Chris maneuvers the 911 into the drive of a fancy high-rise building not more than four blocks from the gallery. Before I can question the fancy location being home to a pizza joint, as he’d called it, a valet is already opening my door.
“I’ll come around to get you,” Chris says with a touch on my arm. He doesn’t wait for a reply,
climbing out of the vehicle and disappearing from full view.
I am both charmed and embarrassed at the prospect he believes the extra wine has made me a helpless lush. Worse, it wouldn’t be an assumption completely without merit, and this night is exactly why I never let myself lose control. It always backfires.
I unsnap the seat belt about the same moment Chris appears at my door. Holding my skirt down, I slide my legs to the ground, all too aware of his scorching gaze on my legs.
His hand appears in front of me, and I hold my breath, preparing for the impact of his touch, as I press my palm to his. He pulls me to my feet, onto the sidewalk beneath an awning, his hand settling possessively on my hip. The rich sensation of desire spreads through my limbs. I have never in my life reacted to a man this intensely.
Behind me, I hear the car door shut, and the engine rev, before the 911 pulls away. “This doesn’t look like a place that serves pizza,” I comment, but I am not looking at the building. It is Chris who has my full attention.
“Two blocks down,” he explains. “We can walk there if you want, or we can go upstairs to my apartment.”
Chris lives here, at least when he’s in the States. The implications of our location are clear.
His long fingers curl around my neck, under my hair, and he lowers his mouth to my ear. “Be warned, Sara. I’m no saint. If I take you upstairs, I’m going to strip you naked and fuck you the way I’ve wanted to since the moment we first met.”
The shockingly bold words ripple through me, and I am instantly aroused, squeezing my thighs together. He has wanted to fuck me since we first met. I want him to fuck me. I want to fuck him. Yes. Fuck. I want to give myself permission to forget good, proper behavior and fuck and be fucked. Wild, hot, uncontrollable passion, with no worries during and regrets in the aftermath. I’ve never let myself feel those things. When in my life have I ever experienced such a thing? When has any man ever made me think I could?
I press against his chest and lean back, my eyes seeking his. “If you’re trying to scare me off, it’s not working.”
“Not yet,” he says, dark certainty to his tone, to the lines etched in his handsome face. It is as if this is simply a seed already planted that cannot be stopped.
“Not at all,” I counter.
He doesn’t immediately respond, and his expression is a mask of hard lines, his jaw set, tense. Slowly, his fingers slide from my neck to caress a path down my arm until his fingers lace intimately with mine. “Never say never, Sara,” he murmurs, and starts walking, pulling me with him.
Anticipation sizzles through me as we walk toward the automatic doors to be greeted by a man in a dark suit with an earpiece and buzz cut.
“Evening, Mr. Merit,” he says, and glances at me. “Evening, miss.”
“Evening, Jacob,” Chris replies. “Pizza coming our way. Don’t frisk the delivery guy.”
“Not unless he’s a delivery woman, sir,” Jacob comments, and I get the sense these two are familiar beyond the casual exchange.
I lift a tentative hand at Jacob. “Hi.”
“Ma’am,” he replies, and there is a slight shift in his gaze I’m certain he doesn’t intend for me to notice, but I do. I read it as surprise at my presence, and I can only assume I am far from Chris’s normal choice in women. It isn’t hard for me to imagine Chris being a blond bombshell kind of man, and where I hadn’t felt insecure moments before, I suddenly do now. I am angry at myself for feeling such a thing when I’ve promised myself no more self-doubt. When I crave the escape, the freedom, I was so close to experiencing only moments before.
The elevator is right off the fancy lobby and past a security booth. Chris punches the button, and the doors open immediately. I follow him inside and watch as he keys in a code. The doors shut, and he pulls me hard against him.
My hands settle on his hard chest, inside the line of his jacket, and warmth spreads through me. “What just happened?” His hand brands my hip.
My breasts are heavy, my nipples aching. “I don’t know what you mean,”
“Yes. You do. Second thoughts, Sara?”
I scold myself for being so transparent. “Do you want me to have second thoughts?”
“No. What I want is to take you to my apartment and make you come and then do it all over again.”
