Some passions are too hot to disguise…
Former Army intelligence officer Seth Hightower may work with the Hollywood elite as a makeup artist, but he’s learned not to trust the rich and famous with anything more than a good time. Only one woman ever tempted him to break his rules about dating actresses—and she left him with the memory of a single night and a lifetime of what-ifs.
Hollywood “It” girl Gia Harris is used to being in the spotlight. But after she witnesses something that puts her life in danger, she needs to avoid prying eyes. Seth’s special skills make him the perfect person to keep her famous face out of the news, but their history makes him the last person she wants to be alone with. He’s far too tempting—and now, far too close…
As Seth conceals Gia from those who would do her harm, they can’t ignore the blistering attraction between them. And when they give in to their cravings, they reveal more about themselves than either of them has ever laid bare before…
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Beth Kery loves romance, and the more emotionally laden and sexy the romance, the better. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist of over thirty novels including the Because You Are Mine novels and the One Night of Passion novels. She lives in Chicago where she juggles the demands of her career, her love of the city and the arts, and a busy family life. Her writing today reflects her passion for all of the above.
Read an Excerpt
TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO
His final project for the benefit ball cast admiring looks at her many reflections as she sashayed out of the room. Not without good reason, Seth acknowledged with wry amusement as he glanced at the Alien Ice Queen’s ass gloved in a clinging blue gown. The starlet paused in the act of appraising herself from all angles.
She had ample opportunity to adore herself in the luxurious but garish dressing room where they stood. No less than a dozen gilded mirrors adorned the suite, including a large one on the ceiling. Daphne DeGarro, the heiress-turned-reality-show-star and hostess for the Cancer Research Benefit Ball, had opened several rooms in her Hollywood Hills mansion that night for the transformation of her guests. She’d reserved her risqué, decadently decorated dressing room for Seth, however. Earlier that evening, Daphne had led him to it with a sly grin. Seth had made her his first project, turning her into a magnificent, sexually flagrant Marie Antoinette, his creative instincts sparked by the woman’s opulent bad taste and brassy beauty. The benefit ball for cancer research was now in full swing in an almost equally gaudy ballroom and downstairs terrace.
Seth was the last special effects makeup artist to finish. He was weary. He’d done his part for tonight. Between him and fourteen of his regular staff and two eager interns from Hightower Special Effects Studio, they’d completed nearly two hundred characters in costume and makeup. The price of their labor, in addition to the use of Hightower’s extensive costume-and-makeup collection, was a hefty donation to the Cancer Research Fund by each client. Daphne DeGarro might have been in love with herself, but she was shrewd. Hollywood players would pay a sizable chunk of cash to be turned into a fearsome fairy-tale creature or glamorous fantasy character for one magical night.
Perhaps the young actress noticed his gaze lingering on her backside in one of the many mirrored reflections, because she turned to him.
“Aren’t you attending the ball, Seth?” she asked.
“No, I’m done for the night,” Seth replied, briskly zipping up an airbrush case and returning it to his kit. Realizing he still had on the tinted glasses he wore when he did an application, he shoved them impatiently back on his head.
“That’s all it was then? Work?” the Ice Queen asked. He paused warily, hearing the hint of seduction in her tone. She’d drunk too much champagne while he was doing her application. He glanced up. She was arching her back slightly, highlighting her ample, airbrush-frosted breasts beneath the low-cut gown. Earlier, he had offered to glue the edges of the gown—her nipples were bound to pop over the edge at any moment—but his offer had been flatly refused. Apparently the possibility was something she hoped for rather than dreaded.
She was a temptation, all right, but one he’d grown well accustomed to denying himself. Seth liked women a lot.
Just not the actress variety.
He resumed packing his kit methodically. He knew firsthand the level of infatuation a woman could get for a man who could turn her into a breathtaking vision. He tried to recall her name, but quickly gave up. What difference did it make? Seth avoided women possessed of fame fever. This particular ingenue was burning with it, which had perhaps been his inspiration for the Ice Queen makeup.
She could use a little something to cool her down.
“No. Not just work. It’s my art as well,” he replied levelly, sliding some paints into his kit.
“I hope you’re pleased with your creation then. I know I am. I feel so honored to have been touched by the best,” the Ice Queen said tremulously. When he didn’t look up, because he had a damn strong suspicion she was feathering her fingertips across the top of her breasts and peekaboo nipples, he heard a resigned sigh.
“I see. All the rumors about you not fraternizing with the talent are true then. Shame.”
The door closed.
He exhaled in relief and shut his kit briskly in preparation to leave as well. Eight members of his staff had volunteered to stay and assist with prosthetic and costume removal after the ball. A delivery service had been hired to pick up all the costumes and gear left at Daphne’s house tomorrow.
He paused next to one of several iced buckets of champagne in the room and poured himself half a glass. He rarely drank champagne—or any alcohol, really. He’d developed a dislike for the stuff at an early age after seeing firsthand its effects on his father and two uncles in his home village, Isleta Pueblo. It had been a long, trying night though. Usually a script and his creative instincts drove his work. Tonight, he’d been driven largely by vanity and questionable taste.
He drained the flute, finding the cold, dry liquid cleared his mental cobwebs better than he would have expected.
He caught his reflection in one of the gilded mirrors, a tall man holding a delicate flute in a large hand. Next to the feminine flounces and pastel shades of green, gold and blue décor that surrounded him, he looked especially out of place, a bull in a china shop . . . a savage in the midst of contrived artifice.
It was the paradox of his life that those unlikely, big hands contributed to the subtlety, artistry and nuance of Hollywood’s grand façade.
He couldn’t wait to leave. He set down the flute. A small amount of peace and a large steak were awaiting him at home. Even though it was the weekend and almost nine thirty in the evening, it was early for him to be taking off. He was looking forward to a little R and R.
He swung open the door to the hallway and halted abruptly at the sight of a young woman’s pale, startled face—a face he definitely did not know. In the distance, however, he heard a voice he recognized all too well.
“Why is she playing coy?” Cecilia was saying, sounding out of breath. “Half my client list is here tonight. I haven’t got time to play hide-and-seek with her. What makes your girlfriend think she’s so important?”
“I told you,” a man said in a bored tone. “She claims I’m not her boyfriend anymore.”
The girl stared at Seth with huge green eyes. At first, he thought she was stunned. He quickly realized she was dazed, but also nearly panicked. Reacting purely on instinct, he reached for her hand and pulled her into the room with him. She came without hesitation, spinning into him in a motion that bizarrely struck Seth like a dance move between familiar partners. Her back was to his front as he reached around her and silently shut the door. He could tell by the sound of their footsteps that Cecilia and her companion had rounded the corner of the hallway in the distance. Very gently, he turned the lock. His fingers lingered on the metal while his other hand continued to clasp the woman’s hand in the vicinity of her waist.
For several seconds, they just stood there, utterly still as he half-embraced her, staring at the door and listening. He heard the sound of door after door opening and shutting as Cecilia and the man carried out their search.
“What have you done now?” Cecilia Arends, one of the most successful agents in Hollywood, continued. Cecilia was smart and savvy. Seth and she had gone out a few times. Cecilia had made it clear she wanted more than a few dates. He regrettably didn’t return the interest, and he had been friendly but frank with her about it. Cecilia was way too attached to her cell phone and doing business, even while they were on a date. When Seth took off from work, he relished his private life, his freedom and anonymity. Cecilia had infringed on his privacy via her celebrity deal making while at candlelit dinners—or finally—during an intimate moment following sex. He’d ended things with her the next day.
He hadn’t been avoiding Cecilia—until tonight, that is—but he hadn’t been seeking her out either.
