Read an ExcerptExposing Casey
By DEANNA LEE
Copyright © 2008 Deanna Lee
All right reserved.
I watched in silence as Connor Grant moved across the large open gallery space that dominated the first floor. He'd never told me he loved me or even that he liked being with me, for that matter. He'd told a million lies with his actions and his body. How could a man give a woman so much pleasure and also give nothing? I knew he was from Great Britain and that both of his parents were dead. He had a law-enforcement background that he could not talk about and no siblings. That was it; and I'd gotten that from his personnel file.
It had been my rule for years not to get involved with a man I worked with. I'd broken that rule with him and I was paying the price. Every time I saw the bastard, my knees got a little weak with the memory of him. As a lover, he'd been the perfect combination of demanding and giving; it was just too bad that he was a motherfucker in the vertical position.
He was moving toward me, smiling and weaving his way through the crowd of people I'd put between us. After dumping his ass, I'd taken a two-week vacation. Fourteen days in the U.S. Virgin Islands had given me new sense of self and a fantastic tan. I took a drink from my glass and pursed my lips as he came to a stop in front of me.
"Mr. Grant." I tried to keep my voice cool and neutral.
I watched shock and then anger drift across his face in equal measure. "Back to that, are we?"
"Seems like we never really left it." I glanced around the room for a way to escape.
"I'd like to talk to you."
"I'd like to forget you exist." I tried to move past him but he took my arm to stop me. His grip was firm but not painful. "Let go, Connor. You've made it abundantly clear what you can offer me and what you never will. Frankly, I can buy a dick in a store."
"We have a good thing."
"No, we had an empty and physical thing. Now, we have nothing." I looked to his hand. "Let me go."
His hand fell away and he sighed. "I'd hoped you'd be over this by now."
"You just hoped I'd still fuck you," I murmured softly and cleared my throat. "We're way past that."
At least, I was damn positive we were past that. Connor was attractive in a truly British kind of way. He'd worked for the Holman Gallery for over a year and had been the head of security for nearly four months. We'd been fucking for just over five months when I realized through no admission of his own that he never wanted anything serious with me or any other woman. It's true that he'd never made promises to me. He'd also never told me how much the idea of marriage or even a committed relationship freaked him out. If he'd had his druthers, I still wouldn't know.
He caught up with me in the staff hall that led to the administrative area. I stopped, turned around, and glared at him. "What?"
"You can't just dismiss what we are to each other."
"No, but I'm very capable of realizing of what I'll never be to you." I pushed my finger against his chest. "I deserve more."
"I can't argue with that." He grabbed my hand and pulled me to him. "Case, I've missed you."
I stilled myself against the small thrill it gave me to hear him say it. But, I knew deep down he really didn't mean it. "You miss putting your dick in me."
He slid one hand around me, pressed against the small of my back until I was flush against him. "True. I miss talking to you, hearing about your day. Where have you been?"
"I went on vacation. That's no secret."
"Three months early and you didn't tell anyone where you were going."
"I'm a grown woman." I pulled briefly but sighed when his grip tightened. "I'm entitled to a private life."
"I thought I was a part of that private life."
"You don't want to be." I shoved at his chest and sighed at how weak I was about it.
The truth was, being in his arms felt great and just about as right as I could imagine. A year ago, he'd walked into the gallery and I'd spent the day in damp panties. His cool blue eyes, dark hair brown hair, and tight body had put more than one woman in the gallery on the edge of orgasm.
My body was already a jangle of raw nerves and I winced as my nipples started to tighten against his chest. "Just let go."
"And if I can't?"
"You don't have a choice," I snapped. "Go find another woman; it won't be hard."
"You can't tell me that you don't want me."
He covered my mouth with his and I responded before I could think better of it. Parting my lips to his questing tongue was as easy as breathing. His big hands slid down my back and pulled me closer. My body was screaming, "hell, yes," but my mind wasn't having it.
I fisted my hands in the lapels of his jacket and jerked my mouth from his. "Don't."
I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes against the sudden tears. "I can't do this."
I met his gaze and tears slid down my cheeks. "I can't be your fuck. I can't be that woman you call in the middle of the night when your bed is cold or you can't sleep. I need something you can't give me and I'm begging you to leave me alone."
He released me and took a step back; concern softened his eyes but his own displeasure was still very evident. Connor wasn't used to women dumping him. He'd been furious two weeks ago when I'd left his apartment and that fury still lingered.
"I don't make it a habit to hurt women."
Well, I doubted seriously he set out to do it, but I was confident I was the most recent in line of women who didn't get what they wanted from him.
