The seductive story that started in The Masseuse continues...
Anna Rossi knows that opening your heart only gets you hurt. But Alec Flynn is just too good to resist…
It’s been three long months since Anna’s seen Alec, since he saved her life and lit up her soul with unquenchable desire. Being without him has left her on edge, but his bravery has motivated her to change her life and go after what she’s always wanted—a job where she can help people. She can’t wait to show Alec the woman she’s become in his absence, or to prove how much she’s missed him…
Three months away has done nothing to slake Alec’s need for Anna. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made his life any less dangerous. The last thing he wants to do is hurt Anna, but if giving her up is the only way to save her, he’s not sure he can do that either. He’s determined to have her for as long as he can. Except his past is creeping up on him faster than he knows, and this time he may not be able to keep her from becoming collateral damage…
About the Author
Sierra Kincade, author of the Body Work trilogy, including The Masseuse, lives in the Midwest with her husband and son. When she’s not writing naughty books, she loves eating chocolate cupcakes, binge-watching cable series, and singing loudly in the car. She wholeheartedly believes that love stories are real, and you should never choose a partner who doesn’t make you laugh.
Read an Excerpt
The Body Work Trilogy
A huge thank-you to my agents Joanna MacKenzie, Danielle Egan Miller, and Abby Saul. I am doing what I love because of you and I am so proud to have you standing by my side. I am ever grateful for the kindness and support of Leis Pederson, editor extraordinaire, and Jessica Brock, my super-cool publicist. Go Team Masseuse! Cupcakes all around!
A special thank-you to my most excellent beta readers: Deanna, who nicely lets me know when she trips in plot holes so that I can fix them; Courtney, who gives Alec the best legal advice; and Katie, who is the master of backing up a “this doesn’t work” with a “but this does!” I love you guys.
And always, thank you to my husband, who knows me better than anyone and likes me anyway. I love you.
I closed my eyes, swaying my hips to the hard hit of the bass. The music flowed through me, a stimulant, urging my heart to keep time. My hips swung right, paused, and I reached down one sweat-slicked leg to drag my fingers seductively up my calf. Arching my back, my pelvis made one slow, tempting circle that defied the fast rhythm, and I placed both open hands on my stomach. I was already drenched, and the thin fabric dragged across my skin as I pulled it up.
“Slower,” commanded Jayne. Her voice was raspy, like a moan. Everything about that woman oozed sex. I did as she said because I wanted her approval. I wanted to be her.
My hips made a figure eight as I inched my shirt up to my bra line. My stomach was hard and flat, conditioned by weeks of workouts, but my legs were already trembling.
“Good,” she said. “One hand on the pole. Easy. Grab it like a cock.”
I bit my lower lip to stifle the giggle, but the way she said cock made my groin ache. It had been too long since I’d had what I wanted, what I needed. The hard, insistent pressure pushing into me, filling me, bringing me to the edge of my sanity with powerful thrusts.
I’d had to find another way to keep my desire under control.
Slowly, without opening my eyes, I felt for the erect pole and gripped it with just enough pressure, just as she’d taught me. It was slick, too wide for me to close my fingers around.
“Show me what you’re going to do to me,” Jayne said. She was farther away now, behind me, evaluating my every move.
I spread my legs wide and bent my knees. Holding on with only one hand, I dropped nearly to the floor, the pole sliding through my grasp. I rose then, feeling the cool metal brush high on my inside thighs.
“Make me want you,” said Jayne. “Make me so hot I can’t keep my hands off you.”
Dark eyes appeared behind my closed lids. A flash of broad, muscular shoulders. A drop of perspiration sliding down the ridges of hard, washboard abs. Desire pooled deep inside me, lapping against the surface of my womb with each swivel of my hips.
“Anna,” he whispered. “Come for me.” I could still hear his voice.
I hooked one knee around the pole, feeling a wave of self-consciousness as I pushed off with my opposite foot, spinning in a slow circle to my knees.
“There are some hot bitches in this room tonight!” shouted Jayne, suddenly enthusiastic.
