Read an Excerpt
One year later
Eleanor Briggs thought it fitting that she'd chosen a reading event to make her debut as a sexually confident, "I take what I want when I want it" female. Her entire job revolved around books, after all. Well . . . the part that didn't involve conserving historical documents, costumes and artifacts, or doing research that would bore most people out of their minds.
In books, whole new worlds were born and new identities created, all through the power of the imagination. What better venue for her to transform herself into a sexual force of nature and worthy bedmate for her obsession, Trey Riordan? If it weren't for her imagination, the fuel of distilled longing, and perhaps the cruel eye-opening she'd had after the abrupt loss of her sister, she'd never have the nerve to go after an unobtainable dream like him.
Tonight, she moved out of the shadows and officially into the spotlight.
"Are you here for the reading event?" Stacy Moffitt asked her in a bored tone as she slipped an iPad and phone in a manila envelope and wound a numbered string around the enclosure.
Eleanor took heart from Stacy's lack of attention. Maybe Stacy wouldn't notice who she was. Stacy worked under Jimmy Garcia. Jimmy was the director of special events at the Illinois Historical Museum, and Eleanor's longtime friend. Eleanor worked for the museum too, as the conservation and preservation librarian. Jimmy had been called out of town unexpectedly yesterday, which was a good thing for Eleanor. Jimmy was the only other person on earth who knew about her obsession with Trey Riordan. He didn't, however, know about her aggressive plan for finally getting his attention.
"That's what I'm here for," Eleanor told Stacy.
"There's a strictly enforced 'no talking' policy during reading hours. I need you to turn in all cell phones, tablets and computers. This is a technology-free zone. We only want you focusing on your book for the next two hours," Stacy said in a preachy voice.
"Ah, I get it now. Thus the name of the event: Leave Everything Behind but a Book. Clever," Eleanor said under her breath as she dug in the Italian designer bag that used to belong to her sister, Caddy. Stacy glanced up at her sarcastic tone. The way Jimmy's assistant gaped at her disbelievingly was not flattering.
"Eleanor. Is that you?"
"None other," Eleanor replied grimly, placing her cell phone on the counter. With a furious effort, she held the young woman's stare. She would not be cowed a mere minute into her performance.
Stacy's gaze dropped down over her snug suede bodice and the fitted, conservative blazer paired with it. As far as Eleanor knew, her sister Caddy had only worn the outfit once. Eleanor had practically achieved photosynthesis, she'd been so green with envy when she'd watched her sister leave her condo in it. The occasion had been an Odesza concert given by Chicago socialite Sasha Allen Severnsen exclusively for her closest friends in honor of Caddy's thirty-third birthday. Caddy was always having awesome, glamorous parties thrown for her. Along with the short skirt, dark brown tights and the soft, fitted beige thigh-high Rockerchick boots, the outfit screamed money, good times, boldness and sex. In other words, it had Caddy stamped all over it.
Stacy's stare lingered on the tops of Eleanor's breasts. The suede bodice had cupped them softly in a seduction that was somehow both tasteful and flagrant at once. It wasn't just a sensual invitation to Trey Riordan either. Eleanor herself was being seduced by the feeling of the suede against her bare breasts.
"That's quite an outfit," Stacy finally said disbelievingly as she held out a claim ticket for Eleanor's phone. "Not your typical work wardrobe, that's for sure. What's the occasion?"
Eleanor shrugged, reached into her bag and withdrew her reading choice for the evening. "I'm reading a very sexy book."
Normally, she wouldn't have the nerve. It was Caddy's outfit that made her say it. Ignoring Stacy's openmouthed shock at her book choice for what was supposed to be a serious, highbrow literary event, Eleanor plucked the claim ticket out of Stacy's hand and strode into the quickly filling Historic Grounds Coffee Shop. The thigh-high boots she wore were the equivalent of sexual jet fuel. They weren't "fuck me" boots, necessarily. They had only a half-inch flat heel, but they hugged her legs tightly, showing off their shape. Eleanor would more describe them as "fuck you" boots . . . and maybe "me," if you've got some major balls.
Trey Riordan did. Her fingers were crossed.
