Authors: Angel Payne,Victoria Blue
The device vibrated in my hand. Thank fuck.
:: Pretty Princess Party Perfection ::
“What the hell?”
:: Care to elaborate? ::
:: LOL. My niece’s birthday party. ::
:: Okay, that makes more sense. When will you be done? We’re coming over. ::
:: These things can take a while. Becoming a princess is time-consuming work. ::
:: Text us when you get home. No more excuses, Tolly. ::
:: Excuses? I would never joke about dress up and hairdos ::
I jerked up my other brow. There were two things I’d learned about Miss Talia Perizkova in the past month. One: she was a master at hiding her true feelings. Two: she had the sweetest pussy I’d ever put my mouth on. “Damn,” I growled, fighting thoughts of those tender pink folds beneath my tongue. Complete waste of time. I was a goner, now subconsciously rubbing my semi through my slacks as I stood and crossed the room.
I exited into the condo’s sprawling living room. Technically, the place belonged to our buddy, Killian Stone, but we were both sitting board members at Stone Global Corporation, and had been heavily involved in launching a number of their subdivisions lately. Though we always stayed at one of SGC’s rental properties while we were in San Diego, this place was beginning to feel more like home than Chicago—especially since the Talia effect took hold. And that was completely fine by me.
Though at the moment, nothing was fine about that girl’s diversionary tactics.
Drake was definitely going to agree.
I went looking for my roommate, starting with his favorite room in the condo: the gym.
Still felt ridiculous, calling this place that, as it was 4,500 square feet of modern, top-of-the-line luxury. Killian’s decorating preferences were all over the place, a bit shocking since he usually let
Stone—a.k.a. the amazing Claire—handle the “pretties” in his world. Still, as Claire’s pregnancy gained momentum, Kil was treating her more and more like a china doll instead of a capable, healthy woman. On more than one occasion at the office, we’d all borne witness to the daggers she shot him from her frustrated glares—looks that would’ve castrated a weaker man. But Kil had left us all slack-jawed by simply managing his trademark grin then popping a tender kiss to her forehead, making the woman melt into his side. The pair had what most people dreamed of in a relationship, and the envy in the room was usually palpable.
Which—surprise, surprise—circled my mind right back to Talia. Seemed like most things did these days. Again, not a news flash. This was getting…disconcerting. And unnerving, and amazing. And thrilling—
I couldn’t remember being so consumed by a woman before. I was pretty damn sure Drake echoed the feeling.
“Did you track her down?” The man’s question shook me out of my mental shadows.
Drake cocked his head while reseating the dumbbells in the rack. “Are we playing ‘I’ve got a secret’ or are you going to tell me where she is?”
Patience was not Drake Newland’s best virtue.
“She’s at her niece’s birthday party. She doesn’t know how long it will go, so I told her to text us when she’s home.”
“Did she say she would?”
I grimaced. “No. She did her usual bit. Some cutesy little quip and then radio silence.”
Drake wiped a towel down his sweaty face. “Fuck. This.”
He hurled the towel into the hamper. “Well, did she say where the party was?”
“Yes or no, man?”
say where it was. But—”
“Great.” Drake started toward the door of the gym. “Let’s just go there. Surprise her.” He pulled up short when I didn’t budge. Took in my pristine white shirt and dress slacks before offering, “After I shower and change. Happy?”
I shook my head. “We—uh—may want to sit this one out, bro.”
.” He blocked the doorway to the hall. “I’m not waiting anymore. And why are you being so cagey? She needs to realize she can’t keep yanking us around like this.” He spun and marched down the hallway. “I’ll be showered and ready to leave in twenty minutes.”
“Ohhhh kaaaay.” I wanted to protest again, but his retreating back left no option, so I just grinned at my reflection in the long mirrored wall. If this went down the way I predicted, Mr. Marine was about to spend the afternoon getting the finest princess makeover a guy could ask for, complete with sparkly nail polish and a fairy-dusted hairdo. This would definitely be my next Snapchat story.
By the time we headed out in the piece of shit rental we were driving around and pulled into the strip mall down the street, my phone was out and set to camera. I waited, poised with the thing, ready to capture hiss face when the realization fell into place.
