Authors: Lauren Jameson
|Surrender to Temptation Part IV: Tempted to Entice|
|Penguin Group US (2013)|
Surrender to Temptation
Part I: Tempted to Submit
Part II: Tempted to Rebel
Part III: Tempted to Obey
Part IV: Tempted to Entice
Surrender to Temptation
Tempted to Entice
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TEMPTED TO ENTICE
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
InterMix eBook edition / January 2013
Surrender to Temptation
copyright © 2013 by Lauren Jameson.
copyright © 2013 by Lauren Jameson.
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Zach had done it again.
I knew that it was slightly irrational, since I was the one who had stormed out of his office, but I had hoped that he would show up at my tiny new apartment, or come by my desk in the accounting office, or even send me a text message. Something to tell me that he was sorry, that it had all been a mistake, and that he wanted to let me in—truly let me in—to his life.
As the days passed by, five and a half of them, to be precise, I came to understand that an overture from Zach just wasn’t going to happen. The billionaire was nothing if not stubborn and set in his incredibly eccentric ways.
Crushed as I was, I knew that I needed to pick up the shattered pieces and try to start living my life again. The problem with that plan was that life without Zach in it seemed fuzzy and dull, lacking something important.
That missing element was Zach. But as long as he ran hot and cold, with those mercurial mood swings giving me whiplash, I didn’t see that I had a choice.
I remembered the very first time we had met, in the small restaurant in Cambria. He had done it even then, coming on to me only to walk away.
It was exhausting.
Listlessly, I tapped away on my computer late in the afternoon of the sixth day. On day five, in a moment of personal crisis, I had stopped into a small clothing store on my way home from work after a sexy, crimson wraparound blouse in the window had caught my eye. That blouse was now wrapped around my own ample curves, and I felt uncomfortable and conspicuous in the unabashedly sexy top. I missed my habitual, severe black.
I had noticed Tony eyeing me from the corner of my sight line all day. I couldn’t be mad, since the cleavage spilling from my shirt invited attention that I didn’t particularly want.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I wanted it, but the one man I wanted it from wasn’t prepared to give it to me.
The clock told me that it was four thirty. Only another half an hour, and then I could escape the office building, where everything reminded me of Zach.
Right. I could escape the office, only to go home and think about him endlessly, reminders or not.
Get a grip, Devon.
Grinding my teeth so hard that I could hear the noise of the friction, I chugged a sip of the ice-cold coffee that had been sitting on my desk since that morning and turned back to my computer with what I hoped was renewed focus. When I wasn’t miserable and mooning over Zachariah St. Brenton, I actually really liked my job, and I didn’t want to lose it, not now that I had signed a lease on a place of my own. It was a tiny studio apartment, and the monthly rent was double what I had paid in Sacramento.
But it was not a cheap motel room. No, it was all mine.
As I set my coffee cup down, I caught the eye of Mrs. Gallagher. When I had walked in that morning she had taken one look at my red blouse, sighed heavily, and walked away. Since then, I had caught her staring at me with that concerned look etched in thick lines between her eyes—by now I knew that I wasn’t imagining it. She had even been very nearly pleasant in our interactions.
Her strange attitude hadn’t helped the sense that my life was off balance. Even now, as she pursed her lips in my direction, I wanted to scream. Though there was no way that she could know just how far my relationship with Zach had gone, she clearly suspected and disapproved, even as she felt pity toward me.
I didn’t want anyone feeling pity for me. If I couldn’t be in a relationship with Zach, pale as things seemed in the aftermath of our intense chemistry, I needed to move on with my life. And I didn’t want to lose sight of what I had gained since moving to San Francisco.
I looked at the clock. Twenty minutes. Just a small fraction of my workday, but at the moment they felt like an eternity.
I gave up on work. It just wasn’t going to happen. Instead I opened my e-mail browser and, after rubbing my temples with tense fingers, I set out to do what I had been trying to do for days.
I needed to get some sense of closure. I needed to have my say. Though, after our final encounter, I wasn’t sure if he would actually read my e-mail or not, but at least I would have tried.
