Julia Campbell never knows what to expect with win-at-all-costs Brad De Luca. And she's starting to like it that way. She gave up safe, conventional relationships when she let the elite divorce attorney seduce her into his world. Now that he's determined to strip her naked of every inhibition, she's in danger of falling too deep and too fast.
But their affair begins to feel even more dangerous when a murder leaves a trail of suspicion that points straight to the mob and Brad. Trusting a man with a bad reputation and a past full of secrets seems like a mistake. But when she's forced to make a choice, the consequences will take her further than she could ever have imagined.
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You can find out more about Alessandra and her upcoming books at www.alessandratorre.com, or through her Facebook page.
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"So, what's next?"
I turned my head, glancing at him, his dark profile hiding the grin that I knew played over his features. I reclined in the passenger seat of his car, snug against the warmth of the seat heater. He reached his hand over, offering it to me, and I grabbed it, running my hands over his huge palm and strong fingers. "What's next with tonight?"
He chuckled, the sound unfairly sexual. The man could make a sneeze sound carnal if he wanted to. "I'm taking you home with me tonight, unless you have an objection to that. I meant in regards to us."
I yawned. "Your home sounds good for tonight." Yes, his huge home with its big, luxurious bed, worth-giving-up-carbs-for shower and stocked fridge would be welcome tonight, especially since a night in that wonderful bed normally led to a morning of orgasms. "As far as with us, that's in your ballpark. I tried the threesome, and I'm cool with that if that's what you need to be faithful."
"You're 'cool' with it." His wry tone elicited a frown from my side of the car. "You seemed a little more than 'cool with it.'"
I rolled my eyes. "Fine. I loved it, can't wait to do it again, I will worship at the shrine of Brad from this day forth. Happy?"
The light changed in the car, and this time I could see the grin that stretched over his face. "Well, if you insist. You know I strive to please."
Yes, you certainly do. I never thought I would appreciate one singular quality so much. Competitiveness is great in a partner. Sexual competitiveness, I've learned over the last several weeks, is holy-freaking-God amazing. I watched the curve of his mouth, loving the transformation it caused to his powerful features. "So, tonight was it, right? That's the sexual extent of your freakiness?"
"Well " He shrugged, glancing over at me.
"Well?" I sat up, turning in my seat to fully face him. "Well what?"
"I will never need anything more 'freaky,' as you like to say, than what we just did. But the point of this is not just my pleasure. It's to awaken your sexuality, to find what turns you on and to explore that. Chances are, tonight wasn't your single perfect fantasy." I shifted slightly at the statement. Uh, yeah- it pretty much was. "As we grow in our relationship, you may find you like completely different things than you do now. As your sexual boundaries expand, your preferences may change."
I smirked at him. "So, what you're saying is, if I keep dating you, in three years I'm going to be licking whipped cream off a bearded lady and loving it?"
He laughed. "If it reaches that level, you're not going to be still dating me."
I relaxed back into the seat. "Well, for now, that was plenty hot enough for me. I don't know how much more sexual exploration my mind can take right now."
"So, if I receive any invitations, I should turn them down?"
I paused, midsnuggle into the leather cocoon that the BMW's seat had become. "What? What kind of invitations?"
"You know, parties, cruises or threesomes like we just did." His offhand tone was ludicrous considering the events that he was so casually discussing.
Parties? Cruises? I swallowed, unsure if I was ready for more. Brad read my silence and looked over, the passing streetlights revealing concern on his face. "Too much?" he asked.
I braved a smile. "For now. Let's take it one freak show at a time, okay?"
From the other side of the car came that delicious chuckle, and I clenched my core in an involuntary response.
The car slowed, making the turn onto Brad's road, and I looked at the stately homes that passed, each one more impressive than the last. Then we pulled into Brad's drive, the suspension smoothing the rough ride of the pavers below us, and taking us to his home.
I entered the lobby of Clarke, De Luca & Broward on Monday morning at seven-thirty on the dot. Waving at Ancient Dorothy, I pressed the elevator call button and waited for the car. My early morning wait was interrupted by a clattering of heels from somewhere behind me. The clattering had speed and determination that made me tense in anticipation. I risked a glance over my shoulder and came in full eye contact with an Amazon of a woman. I was wearing three-inch heels and she still towered a good six inches above me, coming to an abrupt halt so close to me that I was forced to look up just so my face wasn't buried in her breasts. I smiled hesitantly in greeting and stepped to the side, turning back to the bank of elevators, now in the awkward position of whether or not to make polite conversation on the ride up. I was already terrified of this woman, and didn't know why, other than the fact that she was clearly sizing me up and not being the slightest bit shy about it. I almost expected her to ask me to open my mouth so she could inspect my teeth.