Cheers erupted around me. I opened my eyes, a huge grin spreading across my face as Jayne shut down the stereo. Beside me, a woman in her forties with some brand-new silicone laughed hysterically as her friend, easily twice her weight, tried to pull herself out of the splits. Near the front, two college girls pulled their tank tops back on over their sports bras. A woman who was easily sixty was still dancing around one of the ten poles that had been evenly spaced around the room.
Strip-aerobics had become my new Missing Alec Management Plan. It didn’t make me feel half as sexy as he could, but it worked to take some of the edge off.
I stood, and jolted upright as someone slapped my ass.
“Girl, you should seriously consider a dancing career.” Jayne planted her fist on one cocked hip and grinned. She looked like a stripper: fake eyelashes, heels that could have been murder weapons, and boobs the size of my head. It was impossible to tell how old she was under all that makeup. She was wearing a purple pleather bodysuit tonight, one of her many exciting wardrobe choices for the pole dancing class she taught twice a week at the gym.
My face lit up. I twisted my rib-length black hair into a wet knot at the back of my head with a band from around my wrist.
“Totally,” she said. “I can get you an audition if you’re interested.” Her brows wiggled.
I laughed. “Thanks, but that’s okay. I’m not sure my boyfriend would love the idea of other men watching me take off my clothes.”
My smile faltered. I still called Alec my boyfriend, but I hadn’t seen him in almost three months. Eleven weeks and four days to be exact. I’d written to him, but he hadn’t written back. He hadn’t called either. My dad’s friend on the Tampa Police Force had said this was because he couldn’t, that the FBI had locked down his communications with the outside until they could build a case against Maxim Stein. I hoped this was true. All that I had to hold on to was a promise I’d made the night before his arrest. That I’d wait for him, no matter what.
“Boyfriends.” Jayne rolled her eyes. “Dance with me, and you’d have a new lover every night.”
I giggled as she hiked a leg up my thigh and attempted to treat me like the pole I’d spent the last hour grinding against.
“Fine,” she pouted. “If you change your mind . . .”
“I know where to find you,” I said. “Thanks for the class, Jayne.”
A couple of ladies gave me high fives on our way out the door. I loved this class, one of the many perks the gym owner had offered me after I’d started offering massages here six weeks ago. I’d signed up after trying to burn off my sexual frustration on the elliptical trainer, and I hadn’t been sorry. Now I was toned, hot, and had moves. I hoped they were appreciated when Alec got out of jail.
“I still don’t see why they black out the windows.”
I smirked and turned toward the frustrated voice originating behind me. Trevor Marshall may have worked in advertising, but he was built like a runner, which is exactly what he’d spent the last hour doing in the main equipment room of the gym. He was tall and lean, with long pronounced muscles that I had the privilege of digging my thumbs into every other Wednesday, in the massage room at the gym. He ran a towel over his sweaty face, revealing a light smattering of freckles across his nose, and scrubbed at his blond hair that had turned dark with sweat. He was handsome, there was no denying it, and the attraction stirred inside of me as it always did when I saw him.
Attraction, but not lust.
“Because freaks like you would fall off their treadmills trying to watch,” I told him. “It’s a liability issue.”
“Seems more like a killer marketing strategy.” He smiled, and his gleaming green eyes dipped, just for a flash, to check out the damp tank top and shorts that clung to my curves. “And as an aside, I’m not sure you’re allowed to call paying customers freaks.”
“On the job,” I specified. “We’re not in session, so I’m allowed to call you whatever I want.”
His gaze narrowed. One of his hands slid down his sweat-soaked T-shirt, making it stick to his chest. It wasn’t all together a terrible sight.
“My mind is literally racing with possibilities,” he said.
I pushed him back with a snort. “Freak.”
We began walking toward the locker rooms on the gym’s lower level. The bottom floor was lined with weight machines, and the pop music piped in over the speakers was accented with the clank of metal. At the top of the staircase was a cart with a stack of towels, and he passed one to me.