From: Reid, Devon [[email protected]]
Sent: Friday, 4:53 PM
To: St. Brenton, Zachariah [[email protected]]
I’ll keep this brief . . . I don’t know if you will even read it or not. If you are reading, then I want you to know that I’m sorry. I didn’t meet with Tom to upset you. I certainly didn’t invite him here, but since he showed up I thought it was a good opportunity to tell him the things that I didn’t when I left. This was something that I needed to do for myself.
I’m also sorry that I can’t be who you need me to be. I know you think that I should be afraid of you, but I’m truly not. I am afraid of how I feel when you push me away, though, and since you won’t let me in, then there doesn’t seem to be much hope. I know that this isn’t easy for you, either, and I know that that kind of trust takes time. I wish . . . I don’t actually know what I wish anymore.
Thank you for everything you have done for me. You helped me uncover parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. I have to find the strength now to continue that journey on my own.
I wish you all the best, Zach. I’d say that I’d like us to be friends, but I think it would be too painful for me to be around you at all and not be able to be with you, so I will stop at that.
I swallowed past the thick lump in my throat as I hesitated, then clicked the Send icon on my screen before I could lose my nerve. My nose prickled and my eyes were damp—it really felt like it was over now.
The rational part of me knew that it wasn’t normal, feeling this upset over a man that I had known for less than a month. I tried to tell myself that my behavior was obsessive and not a little bit crazy.
It didn’t matter. I was devastated.
Looking at the clock yet again, I saw that it was after five. Most of my colleagues had rushed out the door minutes earlier, eager to shed their suit jackets and hit Friday night happy hour at the bar across the street.
I was going to go home, have a good cry, and then get back to trying to pull myself back together.
“Good night, Miss Devon Reid.” Startled, I stopped in my tracks momentarily when Mrs. Gallagher’s voice cut through my thoughts. I peered into her office, perplexed, and hoped that my eyes weren’t overly red from unshed tears.
“Good night, Mrs. Gallagher.” The woman never bid a hello or a farewell to any of her employees, and though her expression was stern as I clutched my worn leather purse to my chest, I was thoroughly unnerved by the gesture.
“I hope you’re feeling better by Monday morning.” The woman lowered her reading glasses to the tip of her nose and peered at me over the top of them. “This cold that’s going around is brutal. If you’re not well by then, take Monday off. But I will expect you back in shape first thing Tuesday morning.”
Mrs. Gallagher shoved her glasses back up her nose and looked down at her work, effectively dismissing me. I blinked at her in surprise before hurrying away to the bank of elevators.
The woman was astute, and knew damn well that I didn’t have a cold. The kind gesture of a long weekend to pull my act together was unexpected and incredibly strange.
Her underlying message, however, had been perfectly clear: Get over him and get your life back together.
It was exactly the kick in the pants that I needed, though I suspected she wouldn’t appreciate it if I told her that, for the persona that she demonstrated in the office was not of the warm and fuzzy variety. Sniffling, I straightened my spine, inhaled deeply, and tried to get myself together.
My life wasn’t entirely occupied by Zachariah St. Brenton. I could be happy without him.
Maybe if I told myself that enough times, it would be true.
The elevator pinged and then opened, and I did my best to shove all thoughts of myself bound on its floor during my last encounter with Zach from my mind. Making sure to keep my chin up, I stepped in and turned to press the button for the lobby.
I choked on my own breath when I saw Zach standing by the control panel, appearing calm and in control. He looked at me and nodded, stepping back to make space for me.
After a long, flustered moment in which my self-control was shattered, I nodded in return, then faced the elevator door and tried to calm my racing heart.
This was to be expected. He was my boss. It was a big building, but we were bound to see each other from time to time. If I wanted to stay at this job, it was something that I would have to accept.
The silence was like a weight on my shoulders as we descended through the building. My mind tormented me with images of our last elevator ride together, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he thought of it, too. As I chased the mental image of him binding my hands with my own lace underwear, I looked up to see his reflection in the polished chrome of the door, and I scowled to myself. It wasn’t fair that he should look so mouthwatering when I felt—and looked—so ragged. His suit was charcoal today, and beneath it was a pale gray shirt with subtle stripes. He had removed his tie and unbuttoned the top button, and despite all of the lectures to myself, I found that I wanted nothing more than to place my lips against the enticing triangle of skin that that one small button revealed.
