Read Sweet Online

Authors: Skye Warren

Tags: #Romance, #Adult, #Dark

Sweet (2 page)

BOOK: Sweet
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“Yeah, and it better be a good one,” Drew said lightly. “I just turned down a big raise with a sanitation company in dire need of legal counsel. Something to do with their hiring practices, I understand.”

Philip’s gaze sharpened. “They called you?”

Drew shrugged, strolling back to the chairs. “Met me at my condo, actually. They’re desperate, and this proves it.”

Philip frowned for a minute, looking unwilling to let it go. He liked to be in control—he needed to be. Someone else poaching on his territory was a big offense.

“Well,” I said, trying to put him at ease, “these guys are about to get their asses handed to them either way, right? Don’t worry about it.”

“Bastards. I ought to…” He sighed. With visible effort, he relaxed his muscles and unclenched his fists. The lopsided smile he gave me was too reminiscent of a softer, more helpless fifteen-year-old Philip. “Okay, distract me. How was practice?”

“Good. You know, it’s getting harder for me to keep up.”

I’d never told him about the chronic tendonitis or the recommended surgery. He’d insist I quit dancing, even in a teaching capacity. He was so binary. Dance professionally or not at all. People were either with him or against him.

Philip lifted his whiskey glass in dry salute. “Ah yes. You’re getting old, I remember.”

“Almost as old as you.”

“Never that,” he quipped, and my heart warmed to see a smile flicker on his tired face.

He didn’t understand the allure of ballet, why I would rip up my body just to perform for a bunch of old guys in penguin suits—his words, of course. But he appreciated the purity of it, the sanctity of art. Pale pink leotards and white tights. They were a costume as much as those damn suits were, designed to keep people out. This was art. This was business. Don’t touch.

I turned to Drew, unsurprised to find his gaze trained on me. The heat was carefully banked while we put on a show for my brother, he in a suit and me in my sweats. I couldn’t see it; I felt it—more like knowledge, like recognition.
I want you. I burn for you. I come alive when you’re in the same room.

“How are you?” I asked, schooling my tone to bored politeness.

“Also old,” he said wryly. He cocked his head. “But good. Thanks for asking.”

Philip’s phone rang, and he excused himself to leave the room. My throat went dry.

There were so few times I got to be alone with Drew. I angled for them, I hoped for them, and now here it was. Just him and me.

Chapter Two

T
he room was
quiet as we regarded each other. I searched his face for some other clue that he wanted more, a breadcrumb to lead me to him. Instead of invitation, I saw sternness, intensity. The arousal might have been my own wishful thinking. He was a cipher—a handsome, finely clad cipher. Even with his shirt rumpled and sleeves rolled up, he looked dignified. And delicious.

How long until the next time I’d get him alone? Too long.

A certain amount of caution was a good thing, and considering certain events of my past, inevitable for me. But like opening my studio, like moving out, I had waited too long, so long that my knees were shattered and my heart was aching and my body was pulsing with need unfulfilled.

A ballerina learned early how to live under glass, but I hadn’t known it was ice, distorting the world outside to be scary and grotesque, thickening with every season until I feared it would never thaw.

Gathering up my courage, I approached him. Not climbing the wall, blasting through it. Every slow, even step sent needles into my strained knees. The ache only amplified the arousal he inspired in me. My whole body was a raw nerve, pulled a little tighter with every year of celibacy, stretched a little farther with every painful pirouette until I thought I would snap.

His fair skin was lightly freckled and sprinkled with golden hairs a little darker than the tamed mop of blond on his head. I didn’t know how that would translate in the darker, more private places, but I longed to find out. This close I could see the bronze of his five o’clock shadow. The little lines around his mouth creased in a frown.

“Is this all we’re going to do?” I asked. “Look but don’t touch?”

One eyebrow lifted. “You tell me. Was there something more you wanted?”

His reticence sank in my gut, a brick of disappointment in a swirling sea of indecision. It was one thing to feign disinterest in front of my brother, another to play dumb in private.

“Right,” I said flatly. “It’s okay if your job is worth more than a few nights with me.”

“So it’s a few nights now, not just one.”

I frowned. “Don’t play games.”

