Authors: Ciara Cole
“I think you will because you obviously need a distraction to get your mind off whatever’s bringing you down. I find I don’t like seeing this side of you.”
“Which side would that be?”
Chace scanned Emily’s face silently for a few moments and she tried not to squirm. “The side that’s been hurt and feels confused. I hate the thought that I can’t take away the pain you feel. I hate the suspicion that I’m partly the reason it’s there.”
“I’m still trying to figure out why the hell you’d even care,” Emily said softly while looking deep into his mesmerizing gray eyes. They seemed more startling in the moonlight. His touch on the bare skin of her arm suddenly felt too vibrant, electric. She tugged her arm away.
“I do care. More than I should,” he growled. He shoved his hand back through his hair, mussing it and making Emily long to muss it some more, to sink her fingers into the deliciously inky soft waves.
Emily quelled the urge and moved a safe distance away. Whenever Chace was this close, she couldn’t seem to think straight. Be it a residual attraction from her teenage years or a more evolved fascination, she was having none of it.
“Look, Chace, I’m willing to keep up the appearance of civility for the sake of Ciara and Zane, but that’s as far as it goes,” she said firmly.
“You’re sure about that?”
There was a challenge in Chace’s tone that Emily wasn’t sure she liked. Her head whipped round so she could send him a glare, but that wicked grin of his was firmly in place, threatening to disarm her.
“Can you guarantee that if I should kiss you right now there’d be nothing there? You think you can handle that?”
As his husky words dared her, Emily’s lips tilted in a smile. She slowly drew closer, close enough so she could see the deep flecks in his eyes as she stared way up at him. “More to the point…can
Chace’s eyes blazed. Suddenly, he had his hand at the back of her head and smashed his lips against hers. His smothered groan sent ripples right through her, her mouth parting in a famished gasp.
The moment Chace kissed Emily, he knew it was a mistake.
She’d held his attention all evening, even when they were across the room from each other. Her dress was a deep sinful red that made her gorgeous brown skin glow. Her natural dark curls looked bouncy and soft as if begging to be gripped in his hands. Chace had doubted if Emily had any idea how breathtaking her unassuming beauty was beneath the glaring lights of the ballroom.
She’d always been beautiful, but now as she’d become more of a woman, she’d gained an innate elegance and stood out even as she seemed not to try to.
Emily had become such a collage of contradictions. Chace had felt she had enough confidence to carry her own in any situation. Yet there was a delicacy about her that fascinated and yet deterred him. He wanted her more than he’d wanted any woman in a long while. Her flawless caramel skin, her puffy beguiling lips, and glittering soft brown eyes played havoc on his peace of mind. As she melted beneath his kiss, Chace realized why it had been so hard to forget her. And why it would be crazy to let her get under his skin again.
The next moment, he grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back from him.
They were both breathless, and he narrowed his gaze over her face. With her hair pinned up with charming artlessness, she brought to attention the beautiful lines of her facial structure:a defined angular jaw and chin, high brow and cheekbones, with graceful wrists and neck that sat well with her enticingly curvy figure.
The biggest surprise to Chace was his insane reaction to her – when in all these years he’d made sure to date women the opposite of Emily. Whether subconsciously or deliberately, he’d maintained such tastes and had been content with his playboy status, ensuring the mostly blonde, supermodel types he toyed with knew he wasn’t looking for anything worthwhile. And if they didn’t get it, they got out.
Chace let Emily go abruptly, but couldn’t escape the scent of her, hinting of lilies, lemons, and mint.
. He had to shove his hands into his pockets to hide the intense state of arousal he was in after just one kiss. The fact he couldn’t seem to spend five minutes around Emily without making a grab for her wasn’t lost on him.
All those years ago, some of his friends and even his family had wondered about his attraction when it came to Emily. He knew most of them saw it as some kind of fetish, a young man’s fleeting lust for something exotic to be found in a beautiful Black woman. But for Chace, it was simply Emily’s unique style and air that had first drawn him in and then tied him down.
