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Claimed By Him
Billionaire's Club #1
By Red Garnier
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2013 St. Martin's Press
All rights reserved.
Graves Buchanan's balls were up on the poker table, and if he lost this hand, it was going to hurt like hell. He was already a million dollars under, and up on that table, his second million sat nice and tight in a blue-chip stack, right atop the green felt center.
One could argue that two million didn't even put a dent in his bankroll. For every second that Graves sat on his butt in his friend's state-of-the-art study, his businesses were racking up a couple of millions more. So no, it sure didn't put a dent in his bankroll. But it sure as hell hurt his pride.
Yeah, he was already smarting. Big-time.
Especially when he well knew that this pitiful losing streak was all because his concentration had been shit for a whole damned year.
Seated with three of his closest friends on their usual Wednesday poker night, he worked on keeping the mask of indifference on his face while dwelling on the indisputable fact that, with a measly pair of Jacks, he was going to have to bluff his way to a winning hand.
He surveyed his opponents' faces. Tonight he played with his best friend, Daniel Lexington, who leaned back in his chair, cool as a cucumber in a pair of Ray-Bans. Then there was Cade West, who was one pissed-off motherfucker. Guess you just didn't bury your young wife two months after the wedding and have nothing to show for it. And of course, there was Luke Preston, the incorrigible playboy, who couldn't keep his mouth shut to save his worthless life.
"Well, well, now, I've got some game here. Woohoo. Hold onto your pants, boys. I'm out for the big momma tonight and going all in." Luke pushed all his chips into the center, and while Graves's brain immediately began calculating how much he was going to lose if he called it, the shiny steel door to Daniel's massive public library–sized study cracked open a notch.
"Danny?" a female voice asked.
Graves's entire body went rigid as he recognized the speaker. Suddenly, a cluster of strange, complicated feelings rolled around inside his chest and all the blood started rushing to his groin. It was a miracle he managed to maintain his impassive expression, because every tiny nerve and cell and atom in his body came alive with a roar.
"Yeah, Chlo, come on in." Daniel waved his younger sister in, and Graves's windpipe clamped shut as he watched her approach. Holy Mother of God, this girl was going to kill him.
Chloe Lexington had grown up to be the hottest hottie he had ever laid eyes upon. She was slender, light, and delectable, with a dimple on her chin and a wide, sensual mouth, and big green eyes that gutted you. Her curves were in all the right places, curves a guy's hands would itch to mold and hold and play with.
She wore her straight, lustrous blond hair at an illegal length now, and Graves had noticed a couple of days ago that the longest tips teased the top of her fanny when she walked. And what a perfect fanny, oh man. Graves had fantasized about Chloe's delectable rear in ways he had no business fantasizing about it — but he just couldn't get over those perky rounded cheeks, held up in the air by a pair of angels.
Tonight she wore a simple black strapless dress that made his mouth water inexplicably. Graves could take the rest of the night surveying her perfect figure and not want for anything else, but instead he tore his eyes away before both Daniel and Chloe noticed the giant erection growing in his lap, even if he was shielded by the table.
A monster hard-on right now was not what he'd consider good news.
Graves was a bad, bad boy with his hard-ons, and the kind of shit he liked to do with them wouldn't sit well with a nice girl like Chloe. Much less with her brother — who was known to do even worse things with his hard-ons.
Daniel Lexington's motto of "No pain, no gain" extended far beyond the gym, they all knew.
"Hey, Chlo, get over here and let me have a good look at you. Let me give that rump a nice little pat, woman," Luke purred, waving her over.
"Lay off, Luke," Daniel growled.
Luke laughed. "Relax, man. She's your sister. Even I have my limits — plus you know I like my sex rowdy."
"You'd fuck your own mother if it'd get you off," Daniel replied.
Chloe was being a good sport about it though, coming forward with a seductive sway of her hips and sparkling green eyes. "Eat your heart out, Luke," she said, ruffling his blond hair. Then her smile faded and her eyes slid along the table until they stopped at Graves. "Hey guys. ... Hi, Graves." The merriment had fled from her face, and her voice dropped a decibel when she spoke his name.
Fuck me. It did all kinds of things to him, to meet those green eyes and think of Colorado forests, to hear her say his name in that seductive murmur. Her voice was fluffy like marshmallows, and it made Graves feel like the freaking s'more being burnt on both ends and crushed in the middle.
His pants strained painfully under the table and his chest cramped in ways he absolutely loathed. "Hey, Chlo," he said, and flicked his eyes back to his measly pair of Jacks.
"Are you losing again?" she asked. "Danny said you were on a bad streak lately."
She slid over to him and bent down to see his cards, and Graves knew that very second, he was fucked. The guys would look at her face, see that little O forming on her mouth, and know that Graves had shit. But he still sat there and let it all happen. Because her minty scent teased his nostrils and tortured his senses.
