“Holy cannoli,” I said, completely forgetting myself as I opened the double doors to Jack Walker’s apartment Monday morning.
“What’s wrong?” my friend said in my ear.
Jasmine had called me as I left the offices of Walker Holdings, the keys to Jack Walker’s apartment burning a hole in my pocket. We’d spent the last twenty minutes catching up on each other’s lives while I walked uptown.
“This apartment I’m supposed to be inventorying. It’s unbelievable.” I took in the foyer with wide eyes.
I’d been prepared for something lavish, because the Walkers had buckets of money. But this...this was beyond lavish. And I was only in the foyer.
The floor beneath my feet was polished stone, but it was the wall in front of me that had blown me away. It was covered in vividly colored giant artificial flowers, so thickly applied the wall beneath was completely hidden. A riot of bright oranges, deep cobalt blues, and the occasional sunburst of yellow, the colorful backdrop was the perfect foil for the snow-white sculpture displayed in front of it—an intricately executed, scaled-down statue of a horse and rider.
“Let me guess—gold stuff everywhere? Velvet? Lots of faux-ye-olde-worlde family portraits?” Jasmine said.
“No. It’s beautiful. There’s an installation in the foyer, a whole wall of flowers. Like Eloise Corr Danch…” It hit me that this was an Eloise Corr Danch installation.
Which was when I realized this project I’d landed was going to be Big. Really Big.
“Must be arty rich then, not tacky rich,” Jasmine said knowledgeably. The only child of two high-flying lawyers, she was well placed to categorize the many permutations of wealth.
My heels tapped against the floor as I ventured further into the apartment, and even though I was braced for more fabulousness, what I glimpsed through the doorway to my left made me literally gape.
“Oh my God,” I breathed as I stepped into what was the most incredible room I’d ever seen.
“What? Tell me what’s going on,” Jasmine complained. “You’re practically having an orgasm. I need details.”
I didn’t know where to begin. The view? The ceiling? The fireplace?
“You’d have an orgasm, too. Make mine a double. This living room is freaking amazeballs. The ceiling has to be twenty, maybe twenty-four feet high. And it’s painted in hazy blues and yellows…like the Chagall at the Opera Garnier in Paris.” Jasmine and I had taken art history together our first year of design school, so I knew she’d understand the reference.
“And there are windows—huge, kick-ass windows that go the whole height of the room, and the view… God, Jazzy, I don’t even know how to describe the view. The whole of the city laid out in front of you. And there’s this fireplace, so big you could probably fit my entire apartment inside it, made out of some sort of old stone with amazing carved pillars… And there’s art everywhere. Beautiful, amazing multimedia.”
“Oh baby, yes!” Jasmine shouted. “Talk artsy to me.”
I tilted my head back as I described the room, taking in the stunning ceiling, the suspended star-shaped sculptures hanging in front of the window, the many prints and paintings on the walls.
When I dropped my gaze I realized there was a big armchair in the corner of the room, angled to face the view—and that a man was sitting right there, in the chair.
A beautiful man. And he was watching me.
“Fuck,” I yelped, leaping backward, one hand clutched to my chest like a damsel in distress.
“Let me guess—live panther, chained in the corner?” Jasmine asked.
“I have to go,” I said, not taking my eyes off the man in the armchair. He lifted one eyebrow in a silent expression of curiosity. “I’ll call you later, okay?”
“At least tell me if there’s a panther or not,” Jasmine said.
“No panther. I have to go.”
It wasn’t until I ended the call that I realized I’d made a mistake—because if you’re confronted with a strange man in the apartment of a rich dead man, being on the phone to someone who knows where you are is probably a good idea.
“Don’t let me interrupt your next orgasm,” he said, the last word drawn out and lazy. And holy fuck—that accent. Australian, if my startled brain wasn’t too confused to hear him properly. His words had an easy lilt, but the tone of his voice was rich and smoky.
“Who—who are you?” I asked, embarrassed to hear the crack of fear in my voice.
“I think that’s my line,” he said.
For a long moment we just stared at each other. I took in his dark hair and the angle of his rugged cheekbones. He had two days’ worth of scruff on his jaw, his whiskers roughening up an otherwise perfect face. He was a few years older than me, maybe late twenties, early thirties, with blue eyes.
And, me being me, I noticed that he wore an expensive button-down shirt—a finely threaded jacquard pattern with a spread collar. Tom Ford maybe. Or Zegna.
I couldn’t tell how tall he was because he was sitting down, but he was clearly in shape, with broad shoulders and long, muscular legs that were stretched in front of him with relaxed abandon.
His eyes weren’t relaxed, though. They were watching me with sharp, assessing interest...
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