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No Strings Attached

Chapter Text

Charlie shook her head relentlessly, “No.” She crossed her arms over her chest, plopping onto the sofa like a stubborn child. “I’m not doing it. I’m sorry, Duncan. I’d rather spend my New Year’s Eve watching Friends reruns and eating Chinese food out of a box.”

Duncan blew her nose into a tissue, her ailing appearance was impossible to hide. Her beautiful complexion had been drained of vibrancy, leaving her ashen and displeasing to the eye. The fact that those eyes belonged to a high-end executive made it all that much worrisome to her. He was one of the agency’s most important clients and canceling on him last minute meant not only a very lucrative loss for her but also for Diamond Associates.

The cough erupting from her chest sounded dreadful. Charlie bit her lip, for a second considering Duncan’s request to take her place at the gala. “It’s just not who I am.” Bringing her feet up on the couch, she continued. “I’m not classy or professional enough to pass as a high-end escort. I’ll probably say something really stupid or slap him across the face if he tries anything–”

“It’s not like that.” Duncan chimed in, barely getting the words out. “He’s not interested in sleeping with anyone. Some of the girls think he might even be gay.”

Charlie’s brow furrowed. “Really?” Suddenly, the idea of just being someone’s dance partner for the night didn’t sound so out of the realm of possibilities.

Duncan nodded. “I’ve gone with him to a few events. Your role is just that of arm candy. He’ll go about his night, talk to important people, eat, drink… and before you know it, you’re getting dropped off at home with a fat deposit in your bank account and all for minimal effort.”

“You mean your bank account.” Charlie remarked.

The brunette smiled, “You’re getting a pretty big chunk of the pie.” Her eyes were pleading, “I would never ask you to do this if one of the other girls could cover for me, but it’s one of our busiest nights and everyone’s booked.”

Charlie sighed loudly. “And what if he doesn’t like me for whatever reason?”

Duncan laughed as much as she could before she went into a coughing fit. “Don’t be silly. Gay or not, he’s not blind. He’ll see how hot you are and won’t even think twice about it. Men like that only care about appearances.”

Charlie’s eyes flickered over to the clock on the wall. If she was gonna go through with it, she had to start getting ready ASAP. “One more question.”

With eyebrows raised, Duncan waited for her to ask.

“If he’s such a big shot, why doesn’t he just get a girlfriend instead of paying thousands of dollars for company?”

Duncan looked staggered. “I’ve never actually asked him but I’m guessing the keyword you used there is girlfriend. He probably doesn’t have the time to deal with any kind of relationships aside from a professional one. He travels a lot in his line of business.”

“So, paying money to spend time with a girl without getting anything in exchange is a more reasonable option?” Charlie huffed, “I bet this guy is one of those emotionally-compromised pricks with daddy issues.”

Duncan shut her eyes. “Please, for the love of God, Charlie. Whatever you do–please do not, under any circumstances, utter those words to my client.”

Charlie chuckled, “And run the risk that he ends up being a total psycho? Not a chance.”

“Does this mean you’ll do it?”

She hesitated to answer but eventually Duncan’s sad puppy face won her over. “Fine. I’ll do it but only because I don’t have to sleep with him and because I’m the best fucking friend in the whole wide world.”

The brunette smiled wide, giving her a big hug and repeatedly thanking her.

“You better remember this next time I need a favor.” Charlie muttered.

Charlie looked at herself in the full length mirror, the bottom of her black dress shimmering like tiny pieces of gold; the rest of her was hugged to perfection making her seem like a beautifully crafted hour glass. She applied red lipstick as Duncan styled her hair. Her dirty blonde locks fell in loose waves over her shoulder.

“You look amazing. If he’s not straight, you might actually turn him.” Duncan joked. “Here, don’t forget this. The request form was very specific, you should already be wearing it when he picks you up.”

Charlie looked down at the butterfly shaped mask as the lace touched her palm. “You’re telling me I just spent all this time doing my makeup when half of my face is going to be covered?”

“Customer’s always right, hun.” Duncan replied, a cough escaping her throat. “And trust me when I say, this customer is worth following the rules no matter how stupid you think they are.”

The blonde smiled, “How should I address him? Since apparently, I’m not even allowed to know his name.”

“It’s not that you’re not allowed to know his name. I’m not allowed to share it with you. I signed a confidentiality agreement—and as my replacement you are required to follow it as well.”

Charlie teased, “I never signed anything.” She stuck her tongue out.

Duncan laughed, “He’ll introduce himself to you. Sometimes he uses an alias but you never know, you might get the real deal tonight.”

Placing the mask over her eyes she asked, “What’s he like? Is he hideous? Is that why he has to pay for a date?” She giggled.

“Far from it, actually.” Duncan replied, tying the mask and putting some finishing touches on her hair. “He’s definitely not hard on the eyes.”

Charlie’s breathing stifled, as if that somehow was a bad thing. “Oh.” She said meekly, looking at herself in the mirror one last time.

A few seconds later, the doorbell rang.

Standing in front of her was a bald man dressed in a black suit, a shiny pin in the shape of a flag attached to the left pocket of his jacket. There was a very distinct M inscribed in its center. He smiled shyly, greeting her very politely and then offering his arm to lead her down the apartment stairs.

“Careful, Miss. It just stopped raining and the ground is still wet.” He said.

Charlie noticed the tiny specks of frozen water floating in the air, the sky was overcast, no stars in sight.

She hadn’t found the breathe to speak, she walked towards the black limo car, its windows too darkly tinted for her to see who was inside. Her heart began to beat rapidly, her head suddenly becoming foggy as if she was somehow experiencing a dream—or perhaps a nightmare.

She still had time to turn around. It was still possible to put an end to Duncan’s crazy idea and back out. Sure, her friend would probably hate her for a few days but that beat the risk of ending up on the missing persons list the following week. Charlie’s head felt two times heavier, what had she gotten herself into?

The driver opened the door for her. From her angle, she could only see the bottom half of a man—his legs covered in black dress pants, shiny black shoes placed firmly on the carpeted floor of the car. She took a deep breathe and stepped inside, hunching over and fixing her dress as she took a seat.

The door slammed shut and Charlie finally looked at her companion in the face—or at least, she tried. The black mask he had on left very little to be scrutinized, but his piercing, icy blue eyes were impossible to ignore. He looked at her with curiosity, trying to read her with just his gaze. His curly hair was carefully combed back, the dim lighting making its dark shade of blonde look almost black. His cologne had a subtle hint of wood that was equal parts captivating and inciting. Charlie found the scent very pleasant.

He had well-maintained facial hair and although most of his features were concealed, Charlie deduced he was somewhere in his late 30’s, if not early 40’s. He seemed tall, well-built, and with an affinity for expensive things—if the watch around his wrist was any indication.

He was silent for a moment, his fleshy lips pressed into a firm line.

“I think there’s been a mistake.” He said in a growly voice. It had an alluring tone for which Charlie was not ready. “I was under the impression Miss Paige would be accompanying me tonight.”

Charlie was speechless. After endlessly bashing the guy behind his back, nothing had prepared her for the way she responded to their interaction. It wasn’t just the mask that made him so intriguing. She found herself inexplicably drawn to him.

The driver turned back in his seat, the privacy barrier rolled down, “Is there a problem, Sir?”

Charlie couldn’t look away, the mystery of who was behind the mask kept her eyes glued on him. He licked his lips eyeing her inquisitively. He looked her up and down, tilting his head as his gaze focused on her pools of blue.

Feeling like merchandise that was being inspected, Charlie suddenly found the courage to snap back. “I’m Duncan’s replacement for the night. You either take me or leave me. We have plenty of other clients who are looking for company tonight.”

The corner of his mouth moved ever so slightly, until eventually his lips curled into a full smile. His mouth parted, almost delighted by the way she’d responded. “And with whom do I have the pleasure?” With one hand he signaled to the driver to proceed.

The car began to move at the same time the privacy barrier was raised.

Charlie interlaced her fingers over her lap, “I’m Charlie.”

He smiled again, “Charlie,” there was a unique guttural sound to his voice. He said it gently as if caressing every syllable with his tongue. “That’s an interesting name for a girl.”

“Yeah, well, I can be quite compelling.” She bit her tongue down, afraid that she’d already crossed the line with him.

He shifted his body in her direction, entirely focused on what she had to say. “I like you, Charlie. You’ve already said more than Miss Paige usually says in an entire evening.” A tiny smile appeared on his face, “I might even consider making you my regular if all goes well tonight.”

He studied her face for some sort of reaction but received nothing.

Charlie tried to keep quiet but she couldn’t help blurting out the obvious question that had been on her mind. “And what’s your name?”

She noticed the dimples that formed on his cheeks when he grinned, even though they were partially obstructed by his finely trimmed facial hair. He ran his pointer finger over his bottom lip in a pensive manner, his blue eyes fixed on her. “Sebastian.”

“Sebastian?” She repeated, raising her eyebrows questioningly. “Right. I can work with that.”

He chuckled, “You don’t believe me? I would show you my ID but I’m afraid that’s a little too personal for my taste. Tell you what, you can call me Bass.” He smirked.

Was he flirting with her? Charlie couldn’t quite grasp his angle.

She changed the subject. “So, Bass, are you in town just for the holidays?”

There was hesitation to his reply. “No. I’m actually based in Philadelphia.”

Charlie’s eyes widened. For all she knew, she could’ve already bumped into this man on a number of occasions and never realized it. “Oh. Philly’s a great city.” She said lamely.

“Yeah, it is.” He smiled, studying her once again.

Charlie had been joking when she told him she could be compelling but based on the way he was looking at her, it was obvious he was more than fascinated by his mysterious companion.

The car pulled up to the historical bank and trust building. A long gold and black carpet led the way to the entrance. The driver opened the door for them but when it was time for her to get out of the car, it was Bass who greeted her on the other side.