Chace found he wasn’t that enthusiastic to be all wrapped up in her once more. Especially with her cold-shouldering him every step of the way since they’d met again.
To his surprise, a smile slowly teased Emily’s lips.
That small, enticing little gesture slammed Chace right where he lived.
, he swore internally. He was too fucking old for this. He was a man who’d made it living by the highest of standards in everything he did. His suits were all specially tailored and good health was vital to him, which was why he ran three times weekly. It pleased him to enter a room knowing he looked his best. He could be assured that once he walked into most boardrooms, he already owned it even before he said a word. It was mainly due to the fact that people took in his powerful physique, striking height, and unwavering gray gaze and found his presence so compelling that they looked forward to hearing what he had to say and to agreeing with it or obeying – much the same way the women whose bedrooms he graced had no choice but to do.
Yet what did all that count to a woman like Emily, who seemed above such things as holding down a serious career and rather seemed to live life on the edge, without rules? And how could he tell if meeting her again was a sign from above or a simple insignificant coincidence that had no bearing on his life?
Well there’s only one way to find out, buddy
“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”
Emily replayed Chace’s invitation hours later as she tossed from side to side in her bed, unable to fall asleep.
There’d been something of arrogance in the slant of his lips and a commanding gleam in his gray eyes that told her it would be dangerous to accept. Her teasing expression had faded as she became slightly bemused by the predator Chace could be. Yet no matter how she’d wished she could say no to him, she’d done the exact opposite and agreed to meet him for dinner the next evening.
Emily wasn’t sure why. Maybe she was fed up trying to fight it. Whatever “it” was, she wasn’t even sure yet. She did know that to avoid any friction between them spilling out to Zane or Ciara, she and Chace had to work things out.
Emily couldn’t hold back a shudder thinking about that kiss out on the terrace. What in heaven’s name was it about Chace that made her turn vixen?
Unbidden images now filled her vision as she bit on her lip in the dimness of her bedroom. Images of the contrast of his light tan against her brown skin, his fingers tweaking her dusky nipples. His rock hard…
Oh hell. No way was she getting any sleep now. She might as well just douse herself in ice cubes from the way she felt heated from the neck down over that man.
What was she anyway, seventeen? Chace made her heart pound so fast, just like it had the first time they’d met. He’d seemed predatory and commanding back then, too.
Emily let her mind wander back to all those years ago.
That day…it was a shopping mall, wasn’t it
, mused Emily. She’d gone with friends, but as usual she’d strayed to a bookshop. Back then she could count it as one place could feel at home. So while her friends checked out the bag shops, Emily was hunting for the nearby library to pass the time.
It was on that random morning at that busy center Emily had met the one who would steal her heart and never give it back.
She’d noticed the three friends, guys around her age, chatting as they exited a restaurant. Emily hadn’t taken much in except they looked the preppy sort, with their glossy locks and deep laughter behind expensive glasses. Still, her attention had been caught by the most striking of the three.
He stood at an impressive height of over six feet.
Emily couldn’t tell if he’d noticed her or not as she walked by, not being able to tell from behind his designer shades. Not that she flattered herself thinking she was anything to stare at.
Next to him, she actually felt short especially in her ballet flats. Now she wished she’d made more effect than just her fitted harem pants and wrap top with her wild curls barely contained in a bun.
Thankfully the spell was broken once she walked past him, never realizing he’d noticed her, too. Much later, Chace would tell her how he’d parted from his friends and followed her into the bookshop, only to find her seated cross-legged on the thick carpet at the back in the poetry section.
Emily smiled recalling that by chance, she’d picked an author they were both familiar with. She’d heard his deep voice behind her suggest a particular chapter and her head had shot around. He’d lowered on his haunches and she’d recognized him from his hair and clothes. But then he took off his sunglasses and she’d been slammed by those gorgeous gray eyes lightly flecked with almost transparent blue.