The elevator had almost reached the lobby, and I was congratulating myself on being strong, when he spoke.
“You said that you’re not afraid of me. Is that true?” Startled, I turned to look at him sharply. He was still staring straight ahead, his expression a mask of control.
“Of course it is.” Unsure of the situation, I twisted the strap of my purse in fingers that were trembling. “Whatever else you make me feel, fear isn’t any part of it.”
Zach nodded, then subsided into silence. It wasn’t until the elevator hit the ground floor and the doors slid open that he pressed his hand to my elbow and drew me to his side.
A burst of fireworks exploded inside of me, starting at the small patch of skin where his fingers rested and sparking outward. My breath caught in my throat as I looked up at him, uncertainty and an undeniable need all twisted up together.
“I would like you to come somewhere with me.” Holding out his hand, he caught the elevator doors before they were able to close. My heart pounding a staccato rhythm in my chest, I stepped out of the confined space, then turned to face him, my expression serious.
“Why?” By this point I had nothing to lose by asking. “Why now?”
Zach’s eyes clouded, but I continued to stare directly into them, relentless. I needed him to give me something, anything, before I could step into the insanity that was our relationship again.
He seemed to be on the verge of refusing, and my heart sank. I reminded myself that Zachariah St. Brenton was not a man who was accustomed to explaining himself.
Then he spoke, and his words were guarded. It was almost as if he wanted to make sure that he said the right thing, and I felt a trill of hope swelling where it had no business to.
“I’m not ready to give you the things that you really need. I might never be. But I find that I can’t stay away from you.” His brutal honesty broke my heart in two before seaming it back up again. He was trying, trying so hard, and how could I refuse that?
“What do you think I need that you can’t provide?” I measured my words carefully. “Because I’m an adult, Zach, and I’m walking into this with my eyes open. I want you. I want all of you.”
Without warning, he tugged me into his arms, fisted his hands in my hair, and kissed me until I was breathless. My world narrowed until it was entirely focused on him.
was what I had been missing for six days. The force of his desire for me had kept me awake at night longing to touch him again. When Zach released me, I stumbled back, then pressed my fingers to my lips that were now swollen from his kiss.
“I’m a selfish bastard, and I want you. I can’t share my past with you, because I can’t even deal with it myself. But if you trust me, I can take you into my life as it is now.”
The expression on his face was unabashedly sensual, and I saw that the front of his dress pants had tented during our kiss. I was hot, twitchy all over, and wanted nothing more than to lose myself in him.
Eyes wide, I nodded quickly before I could lose my nerve.
“Devon, be sure.” He drew me to him again roughly, pressing his hardening cock into the soft swell of my belly. I trembled against him.
“Be sure that you’re ready to go deeper.”
The ride in Zach’s car, with Charles at the wheel, passed in a bright blur. The only things I was entirely conscious of were the sensation of my hand clasped tightly in Zach’s, and the heat of his thigh as it pressed intimately against my own.
We pulled up in front of a brick building. Small and dark, it had a slightly gothic look to the exterior, and it took a moment before I located a sign painted the color of chocolate.
?” I turned to Zach, suddenly self-conscious. “I’m not dressed for a club, Zach.”
His eyes burned a path over the skin that my low-cut red blouse had left bare, and I shifted uncomfortably, my body overly warm, as if he had touched me.
“You always look lovely.” He took my hand and helped me from the car as Charles opened the door. “And this isn’t a typical club.”
I raised my eyebrows in question, but he didn’t respond, just placed his hand at the small of my back and led me to the door of the building.
“St. Brenton.” The man holding some kind of digital device at the door scrolled down the screen, his eyes widening when he found what he was looking for. I wondered if there was a note beside Zach’s name that said something like “temperamental billionaire: treat with utmost caution.”
Before I could ponder it further, we were passed off to a woman, some sort of hostess, I thought. She was a statuesque beauty with jet-black hair that fell in a sleek sheet to her ass, and the low-cut back of her dress rode nearly as low. Though her manner was utterly professional, I couldn’t miss the up-and-down stare that she directed at Zach, nor the blatant hunger in her gaze as she did so.