She'd brought a date to the party. Victor Titus could barely contain his fury. Still, he couldn't help but drink her in. Tanya Garcia was one sexy woman, and the clingy red dress she wore only highlighted her assets. Although he was stunned into inaction for a moment by her beauty, it didn't negate the fact she had deliberately defied him.
Intent on speaking with her, Victor was waylaid by Josh Bachman, one of his partners in their financial firm. "Hey guy, where do you think you're going?"
"Who is he?" Victor didn't need to explain further. Josh was the only other person who was aware of Victor's interest in Tanya. Although, Molly Zaworski, Josh's fiancée and Tanya's best friend, probably knew something as well. It didn't matter. Victor didn't care who knew. What he cared about was that the woman he wanted was at this very moment flirting with some other guy.
"I can't remember his name. I overheard Tanya tell Molly he's a personal trainer at her gym."
"She's just begging me to do something about this." Just saying the words had him thinking about all the things he could do to her. In his mind's eye, he could see her tawny body, completely nude and bent over. He'd secure her ankles, pulling her legs wide apart. Her small, compact breasts would be accessible to his knowing touch. And her ass. Her smooth, rounded ass would be his. To spank, to--
His thoughts were interrupted by Tanya's laughter from across the room. Her hand rested lightly on her escort's arm. The arm that Victor was barely restraining himself from ripping off the other man's shoulder. He took a deep breath and downed his drink, intent on putting a stop to this farce once and for all.
"You aren't making a scene here tonight."
It wasn't a question, but a statement, one he knew Josh would enforce if necessary. Victor had no intention of ruining his friend's engagement party. It wouldn't stop him from confronting Tanya tonight. He ran a shaky hand through his hair.
"I've played this all wrong. For three months, I've used every seductive act I could think of to win her over. Nothing has worked."
"Maybe you should just be yourself."
Victor gave Josh a pointed look. They'd been roommates in college, and Josh knew about Victor's dominating tendencies. "Being myself is what caused her to run from me in the first place."
"Look, I don't know the whole story, but I know you. Even if you got her with the seductive act, she needs to see the real you one of these days. Why not now?"
Why not? Of course, she'd only had a glimpse of the real him the night of the office Christmas party and had been running ever since.
"First you stop me from talking to her, and now you're practically pushing me over there. Make up your mind."
"Very funny. You ought to be a comedian." Josh nodded toward Tanya. "Look, she's alone. Why don't you take her a drink?"
"That's actually a good idea." Victor snagged two glasses from a passing waiter and headed across the room. Her back was to him, but he could see her hips softly swaying to the music. At that moment, he wished his hands were free so he could come up behind her, grasp those hips, and pull her back into his arms. Of course, knowing Tanya, she'd probably turn around, haul off, and hit him.
"Would you like a drink?"
Tanya turned with a smile on her face but frowned as soon as she realized who was offering. With a barely concealed grimace, she grabbed the glass from his hand and took a sip. "Sure, why not?"
"Don't act too enthusiastic."
"Believe me, I won't. But I know Molly and Josh spent a fortune on this party, so there's no use wasting good alcohol."
Victor took a sip from his glass and had to agree with her. Although he knew they'd spent some money on having this party at a hotel, it seemed as if they'd wasted no expense on the catering either, because the wine was vintage quality. Attempting to make small talk, he asked, "Are you having a good time?"
She glanced over her shoulder for a quick moment before answering him. "We just arrived, but so far, yes. I'm glad too, because Molly was worried sick that there was going to be some disaster."
Ignoring her discourse about Molly, Victor homed in on the one issue he was most concerned about. "We?"
"Yes, my date and I." Tanya took a large gulp of wine and then placed the empty glass on the tray of one of the roving waiters. Since it looked as if this was gearing up to be another fight, he added his own half-empty glass as well.
"Are you deliberating trying to provoke me?"
Tanya crossed her arms over her chest, unconsciously pushing her breasts out in a display he was hard-pressed not to pay homage to. Although petite, she was acting as if she were some kind of strong-armed enforcer. Instead of staring at her breasts or laughing at her show of superiority, he gazed straight into her eyes as she spoke. "Just who do you think you are? I'm not deliberately doing anything to provoke you. In fact, I don't make decisions with you in mind at all."
"Really? Because I thought I was pretty clear on my phone message that I was coming here alone and expected you to do the same. So do you want to explain to me why you did just the opposite?"
He watched as she pursed her lips, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she started speaking very distinctly, as if explaining something to a child. "I must have missed that message. However, I don't take orders from you. Your expectations of my behavior don't play into my decision making. I'm an adult; something you obviously know nothing about."
