Authors: Sophie Jordan
“You do this?” he asked, a hint of wonder in his voice.
I nodded, feeling a giddy sense of pride.
I sank down on the bed beside him, my hands clutching the edge of the mattress. “I’m a studio arts major.”
He faced me. “You’re really good. Is that what you want to do? Be an artist? Well, you are, clearly,” he amended. “But when you graduate?”
I sighed. “I’ll probably end up going into marketing somewhere. Maybe a design firm, but . . . yeah, the dream would be to paint.”
“Then that’s what you should do.”
He said it like it was the simplest thing in the world. Smiling, I pulled one of my pillows into my lap and plucked at the fringe. “I need to actually get a paycheck.”
He snorted. “You mean you don’t have some fat trust fund? Daddy won’t take care of you indefinitely?”
My smile slipped. Yeah. Dad would keep paying my way. I was his only child and he seemed to have an endless supply of wealth, but I didn’t want that. I couldn’t keep accepting his money. It didn’t feel right. He paid my way because he had more money than he knew what to do with. You didn’t run a Fortune 500 company and not take your responsibilities seriously. And that’s what I was to him. A responsibility—the remnant of a marriage he would rather never have happened. I was an obligation that he would never shirk. He’d take care of me as long as I asked him to, but not because I was “Daddy’s girl” or because he loved me to the point of overindulgence. I’d met my fair share of Daddy’s girls here at Dartford. But I wasn’t one of them.
My silence—or maybe my expression—must have answered for me. Shaw’s gaze moved on, skimming other scraps of paper that I’d pinned to my wall. His long, blunt-tipped fingers stalled on a sketch I did of Pepper and Reece locked in an embrace where I gave them multiple hands. They were like some sort of human octopus, with hands all over each other.
He laughed. “That’s an accurate depiction.”
I grinned. “I amuse myself sometimes.”
“I can see that.” Humor danced in his eyes and he looked at me with something akin to appreciation. The way his eyes slid over me warmed me inside. It wasn’t the kind of look I usually got. It wasn’t lust filled. He looked at me like he
I toyed with one of my short strands of hair, twisting and tucking it behind my ear. Useless. It sprang free again to dangle over my eye. “Those guys need to lock themselves away for a month until they get it out of their systems.”
“You think a month would be enough?” His gaze roamed my face, his gravelly voice rubbing over me like the drag of satin on my skin. Skin that suddenly felt overly sensitive. “I could see how some people might need longer than that.” He was staring at my mouth now and my face went from warm to hot.
Butterflies erupted in my belly. I tore my gaze off him and looked back at the sketch of Pepper and Reece. Now I’m pretty sure we were talking—or at least thinking—about something else. Definitely not Pepper and Reece anymore.
I suddenly had a vision of us together. With a whole lot less clothes on. I swallowed and took charge of the conversation again, determined to get my mind out of the gutter. “Pepper wasn’t as amused when I offered it to her. She thought it was creepy.”
“I think it’s funny.”
“Thanks.” I smiled again and curled my hands around my knees. The fabric of my purple tights felt smooth under my palms.
“You should paint,” he reasserted with a swift nod. “Don’t go take some job in a cubicle. That would be a crime.”
“And what about you?” I asked. “You were in the Marines. Are you finished with that?”
“I’m still in the reserves, but after two tours, I’m done.” His face was impassive as he said this. It was hard to tell what he was thinking. He traced one finger along the slope of a tree that I had sketched when I was home for Christmas. It was an enormous beech tree right outside my bedroom window. I imagined it was the kind of tree a teenage girl would have shimmied down to sneak out. If her parents cared about her comings and goings and bothered with a curfew, that is. Neither of my parents ever cared. I never had a curfew. I came and went as I pleased. Got myself to school. Ate whatever the cook prepared for me. Sometimes Agnes even stayed and ate with me instead of her own family. Out of pity.