It was surprising how easy it was to play the part while wearing Caddy's clothing. Eleanor suspected this was how all understudies felt when they first donned the star's wardrobe and felt the rush of an enraptured audience.
Not that she was interested in the audience in general, Eleanor acknowledged as she scanned the crowd and several men's stares landed on her and stuck. It was flattering, of course. A month ago, she would have grown giddy at the idea of men going glassy-eyed when they looked at her. That was before she'd sampled a couple of the outfits she'd inherited from Caddy and noticed their effect on people.
She should skip ordering coffee, knowing it wasn't a good idea to add caffeine to her nervous excitement. Her jitters only amplified when she couldn't locate her target audience. Jimmy had told her Trey Riordan's name had been the second one on the list when he'd signed up for the Historical Society reading event a month ago. Surely such eagerness implied he wasn't likely to change his mind? Just as her heart began to sink in disappointment, she saw the back of his golden-brown hair and those edible shoulders beneath a light blue shirt.
How could she have missed him? He was only ten feet away from her. She was used to seeing him from the distance between the two adjacent buildings, that was the problem. Plus, he'd grown even leaner in the past month. His waist appeared especially narrow in comparison to his powerful back and shoulders. Even though he probably had lost negligible weight, his muscles were even more pronounced than they'd been in the past. Eleanor wondered what had him appearing so wiry and fighting lean.
He bent and withdrew a leather-bound book from his briefcase. His close proximity struck her as surreal.
Her heartbeat started to drum in her ears, but whether the rhythm was a death march or a sexual tattoo, Eleanor couldn't say. I'm going to make a hot mess of this. For a charged few seconds, she experienced a strong urge to run. Sure, she'd dressed in Caddy's clothes a few times, but only Jimmy and her parents had ever really seen her in them. And with them, it was impossible to thoroughly disguise bookish, distracted Eleanor, whom they knew all too well.
There was still time to run home, cuddle up on her couch with a bag of Cheetos and watch the latest episode of The Librarians.
But as a dazed state of fear descended upon her, she found her vision narrowing on Trey's riot of burnished brown waves of hair. It wasn't long, but it wasn't close-clipped either. It symbolized his irreverent, carelessly sexy style: the hallmark of a corporate rebel. It looked so soft, especially in comparison to those wide, very solid shoulders. What she wouldn't dare, to sink her fingers into that thick, tousled hair and dig her nails into that muscular, rippling back, urging him on while he drove his cock into her body.
God, I hope this works.
She had good reason to worry. For more than a month now, he'd typically been alone when he'd entered the penthouse late at night. He watched television alone, ate alone and slept alone. He pleasured himself alone. That memory would burn her until her dying day, it'd been scorched so deep in her brain.
Still, Trey Riordan wasn't the type of man to stay solitary for long. He was the brilliant bad-boy entrepreneur. He'd been at the center of the Scarpetti twin controversy after being photographed with the heiress sisters in flagrante delicto behind the curtain of an upscale club in Rome. Trey wasn't anywhere near as famous as the Scarpetti twins. Yet a recent survey had calculated that the seminude, viral photo of him and the gorgeous twin sisters was unique, because it was prized equally among males and females across the globe.
No, a man like Trey didn't stay partnerless for long. Her entire performance tonight was solely to encourage him to abandon his flirtation with celibacy and indulge in the delights of the flesh once again.
She hoped she was one of those rare females who made it to Trey Riordan's bed more than once, but she wasn't holding her breath. Surely one ride on that man-coaster would be enough to silence this uncustomary, uncontrollable hunger of hers. One thing was for certain: he'd never have a more appreciative lover.
For over a year now, Eleanor's obsession with him had taken root and flourished. But to this day, she'd never looked into his eyes. That simple fact festered.
She inhaled, breathing in determination.
The boots seemed to strut her instead of her strutting in them. She jogged up two stairs and slid into a window seat at a small table just eight or so feet in front of Riordan. Unfortunately, all of the lounging chairs were taken, but maybe that was for the best. A puffy armchair might block her performance from her target audience in a way that an armless wooden one wouldn't.