Didn’t take long.
“Fletch, what the fuck is this?”
I shrugged. “Told you we may want to sit this one out.”
He grunted. “You must have given me the wrong address. Look it up again.”
“No man, this is it. Pretty Princess Party Perfection.”
“Seriously.” The smirk came out. I just couldn’t help it anymore. “Let’s go get our girl.”
“Ahhhh…maybe you were right. Maybe we should wait.” Oh, the gears were clicking fast in his mind now. Girls. Not the fun grown-up kind. The soda-and-cake-filled, hyper-on-life kind. Lots of them. Screaming, giggling, twirling, and reveling in their miniature diva status for the afternoon—primed and ready for a new victim.
He restarted the car. I reached over and turned it off. “No tucking tail now, man.”
I hopped out of the car. “Tsk tsk, Prince Drake. Such language.” I patted the top of the car before slamming the door and calling over my shoulder, “Suit yourself. I’ll be happy to have some time alone with her.”
“Fuck that!” The driver’s side door opened then slammed. Shit kickers pounded the blacktop behind me. Though Drake was a fashion plate at the office, always in head-to-toe, custom-fitted suits and dress shirts, he fell back into his comfort zone at home. His penchant for fatigues was legendary. Any camouflage print would do, despite how I cringed every time he pulled a pair on. Today, thank God, he’d had the sense to go with a regular pair of jeans.
I pulled the door open to the “Party Perfection,” painted to look like an old wooden door of a castle.
Well. It was a party, all right.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever forget the sound. Translation: the decibel-record-setting sound, trounced only by the bright pink and purple décor.
And the girls.
In all sizes, from baby ones to teen-aged ones. Some preened in pink salon chairs, getting their hair curled and twirled and sprayed. Some sat on large, ornate thrones with little tubs attached to the front, soaking their feet for their upcoming pedicures. Others rifled through racks of clothing, searching for the perfect princess attire. The ones who were ready for their “fashion show” were vamping it up on a little runway lined in twinkle lights, and spinning in a sea of disco ball sparkles.
My head was already spinning worse than that damn ball. I wondered if Drake’s was just going to explode right off his shoulders. What the hell had I gotten us into? And would we ever find out before the estrogen overload killed us?
“Good morrow, gentlemen!” An overly made-up girl at the reception desk sounded just as sugar-pumped as her clientele. “Are you lost? The tackle shop is three doors down on the—”
“No.” I leaned against the counter and poured on the charm. “We’re looking for the Perizkova party. We’re friends of one of the guests.” In went a smooth smile. Couldn’t hurt. The last thing we needed was to be tossed out.
“Interesting.” Blink. Blink. Then she just stared.
Drake’s patience was even thinner than normal. The man looked like he would rather wrestle a pit of cobras than hang out in here another minute. Now wasn’t the time to bring it up, but it was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. Where I was semi-used to this sort of event, because of my niece and nephew, his sister and brother were both still single.
“If you could just point us in the right direction?”
He might as well have left off the question mark—though three-inch-thick-makeup girl seemed to like his demanding tone. She eyed him up and down before grinning. “Sure thing, milord. Follow me. They’re in the back, at the make-up stations.”
We wove in and out of little princesses as we followed he to the back of the store. Six tall purple director’s chairs stood in a row, facing brightly lit mirrors. Each chair had a young girl anxiously perched in it, with another woman working diligently on her make-up. There were giggles and whispers as we came to a halt near the first chair.
“Is your friend here?” The receptionist tried to crank down her skepticism, while keeping her roving eyes all over Drake.
“Oh. My. God.”
We’d been spotted by our very own princess. “
are you two doing here?” Talia bit out. For a second, I didn’t say anything. Couldn’t.
The woman was even more breathtaking with bright purple eye shadow, glitter butterflies in her hair, and a lopsided crown atop her head.
Drake, thank fuck, hadn’t let his head explode yet. “We came to see you.” He stamped out each word, openly daring her to challenge it. “You keep blowing us off, love.” He shrugged matter-of-factly. “So
Talia’s eyes grew wide. “I haven’t been blowing you off!” She walked over to where we stood—creating a wall of man so she couldn’t escape. “And
calling me that!”