The night had become even colder, snow flurries fell over him at a rapid pace as he extended his hand to her.

Charlie went along with the charade, walking inside the building arm in arm like they’d known each other forever. To anyone else’s eyes, they looked just like any other couple there to enjoy the evening.

Inside the venue, the mood was sophisticated. The glow of purple floor lighting coming from the corners of the room gave the reception hall an elegant touch. The masquerade party had a Winter Wonderland theme. In the center of each table sat silver glitter branches adored with lights and crystals.

Charlie looked around the hall at the numerous attendees. They were all decked out in evening attire and donning elegant masks. A live band played music from a stage but it wasn’t too loud that it disrupted the various conversations going on throughout the venue. Next to the stage there was a champagne fountain carved out of ice. She smiled, amazed by it all.

Tilting her head back, she noticed the giant crystal chandelier that hung in the center of the room, and then her eyes swept around the balcony that encircled the second floor. It wasn’t until she was done awing over every detail that she noticed Bass had been looking at her the whole time.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never been here before.” He said, holding her hand and leading her to a reserved table just a few feet away. She noticed the place cards atop the white linen table cover. Monroe.

“Of course I’ve been here,” she lied, “I just really love this place.”

He huffed, “Well, enjoy it while it lasts because a signature here and there and this space might turn into another law firm.”

And then she made the connection. “Monroe Enterprises.” She blurted out. “You’re him?”

The company was renowned throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding metropolitan areas. He was one of the city’s biggest and most profitable commercial investors. He was a big name in the trade business. And yet, he was a complete enigma. The name was everywhere but as much as she tried, she couldn’t put a face to it.

He smirked. “You’re very observant.”

One of the waiters floating around the venue set a couple glasses of champagne on the table. Bass took one in his hand and handed the other to Charlie.

“Most girls don’t care to know who I am. They only care about completing their end of the deal and getting paid at the end of the night. But you,” he took a sip of his drink, “You’re not like the other girls.”

Charlie shrugged, “I like learning new things about my clients.”

“Why? We both know it’s all business. Why bother getting to know me?”

She downed her champagne, setting the empty glass on the table. “Because forming connections is what normal human beings do.”

His expression was sullen, almost annoyed. Perhaps what she had just said was equally appalling as accusing him of being an emotionally-compromised prick.”

“You don’t know me, Charlie.” He responded, finishing his drink as well. “Sometimes it’s better not to get too close to people. No strings attached has worked wonders for me so far.” He fiddled with his mask and then ran his fingers through his curly hair. “So, let’s just leave it at that and dance for a bit, what do you say?”

Charlie nodded.

After a few moments of dancing she spoke again. “Can I ask you one more thing?”

He looked at her as if not wanting to give her the chance to probe into his personal life further. His body and hers swayed from side to side, slowly and closer every time. But his curiosity was so great that all he managed to do was nod in agreement.

“Why do you seek our services but never want anything more out of it?”

“You mean sex? Why don’t I want sex from you?”

She cleared her throat and smiled nervously. “Yes.” No one around them seemed to be paying attention to their conversation but it still made her look down sheepishly.

“Because when I want to have sex with a woman, I don’t need to pay for it.” He twirled her once and then brought her into him. “This,” he gestured between him and her, “Is only because I need a date for the evening and I don’t want to invite just anyone. Otherwise, I run the risk of them ruining the night with their lack of poise.”

Charlie continued to listen, although paying attention was difficult when his hand was wrapped around her waist and his face was in such close proximity to hers. She was enthralled by his sheer presence.

His breath was warm against her cheek. “You’re a professional. You know how to handle yourself in front of these type of people. You won’t embarrass me or make a scene when I look at someone else instead of you.”

He paused, staring at her and wondering why he’d want to do that on that occasion.

“Anyone else would get attached, they’d expect a call the next day, wonder if I had a good time, wonder if we’d go out again. You won’t. You don’t want anything from me at the end of the night because I’m just another assignment.”

He inched his face closer to her, leaning in and invading her personal space. “When I like a woman and I want something more from her, I let her know. Paying for your service and not wanting sex out of it doesn’t mean I don’t get it any other time.” He whispered into her ear.

While the gesture had been intimate, there was a tone of arrogance to his statement that rubbed Charlie the wrong way.

She looked away nonchalantly, “Has anyone ever told you you’re kind of a douchebag?”

“Excuse me?”

Charlie bit her lip. He twirled her once again. That time, her body crashed into his, sending a shiver all over her body. Her heart was beating faster, afraid that she’d definitely crossed the line that time.

She tilted her chin, looking into his eyes as she spoke. “Admitting that the only reason you don’t bring a significant other to events like these is because they don’t know how to behave themselves, kind of makes you a douchebag.”

His expression was stern at first. The smirk that followed took her by surprise. “No. I never said I wouldn’t bring a girlfriend. I said I needed a date and I didn’t want to bring just anyone. I thought I made myself perfectly clear.” He wasn’t sure why he felt so compelled to explain himself to her but he did it anyway. “The whole reason why I paid for your company and your professionalism is because I don’t have a significant other at the moment.”

Charlie opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by an apparent acquaintance of his.

Their dancing came to a halt.

“Bass. I thought I recognized you, you son of a bitch.” The man gave him a hug and exchanged pleasantries before eyeing Charlie with regard.

“I see you’re in very nice company tonight.” He extended his hand to her, “Good evening, Miss. I don’t believe I’ve seen you before.”

“Charlie, this is Jeremy Baker. He’s one of my partners.”

Charlie smiled, “Nice to meet you.”

The man gaped at her like he didn’t already have his arm wrapped around his own lady friend. “Maybe we can chat for a bit later on, Charlie. I’d love to get your business card before you leave.”

Bass put his arm around her, “Jeremy. You might be confusing Charlie for someone else–”

Jeremy let the words sink in. His eyes widened, sure that he’d made a terrible mistake.

“Oh shit.” He uttered. “I’m sorry. I thought you—fuck, I’m such a tool.” He looked away embarrassed, “Bass I didn’t know you were seeing someone, I’m just so used to seeing you with–” He cleared his throat, “You know what? I’ll just stop talking and go find something to drink instead. I apologize.”

Jeremy held on to his date and left flustered. That was the last time they saw him the rest of the night.

“What was that all about?” Charlie asked.

Bass was at a loss for words. What did he care if Jeremy wanted a date with her? He had expressed himself clearly—it was just a business transaction. No strings attached. And yet, the mere thought of Jeremy wanting something more from his date, made him want her all to himself.

“Nothing.” He replied. “It was nothing.”

The waiter came by to pick up what remained of their meal, Charlie had left a few fingerling potatoes on her plate but there wasn’t a single crumb of the succulent duck breast it had accompanied. He soon returned with a couple of clean glasses and a bottle of champagne.

Charlie looked at her watch, “It’s almost midnight.”

“Your shift’s almost over.” Bass muttered.

She shook her head, “That’s not why–”

The pop of a champagne bottle startled her, cutting off her words. She didn’t bother to repeat them.

“Duncan said you’d be conducting some business tonight.”

“Client didn’t show. He had some trouble at his firm and wasn’t able to make it.”

Charlie frowned, “That’s too bad.”

Ever since their encounter with Jeremy, Bass had been a little different—more distant and less willing to converse. Maybe it was a good thing the night was almost over.

He took the champagne bottle in his hand and began unraveling the aluminum cover over the cork. Charlie watched in silence as he popped it open and began pouring the bubbly liquid into their glasses. A screen near the stage was projecting the countdown. The clock was now down to only two minutes.

Between the silent glances and the little smiles, the seconds seemed like an eternity. Charlie couldn’t tell if she’d done something wrong and it bothered her that she cared so much about what he thought of her.

The crowd started hollering. “Ten, nine, eight…”

Bass’s eyes peered at her from behind the mask and she trembled like a helpless animal, unable to tear her gaze away.

“Two, one! Happy New Year!” The invitees all shouted, the sounds of poppers and party horns erupting everywhere.

He took a step closer to her, “Happy New Year.” Taking a sip of his champagne, he managed to close the distance between them further.

Charlie replied, “Happy New Year,” and smiled before drinking.

With his face only inches away, the uncertainty of whether his lips would actually touch hers made her body resonate and her breathing hitch. She wasn’t the type of girl who kissed strangers just for the fun of it but in that instance, she couldn’t think of anything else.

He gulped, taking her glass from her hand and setting it on the table along his. His movements were slow, calculated, and smooth. It was like he was trying to talk himself out of it, as if kissing her would be his biggest mistake.

“Take off your mask.” Charlie whispered.

Bass sighed, hindered by her request. After a few moments, he untied the ribbon, revealing his face. Charlie’s lips parted, awestruck by his handsome features. His eyes somehow looked bluer now that he was completely visible. The urge to kiss him only intensified once she realized how incredibly attractive he really was. She didn’t even give Bass the chance to request the same thing of her.

Her lips smacked into his, the bristles of his mustache prodding her upper lip. Charlie went about it with care, her mouth exploring slowly and savoring his delicious taste. He held on to her face, continuing the kiss for a few seconds longer before they broke apart.

Charlie felt like she had stepped out of line but nothing about her reaction was apologetic.

“Who are you, Charlie?” He asked.

Her eyes widened. “What do you mean?”

He laughed. “I know you don’t work for Diamond Associates. You gave yourself away the moment you stepped into my car.”

He’d been playing her all along. Charlie didn’t know what to make of it. “I was that obvious?”

Bass nodded. “And I think it’s only fair for me to see who’s behind the mask. Don’t you think?” He asked, smiling.

She raised her hands to the back of her head in resignation and began untying it. Once off, she set it on the table, hoping he would like what he was seeing as much as she liked him. Charlie smiled. There was silence in return. Bass looked stunned.

