Authors: Erika Masten
AT HIS WHIM: HIS #1
(A BILLIONAIRE DOMINATION SERIAL)
Copyright © 2012 Erika Masten
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Published by Sticky Sweet Books. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored on, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to actual persons or events are purely coincidental.
Warning: Explicit content. Intended for mature readers only. All characters depicted herein are 18 years or older, and all sexual activities are of a consensual nature.
This is a work of erotic fantasy. In real life, please protect yourself and your lover by always practicing safe sex.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
When I was a little girl, I spent countless hours sitting with my narrow back pressed to the side of the battered upright piano against the living room wall while my mother played. She coaxed thunderously emotional and sometimes heartrending music out of an instrument of such inferior quality that it never should have withstood the demand—yet it had.
Years later, when I was old enough to understand how improbable it was to have
music pouring out of
piano, I asked my mother about it.
“Ah, Chloeblossom,” she would say, always ending her sigh with a warm smile from behind wayward strands of mahogany hair, adding a hug or at least a squeeze of my shoulder. It was her pet name for me, a play on my full name, Chloe Bloom. “Never worry about how things
work. Go with your heart. It’s a force of nature, too.”
That was the philosophy that had guided her life, and ruined it. I asked my question—and she answered it the same way—many more times. While the words never changed, the underlying meaning did. Sometimes I wasn’t asking about an old piano so much as why I didn’t have the things my friends had, the toys and clothes and a father at their birthday parties. Sometimes I was asking why we lived in a shabby, dark apartment when the photographs of my mother as a child had sweeping marble staircases and landmarks like Big Ben and The Eiffel Tower in the background. Sometimes I was asking why she stayed married to a man who came and went, loved her then didn’t, on his whim.
As an adult, I was not a woman of flights and fancies, and I had the money, success, and seventy-hour work week at an environmental law firm to prove it. I didn’t “go with my gut” or make decisions based on the intangibles of intuition. Booking a last-minute cruise from Buenos Aires up along the Atlantic Coast of South America to the mouth of the Amazon was uncharacteristically spontaneous of me but not romantic or carefree in the least. I needed to get out of the city, away from the gossip columns and especially from Penn Ellison. The measure was extreme but still practical at its heart.
So I stood now among well-heeled tourists at the palatial entrance of the resort on Ilha de Flor off the coast of northeastern Brazil, the lulling roar of the ocean at my back and blessedly cool trade winds playing at the loose brown waves of my hair and the hem of my pink floral silk sundress, and struggled with another question that beggared logic.
How did I know that a certain Mr. Adrian Knight, presenting himself to us as the manager of the resort, was not what he appeared? And, furthermore, why was everything inside me bristling with stomach-twisting anxiety and panty-soaking desire every time he so much as glanced at me?
Raising one admirably muscled arm, clad in a deceptively simple but expensively tailored white linen shirt, Knight motioned toward the arched marble entry. He reminded me more of a ringmaster than upper management providing a personalize concierge welcome for privileged clientele. The breeze ruffled his thick, blackish brown hair rakishly but did not truly muss the shiny strands; perhaps even nature knew better. His eyes—I had never seen eyes quite like his—were light brown with a silver sheen, as though they reflected moonlight even in broad daylight.
“Welcome to Ilha de Flor,” he pronounced with smooth officiousness, and I detected a faded European accent in his burnished voice, possible British. “We are pleased to offer you all the hospitality and amenities of our resort spa while your ship is in port at Natal. If you will follow me…”
While the others who had come over to the island with me by ferry from the mainland filed slowly through the massive double doors into the air conditioned interior, I paused to take a breath and settle my anxious stomach. It was the first time in a month I could feel anything, so I guess the erratic flutter wasn’t entirely unwelcome, but the first two weeks of the cruise had been anything but the wild revelry I told myself I needed after my breakup with Penn. As I deliberately studied the lush tropical rainforest pressing insistently against the strip of champagne golden sand and the twin blues of ocean and sky, I tried to release the tension holding my shoulders and spine so stiff. Maybe Ilha de Flor was the playground I needed. A little flirting. A little dancing. A few trips to the dessert table. The last thought had me smiling to myself.
When I turned back to fall in line with the group, I found Adrian Knight lingering at the door, ushering people along. I didn’t look up as I started past him. There was a certain caliber of man I had always found too handsome to look at up close, at least without breaking into an obvious blush, and Knight clearly fell into that category. The demure bow of my head and the curtain of my long hair kept me from seeing what was coming.
Warm fingers circled my bare elbow, sending a shiver up my arm and through my shoulders despite the heat and humidity. My gaze shot up to meet those gleaming amber eyes and a smile that curled crookedly at one end. That expression of his—cool and confident and playful—left me open-mouthed and weak-kneed.