"You never made promises to me." I wiped at the tears and sucked in a deep breath to steady myself. "And I realized that they were never coming. I'm just disappointed. I'll get over it."
"You mean you'll get over me," he muttered.
"You never let me get close enough to get attached. I'm not one of those women who confuse sex and love." I crossed my arms over my breasts and shook my head. "Look, the others will speculate but they won't ask questions. In a few months, they won't even care about what happened between us."
And maybe in a few months I could look at him and not be angry. I turned and walked quickly to the end of the hall and pulled open the door to the office area. At my desk, I pushed off the high-heeled shoes I'd donned for the party and stared at the blank screen of my computer. It had been just a little over a year since I'd taken the promotion that'd pulled me off the sales floor and into the administration area.
Jane Tilwell, my boss and mentor, had thrown a lot in my lap from the very start, but I was confident that I'd proven myself.
The door opened and the click of high heels on the floor told me that one of the women from the party had followed along to see how I was. I glanced up and smiled softly for Mercy Rothell-Montgomery. She was the director of the gallery and one of my favorite people on earth. Gloriously redheaded, strong-minded, and very pregnant, she looked a little out of sorts.
"What did he do to you?"
My mouth dropped open briefly but I shut it quickly. "What? Nothing."
"Don't give me that. You're sitting at your desk, crying in the dark. He did something." She crossed her arms and glared.
I wiped at my damp face, startled that I was still crying. "We just don't work, that's all. He didn't do anything to me." I glanced toward the door as it opened again and Jane came through it. Great, I had my doubts about being able to fend them both off. "I'm all right."
Jane came to a stop beside Mercy, took off her shoes, and pursed her lips. "He's at the bar with a scotch neat, and you're in here in the dark. Sounds like you're both just doing great. He looks so miserable I couldn't even lecture him for drinking on duty."
There were plenty of security guards at the party; in fact, Connor hadn't planned to work it at all. However, I'd never known him ever to shirk his duty.
Jane waved at me with her shoes as she continued. "Are you crying?"
"No." I glared at Mercy when she started to speak. "I wouldn't cry over a man." I reached down to pick up my own shoes and shook my head. "Look, you guys, I'm fine. If you two don't go back to the party, your men will come looking for you, and, frankly, if I wanted to be on display I would have stayed at the party."
"The party is over and the men know better." She pointed toward her office. "In there, right now."
Sighing, I stood up and stomped toward her office. "Fine, but I'm not talking about him."
Being made a liar really sucks. I snuggled down in the overstuffed chair in Jane's office and sighed. The two of them had spent the last hour listening to me bitch about Connor's commitment issues, but I hadn't even skimmed the surface of my real problem.
Jane was on the couch and Mercy was in a chair that matched the one I'd claimed. They both looked irritated, but were at a loss as to what to say to make me feel better. I looked at Mercy's swollen belly and bit my lip.
"I'm thirty years old."
"And?" Jane frowned at me. "I'm thirty-two."
"I'd planned to have a baby by now and I haven't even come close to marrying a man, much less having a kid." I stood up from the chair. "Look at me."
Jane did; her serious gaze took me in. "You look like a living, breathing Barbie doll."
That was true enough, but I wanted to give her the finger anyway. Being two inches shy of six feet, with blond hair, green eyes, and a set of tits like many women pay to get wasn't always the advantage that she assumed. "Yes, and that's how men treat me. That's how I've let men treat me. Well, I'm done with all of that."
"Nothing wrong with a little harmless sex," Jane said with a sigh. "You know relationships are overrated."
I laughed. "So says you." Picking up my shoes, I sat down in the chair and put them on. "I'm going home."
"Get a security guard to walk you to your car," Mercy said as she scooted to the edge of the chair and stood up as gracefully as she could muster.
I nodded, but already knew I wouldn't ask. The last thing I needed was to spend several minutes in the company of one of the men who worked for Connor. None of them had ever treated me as if they even knew I was fucking their boss; but honestly, I just wanted nothing to do with another man for a while.
Out at my desk, I plucked my coat from the chair and grabbed my purse. One day back on the job and I was already sincerely missing the beach and the pretty boy who'd brought me drinks on a little tray. Now, that's when looks like mine pay off.
I got all the way down the stairs and halfway to the staff's side exit before a security guard appeared out of nowhere to escort me. Startled and in an increasingly bad mood, I cast a glare at the man and didn't say anything as he opened the door for me. Self-preservation must have kicked in, because he fell in a few steps behind me and didn't say a word.