While Dad was away in Barbados over the holidays, I hung out at the house and sketched the tree. It was something to do. A break from reruns of
He still stared at the picture, but he looked far away, like he wasn’t here with me anymore, and I wondered if mentioning the Marines had pulled him away.
I moistened my lips and decided to press for more information. “You lost your cousin over there . . .”
Suddenly he was back with me again. His sharp gaze swung to me, alert. “Guess you would have heard that. No keeping something like that a secret.”
I smiled almost apologetically. “Logan told me at your cousin’s engagement party.”
He nodded grimly. “It’s the Marines, right? Some come home. Some don’t. We knew that before we went over there. I lost three in my unit in the first tour . . . and then I signed up again because I was determined to make it matter. To make a difference.”
I pulled my knees up to my chest, unsure what to say. I wasn’t used to dealing with this kind of stuff. To talk to guys about anything serious. “You did.”
He grunted. “How do you know that?”
I opened my mouth, realizing that I didn’t. There wasn’t anything I could say that supported the claim, but I just knew. Looking at him, I knew. He had done something with his life. He had lived. He had worked for something bigger than himself.
And that’s how I knew.
I was in trouble. Everything that set him apart from the other guys was what drew me.
Maybe it was this giddy realization. Maybe it was because I still had alcohol buzzing through my system, but sudden, heady impulse seized me.
Turning, I faced him. Whatever he saw in my face made him freeze. Watching me like he was the prey—for a change—I rose up on my knees beside him. Holding his gaze, I pulled my sweater over my head and tossed it to the floor.
His eyes darkened, traveling over me. I ran a hand over my dark pink bra, lightly caressing the lacy cup.
“What are you doing?”
“C’mon. You act like you haven’t seen me in a bra before. I think you’ve seen me in less than this.”
I slowly settled onto his lap, slipping my knees on either side of his hips.
“That was different. You’re conscious now.”
I smiled coyly, angling my head to the side. I pressed a finger to his lips, enjoying touching him, enjoying the sensation of that mouth that I knew could kiss me until I was quivering and useless for anything else. “Can you let me do this?”
“Be in charge? Something tells me you’re used to that.” His eyes glinted at me, but he didn’t make a move.
I took that as acceptance. Smiling, I lowered my head and pressed my open mouth to his neck. I licked and sucked at the salty-clean taste of his skin. I felt him sigh, his breath rustling my hair. Sitting back up, my hands dove for the hem of his shirt. I tugged it up. He lifted his arms, helping me pull it over his head. The sight that greeted me punched the air right out of my chest.
He was lean and hard. His torso cut and defined. My gaze dropped to his abs. Screw six-pack. I counted.
Was that an eight-pack?
A large tattoo covered the skin of his left pec, crawling up onto his shoulder. My fingers chased the pattern of an eagle atop a globe and anchor. I recognized it as the Marine insignia. The name Adam was etched into the anchor, including the years of his birth and death. My chest tightened at further evidence that this guy was different. Special.
His breathing sawed roughly from his lips and when I lowered my mouth to his chest, it kicked up a notch as I laved my tongue over him.
His hands came up to circle my ribs. I allowed that. Until they crept up to my breasts, and then I grabbed his wrists.
“Nuh-uh,” I murmured, smiling down at him as I pressed his hands to the mattress.
He stared up at me in frustration. “I want to touch you.”
“I do the touching. Just relax.” I pushed him back on the bed beneath me. Sitting over him, I felt empowered. Maybe I could have him, after all. Maybe he was someone I could control. I knew my game. Knew what worked. He wasn’t going to hurt me. I could handle the situation. Handle
I took one last glimpse of his face, the dark, gleaming eyes fastened on me, before lowering to his chest. I kissed the broad expanse, using my tongue and teeth on the firm flesh. Gentle, butterfly kisses. Long, open-mouthed moist ones. I lavished him with my mouth and hands. His jaw, his neck. I fanned my breath in his ear before biting down on the lobe. He tensed beneath me with a groan and I knew I was getting to him. I felt drunk and it had nothing to do with the alcohol I had consumed tonight. I was high on him.