“I had to move my session up to eleven this Wednesday,” he said. “If you’ve got a break after, we should grab lunch.”
Trevor had started signing up for massages here about a month after Alec had gone to jail for his association with Maxim Stein’s white-collar crimes—crimes he had tried to make right by reporting to the FBI. We’d hit it off immediately. He’d come right when I needed a friend, someone who didn’t know that Maxim Stein’s nephew Bobby had tried to kill me, or about Charlotte MacAfee’s death, or about how hard it was without Alec, the only person who I could really talk to about any of it. Trevor was fun and interesting, and a perfectly good distraction from the chaos that had become my life.
“Can’t,” I said. “I’m busy Wednesday.” The nerves jolted to life in my belly, and I grabbed the handrail so I didn’t accidently backflip down the stairs.
“Oh,” said Trevor knowingly. “Loverboy comes home this week, I forgot.”
I hadn’t. I couldn’t. The countdown to Alec’s return had been permanently seared in my memory. I practically had a clock ticking down the seconds transposed over my vision. A month ago the Department of Corrections had sent a letter to Alec’s father informing him of his son’s release date. Alec hadn’t confirmed his arrival, but I was going to be prepared nonetheless.
“Three days,” I said, my throat suddenly dry. “Two, if you consider that today is practically over. Well, the workday anyway. If you work a nine-to-five . . .” I trailed off.
Trevor refrained from rolling his eyes, but I could tell this was difficult.
“Where was he again?” he asked, scratching his chin to hide the frown. “Seattle?”
My eyes flicked to the floor. “Yeah. Seattle.”
“He left you alone a long time.” He threw his towel into a laundry basket. “I guess you gotta go where the work is.”
“Right,” I agreed. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed Alec was in jail, but it really wasn’t anyone’s business.
“What’s he do again?”
“Security,” I said, quickly changing the subject. “I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve got some stuff to get ready before he comes home.”
“Sure,” said Trevor, looking a little dejected. “I’ll see you Wednesday.”
I smiled, and made my way to the locker room. After changing, I saw that I’d missed a call from Amy. The gym was downtown, just a few blocks away from Alec’s high-rise apartment, and after stepping into the warm June evening, I called her back.
“I am giving up men,” Amy announced. “For real this time. It’s all women, all the time.”
“That sounds great,” I said.
“It is. It’s awesome. You know why? Because women aren’t dicks.”
“I feel like there’s a joke somewhere in there . . .”
“A fruit arrangement, Anna,” Amy said. “I told David about Paisley and he sent me a we’re-not-working-out note on a fruit arrangement. One of those stupid fucking cantaloupe and strawberry flower things.”
I cringed, inside and out. Amy was constantly dating men that rejected her, and there had been a string of them lately that had checked out when she’d told them she had a daughter who’d just turned six. Because of that, she stopped introducing Paisley to anyone who hadn’t passed the three-date mark.
No one had passed the three-date mark in two years.
“Did you eat the flowers?” I asked tentatively, waiting until the pedestrian sign lit up so I could look both ways and cross the street.
“Of course I did, but that’s not the point. Who breaks up with someone with a fruit arrangement? It’s like the tackiest thing in the world.”
“Agreed,” I said. “I’m so sorry. You’ll find someone better, I promise.”
She groaned. Then sighed. “I’m ruining your birthday.”
I paused outside the French bakery that stood between the gym and Alec’s place. Pink and white cakes were showcased in the neatly framed window, and they pulled me closer like they were made of magnets. Damn this place for still being open. It was clearly out to sabotage my life.
I went inside. Instantly, my mouth was watering. Croissants, French bread, and cupcakes. Enough cupcakes to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Or at least a moderately sized hot tub.
My gaze honed in on the red velvet with cream cheese frosting. It was the sexiest of all the cupcakes. And it was calling to me in its little cupcake voice.
“You’re not ruining anything,” I told Amy. “I had a fabulous weekend with you, Dad, and Paisley. Today’s just another day.”
