“Guess what!” Lola, one of the hostesses, quivered with excitement. “Oprah is coming tonight!”
Chloe stopped on her way into the restaurant. She wasn’t supposed to be there on a Saturday, but wanted to get a few things done.
“Well. We think she’s coming.”
Chloe slanted her an inquiring look.
“The reservation’s not in her name, but Emilio says that’s her manager’s name and a friend of a friend of his told him Oprah has been planning to come here and check it out.”
“Oh.” The bartender’s information network was pretty reliable.
“And,” Lola rushed on, “we’re all betting she wants Tyler on her show! Wouldn’t that be cool!”
Lola, young and gorgeous like everyone else who worked at Insatiable, flipped her long, auburn, perfectly flat-ironed hair behind her shoulder and smiled expectantly at Chloe.
“Tyler must be in heaven,” Chloe said.
“Um...that’s a bit of a problem.” Lola’s slim brows drew together. “He doesn’t know...and we can’t find him.”
“What do you mean you can’t find him? Isn’t he here?”
Lola shook her head.
“Have you tried his cell phone?” Chloe could hear the edge in her usually tranquil voice.
“Of course! Carlos has been trying every fifteen minutes, but he’s not answering.”
“Did he have a date last night?”
Lola squinted her eyes. “I’m not sure,” she said. “He was popping painkillers all night...oh, my God!” She clapped a hand over her mouth.
“What?” Chloe pushed down the alarm fluttering inside her.
“Maybe he OD’d! Those painkillers were narcotics!”
Cold fingers of fear tickled Chloe’s skin. No, that was crazy. Tyler was many things - temperamental, unpredictable, artistic - but stupid or careless he definitely was not.
“I’ll talk to Carlos,” she said, heading into the kitchen.
Controlled chaos energized the kitchen, everyone preparing food and talking. Kanye West blasted over the yelling and banging of pots.
“Chloe!” Carlos spotted her and dropped his knife. Wiping his hands on a towel, he hastened over, agitation tightening his features.
“I heard,” she said calmly. She put a hand on his shoulder. “Any ideas?”
He shook his head, concern in his dark eyes.
“Was he with Mandy last night?”
“He could have been. She’s been hanging out here almost every night.”
“Do we know her number?”
He shook his head. “Nobody even knows her last name.”
Chloe’s mind worked. “Okay. I’ll drive up to his place and see if I can find him.”
The tension in Carlos’ face eased. “Great idea,” he said. “Call us as soon as you know anything.”
Chloe sighed and left the restaurant. This was not part of her job description. Okay, she didn’t actually have a job description, but if she did, searching for her missing-in-action boss would not be in it. God, he was probably in bed somewhere, high from too much sex and Mandy. She pressed her lips together.
As she drove up to Alameda Padre Sierra she tried Tyler’s cell phone again, but it rang unanswered and went to voice mail.
“Tyler, we need you here at the restaurant. If you get this message before I find you, call me.”
She drove past mansions secluded behind walls and dense green vegetation to Tyler’s home, perched on the side of the mountain. She pulled into the short driveway and used her key to get in the locked gate.
She rang the doorbell – no answer. The key she had for times Tyler was traveling and she needed access to his home rested in her palm. She hesitated to use it, but she had to know if he was in there. Her stomach tightened at the thought of what she might be interrupting.
She unlocked the door and stepped into the cool, dim foyer, the terracotta tile floor of the hallway gleaming beneath her feet. “Tyler?”
“What?” His voice came from the living room. She walked in and dropped her purse and keys on a side table. Tyler sprawled on the black leather couch, staring out the wall of windows overlooking the city and, in the distance, the ocean. A scruff of dark beard shaded his jaw and a nearly empty bottle of red wine sat on the table in front of him. Well, at least he was alone.
“Tyler, what are you doing?”
He looked back at her with a slightly murky gaze, not even surprised to see her.
“Getting drunk.” He toasted her with his wine glass.
“Tyler, you’re supposed to be working right now. They need you at the restaurant.”
He shrugged. She took a deep breath.
“What happened?” She sat beside him.
He gazed down into his wine. “Mandy dumped me.”
“Oh. Oh, Tyler. I’m sorry.” She paused. He looked so dejected, she just wanted to kiss it all better for him. But that was out of the question. And really, how heartbroken could he be? He and Mandy had only just met a few weeks ago.