Oh . . . yes, please. “Okay,” I whisper, “but I think you should feed me first.”
His lips curve into a smile, his eyes dancing with gold specks of pure fire. “Then you can feed me.”
The bell dings, and the doors begin to open. Chris wastes no time pulling me to the edge of the elevator, and I watch in surprise as a gorgeous living room appears before me, rather than a hallway. Chris has a private elevator, and I am entering his private world, a world very unlike my own.
Chris releases my hand, our eyes lock, and I read the silent message in his. Enter by choice, without pressure. On some level I sense that once I enter his apartment, the decision to do so is going to change me. He is going to change me in some profound way I cannot begin to comprehend fully. I think he might know this, and I wonder why he would be so certain, what is etched with such clarity to him beneath the surface.
He has misplaced doubts of me in this moment, as he’d doubted me at the gallery. I can see it in his eyes, sense it in the air. I refuse to allow his lack of confidence in me, or anyone else’s for that matter, to dictate what I can or cannot do ever again. I’ve been there, and I ended up on the sharp edge of a cliff, about to crash and burn. I’d recovered, and I am beginning to see that locking myself in a shell of an existence isn’t healing. It’s hiding. Regardless of what happens at the gallery, I’m done hiding.
My chin lifts, and I cut my gaze from Chris’s and exit the elevator.
My heels touch the pale perfection of glossy hardwood floors, and I stop and stare at the breathtaking sight before me. Beyond the expensive leather furniture adorning a sunken living room with a massive fireplace in the left corner is a spectacular sight. There is a floor-to-ceiling window, a live pictorial of our city, spanning the entire length of the room.
Spellbound, I walk forward, enchanted by the twinkling night lights and the haze surrounding the distant Golden Gate Bridge. I barely remember going down the few steps to the living area, or what the furniture I pass looks like. I drop my purse on the coffee table and stop at the window, resting my hands on the cool surface.
We are above the city, untouchable, in a palace in the sky. How amazing it must be to live here and wake up to this view every day. Lights twinkling, almost as if they are talking to one another, laughing at me as they creep open a door to the hollow place inside me I’ve rejected only moments before in the elevator.
I swallow hard as the song “Broken” from the band Lifehouse fills the room, because Chris doesn’t know how personality is to me. I’m falling apart. I’m barely breathing. I’m barely holding on to you.
This song, this place with the words, and I am raw and exposed, as if cut and bleeding. Who was I kidding with the refusal to hide anymore? This is why I’ve hidden. The past begins to pulse to life within me, and I am seconds from remembering why I feel this way. I refuse to process the lyrics and shove them aside. I don’t want to remember. I can’t go there. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to seal those old wounds, desperate to feel anything but their presence.
Suddenly, Chris is behind me, caressing my jacket from my shoulders. His touch is a welcome sensation, and when his arm slides around me, his body framing mine from behind, I am desperate to feel anything but what this song, no doubt aided by the wine, stirs inside me.
I lean into him and hard muscle absorbs me. There is a strength to Chris, a silent confidence I envy, and it calls to the woman in me.
His fingers, those talented, famous fingers, brush my hair away from my nape, and his lips press to the delicate area beneath, creating goose bumps on my skin. And still, I barely block out the words to the song and their meaning to me.
As if he senses my need for more—more something, anything, just more—he turns me around to face him, and his fingers tangle almost roughly into my hair. The tight pull is sweet, dragging me from other feelings, giving me a new focus.
“I am not the guy you take home to Mom and Dad, Sara.” His mouth is next to mine, his clean male scent all around me. “You need to know that right now. You need to know that won’t change.”
But the song does change, and this time to another track on what must be a Lifehouse CD. “Nerve Damage” begins to play. I see through your clothes, your nerve damage shows. Trying not to feel . . . anything that’s real.
I laugh bitterly at the words, and Chris pulls back to study me. And I am not blind to what I see in the depths of his green eyes, what I’ve missed until now but sensed. He is as damaged as I am. We have too many of the wrong things in common to be more than sex, and the realization is freedom to me.
