart rate speeding up and the air around us suddenly feeling thick with desire.

โ€œIs that right?โ€ I countered, my hand sliding down to sit on her ass, the both of us trapped in our own little bubble, teasing each other.

โ€œHmm,โ€ she hummed, stroking me through my dress pants, and I tightened my jaw, pulling her closer.

โ€œYouโ€™re playing with fire, Baby.โ€

I watched her tongue run over her lips with hooded eyes, the arousing sight enough to bring any man to his knees.

โ€œWanna play with me in the bathroom?โ€

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