“Did she catch you at it with another girl?” Cecilia was saying. “I’ve told you all along Gia won’t stand for your antics. She’s too smart for her own good and values her opinion far too much for someone so young. Good God,” Cecilia added in a beleaguered, distracted tone. “Look at this décor.” A door snapped shut. “Who does Daphne DeGarro think she is, the Whore of Babylon? You’d think with that much money, she could buy herself some taste.”
The searchers’ footsteps drew nearer. Instead of being concerned, Seth looked down at the girl distractedly. She possessed gleaming, golden brown hair that was gathered at her neck in a thick braid. He unlocked his gaze from the way the light hit the richly colored strands, and he watched dispassionately as the doorknob turned. His inner elbow pressed against the young woman’s shoulder and neck. She was cuddled against the middle of his body like a pea in a pod, the pressure of her against him slight, but . . . nice. He sensed her tensing and holding her breath as the doorknob rattled. He, on the other hand, inhaled deeply. The clean, fresh scent of soap and tangerines tickled his nose. Sexual awareness flickered down his spine, the charged, wholly unexpected scenario perhaps amplifying the sensation.
The knob twisted back into place.
“It’s locked. Let’s go back down to the party. Maybe she’s turned up there again,” the male said in an irritated tone.
When the voices began to fade, the young woman turned and looked over her shoulder. She stared at his face as if rapt. The silence stretched. She blinked and seemed to come back to herself.
“Thank you,” she said earnestly. “I didn’t think I’d run into anyone I knew tonight.”
He arched his eyebrows, extremely curious and a little wary. He drank in the vision of her face. “Cecilia Arends is one of the most sought-after agents in Hollywood. What does she want with you?”
She shrugged uneasily under the costume armor she wore. A light pink stain spread on the cheek turned toward him. Realizing she was still sheltered by his body, he lowered his arm from the door reluctantly and straightened. She stepped to the side, but he noticed with a sense of satisfaction that she didn’t move far off. He’d liked having her next to him. He dropped her hand and scowled slightly.
His gaze lowered over her with growing interest. She’d been costumed as Joan of Arc. Whoever had done her makeup had been smart enough to apply hardly any paint. The typecasting was perfect. The girl had the intelligent gaze and radiant, fresh glow one might imagine the virgin warrior to possess . . . although Seth somehow doubted a saint would possess such a pink, delectable mouth. There was an interesting tilt to her light green eyes; beautifully shaped, high cheekbones added a hint of regal haughtiness to her otherwise girl-next-door pretty face. He found it striking, the unexpected and exotic combined with all that rosy, creamy freshness. There was something very frank and honest about her gaze. He’d have said she possessed a tomboy quality if he didn’t find her to be utterly feminine.
“It’s actually Tommy who is responsible for the search party,” she said, interrupting his unexpected and increasingly lustful thoughts. Never let it be said that one night you might randomly open a door and see an incredible, singular woman standing there.
“So you’re not one of Cecilia’s clients?” he pressed.
Something flickered across her face. She shook her head adamantly. “No. I came with my old college roommate. She’s an intern for—”
She abruptly halted her rapid, anxious speech, lush lips falling open. Eyes the color of a newly opened leaf lowered slowly over his face and body, and then widened. “Are . . . are you Seth Hightower?” she asked in a strangled voice.
White teeth scraped across her lower lip. Seth felt his body tingle and tighten. Her mouth was a hundred times the temptation of the Ice Queen’s flagrantly displayed ass and breasts.
“Your friend is an intern with my company? Liza,” he stated calmly rather than asked.
The young woman’s face went tellingly blank.
“What makes you think that?” she hedged, the spark of panic returning to her eyes.
He nodded once at her Joan of Arc costume. “That’s a costume from my collection. Only one of my staff could have given it to you. And I brought just two interns tonight, Liza being the only female. Last I heard, they didn’t allow males and females to share rooms at UCLA,” he said, the vision of Liza’s résumé springing into his mind’s eye in perfect detail.
Anxiety and regret flickered across her face.
“I’m sorry. Please don’t be angry with Liza for bringing me and loaning me the costume. It’s my fault. I begged her to let me come tonight. I’m only visiting her in Los Angeles for a few days, and I wanted to see her at work. She’s been vibrating with excitement because she won the internship with you. She says you’re the absolute best in the special effects–makeup business. She’s been walking on air.”
“Are you trying to flatter your way out of this?” he asked. For a second, her anxious expression intensified. Then her gaze sharpened on his face. She smiled slowly, her anxiety apparently evaporating.
Funny. Most people couldn’t tell when he was joking.
“I just wouldn’t want Liza to get in trouble because of me,” she said, her smile lingering. “No one else wanted the Joan of Arc costume, and as you can see, Liza wasted no time on my makeup. I did my own hair. Do you . . . disapprove of my makeup?” she asked cautiously.
He realized he’d been scowling again as he tried to discern the trick of magic to her face. He kept telling himself not to stare at her, but he couldn’t seem to help himself.
“No. It would have been a mistake on her part to paint you,” he admitted gruffly. “Liza showed good taste in that. Or maybe that was your doing? Are you an artist, as well?”
She pulled a face. “Sort of. I doubt you’d think so.”
“What did you study at UCLA?”
“History,” she said, suddenly beaming.
He smiled and glanced down at her Joan of Arc costume in admiring amusement. “Appropriate. You still haven’t told me why Cecilia and that man were looking for you. Why were you running from them?”
She blinked, her smile faltering. He felt a little regret at using a technique he’d learned during his days in Army intelligence—indulge in a light, warm moment of banter and then spring the loaded question calmly on the unwary.
“Oh . . . yes. That,” she said breathlessly, glancing around the room. For the first time, Seth realized she’d been staring almost as fixedly at him for the last few moments as he had been staring at her. He raised his eyebrows, waiting for an answer.
“I’m not sure why Cecilia joined the hunt, exactly. She’s Tommy’s agent, so maybe she thinks it’s her duty,” she said vaguely.
“The man was Tommy?” he clarified, nodding toward the hallway. “Your boyfriend?”
“My ex-boyfriend,” she corrected. She seemed to realize how fierce she’d sounded because she sighed, and her stare started bouncing off every surface of the room again, except for his face. “I’ve been very stupid,” she said, the four words striking him like a regretful confession.
“Have you?” he asked after a pause. “Or has he?”
“He has,” she agreed. “But I was naïve enough to believe his act. I came to Los Angeles from New York during a break from work to visit Liza. I thought I’d surprise Tommy. I surprised him, all right,” she added bitterly under her breath. “He clearly hadn’t been expecting me to walk in while he was entertaining another woman in bed two nights ago. I hadn’t realized how convenient this long-distance romance was for him.” Her eyes sprang wide as if she was shocked she’d blurted something so intimate to a stranger. “I’m making it sound a lot more melodramatic than it was,” she assured him. “We hadn’t been seeing each other long or anything. We weren’t serious. Obviously, it was no great loss.”
“We’re all young once,” he said quietly. “It’s not a crime.”
She gave him a lopsided grin, her gaze slowly moving over his face. He was struck by the focus of her observation. Her smile turned fascinated . . . a little . . . fey. He felt his muscles tighten under that enigmatic perusal.
“Forgive me for saying so,” she said softly. “But I can’t imagine you ever seeming young and stupid.”
“I was. Trust me.” He frowned as a thought occurred to him. “So I’m Liza’s ancient employer, is that it?”
She laughed. “God, no. I didn’t mean that at all. It’s just Liza respects you so much—so does every member of your staff I’ve met here tonight—and everyone knows about your success in the film business. You’d been nominated for two Academy Awards before you even turned thirty.”
“And never won once by thirty-two,” he replied wryly.
“It’s just a matter of time,” she said warmly. “I’ve also heard how intimidating you can be. Not from Liza, of course,” she added hastily. “My point is, I doubt you’d ever be fooled by a man like Tommy Valian.”
