Heiress Behind the Headlines (22 page)

BOOK: Heiress Behind the Headlines
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He let his hands move to her hips, anchoring her in front of him, as if she might try to run for the street.

“I am an ass,” he said, distinctly. She sucked in a shocked sort of breath. But she didn’t pull away. “You are the only woman who has ever gotten to me.”

“The only one who walked away from you, you mean,” she interjected.

“Repeatedly,” he agreed. He searched her face. “And still I can’t stay away from you. I can’t bear to be apart from you. I think I’ve been in love with you since we met at that party more than five years ago.”

“You wouldn’t know love if it bit you!” she hissed at him, but he could see the storm gathering in her, dark and wild, like the rains that swept across his beloved island, and that cold, hard knot in his solar plexus began to ease.

“Then why don’t you bite me, Larissa, and see what happens,” he suggested. She flushed, and he felt that fear loosen even more. He took her hands in his, pulling them up to his chest. Holding her gaze, he kissed each one. “I love you. I do. I don’t know how to prove it to you, but I will. Give me the chance, and I will. I promise.”

She stared at him. Hours might have passed. Days. She let out a long breath, and then she started and looked around them. They were standing in the center of the dance floor, in the middle of one of the biggest parties of the year. They
were not exactly hidden. If he was worried about being seen with her, it was clearly already too late. He could see the speculation, hear the murmurs. No doubt, she could, too. She reddened slightly, and looked back at him.

“You are making a scene,” she hissed at him, but there was something else in her eyes. Something he recognized. The truth of Larissa Whitney, the one, he thought with satisfaction, that only he knew.

“I don’t care,” he replied.

And she smiled. Not that mysterious, calculated smile that she used as her armor, but something real. It was beautiful and rare, and it lit up her face, and him and the whole of Manhattan. It made him feel like flying. It made him think he already was.

“You say that now,” she teased him. “But you haven’t experienced the true joy of being the focus of so many evil New York City gossips in some time, have you?”

“Then we’d better give them something to talk about,” he said. He took her in his arms again, dipped her to hear a delighted peal of laughter pour from her like the sweetest, purest bell, and then, at last, in full view of Manhattan’s finest and wealthiest, he kissed her.

The new year was still in its infancy and they moved together in the wide bed, tucked up on the second floor of Scatteree Pines while a snowstorm swirled against the bay windows outside. Inside, they were safe and warm. Hot, as they teased each other with their mouths, hands, bodies.

Larissa had never felt like this—so much, so bright, nothing hidden. Jack moved inside her, around her, and she clung to him and found herself made new with every thrust, every slide of skin against skin, every time they fell over the edge of the world together.

“I love you,” she murmured drowsily against his perfect
chest much later, while the snow still spiraled down from the dark sky and the wind howled over the lonely hill, cocooning them on this desolate island together. Just where she wanted to stay. She smiled against his skin, his heartbeat beneath her cheek.

His hand moved lazily down her back, and she arched slightly against it, boneless and replete.

“You’ll have to marry me,” he said, as if he’d given the matter a great deal of thought. As if there had been some debate.

Perhaps there had been—but not, Larissa thought, recently. They were too much the same. From the very same world, even possessed of the same kind of pasts. So there was only the future for them, clear and golden. She had no doubt.

“Only if you promise me one thing,” she said, shifting against him so she could look up at him, his dark brown eyes still bright with passion as he gazed back at her.

“Anything,” he said, his voice a rasp in the shadowed room, a rumble beneath her. Oh, this man. This impossible, maddening, perfect man. She’d had no idea it was even possible to love this much. And she’d never had another person love her so absolutely. So wholly. As if she had never been ruined at all. As if she was brand-new and squeaky clean, inside and out.

The longer he loved her, the more she thought she might just believe it, after all.

“I want only the most deadly dull society affair,” she said, smiling at him. “The full, traditional spectacle. Every recognizable name in New York. Rockefellers and Roosevelts. A five-mile train and six dozen handpicked bridesmaids with perfect pedigrees.”

Jack laughed. “Why would you want such a thing?” he
asked. “It sounds like a nightmare. Your nightmare, to be precise. And, let me assure you, mine.”

“I don’t want there to be any doubt,” she said, tracing a finger over his delicious mouth. “I don’t want anyone to think that this is a mistake, or that I somehow tricked you into this with my evil wiles.”

“But you did,” he said, pulling her finger into his mouth to suck at it for a searingly hot moment, and then bringing her face to his, and kissing her. “You did it years ago, and I’ve been at a loss ever since.”

Larissa smiled against his mouth. “I want to treat it the way the rest of them do, the way your grandfather always wanted you to do. A great and financially sound merger of two storied American families, as expected since our births.”

“That doesn’t sound like you at all,” he said, framing her face with his hands, his eyes searching hers. “I want to marry
you,
Larissa. Not some fantasy version of you, tidied up for wider consumption.”

He meant that, she thought, with a wonder that only grew, and never seemed to dull. He truly meant that.

“It will be our wedding gift to our families,” she told him. She leaned over the side of the bed, and rummaged around until she found what she was looking for. Holding the handcuffs in her hand, she rolled back to Jack, and smiled.

A real smile. Wicked, but real.

“But the marriage …” she whispered. She crawled over him to clip one strong wrist to the iron headboard. She let her hands smooth their way back down his chest, and straddled him, making him groan as he hardened against her once more. “The marriage is just for us,” she said, and rolled her hips to take him deep inside herself.

She set an easy, unhurried pace, and he met it, his eyes
bright on hers. And that electric kick of heat burst into flame again, immolation and celebration, all of it theirs. Jack pulled against the handcuff, letting it clank loudly against the iron. He laughed when she stopped moving, her hands braced on his abdomen as she stared down at him, as if she expected him to complain.

“I told you,” he said. “There’s nothing you’ve done that I haven’t done first. You can’t shock me, Larissa, no matter what you do.” His smile was crooked and sweet, golden like the sun, and all hers. She believed him. His dark brows rose in challenge. Daring her. His eyes loved her—all of her. “But you can always try.”

And so she did.

* * * * *

All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.

All Rights Reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises II BV/S.à.r.l. The text of this publication or any part thereof may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, storage in an information retrieval system, or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the prior consent of the publisher in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

® and TM are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owner and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with ® are registered with the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countries.

First published in Great Britain 2011
by Mills & Boon, an imprint of Harlequin (UK) Limited,
Eton House, 18-24 Paradise Road, Richmond, Surrey TW9 1SR

© Caitlin Crews 2011

ISBN: 978-1-408-92616-1

BOOK: Heiress Behind the Headlines
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