After the longest of seconds, Charlie said something. “Okay, you are making this really awkward. Am I not what you expected?”

He tightened his jaw and then rubbed his forehead. “It has nothing to do with that. You’re–” He stuttered, “You’re very beautiful.” That was putting it lightly.

His words were positive but something seemed off.

“I need to take you home now.”

“What? Why?” She asked.

“Charlie. Enough with the questions, okay?” He said harshly. “The request form was very specific. You’d be here until midnight and then I’d take you back home.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me why you’re acting so weird.”

He sounded angry. “How old are you? Twenty?”

“Twenty-five.” Charlie sounded offended. “That’s the problem? I’m too young for you?”

He huffed, “No. That’s not the problem.” Bass took her arm, trying to get her to move.

“Then what is it?”

He clenched his jaw. “I don’t like mixing business with pleasure, Charlie.” He took a beat. “And you may not work for Diamond Associates or be bound by a contract but unfortunately, you’re still part of my business circle.”

With furrowed eyebrows and a perplexed look, she tried to make sense of his words. “I don’t understand.”

“The client who didn’t show up.” Bass explained, “I met with him in his office a week ago. It’s in a pretty affluent part of Atlanta, his law firm’s on the top floor of a tenth story building and he’s looking to expand sometime this year. That’s why he got in touch with me.”

It all seemed irrelevant. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Because aside from stacks of files and post it notes, the one other thing he keeps on his desk is a picture of his daughter.” He replied. “My client’s name is Miles Matheson.”

Chapter Text

Charlie burst out laughing, "Do you seriously think Miles gives a shit about who I–" She stopped, unsure of how to refer to their little exchange. "He couldn't care less about my acquaintances." She uttered.

The corner of his eyes crinkled. He looked down at the mask in his hand for one second, obviously processing her reasoning. Not once had he shown much interest in any of the girls that had served as his dates and the one time he did, she ended up being his client's daughter—just his luck.

He thought back to Miles for a moment. He seemed like a sympathetic guy—they'd shared a drink that day in his office and had a few laughs over trivial matters. But he also seemed like the type of guy he wouldn't want to cross. There was an underlying austerity about him that seemed quite frightening and frankly, made Bass think twice.

"He might not care about who you get involved with but it still doesn't mean I'm okay with crossing that line."

She huffed, "Guess what, genius? You crossed it the moment we kissed." Charlie was annoyed. Looking around the room, her eyes fluttered towards the upstairs area one more time. Just because she was supposed to return home at midnight didn't mean the celebrations were over. "I need a drink."

Bass caught her arm, "Where are you going?" He said between gritted teeth.

Charlie looked down at his hand, her eyes narrowing as she pulled away from him. "Isn't my shift over?" She reminded him, "Which means that technically, I'm no longer obligated to stay by your side. I'm free to do whatever I want."

Something about the way she responded managed to arouse him in an unforeseeable way. Charlie wasn't intimidated by him and this only provoked him further. It was almost like she was a whim he couldn't satisfy and it bothered him more than he cared to admit.

She walked away, climbing up the spiraled staircase and not once turning to look back at him. The open martini bar was filled to capacity but she was able to squeeze in and get the bartender's attention. Charlie asked for a concoction similar to the one he had just handed another guest and waited patiently for him to make it.

"We meet again." Jeremy leaned up against the bar, his chest facing in her direction, and apparently without any notion of personal space.

Charlie smiled, "Happy New Year."

"Happy New Year to you." He pursed his lips, his steel blue eyes looking a little on the drunk side. "Where's Bass?"

The bartender returned with Charlie's martini.

"His name really should be ass because he can be a real jackass." She took a sip of her drink. The watermelon flavor tasting like heaven in her mouth.

Jeremy laughed like she had just said the best joke he'd ever heard. "Was he really an ass to you? A beautiful girl like you…" He cocked his head to one side, attempting to lay on the charm. "...should be treated like a princess."

Charlie chuckled, "Where's your date?" She asked, placing the attention on him.

"I don't know." He shrugged, genuinely looking like he'd lost track of the girl he'd been with. "But I do know that I'm in much better company now."

Her eyes widened, watching as Jeremy's hand came close to her face. His fingers gently swiped her chin as he smiled. Charlie found him quite attractive, and if that had been any other night, perhaps she would've given him her number. But unfortunately for him, the stars were not aligned in his favor.

A very familiar and throaty voice interrupted the moment. "You've got to be fucking kidding me." Jeremy quickly snatched his hand away and Charlie looked over her shoulder at Bass who was standing right behind her. "Are you really trying to pick up my girl? Real fucking classy, Baker."

Jeremy put his hands up in surrender. "Calm down Bass, Charlie and I are just talking."

"Right." Bass said under his breathe.

Charlie opened her mouth to speak, ready to fight him on the whole my girl claim but she barely had time to inhale when Bass already had his hold around her waist. In a moment of complete debility, she'd allowed him to drag her away without even objecting. Jeremy's stumped expression got lost in the crowd as they got further and further away.


There were no more words between them as they got in the car. Bass took his seat, looking out the window at the traffic and the continuously falling snow—a scowl on his face. Charlie couldn't help glancing at him every now and again but her tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of her mouth.

She figured it was best not to complicate things further.


"I don't know what you did to my client but he hasn't booked with us since New Year's Eve." Duncan stated, plucking her eyebrows as she looked at her magnified reflection in the bathroom mirror. "Come to think of it, you've been really fucking weird ever since. What happened that night?"

The blonde waved her off as she rinsed toothpaste out of her mouth. "I already told you, he was a dick but I put up with it. He seemed perfectly content with how everything went." A blatant lie.

Duncan narrowed her eyes, "Then why hasn't he called? He always gives us feedback or books the following week."

"That's something you have to take up with him. If he hadn't been happy with the service, he wouldn't have paid you." Charlie snapped back irritated.

"Alright, geez. Someone's on their period." Duncan joked, expecting Charlie to laugh it off. She didn't.

Charlie jumped in bed, pulling the covers over her legs and taking out her laptop to continue her research for her school paper. "What are you twenty? I'm not okay with crossing that line. Mile's in my client, blah, blah." She said in a whiny voice, remembering Bass's words. "What an idiot. He wasn't that fucking hot anyway."

Minutes into blankly staring at the computer screen, there was a knock on the door.

"What?" She yelled.

Duncan cracked it open. "Um," she began, "I just got a call regarding the dick from two weeks ago."

Her fingers froze over the keyboard, a nauseating feeling swirling in her stomach. "And?" Charlie's heart beat anxiously. Her inner voice reprimanded her to no end for feeling things that were out of her control.

"And he wanted to book another date for tomorrow night." She replied, "But he specifically requested the same girl as last time. Naturally, the agency called me because they think I'm the one who attended the gala."

"And you obviously said no. Right?"

Duncan looked pained, her face scrunching up as she delivered the news. "He offered to double the pay. I panicked." She bit her lip, "I said yes."

"No!" Charlie replied, "You call them back right now and tell them that you made a mistake. Tell them you're already booked tomorrow."

She laughed, "I can't. They know I'm free tomorrow, they're the ones who book me."

"Then you go."

"What the fuck happened with him?" Duncan asked, "You're keeping something from me and I need a good reason to call this off, so you better have one."

Charlie shut her laptop, complaining and cursing under her breathe. "He found out I was just pretending and then we kissed." She replied hastily.

"No fucking way!" Duncan was way too excited. "How was he? Was he amazing? He was amazing wasn't he?"

"No!" Charlie stammered. "Well, yes but…"

The brunette produced a high pitch sound. "This is perfect. You have nothing going against you. You're single. He's single—and not gay. He's rich. You don't work for the agency. Why don't you just date him?"

"Because after we kissed he found out Miles is his new client and basically told me to fuck off."

Duncan's mouth dropped open. "Miles? As in your dad, Miles?"

Charlie nodded. "Yup." She took a breathe. "Then he proceeded to be a total dick and gave me the silent treatment all the way home. As if everything had been my fault." She shook her head, "I don't want to see him again."

"Charlie." Duncan was trying her best to be persuasive. "He obviously changed his mind. How do you know he hasn't been dying to see you ever since that night? The way you looked, poor guy's probably been white knuckling it ever since."

Charlie's blue eyes became enlarged. "Gross." She tittered.

"Sweetie, come on. In my line of work, I see a lot—and I mean a lot of weird shit. A hot as fuck millionaire wanting to get a taste of your cherry pie is by far the best thing that could have ever happened to you. He's scrumptious. You can't deny it."

Charlie covered her mouth. "Wow, Duncan. And what makes you think I'm going to let him get close enough to even attempt that?" She blushed.

"Tell me you haven't thought about him that way." Duncan placed her hands on her hips. "Come on. Lie to my face and tell me you haven't thought of his hot naked body on top of you, and his hard–"

"Okay!" Charlie interrupted, "You made your point. Now, can you please get out of my room?"

Duncan was laughing as she walked towards the door. "Why? Planning on getting busy?"

A pillow flew in her direction and she ducked out of the way.

"I was working on something before you came in." Charlie opened her laptop again, pretending to focus on her paper.

"And what are we gonna do about your scrumptious dick situation?" She continued to poke fun at her.

Charlie threw her head back onto her pillow. "I fucking hate you."

A grin appeared on Duncan's face.

The blonde sighed. "Where am I supposed to meet him?"

The streets of Philadelphia were blanketed in fresh snow. Charlie entered the luxurious hotel's lobby, making her way to the coffee bar where Bass had asked her to meet him. The atmosphere was relaxed, with smooth piano music coming from its interior.

"Good evening," the hostess greeted her warmly.

"Hi." Charlie smiled, "I'm meeting someone. I'm don't know if he's already here."

The girl puckered her lips, "Last name?"

"Monroe." Charlie sounded doubtful.