"Well, let me enlighten you about the phone message. I explained that I'm getting a little sick and tired of you running from me, from us. Tonight we're going to talk, one way or another. So bringing a date was bad news not only for you, but for him as well."
"Oh. My. God. You are just not getting it." She shook her head as if in defeat. "I'm done explaining things to you. Have a great time tonight."
She turned on her heels and took one step forward, only to trip on the hem of her dress. Before she could take a tumble, he reached out, caught her, and pulled her into his arms. The feel of her clasped in his grasp again was a heady rush. It had been three long months, and he wasn't interested in waiting any longer to make it permanent.
"You need a keeper." Her long, thick black hair was piled on her head with a few tendrils curling around her face. A stray curl escaped from one of the pins, and he reached out to tuck the errant strand behind her ear.
"I suppose you're applying for the job."
Victor leaned down, his lips just centimeters from her ear. "There will be no applicants, no interviews. I'm the man for the job, plain and simple."
Tanya took a deep, shuddering breath. He knew she might deny it, but she wanted him just as much as he wanted her. Her submissive nature, the one she buried so deep inside she refused to even admit it existed, responded to his commanding words as though she were already his. And the Dom in him reveled in her reaction. She still continued to fight him and her own nature and pulled out of his arms, fury evident in her gaze. Her words lacked the fire he was expecting. "Just leave me alone."
She hurried from his side then, heading across the room to where he noticed her date had finally made it through the buffet line with two plates. His gaze narrowed as he watched her smile at the other man, flirting as she nibbled at the tasty tidbits from her plate. The sight of her chatting with the muscled jock was making him sick to his stomach. He finally forced himself to turn away. She might think she'd escaped him, but it was only a brief reprieve.
Thankfully Victor's attention was diverted by the arrival of Brandon Lang, the third partner in their firm. True to Brandon's playboy status, he was accompanied by two gorgeous, statuesque blondes, one on each arm. As he walked over to greet the new arrivals, he overheard Brandon discussing him with the two women. "Now, ladies, this is the man I've been telling you about. He's a solid block of ice."
One of the blondes looked Victor up and down, her gaze undressing him just as easily as her hands probably could. In the past, he would have taken her up on her unspoken invitation. She looked like the type who could enjoy an evening of hot sex with no strings attached. Now, however, he didn't feel even a flicker of interest. Nevertheless, he wouldn't be rude to the women. Brandon, on the other hand, he couldn't care less about.
"Don't believe a word this man says. He's overcompensating, trying to cover up his latent homosexuality."
The woman who'd given him the blatant come-on laughed, but the other one gave him a blank stare. She had a perfect body but was obviously no Rhodes Scholar. Victor cocked his eyebrow at Brandon, who returned the gesture with a slight shrug.
As the two women excused themselves to use the restroom, Brandon glanced around the crowded room. "Where are Josh and the future ball and chain?"
"You better not let him hear you call Molly that. He might just wipe the floor with your pretty face." Although he'd purposely turned away from Tanya and her date, he couldn't help looking around to find her again.
"You know I was only kidding. I love Molly; she's a wonderful girl."
"Shut up while you're ahead." His response was somewhat distracted as he finally spotted Tanya on the dance floor. Victor could feel his blood pressure rising as he watched her in the other man's arms. Although petite, she had high, firm breasts and a curvy little ass. An ass currently being groped. No fucking way he was going to let that pass. "Um, talk to you later."
Victor strode away, not even waiting for a response from Brandon. He wasn't going to make a scene. He continued to repeat that to himself as he reached their side and tapped the man on the shoulder. "May I cut in?"
Tanya appeared stricken and clung to the man's sleeve, but Victor wasn't taking no for an answer. He pulled her into his arms, leaving her date staring blankly at them as they danced away.
"How dare you?"
"You let him feel you up on the dance floor. How dare you?"
"What are you going to do about it?"
If she wanted to test him, he was more than up to the challenge. He swung her around and headed toward the balcony. Once outside, he closed the doors behind him. "Don't ever issue ultimatums unless you're prepared for the consequences."
Hands on her hips, she gave a little snort. "Should I be afraid?"
"Maybe you should." He took a step forward and smiled inwardly when she held her ground. His little spitfire was no shrinking violet, and he wouldn't want her to be.
"Ooh, you think you're such a tough guy."
He couldn't allow her to think she could get away with being sassy. Crowding into her personal space, he backed her up until she didn't have an escape route. "If I didn't know any better, I'd suspect you were begging me for a confrontation. Maybe you enjoyed being spanked and are just too embarrassed to admit it."
It was too dark outside to see if she was blushing, but there was no mistaking her outraged gasp. Taking advantage of her stunned silence, he shackled her wrists with his hands and bent his head to capture her lips. He finally had her where he wanted her, in his arms again.