Read Hardcore: Volume 1 Online

Authors: Staci Hart

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Romantic Erotica, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Hardcore: Volume 1 (5 page)

BOOK: Hardcore: Volume 1
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But I couldn’t stop yet.

Jill crossed my mind again, and guilt followed for not trying harder to really be there for her. I wanted to give her more, I just didn’t know how. She was the only thing I really cared about, the closest anyone could get, besides Erin. But even Erin I kept just far enough away.
 

Relationships are scary. They’re work. They require you to give something of yourself, open a window for someone to climb in. I just couldn’t help but feel like that intrusion would be closer to a robbery than a rendezvous. Nothing could convince me to risk it. That window was closed and locked, but not painted shut. Just left abandoned and forgotten, dusty and covered in grime.

I thought of
him
and blinked up at the ceiling, startled that the train of thought would summon his face.
 

My pattern with relationships was predictable: dates, hookups, nothing past the surface. It wasn’t always easy to manage, so often ending messy, and I found contentment with Erin. Our relationship was simple and easy, requiring no work, no maintenance. It just existed, and that was the maximum that I could contribute.

I closed my eyes and was back on the roof with his lips against mine. I wet my lips, felt my face soften.

What are you running from?

My answer: Everything.

I’d been thinking about him all day, replaying it all again and again, and I let myself, trying to convince my rational self that I was just shelving it with the spank bank material in a futile attempt to not let it get to me. As if permission to think about him would somehow lessen his power. I wanted to know his name, but then that was part of the draw, too. It was the mystery that kept me wondering. It had to be.

I sighed and curled my fingers where they rested against the soft skin between my panties and tank top, imagining his breath against my neck. Goosebumps prickled when I traced my fingertips in small circles, toying with the hem of my panties with his lips on my mind, slipping my hand inside as the image of him filled my thoughts, on his knees in the dark with his hands on his cock.

I touched my clit, pressing softly as I ran circles with the pad of my finger, and my back arched just a bit when my hips rolled. I slipped my finger down my pussy, then back up, slow. I was hot and slick, and I pressed my palm against my tender clit.

I thought about his hand on my jacket, remembering the feeling of his fingers against the small of my back when he tightened his grip and pulled me onto his cock. I dipped a finger inside, then another, finding a rhythm between my hand and hips. My free hand trailed up my body to my nipples, and I pinched and rolled, yanked down the low neck of my tank to touch myself. My thighs clenched, drawing my fingers in deeper. They were my hands, his hands that brought me closer, and I arched my neck, remembering what it was like to be so full, stretched and taken. I curled my finger, rubbing the sensitive spot inside in a steady tempo until I couldn’t breathe, and my pussy contracted around my fingers, squeezing fast at first, then slower, finally leaving me with lingering shudders as I stroked my body.

In that moment of satisfaction, I knew only one thing. I could tell myself all day that I didn’t want more of him, that what happened didn’t affect me. But it was a lie.
 

MY STOMACH DROPPED OUT of my ass when a car door opened in front of me, and I swerved on my bike to miss getting taken out. A cabbie laid on his horn when he slammed his brakes to avoid nailing me, and I flipped him off over my shoulder, turning the corner just as double bass drum and a guitar rip wailed out of the portable speaker hooked on my messenger strap.

The day had been long and busy, which wasn’t typical. The need for messengers had been on the decline over the last few years. There were fewer legal papers and letters to deliver, leaving mostly actual goods: shoes for a fashion show, blueprints for a meeting, things that were late or needed to get somewhere in a hurry.

My radio went off from its pocket in my strap, and Sam’s voice came through the tinny speaker. “Got another run for you when you’re finished with the drop you’re on. Check the app for the details.”
 

I hit the button and sped up. “Roger, boss.”

Erin’s voice came through the speaker. “Aye, aye, aye! Ride, bitch!”

A laugh ripped out of me, and I hit the button to answer. “Haul your sweet ass. See you at home in a few hours.”

“Rrrrrrodger dodger!”

Sam barked over the radio. “Stop jamming up the lines fucking around, please!”

Erin just laughed. “Sir, yes, sir!”

The apartment building that I stopped in front of was a gorgeous gothic building with wide, silver letters that read
The Kyle Building.
I locked my bike and pulled out a legal envelope as I headed for the door, which was propped open by a portly, middle-aged man in a red coat with brass buttons.

“Delivery?” he asked when I passed.

“Yeah, for a … ” I glanced down at the envelope. “Sullivan Collins.”

“Mr. Collins is on the sixteenth floor.” He motioned to the elevator well. “You can find your way up just over there.”

“Thanks…” I glanced down at his shiny name tag, “George.”

“Happy to help, Miss.” He smiled with a tip of his hat.

I couldn’t help but smile back as I headed for the elevator, a little lighter. Most people saw messengers as a nuisance, annoyed by the inconvenience of our presence, so when someone actually treated you like a person, it was like getting a full-sized Milky Way in your trick-or-treat bag.
 

Once in the elevator, I pulled out my iPad to check the next address, then opened the app for the signature. The elevator doors opened, and I walked briskly to 1622, where I knocked on the door with my mind already routing me to my next job.

But then the door opened, and every single thought left me, along with my ability to function.

It was him.

The image in my mind from the roof hadn’t even remotely done him justice. I stood for what could have been seconds or minutes with my mouth hanging open as I stared at him, lingering on his eyes, rich brown and gold with flecks of green. His hair was dark, almost black, pushed back from his face, the sides shaved short. The line of his jaw, his brow, his lips pulled into a smile, every curve on his face told me something supremely fucked up.

He’d planned the meeting.

I took a step back, my voice low when I broke the silence. “What in the fuck?”

