entered the Imperial Palace Casino slightly late. She walked through the lobby
to the bank of elevators. Stepping on board, she selected the 32nd floor. As she
exited the elevator she was oblivious to the numerous male stares of appreciation
and feminine stares of envy. She was greeted warmly by the young maitre d', and
upon requesting Mr. Thibodeaux's table, she was escorted back. She followed the
young man in an awkward path around white linen draped tables before spotting
her friends near the window overlooking the Back Bay of Biloxi. Quickly noting
that there were four people sitting at the table instead of three, and that the
extra body was that of a woman, Nicole felt instantly like a fifth wheel. Suddenly
confused, she debated between leaving before anyone one saw her or being the mature
adult that she was and walking over to the table. Just as she was about to say
the heck with being an adult and leave, Gina looked up and spotted her. With a
vigorous wave Gina summoned her forward.
Xavier Ramón turned his head in the direction Gina was
waving and looked into the face of the most exquisite woman he had ever seen.
He sure hoped this was his date for the evening. The woman sitting to his right
was definitely not his type. Rising as the maitre d' escorted the woman to their
table, he said a silent thank you.
"Good evening," Nicole addressed the table. As all
heads turned in her direction, she was rendered speechless. The woman sitting
beside Keith's friend was Carmen Wells. Obviously she had jumped to the wrong
conclusion about this evening. Giving Gina a hug before taking her seat, Nicole
discreetly scolded Gina for not giving notice that Carmen would be present.
"She invited herself when she discovered an available
man would be present," Gina whispered back, annoyed with Carmen's presumption.
As Nicole stood beside him, Xavier inhaled the pleasant rose
scent wafting from her sable brown skin. She stood just barely to his shoulders
in heels. Using his professional skill, he placed her weight at one hundred twenty
pounds or somewhere close. The fit of her dress made it possible to discern that
she was definitely not skinny, but simply smaller than the women he usually dated.
He was an old fashioned guy who enjoyed the feel of a full-bodied woman within
Continuing his survey, he noted her high cheekbones and delicate,
square chin. On closer observation he noted a slight cleft in the chin. A delectable
mouth drew his rapt attention, as did the raven darkness of her fine straight
hair. The hairstyle, however, seemed too severe for such delicate features. But
what startled him most about this woman was the shape and color of her soulful
eyes-almond-shaped, hinting of Asian heritage, and golden brown. She appeared
young, almost too young for his taste, but when she turned the full force of her
gaze upon him, it didn't matter. His heart lurched at the huskiness of her voice
and the knowledge that she could spell trouble for his peace of mind.
Accepting her seat as the maitre d' assisted, two things became
instantly clear to Nicole. One, Carmen resented her presence at the table. And
two, Xavier Ramón was male magnetism personified. He appeared to be well
over six feet tall and solidly built. The olive green suit he wore did nothing
to camouflage the lean muscle mass beneath. Freshly barbered, close cut hair glistened
with health. The caramel brown skin of his lean face was smooth and clear. Thick
silken brows and a neatly trimmed mustache drew one's attention to his perfectly
sculptured mouth. And when his steel gray eyes locked onto her, Nicole immediately
felt their hypnotic pull. He captivated the table with their force and his charismatic
smile. The man would be difficult to ignore. Extending her hand as they were introduced,
Nicole prepared to mask her response. But at the moment of contact, an electrical
current sizzled up her arm like red-hot lightning forcing her to wince.
Xavier experienced it as well. He was glad to see this cool
number rattled by their electrifying chemistry. He had sensed her desire to ignore
him. For what reason he wasn't sure, but the golden glow in her eyes indicated
it wasn't going to happen. She was keenly aware of him now.