Strands of honeyed hair fell to his shoulders as she bent to take a closer peek, and then she turned her head so that he could see every golden speck in her lovely eyes. Her stare was full of amusement and pity, clearly saying, You are so screwed, Graves.
Yeah, but she didn't even know the half of it.
Because Daniel was his best friend, and Graves was crazy sick in love with his little sister.
Fuck me. How did this happen? Graves was a foster kid from a bad family. He barely even liked to be touched. Chloe was a pampered girl with loving parents who expected the world to kiss her feet and her boyfriends to do the same. Graves might feel like he lived to see those megawatt smiles of hers, but the truth was, he had no fucking idea how to love anyone, much less a princess like Chloe.
It was just better to put a cork on that emotion.
Except for the fact that lately he felt like he was going to burst apart.
"You going out, Chlo?" Luke asked her.
She took a while to respond, meeting Graves's gaze again, her eyes somehow looking deep into his black soul as though she were carving out his secrets, then she straightened slowly.
"Yeah, I have a date." She grinned and ruffled Luke's hair again. "Not with you, of course."
"Tell me who he is so I can kill the bastard."
"Or tell him who he is so that the bastard can kill Luke," Cade said.
"Not until after I get to kiss him, all right? You can try killing him later," she teased, then stuck her tongue out and turned to Daniel. "Can I borrow your car? Mine's low on gas and I don't like stopping at this hour."
Daniel searched his pockets, then cursed. "Damn, go look in my Armani suit jacket."
She groaned and stomped away, probably annoyed since Daniel's room was situated on a separate floor and was basically nuclear-proof, with steel doors and a thousand locks to decode before entering. "Hey, baby girl, you can take mine," Luke said, dangling his stallion key chain.
She turned with raised eyebrows, but didn't come fetch the clinking offer. "I wouldn't know what to do with your Ferrari except stare at it, Luke."
"Here. Take my car," Graves said, on his feet, while all he could think was that Chloe was going out with some guy tonight, while Graves had just lost two million dollars because he'd wanted to smell her up close. Since when had he become this smitten imbecile?
Clearly, he hadn't been having enough sex and needed to fuck Chloe out of his head in any way he could so he'd stop getting these stupid boners every time she so much as batted an eyelash in his direction.
"Graves, I couldn't," she said, shaking her head as she watched him. Graves caught up with her at the door and grabbed her hand to push the keys to his Range Rover into her palm. A frisson of electricity bolted through him, and his pulse skittered when Chloe trembled, too.
For a frozen moment, she raised her gaze to his with a beseeching, almost vulnerable expression on her face. His heart turned over in his chest when he recognized the painful need in those sultry green eyes.
She bit her lower lip and kept her hand against his, both of them half clutching the keys. His gut twisted painfully tight as his attention suddenly dropped from her eyes, to her lips, to her shoulders, to her breasts, while every pore and cell in his body screamed for him to touch her. Memorize her. Suckle her.
"You coming back to the game, man? I'm enjoying juicing you out of your last drop of cash, dude," Luke called.
Graves didn't even turn, for his gaze was now helplessly strapped to Chloe's full pink lips as she finally curled her fingers around his keys and pulled them away. Her whisper feathered across his skin. "I'll be careful with it, all right? Will you be here later so I can give it back?"
It felt so goddamned intimate, talking to her in whispers against the door. Hot, roiling blood pumped headily through his veins. He shook his head, dizzied by her nearness. His cock throbbed so painfully inside his pants he could almost feel a drop of come at the tip, she excited him so much. "Not at this rate, I won't," he said, still gobbling her up with his eyes. "But I'll take your car and we can exchange tomorrow."
Something intense flared in her gaze. He could barely keep himself from dipping his head and tracing the dimple on her chin with his tongue. "Thanks, Graves. Are you sure?"
He nodded, and when she spun around, he couldn't stop himself. "Hey." He caught her wrist, and her gaze shot up to his as if in surprise. He squeezed her hand meaningfully. "Don't make it easy for the guy. Don't let him go too far, all right?"
She assessed his face as though she was waiting for him to say something else, then she smiled sultrily. "Is there something wrong with pushing the limits a bit?" she asked, so softly the whisper caressed him all the way to his scrotum. And then she was gone, leaving him sniffing her intoxicating scent and thinking of her delicious ass and all the ways he could pat it, stroke it, even playfully spank it.
"So who's this asshole Chlo's dating?" Luke demanded.
"Some guy you don't know."
"Hell, you want my advice, Danny?" Luke asked.
"Nobody wants your shit advice, Preston," Cade snarled.
Graves scowled as he retook his seat and waited for the name. But they were all silent, watching their cards until they all started calling Luke on his last play.
"You check him out already? The guy?" Graves demanded of Daniel. "What does he do for a living? Hell, he could be married for all we know. What if he's as twisted as you, man?"