It wasn’t really. It was the day before the day before Alec came home. I’d spent most of the weekend with my father, assuring him that everything was going great and downplaying how nervous I was for Alec’s return. I’d taken him to the airport this morning before going in to the salon, and since then, I’d been all jitters.
Thank goodness for pole dancing.
“Well, if Pais and I didn’t have this stargazing thing for her school tonight, we’d totally subject you to more cake.”
“Don’t worry,” I said, pointing out the cupcake to the skinny emo kid behind the counter. “I’ve got it covered.”
After another rendition of the Birthday song, I hung up with Amy and, fancy cupcake box in hand, made the trek across the street to Alec’s place. I kept a small apartment on the south side of town now—that was where I stayed when my father was visiting—but I spent a lot more time here. It made me feel closer to Alec, even when we couldn’t talk.
As I entered the main foyer, impressive with its gray-green marble floors and black leather couches, an athletic man wearing a white dress shirt and slacks greeted me with a smile. His skin was the color of milk chocolate, and his eyes were bright amber—gorgeous, and impossible not to notice.
“Hey sweet girl,” he said. “How many days we got left?”
“Two and a half,” I answered. “How are you, Mike?”
“Better now,” he said, reaching to pull me into a suffocating embrace. “Tell Alec to stay where he is so I can keep you for myself.”
I laughed. Mike and Alec had been friends in high school. When Maxim Stein bought the building, Alec had hired Mike as the head of security. A blush crept up my neck as I considered some of the things Mike may have seen on the building’s security cameras.
“I’ll tell him, but I don’t know if he’s going to go for it.” I hoped he couldn’t see how thin my confidence was.
“He will when he sees these,” Mike quipped, rolling up his sleeve to reveal a massive flexing biceps.
I fanned myself, moving toward the elevator. “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
Mike laughed as I stepped into an open car, and pressed the button for the thirty-fifth floor. When I was hidden I sighed, and rubbed the heel of my hand over my eyebrows. Things were going to be fine with Alec. What we had was real, unbreakable. A few months apart couldn’t change that.
When I’d reached his floor, I made my way down to his apartment and used the key to get inside. Familiar sights greeted me; a few pictures on the wall of the beach, a cherry dining room set up ahead, a hook where I hung my keys. Things I’d put out over the last couple of months—things Alec wouldn’t recognize because he’d been gone. He’d asked me to make the place a little homier. I hoped I hadn’t gone too far when I bought a spice rack and a toilet seat cover.
This place was only temporary anyway, I reminded myself. Once Maxim went to jail for the rest of eternity—something I hoped would happen once Alec testified—the building would be sold, and Alec would probably have to find another place. One that was unfortunately not quite so rent-free.
I turned into the kitchen, and put down my bag and cupcake box on the counter beside the knife block. I toed off my shoes and left them on the beige tile, then opened the refrigerator. It had the basics now, but I definitely needed to restock before Alec got home. There wasn’t anything good to eat for dinner, and the freezer was too packed with ice cream to fit any frozen meals.
“Pizza it is,” I said aloud, then made the call for delivery to a place in South Tampa famous for their thin crust. It probably would have been a good idea to pick something up while I’d been out, but I’d been too focused on my beautiful red velvet friend.
I opened the lid of the box and removed the pretty cupcake, feeling a surge of loneliness. I’d only known Alec a few weeks before he’d gone to jail, but sometimes I missed him so badly it hurt.
“Happy Birthday to me,” I said quietly, peeling back the dainty wrapper and taking a bite. Twenty-eight years old, and in a serious, committed relationship with a man I hadn’t spoken to in eleven weeks and four days. Living in an apartment still owned by an imprisoned billionaire mogul who’d sent his nephew to kill me. And spending my birthday alone. The cream cheese icing only took a little of the sting away.
I still had an hour before the pizza was delivered, so I hauled my bag into the bedroom, now adorned with a nightstand lamp and a drawer full of my clothes, and left the cupcake on the dresser so I could shower. When I was clean, I towel-dried my long, wet hair, and laid out two outfits side by side on the bed.
