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Through the eye holes in his mask, Brandon Reilly surveyed the glittering crowd mingling in the penthouse club room of one of the most exclusive buildings in New York. The day of reckoning had arrived.
He snagged a flute of champagne from one of the circulating waiters. He would have preferred a scotch, but this would get him to the bar. As he sipped, he scoped out each of the women in the room he could see. Wondered which of the ones he didn’t know was the sister his best friend Matt Christopher had discovered less than a year ago after his father had died.
It was just like Matt’s dad to keep a love child secret for nearly thirty years. Not that Brandon’s dad had been any better. At least he’d always known there was the possibility of half-brothers and -sisters out in the world considering how many times his parents had ended up in screaming matches over the latest paternity suit.
“Brandon, there you are. I was wondering if you were going to ditch our little shindig.”
As Brandon glanced down at the perfectly coiffed silver hair which had snuck up on his left, he let one of his infamous brows rise up.
“As if I’d ever miss a party of yours, Grandma Adele.”
The woman at his side snorted. She may have come from one of the richest society families in New England, and assisted in the making of her husband’s fortune in exclusive hotels, but she’d never put on airs with her family and the few non-relatives she’d taken in as her own.
And he thanked whatever deity had been looking out for him that he’d been included in that circle. He bent and kissed her powdered cheek below the edge of the gilt mask she wore.
“How are you doing?”
“Perfectly well. We expected you earlier. I know Matthew wanted to introduce you to Sam before the crowd arrived.”
“Sorry. I got held up by a call from China. It turns out the money guys behind the deal Matt’s been working on have decided they’re ready to talk to me.”
“About time. Well, go ahead and mingle. I’ll let Matt know you’re here when I spot him.”
“I’ll be at the bar.”
She turned a gimlet eye first on the flute he held on his hand and then on him. “You had better not install yourself there all night. All family hands on deck tonight with hosting duties.”
Brandon grinned and saluted. “Yes, ma’am.”
Her eyes narrowed, but before she could say anything one of the other grand dames in the room called her over. He didn’t know why they still bothered to wear the masks since almost everyone knew almost everyone else. It was asking for trouble in the form of a high society burglar who preyed on events like this, but the masked New Year’s Eve party was Christopher tradition.
Brandon cut his way through the crowd to the bar where the bodies were three deep. No one missed a Christopher open bar. He sidled over to the corner where a lone woman stood at the pass through.
The deep green of her dress shimmered as it framed her back. The soft fold lying against her waist invited the hand. Sparkling crystals ran across her shoulders and kissed the nape of her neck. His lips itched to do the same.
When she turned her head, he realized he didn’t know her since the mask she was wearing didn’t do anything to hide her identity with its wide eye holes and lacey metalwork studded with green and clear crystals. Dark brown hair was swept up in a chignon and diamond studs sparkled in her ears. Makeup smudged her eyes and made him think of sunkissed mornings in bed after a night of debauchery.
She caught his gaze and smiled. “Hi.”