If I Were You
His fingers knot in my hair and I gasp at the unexpected bite of his grip, holding me steady. “Is that all you got?” I demand, shocked at how much I want more. How much I want whatever is beneath his surface.
I’m not scared. I’m aroused. I’m ready.
His eyes probe mine, his expression hard, intense. “I thought you were a good little school teacher.”
“You’re corrupting me,” I declare, “and I seem to like it.” I barely issue the challenge before he’s pulling my mouth to his, and he is kissing me with unrestrained, burning passion. I taste the part of him I want to know, the part he’s afraid of, and I burn to know more. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am playing with fire, but I cannot stop myself. Beyond reason, I will push him until he reveals everything.
We are almost to the gallery, and a knot has formed in my stomach at the prospect of an awkward goodbye, when he suddenly grabs me and pulls me into a small enclave of a deserted office rental. Before I can fully grasp what is happening, I am against the wall, hidden from the street and he is in front of me, enclosing me in the tiny space. I blink up into his burning stare and I think I might combust. His scent, his warmth, his hard body, is all around me, but he is not touching me. I want him to touch me.
He presses his hand to the concrete wall above my head when I want it on my body. “You don’t belong here, Sara.”
The words are unexpected, a hard punch in the chest. “What? I don’t understand.”
“This job is wrong for you.”
I shake my head. I don’t belong? Coming from Chris, an established artist, I feel inferior, rejected. “You asked me why I wasn’t following my heart. Why I wasn’t pursuing what I love. I am. That’s what I’m doing.”
“I didn’t think you’d do it in this place.”
This place. I don’t know what he’s telling me. Does he mean this gallery? This city? Has he judged me not worthy of his inner circle?
“Look, Sara.” He hesitates, and lifts his head to the sky, seeming to struggle for words before fixing me with a turbulent look. “I’m trying to protect you here. This world you’ve strayed into is filled with dark, messed up, arrogant assholes who will play with your mind and use you until there is nothing else left for you to recognize in yourself.”
“Are you one of those dark, messed up, arrogant assholes?”
He stares down at me, and I barely recognize the hard lines of his face, the glint in his eyes, as belonging to the man I’ve just had lunch with. His gaze sweeps my lips, lingers, and the swell of response and longing in me is instant, overwhelming. He reaches up and strokes his thumb over my bottom lip. Every nerve ending in my body responds and it’s all I can do not to touch him, to grab his hand, but something holds me back. I am lost in this man, in his stare, in some spellbinding, dark whirlwind of…what? Lust, desire, torment? Seconds tick eternally and so does the silence. I want to hold him, to stop whatever I sense is coming but I cannot.
“I’m worse.” He pushes off the wall, and is gone. He is gone. I am alone against the wall, aching with a fire that has nothing to do with the meal we shared. My lashes flutter, my fingers touch my lip where he touched me. He has warned me away from Mark, from the gallery, from him, and he has failed. I cannot turn away. I am here and I am going nowhere.
I arch into him, drinking in his passion, instantly, willingly consumed by all that he is and could be to me. . . .
Sara McMillan is still searching for Rebecca, the mysterious woman whose dark, erotic journal entries both enthralled and frightened her. Tormented by a strong desire to indulge the demands of her new boss while also drawn deeper into her passionate bond with the troubled artist, Chris Merit, Sara must face a past as deeply haunting as Rebecca's written words. In one man's arms, Sara will find the safe haven to reveal her most intimate secrets and explore her darkest fantasies. But is safety just an illusion, when the truth about Rebecca has yet to be discovered?
I strip away my clothes in seconds, and I’m pretty sure the art of the seductive, slow striptease is really not my forte. I’ll work harder at it when I want to tease him and not me.I just need him right now. I need to be naked with him, all barriers gone. I need him to know that I want to understand him because he matters, because we matter. Because life made me believe that what is blossoming between us wasn’t possible, but maybe, just maybe, it is.
My gaze lifts, and I watch him watching me, the grit of his teeth, the tightness of his jaw, the lust and fury in his hot stare. It’s arousing to have this powerful, sexy man respond to me, want me, need me. And he does. I have never been as sure of this as I am now.
The elevator door dings open and I never have the chance to retreat. Chris grabs my hand and pulls me into his apartment.
Before I can blink, I’m facing the entry room wall, one hand clutching the journal, the other flat on the surface in from of me. Chris steps behind me, framing my body with his bigger one and I feel the hardness of his body as intensely as I feel the hardness of his mood.
His hand settles on the center of my back, branding me, controlling me, and he pulls my bag and purse from my shoulder and dumps it on the floor. I feel him shrug away his jacket and he reaches for mine. It catches on the journal and his hand closes around it.