“I’m sorry,” she said again. “But Tyler...you need to get back to the restaurant.”
He lifted his head. “I don’t give a shit about that right now. I’m dying here, Chloe.”
She returned his gaze steadily. “You’re not dying, Tyler. You went out with her for what...two weeks?”
He lifted a shoulder again.
“Get yourself together,” she said gently. “I’m making you some coffee and then I’m taking you to the restaurant.”
“I can’t go there. Not right now.”
“Tyler, you have to. There’s a rumor that Oprah is coming tonight.”
“Oprah?” He blinked, then shrugged. “Too bad.”
“Tyler, come on! You have to be there!”
In his kitchen she found what she needed to start a pot of coffee. When she came back Tyler had leaned his head back against the couch and closed his eyes.
“You don’t understand,” he muttered.
“Oh, please. Everyone gets dumped some time.”
“Not me.” He wasn’t bragging, just saying what was undoubtedly the truth.
“This is the first time a girl ever broke up with you?”
He nodded, eyes still closed. “I’m always the one who does the dumping.”
“So what happened?”
“She said I wasn’t paying enough attention to her.”
A snort escaped Chloe before she could stop it, and she covered her smile. “Well, she was obviously too needy for you. Her loss.”
He opened his eyes and looked at her. “Nice try, but I’m in pain here.”
Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, she smiled at him. “Come on Tyler, you know you’ll have another woman by tomorrow. You’re so fickle, you can’t possibly be heart-broken.”
He frowned. “I’m not fickle.”
“Yes, you are.” She tried to make her voice a gentle nudge. “You go through women like most men go through socks.”
“Do not.” He ran a hand through his dark hair, spiking it up even more.
She looked at him. She could prove it to him...how much time did she have to get him to the restaurant? She glanced at her watch. Enough. She drew in a long breath.
“Okay,” she said. “Maybe I’ll join you in a glass of wine, and we’ll commiserate together.”
“Now that’s more like it.” He got up to get her a glass and when his back was turned, she unbuttoned the top two buttons of her blouse. Then one more. Tyler came back, grabbed the bottle and poured some into the glass.
She took it from him and smiled at him. “You’re so cute when you’re miserable.”
He looked at her, dark brows pulled together, mouth open. “You think I’m cute?”
“Of course.” She gave a little laugh. She shifted in her seat and tucked one leg under her, so she faced him. She leaned toward him, knowing her blouse was gaping open. “You’re gorgeous and you know it.”
“I didn’t think you knew it,” he muttered, then gulped his wine. She saw his glance dip to her chest then quickly back up again. Chloe tasted her wine, a lush Pinot Noir, watching him over the rim of her glass. Then she reached out a finger and traced a straight, thick eyebrow.
“Mmm. I know it.” Her voice was husky. Her tummy quivered as she frantically tried to think what to say next. She had no freaking idea how to seduce a man.
Her finger trailed down his cheek, his throat and into the open collar of his shirt. Again his gaze drifted down to her open blouse.
He guzzled more wine.
“Maybe you need a shoulder massage to relax you.” The genius idea popped into her head and she clinked her glass onto the table and stood. Instead of circling behind the couch to reach over it for his shoulders, she hiked her skirt up and knelt on the couch, straddling his legs. His eyes flew open, now clear and dark gold.
She rested her hands on his shoulders, the large muscles bunched beneath them. “You are tense,” she murmured, kneading the muscles. Again she was fully aware of him looking down her blouse, knowing he was getting a glimpse of cleavage and pink lace. She didn’t dress in sexy, stylish clothes but she did like nice underwear. Thank God.
She rubbed firmly, using fingers and thumbs to slowly press and release his muscles.
“That feels so good,” he groaned, tipping his head back. Chloe’s hands stilled on his shoulders as her eyes moved over his face. He was so beautiful. Heat flared in her, a sweet hot rush. She lowered herself a bit more onto his lap, his thighs hard beneath her own, and leaned closer. God, if they were naked she could slide right onto him and have him fill her up.
The thought caused a jolt of sensation down low in her belly and her nipples tingled. Damn, she was getting herself hot, not him. Then he hardened more beneath her thighs and she knew she was having some effect. With a rush of relief, she leaned closer still and brushed her breasts across his chest. The spicy masculine scent of his shampoo filled her head.
“Chloe, what are you doing?”
Building Castles - Kelly Jamieson's Blog: Insatiable Part 4