He tried to kiss me and I dodged his mouth. I was already perilously close to losing my resolve when it came to him. I needed to avoid his kisses. They turned my brain to mush.
“Let me kiss you,” he commanded, arching his head off the bed toward me.
I pushed him back down with the flat of my palm and trailed a finger down the center of his chest. “No kissing.”
“Emerson.” His eyes flashed at me. “I want your mouth.”
“Oh, you’re going to get it,” I promised silkily.
“On mine,” he qualified.
I just grinned. “I promise you’ll enjoy wherever . . .” I kissed his collarbone. “I . . .” The pulse point on his neck. “Kiss . . .” The center of his chest. “You . . .” My lips trailed down the center of his chest, skimming warm, taut skin.
His hands drifted back to my waist, the rough palms caressing the exposed flesh above my waistband. It was tempting to let his hands remain there, but I moved them back to his sides.
“Let me touch you,” he growled.
I tsked my tongue and dropped my hands to his jeans. My fingers closed expertly around the snap and tugged the denim open.
“Emerson,” he said, warning thick in his voice. “You won’t let me touch you . . . kiss you . . . this isn’t—”
“Sssh,” I admonished, dragging the teeth of his zipper down with a slow, gratifying sing, exposing the tented front of his boxers. Without touching him, I pulled the slit in his boxers wide, exposing him to the air.
He sprang free. I bit my lip to keep my gasp from escaping at the bold, beautiful sight of him. He was hard, jutting forward, ready for me. I blew a warm breath gently over the tip of him.
“Fuck, Emerson,” he choked out.
“No,” I softly reprimanded, kissing him just above his navel. “None of that, remember?”
“You need to stop,” he growled, his body quivering beneath me.
I touched the tip of him with one gentle fingertip. “Why?” I taunted, looking at him from beneath hooded eyes. He stared at me, a muscle feathering along his locked jaw. “Don’t you want me to kiss you here?”
“Not like this.”
I pouted. “Like how then?”
“I don’t need you giving me a blow job.”
My pout turned into an actual frown. What guy didn’t want a BJ? “I bet I can change your mind.” I lowered my head, but his hands circled my arms and pulled me up before I could make contact.
His eyes glittered, looking almost angry. “What are you doing?”
“Apparently nothing you’re into,” I snapped, trying to pull my arms free of his grip, but he held fast, each of his fingers a burning imprint. I felt the strength of him, the power of him, tightly restrained beneath me.
“What’s the matter? The only way you’ll let me close is if I play by your rules?”
His words were right on the mark. I nodded, stung by his rejection of what I was offering. “You catch on real quick.”
“Maybe I have a few rules of my own.”
My heart skipped at the dangerous glint in his eyes. Immediately, I sensed the tables had been turned. He had taken control of the situation—or was trying to.
“I think we’re done here,” I said, managing to sound cool.
He shook his head at me slowly and I was reminded of the first time I’d seen him and the realization that this guy wouldn’t be so easy to control. I immediately told myself to keep my distance then. Too bad I didn’t listen to myself. Now I was in the exact situation I didn’t want to be in.
I knew he wouldn’t
me. That wasn’t my fear. My fear wasn’t him. It was me. It was
me. It was losing control, giving someone else power over me.
His fingers flexed around my forearms. His eyes dipped to assess me in my pink satin bra. “We’re just getting started. It’s my turn now.”
UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE
haw’s mouth covered mine
and what I didn’t want to happen did. My brain turned to mush. He had a way of kissing me that consumed me, that melted my bones and made me pudding in his hands.
I still had some resolve left in me. Just enough to squeeze my hands between us and shove at that brick wall of a chest. He moved the barest inch. I was able to tear my lips away. I opened my mouth to demand that he stop and get out of my room, but suddenly he flipped me over on the bed.
