Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1) (7 page)

BOOK: Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1)
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CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

 

Langley

 

With the pricey address, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I stepped into Archer’s condo. The word condo didn’t adequately describe the sleek elegance sprawling out in front of me. Muted whites, grays, silver, and accents of gold created a soothing palate. I expected dark, masculine colors that announced his bachelor status.

“This isn’t what I expected.” I dropped my purse on the glass table in the entry, complete with a white potted orchid.

“It’s not?” he chuckled.

I rubbed my hands on the sides of my skirt as I absorbed every expertly coordinated detail. “No. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t look lived in or personal.”

“I know. I hired an interior designer friend, and I think she decorated as though she planned to move in someday. It’s a little too feminine and sterile for my taste.”

I sucked in a breath. His comment said more than I wanted to know about any of his previous entanglements. How pathetic. Jealousy slithered down my spine like the serpent tempting Eve with the forbidden fruit. I didn’t have a right or reason to be jealous. We’d gone on a few dates that ended with a couple of kisses, hardly commitment material. My feelings weren’t rational, but acknowledging that didn’t make the unpleasant feeling in my gut any less real.

He tried to make eye contact. I avoided him as my gaze rolled over every item someone else had selected for him.

Golden starburst pillows.

A full-length walnut mirror propped against the entry wall.

The hammered silver coffee table cluster.

Meaningless leather bound books chosen for color not content.

“Maybe a little,” I said breezily, trying to wash away any lingering uncomfortable feelings with my overly cheery tone. It didn’t work.

Toying with the cuffs of his slightly wrinkled light-blue shirt, his dark eyes studied me. “I texted the concierge my normal order plus a couple things I thought you might like. He’ll bring up our food in forty-five minutes or so, depending on how busy the restaurant is. Is that okay with you?”

“Sounds great,” I said, my voice flat. I folded my arms across my chest and leaned against the waterfall stainless steel countertop on the kitchen island. When did I become so fragile that one little comment sent my confidence into a downward spiral?

I turned away as he sauntered toward me. A medley of aqua glass and stainless tiles ran the length of the backsplash. The glare of the incandescent lighting reflected from the shiny materials, creating little starbursts of light on the medium-brown horizontal grained cabinets.

“Did the comment about the interior designer upset you?”

My cheeks heated. “Not really. I have thick skin. Don’t worry about me.” It was the truth. Living with my mom forced me to grow a tortoise-like shell around my heart. I hated that he pierced it so easily. “Besides, it isn’t my business. We hardly know each other.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

I ran my finger over the smooth countertop, still not meeting his heavy gaze. “It’s not important.”

His hands looped around my waist, and he pulled my back against his chest. His spicy scent infiltrated the air around me, ensuring I couldn’t ignore him even if his touch didn’t do the trick.

“Truly, she was only a friend. I suspected she wanted more, and that’s why she’s not part of my life anymore. If it annoys you, I’ll change some of the stuff in here, make it more mine.”

I spun within the confines of his arms. “That’s silly. You don’t have to do that for a woman you just met. They’re just things, and if you don’t think they mean anything, I believe you.”

He cradled my face with his long-fingered hands like I was precious cargo, and even if his eyes weren’t smoldering with desire, I would’ve been a goner. When was the last time someone looked at me like that? Like they wanted me. Like I was special. Like I was worth the trouble. Maybe never, or maybe it had been so long that it seemed like never.

“It’s not a big deal. I don’t love everything anyway, and I want you to be comfortable at my place, not turning every corner imagining another woman’s dreams in everything you see.”

His lashes lowered, and all of his concentration focused on me with swoon-worthy attention to detail, thawing me from the inside out. At that instant, I realized I was in trouble—in trouble of really falling for Archer. My heart raced and my hands trembled as I circled my arms around his waist, beneath his suit jacket but over his shirt.

One hand still cupped my face as he tangled the other one into my hair. We stood frozen in painful anticipation, his mouth hovering inches from mine, and then he kissed me gently, lovingly even, one beautiful brush of his lips at a time. His lips were warm, and his breath smelled minty. I wanted to taste more of him…all of him.

My tongue darted out of my mouth, licking the seam of his lips. Then, without a second to process the consequence of my actions, the kiss tumbled into a frantic tug of war that successfully wiped my mind of any kiss I had shared with any other man before Archer. Stroke by stroke, we consumed each other.

Nothing compared.

Nothing came close.

Our tongues danced in perfect synchronicity as though we were created for each other. We couldn’t get deep enough. We couldn’t get close enough, but it didn’t stop me from trying to feed the lust burning inside of me like I stood on the threshold of the second circle of hell.