The list had been double checked and both times, there had been no sign of his name anywhere. Charlie was beginning to think she'd been stood up. She played with the ends of her hair and adjusted her coat, trying to decide whether she should stay or leave.

After a minute, she made up her mind and turned swiftly, bumping into the person behind her.

"I'm so sorry." Charlie muttered, before realizing who she was speaking to.

There he was. Tall and handsome, an inviting smile on his face. Dressed in blue jeans, t-shirt and jacket, and a scarf wrapped around his neck, instead of formal attire. Charlie didn't think it was possible for him to be more attractive. She'd been mistaken.

"You're here." She said. Her eyes registering his every feature.

"Sorry I kept you waiting." He apologized.

She faked annoyance, suddenly remembering that she was supposed to be mad at him.

Bass took in her form, paying close attention to how flawlessly her white jeans accentuated her curves and how her blouse seemed to melt into the mounds of her breasts. It gave away just enough cleavage for him to wonder about the rest.

The hostess looked upset. "I'm so sorry, Sir. I didn't realize you were the same person she was meeting." She scrambled to get two menus ready for them. "Please follow me."

"It's fine." Bass replied, his eyes still trained on Charlie. "I'll walk the lady to our table, don't worry about it."

Charlie smiled at the girl and then allowed Bass to guide her inside.

They took a seat in a secluded table in the back of the coffee bar. It was a very cozy spot, dimly lit and exuding an intimate feel. Charlie crossed her legs, waiting for him to start talking. After all, he'd been the one who ruined the evening. Thinking about it reminder her of how angry she'd been for letting herself get swept up in the moment—swept up in him.

"I know I owe you an apology." He said, "You didn't deserve that kind of treatment. I was just so taken aback by the fact that you were my client's daughter that at the time, I couldn't think of any reason why something between us wouldn't end in the worst way possible."

"So, what is it with men like you? If you can't have me no one can? Because that's some 50 Shades crap I am no prepared for." Charlie uttered, "You practically dragged me away after you found me talking to Jeremy."

Bass scoffed, "Jeremy wanted to sleep with you. You should be thanking me."

"And what makes you think I was opposed to it?" That triggered something in him. His whole body tensed up and his eyes bored into hers with ardor. "I'm kidding," she said looking away sheepishly.

The waiter interrupted, looking particularly edgy when he took Bass's order. Once he walked away, Charlie's curiosity got the best of her.

"Why does everyone seem afraid of you? First the hostess, now the waiter."

He arched his eyebrows, "Probably because I don't come to my hotel often enough. Or maybe because I'm an asshole. What do you think?"

Charlie laughed. "Second option is very probable."

The fact that she paid no attention to him being the owner of the hotel made Bass like her that much more. Girl's usually went nuts once they found out he owned properties.

She drummed the table with her fingers. "I haven't spoken to my dad in months. To tell you the truth, I don't even know why he keeps a picture of me on his desk. Things haven't been great between us since my mom passed away." She dove in straight to an explanation.

Bass hummed. "So I've heard…"

The waiter returned with their coffees—divine smelling lattes decorated with beautifully detailed art. Charlie was afraid of ruining it by taking a sip. "He told you that?" She asked incredulous.

"He briefly mentioned it. To be perfectly honest, that made me even more sure that seeing you was not in my best interest. The last thing I'd want is for your father to hate me for getting all your attention and him getting none." He sipped from his mug, "I don't do family drama."

"Like he'd care." She replied and then looked at him puzzled. "Then why did you ask me to meet you here? Why didn't you just leave things the way they were. We kissed once. It wasn't a big deal."

"I tried." He admitted. "Believe it or not I did make an effort to distance myself from you." His eyes were fixated on her. "But I couldn't stop thinking about you, Charlie."

Her heart fluttered, a heat spreading over her face. She drank from her latte, trying hard not to dwell in his words.

"I had to see you again." The deepness of his voice made her center pulse. She re-positioned herself in her seat, scared of what she was feeling. Her attraction towards him was like wildfire, spreading rapidly and without a chance of containment.

"What is it that you want?" She asked bluntly.

He cleared his throat, afraid of saying what was on his mind. "I've already told you how I go about these situations. If I see someone I like, I let them know."

Charlie raised her eyebrows. "Are you asking me to sleep with you? Like I'm some kind of itch that you need to scratch in order to continue with your life as usual?"

Bass looked at her intently. "I can't get you out of my head." He leaned over the table to touch her hand, "And you? Have you thought of me since that night?"

She chuckled but didn't answer his question. "What happens if I say no and walk away?"

"You're free to make that decision. I won't stop you." He replied.

Charlie's heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest. She could feel the heat between her legs, the way her body responded to thoughts of him with her. She'd be lying if she said she hadn't wondered what it would feel like to have him inside her.

She looked away, as if afraid Bass would be able to read her dirty thoughts. In her mind she made a list of pros and cons, driving herself mad with imaginary scenarios. He continued drinking his coffee, not pushing the subject further and instead being respectful as she considered his offer.

Charlie suddenly uttered, "We do it once." Returning her gaze to him, she continued. "One time, just so we both get the temptation over with and whatever this is fizzles out." She proposed. "After we both get what we want, then you can go back to doing business with whomever you please, I go back to my normal boring life, and we never speak of this again. Miles doesn't need to know a thing."

The corner of his mouth formed a devilish half smile. "I think I can work with that."

Charlie suppressed a laugh. "You better not make me regret this."

"Make yourself comfortable." He shut the door behind them and took off his jacket, leaving his arms exposed. It was impossible for her not to take note of his perfectly toned physique. Charlie stared shamelessly as he made his way to the kitchen.

When he'd disappeared from sight, she walked through the suite, paying attention to the details—from his choice of colors to the finely etched pieces of art that hung on the walls. It wasn't until then that the thought of him really being someone of importance and stature began sinking in. He could literally have any girl he wanted but chose to take another shot at her. Her heart pounded.

Charlie could hear cupboards being opened, the clinking of glass and the sliding of drawers full of silverware. Her chest became ridden with anxiety, her breathing short and uneven, heart beating quick, pulse increasing.

"Having doubts?" He startled her as he entered the room. In his hands he held two glasses of red wine.

With a smile, she shook her head, negating his assumption. "Not exactly."

He paced towards her—a seductive sway to his walk—and handed her a glass. "What is it then?" The lights of the city emerged from behind him as he took a seat in front of the window. All the building were illuminated from top to bottom, in the foreground a light drizzle mixed with snow floated in the air.

Charlie set her purse on the couch, taking in the scent of the wine before sipping from it. "I know this is an agreement between us but it would completely ruin the experience if you were to pay the agency at the end of the night."

Bass chuckled, "Miss Paige can forget about getting paid for this." He explained, "The only reason I went through the agency is because I had no other way to reach you. And snooping through your father's files would be unethical—not to mention illegal." He smirked.

A wide smile appeared on her face. "Good." She drank some more of her wine before setting it atop a coaster on the center table.

She noticed the way his body slumped back into the chair, relaxed and appreciative as she removed her coat. Charlie might have asked not to get paid for the night but she still felt like she had to deliver the best service possible. The way he was looking at her made her body reverberate with need. She felt desired and lusted over, which only helped to increase the pulsing in her core.

She licked her lips, sweeping her eyes over him and lingering over the noticeable bulge between his legs. The silence between them bound them in an unspoken agreement. Their minds each occupied with thoughts of the other. She breathed deeply, trying to stabilize her racing heart to no avail.

He beckoned to her. "Come here." A raspiness to his voice that made her center flare.

Charlie did as he asked, coming to stand before him. Bass opened his legs, allowing room for her to get closer. He hadn't even touched her yet and she already felt out of breathe. Looking down at him, she remained motionless, allowing her body to absorb everything about the moment.

Bass placed his hands on her legs, just above the bend of her knees. He slid them up her thighs slowly, tracing her curves until his fingertips reached the exposed skin of her lower back. Charlie shivered, her sex aching, craving more of his touch.

A tiny moan escaped her lips as his mouth made contact with her stomach. His breath was hot, hands moving steadily over her backside and grasping her ass. He kneaded it over her jeans, his own heart increasing in pace and his cock becoming stiff at the thought of getting her naked. He kissed her taut belly, every time more urgently.

Charlie reveled in the sensation of his stubble over her smooth skin, her center increasingly wet and heated with every touch. Bass came to his feet, lifting her shirt off in one swift motion. He took her face between his hands and kissed her, nipping desperately at her lips, his tongue swirling inside her mouth, and grazing her teeth.

"What is it about you that drives me crazy?" He muttered, sliding her bra straps over her shoulders.

She only sighed.

He kissed the plumpness of her breasts spilling from the cups, the fabric moving lower over her chest until the darkened circles surrounding her nipples came into view. Bass licked at them teasingly, every time getting closer to her hard little nubs. Charlie moaned, her chest rising and falling, and her fingers entangled in his hair. Her center felt like it was going to explode.

She pulled at his t-shirt, lifting it up his back until she managed to remove it. Her hands trailed over his chest and the lines of his firm muscles. He smiled at her and then with one quick tug, he snapped off her bra. Her ample round breasts were beautiful and enticing. Bass clamped onto one nipple, sucking and fervently stroking it with his tongue. The look on Charlie's face and the obscene noises coming from her mouth made his cock rise further.

Their breathing intensified, as did their need. He unzipped her jeans, slowly coming back down to sit on the chair. Charlie massaged her own breasts, pulling at her nipples as he watched him yank her jeans and underwear down her legs. A finely trimmed strip adorned the center of her mound, leading directly to her pulsating clit. Bass's mouth watered, running his fingers over the smooth, waxed areas of her sex and then cupping it gently, his middle finger teasing her wet opening.

