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Authors: Tiffany Ashley

Beyond the Velvet Rope (8 page)

BOOK: Beyond the Velvet Rope
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“Months? You can’t be serious.”

“I know, but the pay was irresistible.”

“Amanda sounds as though she’s dying over there.”

“I’m hoping she will simmer soon,” Thandie confessed.

“Who’s your contact down there?”

“Warren Radcliffe.”

“Warren?” Gage laughed. “Warren is insane.”

“Yes, he is.”

“Well, one thing is for sure, you’ll be thoroughly entertained.”

“Yes, I know.”

“What sort of assignment are you working on in Miami?” Gage pressed.

“I’m promoting a club down here.”

“What’s the name?”

“Club Babylon.”

Gage paused. “Elliot Richards’s club? Now that’s interesting.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Nothing, really. Have you seen him?”

“Who, Elliot? Yes.”

“Very tempting, isn’t he?”

Thandie hesitated. “I suppose.”

Gage was quiet for a second. “I’ve met him before, Thandie.”


“So...I know exactly what he looks like. He’s fuckalicious, and you know it.”


“Oh, Thandie,” she said in a motherly tone. “I envy you just as much as I pity you.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“If you don’t listen to anything I say, please listen to me now. Stay away from Elliot Richards.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Thandie said lamely.

“No, Thandie, I’m serious. He is a demon placed on this earth to screw women into oblivion. We thought it was that damn apple that caused Eve’s fall from grace.” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “It wasn’t.”

“Let me guess. It was Elliot?”


Thandie burst into laughter. In all the years she’d known Gage, she’d never been so animated. “Are you finished?”

“Okay, I may be pouring it on thick, but in all sincerity, Thandie, don’t go down that road. Trust me when I say if you allow yourself to get involved with Elliot, you will get your heart broken.”

“Thank you, Gage—”

“The things he’s into—” Her voice drifted off. “Just don’t get hurt, okay?”

Thandie said in a warning tone, “what do you know?”

The line went silent for a long time. “Nothing really,” Gage hedged. “Old wives’ tales, I guess.”

“Just how well do you know Elliot?”

“I don’t know him,” Gage confessed. “No one does. He doesn’t keep very close company. However, I was once friendly with an acquaintance of his.”


“You know what I mean,” Gage snapped. “Just be careful down there.”

“I will,” Thandie promised.

Long after they’d hung up, Thandie considered Gage’s warnings. In the short time she’d been in Miami, Gage was the third person to caution her about Elliot.

Thandie certainly did not need further warnings to keep her distance from Elliot. In the brief conversations she’d had with him, she’d learned to be on her guard. He was beautiful to the point of unnerving, and arrogant to the point of exasperation. These were two things that, if Thandie didn’t watch herself, could get her into a lot of trouble.

But those eyes. Those fascinating silver eyes of his. She’d never seen anything quite like them. They seemed to flicker with intensity, bearing into her with frightening clarity.

One thing was clear—Elliot Richards was a dangerous man. She was definitely not looking forward to their dinner meeting tonight.

As if on cue, her phone began vibrating. She looked at the incoming number and frowned. She did not recognize it, but it had a Miami prefix. She answered hesitantly. “Hello?”

“May I speak to Thandie Shaw?” the caller asked brusquely.


“Ms. Shaw, this is Romero, Elliot Richards’s assistant. I was calling to confirm your meeting with him tonight at eight. Do you know how to get to Peppers?”

“Uh—no,” confused by the assertiveness of his tone.

“I will send you the directions. Please be on time. Elliot is on a tight schedule.”


“He wanted me to tell you he is looking forward to your meeting. I trust you feel the same.”

Thandie’s mouth fell open, and then it shut. It shut because Romero had already hung up. She looked at the phone and scowled. What was it with Floridians and decent phone manners? Did everyone hang up on each other in this town?

The sound of her phone chirping broke her silent rant. It was the sound indicator, alerting her she had a new email. She toggled the dials and discovered it was a new message from Romero. It included directions to the restaurant, and restated the importance of her arriving on time.

