Less than five minutes in, and he had already almost blown it. He hadn’t thought out the voice thing at all and, under pressure, had somehow wound up imitating Christian Bale in Batman. Now he was going to be stuck talking like that all night. It sucked, but he guessed it was better than if he’d gone with his John Wayne impression.
To be fair, it wasn’t his fault. He’d practically swallowed his tongue when he’d seen her. He’d gotten the backside view first and, if he wasn’t so painfully familiar with that sweet, heart-shaped ass, he wouldn’t have even recognized her. It was all so out of character. The short skirt that skimmed the middle of her thighs nipped in at the waist in a way that sent his blood rushing south. The black, nearly opaque stockings did nothing to hide the shapeliness of her legs. In fact, they only made him want to see what was underneath even more.
And then, she’d turned to the side and he’d gotten the full profile view. He’d had to swallow a groan. Cheerleader-ghost his ass. With a bustier of some sort wrapped around her soft parts like paper on a present he would kill to unwrap, she was hell on wheels. And the little cap perched on that grab-able mass of curls was so fucking adorable, he could hardly stand it.
That’s what made him nuts about her. She was hot sex, warm smiles, and icy determination all in the finest package he’d ever come across. After watching his brother settle for a marriage based on common interests and compatibility, and his own years of mindless sex with women who’d expected nothing more from him that that, he was painfully aware that he was the kind of guy who wanted it all. And damn if Grace Love didn’t have it all.
She stared at him expectantly, and he realized she was waiting for an answer. His voice. Right.
“Nope. Not my real voice. I was going for sexy and mysterious. Is it working?”
“Actually, it sort of is.” Her lips tilted upward in a bemused smile.
His stomach dipped a little, and he frowned. As much as he’d hoped she wouldn’t recognize him, a small, twisted part of him was jealous that she was flirting with this stranger in a way that she never had with him. How fucked up was that?
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah. All good. I was just realizing your hands are empty. Can I get you a drink?”
She hesitated, sending a look toward Serena, who was standing beside the DJ booth talking to Chaz in his douchey vampire costume.
She nodded. “Sure. That would be all right. I was drinking dry red, but anything is fine.”
He led her to the bar and was about to order her preferred brand of pinot noir when he caught himself. “I’ll take a glass of Cabernet and whatever seasonal beer you have.”
They’d gotten their drinks and he’d stuffed a fiver into the bartenders’ tip jar when a lilting voice carried their way. He looked up to see Serena stalking toward them in a getup he could only describe as B-movie bombshell. She eyeballed him hard up and down and then grinned.
“Well hello there, stray kitty cat. How did you get in? And more importantly, would you like a bowl of cre—”
Grace cut in with a gasp. “Serena!” she turned to him and laid a hand on his forearm. “I’m so sorry. She’s such a jokester, sometimes. I’m not sure if I introduced myself. I’m Grace Love and this is my partner Serena Elliott.”
Serena frowned, shooting him a “What the fuck?” look, then flicking a glance at Grace before settling her gaze back on him again. She recognized him.
The mask obscured the most recognizable parts of his face, he’d worn contact lenses, a generic pair of pants and shirt, a coat he hadn’t worn in years, and even used a different brand of soap in the shower. He’d thought he was basically home free. He should have known better. For every trusting bone in Grace’s body, Serena had two of the opposite. While Grace would cheer the most novice of magicians, gasping in delight over card tricks, Serena would’ve heckled Houdini himself. Her nostrils quivered pretty much nonstop, like she was perpetually trying to sniff out bullshit.
And he’d just attempted to serve her up a giant pile of it.