Charlie whimpered, stepping out of her jeans. Filthy requests poured from her lips. Bass gritted his teeth, pulling one of her legs up on the chair and opening her more. He leaned forward, becoming enveloped by the irresistible aroma of her wet center. He licked her folds, his tongue starting out with delicate circles over her engorged clit, and emitting noises of delight as he licked her slit up and down.

He applied more pressure with his tongue when he heard her whimpers grow louder. The only sounds in the room were their own. Bass ate her out with zeal, he couldn't get enough of her.

Charlie held on to his shoulders, her nails digging into him as he flicked his tongue over her clit and silky folds.

"Don't stop," she begged, feeling close to her climax.

In a matter of seconds she shattered before him. One hand pulling at the curls at the back of his head as she came. Her whole body was enveloped in heat and her heart was beating incessantly but all she could think about was how she wanted more, and she didn't hesitate to let him know.

He excused himself for one second to grab a rubber from one of his drawers, time that Charlie used to try to catch her breath. She could still feel the remnants of her orgasm flowing through her body when he returned. Bass wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed the nape of her neck.

Facing the window, Charlie could see the city skyline, bustling and alive as he gently bent her over. She bit her lower lip, preparing herself for what was about to come.

Her entrance was slick, widening to fit his girth as he entered her slowly. She welcomed every inch of him, a delighted cry escaping her throat as his fullness stretched her out. Bass sounded off in satisfaction. She felt even better than he'd imagined. His fingers plucked at her hard nipples as he began slipping in and out of her, steadily at first until she urged him to fuck her harder.

Charlie held on to the window sill, the dim glow of the lights outside making her pleasure transcend to unimaginable levels. She moaned as his cock pumped into her, whimpering loudly when she felt him hit her sweet spot.

It was hard for him to believe how incredibly gorgeous she was, let alone that she had actually agreed to be with him. The girl was better than any fantasy he'd ever had. With his hands on her ass he rammed into her, feeling his body reaching the point of orgasm.

Bass didn't want it to end. He tried his best to think of anything else, at one point even focusing on the stupid architecture of the buildings in the distance. It was during those moments that Charlie let out another gratified cry. Her muscles contracted and his dick began sliding with more ease as she came again.

He slowed down his pace, trying to gain control of his own climax.

Charlie straightened herself back up as he pulled out of her. Turning her around he kissed her lips, not really sure why he felt the need to be tender with her. It wasn't like him to want to make a girl feel special as he fucked her brains out. He felt a tug in his gut, heat that flared all the way to his chest, making it harder for him to breathe. It caught him off guard.

Their tryst wasn't finished yet and he was already regretting their agreement of only making it a one-time thing.

She smiled so wide that it reached her big blue eyes. "Never would've pinned you for the caring type."

He ignored her comment, afraid it would somehow make him seem weak. "And I never imagined you tasted so good. I could eat you out all day and never get tired of it." His eyes glazed over with lust. The tone in his voice lewd, "And that ass of yours…" he pinched it playfully. "You think your view was nice…"

Charlie raised one eyebrow, "Typical."

She pushed him back towards the living room, tugging at his sheathed cock and watching him become powerless to her touch. She straddled him as he stumbled onto the couch. Carefully positioning herself over the tip of his cock, she began sinking into it. Her eyes closed momentarily, once again familiarizing herself with his thickness and size.

"I know I'm going to regret telling you this." Charlie muttered between moans, moving her hips up and down and making her body shudder with pleasure. "But your cock is the best I've ever had."

Bass smiled, sucking on her breasts and reveling in the way her movements stimulated every cell in his body. Charlie arched her back like a cat, her ass bouncing against his thighs as she continued riding him at a fast and steady pace. The way her walls gripped onto him was entrancing, sending Bass into a state of absolute bliss. He held on to her hips, watching her whole body move in an undulating, snake-like fashion. Her parted lips, the way her face contorted with each pleasurable spasm, and the sight of her long hair falling over her shoulders was exhilarating.

"You're fucking amazing," he managed to blurt out before his body surrendered to the overwhelming sensations she was providing.

He bucked his hips into her depths, rupturing inside her. Elated, he continued that motion over and over until he was drained. Charlie—tired and euphoric—fell over on the couch, closing her eyes and taking in every emotion she was experiencing.

It was early the next morning. Charlie stood awkwardly at the door with one hand on the doorknob as the other combed through her hair. She didn't want to leave but downplayed the encounter.

"I had a good time." She said, a smile spreading across her face.

Bass stared at her, his brain telling him not to let her go. He nodded, "Me too." But he knew he couldn't be selfish. She was too good to get wrapped up in his hectic lifestyle.

Charlie had a lot more going for her. He couldn't possibly ask her to be available at his beck and call. They had both agreed to make their encounter a one-time thing and he wasn't about to go back on his word or break their verbal contract.

Still, her departure was bittersweet. As much as he didn't want to think about it, the thought of her ending up with some other asshole made his stomach turn. As if his inner turmoil wasn't bad enough, Charlie leaned in, giving him a kiss on the cheek.

Her pools of blue bidding farewell felt like a dagger to the chest.

She smiled. "See ya, Bass."

He nodded slightly, "Goodbye, Charlie."

The door swung open, followed by a hurried pace to her walk as she made her way down the hall and to the elevator. She didn't turn back. There was no point in holding on to something that was never there. They'd both gotten what they wanted, now it was time to move on.

Chapter Text

Charlie sat at the breakfast bar, a cup of steaming coffee in her hand and a yogurt bowl topped with granola in front of her. It had only been a week since her encounter with Bass and her body was already feeling the effects of deprivation. She couldn’t stop thinking about him. It was a longing that was new to her—uncharted territory that she’d never trekked with anyone else.

Charlie wondered if he felt the same way.

The door to the house slammed shut, Duncan walked in wearing her pajamas, with mail in hand. She looked through it, tossing Charlie a white envelope that slid across the breakfast bar and came to a halt under her yogurt bowl.

Charlie picked it up, with a heavy sigh she put her coffee down and stared at it for a seemingly endless minute. “Another one of Miles’s invitations.”

“Hm,” Duncan said. “Well, are you going to open it?”

The blonde’s mouth twisted in uncertainty, “I guess.” She began ripping the envelope, slipping out the invitation and noticing there was a round trip plane ticket included. She read it out loud, “You are invited… Black and White Gala of Hope, please join the Clayton Group for their annual fundraiser event benefiting the Clayton Hope Foundation…” She muttered the rest, “blah, blah, blah. Ugh.” She threw the card back on the counter.

“Who’s this Clayton dude?” Duncan asked, going back to sifting through the rest of the mail.

“Not a dude,” Charlie replied, “Nora Clayton. She’s Mile’s girlfriend or fiancee, I don’t even know anymore. I just know she’s also in the trade business and her company does these fundraiser events every year to help homeless children in South America. I met her once.”

Duncan raised her eyebrows and thought about her words carefully before speaking them. “I think you’re being a little too hard on him,” she bit her lip, “When’s the last time you two spoke?”

Charlie rolled her eyes, “A while.”

“Maybe it’s time to give it another try…” Duncan shrugged, “I mean, he’s constantly sending you invitations to things. That to me sounds like he hasn’t given up on you.”

Shaking her head, Charlie took a sip of her coffee. “I don’t know what good that will do.”

“You’re such a stubborn bitch.” Duncan said in the sweetest of tones, “It’s a charity event, how heartless can you be? Do it for the children.” She smiled.

“I don’t know.” Charlie remained unconvinced.

Duncan leaned over the breakfast bar, “You’ve told me a lot about him and to me, it sounds like his only mistake was not telling you the truth right away.”

“His only mistake?” Charlie remarked, “What he kept from me was a big fucking deal.” She stabbed her yogurt with a spoon.

“All I’m saying is,” Duncan poured herself a cup of coffee. “You got nothing else going on this weekend. And he did buy you a plane ticket.”

Charlie gave her a death stare. “He can get a refund.” She said between gritted teeth.

“Go. Have some fun.” She danced to imaginary music, raising her cup of coffee in the air. “Meet some cute men. Your mood has been irritating as fuck lately. Which can only mean one thing,” Duncan pointed at her. “You need to get laid.”

“Whatever,” Charlie groaned.

“Not to mention you owe me big time.” The brunette reminded her, “$10K big time.” She drank her coffee, “And no, I don’t believe that bullshit about Monroe not showing up to the meeting.” Raising her eyebrows she concluded, “I have a feeling Miles is the only liar in the Matheson family.”

Charlie narrowed her eyes at her, “Why do you care if I reconcile with Miles or not?”

“I don’t.” Duncan replied, “I just really need you out of the house Saturday because I have a friend coming over—if you know what I mean.” She briskly replied to a text on her phone, “Come on, Charlie. Do me a solid.”

The blonde grunted, irritated as she lowered her forehead on the table.


“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Charlie muttered to herself as she stepped out of the taxi cab. She lifted her white dress as she walked up the stairs to the gallery. Reaching the entrance she stopped, surveying the crowd and hoping she could evade speaking to Miles for as much as possible.

Everyone had drinks in their hand, a few waiters walked around with appetizer platters as the guests moved around the gallery observing the pieces of art up for bid. They were tasteful but suggestive paintings and photographs, one of just a woman’s bare breasts with elongated shadows that at first glance made them look like desolate mountains.

She grabbed a glass of white wine as soon as she entered, feeling completely out of place amid the wealthy residents of Atlanta. Her plan to avoid her father quickly shattered as her steps became intercepted by a cheery Nora.

“Charlie!” White pearly teeth widely exposed as she greeted her with an attempt at a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Nora looked her up and down, “I’m so happy you made it. Miles will be so excited to know you came.”

Charlie smiled, “Hi Nora. Thank you for the invitation.” She looked around the room, “Impressive collection.”