On my back, I gasped, speech lost at the sensation of his big body over me, between my splayed thighs. His hand flexed on my thigh, beneath my skirt, searing me through my tights, and I found myself wishing I wasn’t wearing tights so that I could feel his palm on my bare skin.
He took advantage of my open mouth and claimed my lips in a kiss again, his tongue colliding with mine. His weight felt delicious, pinning me to the bed without hurting me. A dazed fog rolled over me, obliterating all thought, all logic. There was only sensation.
His lips ate hungrily from mine.
is the only word. When his hands found my breasts and cupped them through the bra, liquid heat coursed through me. He kneaded the small mounds and I parted my legs wider, inviting him without words.
He sank deeper between my legs. My skirt was hiked up to my hips, my purple tights a barrier that kept us from direct contact, but I still felt him there, his erection hard and probing, rubbing against me, pushing and prodding as if he could reach gratification that way. I didn’t see how. The pressure and friction of him there drove me mad. I wanted more. I wanted it harder. Deeper.
I dug my fingers into his biceps and bucked against him, grinding my pelvis to his.
“Shit,” he cursed, breaking his mouth from mine. Before I had time to mourn the loss, his hand was yanking one bra cup down, pulling the strap tighter across my shoulder. His warm mouth closed over my left nipple, taking the entire tip and pulling it deep into the wet warmth of his mouth.
I cried out and arched. It was too much, and it only got better as he turned his attention to my other breast. He laved that one with his tongue, too, sucking it deep into his mouth.
His name tore from my throat.
“That’s it,” he encouraged, looking up at me, his face even with my breast, his dark eyes promising more. “I want to hear you.”
I shook my head no. It was the most I could manage. I couldn’t actually spit the word out. Not if it meant he would stop. Because I didn’t want this to end. I actually might die if that happened.
His slipped both hands beneath my skirt and seized the waistband of my tights. Sitting back, he pulled the tight fabric down my legs. Alarms bells went off, but they weren’t as loud as the rush of blood in my ears or as strong as the clenching ache between my legs.
His rough palms settled on me then, rasping against my naked thighs. “Oh, God,” I moaned.
He came back over me, his bare chest pressing flush with me. I felt his erection then through the thin fabric of my panties. My face burned, mortified to know he must feel how wet I was down there. And all because of him. All he needed to do was push the thin fabric aside and he could slide inside me.
The very idea thrilled and terrified me in equal parts. I couldn’t let that happen. Right now, with the core of me aching and throbbing, it might feel like I wanted him to do that, but I didn’t. My mind knew better, even if my body didn’t.
“I meant it,” I gasped as he rotated his hips and pushed directly against a sensitive spot that threatened to make my eyes roll back in their sockets. “I’m not having sex with you.”
He dark eyes feasted on me as he continued to rub against me. “Did I say I expected you to?”
“N-no.” But it sure felt like where this was going.
I pushed against him, whimpering at the hard outline of his cock, unable to stop, unable to keep myself from seeking fulfillment, wanting him to fill me so badly it practically hurt.
His hands slid under me, palming my ass through my panties, grinding his erection against me even more intimately—if that was even possible.
“Oh, God,” I moaned, quivering in his hands.
“When we have sex, it won’t be a surprise.” His voice eddied through me, deep and dark, a current of heat that shot right between my legs. “You’ll know it’s coming. You’ll want it. Mind and body. You’ll beg me to make love to you. I’ll make sure of that, Emerson.”
No way. “What makes you think—”
“There won’t be any doubts or accusations after the fact,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard me. “In fact, we’re not going to do it until you ask me for it.”
I attempted to snort, but the sound came out like a choked gasp as one of his hands slid around to cup my mound. He used the base of his palm to press up into the core of me and my head flew off the bed with a sharp cry.
