Excerpt Brock Daniels grinned at his driver, who had pulled up in front of the high-rise building with all its glass windows and snorted. “I know, right? Not my usual place.”
Hell, normally he just drove himself, but he had ten thousand things to deal with today and this way he could at least multitask. Besides that, he hated downtown Dallas. It was so cold and clinical.
Lord knew Brock was way more… rustic. He’d made his name opening restaurants that did giant cuts of meat and side dishes swimming in bacon fat and butter. His cookbooks all had log cabin covers. This as a real aberration for him, but it was also important.
“It will cost less to run off gas than it will to park in this part of town, Boss. Call me when you need me. I’ll run out and get the car washed.”
“Got it.” Brock hopped out of the car and headed into the building, stopping at the enormous directory to look for Eggshell Studios. By all accounts, this designer could recreate the china pattern Brock needed, which had gone out of print sometimes in the 1800s. He needed it for his mom and dad’s fiftieth anniversary.
He always reminded people he was the youngest kit by twenty years, when they asked about his folks.
Eighteenth floor. La-di-da. Still, this dude was the best. Jean-Claude. Did people really just go by first names? Not that he had any room to talk. Texas knew him as B. Daniels, so who was he to judge, right?
Dishes. He had a picture, a drawing and a vague memory. It would have to be enough. His mom had lost the set in a tornado, and damn it, he wanted her to have it. He was cooking her and Dad the same meal they’d had on their first anniversary, just on a much grander scale.
Brock hardly ever went home, so when he did, he made it count.
The elevator took him up so fast it was a tiny bit disconcerting, his belly dropping to the cradle of his hips. Brock swallowed hard, and his ears popped. Gracious.
The office he stepped into was all white and chrome, which perfectly framed the wildly colored samples of porcelain and the framed patterns on the walls. Something deep in his chest responded to the controlled chaos, and he breathed easier.
A lovely little blonde stepped up with a toothy smile and jacked-to-Jesus hair. “Good morning, sir. My name is Jackie. How may I assist you?”
“Hey. I’m B. Daniels. I have an appointment with Jean-Claude at eleven.” No piranha assistant was gonna intimidate him. His PA, Gene, could eat this girl for lunch.
“Oh, excellent. Please, have a seat. Would you like a latte?”
He was motioned to a white, damask sofa that had obviously been tortured to make it curve that way. He perched on the cushion, which was hard as a rock. “Uh. Yeah, I would love one.”
“Yes, sir. One moment.”
There was doodley-doo music playing, and it set his teeth on edge. Seriously? The wandering notes of the flute made him flinch every time the trill got shrill. Hey, that rhymed.
A perfectly made latte was placed on the table, along with a tiny spoon. “Jean-Claude will be with you in moments.”
God save him from froofery.
He tasted the latte and grimaced. Soy milk. Blegh. God save him from… shit, he didn’t even know who would serve someone soy milk. Hippies? Not someone in a glass tower. They could afford real milk, right? He shifted, his left asscheek going numb.
“Sorry for the delay, sir.” The soft voice was cultured, smooth as silk. “How can I help you?”
He stood, trying not to knock the latte over. When Brock looked up, though, he dropped the stupid little cup right on the white sofa. Holy shit.
It was Clay. His Clay, even if every single fucking thing was wrong, from the color of his eyes to the color of his hair, to the fact that he had to have lost forty pounds in the last fifteen years when every other male on earth had grown into their bodies. It was Clay.
“Jackie? Club soda, please. Mr. Daniels has had an accident.”
“Of course, sir.”
“Clay, what happened to you?”
“Come back to my consultation area, please. Jackie will deal with the stain.”
He followed Clay-who-was-not-Jean-Claude back to the room with a conference table, another couch, and a bunch of sample books.
“Have a seat.” Clay moved to the far side of the room.
Brock watched him, the movement of the too-skinny body unmistakable, the scent of Clay familiar, if masked with cologne. “Are you going to pretend you don’t know me?”
They’d known each other really well. Biblically.
“I was going to try.”
“Well, that’s bullshit.”