The doors slid open, and after standard overtures, she stepped onto the car, her strong mass dominating the elaborate space. My inner turmoil over whether or not to converse with her was solved by the moment the doors closed.
"So," she announced with gusto. "You're Julia."
"Beg your pardon?" I asked.
"Julia Campbell," she said, grinning at me, her face beautiful despite the extra weight it carried. As a failed makeup study, I recognized quality makeup when I saw it, and this girl had enhanced an already beautiful face to model-quality, an attribute that many men probably overlooked because of her size. "That's you, right? I hacked into H.R.'s file and got a copy of your driver's license. Your pic is a few years old, but pretty damn close."
If there had been room to take a step back in the elevator, I would have. If I had been scared of her before, I was sweating bullets now. "I'm sorry I don't believe we have met. You are. ?"
She laughed. "Sorry. I'm Rebecca. Brad's assistant."
Brad's assistant. Suddenly I could breathe a little easier. "Oh. I thought all of his assistants were " I tried to find the words to describe the three secretaries that reigned over Brad's wing of the firm.
"Old, wrinkly bitches?" She grinned at me as the doors opened, and I burst out laughing at the description, one that probably fit the three elegant senior citizens that had stuffily dismissed me the one time I had dared to approach their desk. We stepped out of the elevator together and she followed me as I pressed on the door to the West Wing. Surprised, I glanced over at her. "You coming over here?"
"Just for a sec. Brad wanted me to introduce myself, and a thirty-second ride won't do that justice."
I doubted a three-day road trip would do that justice, but
I smiled at her and unlocked my office door, ushering her in. It was early, but the rest of the staff would be filing in soon. I hoped she wasn't planning on staying long. Rebecca's presence was as subtle as a giant sign screaming I'm dating Brad De Luca! hung outside my door.
"I can't stay." Her quick words made me wonder how transparent my inhospitable thoughts were. "Let me just get your email address and I'll be on my way."
"Yeah. Your personal one. I'll need to send you some stuff that shouldn't go over the company intranet."
I blushed, hoping the attachments weren't of the adult variety and wondering how much Rebecca knew about our relationship. I scribbled down my email address, passing it to her with a smile that I hoped communicated my friendly intent. "It was nice to meet you, Rebecca."
"Hey, you, too. Maybe I'll see you around." She waved cheerily and swung out the door, her heels pounding down the hallway, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the double doors close behind her. I plopped down in my chair, spinning slightly as I stared at the ceiling. Rebecca sending me "stuff." This would be interesting.
"Julia, can I borrow you for a moment?" Broward's voice floated through the open doorway into my office, four hours later. He had politely used the office phone system for the first three weeks of my internship, but had abandoned that practice and now simply yelled for me, like I was his puppy roaming somewhere in the house, looking for a place to pee. I sighed, sliding back from my desk and working my bare feet into heels and standing. I was in his doorway a moment later, barely in time to stop another interoffice yell, his mouth already opening in preparation.
"Yes, Mr. Broward?" I asked politely.
"Come in, Julia, and please shut the door."
I cringed, stepping forward and grabbing the handle, pulling it closed behind me. Broward seemed to have this misconception that "closing his door" actually afforded him some measure of privacy. While the heavy, oak door probably did have excellent sound-deafening qualities, the one-inch gap that ran along the bottom allowed almost every word to come through in crystal-clear quality. This had to be about Brad, and thanks to this poorly hung door, someone was bound to walk by and hear the entire conversation.
"I'd like to extend your internship, assuming you are interested."
My jaw literally dropped, an involuntary relaxation of muscles that I struggled to contain. Okay-guess this isn't about Brad. "Extend?" I said dumbly.
"Yes. I've been very impressed with you so far, and would like to expand your duties here, maybe bring you to court, let you see more than just the inside of a file." He grinned at me, a worthless exercise of muscles, because as soon as he had said that word, everything else had disappeared.