We pushed and pulled at each other, desperate to purge even one centimeter of distance between our bodies. I tugged at the hem of his shirt and ripped it from the waistband of his pants, burrowing my hands underneath the material. My blunt cut nails scored the rope-like muscles along his spine. My innate internal defenses hadn’t merely lowered; they had plummeted shamelessly and uncontrollably like a meteor caught in the earth’s gravitational field.

Archer’s hand traced the side of my face, my neck, my collarbone, only stopping his exploratory descent when he reached the side of my breast. His lips coasted to my neck, nibbling, tasting, and licking. Like a well-orchestrated magic trick, my body responded to his non-verbal commands. Goosebumps showered my arms. My nipples tightened, and my breath stuck in my throat before whooshing out in one giant leap that suspiciously resembled a moan.

Ding.

The noise hardly penetrated my Archer-induced fog of lust. My hands fumbled with the top button of his shirt as my eyes locked on his face, savoring every angle of his savagely beautiful face, taut with desire. I wanted, needed, and craved every part of him, and I was long past caring about the repercussions. One button, two buttons, and then three, and my eyes raked over the sinful expanse of his chest exposed for my viewing pleasure.

Ding.

Then, it was his turn. He slid my shirt up, but didn’t limit himself to looking. His lips sealed over my lace-covered nipple. My eyes fluttered closed, and I arched my back, drowning in the all-consuming burst of pleasure. My world narrowed on him, on us, and each and every stroke and suck of his too skilled mouth. Wobbly, lightheaded, I clung to him, basking in the sensations he lured so effortlessly from my all too willing body.

Ding
.

“Shit,” Archer said, stepping away from me, rubbing his hands along the sides of his thighs.

“What?” I said, my body sagging. Without the countertop behind me for support, I would’ve tumbled to the floor. My breath exited my lungs in jagged, uneven pants.

“The food.”

Dizzy and out of focus, my mind spun, unraveling his words as though he had spoken Sanskrit instead two simple English words.

Food?

What food?

Crap, the sushi Archer ordered.

No, no, no.
I had never hated sushi as much as I did at that moment. I didn’t want anything to interrupt where we were headed. I wanted to continue the plunge into the world where only Archer and I existed. My fingers dove into my hair, raking the tangled strands away from my face. “Right. Sushi.”

He closed the distance between us again and stroked the skin of my lower lip, the brief touch almost unbearable when he had no intention of continuing his attentions.

“Don’t look so disappointed, Langley.” His hand dropped and he walked backward toward the front door. “The night isn’t over yet.”

His promise was a double-edged sword. I wanted more of what Archer offered, but part of me wanted to hold Archer at bay a little longer, testing the waters before I dove in with reckless abandon. He’d steal my heart without trying, and I didn’t know if he’d offer his in return.

Since my dad died, love seemed like a commodity in short supply. My mom cared. Maybe my stepdad did too, but I could never quite convince myself that either of them loved me in the same unconditional all-encompassing way my dad did. More often than not, I felt like a prop in their Norman Rockwell audition on the never-ending campaign trail rather than a treasured member of the Wharton family.

If I gave into Archer and our relationship soured, he’d break what little spirit I had left after that Brandon debacle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

 

Archer

 

After we ate dinner, Langley fell asleep on my couch halfway through some chick flick she forced me to watch. The best and safest option would involve waking her up and arranging my car service to shuttle her back to her house, but I had no intention of doing that. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

Curled into a ball with her arms cradling a pillow, her long golden hair framed her face with soft waves. She looked almost angelic. She was the perfect combination of her dad’s famous golden coloring and her mom’s petite, delicate features.

I pulled the gray throw blanket over her legs and retreated to my study to touch base with Knox. At my desk, I popped open the bottle of Ibuprofen stashed in the middle drawer and washed three pills down with the last sip of my wine.

I rubbed the back of my neck and then called Knox. It was well past midnight, but Knox would answer my call. He always did.

“Knox, it’s Archer.”

“I know who it is. I have caller ID on my cell phone like the rest of the world. Besides, you’re the only person who wouldn’t think twice about calling me this late.”

“I think I’m the only person who calls you.” I leaned back in my chair. Knox had tons of acquaintances, but not many friends. The women he dated rarely made it beyond date three. Knox joked that after three dates they expected things like a relationship and gifts. He didn’t want anything permanent, so he cut them loose before the demands started accumulating.

“True. So how’d the date go?” Knox asked, his voice sounding more awake than ten seconds earlier.

“Technically, it’s still going,” I replied dryly.

Knox chuckled. “I’m impressed. I guess that part of your plan is progressing smoothly. You’re lucky she isn’t hard on the eyes, otherwise you would’ve had to lower your standards.”

“It’s not what you’re thinking. She fell asleep. I don’t want to wake her.” Truthfully, if she hadn’t fallen asleep, I had every intention of continuing where we left off before the food delivery interrupted us.