He blinked. “Tommy V is your ex-boyfriend? The lead singer from Crime Fix?” he asked, referring to the popular rock band. “How did you ever meet him?”
She shook her head, and he had the impression she didn’t think the topic was even worthy of pursuing. “At a Broadway play one very unlucky night.” She gave him a sheepish look. “I was clearly struck stupid by fame. If you’re a fan, I hate to break it to you, but Tommy’s lyrics are about a thousand times more poetic and smart than he could ever imagine being in his finest moment.”
He saw the sparkle in her eyes, glad to see she was far, far from being in any distressing straits over the likes of Tommy Valian. He smiled full-out at the evidence. She blinked, looking startled. He waved over at the seating area he’d been using for a makeup station. “Have a drink with me?”
His smile fell when she didn’t immediately respond, and her gaze roved over the garish dressing room. Would she say no? Was she just being polite, chatting it up with her friend’s ancient boss?
He looked into the depths of her eyes. At six feet four inches, he looked down at most people. He suddenly felt like the big bad wolf, considering swallowing Red whole, and he had the distinct impression the girl was thinking the same thing . . . and was liking her thought. Another wave of simple, undiluted lust, the likes of which he wasn’t sure he’d ever experienced in his life, surged through him. Was it wishful thinking on his part, that spark of fascinated interest in her eyes? The beguiling curve of her mouth, as she smiled, was like a caress where it counted.
No. This kind of unexpected magic was rarely one-way, at least in Seth’s limited experienced with it.
“Well . . . a girl’s got to do something while she’s in hiding, right?”
He raised his eyebrows in amused agreement. She went ahead of him. He followed, leaving the door locked behind them.
“Champagne, ice water or soda?” he asked when they approached the seating area and impromptu bar that had been set up on a long table.
“Champagne, please,” Gia said, thankful Seth’s back was turned as she began the ungraceful process of sitting in the armor. The costume was lightweight, but still, she felt like a stiff-jointed eighty-year-old in it. To make matters worse, a dozen large mirrors scattered around the room were showcasing her ungainly maneuvering from every angle. Precisely how many mirrors did a person require? Zero, given the ridiculous way she looked at the moment. Just Gia’s luck, to be dressed this way when unexpectedly having a run-in with an extremely handsome, attractive man. She’d been curious about Seth Hightower ever since she’d first learned about him from Liza. He was reputed to be a brilliant artist, but also a bit of a lone wolf. Meeting the real man had amped her interest up to fascination. Her heart had lurched against her breastbone in flat-out shock when she had stood panicked in that hallway a moment ago and turned to stare into his inscrutable face.
Her favorite sculpture had come to life.
She noticed the champagne bottle looked dwarfed in his large hand. She was fascinated by his arms beneath the short-sleeved white T-shirt he wore. He had to possess the most impressive biceps she’d ever seen. He suddenly jerked to a halt while reaching for a glass. She couldn’t quite interpret the dangerous slant of his dark brows as he turned to regard her, but her heart seemed to recognize why. It leapt into overtime.
No wonder Liza thought Seth Hightower was intimidating.
“What?” Gia asked, freezing in the act of trying to prop her awkwardly armored body up against some cushions.
“Liza just turned twenty-five,” he said slowly. “How old are you?”
She stared at him in blank befuddlement. Why was he bringing up her friend’s age? A thought suddenly struck her.
“Are you worried I’m not old enough?” she asked, a grin breaking free.
Somehow, his suspicion thrilled her. He’s asking if you’re of age, but not for drinking. She couldn’t swear the thought that popped into her head was true, but it certainly felt that way. Seth appealed to her in an elemental way she’d never before experienced, and she didn’t want him to find her lacking in return. Unlike Tommy Valian, Seth was in his thirties, a man in his prime, both physically and in his career and life. And unlike Tommy, when Seth had looked at her earlier, she’d felt like the exact opposite of a naïve ingénue.
“Don’t worry. I’m plenty old enough,” she assured him, repressing a smile because he was looking so fierce. He merely raised one dark eyebrow and waited. She realized he expected an answer to his question. “I told you I was Liza’s roommate in college. We’re of an age. Do you expect me to show you ID?” she teased him.
His stare bore into her. She forced herself not to blink or flinch. His tension suddenly dissipated. He turned to pour her champagne. The sound of the liquid flowing into the flute seemed unusually sensual to her. The effervescence from the bubbles seemed to transfer to her, causing a tingle of excitement between her thighs.
“Cecilia said your name is Gia?”
“Yes. Gia Harris,” she said, surprised and a little embarrassed to realize she hadn’t even thought to tell him her name.
He came toward her, holding out the flute. As he handed it to her, a small smile ghosted his lips, perhaps an apology for his former sternness. He had a very hard, very sexy mouth. It fascinated her, to see something she’d grown used to being eternally frozen now animated with life. His face was well-proportioned, bold and . . . somehow beautiful, as well, although in a thoroughly masculine way Gia wasn’t sure she’d ever experienced in real life.
He sat down on the couch, a good portion of the center cushion separating them.
At the start of their conversation, she was equal parts nervous and excited, so she decided it was best to just focus on his face. As compelling it was, it forced all her worries into the background. Worries about the crucial juncture she was experiencing in her career, about her uncertainty about her life . . . about what she was so uncharacteristically doing here, behind a locked door with a virile stranger.
Gia wasn’t the type to become enraptured. She didn’t dream; she made plans. Even as a child, she’d been practical.
But she had to admit, as she stared into Seth Hightower’s indomitable, handsome face, that for the first time in her life, she was utterly entranced. Perhaps it was the amber flecks amid the golden brown of his irises that were sending electrical impulses to her nerves, making her skin feel tingly and sensitive, her lungs and throat tight and uncooperative in their usual tasks. The light touch of his forearm on her neck earlier, as they’d stood so close at the door, had garnered almost every ounce of her attention, even with Cecilia Arends and Tommy searching for her just inches away.
“I hope you don’t think it’s odd for me to tell you this,” she began tentatively, after they’d talked for a while. She was reclining on the pillows, having found a relatively comfortable position in the armor. “But during the summer I turned sixteen, I traveled across the country with my mother from San Diego to New York by car. I tried to live on the West Coast with my mom and my new stepfather after my parents’ divorce and my mom’s remarriage, but it didn’t work. I told her it was because I’m a New Yorker at heart. I have the city and the seasons in my bones, but in reality . . .”
She faded off.
“You didn’t get along well with your new stepfather? Or your mother?” Seth asked, his gravelly baritone sending prickles of pleasure along the back of her neck.
Gia grimaced regretfully. “Let’s just say I couldn’t abide by some of my mother’s life choices. At the time it was a bigger deal than it is now. She was a very talented attorney when she was with my dad and me. I was used to seeing her as a smart, together, accomplished woman. She threw away all of her potential, her career—everything—to become a La Jolla trophy wife.” She noticed that Seth remained very still as he watched her, his golden eyes trained on her with a complete—and thrilling—focus. “It was sort of hard to see, for a girl forming her own ambitions and goals for the future, that’s all,” she explained ruefully. “Besides, it was like a watershed summer for me. Developmentally. But that’s not the point,” she said apologetically, recognizing she was rambling. “I begged my mom to drive me back to Dad’s instead of fly. I was in my Jack Kerouac stage,” she grinned. “Driving across the country sounded very romantic to me. Mom humored me because it kept me with her for a few days longer . . . and maybe I wanted that too. It was a wonderful trip, just my mom and me and the long hours on the road with the country unfolding in front of us. You can’t help but bond under those circumstances, you know? We’d been going through some real mom-daughter drama—we still go through some mom-daughter drama—but that trip . . . well, it’s a kind of touchstone for us, a wonderful memory both of us cherish,” she trailed off wistfully.
