“Come on,” Derek said to me. “Let’s go find some seats.”
“I want you to sit at my table,” Ray said to Derek. “I need to pick your brains about a few things before you-know-what.” He winked exaggeratedly.
Derek nodded. “Sure thing,” he said, stepping away from me with an apologetic smile.
The ripple of nerves in my chest turned into a wave of panic. If Derek was sitting next to Ray then who would I sit next to? I moved with the crowd into the restaurant and glanced at Rachel—she was nice, perhaps I could sit with her. But she was laughing and linking arms with Jeremy, the team leader from Cheltenham branch. My eyes searched the room for someone else familiar. Chairs were being scraped on the floor and the hum of conversation increased as people settled themselves at the dozen or so large, round tables.
I gulped back the last of my champagne. No one else seemed to have a moment’s hesitation about where to sit. For them it was like putting on a pair of slippers or making a cup of tea. Effortless.
For me the urge to run, to turn and flee, was like a primitive instinct. Why the hell was I here? I should just go to my room, read about Tobias’ kinky wedding night. Find out what it would be like to be tied to the bridge of a yacht and have a sexy millionaire squeeze orgasm after orgasm from me.
I fiddled with the heart pendant resting just below the hollow of my neck. Run or stay? Run or stay? There were hardly any unclaimed seats left. My gaze scanned the room, flicking over the large plumes of Christmas flowers standing centrally on each table and the tinsel strung around the picture rails.
Suddenly I spotted a free seat at Rachel’s table, two places away from her. I remembered all my heroines. None of them would turn and run from a room of people when there was a free seat.
Bracing myself, I tilted my chin and stepped toward the table, praying that no one would beat me to it. My hips rolled as I walked and the warmth of the room settled on the exposed upper mounds of my breasts. As I approached the table, the person who would be sitting between Rachel and me turned and looked straight at me.
My heart stuttered. It was Shane Galloway. The delectable Shane Galloway who’d won the overall most productive salesman of the year three years in a row. I’d admired him from afar last year and watched him dance after the meal with Ray’s wife Rose. I gulped. I was offering myself up for a mealtime conversation with a guy so out of my league he might as well live on Mars.
Shane was gorgeous in a rock-star, devil-may-care kind of way. He had jet-black hair that just touched the top of his white collar, the skin on his face was pale and his brows dark and heavy. There was a sprinkle of stubble on his chin and above his top lip. Already he’d loosened his navy-blue tie and undone the first button of his shirt.
I kept putting one foot in front of the other. Felt and saw his gaze slide down my body. His attention hovered for a moment on my rolling hips before rising to my face once more. Then he was standing, standing and reaching for the chair I’d planned on claiming.
Oh god. It was already taken?
He’d intended on sitting next to someone else? He didn’t want me to sit there. He was going to move it. I was going to have to turn away.
I hesitated. Looked into his dark eyes and held my breath.
“Here,” he said in a smooth voice, tilting the left side of his mouth into a smile. “Allow me.”
If I’d thought the rush of nerves earlier was intense then this was like a tsunami. Shane Galloway actually wanted to sit next to me? Wow, the power of a red dress, fishnet stockings and killer heels.
I stretched my glossy lips into a matching smile and prayed I didn’t look as shaky as I felt. “Thanks,” I said, stepping up to the table.