"What's the matter, Cynthia?"
"Nothing." But the moment she said it, her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry. I didn't think you would get depressed today. I thought you were over everything--"
"Oh, no, I'm not really depressed, it's just...I had a scene with Father before I left to come here."
Anna took her by the shoulders and turned Cynthia to face her. "What happened?"
Cynthia smiled at the worry in her friend's voice. And that was how she viewed Anna. A year ago, who would have thought they'd become such good friends?
"He didn't want me coming."
Anna snorted. "That goes without saying. Your brother isn't in town, is he?"
"No." Thank God. "It wasn't fun. Father wasn't happy."
She pulled away from Anna. Not because she didn't need the comfort, but because she wasn't good at accepting it. It was hard talking about family business. A Myers did not discuss personal problems with anyone. She had heeded that mantra for years. If she had been able to discuss her feelings with Max, they could have saved themselves a heap of trouble and never gotten engaged.
"What did he threaten you with?"
Studying her friend, Cynthia wondered how much Anna could see beneath Cynthia's artificial surface. More than anyone ever had probably. Anna's clear gaze was tinged with understanding.
"Nothing big." Cynthia fingered the edge of her blouse. "He just kicked me out of the house."
There was a beat of silence. "What will you do?"
She hadn't really thought about it. With everything that had been going on, Cynthia had done her best to ignore the gnawing in her gut. Champagne on an empty stomach, especially with her ulcer, was not the best thing. Add the worry of being homeless, and she didn't even want to think of the doctor bills.
"Not sure. I do have a trust from my grandmother on my mother's side of the family. But, then, I have to find a place to live... Oh, and furniture."
She turned away and busied herself with rewashing her hands. She knew it wasn't her fault, but that didn't stop the humiliation. Heat crept up her neck and into her face.
"Tell you what. You can stay at my place. There's a lot of Max's old fuddy-duddy furniture in there, and I haven't rented it yet. You were going to be house-sitting anyway, so why not just rent it?"
For a second, Cynthia concentrated on washing her hands as she tried to work through her emotions. When she finished, she dried them on a paper towel and looked at Anna. The fact that she had accepted Cynthia, had forgiven her, still amazed Cynthia. Anna treated her better than Cynthia's own family when she truly didn't deserve it. A lump rose in her throat and she swallowed. This...it went beyond letting bygones be bygones.
"Really?" Her voice cracked, embarrassing her.
"Really. Now, let's go round up our men and have some fun. I have plans for Max, and I'm ready to leave."
Cynthia laughed as she tried to put her face back to rights. "I have no man."
"Honey, you may not think so, but Chris Dupree is definitely interested in you."
That gave her an unexpected thrill, but the sensible Cynthia squashed it. No reason to get hot and bothered over a man who was too much for her to handle.
Anna smiled smugly. "Yes, he is. He could barely take his eyes off you."
"Even if he did, I couldn't handle a man like Chris Dupree. The man is a walking wet dream."
As soon as she said it, her face flushed.
"I must say, that sounds like something I would say. I like it. And, although I'll deny it if you tell Max, I agree. Now, why not go take advantage of him?"
"Anna, I couldn't do that."
Anna studied her for a moment. "It isn't because he's black, is it?"
"Oh no. It isn't that. Although I can imagine what my family would say about it."
"Then what is it?"
"Other than Max, there has only been one other guy, and I didn't like it with him, either."
Anna's eyes widened. "You didn't like sex with Max?"
"I don't like sex, period." She shrugged with the familiar feeling of rejection and failure. "It has to be something with me."
Anna crossed her arms beneath her breasts and frowned. "You know, maybe it has to do with the men."
"Oh, come on. First of all, you seem pretty happy with Max." Anna smiled at that. "But I wasn't. And the first one, Brett Simmons--well, he let me know when we broke up that I was a cold fish."
"What I meant was that maybe because these were men your father picked out for you, you weren't attracted to them. Maybe you need someone your father would disapprove of."
"But I don't know anyone like that."
Anna opened the door and led them out of the bathroom. At the end of the hallway, both Chris and Max stood waiting for them. Max frowned. Chris's mouth curled into a small smile, and Cynthia's heart flip-flopped.
Anna leaned closer. "There's someone who could really show you a good time, and I would say he's someone your father would not suggest you date."
"He lives in Honolulu."
"Even better--a one-night stand."
Cynthia tried to disapprove, but something about the idea excited her. She had never been a one-night-stand kind of woman. It just wasn't done. As she studied Chris, his gaze slid down her body and back up again. Heat flared from her stomach and spread to her sex. She shifted her legs, trying to get rid of all the tingles. It just made it worse. Her damp panties rubbed against her sensitized skin. Her knees went weak.
Anna nudged her in the ribs. "Come on, Cynthia. How often do you get a chance like this?"
"I need a few drinks."
"Tell you what," Anna said as she pulled Cynthia along with her. "Chris needs a ride back to the hotel. Take him, along with a couple of bottles of champagne."
Anna released her and seized Max, dragging him off. She heard Max asking questions and Anna telling him to mind his own damn business.
"Anna says you need a ride." When Chris's smile widened, she realized what she'd said. "Back to the hotel."
He nodded. "Are you offering me a ride?"
The way his voice deepened over the word ride made her lose her train of thought. The idea of sitting on his lap, riding him... She swallowed.
"If you're interested." Dang, when did her voice go all husky like that? And when did she start using the word dang? Lord, she'd drunk too much.
His lips twitched. "You bet."
"Let me pick up a couple of things, and I'll meet you around front."
He nodded again. As she walked away from him, she felt his gaze on her, sending another jolt of arousal into her blood. Her nipples tightened against the fabric of her blouse.
She grabbed a bottle of champagne and her purse, and released what was left of her sanity. For once, Miss Cynthia Myers was going to go with instinct rather than upbringing. As she rounded the corner of the club, she saw Chris leaning against one of the columns. For just a second, she panicked. What the hell was she thinking? This was completely out of character for her. She shouldn't be doing this, or even thinking it. Being homeless, jobless--those things were important. Jumping the bones of the most delicious man she'd ever met was not.
She must have moved, because he noticed her and smiled. A rush of tingles raced all the way to her toes. Pushing those reservations aside, she decided that for once she needed a little fun. Cynthia Myers needed to let loose. And she was sure Chris Dupree was just the man to help her.