Authors: Red Garnier
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Monica Davenport’s little problem with intimacy was growing too big to ignore. Relationship
to relationship, she’d helplessly watched the affection every man had ever had for
her crumble, then die, each time she physically turned them away.
She was the darling of Chicago, rivaled only in popularity by Daniel Lexington himself,
and at twenty-eight, she was the proud president of Davenport’s, one of the top luxury
cashmere retail chains in the United States. She was an icon of poise and fashion
and yet … the press hadn’t dubbed her the Ice Maiden for no reason.
She could smile for the cameras, but the truth was, happiness had left her a long
The day she realized she would never allow herself to love another human being.
Sighing, she excused herself from the group of couples she’d been talking to and wound
her way through the crowded hotel ballroom, her eyes scanning the figures of dark-clad
men in search of the one she had been watching all evening.
The place looked splendid tonight. Soaring marble columns rose to the vaulted ceiling,
and the entire ballroom was dripping in flowers. Fountains sprouted chocolate and
champagne while ice sculptures of nude Venuses gracefully adorned every corner. Hors
d’oeuvres circulated on sparkling silver trays for the lavish patrons and the room
was full of subdued laughter as live classical music wafted in the background.
Like all the other ladies, Monica had dressed in white, a requisite for every female
attending the yearly Black and White Ball. A large pearl bracelet adorned one of her
wrists, and she wore the earrings to match, nine millimeters in size and as lustrous
as the day they’d been pulled out of their shells. Her slender body was encased in
a high-end designer dress of crepe lace in a soft ivory color—not quite white, but
close—which had always complemented her eyes, for it magnified their blueness and
contrasted nicely with her long ebony hair, which she’d held back in an elegant little
She’d become quite an expert at playing the part she’d been born to play, and the
cool smile that accompanied her to these events felt like another accessory she must
wear. Rarely did anyone get to see the real Monica. Rarely did she allow her to show.
As she crossed the long expanse of the ballroom, she suddenly spotted him near the
terrace doors, in a group consisting entirely of men. Her heart almost stopped.
His back was to her now, broad and strong, and a kernel of nervousness unfurled within
a little voice whispered.
Here,” Peyton Lane said as she passed her a full goblet of wine. “It helps when you
have one of these.”
Peyton Lane worked at the firm who’d taken Davenport’s into the New York Stock Exchange
years ago. The curvy brunette was also known as the woman who’d snatched—and tamed—the
city’s most incorrigible playboy, Luke Preston. The man was so taken with his lady,
in fact, that Peyton now wore an engagement ring—a white, blinding diamond the size
of a quarter. “Thanks, Peyton,” Monica said, graciously accepting the goblet as Peyton
playfully lifted her own drink in a mock toast.
Taking a sip, Monica found her eyes sliding back to the figure across the room, and
she realized, judging by the awed, avaricious faces of the two ladies standing to
Peyton’s right, that they were looking at him as well.
He stood next to the famed Luke, whose romance with Peyton had caused quite a stir
when everyone realized the infamous rake was no longer available. That same romance
had now crowned the man beside him as the true reigning billionaire bachelor in all
He was, after all, the Prince of the Windy City.
Daniel Lexington had always been the favorite of the press, and there was no doubt
to Monica as to why.
With his hand thrust into his left pocket, at six foot three, and with his hair a
sexy dirty blond with sun-lightened streaks, he was the perfect embodiment of a Viking
in a tuxedo.
He wore the sable suit as though it had been made exactly to his dimensions, the dark
material clinging perfectly to fit his narrow hips and his lean, long legs. Coupled
with his perfectly symmetrical face and a set of shoulders that could bear anything,
the man radiated a universe of success and confidence, his entire being giving out
a silent message of wondrously channeled power.
“They say he just says the word, and God obeys,” one of the nearby women whispered.
The group laughed, and Monica smiled and kept her eyes on him, a strange pride and
protectiveness sweeping over her.
Great bloodlines, a fantastic centerfold face, a good heart, and a very,
arrogant presence, Daniel Lexington carried himself as if he owned you
the planet he was standing on.
He was, despite his awe-inspiring reputation, one of the few people in the world to
whom Monica felt close, which only made her realize how alienated she was from true
closeness because she only saw Daniel a couple of times a month, when they occasionally
Her eyes remained fixed on him, and her stomach warmed with every step that brought
her closer to him. He now stood with two elderly men, as Luke Preston made his way
toward his fiancée.
Daniel did not miss a beat in the conversation. Monica had never seen a man so comfortable
in his own flesh. His green eyes were usually warm, sometimes even a little hot, and
Monica never failed to feel their heat when he looked or smiled at her. Reflecting
on it now, she realized if she had one secret she needed to entrust to someone in
—she would entrust it to him. Friend. Almost … family. Once, she might have even dreamed
he could be more.