Nora’s raven hair fell over one side of her face as she humbly bowed her head and smiled. “It’s not just my work, a lot of local artists contributed as well.” She began waving at the person behind Charlie. It wasn’t hard to figure out who was on the receiving end.

She took a deep breath and turned slowly, giving Miles a flat smile. He was beaming from ear to ear, his usually disheveled hair combed nicely and his face clean shaven. He was dressed in a black suit and a striped tie that matched Nora’s black and white dress.

“Charlie.” He contained the urge to give her a hug.

“Hey Miles.” Charlie replied with a nod. There was an awkward silence between the trio before she muttered the first thing that came to mind. “So when does the bidding start?”

He cleared his throat, “It already started. It’s a silent auction this year.”

“Hm. Cool.” She said before taking a sip of her wine. “Well, I’m gonna walk around and take a look.”

She had only taken a few steps when Miles lightly touched her shoulder, “Hey kid. I was really hoping we could have a talk before you leave.” He looked away as if sentimental crap was not his thing, “Maybe we can have lunch tomorrow?”

Of course that had been his plan all along, she had an inkling that her return flight being late the next evening wasn’t just for her to enjoy Atlanta on her own for a day.

“I don’t suppose you’ll take no for an answer?” Charlie said, feeling completely trapped. “Didn’t think so.” She muttered, once she saw his reaction. “Tell you what, Miles? I’ll think about it and let you know before I leave tonight.”

Miles nodded. “That’s better than a no, I suppose.”

Charlie tilted her head, trying to make sense of the painting in front of her. The tiny light attached above it gave it a different dimension based on the angle from which she looked at it. It reminded her of the hidden 3D picture books she used to love as a kid.

“No offense but I don’t think you’ll be able to surpass my bid on that one.” A sultry voice came from behind her.

Her breathing hitched, for a moment becoming paralyzed. Charlie watched from the corner of her eye as he came into view before glancing at him in awe. “What are you doing here?” She muttered.

Bass looked her up and down, enchanted by her beauty. She was an angelic vision impeccably wrapped in that white dress, and yet her sweet and ethereal appearance awoke his deepest, darkest desires.

“I know Miles, remember?” He replied, drinking from his glass but unable to take his eyes off of her. “He probably figured I had plenty to contribute to the cause.”

Charlie laughed, “Aren’t you a piece of humble pie…”

Bass licked his lips, taking a few steps towards her. “And aren’t you just the sweetest of daydreams.”

She felt a familiar stir in her belly, a legion of butterflies shaking her to the core. “Stop.” Charlie muttered. “Our little meeting that night almost got me kicked out of my apartment.”

He chuckled, “That’s what we’re calling it? A meeting?”

Charlie blushed. “Like ships passing in the night.” She said flirtatiously.

“Except you’re here and I’m here. Now.” He said in a tempting voice. After a few seconds he added, “And about Miss Paige and her payment. I think she’s earned it tonight.”

The blonde’s eyes doubled in size, “What?” Her mouth dropped open, “She told you I would be here?”

Bass smiled, “She might have mentioned it last minute.”

“That bitch.” Charlie muttered, “What is she my pimp now?”

He almost choked on his wine. “Miss Paige is a friend. She just did me a small favor.” Silence overtook them for an instant, his eyes fiery with want. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you, Charlie.”

She felt an irrational amount of happiness course through her body. She couldn’t deny that he’d occupied her thoughts in more than one occasion, especially in the past couple of days.

“We agreed–”

He cocked his head sensing her hesitation, “I know. But I really wanted to see you again.” He paused, “And frankly, all it’s confirmed for me is that it was a huge mistake to let you go that day.”

They both looked in the same direction as a group of guests rounded the corner to admire the artwork around them.

The pressure in her chest was overwhelming as heat swirled in her core. “I’m still not sure what you’re proposing.” She whispered, glancing at the guests as if anyone were interesting in eavesdropping on their conversation.

The room was getting more crowded with every passing second.

Bass gulped, drinking the rest of his wine. “I don’t know what this is or where it’s going but I know that I would be an idiot to let you slip away without exploring it further.” He uttered, “I need to now if you feel the same way. Just say the word, Charlie.”

Charlie sighed and then without a shadow of a doubt replied, “Yes.”

His mouth split into a wide smile and his eyes crinkled at the corners. It wasn’t until then that he noticed the room was becoming more congested. “What do you say we continue this chat outside?”

She opened her mouth to speak but was abruptly cut off.

“Ah! I see you’ve met my daughter.” Miles said, a cheerfully drunk expression on his face.

Bass nodded, “I did. She’s lovely.”

Miles’s laugh was exaggerated, “Don’t you get any crazy ideas, you dirty dog.” He said in a mockingly reprimanding voice.

“Of course not.” Bass replied, glancing at Charlie and running a fidgety finger over his chin.

The mood was getting increasingly more uncomfortable. Charlie thanked every god she could think of when a friend of Miles took his attention away from them. She signaled with her eyes at Bass who understood her gestures perfectly.

After a few seconds of Miles laughing it up with the old geezer, Bass and Charlie separately snaked their way through the crowd and met outside in the gallery’s terrace.

“You must be freezing.” Bass noted, slipping off his jacket and wrapping it around her shoulders. “That was… awkward.” He stammered, remembering Miles’s disapproving words.

The light chuckle that left Charlie’s lips was a charming melody. With her hands placed on the white marble balustrade and a coy smile on her face, she stared at him for a moment. Her eyes, blue like sapphires under the dim light, were ardent and spellbinding. He was completely wrapped up in her.

Without saying another word, he leaned in, his mouth enveloping her lips with zeal, hungrily nipping at her flesh and relishing in her sweet taste. She brought her hands to the nape of his neck, her fingers raking his curls as Bass’s hands enclosed her waist. Charlie felt breathless, every doubt she’d had about him crumbling to pieces much like her willpower. Daydreaming of his kisses and the way his mouth seared into hers hadn’t done justice to his real talents.

After a few drawn out minutes, he released his hold on her, lightly kissing her lips until they eventually parted. With their foreheads still touching and their noses lightly brushing, he smiled. “I missed you.”

“Me too.” Charlie replied, one hand caressing his face as she placed another kiss on his lips.

He sighed. “And if we don’t stop kissing, I will be tempted to take you right on the spot.”

Charlie’s heart rate increased, as did her paranoia. Miles had already been close to catching them once, she couldn’t risk him seeing them like that—for Bass’s sake and their business deal.

She caught her breath, still giving him bedroom eyes every time he looked at her. They were so lost in each other that it would’t have taken much than a pair of eyes and a clear head to see there was something between them. Luckily for them, most of the party guests—including Miles—were a little impaired and completely out of sight.

The rugged undertone in his voice made her body hum. “What’s the deal with you and Miles?

She teased him, “Oh. I thought you didn’t do family drama?”

He smiled. “I’m curious. What could he have possibly done for you to hate him so much?”

Hate. Charlie wasn’t sure she hated Miles. After all, they’d made some great memories together in the past and he had taught her so much in such a short time. He wasn’t necessarily deserving of hate but like Duncan had pointed out, Charlie was stubborn and proud.

“Alright. I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version.” She began. “I lived with my parents in Philly, went to college there and graduated. They got divorced soon after. I started visiting my dad regularly in Atlanta after he moved in with his until-then estranged brother… Miles.”

“Oh. Shit.” Bass said, putting two and two together.

“Yeah.” Charlie muttered. “Miles and I got along great right from the get-go. We’d go to the country to hunt and he even taught me how to shoot a gun.” Charlie inhaled deeply, “He was the best uncle ever.”

She paused to reflect back on days long gone. “My mom got really sick about a year later and the doctors told her that her illness was terminal. She had lung cancer.”

“I’m sorry.” Bass muttered, suddenly regretting having asked Charlie to relive the memories.

“Don’t be. She lived a great life.” Charlie said before continuing her retelling of the events. “Thing is, she decided to tell me that my father wasn’t really my father when she was on her deathbed. She had lied to my dad basically my whole life and hadn’t told Miles until after the divorce.”

Bass cleared his throat. “Sounds like she kept it from everyone, not just you.” He was hoping he wouldn’t sound like he was coming to Miles’s defense but it technically wasn’t his fault. “He was kept in dark all those years too.”

Charlie pursed her lips. “But then he lied to my dad. He didn’t tell him the truth. I was the one who had to break his heart. Do you have any idea how difficult that was?”

He shook his head. “Of course not.” Touching her chin with the utmost care he said, “Darling. It sounds like you couldn't be mad at your mom because she was dying, so you took it out on Miles instead.”

“I didn’t know what else to do.” She admitted, “I felt so betrayed. I took a long trip with my dad—because to me that’s what he’ll always be—and I stopped talking to Miles after that.”

They both stood there silently. The sound of the crickets resonating through the cold winter night.

Bass spoke again, “Don’t you think it says a lot about him?”

“Miles? What, that he lied? Yeah, it means he’s a lying jerk.” Charlie seemed unhappy with Bass’s sympathy for Miles.

“No.” He said. “That he took the risk of getting close to you and getting to know you even though he knew that one day you would know the truth.”

Her face changed, a softer demeanor slowly resurfacing.

“Just think about it, Charlie. He still wanted to do all those things and teach you to be brave and adventurous, knowing that learning he was your father would most likely result in you resenting him and wanting nothing to do with him.” He raised his eyebrows, “I think that takes guts.”

“I don’t know.” She said, sounding uninterested.

He smiled. “I think you do know. I think that’s why you’re here tonight.”

“I’m here because Duncan needed me out of the apartment.” Her reply was hasty.

She looked so small and helpless that he couldn’t help taking her in for an embrace. Bass kissed the side of her head and then whispered in her ear, “You may say that. But I think the reason you came is because you know Miles deserves a second chance. I think you love him and you care about him—so much that you’ve already changed your mind about him and you don’t know how let him know.”