She swung her bag onto the back of the chair, her heart fluttering uncomfortably in her chest. As if she had all the time in the world, she smoothed her long, loose curls over her shoulder in seeming distraction, pausing over the sensation of the strands' texture. It'd been part of her act, but she was surprised to feel just how soft and sexy her hair felt sliding against her fingertips.
She knew the precise moment when Trey's stare landed on her. It was the moment her cheek tickled in awareness and her breasts suddenly felt obvious and swollen in the suede cradle of the bodice. She suppressed a strong urge to finally look point-blank into his eyes. Don't blow it, Eleanor. Trey Riordan cut his teeth on some of the boldest femme fatales in the world. You've only got one first time.
Slowly, she crossed her legs, feeling her skirt ride higher on her thigh. When she felt air brush against the strip of skin at the top of her thigh-high tights, she ran her fingertips across it in a seemingly distracted gesture. Her bare skin felt smooth and warm. Her clit prickled. She instinctively clamped her thighs tight to alleviate that pinch of excitement. Perhaps it was that she knew Trey's stare was on her at that moment, or maybe it was because for the first time in her life she wasn't wearing any underwear in public, but the sexual charge she experienced was shockingly strong.
Keeping her stare demurely lowered, she reached into her bag and pulled out the coup d'-tat: her newly purchased copy of the hugest source of derisive jokes, critical outrage and horniness in recent history, the cultural phenomenon Born to Submit. Due to her voyeurism, she knew firsthand the topic might capture Trey's attention. Again, she ran her fingertips over the strip of silky skin between the hem of her skirt and the top of her thigh-highs.
Making sure that Trey could see the cover, she opened the book to page one.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
Trey Riordan read the first line of Pride and Prejudice and smirked. He hadn't realized Jane Austen had a sense of humor. Maybe that's why ninety percent of the women he'd ever known adored this book. No, that wasn't it. It was because of the romance that women loved it. When women talked about Pride and Prejudice, they did so with a faraway look and a little Mona Lisa smile. It wasn't an expression he much associated with himself or his relationships. There was nothing mysterious about what he typically inspired in a woman.
Not that he was complaining, of course. What kind of idiot would whine over the fact that the most common reaction he drew from women was hunger? A hunger to screw, sure, but also apparently a hunger to monopolize, to control all of his time and his attention, to trap him into something he wasn't interested in . . . to squash his very spirit.
Clearly, he was not attracting the right kind of female.
It was either that or his problems were far more serious. There was a very good possibility that he just wasn't meant for the long term.
That's why he'd made a conscious effort a month ago to step back from women and dating and examine what the hell he was doing with his life. Because the sad truth was he was complaining, wasn't he? He'd grown frustrated and listless in regard to smoking-hot but brittle, unsatisfying relationships. His dating life had grown as stale as week-old pizza . . . and about as nutritive to his well-being.
For more than a decade, the success ran just as thick as the stream of women and easy sex. He'd come into money and a kind of minor fame as a carefree, partying twenty-one-year-old when he first created BandBook, a mixture of a social and career Internet platform that hosted pages for musicians and bands. The site became popular for its original customers: people looking to book a band or musician for an event. But with its sophisticated search options, videos and the audience rating and comments feature, BandBook quickly earned a reputation as being a pulse-taker of popular culture. His start-up company became a go-to site for talent scouts looking for the next hot thing. It'd taken off like a rocket, and Trey had soon expanded the applications to other groups, like actors, artists and filmmakers. Since then, his newly consolidated company, TalentNet, had gone global. Today, Trey was proud to say that dozens of bands, musicians and other artists credited TalentNet with their first big break into celebrity status.
But he wasn't that smart-mouthed, cocky, oversexed kid who had unexpectedly discovered entrepreneurial gold anymore. After losing two friends recently, along with a couple of ugly, messy breakups in a row, it had started to dawn on him how empty and unsatisfied his relationships with women were leaving him.
So he'd vowed to take a sexual sabbatical.
Almost five weeks without sex. It'd been hard, of course, but he'd kept his eye on the prize. If he wasn't cut out to be in a serious relationship, best he figured that out now. And if he was? Well, he wasn't ever going to achieve the gratification of a meaningful relationship until he broke his old patterns and figured out what he wanted . . .