She’d never seen a man more beautiful – and even now Emily still felt the magnetic hold of Chace’s dark, irresistible beauty. It was later she found out they were even in the same high school with a year between them.
Remembering the silken taste of his lips from earlier, Emily groaned and pressed the pillow to her chest, mostly to still the pounding of her heart, but also in the hope to tame the almost painful tightening of her nipples.
God, she could just scream
Not once since she saw Chace again had she had the chance to moon over her ex. She’d barely spared the handsome Devan a single thought in days. Her friends who’d expected to see her moping around over her sexy chocolate-skinned ex would have seizures if they found out she was fantasizing about rough sex in the sheets with her gray-eyed, hot white high school sweetheart.
Girl, you need fixing up in the brain
, Emily told herself as with one last surge of determination she threw the covers over her head and willed sleep to come.
If Emily was being completely honest, then she’d confess she’d known deep down how that dinner date would end – with her and Chace having red-hot, possibly criminal, unrepentant sex.
She’d known it as she’d slipped into her ultra-feminine black pumps and pink, tight-fitting dress. She liked bold colors and her wardrobe – including her underwear, showed it. Her makeup was sultry, but not heavy. Her body had been tingling all over with excitement up till the moment she arrived at the high class restaurant.
It was the kind you probably had to book a table at months in advance. Incredibly spacious, yet with few tables, it gave more than enough sense of privacy and elbow room. Emily’s first glimpse of Chace as he rose to greet her had sent those butterflies buzzing in droves within her stomach.
The way his gaze traveled over her in frank appreciation made Emily suddenly wish they were alone. It was in that moment, she feared she might be caving in faster than ever.
“I wasn’t sure you’d make it,” Chace said. “I’m glad you did. You look stunning, Emily.”
“Thank you.” She allowed a smile. “You look dashing yourself. And why wouldn’t I make it? I’m not the type to go back on my word.”
“I certainly appreciate it. I feel like we have so much we need to discuss. But first, some wine?”
Emily nodded demurely. The genteel rapport between them belied what truly rippled beneath the surface. With a date that looked as edible as him, it was a wonder Emily had any appetite for actual food or drink – especially when she’d rather be nibbling on
Not that she could make it blatant how slippery Chace made her panties feel. Instead she played it cool and tried to keep topics to the present. She really didn’t want them bringing up the past. Not here, where the food tasted divine and the wine went straight to her head, pleasurably.
She knew Chace would be a stimulating companion and she was right. He didn’t have to say much or run on with endless conversation. With just a glance, a brush of his hand, or a tilted smile, he let her know the depth of his thoughts.
There was truly no denying that their original chemistry had far from ebbed. And each minute they spent together heightened the keenness of their mutual attraction.
They talked about topics that interested them, books, arts, and music. But what their eyes really said and what lay beneath the husky heat of their tone were the words,
I want you
The heat between Emily’s legs throbbed faster. She could almost feel Chace’s desire, taste it. What had started as a simple dinner was turning into a joint case of eye-sex.
Biting on her lip, Emily looked away and tried to reason with herself. Was she losing her mind? Maybe celibacy did that to a woman sometimes, but damn it hadn’t been that long since her time with Dev. She’d shown up thinking she could act all casual, but it was backfiring disastrously. Now she couldn’t curb her utter lust for Chace.
This is crazy
Get over yourself, woman
, Emily huffed internally.
Just stop this
Her eyes shifted instantly to meet Chace’s. His stare was compelling, making her throat dry. “What is it about you and me that’s got you spooked?” he asked.
“You and me,” Emily echoed with a soft laugh, then snatched up her flute and took a needed gulp. “I think you know the answer to that. It’s complicated. We’re complicated.”
A frown creased Chace’s brow. “It’s always bothered me how things ended between us. Believe me, there was never a time when I didn’t wish I handled it all differently. Yet we’re here now. Should we keep letting the past dictate the possibilities the future might hold?”