The air seems to thicken and for several seconds we hold the journal, both our fingers gripping the red leather. Erotic images created by Rebecca’s words play in my mind and I remember reading one of the entries with Chris. I wonder if he is thinking about that day, too, or something completely different. About Rebecca perhaps? I want to ask, but there is this sharp pinch in my chest that holds me back.
Chris takes the journal from me and I have no idea where he puts it. It is gone and my jacket follows. He steps behind me, and I forget everything but him. His hands settle possessively on my hips and his mouth, that delicious, sometimes brutal mouth, brushes my ear.
“You want pain and darkness, baby, you got it.”
Shock slides through me at the unexpected promise and I think of us holding the journal, and of the dark entries inside that terrify and intrigue me. “What happened to me not being able to handle this part of you, Chris?” I ask, and my voice trembles with the question.
“Tonight happened,” he replies and there is nothing unsure about his voice, just hard steel and more anger. “And I damn sure want to give you a reason to think twice before it repeats.”
Conflicting emotions overcome me. I crave and resist the possessiveness I sense in him. I’m jerked out of this thought when Chris yanks my dress up my hips, exposing my backside. I hear the silk of my panties tear before I feel the bite of the material ripping from my body. His hands caress my backside, and the edgy tension in him is like a wave crashing into me.
He leans in, his lips brushing my ear, hot breath fanning my skin, promising delicious, forbidden fantasies only Chris can fulfill. “I’m going to spank you before this night is over, Sara.”
The threat is a velvety seduction and taut threat and my response is instantaneous. I cannot catch my breathe, let alone form a coherent reply, but I never get the chance.
Chris turns me to face him, shoving my hands over my head and shackling them with one of his. “But first, I’m going to take you to the edge of bliss and pull you back so many times, you’ll think you’re going insane, just like I was when you didn’t answer your phone.” He tugs down the front zipper of my dress to my waist, unhooks my bra, and begins to tease one of my nipples. “Any objections?”
“Would they matter?” I whisper, unable to find my voice for the waves of pleasure washing over my body.
“Not unless you tell me to stop what I’m doing.” He leans in and nips my lip as he had the night before, laving the bite with his tongue. “But if you say stop, Sara, make damn sure you mean it because I will stop. Understand?”
“Answer, Sara.” His fingers slide between my thighs, spreading the slick heat of my sensitive flesh, and leaving my nipples aching for more. I have the distinct impression he’s reminding me why ‘stop’ is a bad word.
“Yes,” I pant. “Yes, I understand.”
His thumb strokes my clit and slips two fingers inside me, filling me, stretching me. I pant with the pleasure, imagining the moment he is inside me. “Come before I tell you to and I’ll spank you right now.”
“What?” I gasp. “I can’t-”
“You can and you will.”
His words are as powerful as his touch, and I feel the bittersweet build of release. “Why do I get the idea you’d enjoy my failure?”
“Because I want to spank you.” His lips brush mine, his fingers stroking me with slow, sultry precision that is driving me wild. “And you want me to.”
I do and I have no clue why but the certainty that he will is so intensely erotic that my sex tightens around his fingers.
The beginning of an orgasm is almost as alluring as his hand on my backside.
His fingers are suddenly gone, denying my pleasure, and I growl my frustration. “Damn you, Chris.”
“Damn me all you want but you still won’t come until I say you come.” He strokes my nipple and flicks it back and forth. “I’m going to release your wrists and you will not move them. Understand?”
No, I do not understand! I scream in my head, but I nod my agreement, certain doing as he says is my only path to satisfaction.
His hand teasing my nipple falls away and he studies me, seeming to assess my willpower, or maybe just torturing me with the absence of his hands on my body. I’m ready to scream with the injustice of it when he sinks to one knee in front of me and his hands settle on my hips.
His gaze lifts and snags mine and I want to order his mouth to the most intimate part of my body. Slowly, his mouth lowers, not to the spot I crave him to be, but to my stomach. The soft, seductive touch of his lips, followed by the gentle stroke of his tongue, sends a shiver through me and my belly quivers beneath his mouth. The contrast of how tender he is in one moment and how hard and demanding he can be in the next, fills me with anticipation and is as arousing as anything I’ve ever experienced.
Slowly, he trails his lips over the tender skin, his tongue dipping into my navel, laving my hip bone, and finally traveling just above the V of my body.
I am breathing hard with the restraint I use to stop myself from reaching for him and the muscles of my sex clench so tightly it hurts. “Chris,” I plead when I can take no more.
He rewards my urgency by licking my clit. Yes, please, more, I think, but do not dare say out loud, for fear he will do the opposite. I moan and another lick follows and it’s nothing shy of sweet bliss when his mouth closes down around me. He suckles my swollen nub, drawing deeply on my sensitive flesh and using his tongue at just the right moments until I am going insane. Sensations ripple through me and I have no willpower, no control. I tumble into orgasm and he immediately pulls his mouth from me, denying me full satisfaction, leaving my muscles clenching in partial release.