“Since when are you chivalrous?” he said sarcastically.

“Are you finished, or you still trying to make a point?”

“As a matter of fact, I do have a point to make.”

“And what’s that?” I responded, pinching the bridge of my nose.

“I think you should focus on Senator Wharton and leave Langley out of your plans.”

“Did you have a sudden attack of conscience? Why the hell would I do that?”

“Because you like her,” he said belatedly, his voice tentative.

An image of Langley swam before my over-tired eyes. “You’re wrong,” I snapped, even though both of us knew it was a blatant lie. I more than liked Langley, which explained why I’d spent the better part of the week avoiding her and two hours tracking her down tonight when it looked like she wanted to end things.

Every time Knox asked about Langley this week, I nearly ripped his head off. I didn’t want to talk about her. My feelings were messy and complicated. I needed her to get to Senator Wharton, but I also wanted her for reasons wholly unrelated to him.

To make matters worse, after meeting her last weekend, I felt ridiculously possessive and protective of her, which wasn’t a good sign, because destroying Senator Wharton would mean ripping her life apart. I wish things were different, that Senator Wharton wasn’t part of either of our lives, but no amount of wishing would alter reality.

She wouldn’t want anything to do with me when I exposed Senator Wharton and destroyed his political career, and the idea of Langley hating me left a sour taste in my mouth. Even though I knew it was for the best, my gut hollowed at the loss of something I could never have. If I were smart, I wouldn’t touch her or make love to her—something I wanted more with each passing second I spent with her.

“Am I?”

“Absolutely. She’s attractive. She’s an above average conversationalist, but she’s related to
him
.” And that was exactly why I needed to kill any emotional investment I had in Langley before it got out of hand.

“Fine.”

Grateful he didn’t press the issue, my shoulders relaxed. “Tell me about the surveillance.”

“Senator Wharton has someone keeping loose tabs on Langley, but he’s not actively watching you. In fact, you don’t even register on his radar.”

“What do you mean by loose?”

“Nothing intrusive. A car follows her to and from work. Tonight, the car followed her to the bar and then to the front of your building.” Knox’s experience and connections from his time in Naval Intelligence were invaluable.

I twirled the stem of my empty wine glass. “Is the car still outside my place right now?”

“I don’t know. I went to bed an hour ago. I can reach out to our surveillance team now, or I can wait to review the emailed report in the morning. Which would you prefer?”

“Tomorrow will work. Nothing’s going to happen tonight anyway.”

“Nope.” The silence echoed through the phone. “Which makes me wonder the real reason you woke me up in the middle of the night.”

“I know where you’re going with this, and I’ve had enough.”

“Where am I going?”

“You’re circling the conversation back to Langley,” I retorted.

“I think we should focus on Senator Wharton. We don’t need Langley. He has plenty of career-ending skeletons hidden in his closet. We’ll be able to uncover a big one in no time. I’ve been investigating his connections to the financier the FBI arrested last month. I think there’s something there.”

“I know there’s something there, but I don’t want Senator Wharton to be the next President of the United States by the time the pieces come together. If we can’t stop his election, every piece of evidence we uncover will be buried under miles of administrative tape, and he’ll have every governmental agency under the sun climbing up my ass the minute he’s sworn into office. The SEC, IRS, DEA, FBI—you name it. They’ll all be clamoring for a piece of Black Investments and me. It’d be a fucking mess.” I rubbed my temples as I contemplated the nightmarish implications of a Wharton presidency.

“So what do you want to do?”

“I want to explore every angle and I’ll make a final decision later. In the meantime, put a tail on Langley too. Maybe we’re missing something.” Indecision normally wasn’t a problem for me. When I started this whole thing, I wanted to ruin Senator Wharton and everyone in his life, which naturally included Langley. But that was before I met her, tasted her, caressed her golden skin, and craved her more than my next breath. Before I’d seen the mixed reaction, both sadness and hate, swirl in her emerald eyes at the mention of Senator Wharton’s name.

To make matters more complicated, she was sweet, nice even. Way too fucking good for me. Instead of spending the last four years living off her stepdad, waist-deep in the life of a socialite, she put her degree and training to work. She accepted an entry-level physical therapist position. Most people with millions of dollars banked in a trust fund wouldn’t live off a low-paying job when thirty years old was right around the corner.

She didn’t deserve my hatred, and she certainly didn’t deserve to be used. But was I actually using her? It sure as hell didn’t feel that way. If my inability to stop thinking about her was any indication, I wasn’t. I groaned inwardly. I needed to focus on the end goal, not my need for Langley.

“Got it,” Knox finally replied. “Call me tomorrow.”

BOOK: Sins of My Father (Black Brothers #1)
9.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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