One was a black teddy with thigh-highs. The other a red lace bra and panty set with a frilly little skirt. Just looking at them gave me a little thrill. For Alec’s first night back I wanted to wear something special. And then I wanted to make him act out every fantasy my overactive imagination had come up with in his absence.
“Red or black?” I took another bite of the cupcake. He’d liked me in red. He’d liked me in black, too. I giggled a little. He wasn’t really all that hard to please.
At least, he hadn’t been.
I put the outfits back into the bag and stuffed it into the drawer. The big decisions could come later. I still had to clean and figure out what I needed to pick up at the supermarket tomorrow.
Because the next day Alec would be home.
I closed my eyes, and rubbed one hand over my breasts, remembering the way he caressed them. The way his fingers felt dipping beneath my panties. How my body became charged and ready, just from a look.
The memories were enough to make my blood heat.
If he didn’t want me anymore, I didn’t know what I was going to do.
I ate another bite of the cupcake.
A moment later, a knock came at the door. I checked the time, surprised to see that the pizza guy was still twenty minutes early. Throwing on some pink pajama pants and one of Alec’s T-shirts, I hurried back toward the kitchen to get my purse.
“Just a second,” I called. “I’ll be right there.”
Wallet in hand, I glanced at the baseball bat I left leaning against the wall—a safety precaution I’d added since Bobby had abducted me—and opened the front door. I looked up, and then up higher, into the stormy blue eyes of the man who stood in the hallway.
My heart stopped in my chest.
“Hey.” Alec’s gaze lowered slowly down my body. “Nice shirt.”
For a second I thought I was dreaming. Before me was Alec, at least, a man who looked like Alec. The careless waves I’d run my fingers through were gone, his hair cut short. His chest seemed broader, and his arms hung loosely at his sides—arms defined by hard muscle that stretched the sleeves of his white T-shirt. But that was where the differences ceased. His eyes, piercing and blue as the deepest part of the bay, locked me in place as his trademark smirk lifted the corners of his mouth.
He was hot enough to melt the polar ice caps. Even more gorgeous than I remembered, which seemed impossible. He had a mouth made for kissing and a body made for fucking, and as he sized me up I was battered by images of both. The space between us turned electric. I could practically hear it hiss like a drop of water on a live wire. My purse fell from my hand and I grabbed the door handle just to keep my legs from buckling.
“Wh-what are you doing here?” I managed.
He was early. Two and a half days early. I hadn’t cleaned up; my stuff was everywhere. There wasn’t any food. I wasn’t wearing any makeup, my hair wasn’t combed, and my underwear wasn’t even remotely sexy. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I was supposed to pick him up at the police station. We were supposed to have sex in the car twice. Maybe three times. Then we’d come back here so I could make him a huge homecoming dinner wearing dirty lingerie, only to have to warm it up later because he’d been unable to keep his hands off of me.
I couldn’t move.
His head tilted to the side. “I live here. At least I used to.”
I pulled the shirt away from my chest, hiding my body’s immediate reaction to him. Was it weird that I was wearing his clothes? I hoped it didn’t freak him out.
He still stood in the hallway, as if waiting for me to invite him in. It hit me all in a rush how rude I was being, and I quickly stepped back and pulled open the door.
“Sorry, I . . . Hi.” I stepped forward and rose on my tiptoes to give him a hug. “Welcome home.”
Touching him was like brushing against open flames. Scalding, terrifying, but also fiercely addicting. His arms surrounded me, drew me closer, until my feet were barely touching the ground. My breasts, bare beneath the soft cotton, grew tender and heavy, and my fingers grasped his broad shoulders too tightly. I inhaled, dizzy from that familiar masculine scent that I’d missed so much these last few months, and then shuddered, like I hadn’t really breathed since he’d left. He had to feel my heart pounding against his hard chest.
His head turned, and his mouth found my neck. He whispered something against it that I couldn’t hear, and my whole body quivered as his breath warmed my skin. The desire was still there, stronger than before. The intensity of it frightened me; I was almost afraid to set it loose. We would burn each other to the ground.