“You, miss, should follow
,” Knight said, his tone theatrically flirtatious. After a pronounced pause, he released his hold on my elbow only to softly but insistently catch my fingers and guide my arm under and around his, until my fingertips pressed restlessly to the tanned skin of his forearm. Firm, lightly corded, muscular. It was an effort not to
My pussy fluttered as hard as my stomach and now my heart, which annoyed me as much as it thrilled me. I’d been on enough cruises and first class business trips to recognize the kind of attention that comes
with the package
. Impossibly good-looking hostesses and private servants always flattered the women and deferred to the men. To have Mr. Knight choose me for his courtesy flirtation galled. I was an attractive enough woman, almost the beauty my mother was, though not as warm and inviting as she had been—to a fault. Yet I felt like the plain, shy step-cousin in the hand-me-down dress as this dazzlingly handsome man made me part of his song and dance for the guests.
I could have slapped him, it grated so badly. Of course, I also could have kissed him. The latter was
to be half the purpose of this trip.
Well-practiced at maintaining my demeanor, I fumed to myself as I let Knight lead me at the head of the group through the hushed and polished corridors of the resort. Tile inlays, sink-down carpets, dark wood, and oversized bouquets of orchids dressed the interior and drew approving mutters from our little party. There was the spa and Roman baths, the theater and casino night club, the tennis courts and six swimming pools each with waterfalls built in replica of the much larger natural versions that graced the twenty thousand acres of the island, one of the largest holdings ever allowed to pass into private—let alone foreign—hands. Strangely, Knight seemed most proud when pointing out the views, spending more time talking about the varieties of orchids and birds on the island than the imported stone, the Evian water bath, or the wine cellar bigger than most people’s homes.
I wondered again, what was it about him?
We ended the tour on an expansive balcony, stair-stepped above two larger balconies, looking out over the ocean as it lapped against the powdery-fine strand of golden sand. Adrian Knight still hadn’t released my arm. In fact, his free hand rested over my fingers, trapping me next to him as he directed everyone’s attention to the half-dozen overlong buffet tables spread with a lunchtime selection of classic luxury dishes and more traditional (though upscale) local fare. The breeze toyed with us sidelong from the opposite direction, so instead of getting a good whiff of steamed lobster or tropical fruit, I smelled the faintest trace of lemon and champagne mixed with the light spice of warm skin. Adrian Knight smelled…delicious.
When Knight finally turned us loose to enjoy our three days and two nights of pampered indulgence, and several guests surged forward to ask him questions, I slid my hand from him and claimed a half-step of space. But still, I lingered there awkwardly beside him, thinking I should wander away but worried about how forlorn that would look—and feel. Resisting the strangest urge to slide a fingertip into my mouth, to taste the faint sheen of moisture from his skin, I shook my head and marched myself to the dessert table.
Honey cake in chocolate sauce. Some kind of baked banana confection dusted in cinnamon. Sweet rolls glazed in guava. This was heaven, like the kitchen on Sunday mornings when I helped my mother bake. I hovered over the selection and tried to pretend to myself that I wasn’t still bothered by the gorgeous Mr. Knight and being treated like the maiden aunt who needed the pity attention.
Straightening there for a moment, I actually wondered. Was it really so obvious that the poise and wardrobe were a poor girl’s version of dress-up? I had the walk and the talk and the perfect posture, but that essential something—the mindset—of the elite that only came from being born to the ultra-wealthy would always be lacking. Was I fooling myself thinking I fit in?
When I was the acknowledged girlfriend of Penn Ellison, blue-eyed blond-haired scion of the East Coast Ellisons, I’d gotten pretty good at blending in. Or Penn wouldn’t have had me, I was sure. He’d said as much when he’d gotten caught cheating on me, the photos of him with three half-naked college girls at a party splashed all over the gossip blogs that specialized in keeping tabs on the decadent behavior of the city’s beautiful people.
“Come on, Chloe,” he’d said as I stood in front of him with my fists clenched and tears rolling down my cheeks against my will. “You know I could never be serious about that kind of woman.”
“Women,” I had corrected him.
His pale blue eyes had turned puppy dog innocent, confused, even concerned. He really didn’t understand, I realized then, how I could get upset with him for having sex with other women if they were girls from the
families. Girls like me, but without the college education behind them. Without the years spent passively studying the mannerisms and diction of the prep school kids and trust fund babies. The girls who couldn’t pass as high society.
And that was when the light went on for me. The way Adrian Knight moved. The self-possession in the strong but relaxed square of his shoulders. The languid ease with which he moved about amid such luxury. My knee-jerk anxiety whenever he turned his attentions toward me. These weren’t the hallmarks of the servant class, which came with an almost military crispness mixed with a careful, understated deference. However he may have ended up the manager of a five-star resort, Adrian Knight had started out as old money.
I lost my sour mood in a big grin, absurdly proud of myself for figuring out what had been bothering me about the man. But it faded as I realized there was still something I hadn’t quite put my finger on. Knight may have moved like moneyed elite, but he…he engaged people a little too much for that to be the case. Penn had taught me, purely by example, that the one percent didn’t really think like the rest of us…or think of the rest of us as entirely