"No, man, Chlo isn't like that! She was a pageant girl, for Heaven's sake. She likes it sweet and easy, man."
Sweet and easy. Graves's stomach twisted as he wished, fervently wished, he could be sweet and easy. But Graves had grown up on the streets, and he didn't get to where he was by taking it sweet and easy with anyone. He'd been initiated into sex by a pair of ten-dollar whores, and that's the way it had always been for him. Sex was hard, and he was boss, and every single time, it was with no strings attached. He didn't do kissing. Hell, he couldn't even stand to be touched.
But when he looked at Chloe ...
Holy God, she stirred every primal, animalistic instinct inside him. He wanted to fuck her so hard he'd sink his teeth into her neck and give her a goddamned hickey that would hurt like fucking hell tomorrow. He wanted to hear her scream his name, over and over, until her throat went sore and his dick went limp inside of her.
Suddenly Graves replayed the way she'd looked at him, her eyes alluring, almost ... inviting. His balls strained with arousal, and his blood stormed through his body. God, she was fucking up his mind so bad, if he didn't do something about it soon he was going to combust.
"Graves? What have you got, man?"
Graves looked up to find three pairs of eyes on him. But all he saw were those green eyes, somehow imploring him to fuck her.
No, God, he had to be hallucinating. Wishful thinking or some shit.
He needed to get out of here. He needed ...he needed to get a fucking grip on himself and this idiotic thing he had for Chloe.
He set his cards down, scowling. "You know I've got shit, but I can tell you like to ask, Luke." He quickly felt behind him for his cashmere coat. Suddenly, he was unable to get out of there fast enough. "I'm out the next round, guys." And to Daniel, as he stood and shoved into his coat sleeves, "Tell Chloe I'll pick up the Rover tomorrow."
"Ah, Graves, I love it when you lose, man, you get that graveyard look you were born with."
"Fuck you, Luke."
Chloe climbed into Graves's Range Rover, and for a moment she just sat there behind the wheel, inhaling until her lungs could burst. His car smelled of him: male, elegant, elusive.
"Damn you, Graves," she said, her chest quivering with emotion. He was so nice all the time, so gentlemanly, and she just loved the way his face tightened when he saw her. But how she wished ...
Oh, God, she had to stop wishing things about Graves, because she'd been "coming on" to him in the only subtle way she knew how for the past year, and the guy didn't so much as twitch a muscle.
And yet, if he wasn't interested in her, then where did the piercing intensity come from when he looked at her?
There had been times during the past months when she'd fairly felt him strip her down with his incredibly hot werewolf eyes. And yet lately he didn't even steal a peek at her anymore, no matter how short and skintight her dresses got.
Did this mean he wasn't interested, or that he was?
Sighing in frustration, she finally started the car. Chloe really didn't have a date tonight, only the possibility of meeting her friends over at Katy's house, chatting and ordering take-out. But when she'd seen Graves's silver Range Rover Sport in the building parking lot reserved for those who had penthouses, her heart had gone haywire at the thought of seeing him. She'd gone and changed like some teenager going on her first date, all the time racking her brain for an excuse to get into Danny's study and just look at him, see all that male appeal and that sexy, square, tanned face.
This was not a new thing, finding excuses to see Graves.
Sometimes it just felt like she woke up with the hopeful thought of getting a glimpse of the guy. She ached to make those immobile lips of his smile, to feel the butterflies in her stomach when he spoke her name in that deep, rumbling baritone, to look into those amazing amber eyes and feel the heat they generated pool in liquid lava between her legs.
She knew he was off-limits according to Daniel, but she didn't care what her brother said. Daniel said all his rich friends were a bit eccentric and that Chloe would do well to steer away from them.
She'd tried. She'd really tried.
But when she lay in bed at night, touching herself, she could never reach that perfect spot until Graves's face flickered in her mind. And his deep, low voice, and his sad, golden eyes.
Womb clenching tight at the thought, she pulled the car out of the parking lot only to halt at the first stop light. This wouldn't do though. This waiting for Graves to suddenly want her was like waiting to win the lottery. You may hope and wish all you like, but in truth, there was a fat chance of it happening. And now that her twenty-fifth birthday was coming up, frustration rode her hard over the fact that she hadn't been able to hand her V-card to the only man she'd ever wanted to give it to.
At a younger age, she'd even expected to be married with babies by now. But her family's untold wealth and power had intimidated every man she'd known. Once a guy found out she was a Lexington, they either fell absolutely in love — which was creepy and disappointing — or they no longer wanted anything to do with her. For who could really keep up with an heiress? Graves, on the other hand, couldn't care less about her family's billions, since Danny said he had even more than they did. Which was amazing, since he'd been the one who'd had further to climb than anyone.
Excerpted from Claimed By Him by Red Garnier. Copyright © 2013 St. Martin's Press. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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