I slanted my head toward her. “Are we there again? I thought we handled that in Veg—”
“Ssshhh!” Her eyes weren’t just wide anymore. They looked terrified. “Can we…
mention Vegas right now?”
Drake turned a little, getting her back against the wall. A flock of sparkly butterflies appeared to be flying out of her head. “Why shouldn’t we mention Vegas?”
She popped up on her toes, darting anxious glances around the room. “This isn’t the time or the place. My entire family is here, okay? Well…the females, at least.”
Drake rumbled a low growl. “So we’ve noticed.”
Talia took that in—then suddenly burst into laughter. Just as instantly, my dick twitched. She really sounded as magical as a fairy princess.
“All right. I’ll bite,” I murmured. “What’s so funny, Tolly?”
“The two of you. Standing here. In the middle of all…this.” She waved her hand through the air to encompass “this”. I grinned, unable to help myself—deciding that was my favorite habit of hers. The way she waved her hands in the air when she was excited about something…it encompassed so many wonderful things about her personality. Her passion, her life—
But shit. Also her anger. Yeah, she definitely did the hand waving thing when she was pissed too—especially after the weekend we’d spent together in Las Vegas. Damn, that weekend. The two nights and three days that had changed absolutely everything about the three of us.
I didn’t want to see her pissed again for a long time.
Thankfully, now wasn’t going to be that time, either. Mischief actually began to twinkle in her eyes, forming adorable gold flecks against the sable hues. “Well, gentlemen. You’re here. Perhaps you’d like to join us?”
Drake took a turn at the flustered thing. “Uhhh…wh-what do you…”
“Hey, I can’t leave until the party is over, and that’s not for another,”—she swept her phone screen, checking the time—“two and a half hours.”
That was when I saw her game. Little sneak. She was actually banking on us leaving. I stepped up with a smooth-as-Astaire sweep, beating Drake to the answer. “We’d absolutely love to stay, baby. If you’re sure the birthday girl won’t mind?”
Cue the birthday girl.
“Auntie Talia?” A little girl walked up and studied us with eyes that were stunningly like Tolly’s. The little princess’s hair was pulled up into a bunch of elaborate curls, from which turquoise and purple extensions dangled. “Are these your boyfriends?”
We all answered in unison. The little girl inspected Drake and me as we stared at Talia—daring her to change her response.
“Anya, these are the men I work with. They’re friends of mine.” Her eyes never left ours, especially as she stomped on the word
. Little minx—always pushing.
Though apparently, in her own way, Anya was on
side. “Well, they should be your boyfriends. They’re cute and,”—she dramatically whispered the last part—“I think they like you.”
Drake and I traded smirks. Anya was a smart little thing for…what? Seven? Eight at the most?
“I like this kid,” Drake mumbled.
“Agreed,” I said.
“Shut. Up,” Talia gritted.
I squatted down to be on the birthday girl’s level. “So it’s your birthday today?”
“Well, yes. Kind of. This is my party, but my real birthday was on Wednesday, but Mama said we couldn’t do the party on a school day, so we had to do it on this day.”
I lightly grabbed her white-gloved hand and bowed my head over it. “Your mama sounds like a very smart lady.”
Anya giggled. “You can stay if you want! Please say you will.” She turned a look up at Talia. “Auntie, don’t be rude! Tell them they can stay. They can play with me and my friends!”
“You and your—” Drake choked off the rest of it. As Talia and I swallowed back chuckles, he spluttered on, “Uhhhhhh…hey…we don’t mean to intrude, little one.”
“Princess Anya,” the girl pointedly reminded him.
“Right. Okay. Well, we just wanted to talk to your aunt for a minute or two.”
Talia clenched her jaw. “Two,” she ordered, flashing more of those gold knives in her eyes at us both. “
“Nonsense.” The source of the interjection walked over on graceful steps. An elderly lady, so strikingly similar to Talia that her identity wasn’t in doubt, pushed closer to sweep glitter off of Talia’s nose. “Natalia! Let your friends stay awhile. You have better manners than that.”