Noticing Seth’s unwavering, palpable attention on her, she hastened to continue. “In New Mexico, we stopped at one of those roadside gas stations and stores that sell everything. I was stretching my legs and looking at some of the artwork from local artists that was on sale there, and I saw this very subtle, masterfully carved and painted sculpture of a man.” Her gaze flickered over his face; she suddenly felt uncharacteristically shy. “And it just blew me away. The face. Even though the expression was so impassive, it spoke volumes to me. I bought it with all the money I had in my purse, ignoring my mother’s protests. I still have it today, in my Manhattan apartment.”
Seth looked vaguely amused and puzzled. “You thought I’d consider it odd for you to tell me that?”
When she recalled her meandering approach to the topic, she laughed. She’d wandered far from the central point. “No, but now you will because of my lame storytelling skills, right? My whole point is: You look like it. The carving. It’s why I keep staring at you . . . I think . . .” she faded off awkwardly.
He calmly took a swallow of the water he was drinking, but kept his gaze on her. Panther eyes. That’s what they reminded her of. Hypnotic. Beautiful. Warm, but also . . .
“Were you near Albuquerque?” he asked.
“Uh . . . yeah, I think we were.”
“There’s a good chance it was my face, then,” he said, deadpan.
“What?” she asked, laughing. She hadn’t expected him to say that. She’d just thought the resemblance was an odd coincidence and wanted to offer some kind of lame excuse for why she kept gawping at him.
He shrugged his broad shoulders. “I grew up on the Isleta Pueblo Indian Reservation near there. My mother was an artist, and she used both my brother and me as models at various times. I’d have to see it to be sure, but given the time period, it’s more likely me than Jake. We look alike, but my brother is a lot older than me—almost a whole generation. Jake would have been long gone by the time period you’re talking about. Mom did painted wooden carvings as well as watercolors and pottery, and she sold her work at local stores.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “If you’re saying there’s an actual chance that it’s you, then it’s definitely you. I immediately noticed it when I first saw you, but thought it was too unlikely to be true. I didn’t think that man could be real.” She glanced away, embarrassed she’d muttered the private thought out loud. “I just met you tonight, but I’ve been looking at your face all this time. That’s just . . . weird.”
“Not in a bad way,” she assured quickly.
He was handsome, but his smile transformed his hard features to drop-dead gorgeous. Her mouth hung open at the vision. Her gaze dropped over him, despite her mental command to keep her eyes in her head. His body was big, but lean, long and rangy. He exuded strength, and not only from his personality. His near-black hair was a tousled, sexy glory. Despite the finger-combed negligence of the style, the strands were smooth and shiny. It fell several inches past his chin. Her fingertips itched to touch it.
He took a long draw on his water, and Gia guiltily glanced away. She’d been gawking. Again.
“So if you decided you were a New York girl at heart, how come you came to Los Angeles for college?” he asked quietly.
“I got a good scholarship here,” Gia explained, thankful he’d offered a safe topic. “I’ll probably always feel a little out of place in California, but I had a good college experience.”
“I know what you mean about feeling out of place.”
She nodded. “I can imagine living on the reservation was a different world from Hollywood.”
“I spent quite a few years in the Army and was based in several places in the Middle East and Germany, as well. But even with all the places I’ve lived, I felt like a being from a different planet coming to Hollywood.” He smiled slightly in memory. “Luckily, I liked the work so much that I’ve adapted reasonably well to the alien environment.”
“You don’t regret it? Making your life here?” she asked him, leaning forward and grimacing slightly because the stiff breastplate pinched at her waist.
“Once in a while, but not too often. This is my dream job. To do it, I need to be here.”
“You must meet dozens of wannabe actors and models and the like every day, people who have migrated here with stars in their eyes,” she mused softly. “Do they ever ask your advice while you’re doing their makeup?”
“About betting on the ten-billion-to-one lottery called Fame?” he asked dryly.
“You did it.”
“No. I bet on my art. If fame was part of the bargain, I’d be miles away.”
For a moment, they sat in silence as his low, gruff voice replayed in her head with absolute certainty.
“You never told me what you did for a living in New York. Something to do with your major?” he asked, setting aside his empty water glass. “You lit up when you mentioned you studied history.”
Her gaze flickered across to a golden clock on a nearby table. It had taken them an hour and twenty minutes to get to the dreaded topic.
“My work does have to do with history.” She smiled at him and took the final sip out of her second glass of champagne. He arched his brows, waiting for her to continue. Silently demanding it, actually. While they talked, Gia had grown accustomed to some of his expressions. She sighed. “You can’t expect someone a few years out of undergrad to be as proud of her job as a person like you. New York isn’t the easiest place in the world to rise up the ranks—not that Hollywood is either,” she conceded.
His black eyebrows slanted. “Did you think I was bragging or something?” he asked, looking vaguely bemused.
“Of course not. I’ve had to pry every detail of your work life out of you, you’re so closemouthed about the whole thing. You’d think you were a spy or something, as hard as it is to get specifics out of you,” she joked, ignoring his narrowed stare. “I just meant couldn’t you give me the courtesy of letting me remain interesting in your eyes just a little longer by not asking me career questions?”
“There’s nothing you could say that could make you uninteresting.”
Her laughter faded at his quick, confident reply along with the frank male heat in his golden eyes.
“What do you have on under that armor?” he asked suddenly.
Her eyes widened in surprise at his unexpected question. A smile flickered across his mouth, as if he’d read her stunned reaction. “You’ve got to be uncomfortable. I wanted to bring it up earlier, but I was selfish. I didn’t want you to leave in order to change, for fear you wouldn’t come back.”
Heat flooded her cheeks at his compliment. “Oh . . . a tank top and shorts . . . along with the costume’s pants.”
He stood and set down his empty glass. He held out his hand to her. “Come on,” he urged. “Let’s get you out of it.”
His hand swallowed hers. Some of the uncertainty and strangling sexual tension she was feeling fractured when one of the joints in the armor squeaked in protest as he pulled her up off the couch. She met his stare and snorted with laughter. Smiling, he tapped on the back of her shoulder matter-of-factly.
“Turn around, Tin Man.”
She spun around, every nerve in her body attuned to his presence behind her. He drew her braid over her shoulder. Had he pinched at the rope of hair, as if to better feel the texture of the strands? The small hairs on the back of her nape stood on end, hinting to her that he had. She waited with bated breath. He found the fastening at the back of her neck. His fingertips brushed a tiny fragment of her skin.
“It’s funny,” she said shakily. “People always focus on the makeup application. Nobody ever talks about the work involved in taking everything off.”
His hand lowered and she felt him loosen the fastening at her upper back. The armor began to part.
“That’s because it’s the messy, boring cleanup after the party. Usually,” he added gruffly under his breath.
Cool air rushed across her upper back, even as a hot flood of excitement hit her brain.
Usually. Had he meant she was the exception?
His fingertips brushed against her tank top as he pried apart the costume. She’d found the armor inflexible and awkward when Liza had pulled and pried it onto her earlier. Seth maneuvered the thin metal plates as if they were soft silk. After only seconds, he peeled the upper portion with the breastplate off her arms and chest. She took a deep inhalation of relief at the freedom, her breasts rising. It suddenly struck her just how briefly clad she was beneath the costume. It hadn’t felt like that before, when she’d stripped for Liza to dress her. She rubbed her bare arms nervously as he moved behind her again. She grasped for a safe topic.
“It’s very generous of you to volunteer for the Cancer Research Fund. Do you do it every year?” she asked.
“For the past several years, yeah.” She wanted to turn around and see what he was doing behind her, but she was worried her expression would betray her anxiety.
“It’s quite a contribution on your part, volunteering not only all of your expertise, but all the tools of your trade as well,” she said.