Charlie held in the urge to cry. How was Bass, only a stranger not long ago, so good at figuring her out without her saying a word? It was like he was in her head, and even then, she was sometimes afraid to admit those to things to herself. But there he was, recounting her truths like he was reading it off a book.

“I–” Charlie struggled to get the words out, afraid there was no going back if she did. “I don't know, maybe you’re right.” She closed her eyes, amazed by how great it had felt to say just that.

“Do you want to go talk to him?” Bass asked.

She shook her head. “Not tonight. But I think I’ll meet up with him tomorrow.” She sighed, “Tonight, I just want to be with you.” Charlie pulled him in closer, “Somewhere else but here.”

Bass smiled, taking her face between his hands and placing a heated kiss on her lips. They were so engrossed in each other that they didn’t notice company had joined them in the terrace.

“You son of a bitch,” Miles growled, swiftly rushing towards them as they broke apart. Charlie backed away just in time. He had Bass by the collar of his white shirt, pegged against the balcony’s railing. “Did you think I was joking?”

“Miles, calm down.” Bass remained even-tempered despite being moments away from getting punched in the face.

“You’re lucky this is my fiancee’s event, otherwise I would beat the living shit out of you.” He threatened, “Get out!”

Miles let go of his shirt, pushing him away. “And you can forget about doing business with me.” He ran his hands through his hair, “Get out!”

Bass was now a bit flustered, having been left in ridicule in front of the few guests that had come out to see what the commotion was about. He stared at Charlie, nodding very lightly before making his way out.

Charlie was angry. She waved a finger in front of Miles’s face. “You have no right!” She yelled, “You have no fucking right to meddle in my personal life!”

She turned to leave but stopped dead in her tracks before she reached the door that led back inside. Without looking back at him she uttered, “And to think he had just told me I should give you a second chance.”

Miles was left speechless.

They took a cab to Charlie’s hotel room.

One moment they were standing by the door and the next he was on top of her, hands on her wrists, pinning her against the mattress. His body moved slowly over hers, his hardness pushing between her legs, achy and needy. Charlie clawed at his shirt, trailing over the lean muscles of his back. Their lips roamed over heated skin, fingers desperately peeling off each other’s clothes until they were both naked and entangled in each other.

It was a sickness. It had to be. How else could they explain the endless need to be with one another? Not once did they even remotely entertain the idea that the hunger and thirst they’d been feeling could be appeased by someone else.

It was an unrelenting yearning, the kind they’d only heard about but never really experienced until then. The funny thing was that neither of them thought of it as a worrisome matter. As long as they were concerned, that was exactly where they wanted to be.

Bass pounded into her, beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He held up her leg with one hand, the muscles of his arms tightening as he pushed his length into her. They’d been going at it for hours and neither of them seemed ready to stop. His long fingers ran over her inner thigh, sheathed by a thin coat of perspiration. He loved watching himself slipping in and out of her.

Charlie grabbed his chin with her fingers, pulling his mouth to hers in an almost aggressive fashion. Breathing into him she kissed him, nipping his lower lip before releasing her grip altogether. A satisfied cry echoed through the room as her head fell back into the feathery pillow. Bass looked exceedingly pleased. Feeling her walls contracting and her center become coated in release, pushed him over the edge. He bucked his hips into her a few more times, deeper and harder, before pulling out and vigorously stroking his cock to completion.

Bass was sure of one thing, no matter how hard he tried to quit her, he would never be able to bring himself to do it. Charlie was different—he felt it deep in his bones—and he wanted nothing more than to take the time to get to know her better.

Still naked and wrapped in the covers, they rested on their sides, facing each other. Bass caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. He loved the way her soft skin felt against his, especially when it was warm and flushed from exertion.

“Charlie.” He muttered.

She hummed, eyes closed. “Hm?”

The silence between them was oddly comforting. “I want more from this—from you.”

Charlie’s eyes lit up then. “What happened to no strings attached?”

Bass smiled at her warmly. “You happened.”

Chapter Text

Charlie had to do it. She had to face her fears, fight her arrogance and speak with Miles at least one more time before leaving the city. After breakfast with Bass, she'd gone back to her hotel, showered, changed and then sat by her window letting everything settle before giving Miles a call.

She'd been perched on the chair, her feet up and knees against her chest as she stared at the gloomy skies and the grey city skyline for minutes, maybe hours. The heavens looked ominous and dark, a storm rapidly approaching in the distance. The thoughts that meandered through her mind were both delightful and infuriating, only confusing her already unclear head. The insane turn of events all a result of a favor to her best friend, meeting Bass had been a pure serendipitous experience but having been reconnected with Miles was anything but a happy coincidence. And yet, if she were to be faced with the same predicament again, she'd do it all over.

Picking up her phone, she began to dial, putting the receiver to her ear and waiting for Miles to take the call. She heard his voice—and surprised and cheery timbre to his greeting. Charlie knew that was the point of no return.

The French-inspired cafe sat smack in the middle of a quiet Atlanta neighborhood. Charlie's hand was shaking when she opened the door, not because she was scared but because her flight response was highly engaged and the urge to run seemed to be getting the best of her. She thought of Bass's words, somehow finding comfort in the memories of the previous night. He'd been right. Deep down she missed Miles, she missed talking to him about her monotonous college life, her occasional adventures and her constant desire to explore. And a part of her wanted to forget all about him being her biological father and just pick up from where they'd left off.

She was thinking about all those things when she spotted him in a booth next to the windows that lined the surrounding walls of the restaurant. He waved at her, smiling only slightly as if restraining himself from coming off too strong. After all, he hadn't forgotten that he'd been close to beating up Bass the night before and that she'd stormed off visibly angry over the scuffle.

Charlie approached the table, a passive look on her face as she slid into her seat. There were already a couple of glasses of water on the table, and Miles had been browsing the lunch menu before she came in.

"Thank you for agreeing to meet me–" he cleared his throat, "After what happened last night." He looked away, genuinely appearing ashamed of his actions. He took a sip of his water and then waited for Charlie to say something.

With raised eyebrows and a twist of the mouth, her eyes wandered away from him. "It was pretty fucked up, what you did to Bass." She glanced back in his direction. "You ridiculed him in front of all those people."

There was a mocking smile on his face. "He's too old for you, Charlie." It was as if he hadn't heard a word she'd said.

Her mouth dropped open, "You're fucking unbelievable." The waitress came over, a sheepish look on her face as she caught the last of the exchange.

Charlie looked up at her, noticing how her smile waned and her voice teetered. "Can I get you anything else to drink?"

Miles opened his mouth probably to tell her to come back after a few more minutes but Charlie interrupted. "I'll have a vodka on the rocks and I'm actually ready to order…" she scanned the menu rapidly, "I'll have the chicken and pesto panini."

Leaving him no other option, Miles ordered as well.

When the girl had left, the mood between them remained tense, the silence drowning them in a sea of uncertainty. "He's my business partner, Charlie."

She scoffed, "What does that have to do with me?"

His mouth was a flat line, unimpressed by her reply. "You know, I didn't intend for us to spend our lunch talking about Bass." He place this napkins on his lap, rearranging his silverware on the table. "I think we have a lot more important things to talk about."

Charlie lifted one eyebrow, her blue eyes determined and fierce. "Bass is important to me."

He sneered. "You've known him how long?"

The waitress set her drink down without saying a word and then retreated. Charlie took her glass of vodka in her hand and sipped it like it was water. "Not long but he's been very honest with me, unlike some people I've known for years."

Miles stared at her, his eyes challenging. "Don't do that. You know everything I did was because I care about you. You're my daughter. What else was I supposed to do?"

"You can't expect me to just forget that you lied, that my father–"

"Ben." Miles clarified.

She narrowed her eyes, emphasizing her words. "My father is a wonderful man. He did not deserve to be lied to and he definitely did not deserve the heartache. He's the one you should be apologizing to and with whom you should be trying to make amends, not me." The vodka warmed her throat as she took another swig.

"I've been trying to make things right, Charlie." He looked out the window at the flowing branches of the trees and the drizzle coming down. "All I'm asking is for you to give me the chance to prove myself. I'm not asking you to treat me like a dad. I just want you to know you can count one me whenever you need me."

Charlie looked at him intently, his words really resonating with her. "You can't tell me how to live my life." Her words were soft, it was a sensible request. "And that includes your opinions about my relationship with Bass."

He grumbled, "Can I at least kick his ass if he ever does you wrong?"

She smiled. "Sure." Drinking the rest of her vodka, she set the glass on the table. "But I hope that's not necessary."

Miles nodded, a smile appearing on his face before it broke into a light chuckle. "It's nice to have you back, kid."

Charlie simpered, "Yeah." She sighed. "It's nice to be back."

She knew addictions were bad news—they could only lead to ruin and pain. She also knew that if she didn't leave that second, she'd never make her flight. And yet, the cab stopped right in front of his hotel instead of hers, the sleet pouring down and lightning illuminating the skies, the roaring thunder shaking the ground beneath her as she ran towards the entrance. Her clothes were soaked, hair drenched and teeth chattering from the cold.

The lady at the reception desk glanced up quickly, flashing her a smile as Charlie rounded the corner towards the elevator. Her body was anxious to be in his presence, to see him and feel him once again. When the elevator reached its destination, the doors slid open, her wet form stepping into the hallway as her feet scurried towards his room.

Charlie took a breath, trying to regain control of herself before knocking. Her body was shivering. The door swung open, a smiling Bass staring back at her.

"Charlie." He beamed, "I thought you'd be at the airport by now."

She should have been there. There was a minute of clarity in her mind and she temporarily scolded herself for being so weak, but then he pulled her into him, placing a heated kiss on her mouth and it was all gone.