“I, ah …” He ran a hand through his hair, even though it hadn’t moved. His smile faltered as he looked down at me.

“How the fuck did you find me?” I demanded with my body wound tight.

“Listen, I—”


How
did you find me?”

He shifted on his feet, and his voice lowered a hair, his body tightening at my response. “Chase— I mean, a parkour buddy of mine knows one of your friends, recognized her the other night. We figured out who the rest of you were, and then … well, you weren’t hard to track down.”

Every neuron in my brain fired at once. “This is the single most creepy fucking thing that has ever happened to me.” I handed him the envelope and iPad. “Sign for this.”

He didn’t take it, just shook his head and looked at his shoes when he raked a hand through his hair again. “Fuck,” he whispered. “I’d somehow convinced myself that this was romantic.”

“Wrong answer. Sign this.” I pushed them at him, nudging him in the chest.

His eyes locked onto mine. “Just come inside for one second so I can explain.”

“I’m working, and you’re fucking crazy. I’m not coming inside. Now fucking sign this or I’m leaving with your delivery.”

His lips were a flat line as he nodded and took the iPad and envelope. When he stepped back into his apartment and looked at me with an apology behind his eyes, I realized my mistake. “I’ll sign it after you come in and let me explain. Give me five minutes.”
 

My nostrils flared. He was hot,
so
hot, but I couldn’t even fathom what he had gone through to find me. The sick part was that a tiny slice of me wanted to see him again. How could I not after shocking, confusing, adrenaline-fueled random sex on a rooftop? But he’d taken ‘creep’ to the next level. I wanted to leave, to get the fuck out and run. But he knew my name and where I worked. He had my fucking iPad. And I had a feeling he wasn’t going to give it up until I heard him out.

“You have five minutes.” I blew past him and into his apartment, too pissed to fully appreciate the beauty of the space.

Black wood floor stretched wall to wall in the open room, the kitchen and living room visible. Several tall windows spanned the long wall, looking out over Manhattan, and in between were massive photographs in black and white. Off to the side looked to be a small gallery with a huge painting showcased in the center, rectangles in shades of cobalt blue with the bottom rectangle in deep, blood red. A Rothko, if I was guessing right. If it was, I was certain that single piece of art was worth millions.
 

Hot and loaded.
Great.

I folded my arms across my chest, anxious to maintain some level of control as I tracked him across the room, noting that he’d left a path to the door clear. My eyes lingered on the entryway before finding his again. “Say what you need to say.”

He took a breath and stood up a little straighter. The action stretched his Henley a bit tighter across his wide chest, and he set his jaw. He looked determined, and I shifted, sending the sentiment right back at him.
 

“I turned around and you were gone, just like that. But I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I had to know who you were, and when I met back up with the guys, one of them said they knew your friend Morgan. They used to run together, and he remembered meeting you. I found out your name and that you were a messenger, and once I had that, it was easy to get you here.”

I just stood there, trying not to explode. “This is so fucked up.”

He ran a hand over his mouth. “I don’t know why I expected you to be happy to see me, not after you ran. Not after you wouldn’t give me your name.”

“Me neither.”

He stared at me, his eyes so intense that I almost buckled under the pressure. “I’m Van.”

His name reverberated through my body. “You already know my name.”

“Yeah, but I want you to tell me.”

“Why should I?”

He held up the iPad and gave it a little shake. “Well, I do have this.”

“Yeah, I don’t know if my dignity is worth that.”

His lips twitched into a small smile. “You weren’t too worried about it on the roof.”

“Fuck you, man.” I stepped toward the door.

He didn’t move to follow me. “What are you afraid of?”

I stopped dead and glared at him. “I’m not afraid.”

He stepped toward me, and energy snapped between us. He stopped close enough that I could smell him. The proximity overloaded my senses. “Tell me your name.”

“Cory,” I answered, my voice soft. I cleared my throat and looked away. “Will you fucking sign now? I have another job, and you’re wasting my time.”

He touched my braid that hung over my shoulder, grazing my breast. “Tell me you didn’t think about me again.”

I swallowed and looked him in the eye. “I can’t.”

He was quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry I sprang this on you.”

“Yeah, well, you should be.”

He looked down at me with eyes so deep and dark, I thought I might drown in them. “I want to see you again.”

“Not possible.” I took a step away to break the connection, and my braid slipped from his fingers. I looked at my watch to hide my discomfort. “Five minutes is up. I did what you asked, now sign that.”

His face was unreadable as he nodded and looked down to sign his name. He handed the iPad and envelope back to me.

“This is for you.”

I rolled my eyes and snatched them both with plans to throw the envelope in the first trashcan I came to. “Of course it is. What exactly did you expect me to do?”

He shrugged and smiled, though it faded as he spoke. “I was hoping for some heavy petting, maybe a marriage proposal for my ingenuity. I would have settled for a date, though. I definitely didn’t expect knives out, but now that we’re here, it’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“That’s the smartest thing you’ve said to me.” I turned for the door. “How about you don’t stalk me anymore?”

“On one condition.”

I paused with my hand on the doorknob and looked back at him.

“Say my name, just once.”

My heart kicked into gear, the tension between us like a physical tie. “Van.” I’d wanted to sound hard, pissed, but the word was almost a promise.

He waited through a breath. “Change your mind. Go out with me.”

I clenched my teeth. “Not in a million years.” I turned the doorknob, stepped into the posh hallway, and slammed the door behind me.
 

When I came to a trashcan on the sidewalk next to my bike, I had every intention of throwing the envelope in, but somehow it ended up in my pack instead. I pedaled my way through Manhattan trying to run my anger down, but each turn of my gears only pushed my temperature higher. By the time the day was done and I was walking into the loft, the world was parting like the Red Sea to let me through.

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