She hissed at the email like an angry cat. She was becoming increasingly leery of this meeting. She’d secretly harbored hopes someone from Elliot’s management team might join them for dinner, possibly Adam or Markie. But she now knew that had been a foolish notion. Romero’s comment about Elliot “looking forward to their meeting” was proof enough. The idea of being alone with him made her shoulders sag with the weight of a two ton anvil. Elliot was toying with her, and she knew it. He was trying to intimidate her. Well, she wouldn’t allow that to happen. At least, not as easily as he might think.

Now spitting mad, Thandie resolved herself to do battle. Hastily, she finished getting dressed. After she claimed a car from the rental agency, she had errands to run. Every good warrior knew battles were not won in the heat of combat, but in the preparations. If it was a fight Elliot wanted, it was a fight he would get.

(the foyer)

Thandie was twenty minutes early for dinner. It was enough time for her to second-guess her wardrobe choices. She’d packed only one suit for the trip to Miami. Upon careful inspection, it looked more appropriate for a funeral. So she’d headed to the mall to buy something more fitting.

Not normally swayed by sales consultants, Thandie found she was eager to accept the opinion of a stranger. She couldn’t seem to make up her mind. The saleswoman had assured her the dress was a conservative design, but Thandie was beginning to worry if she’d been had. She tugged at the stubborn hem of her dress. It seemed to be getting shorter by the minute. She was almost certain there had been more fabric on the dress when she’d bought it two hours earlier.

Thandie pulled out her phone and checked the time. It was exactly one minute until eight o’clock.
Be on time my ass,
she grumbled to herself. Next time she saw Romero, she planned to give him a piece of her mind.

Just then, the entrance door swung open and Elliot Richards strolled into the foyer. He was wearing a pewter gray suit and crisp button-up shirt. He spotted her immediately. As he came nearer, she could see the gray of his suit matched the color of his eyes. And the rest of him...was every bit as splendid. His thick dark hair was brushed away from his face, resembling rippling waves of black satin. The sharp features of his face were chiseled to perfection. If possible, Elliot was more handsome than she remembered. Thandie could feel her confidence begin to slip.

She watched his gaze slide over her. Even though she was fully clothed, she felt naked; stripped and completely vulnerable under his silver stare. She wished she’d chosen another dress. Something with sleeves would have been desirable. She could literally feel Elliot’s eyes caressing every curve of her body. Unable to help herself, she tugged at the hem of the dress again, pulled herself up taller, and forced herself to meet his stare. It was a mistake. His eyes danced with an unspoken challenge. She could see he was amused by her discomfort.

“Elliot,” she said in greeting.

“Ms. Shaw.” He inclined his head slightly. “You look utterly delectable.”

Thandie could feel blood rushing to her face, and knew she was turning deep red. She gripped her clutch tightly.

“Mr. Richards,” an enthusiastic female voice called out.

Both Elliot and Thandie turned to see the restaurant’s hostess approach them. She was practically beaming at Elliot. Thandie bit her lower lip in annoyance. The entire time she’d been waiting in the foyer, the hostess hadn’t so much as spared her a passing glance.

“We’re happy to have you join us today,” she simpered. “Your table is ready.”

Elliot flashed her a smile. “Very good. Please, lead the way.” He turned to Thandie and, surprising both women, placed a possessive arm around her waist. “Shall we?” he whispered in her ear, as he ushered her forward.

Thandie walked stiffly at his side as the hostess navigated around tables before climbing a short flight of carpeted steps. They arrived at Elliot’s table, a secluded booth near the rear of the upper level. It offered a superior view of the dining areas and bar below, and yet was obscured from curious eyes by layers of decorative silk curtains.

Thandie slid in first, settling herself as far on the opposite side as possible. Elliot slid in beside her, purposely eating up much of the space she’d created. His head lowered slightly, and she was momentarily surprised by the fan of dark lashes that shaded his eyes. They were long and thick—the kind women paid a small fortune to possess.

Her attention was disturbed when their waiter arrived and placed leather-bound menus before them. He greeted Elliot by name before asking for their drink requests. Without even consulting Thandie, Elliot ordered a bottle of wine. The waiter nodded his approval and disappeared. When he was well out of earshot, Thandie showed her irritation.

“I can order for myself,” she said tersely.