“For tonight, I’m just going to make you come.” I shook my head wildly on the pillow. I was already close to doing that. “Something tells me you don’t get off that much. Doubt half the guys you waste your time on even bother to make sure you’re satisfied.”
Understatement of the year.
He lowered his head, licking my bottom lip as he spoke, low and deep and sexy into my mouth. “Not tonight, Emerson. Tonight I’m not stopping until you scream. Until you see stars.”
His words sent a trickle of unease through me. He wanted to take care of me? Give me pleasure? Without satisfying himself?
He tugged the panties that shielded me to the side, one finger slipping along my moist heat—and I forgot everything else. I practically came out of my skin. I had never felt anything like it. He stroked me expertly, his finger burying deep and then pulling out, circling that really sensitive pleasure point, inching closer but not touching. I writhed, panted, small incoherent sounds bubbling up from my throat.
“Please,” I begged, hating myself—
for making me want this so badly. It was clear to me that he could have me. If he wanted sex, I couldn’t resist. He could take me now.
He finally gave my body what it craved. His thumb landed on my clit and pushed down, rolling it in a swift circle at the precise moment he eased a second finger inside me.
I arched off the bed with a shriek. He moved his fingers, thrusting inside me with deep, slow drags. He caught my lips in another searing kiss, drinking the sounds from my mouth as he worked his hand against me, his thumb pushing and circling, his fingers working in and out of me.
“You feel so good, Emerson. So warm. So tight.” I brought my hand between us, reaching for him, determined that I push him to the edge the way he was pushing me. My fingers brushed him, but he dodged out of the way and seized my hand.
“No touching, remember?” His gaze pinned me.
I growled my frustration but soon gave up. I couldn’t even think with the intense sensations he stoked in me. The deep, twisting pressure built and my head fell back on the bed again.
“C’mon, baby,” he murmured against my mouth. “I know you want to let go.”
I shook my head, denying it. Denying him. Myself. I couldn’t let go. Ever.
I never had.
And then his lips were gone. His chest lifted off from my chest. Blinking, my head came up off the bed, bewildered.
“What are y—”
All speech fled on a strangled shriek as his mouth landed expertly down
. I tensed and shoved at his shoulder. His lips closed around that nub and sucked, his tongue laving the sensitive pearl until I fell back on the bed with a low, keening moan.
Pleasure exploded inside me, centered directly where his mouth was fused to me so intimately. My orgasm washed over me in waves. Hot ripples that seemed to go on forever as he sucked me into his mouth.
I buried my hands in his hair and tugged hard on the ends, not for him to stop but for him to
stop. His hands slid beneath me, gripping my ass and bringing me up closer to his mouth. His mouth kept working its magic until the last shudder left me.
I fell back on the bed, panting, chest heaving like I’d just finished a marathon. He came up over me, grinning in the most smug, satisfied way. He looked sexy as hell with his arms braced, one on either side of me, his biceps flexed taut to support his weight.
“That was hot,” he murmured. He lifted a hand and traced a finger down my cheek to his mouth. If possible, his eyes grew darker. Unbelievable or not, the simple stroke of his finger over my bottom lip brought the intense ache between my legs back and I wanted to go another round with him. I clamped my thighs together as if I could somehow assuage the throbbing there.
His voice continued in a deep purr. “Aren’t you glad you let me do that?”
Let him do
? I guess choice had been involved. He was no sadist. I could have stopped him at any time. He would have listened to me. And that made me even more enraged at myself. Because I should have stopped him.
I shoved at his chest, pushing him off me. I sat up, pushing my skirt down with fumbling hands and sliding my bra straps back in place. “You should go.”
The smile slipped from his face. He stared at me, his expression unreadable, but there was something there in his eyes. Surprise, maybe?
“Really.” I nodded, my voice coming out less shaky. There was that at least. I sounded in control even if I didn’t feel like it. “Just go.”
