His gaze settled on a young woman picking up glasses and plates from the tables. It was the second time his eyes had settled on her that night though she hadn't been out much, just periodically to do clean up. She wasn't one of the servers. He hadn't seen her circling with trays of hors d'oeuvres or champagne. She was dressed in black pants, a white shirt and an apron.
He studied her a long moment before realizing what it was that had interested him. She looked completely out of place. And he wasn't entirely certain what gave him that impression. The longer he stared at her, the more he thought she looked like she should be an attendee at the party. Not cleaning up after the participants.
Her hair was upswept into a messy bun like Mia wore sometimes, secured with a clip, and the result was a sexy mass of mussed hair that begged a man's hand to tug at it and set it free. Midnight black, unruly curls, some of which had escaped the clip and tumbled down her neck.
She was slight, not as curvy as he usually liked his women. Narrow hips and small breasted but enough curves straining at the white button-up shirt to be tempting. The rest of her was small. Dainty. Almost fragile.
When she turned, presenting her a view of her face, he sucked in his breath. Her bone structure was small. Delicately rendered. High, prominent cheekbones, almost as if she were underweight and a small chin. But her eyes. Jesus, her eyes. They were enormous in her otherwise small face. A brilliant shade of blue. shock blue, like looking at ice. They were startling against the jet black of her hair.
She was mesmerizing.
Then she hurried away, her arms straining at the weight of the tray that held all the dishes she'd cleared from the tables. His gaze followed her across the room until she disappeared through the door for the kitchen staff.
"Not your usual fare," Ash murmured beside him.
Jace broke from his reverie and turned to see that Ash had already finished his dance with Mia. A brief look toward the dance floor told him Gabe had reclaimed Mia and the two were once more solidly glued together. Mia's eyes were alight with joy and laughter, and some of his earlier tension eased. She was in good hands. And she was happy.
"What the hell are you talking about?" Jace said, an edge to his voice.
"The chick bussing the tables. Saw you checking her out. Hell, you were practically undressing her with your eyes."
Jace frowned and remained silent.
Ash shrugged. "I'm game. She's hot."
The denial came out more emphatic than Jace would have liked. He wasn't even sure where the emphasis came from or why he was suddenly tense.
Ash laughed. "Loosen up. It's been awhile. I'll go work my charm."
"Do not approach her, Ash," Jace growled.
But Ash had already sauntered away in the direction of the kitchen, leaving Jace standing there, fingers in tight fists at his sides. How the fuck was he supposed to explain to his best friend, a friend he regularly shared women with, that he didn't want Ash within a mile of this one?