Before her parents died … before she saw how obsession, infatuation, and love could
warp you. Consume you.
No … she had closed that off years ago. But Daniel continued to be the one presence
in her life she kept helplessly coming back to. And he was perfectly alone tonight.
alone at this sort of event.
But then, neither was she.
This was as good a chance as any.
“Hey, you,” Monica said softly, sliding her hand into the crook of his arm.
Daniel didn’t turn from the conversation, but he instantly stretched his arm and drew
her to his side, the motion sending a bolt of longing to her gut. Nobody ever touched
her like this. Daniel was so comfortable with her. He’d been a great brother to Chloe,
and Monica had always watched them with longing, wishing someone would shower her
with affection like that.
“Monica, do you know Herbert Jameson, a good friend of my father’s?” Daniel said.
“A pleasure,” Monica said, not releasing Daniel to shake his hand. “You regularly
contribute to the Chicago
don’t you?” she asked him.
“Not if I can help it.” The old man winked.
Monica laughed, and when Daniel was approached by another elderly man intent on discussing
Daniel’s expansion plans for the year, Monica tightened her hold on him.
“Daniel,” she whispered, grateful that he instantly ducked his head and placed his
ear almost at her lips. “Please don’t leave without letting me talk to you.”
He turned to whisper back into her ear, and his warm breath and low timbre caused
a strange tightening in her tummy. “I have a better idea. Do you want to get out of
here? I have a decoy car out front and another parked out back—the paps will never
know we left.”
His eyes twinkled as he drew back and surveyed her reaction, and Monica felt incredibly
relieved. They were both accustomed to the presence of reporters, accepted their obsession
with all attractive public figures with mild indifference, but sometimes, you just
wanted to get away from it all. “Please, let’s,” she said.
It took them a couple of minutes to excuse themselves separately, and then they met
at the back exit door. Daniel led her down the steps and across the service parking
lot, where one striking black car gleamed luxuriantly among the shabby white service
trucks scattered all around.
“What happened to Grandpa?” he asked as he opened the passenger door.
She rolled her eyes heavenward when she realized he was referring to Roland, the man
she’d been dating for the past year, who was more … mature. “Thanks, Danny. Really.
What about your nieces?”
He laughed, the rich, achingly familiar sound bringing a smile to her lips.
“Nice wheels,” she complimented as Daniel joined her in the driver’s seat, her eyes
openly admiring the red leather interior of the shiny black million-dollar car. Not
everyone could afford a Bugatti Veyron, much less dare to drive it around town. But
then … he was a Lexington. The fact that the license plate said BUG 3 only meant he
also had a BUG 1 and BUG 2 parked somewhere, too.
“You all buckled up?” he asked, kicking into the street with a little spin in the
back wheels. Men.
“No, but if you get too feisty behind the wheel, there’s always the eject button,”
she said as she leaned forward to unfasten her heels. She would never, ever, do this
with anyone else. But she’d grown up with Daniel. He’d seen her in far, far worse
ways than anyone else she knew.
“Good one.” His grin flashed briefly, truly arresting against his sun-bronzed skin.
“Where to, princess?” Seemingly as eager as Monica to get out of his costume, he pulled
off his bow tie and then briskly unbuttoned the top two buttons of his white shirt.
“Just drive,” she said, sighing as she leaned back.
“Bad life. I’m on a break from Roland. You?”
He rewarded her with an even wider smile.
“What?” she demanded.
“He’s a good businessman, Monica, but definitely not the man for you. I’m glad you
finally got rid of him.”
“He broke up with
” she said.
“You’re joking. Jesus, why would anyone break up with you?” He quirked his eyebrow
questioningly, looking genuinely shocked.
“Because I suck in the bedroom.”
He fell silent, his profile unreadable as he stared out at the road. “That’s not possible,”
he finally said, his voice soft.
“I do. I suck and not in a good way.” She smirked, then fell quiet when she remembered
her most recent frustrating attempts to make love. “I can’t seem to let loose.”
“What holds you back?”
She was so grateful to talk to someone so openly that she squeezed his hand quickly
on the shift gear and then drew away. “You know what,” she said quietly, turning to
look out the window.
A strange contentment spread through her. Her friendship with Daniel was a source
of unlimited comfort throughout the years, and just being alone with him, as they
rarely were, gave her peace and tranquility.
She couldn’t think of a person with whom she was more relaxed or unguarded. She’d
never seen judgment or disapproval in his eyes, except perhaps the times she put on
her mask of aloofness in a crowd, when she could see he didn’t like her stepping behind
it, which would immediately then close him off to her.
But this never happened when they were alone.
“Perhaps you’re not attracted to the men you date … have you wondered about that?
They’re too old for you, princess.”