Bass touched her wet hair, brushing her cold skin with his fingertips and noticing the rest of her was thoroughly soaked. "You're crazy, you know that?" He said, kissing her again, his tongue darting into her mouth.

"You should've gone home, Charlie." Placing another kiss on her mouth, he took her face between his hands, teeth grazing her fleshy lips.

"Why would I want to be anywhere else but here?" Charlie murmured against his mouth, making him smile. Her legs floated off the floor, tightly winding around his hips.

He clenched his hands to her ass as he fervently nipped her lips. His mouth brushed the skin of her chin, trailing over her jaw and down her neck. Charlie tilted her head back, her wet hair coming in contact with solid wall. She played with Bass's curls, thoroughly enjoying the feel of his mouth on her skin. Her breathing hitched when his lips reached her chest.

Without any hesitation, he burrowed his face in her breasts, his tongue skillfully sliding underneath the collar of her shirt and reaching the sensitive parts of her mounds. He pushed her against the wall, one hand unbuttoning her top and sliding it off along with her jacket. Her breasts, perky and cold were sticky from the rain that had seeped through the cloth.

The lacy white bra did very little to hide her hardened nipples. Bass took one between his lips, teasing it over the fabric. She moaned, her aching center craving fulfillment. He looked up at her, loving the way she responded to his touch.

He threw her on the bed, taking complete control and flipping her over on her belly. Charlie felt wet all over, her insides burning up with desire for him. She felt his body hover over her, his heat radiating up and down her body. Bass leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Don't move. I want you just like this."

She stayed in that position, her head turning to get a look at him as he got undressed. He stripped off his shirt first, his trimmed and toned body filling her with lust. His jeans came off swiftly, his body completely naked and his cock impossibly hard. Charlie couldn't wait to have him inside her.

He climbed back on the bed, his skin coming in contact with hers as he kissed and nipped her shoulders and neck. She could feel his cock throbbing against her inner thighs, her walls dripping wet the closer he got to her center. His lips created a path down her spine, not stopping when they reached her lower back and playfully biting the fullness of her ass. Charlie gripped the bed sheets as his tongue teasingly flirted with the space between her legs. She could feel his hot breath near her entrance, driving her insane the closer he got.

Bass slipped his hands underneath her, gently lifting her hips off the bed and bringing Charlie to her knees. He ran his tongue along her inner thighs before touching the sensitive flesh of her folds.

"Oh, fuck." She muttered between moans. Charlie had never felt more exposed, but she'd also never felt more satisfied. It was a type of ecstasy she'd never experienced before.

He lapped up her moistness, his tongue engaging in a pleasurable encircling of her clit before salaciously dipping into her crevice. By the time he returned his attention to her pulsating nub, she was already twisting the sheets between her hands, her body quivering as she climaxed and her cries of satisfaction echoing through the room.

Charlie collapsed onto the bed for a moment as she caught her breath, feeling her heart beating hard and fast against her chest. She noticed Bass was getting ready to leave the bed and head to the drawer when her hand clasped on to his wrist. Without saying a word to him, she took his cock in her hand. She jerked it slowly at first, running her hand up and down his shaft and watching his gratified expression.

Her fingers wrapped around his girth, slick and hard as she began to pump him with more fervor. After a few moments, she took him in her mouth, sucking his head and then taking him in inch by inch until she couldn't take him in further.

Bass reclined back on the bed.

Charlie worshipped his cock like it was worthy of reverence, her hand applying just the right amount of pressure as she moved it along his length.

She was delighting in his taste, the tip of her tongue licking every inch of him when he interrupted her. Charlie smiled, knowing he was close to finishing. Without heeding his obvious intentions, she continued to work him with her hand. Bass let out a satisfied grunt, his seed spilling over his own stomach as she brought him over the edge.

The night seemed endless. Their bodies entwined, hands searching for unexplored territory and lips insatiably brushing against flush, damp skin. Charlie climbed over Bass, his cock filling her up as she began to ride him for the third time that night. Her hips moved against him, breasts falling over his face as she bounced over his length.

Bass took a nipple in his mouth, sucking on tender skin as she started to come once again. Her whimpers never got tiresome, on the contrary, he could never get enough. Rolling her over on the bed, he gently slipped in and out of her. It was sweet and slow, followed by sudden and hard thrusts that reached her core and made her body's heat surge. He kissed her, breathing into her mouth as he jolted into her a few more times before finishing.

Charlie let him stay inside her for a few minutes before getting up to get cleaned.

When she returned to bed, he was passed out, sprawled out naked over the covers. She smiled, crawling into bed next to him and planning to sleep until her body had decided it'd had enough.

Time. It was ceaseless and forlorn whenever she was absent. The days passed, dull and uneventful, eventually turning slowly into grueling weeks taken up by business deals and clients. Bass had always been careful not to get involved with someone, that is, until Charlie came along. The change in pace and desperate longing had been a foreign concept to him.

Although he was based in Philadelphia, his occupation required him to be away from home sometimes for weeks at a time. He'd never minded before but he'd also never been so taken with someone like he was with her.

Sure, they always talked whenever he was away and there had been numerous video calls sometimes lasting into the wee hours of the morning. But it wasn't the same as having her there with him, being able to smell her scent and kiss her lips, touch her soft skin and hear her murmur his name in moments of passion.

Charlie, for her part, had tried to keep herself busy with school, keeping her mind occupied with other thoughts seemed to be the only type of solace for her yearning whenever he was gone. They had been together for months and although he'd traveled frequently, three weeks had been the longest they'd ever been apart.

The separation never got any easier.

Charlie tapped her foot on the floor, checking her phone every now and again as people wandered past her. The voice on the intercom continuously announced departing flights while the luggage claim filled up with people only long enough for her to realize none of them were him.

Her heart was pounding with excitement and anticipation. The moment he turned the corner and appeared at the top of the escalator was everything she hoped it would be. He smiled that beautiful smile of his and her stomach did a series of pirouettes in return. His blue eyes were fixed on her the whole way down until he reached the end of the escalator.

Charlie ran to him, and they suddenly became one of those cheesy couples that greeted each other at airports like they haven't seen each other in years. For the record, Charlie hated those type of displays of affection but chose to forget about that minor detail once she was wrapped around him. If Duncan could have seen her then, she would've never heard the end of it.

They kissed.

"You have no idea how much I've missed you." Bass said.

"No. I think I do." She replied, finally untangling her legs from around his waist and setting her feet back on the ground.

He smiled at her, taking in her beauty and lightly touching her cheek with his hand. Bass noticed a bit of uncertainty in her look. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"

She sighed, "Do we have to go tonight? I kind of just want to stay in."

Bass laughed, putting his arm around her as they began to walk towards the baggage carousel. "It's Miles's birthday. He's just now starting to like me again. Let's not ruin a good thing."

Charlie giggled, "I guess you're right."

"I'm Sebastian Monroe. I'm always right." He teased.

She rolled her eyes, playfully punching his stomach.

Miles's party had Nora written all over it. He would have never agreed to celebrate his 45th birthday surrounded by people dressed in eccentric costumes, drinking something called 'vampire blood' from crystal goblets and dancing to Monster Mash. It just wasn't Miles. But he had the misfortune of being born close to Halloween. It was virtually impossible for his soon-to-be wife not to take advantage of it.

Charlie took a glass of red concoction from one of the servers and sipped. Bass came up behind her, leaning into her ear and whispering sweetly. "This brings back really good memories, doesn't it?."

"I'm not sure good would be the term I would use to describe it." Charlie goaded, biting her lip.

He hugged her from behind, nuzzling her neck. "Call it whatever you want. You still drive me crazy, even more than you did that night."

Charlie was crazy about him too. She turned around, smiling and focusing on his eyes behind the mask. Having only a few hours to get ready after he got home, they didn't have much time to costume shop. A pair of masks seemed to be the most appropriate addition to their attire.

She gazed into his pools of blue with the most profound adoration. She was so happy, her heart felt like it was going to implode. Neither of them ever imagined they'd be standing in the same spot where they'd revealed themselves to each other almost a year ago.

She looked up at the sparkling chandelier, "I can't believe Miles changed his mind about this place."

Bass smiled, "He got a better deal on the building in Druid Hills."

"I'm glad." Charlie said, cocking her head and pulling him in for a kiss.

Miles appeared among the crowd, a glass of whisky in one hand and a plastic sword in the other. He smiled at both of them, greeting them with a hug and saying something about girly cranberry drinks and pork sliders.

Charlie grinned, "Nice costume, Miles. You do see the irony of you being a lawyer dressed like a pirate…"

He playfully pushed her head away, making her and Bass laugh. "At least I'm dressed up. For your information, masks are not costumes."

"We had a very short time to get ready after Bass got back from Washington." She replied. "Be glad we're here." She teased.

Miles smirked, "I am."

The music changed tempo, slowing down to a more romantic tune and taking a break from the upbeat songs. He noticed the way Bass looked at Charlie and that was the only cue he needed to realize his presence was no longer required. "I'm gonna go find my lady before she gets mad at me for not dancing with her." He joked.

"Good call." Charlie replied, watching as he disappeared from sight.

"Dance with me." Bass said in a seductive tone as he playfully tugged at her hand.

Charlie nodded in agreement as he guided her to the dance floor. He put his hands around her lower back, the tips of his fingers resting over the bend of her backside as she interlaced her fingers behind the nape of his neck.

She rested her head on his shoulder as they began to move in perfect harmony. Bass felt whole when he was with her and there was absolutely not doubt in his mind that Charlie felt the same way about him.

He kissed the top of her head. "I love you, Charlie."

He'd said that to her numerous times before but she never got tired of hearing it. Because every time he said he loved her, she could hear the truth in his words.

"I love you too." She replied.

They swayed smoothly back and forth, lost in the moment and in each other. They had finally found their match and there was no other place they'd rather be—to one another, they felt like home.