Court. The word hung, in gold glittery letters, above my head, blinking on and off like a Vegas sign advertising half-priced buffets. I tried not to lick my lips but could feel saliva pooling, and my jaw started itching to do that damn dropping motion again. "That would be wonderful, but I-um I just need to check my class schedule for next semester."
He shrugged at my response, picking up his phone and cradling it to his ear. "Check your schedule and let me know. I'll speak to H.R., see if we could take you on part-time, give you some hourly rate that would make it worth your while."
Monetary compensation? Court time? I smiled at him and turned quickly, wanting to get the hell out of there before slobber shot in all directions out of my mouth. I fled his office and collapsed into my chair, an expression somewhere between a grin and a grimace contorting my face. My excitement over the job prospect fought with the predicament it would cause. Court. Money. Brad. Broward. Certain disaster. Court. Ugh. I laid my head on my desk and groaned.
It was 4:00 p.m. before I thought to check my personal email, remembering that Rebecca was going to send me something. I had one new email, from Rebecca Cray, titled INFO. I opened the email, and read the one-line message.
When you get a chance, please complete the attached and scan it back to me. Thx-Rebecca
I opened the attachment, an Excel spreadsheet, and scanned it quickly, my eyes narrowing the further down the document I read. No fucking way. Then I printed it, closed out the email and picked up the office phone, dialing Brad's extension and waiting.
He answered in a way that expressed he was not alone. That was fine. I had aspirations for my bitch-out session, and the minimum requirement was that it be in person. "Dinner, tonight? The bistro on Sixty-ninth at six. Okay?"
"Do I have a choice?" His voice held a hint of wariness.
Damn. I had wanted to blindside him with my tantrum. More dramatic that way. "Not really."
"The bistro is fine, at six, but be aware that I don't do subservient very well."
His voice was almost dangerous in its authority, and my feminine side swooned a little despite my best efforts to project more of a dominatrix side.
I tried to come up with a witty response, but struck out. "Whatever," I finally snapped, hanging the phone up glumly, feeling, as I often did with him, that I had been outmatched.
Then I stood, going to ask the other dictator in my life if I could run out for thirty minutes at six. I really needed to do something to get the men in my life under better control.
"What, pray tell, could I already be in trouble for?" In the brick-walled restaurant, Brad's face could only be described as pained as he ended a call and stood from a four-top at my approach, stepping aside and pulling out my chair.
I sat, accepting the kiss he placed on my cheek, a kiss that moved, traveling down my neck before I pulled back with a squeal, a smile fighting me tooth and nail to reach my mouth. "What makes you think you are in trouble?" I purred, crossing my legs and reaching forward, dipping a carrot in some hummus and crunching down on it, Brad looking at me in barely contained disgust. "What?"
"That stuff. It looks disgusting."
I snorted, all sexy purrs now gone. "Disgusting? You ordered it!"
"I ordered it because women everywhere seem to eat it, and I was trying to find something you'd like in this grano-lified tent that they call a restaurant."
I smothered a smile, looking around. He had a point. Birkenstocks and deodorant-free patrons seemed to be the vibe this place was going for. It had been a recommendation from my roommate Alex, and was one of the few downtown restaurants that was avoided by the staff. Now I knew why. "No steaks on the menu?"
"Barely any meat on the menu. One free-range chicken dish, the rest all vegetarian. I'll eat at home, but you need something. Here." He pushed a laminated menu across the small table, and I scanned it quickly, fighting my own urge to curl an upper lip. The items were all healthy, all organic, and all unappetizing. I spotted vegetable soup and decided to go with that, setting the menu aside and looking at Brad.
The man was sinful. Tan skin, thick black hair, with bits of silver littering it. Dark brown eyes that held every emotion possible, with the tendency to smolder and cloud at just the moment when it drove me the craziest. Strong features that worked perfectly together to make every grin, grimace and glare heart-stoppingly gorgeous. But honestly, you could run his face through a blender, shave his head bald and starve the man out of his amazing, too-built-for-mortal-men build, and he would still be stop-you-in-your-tracks sexy. Because it wasn't the looks that really made him sizzle; it was the pure sex that reeked from his pores, the cocky confidence that dominated every move, every touch. And the horrible yet ecstatic fact about the whole package is that he could back it all up with mind-numbing sexual prowess. He knew what he rocked beneath those dress pants, and he knew exactly how to use the damn thing. It was, as I had thought a thousand times before, ridiculously unfair.