“I’m sure you can. However, tonight I am ordering for you. So get used to it.”

“I’m not accustomed to having a man treat me like this.”

“That’s because I’m the first man you’ve ever dealt with.”

She laughed dryly at his statement. His cocky presumption nearly toppled her patience.

“You look nervous,” Elliot remarked. “I hope I’m not the reason.”

“I’m not nervous,” she said frostily.

He said nothing, but the grin he gave her was wicked and knowing.

Thankfully, the waiter arrived with the wine. Elliot took the bottle, insisting he be the one to fill their glasses. As he did so, he placed their entrée order. The waiter again nodded his head.

“Please send the chef my respects,” Elliot added. “And press upon him my eagerness to dine. I have a healthy appetite tonight—” he paused to let his gaze slide over Thandie once more “—and my date looks good enough to eat.”

“Yes, Mr. Richards,” the waiter said promptly. “I will tell the chef.” He vanished without another word.

Elliot watched him leave, the hint of a smile played on his lips.

“Was that really necessary?” Thandie asked.

“It was,” Elliot said as he took a sip from his wine glass, “because it’s true. You look utterly edible tonight. My compliments to your dress.”

Thandie had to bite down on her lip again. She reached for her own glass, in a desperate attempt to keep her hands busy, and took a sip. She was surprised to discover it was pretty good. Better than good. It was wonderful. She could feel a rush of warmth wash over her as the smooth liquid went down. She looked at Elliot, not at all surprised to see him watching her.

“You like it,” he said. “I can tell. Your face is glowing.”

Thandie impulsively took another sip before resting her glass on the tabletop. He’d been right of course. However, she’d die a slow death before she’d admit as much to him. She pushed her glass a few inches farther away from her. She didn’t intend to get lightheaded on wine during her meeting. She would have to pace herself.

“How was your first night at Babylon?” he asked casually.

“Great,” she breathed, relieved the conversation had turned to business. “I was telling Warren this morning I thought he’d made a very sound investment.”

Something flickered across Elliot’s face. It bordered annoyance, but she could not be sure. Whatever it was, it was gone as quickly as it had come. “Yes,” he said smoothly, “it’s a very sound investment.”

“You mentioned yesterday you wanted me to host a series of events at the club,” she said. “Did you have in mind any particular kind of events?”

“That will be entirely up to you,” he said vaguely.

“Entirely?” she pressed.

Elliot smiled. “With my approval, of course.”

“Of course,” she said under her breath, slightly irritated by the lack of direction he was giving her. “Is there anyone specifically you wish to attend these events?” she asked. “I have a lot of contacts in New York. I planned to work my connections to get as many celebrities as your staff thinks they can handle. I know Brandon Audrey’s agent. I can see how his schedule lays out.”

If he was impressed by her dropping the name of a major movie star, he was a remarkable poker player. He didn’t even flinch. Whether it was because he didn’t care for Brandon Audrey or doubted her abilities to book him, was a mystery to her.

Elliot gave her a patronizing smile. “I see you’re not familiar with how things work here. Miami is known for two things.” He ticked his words off on his fingers. “Music artists and models. Wherever there are musicians, there will undoubtedly be models. And where there are models, there are wealthy men. Where there is wealth, there are more beautiful women, and where there are beautiful women, there are men. My point is, you need to focus on getting music artists here. The occasional actor is fine, but concentrate your energy on music. Am I making myself clear?”

“Absolutely,” she agreed, relieved he was giving her specifics she could use. “And while we’re on the subject of the target market, what about the press? Are there any syndications you want to be featured in? The Tower would make for some great photo opportunities.
Elle Décor
or even
Architectural Digest
might consider doing a story—” She broke off when he started shaking his head. “Is there a problem?”

“No press.”

“Excuse me?” she asked, certain she had not heard him correctly.

“No press,” he repeated, “and absolutely no photographers.”

Thandie laughed. “This is a joke, right?” She stopped abruptly when he didn’t join her. Instead, he sat patiently, staring at her. “You can’t be serious,” she said.

He flicked away an imaginary piece of lint from his suit lapel.

BOOK: Beyond the Velvet Rope
13.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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