I curve my fingers on the light stubble of his jaw, the rasp on my skin welcome, and I have no idea why I admit what I have never said out loud. “My mother is dead, and I hate my father, so don’t worry. You’re safe from family day and so am I. All I want is here and now, this piece of time. And please save the pillow talk for someone who wants it. Contrary to what you seem to think, I’m no delicate rose.”
A stunned look flashes on his face an instant before I press my lips to his. The answering moan I am rewarded with is white-hot fire in my blood that he answers with a deep, sizzling stroke of his tongue. He slants his mouth over mine, deepening the connection, kissing me with a fierceness no other man ever has, but then, Chris is like no other man I’ve ever known.
His tongue plays wickedly with mine, and I meet him stroke for stroke, arching into him, telling him I am here and present and I’m going nowhere. In reply to my silent declaration, his hand cups my ass and he pulls me solidly against his erection. Arching into him, I welcome the intimate connection, burn for the moment he will be inside me. My hand presses between us and I stroke the hard line of his shaft.
Chris tears his mouth from mine, pressing me hard against the window, and I know I’ve threatened his control. Me. Little schoolteacher Sara McMillan. Our eyes lock, hot flames dancing between us and some unidentifiable challenge.
Some part of me realizes the window behind me is glass, and all things glass can break. He knows this, too, it’s in the dark glint of his eyes, and he wants me to worry about it. He’s pushing me, testing me, trying to get me to break. Because I slid beneath his composure? Because he really believes I am out of my league? And maybe I am, but not tonight. Tonight, as the song has said, I am broken, and for the first time perhaps ever, I am not denying the truth of all of my cracks. I am living them.
I lift my chin and let him see my answering rebellion. His fingers curl at the top of my silk blouse and in a sharp pull, material rips and the buttons all the way down pop and clamor in all directions. I gasp, in unfamiliar territory, and burning alive with the ache I have for this man.
He turns me to the window, and my hands flatten on the glass. Wasting no time, Chris unhooks my bra, and it and my blouse are off my shoulders in moments. He is behind me again, his thick erection fit snugly to my backside.
“Hands over your head,” he orders, pressing my palms to the glass above me, his body shadowing mine. “Stay like that.”
My pulse jumps wildly and adrenaline surges. I’ve been ordered around during sex, but in a clinical, bend over and give me what I want kind of way I tried to convince myself was hot. It wasn’t. I hated every second, every instance, and I’d endured it. This is different though, erotic in a way I’ve never experienced, enticingly full of promise. My body is sensitized, pulsing with arousal. I am hot where Chris is touching me and cold where he isn’t.
When he seems satisfied I’ll comply with his orders, Chris slowly caresses a path down my arms, and then up and down my sides, brushing the curves of my breasts. He’s in no hurry, but I am. I am literally quivering by the time his hands cover my breasts, welcoming the way he squeezes them roughly, before tugging on my nipples. I gasp with the pinching sensation he repeats over and over, creating waves of pleasure verging on pain, and the music is fading away, and so is the past. There is pleasure in pain. The words come back to me, and this time they resonate.
His hands are suddenly gone, and I pant in desperation, trying to pull them back.
Chris captures my hands and forces them back to the glass above me, his breath warm by my ear, his hard body framing mine. “Move them again and I’ll stop what I’m doing, no matter how good it might feel.”
I quiver inside at the erotic command, surprised again by how enticed I am by this game we are playing. “Just remember,” I warn, still panting, still burning for his touch. “Payback is hell.”
His teeth scrape my shoulder. “Looking forward to it, baby,” he rasps. “More than you can possibly know.”
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT SERIES, and is now in development by Suzanne Todd (Alice in Wonderland) for cable TV. In addition, her Tall, Dark and Deadly series and The Secret Life of Amy Bensen series, both spent several months on a combination of the NY Times and USA Today lists.
Since beginning her publishing career in 2007, Lisa has published more than 40 books translated around the world. Booklist says that Jones suspense truly sizzles with an energy similar to FBI tales with a paranormal twist by Julie Garwood or Suzanne Brockmann.
Prior to publishing, Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by Dallas Women Magazine. In 1998 LRJ was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.
Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at on her website and she is active on twitter and facebook daily.