“It’s not just my contribution,” he said. She heard the sound of metal clinking and realized he was setting aside the piece of armor. “My staff volunteers their time and skill as well. I don’t force them to do it, but it’s a worthwhile cause. And very much needed.”
She turned her chin over her shoulder. She’d heard something in his voice just then.
“Do you know someone with cancer?” she asked tentatively. His stare burned into her.
“I did,” he said after a pause. “My sister-in-law. She’s gone now.”
“I’m sorry,” she murmured sincerely.
“It was much more of a loss for my niece. Alice was all Joy had. Except me.”
“That’s no small thing, I’m sure.”
She forced herself to break his steady stare and face forward again. She heard him set aside the breastplate and move behind her.
“So . . . you know Cecilia Arends?” she asked, mentally damning the tremor in her voice. She was entirely too aware of Seth Hightower. The air around them seemed thick and charged.
“Why would you ask that?” he asked. For a second, she struggled to recall what they were talking about. He’d slipped long fingers beneath the waist strap of the costume. Pieces of armor were fastened over the pants and had to be removed, one part at a time. She felt the give in the armor, and he placed the hooplike pannier that covered her hips on a nearby chair. She jumped when he placed one hand on her inner thigh a second later.
“Spread your legs,” he prompted gruffly.
Her eyes widened. She could tell by the location of his voice that he’d knelt behind her. An invisible tendril tickled her clit and a rush of warmth went through her sex. She strained to catch the thread of their former topic of conversation.
“It’s just . . . you spoke earlier like you knew Cecilia,” she said, gulping as she parted her thighs. When he didn’t speak immediately, she turned cautiously and looked over her shoulder. He was kneeling behind her, his head at the level of her lower back. His bent legs looked long and very powerful. She could clearly see the pair of blue-tinted glasses on top of his dark, silky hair from this angle. He glanced up and met her stare as he tossed aside the armor plate he’d just removed from a thigh.
“I know her.”
“Do you know her well?”
“Well enough,” he said, reaching for the fastening on her other thigh.
Her brows creased as a thought struck her. “Were you hiding from Cecilia? When you heard her coming down the hallway. Is that why you helped me? Because you didn’t want to be found either?”
“It wasn’t the only reason.”
“I see,” she said slowly. “So you’re laconic on topics outside of your work and accomplishments.”
He glanced up sharply. “I’m not involved with Cecilia Arends,” he said, holding her stare levelly. “Or anyone, for that matter.”
Warmth rushed through her. He had understood what she needed to know. She turned back around. Cecilia Arends was beautiful and successful. She was polished and experienced, and closer to Seth’s age. It wouldn’t surprise her at all if there were some kind of history between the two of them. Lots of women must lust after Seth Hightower. He was very good-looking, true, but there was something about his stoicism and sheer male power that was like waving a red flag of challenge at a female.
“Why not?” she wondered, a little stunned to realize she’d spoken the thought out loud.
His hand slid beneath the fastener at her lower leg. Her eyes sprang wide when he palmed what felt like her entire calf with his big hand. “Why not what? Lift your heel a little,” he requested.
She followed his urging, cursing the lurch of her heart inspired by his touch. He slipped the bootie attached to the foot covering—thesabaton—off of her.
“Why aren’t you involved with anyone? I mean, is it by choice or circumstance?” she persisted.
“Circumstance. The one called I’m-too-damn-busy.”
She laughed softly. “I can imagine. Have you ever done a Rill Pierce film?” she asked as he touched her other calf and she tracked every subtle nuance of his long fingers on her flesh.
“No. But I’d like to. What makes you ask? Foot up,” he directed. She lifted her foot obligingly. He slid off the bootie, but then his fingers returned, briefly cupping and stroking the naked heel of her bare foot in a fleeting caress. Electricity tingled through her at the unexpected, shockingly erotic touch. He urged her to put her foot down.
“Oh . . . because I knew someone who received his scholarship while I was at UCLA, and I went and heard Pierce speak once. He’s very talented. Both of you are sort of . . . men’s men. I was thinking you two might work well together.”
When he didn’t immediately speak, she twisted her chin around anxiously. He came up behind her, going from kneeling to towering over her in a second. The vision of him rising behind her like some kind of intimidating, steely phantom ascending fast from the floor froze her breath in her lungs.
No. Seth Hightower was no ghost, nor was he just a favorite sculpture. He was a vibrant, primal, flesh-and-blood man.
“Men’s men?” he repeated, standing close enough that she could see those thousands of pinpricks of amber that made his eyes whiskey-colored instead of just brown.
She nodded, temporarily speechless. He quirked a brow in a silent query.
“Big. Reserved.” She hesitated. “Simmering.”
“Simmering?” he said, his gaze moving slowly over her face and fastening on her lips.
“Yeah. Like something is frothing just beneath the surface, and you might . . . blow at any second,” she whispered.
The silence stretched.
“Take off the pants,” he said quietly.
“You heard me. They’re part of the costume. I want to keep it all together, or there’s a chance things will get misplaced tomorrow when the delivery service comes to get them. I’ll look around after I pack this and see if I can’t find a robe for you.”
He turned away and started to gather the armor parts. Gia was a little floored. He was interested in her, wasn’t he? He was extremely hard to read at times. But then she recalled that squeeze of her braid, the obvious male heat in his eyes when he studied her just now, not to mention that tingling stroke on her heel.
No. She wasn’t misreading him.
Her pulse began to leap in her throat as she fumbled with the fastenings on the loose pants. She drew them off and folded them. Turning around slowly, she saw Seth methodically packing the armor into a duffel bag, his back to her. She approached him.
“Here you go,” she said.
He barely turned from his task as he accepted the pants. Feeling very exposed in a pair of low-rise, boy-cut black briefs and a tank top, not to mention confused by Seth’s intense focus elsewhere, she wandered back to the seating area. Should she take this opportunity to gofishe wondered anxiously as she tugged at the shorts. Liza had told her to wear something brief that hugged the body. The black shorts were extremely tight. She looked down at herself anxiously. Why hadn’t she noticed the way they outlined her sex before? Maybe she should sit down on the couch and put a pillow over her hips until Seth returned with the robe? She jerked on the fabric again, only to have the waistband creep down beneath the bottom of her tank top and expose the skin of her lower belly.
She wasn’t wearing a bra. That fact hadn’t bothered her at all when Liza had been costuming her earlier, even when a few of her coworkers came into the room in search of adhesive or a prosthetic or a certain hair color for a beard and mustache.
Seth was a professional as well, she reassured herself, as she once again looked at the back of him.
And no. She didn’t want to leave.
She loved the way he looked, the way he moved. He wore a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt, a supple black leather vest, a thick platinum watch that struck her as very masculine on his strong forearms, and a pair of sturdy leather work boots. She was struck by how he moved with such graceful economy, despite his largeness.
She was also struck by how good his butt looked in his jeans.
He turned around, and she again was staring into his unyielding face. She forced her fussing hands to her sides. His gaze dropped slowly over her, and Gia felt a pleasant pressure in her body dipping in tandem with it. His stare lowered over her belly and hips and lingered between her thighs. Something hot leapt into his eyes.
So much for her concern that he’d changed his mind about finding her attractive.
His gaze wandered back up her body, scoring her. Her breasts suddenly felt very heavy and . . . obvious.
He took three steps toward her, and Gia swore her heart jumped directly into her throat.
“What about the rest?” he asked gently, one dark brow slanting.
“These”—she waved stupidly at her shorts and shirt—“are mine. They aren’t part of the costume.”
“I know,” he said, coming closer still. “Do you want to take them off too?”
The ensuing silence throbbed in her ears. Her heart chugged like a restrained locomotive. This is really going to happen. Her clit prickled in anticipation.