“I’m always serious when I’m negotiating. How many nights are you going to give me, Rose?”

He was mocking me, or at the very least, playing hard to get. As if I was going to bust out my day planner and pencil him in for Tuesday through Thursday. “Look, if you don’t want anything to happen, it won’t. You don’t have to pretend.”

He grinned, the tilt of his lips somehow boyish on his lined face. “So I’m pretending now. You’ve gone from shy to aggressive in the blink of an eye, but I’m the one being disingenuous?”

Point taken. I scoffed anyway. “I’m not shy.”

“I don’t think so,” he agreed in a musing tone. “But you sure do a good impression.”

“Oh, I see. You think you know me.” Just like my brother thought he had me figured out.
She’s frightened. She’s fragile. Let’s cover her in plaster and set her on the mantel beside the other unfeeling artwork.

Drew shook his head slowly, his expression thoughtful. “Probably not.”

He leaned forward, closer than I was expecting until I had to restrain myself from jerking back—or latching on to him. His heat caressed my cheek, his breath brushed against my neck. We touched nowhere at all, but I felt him on every taut nerve of my skin.

“But I want to know you,” he murmured.

“Then why?” I closed my eyes, adrift in his nearness. “Why haven’t you done anything?”

“I don’t make a habit of harassing women in their homes, especially when…”

My indignation rose. “Especially when their brother is paying you enough money to keep your hands to yourself.”

His voice was softer when he said, “When I’m not sure she would welcome it.”

My retort caught in my throat. Would I have welcomed him? Not at first, certainly. He would have been just like every other man who wanted to sneak behind Philip’s back, too stupid to know what was good for him.

Maybe I had needed this, his restraint like an incubator for my burgeoning lust. Like he said, I’d gone from shy to aggressive, only it hadn’t happened in a second, it had been minutes, days, years of waiting for a moment when it would be safe to reach out.

“So you do want me,” I said, and despite my assertiveness earlier, it came out uncertain.

He regarded me for a moment, impassive.

Finally he said, “You would run from me screaming if you knew all the ways I want you.”

Shock raced down my spine, followed by a wave of pure lust. Part of me wanted just that—to know everything, to feel him everywhere until I was so wrapped up that I never suffered the chill of loneliness again. The other part of me was exactly as naive as his slightly amused expression proclaimed me to be.

Philip strolled back into the room, tossing his phone on the desk.

“Jesus,” he said. “Does no one have any fucking loyalty anymore?”

My stomach flipped over. Could he see the tension between us? Of course he could. Drew was a daunting cloud of wicked intent, and I was a puddle at his feet. I raised my eyes.

“Maybe you should go,” Drew murmured.

“Yes,” Philip agreed absently, thumbing through a stack of papers on the side table. “I’m sorry, Rose, but it looks like it will be a long night. Don’t wait up for me for dinner.”

Philip hadn’t been talking about us, I realized. How he was blind to the situation, I had no idea, but I would take the reprieve with both hands. From my brother and his anger. From Drew and the unknown things he inspired me to do.

Just like he’d said I would, I fled the room—and ran from him.

Ran upstairs to where my familiar ballerina slippers hung on my bed. A grown-up size but a childish comfort. Once upon a time, my only comfort.

The classes at the YMCA had been guises to keep us off the streets, the teachers merely minimum-wage babysitters. Ms. Anastasia thought she was the lost Russian princess, despite the fact that the ages never lined up. But she had been classically trained in her country, and she was willing to teach me in her off hours. Each night my thighs were bruised yellow and black from her whipcord pointer as she corrected my posture, but damn, I learned. In that dimly lit gymnasium with the basketball hoop with no net, I got a dance education upper-crust families paid thousands for.

Teaching ballet was more than a retirement plan for my career with the company. It was paying back a debt. Paying it forward. That mattered more than a possible fling with my brother’s lawyer. Even if that fling felt like everything when I was near him.

Chapter Three

T
rue to his
word, my brother kept Drew shut in the office late into the night. I walked by the closed study doors on the way to steal a bowl of oatmeal for dinner. The window in my room overlooked the garage and courtyard, so I could see Drew’s car and keep tabs on him that way.