My knees buckle but he is on his feet, wrapping his arm around my waist, and holding me up. He lifts me into his arms and starts walking toward his bedroom. His words replay in my head. Come before I tell you to, and I’ll spank you right now. Chris doesn’t say anything he doesn’t mean and my heart races at the certainty of my punishment.
The Master Undone
Once my flight lands in New York, I’m anxious to get to the hospital. I quickly make my way to the baggage claim and locate my carousel.With some fast footwork I’m at the front of the crowd and I’ve just snatched my single piece of luggage, besides the one hung over my shoulder, when I hear, “Mr. Compton?”
I turn to find a pretty blonde standing before me, her long, silky hair draping the shoulders of her pale pink, primly cut suit jacket. I arch a brow at her. “And you would be?”
“You are the Mark Compton, correct?”
“I’m Mark Compton,” I confirm, wondering where this is headed.
“I thought so. I recognize your picture from Riptide.” Her perfect pale cheeks flush.“Oh. Sorry. I should introduce myself.”
She offers me her hand. “Crystal Smith, the new head of sales for Riptide, and thrilled to be working at one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world.”
I don’t reach for her hand. But my need to avoid touching her isn’t control, it’s weakness—and I hate weakness. I close my hand over hers. “Nice to meet you, Ms. Smith.” My palm warms, and I don’t want to be warmed by this woman, or by any woman I haven’t chosen as a submissive.
Her lashes lower, and I know she’s hiding her reaction to the touch.
Despite myself, I am intrigued. Even more so when, almost instantly, she smoothly recovers and her lashes lift, her eyes directly meeting mine. Any sign of whatever she’d felt is gone.
Impressed by her rapid recovery and quick control, I’m surprised by how reluctantly I release her hand. I’m rarely reluctant about anything.“Since when is it the duty of the sales manager to pick someone up at the airport?”
Her brows dip and she gives a delicate snort.“It’s not like you’re just anyone.You’re your mother’s son.”
I inwardly cringe at the sore spot she’s hit. I love my mother, but there’s a reason why I opened my gallery across the country.“She ordered you to pick me up.”
Her lips curve. “Your mother’s as feisty as ever from her hospital bed.”
“I’m not surprised,” I manage tightly. Just thinking of my mother in a hospital bed creates a dull throb in my gut. “She’s impossible to say no to, even for me.”
“I thought for sure her pride and joy would be the one person who could.”
Fighting a wave of something dark I’d rather not name, I struggle to maintain my normal steely composure.“My mother is the only person I can’t say no to.”
She gives me an odd, quizzical look.“The only person?”
“Yes, Ms. Smith.The only person.”
She frowns.“I’m sorry,” she says, and then waves me toward the door.“My car’s parked in a fifteen-minute spot.We’d better run before I get towed.” She turns and starts walking, expecting me to follow.
I stare after her. She’s sorry? What the hell does that even mean, and why do I have this intense need to race after her and ask, when I never run after anyone?
You've discovered Rebecca's secrets. You've discovered Sara's secrets. Now Sara will discover "his" deepest, darkest secrets...but will those secrets bind them together--or tear them apart?
I twist around to find Chris standing in the doorway, his hair a damp mess, droplets of water clinging to the black Harley jacket he wears with the same ease he does his power. The en- tire room seems to suck in a breath at the same moment, waiting for what will come next. Waiting for him.
His attention fixes on me, and it’s as if no one else were in the room. He sees me. He’s dismissed them.
“I told you I was close, baby,” he drawls, seemingly unaffected by the situation. He saunters into the room, and while he’s all casual coolness and sexy swagger, there is a lethal, primal quality just beneath his surface. I might be trying to take control myself, and I want to, but it’s a beautiful thing watching Chris be Chris.
When I finally exit the bathroom I do so with hurried steps, and run smack into a hard body. With a gasp, I look up as strong hands right me before I fall. “I’m sorry,” I say, blinking as a big man with rumpled dark hair and handsome thirty-something features comes into view. “I didn’t mean . . .” I hesitate.
Does he even speak English?
He says something in French, and then says, “Pardon” before he departs.
An uncomfortable shiver races down my spine and the unexplainable need to follow him has me whirling around, only to find Chris there.
His brows dip. “Something wrong?”
Yes. No. Yes. “I just bumped into a man, and—”
Chris curses and grabs my purse, and I look down to realize it’s unzipped. I’m certain it was zipped before. “Oh no,” I say, and shove it open to find that my wallet is missing. “No. No no nono. This can’t be happening. He took my wallet, Chris!”
“What about your passport?” he asks calmly, setting our bags down between us.