“Yes,” she replied honestly through numb lips.
He just nodded, holding her stare. Was he a magician, the way he hypnotized her?
“Take off the top first.”
It felt very difficult to draw a breath, as if the air in the room had become too thick for her lungs to process. She was very aroused, but still . . . she hesitated.
“How many times have you said that to a woman after removing a costume or makeup?” she managed to ask because her tongue had gone very thick.
“Seriously?” he asked, eyebrows arched. She nodded. “Never. Do you believe me?”
“Yes,” she whispered. Naïve or not, she trusted her instincts. Plus, she knew about Seth from Liza. If this were par for the course for him, Liza would have told her. “Would you believe I’ve never agreed to something like this before?” she croaked, her fingers playing with the bottom of her tank top.
He took another step and came to a halt. “It never crossed my mind to doubt it.”
She gave him a shaky, grateful smile.
Shocked by her uncharacteristic brazenness, she pulled her tank top up over her swollen lungs and aching breasts.
His breath stuck as she dropped the tank top to the floor. She stared at him, seemingly transfixed. He stepped closer, drinking in the image of her. He laid his hand on the smooth expanse of skin above her left breast. She trembled beneath him. He felt the delicate beating of her heart. His gaze leapt to meet her stare.
“You’re very lovely,” he muttered, his voice breaking slightly.
Her lips parted. It was the sweetest temptation. He couldn’t remove his eyes from the vision of her mouth, or how desire glazed her springtime eyes. His hand lowered over a firm breast. Her skin was like warm silk. He cradled her breast and lifted it slightly, arousal shooting through him at the sensation of her firmness and weight. A soft moan slipped past her lips. He feathered his thumb over her nipple and felt her bead against his fingertip.
“Seth?” she whispered, sounding almost as awed as he felt. He heard her wonder, but also her need for reassurance.
“Shhh,” he growled. “It’s going to be okay.”
He’d never touched a woman so intimately without having even kissed her first. Gia’s mouth was an indescribable temptation. He was enjoying prolonging the anticipation of tasting her, of sinking into her sweetness . . . of debauching that innocent mouth just a little. The thought made his cock twitch and stiffen into a heavy ache.
He continued to caress her breast and finesse the nipple as he ran his other hand over her smooth shoulder and arm. He spread his hand along her back and made a study of the graceful slope of her spine and petal-soft skin. Much to his satisfaction, he felt her skin roughen beneath his touch. She leaned forward, her mouth craning up toward him.
“Stay still,” he said. She blinked, and he realized intense arousal had made him sound harsh. He’d been chaining himself like never before as he sat on the couch with her, waiting on a knife’s edge for the addictive vision of her smile. Removing the costume and having her exquisite body revealed to him bit by bit had been a fierce trial. He’d needed the moment of carefully packing the costume to bring himself under control. Turning around and seeing her standing there, so lovely and vulnerable, had smashed that control to bits. She’d called it like a pro earlier. He was about to explode in unregulated lust.
She reached for him, but he gently placed her arms back at her side. He resumed stroking her soft skin and taut curves.
“Let me touch you for a moment. I’m enjoying this,” he explained quietly when he saw her bemusement. “Are you?”
“God, yes,” she whispered.
He leaned down until their faces were only inches apart. “You’re so beautiful,” he said gruffly, as if telling her an intimate secret. He felt her tremble beneath his hands. “Your mouth is killing me. I can’t wait to taste you.” He held both her breasts in his hands and lifted them slightly, peering down to examine the fat, pink, erect nipples between his dark fingers. His cock lurched against the confines of his clothing. “Everywhere,” he assured her, as hunger clawed at him deeper.
She gave a muffled moan and reached up to touch his hair. Her fingers delved into the strands greedily. His scalp prickled in awareness. A cascade of sensation flowed down his body, tickling the root of his cock. Blood pulsed into his flesh. He growled and encircled her in his arms. She cried out softly in surprise when he lifted her off her feet. He set her atop a nearby low ottoman. She steadied herself by grasping his shoulders.
They were at the same height now. He ran both his hands along her back and the sides of her ribs while he stared directly into her face.
“Look at you,” he whispered thickly.
She blinked and glanced to the side into one of several mirrors. He stared at her face while she watched the reflection of him massaging and caressing her back and waist and breasts. Her skin was incredibly smooth, pale with peachy-pink undertones. His hands couldn’t seem to get enough of touching her taut planes and lush curves. The blush on her cheeks deepened as she watched in the mirror while he molded her to his hands.
“You’re so big,” she whispered, trailing his hands with her gaze, as though caught in a spell. He captured one of her breasts and shaped it to his palm.
“You’re so little. But you fit me perfectly.” He feathered her nipple with his forefinger, and she gasped.
“Your fingers are calloused.”
He paused, worried he was making her uncomfortable, his rough fingers against her silky skin—
“It feels so good,” she said in a rush, and he resumed stroking her, stepping closer. He pressed his cock between the juncture of her thighs. She was a sweet, soft harbor, and he was hard. So hard. He gritted his teeth as the hurt in him mounted. Her grip tightened on his shoulders.
He pressed his mouth to her neck and smooth shoulder, intent on ravishing her. Over her shoulder, he saw a reflection of her from behind, his hands on the back of her waist, his mouth moving hungrily on her elegant neck, strands of his dark hair spilling on her shoulder. Relishing the anticipation, he slowly peeled the shorts over her bottom and partially down her thighs. The vision of her pale, taut ass in the reflection sent a sharp spike of sexual anticipation through him.
“Seth?” Her shaky query made him straighten and look into her face. “Kiss me. Please.”
“Part your lips,” he demanded, lust beginning to cut at him relentlessly.
He watched her with a feral stare as she opened her mouth. He cupped her buttocks and pressed her tight against him. His cock lurched viciously at the sensation.
“Jesus, you’re sweet,” he grated out, massaging her ass. He plucked at her plump lower lip hungrily and groaned. “You should be punished for having a mouth like this,” he told her, smiling slightly as he nibbled at her. “You’ve been making me crazy with it all night.”
“I have?” she asked, her breath falling across his lips. “I was wondering if you were affected at all.” She bit at his lower lip, and he groaned roughly.
“I haven’t been affected like this for a long, long time,” he assured her, grinding his erection against her as blatant evidence. She moaned. Surrendering to the inevitable, he slid his tongue into her mouth, savoring and claiming at once.
God, it was good. He’d known she would be delicious, and she’d surpassed his expectations. He dipped into her wet heat with a firm, suggestive rhythm, coaxing her to join him. He sucked, calling another moan from her throat. Still gripping her ass in his hands, he moved her against him in a mind-blowing rhythm. She joined him in the subtle sexual dance, gyrating her hips against his erection and tangling her tongue with his.
He was going to eat her alive. Her singular taste was doing strange things to him. He reluctantly released her ass. Framing her jaw with his hands, he molded her mouth to his, sucking and piercing and stroking, his lust sharp and exposed.
“This is going to be so good,” he grated out at the same time he gripped her braid and pulled. She arched her neck back willingly. He pressed his mouth to her throat, the tiny whimpers vibrating against his lips maddening him. His mouth closed over her fluttering pulse as he took her breasts in his hands again. She jerked her hands on his shoulders as if she’d just remembered she had them. Frantically, she began pushing at his vest, her fingers burrowing beneath the crew neck of his T-shirt. Her obvious desire made him see red for a moment.
He leaned up and gathered both her wrists, lifting her hands off him. It was hard enough to keep his head without her hands stroking and rubbing his skin and her nails scratching his nerves into a frenzy. He held her stare as he pushed her hands to her middle back.
“Stay still now while I touch you,” he said. “Keep your hands here.”