I pulled the plush armchair to the window and read up on the different types of business structures. Sole proprietor, S-Corp, C-Corp.

Philip would already know all this. He would be a fantastic business advisor if I just ignored the immoral suggestions, but then I would have to tell him about my plan. I’d have to tell him about my plan to move out—and then he would flip out. So I read in secret, which was probably for the best anyway. I had relied on him for too long.

I needed to be more independent, but did that also include a secret affair with my brother’s lawyer? The fear of Philip finding out my plans was eclipsed by the fear of failure.

I didn’t know how this casual, sophisticated sex worked beyond the vulgar jokes bandied at black-tie parties. And what if Drew wanted something more than regular sex? He’d already hinted as much. My only experience was too fast, too deep, and
let him, let him finish
. Typical for high school fumblings, I supposed, but nothing to help guide me now.

The black text blurred before me, and I might have dozed off, but a gentle disturbance through the walls alerted me to the front door opening and closing. White light spread over the cobblestone driveway as motion sensors flipped it on.

Drew stepped into the spotlight, casting a long shadow over the silver-white side of his car. He opened his door and tossed his briefcase on the passenger seat. But instead of getting in and driving away, he paused. He turned back, looking directly at my window—at me. I froze, my throat going dry.

He must have known it was my room, though he’d never been upstairs. I didn’t think he could see me. At least not clearly. We were twenty feet away, separated by double-paned glass, and the glare from the floodlights would overwhelm the thin light from my lamp. Impulsively, I pressed my palm to the cool glass. Could he make that out, the shape of my hand, the color of my flesh?

I leaned forward, painting my own reflection in the window. Wide, dark eyes set in the pale moon of my face, all framed with thick curtains of black hair. I looked like a ghost, something ephemeral and weightless.

That was how I felt sometimes too—not really there. I wanted to feel something, to see what it was like to participate, even if it was only a glimpse. He was waiting for me, leaning against his car.

Maybe he’d always been waiting for me.

Since that first meeting and the sudden heat that had sparked between us, he had been waiting for me to initiate something so he could be sure I was ready. Waiting and wanting, because he had some idea of my background, if not the specifics. The consideration in that gesture, the sheer expanse of it, took my breath away.

He remained still until the floodlights flicked off, blanketing him in night. My eyes adjusted, and he came back into focus again, somehow clearer in the dark. His arms were crossed as he leaned back against the car. The driver’s side door hung open, an ignored invitation in favor of this.

I could see the glint of his eyes, his intensity unmasked. My imagination could fill in the rest—the short, stubby growth on his jaw after a long day of work, the shadows beneath his eyes.

How could I show him; what did he want? Silly questions. Of course I knew. It was primal, the urge to bare myself, to offer myself, and only my fears kept me in check. It wasn’t the glass of the window or the bricks stacked beneath it. Only my fears kept us apart.

I toyed with the hem of my soft tank top, teasing him with a strip of flesh, blowing cool air across my belly. It wouldn’t be like this with him. His breath was hot, his body a furnace. That much I knew from the study earlier when he’d murmured in my ear. The window pane was emanating cold, holding out the chilly night air but failing just a little.

He must be freezing, but he didn’t look it, not even as a breeze ruffled a lock of hair over his forehead. He looked like he could wait forever, but why should he have to? I wouldn’t be a coward, not tonight.

I had dressed for sleep after my shower, so there was nothing underneath the thin fabric of my tank top. I tugged the shirt off and let it slip from my fingers. My skin pebbled with goose bumps at the chill. My nipples tightened almost painfully. He might have been a statue, he was so still. I felt the opposite, tingling and aware. It was too much—too embarrassing, too revealing—but exactly what I had been waiting for.

What next? If there was a script to forbidden exhibitionism, I had never read it. I moved with pent-up desire, acted on ideas unformed. I trailed my palms up my stomach and lifted my small breasts like an offering.

I wanted his hands on me, wanted him to touch and caress and pinch me, so I did it myself, grasping my nipples between my thumb and forefinger. I squeezed slightly, and as if he were connected to me, as if
he
had done it, his body jerked infinitesimally.

BOOK: Sweet
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