I searched the bed for my shirt, grateful for the excuse not to look at him. Finding it, I pulled it on over my head. From the corner of my eye I could see he was moving now, straightening his own clothing, tucking himself back in his jeans and yanking the zipper up with angry motions as he muttered indecipherable words under his breath.
He was mad. Good. So was I. And I needed to stay mad. Nurse my anger so that I didn’t let him weave another spell around me again.
He faced me. “I should have known better than to get involved with some spoiled little princess.”
I flinched before reminding myself that this was for the best. Let him think that. Then maybe whatever this thing was between us would just die. I inhaled thinly through my nose and tried to ignore the sudden ache in my chest that that thought ignited.
I needed to stand my ground. Let him think whatever bad thing he wanted to about me. Because I couldn’t handle another repeat of what just happened between us and still keep my distance. At least emotionally. The last thing I needed was to fall for a guy like him. For God’s sake, he was a Marine. Not exactly an easy-to-manipulate kind of guy.
“That’s right,” I agreed. “You should have known better. But now you do.” I lifted my hand and performed a small wave. “So bye-bye.”
He stared at me, his eyes hard. “You’re a real piece of work.”
I smiled, telling myself he was no different from any other guy I kicked from my bed.
So why did I feel terrible? Why did the disgust in his eyes tear at me?
Then he smiled, slow and almost sinister. He approached almost stealthily, sinking back over me on the bed. I fell back, flattening a hand against his chest as if that could ward him off.
“Go ahead,” he whispered in a lethally soft voice. “Pretend I don’t get to you.”
He cocked his head sideways, studying me like I was some bug beneath a microscope. “You know what I think?”
I shook my head. “I don’t care.”
He continued as if I hadn’t spoken, and suddenly his hand was there, inching along the inside of my thigh. I gasped, incredibly turned on despite the voice in my head telling me to stop him. My body knew him and responded, arching under him.
His deep voice rippled across my skin. “I think that deep inside you’re dying for someone like me. You’ve been waiting for a guy to come along and shake up your world and touch you the way you’ve been aching to be touched.” His fingers rubbed against the damp crotch of my panties. “Do things to you that all your pretty college boys can’t do.” With a quick yank, his fingers were right there, playing against me, parting me, teasing at my entrance and working me into a frenzy beneath him. I fisted the covers and thrust against his hands, opening myself wider for him.
I didn’t understand it. How could he elicit such an immediate response from me? Other boys had tried what he was doing, but there was only him. Just Shaw. I was ready to go again, but instead of his mouth and hand, I wanted
there. That hardness pressing against my thigh. I wanted our bodies locked and rocking together.
He thrust a finger inside me, then followed with a second, stretching me, filling me, plunging deep inside me where some hidden, indefinable target existed. It was indescribable. Even better than before, and something told me that every time with him would be like that. Better. More intense than before.
I cried out, grabbing his shoulders as his voice continued to lash me like hot wind. “Do any of them make you feel like this?” His fingers stilled, poised just at the mouth of my entrance, stalling my pleasure, torturing me. “Answer me, Emerson.”
“N-no.” I beat a fist on his shoulder.
“Tell me,” he commanded.
“None of them do this.”
“Do what?” he pushed, just barely moving his fingers inside me.
“Make me . . . come.” And I was so close.
. That tightly coiled spring in my belly was about to snap.
He smiled slowly. “Good. “ His hand left me then. “Remember that.” He pulled back from me and stood up.
For a moment, I could do nothing but blink, astonished and bewildered. He looked down at me, his sexy mouth curving almost grimly. But there was satisfaction there. He was pleased with himself . . . as if he had just proved something.
Cool air wafted over my exposed skin and it dawned on me that I wasn’t moving. I remained sprawled before him with my skirt bunched up around my hips, my girl parts on display. And I hated him right then.
Mortified, I sat up, shoving my skirt back down. “Get out!” The words launched out of me at missile speed.