He waited for a moment, studying her reaction to his demand closely. She watched him with huge eyes, her lips and cheeks flushed, her high, firm, pink-tipped breasts rising and falling as she panted shallowly. Slowly, he released her. A small smile of approval shaped his mouth when she kept her wrists at the middle of her back. Even though her eyes were wary, her mouth flickered with returned warmth.
“That’s right, I only want to make you feel good,” he assured her gruffly next to her lips as their breath mingled and he ran his hands along her sides, stroking her with his fingertips. She quaked. He ground his teeth together. Her excitement was like a stimulant in his blood. His brain pounded with it.
Unable to resist, he cupped her ass again, holding her stare, his cock pulsing as he shaped her flesh to his palms. His mouth curled into a snarl. She bit off a whimper. He forced the shorts down her legs. When they fell to her ankles, she stepped out of them. He held her steady with his hands at her hips and ass, plucking and nipping at her lush lips. He dipped his tongue between them, still watching her. She moaned feverishly.
“Are you getting wet?” he asked, between biting at her sweet lips.
“Yes,” she whispered hotly, craning forward slightly to catch his mouth. “Let me touch you.”
“Tonight we’ll focus on you,” he rasped, sinking his tongue into the warm, velvety depths of her mouth again. “I could spend a lifetime focusing on you.”
His hands settled on her hips, and he looked down at her, eating up the vision of her pale, smooth skin, slender waist and curving hips. Her legs were long, the muscles toned. His nostrils flared as he stared at the light-brown trimmed thatch of hair between shapely thighs. He tightened his hold on her and brought her against him. She ground her hips against his cock, gyrating subtly, stroking him through his clothing. He lightly swatted a plump ass cheek, watching her reaction. She blinked in surprise. She wasn’t used to being spanked. Vivid color bloomed in her cheeks.
But she liked it, he thought with savage triumph.
He lifted his head, still watching her, and slid his hand down the crack of her ass and between her thighs.
“Spread your legs,” he said tensely. She responded wordlessly.
He growled low in his throat as his seeking fingers were coated in warm honey. He pierced her with his finger. She whimpered.
“You weren’t acting. You’re warm and wet, and so tight,” he said through a clenched jaw as he stroked her.
“Oh God,” she said shakily, a wild, helpless expression on her face. “I don’t know why I’m doing this.”
“Because you wanted to take a risk,” he said, biting gently at her bee-stung lower lip. He touched the side of her breast with his free hand and found a hard nipple, pinching at it as he continued to plunge his finger into her drenched, snug sheath. “And because we wanted each other. Period.” He kissed her again, hard and deep. She moaned into his mouth, the vibrations thrilling his nerves. She flexed her hips against his cock, grinding herself against him, and made a wild sound of frustration. For a second, his vision darkened.
When his haze of lust cleared, he was holding her in his hands just above her waist, his arm muscles rigid, and the tip of her breast was in his mouth. His tongue lashed at a puckering nipple, and miraculously, she tightened more for him. She squirmed against him, thrashing his nerves, gasping his name in quiet desperation. Her fingers dug into his hair and scratched his scalp, making him growl against her firm, soft flesh. Her nipple popped out from between his lips, the vision of the glistening, dark pink flesh only adding to his madness. He couldn’t wait to get inside her.
Instead, he pulled her an inch higher against his body and transferred his attention to her other breast. As much as his cock hurt, he couldn’t resist the allure of tasting as much of her as he could.
He’d lifted her against him as if she weighed nothing, his desire single-minded. The feeling of his hot, wet mouth enclosing her nipple and his firm suck made her hips jerk in arousal like an electrical shock had gone through her. His tongue pressed and laved at the sensitive nipple. She writhed against his solid body, helpless in the grip of undiluted lust and pleasure. He tugged gently on the crest with his mouth, his tongue a warm, wet lash one moment, gentle and coaxing the next.
Gia gripped at his head mindlessly, sensation flooding her consciousness. Trying desperately to ground herself from this dizzying descent into the very core of desire, she opened her eyes. Instead, seeing the image of them together plunged her straight into the center of lust. She gasped, staring into one of the mirrors at the vision of Seth holding her against him, ravishing her.
He was completely dressed and she was naked. Her face was flushed; her expression dazed. Her feet dangled several inches off the ottoman as he took his fill of her. His hands looked dark and masculine gripping her feminine curves.
It was the very image of a woman being debauched by a man, and thoroughly loving it. Yet there was nothing depraved about it. His desire was concentrated and unrelenting, but . . . pure somehow.
She said his name when he released her aching nipple from his taut suck and transferred to her other breast, still holding her up like a feast for his mouth, pressing her to him. She had the impression that although he was unusually powerful, it was his desire that gave him the strength to hold her suspended that way.
He was a man determined to get his fill.
The thought fired her. She squirmed against him, aroused even more by the feeling of his cock through his clothing. It was like the rest of him, big and hard and frothing her senses. Her hunger mounting, she reached downward, finding his waistband. She ripped at his button fly savagely, wild to undress him. His low, guttural groan thrilled her. His lips slipped over her nipple, his tongue lingering in a caress. Then he was moving and setting her down gently on the couch.
She stared up at him, panting. He watched her while he reached into his back pocket and withdrew his wallet. Dazedly, she realized he was retrieving a condom.
He finished what she’d started, drawing up the hem of his T-shirt over a taut, ridged belly and unfastening his jeans. He shoved them roughly around his thighs. Her breath froze. He wore a pair of boxer briefs beneath the jeans, the cloth looking starkly white against his olive-toned, hair-sprinkled, powerful thighs. Gia was no expert on men’s underwear, but Seth’s possessed a front panel that seemed to be made to accommodate his size. She could see the outlines of his cock through the clinging cotton. The staff was thick and long, heavy enough to fall forward several inches and tent the fabric. The crown was fat, the cap clearly defined even through the boxer briefs.
She stared, enthralled.
Even as his fingers slipped beneath the waistband of the underwear, she reached forward and caressed the tempting, swollen head through the fabric. His cock jumped at her touch. She encircled the head and gave a small, erotic tug on the base of the crown.
She looked up into his face and smiled.
A muscle jumped in his rigid cheek. He jerked the cotton down over his erection to his thighs. He straightened before her, his gaze on her, scorching.
“Go on,” he said quietly, but she needed no encouragement. Her hand already encircled him. A thrill shot through her. He was warm and hard and pulsing. She squeezed him tight experimentally. He grunted softly as she pistoned her fist up and down the stalk for a moment. She felt his avid gaze on her from above. It mounted her excitement. Fascinated by the sensation of him—the sheer weight and texture—she wrapped her other hand around the fleshy crown, using her fingers to trace the succulent rim. One swollen vein ran the length of his cock, amply feeding his arousal, and she followed that with a fingertip as well. He groaned, low and rough. She began to pump the staff while she continued to make a study of the head with her fingertips. She leaned forward on the couch, spellbound. Her lips parted.