Being an hour behind schedule, I'd had to park on the second level of the parking deck. He cleared his throat once when I started toward the stairs but followed along dutifully. By the time I was sliding into my car, he was gone again. I wondered if they'd drawn straws to see who had to see me out to my car. It was probably paranoid and vain to assume that the security staff had nothing else but me to think about.
I made it across town to the small grocery store across from my apartment in record time. However, the moment I entered the place I realized that for the first time in months I was shopping for one again. What a fucking depressing thought. I'm not one of those women who need a man to live. I'm fine without one.
I can take care of my own sexual needs and I certainly don't need a man's money. Deciding to break things off with Connor had been difficult and painful. He was a good lover and he made me feel like a million dollars when we were together. Sex has its place, of course, but being at someone's beck and call for sex had been demoralizing.
So, I'm shopping for one again. It's not a big deal. Who needs a man raiding their fridge at three in the morning and eating all of the cornflakes? I made my selections quickly, paid, and trucked back out into the night resolved to never wear the shoes I was wearing again. I'm a slave to fashion, but I refuse to be a beaten slave to fashion. Both arches were aching and all of my toes were numb or close to it.
I live in a small building that housed two apartments. The two apartments share a front door and a small foyer. The woman who had lived across from me since I'd gotten the apartment had died, and I'd been waiting a respectful period of time before I approached her family about purchasing it. However, her grandson had moved in a couple of weeks after her death. I'd seen him briefly in passing a few times but I hadn't gotten a chance to really talk with him. The man, Shawn Tranner, was superfine but since I'd been stupidly invested in Connor, I hadn't given the man much of a shot.
I may be a horrible person, but I'd started saving money several years ago to purchase the apartment once it was available. Lavone had turned one hundred years old the week I'd purchased the apartment next to her, so it wasn't like I was rushing her into a grave or anything. She figured her days were numbered and I agreed. I may go to hell for it.
In the foyer of the building, I put my bags down and searched through my purse for my keys. It wasn't a long search since I was carrying a "party" purse that hardly qualified as anything more than a small square of beaded material and a string. "Good evening."
I screamed like a girl and jerked around. Six and half feet of man was lounging in the doorway of the other apartment. Shawn. My whole body tightened at the mere sight of him. "You scared me."
He didn't look like he meant it. In fact, he looked to be amused by my reaction. I let my gaze drop to his bare chest, over a finely rippled stomach, to the low-riding jeans that covered the bottom half of him. He was beautiful. Rich, dark brown skin covered a well-muscled frame that wasn't overworked. Men who work out too much had always turned me off. He had the face of an angel, smooth, angular, and classically handsome. I met his gaze and flushed at the knowing look in his black eyes. I'd never met anyone with black eyes before, and for a few seconds I just stared into them as my panties quickly dampened.
Shortly after he'd moved in, he'd asked me to dinner. At the time, turning him down hadn't been difficult, but as I looked at him, I wished I'd given him a chance.
"Can I help you with your bags?"
I started to say no, but he left his doorway and walked across the short distance to pick up the bags. "You shouldn't leave your door unlocked. The front door hasn't closed properly for years. Pull it closed. I have my keys in my pocket."
I did and hurried to open my door. "Thanks."
"No problem, doesn't look like you bought the store out."
I blushed. No, there really hadn't been any need to. But, then, even when I had shopped for two, the groceries had normally gone to Connor's place. "How do you like the place so far?"
"My grandmother hadn't had a repairman in the place in years, so I've spent the last couple of weeks repairing the stairs, replacing floorboards, and talking to plumbers. I'm sorry I scared you. I've actually been looking for you to return so that I could get with you about the front door." He put the bags on the counter and glanced around the kitchen area. "Same floor plan."
"Yes." I motioned upward. "I use my loft space for storage just like your grandmother did." I pulled off my coat and overlooked his raised eyebrow at my dress. It was short and revealing and I'd worn the little blue bit of silk as a petty little dig at Connor. It felt even more petty now. "So about the front door?"
"I'd like to have it replaced and put in an alarm system. I've gotten four quotes from companies so that we could go over it together. If it isn't in your budget, we can work out a payment plan of some kind." He looked me over again and then met my gaze.
I'd meant to ask him about it when he'd first moved in, but my impromptu vacation had interfered with that.
"No, I can handle it." I had quite a little bit of savings that wasn't going to go into buying Lavone's apartment after all. "I tried several times to talk your grandmother into getting a security system, but she always refused. Since we shared that space, I couldn't do it without her. Not unless I went to court, and I really didn't want to bully her."
Excerpted from Exposing Casey by DEANNA LEE Copyright © 2008 by Deanna Lee. Excerpted by permission.
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