My eyes go wide and I quickly dig for it. Feeling sick, I shake my head. “It’s gone. What does this mean?”
“It’s okay, baby. I forgot to give you your plastic card; I still have it. That’ll get us past the entry in France with some extra effort. And you can use it at the consulate to get a new booklet.”
I draw a deep breath and let it out. The way he says “us” is calming. I’m not alone. He is with me every step of the way, not just here and now. I know this, and I want to believe it won’t change. It’s one of the many things about him, and us, that delivered me to the airport today. “Thank God you have my card.”
Chris reaches over the bags and caresses my cheek. “I should have warned you how bad the pickpockets are here.”
No In Between
(anticipated release August 2014)
Another man in an expensive fitted suit much like Mark’s gray one, steps to Mark’s side, his features ruggedly male, whereas Mark’s are classical male beauty. And where Mark’s classically clean shaven and handsome, his short blond hair is always neatly groomed, this man’s thick, light brown hair is long enough to be tied at his nape, and the stubble on jawline far more than a shadow.
The man says something to Mark and I don’t know why, but I am certain the stranger is his attorney. Mark barely acknowledges what is said to him, stepping forward, closing the distance between us, and I cannot seem to move. He moves with absolute predatory grace, beautiful, powerful, impossible to ignore and I am his prey.
I am not immune to Mark’s certain flavor of power and masculinity, but then, I have never denied that fact. But being affected by his larger-than-life presence and wanting him are two different things.
It's also a way Rebecca and I differed and I cannot help but remember her words. He was magnificent. Really, truly the most gorgeous man I’ve ever known. Instant lust exploded inside me. I wanted to feel him close to me, to feel him touch me. To touch him.
She’d started out infatuated and then fell in love, and suddenly, I am angry at Mark for not seeing what he had with her before he lost her. Even more so for trying to push her away by involving Ava and Ryan in their intimate moments, and who knew who else, that I never discovered.
Intending to tell him so, I step forward, closing the distance between us and stopping when we are toe to toe, but he speaks before I do. “Ms. McMillan,” he says in that low baritone of his that is both sultry suggestion and hard steel.
I lift my chin and meet his stare, and when I do, I see the barely masked heartache in the depths of those steely gray eyes. I see love lost, and my anger is ripped right out of my chest. “Mark,” I whisper, bleeding for him, with him. “It’s good to see you.” And without any conscious decision to do so, I wrap my arms around him and press my cheek to his chest. He doesn’t hug me back but I don’t care. It kills me to realize that Rebecca finally taught Mark what it is to love, and she’ll never even know.
“Ms. McMillan,” he warns tersely. “Now is not the time for affection.”
I step back, choosing to ignore the deep seductive quality of those words, and press my hands to my hips. “Why don’t you return your phone calls?”
His expression is unreadable, the pain I’d seen minutes before carefully banked. “I just arrived into town and I’m certain you’re aware, I’ve had my hands full.”
The stranger joins us, his piercing blue eyes finding mine.
“This is “Tiger”,” Mark says without ever looking at the other man. “My attorney.”
“What is it with you men? You have a problem using a person’s real, God-given name?”
“Confirmation of what I suspected,” Tiger comments. “You have to be Sara. And it’s not my God-given name. It’s the one I earned and that means it’s the one I favor.”
Taking the bait, I ask, “And how exactly did you earn it?”
“I’ll rip your throat out if you cross my clients,” he replies, and I do not like the subtle threat in the words, be it real or imagined.
I narrow my eyes on Tiger. “You said ‘confirmation you’re Sara.’ What did that mean?”
Mark answers for Tiger. “I told him your propensity toward too much conversation.”
“Does he know your propensity toward arrogance?” I challenge.
“He does,” Mark confirms, without hesitation, a muscle flexing in his jaw.
I cringe at the realization that I’ve hit the nerve of self blame in Mark, a nerve I know has to be as raw and ripe as it gets. “I’m sorry,” I say quickly. “It slipped out. I was just doing that banter thing we do.”
He gives me on of those heavy lidded looks of his and says, “Not a problem, Ms. McMillan. I also warned Tiger that you tend toward being painfully honest.”
Now I’m the one with confirmation. I did hit a nerve. “I wasn’t trying to hurt you.”
“There’s nothing wrong with honesty,” Tiger comments.
I cut him an irritated look. “There is if it hurts someone.” I step closer to Mark. “Can we talk alone for a minute?”
“No private conversation,” Tiger replies, rejecting the idea.
I gape at Tiger. “You’re protecting Mark from me?”
“I’m protecting you both from prying eyes,” Tiger assures me, his tone all business. “Save the hugs and personal conversation for elsewhere.” He glances at his watch. “It’s 3:00. We need to get to our meeting room.”
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