He hissed. She blinked in surprise because he was suddenly moving, sitting on the couch next to her.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the One Night of Passion novels
“You’ll be addicted from page one!”—Julie James, New York Times bestselling author of It Happened One Wedding
“Intensely heated and emotionally satisfying.”—Fiction Vixen
“Wow. Just wow.”—Fallen Angel Reviews
“Smoking-hot sex and a great emotional connection between the characters…It definitely delivers.”—Dear Author
“With the wealth of erotic stories popping up everywhere, Kery dethrones them all.”—RT Book Reviews
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Beth Kery's One Night of Passion series continues with book three, Only For You. The series is based on one night stands that turn into lasting romances. Set in the highly exposed world of Hollywood, this series is both tantalizing and captivating. Readers who are looking for a steamy read that will capture the imagination will love this one. Seth is a former Army Intelligence officer, turned make-up artist to the stars and Gia is the new Hollywood "it" girl. Their romance is scorching! The final book in a great series! What I liked: Ok, so believe it not this is my first full length Beth Kery novel. Being an erotic romance fan, that seems unusual even to me...LOL! I have read some shorter works by the author and have been impressed by her style and smoothness. Only For You was still surprising to me. I was engaged from the first page. Kery has such a way with words. Anyone can write a good story, but those who are born storytellers stand out from the crowd. So, descriptive and passionate. Not just in the eroticism but in the heart of the story. Kery makes the reader want to know more, feel more, experience more and that's a hallmark of a talented writer. Seth Hightower was once an Army Intelligence officer and now he is a mysterious and talented make-up artist. At first I wasn't too sure I thought a former military man, could fit into the world of Hollywood's elite as a make-up artist of all things. But as I began reading it started to make sense to me. An Intelligence officer would be called upon to go under cover and to be disguised. Essentially becoming someone else entirely. Seth definitely pulled off the role as an alpha male. Kery writes him as very self assured and methodical in some ways, but also as a man who knows loneliness. He was commanding, kinky and very sexy. A great all around hero. Gia doesn't exactly give Seth her life story when they meet after a charity event that ends in a night of exciting passion. He has been a part of the Hollywood scene for awhile and he knows how fickle actresses can be. Gia doesn't mention her profession and two years later when they are reacquainted she is a rising star. And in a heap of trouble as the star witness in a highly sensationalized crime involving a cult leader. Seth is the only one who can disguise her and keep her safe from the public, but she isn't exactly safe from him. Gia was sensual and willing to explore her passions, she didn't hold back with Seth and I liked the fact that she wasn't afraid of her sexuality. I liked her as a heroine, though I felt the suspenseful aspects of the story were a bit underwhelming next to the passionate and fiery romance between these two characters. It did provide some necessary conflict but overall was not that important to the main story. I loved the way that Kery writes the relationship between these two. Seth has a very set in stone rule against dating actresses and Gia is offended by the fact that he isn't willing to see her for who she is, beyond her profession. I liked seeing Seth begin to look at her in a different way, as he started to feel something a little more serious than lust. As a former military officer it was probably hard to admit to being wrong and seeing him give in to his feelings was certainly captivating. Kery is a genius!
Only for You: One Night of Passion, Beth Kery Genre: Literature/Fiction (Adult) Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews Another favourite author of mine. I first read one of Beth’s novels via the kindle free lists – it’s a great way to try out author styles and for authors to find new readers. I’ve gone on to buy many books where I've found via a free one that I enjoy that authors stories. Gia and Seth have an impromptu meeting, where the passion between them in incredible and they spend one amazing night together. After she leaves though he doesn’t contact her as promised, and she’s gutted. She really thought they had something special but...Two years on she’s become a famous actress, and she in danger as a witness for a horrible crime. She needs hiding for a couple of weeks, and someone on the legal team knows of Seth and his incredible make up skills. Between them they agree that he’ll take Gia way to a secluded cabin and his skills will be used to pass her off as someone else, in case she’s seen. They’re aiming for seclusion but just in case, and of course there’s the journey there. Gia is horrified, still really hurt that Seth dropped her so easily, and hates the thought of three weeks with just him. She thought they had something special that night, and she’s not happy at the arrangements. It has to be done though, and of course once together that heat between them burns as hot as ever, and they agree to give in to it for the time they are together, and just move on once its over. Over the time Seth discovers that Gia isn’t just a shallow, fame seeking media whore,as he tars all actresses, and she learns he had reasons for dropping her so abruptly. They come to like each other as a person, and not just have the sexual heat that connects them but something more. The danger to Gia though is real,and for safety while the trial is on she’s housed somewhere secure with just her mother for company. Now they are apart they realise that what they had between them isn’t easily dropped. It makes them look at the barriers and wonder if maybe, possibly they could....and then – bam- the defendants side hit in with some dirty tricks, and Gia thinks its going to ruin everything they have. Its brought Seth into the spotlight and she knows he’ll hate it and fears it will break them. As always its peopled with great characters, and scenarios that feel real. that’s important to me, I need to think this could really happen. Its not my favourite of Beth’s books, but a good solid sensual romance none the less. The sex scenes are very seductive and not just repetitive pages as too many books contain, but feel original and fit the scenes. Stars: Four, enjoyable romance. ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers.
Let's start with Beth Kery sure does know how to write erotica. However, due to its erotic contents, at times the book was more steam and sex than substance. Seth Hightower has been in the hollywood business for a long time and one firm rule, never be with an actress but after one steamy night and extreme circumstances he ends up breaking his one steadfast rule. Gia Harris is an up and coming movie star but when she first had one explosive night with the mysterious Seth Hightower she may have left that information unrevealed which ended up burning her in the end. Now, two years later both of their fires are still burning and they're forced to come to terms with their desires while Seth is helping Gia hide from the media. While secluded in a remote town what Seth and Gia find themselves doing a lot is, sex, sex and more sex. But in between the bedroom romps they also fall in love with each other but there is a deadline looming and tons of pride causing the end to near. After finally giving in then being ripped apart, they're both forced to deal with their own personal demons if they want to continue with what they found in each other. It's not often the circumstances that changes people's mind but the person. For Seth and Gia they had loads of chemistry and acted on it but they also had a great bond. Beth Kery is a great erotic story teller and I was not disappointed with this steamy gem.
Only For You by Beth Kery : ONLY FOR YOU is the third full length installment in Beth Kery’s adult, contemporary ONE NIGHT OF PASSION erotic romance series. This is former army intelligence officer and Hollywood makeup artist Seth Hightower and actress Gia Harris’s storyline. Although this is the third book in the series it can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Some of the previous storyline characters play small roles throughout the novel but any important information revealed earlier is imparted where necessary. Told from close third person points of view, ONLY FOR YOU is a second chance kind of storyline. Following a hot and sexy one night stand two years earlier, Gia never again heard from Seth. But Gia knew she lied about her career –an up and coming actress on the cusp of making it big –knowing that Seth wanted nothing to do with actresses or dating anyone in the industry. Two years would pass and Gia’s life is danger and Seth has been hired to protect the woman who had lied to him all those years ago. The relationship between Seth and Gia is one of instant attraction but one built upon a lie. Seth’s experience with Hollywood actresses has left him burned and cold, but meeting Gia, Seth believed he quite possibly had found the ONE. Little did he realize that Gia was not truthful about her age, her history and her career-one that pushed Seth away-for good. When Gia’s life is threatened, Seth is reluctant to take the case knowing that he and Gia have a past. It is their mutual distrust of one another and a very long cross country car ride, that begins to fuel the fires of passion and love. The sex scenes are intimate, erotic and numerous. Seth is a man who cannot get enough of Gia and he likes control in the bedroom. Most of the storyline focuses on the building relationship between Seth and Gia. Although our leading couple is secreted away, there is very little ongoing reference to what occurred that forces Gia into hiding. It is not until Gia is called back to testify against a Hollywood bigwig does the potential for attack become real. The focus of the story finds Gia the center of a media and paparazzi frenzy when it is believed that Gia is suffering with personal demons of her own. The secondary characters and continued world building include some of the previous storyline couples for a sense of cohesion and familiarity. We will be reintroduced to Seth’s sister Joy and her husband/actor Everett Hughes, as well as Irish film director Rill Pierce and the love of his life Katie Hughes. Each of our storyline couples has some connection to one another-through blood, friendship and marriage. Beth Kery is a master of erotic fiction where very little, between consenting adults, is off limits. Whether writing as Bethany Kane or Beth Kery, her storylines are definitely erotic, provocative and arousing. There is always an intense, emotional connection between her leading couples, and ONLY FOR YOU will pull you in from the very first.