Then he was pulling back slightly, his mouth seeking mine.
And for some absolutely insane reason, I turned away.
“Chocolate,” I said, too loudly. He set me down, his hands lingering on my waist. “I just ate a cupcake, I have chocolate breath.”
No, I did not just say that.
He didn’t move for a moment, as if waiting for me to tell him this was a joke. Then he scowled, and withdrew his hands from my sides. One thumb tapped his lower lip. “All right.”
“It’s my birthday, that’s why I had the cupcake.” Shut. Up. Anna.
He froze, gave me a look that bordered on horrified.
“I didn’t . . .”
“Oh, I know.” I waved my hand as if I wasn’t disappointed. “I don’t even know why I said that.”
He didn’t know it was my birthday. I knew he didn’t, but it still struck me how little time we’d actually been together.
He was frowning.
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “Really.”
I had clearly lost my mind. Or my nerve. Or both. Whatever the case, my sex drive was running full steam, but my brain was running interference. This wasn’t supposed to be awkward, but since I’d acted so strangely, he was pulling back as well. It was as if there were a barrier between us, a wall of glass that neither of us could break.
Now inside, he took a slow look around, gaze lingering on the bat for a moment before I hurried around him to close the door. The bolt sliding home clicked loudly enough it might as well have been a prison cell.
He stepped into the kitchen, getting his bearings. Goddammit. The plates were one thing, but I’d totally overdone it with the spice rack. I knew it.
He picked up a mug beside the sink, then ran his index finger over the lipstick mark I’d left there. I bit my bottom lip, wishing he’d touch my mouth in the same way.
And now I was jealous of a ceramic cup.
“If it’s too much, I can get rid of some of this stuff,” I said.
Please say something, I willed him. The silence was unnerving. I tried to keep all my fears at bay, but they were pushing hard at the forefront of my mind. Things had changed. We had changed. I didn’t belong here. I’d made myself too at home in his absence.
He had continued on to the dining room, and in the narrow computer nook between the two rooms he paused, brows lifting. While he’d been gone, I’d gotten his college degree certificate from his father, framed it, and put it up. At the time it had seemed like a nice thing to do, but as I watched his hand slide down his throat, I wasn’t so sure.
“Look,” I said quietly, unable to stand it any longer. “You probably want some time to relax. I should go home. You can call me later if you feel up to it.” I didn’t even know if he had the same phone number that he did before he left.
His head snapped toward me.
“You still live in the studio?”
I shook my head. “No. Didn’t seem like the safest place after the whole stalker/abduction thing, you know?” I tried to laugh, but there wasn’t much breath behind it. “I got a little apartment in South Tampa. I didn’t want to suffocate you.”
He pushed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and leaned against the wall, looking disappointed. Hope lifted my spirits, but they crashed again as the seconds wound on.
“There’s a little food in the refrigerator,” I said. “I meant to stock up before you came home, but I thought you would still be a couple days.” I wiped my damp palms on my sweatpants. “I did get you ice cream.”
I turned to the freezer and opened the slender silver door. Inside were eight different cardboard cartons—exactly seven too many, I realized now. I closed my eyes, waiting for the cold air to cool me off.
“That’s a lot of ice cream,” he said, a trace of humor in his voice.
I winced. “You told me once you liked vanilla. I didn’t know which kind—French vanilla, or vanilla bean, or plain—so I got them all.”
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
“I don’t want you to leave, Anna.” The quiet way he said my name made my heart hurt, and I turned around to face him. His back was against the counter, hands still fisted in his pockets. His arms were definitely bigger than before. Both of my hands together wouldn’t fit around his biceps, and that realization gave me another thrill. I couldn’t help but wonder what he looked like without his shirt on. If his pecs, his abs, that thin, sexy line of hair that disappeared beneath his waistband, were still the same.
“Anna,” he said again, and I shook my head, refocusing on his face. “What are you thinking?”
“Why didn’t you call?” I sagged back against the cool doors of the refrigerator. There was only five feet at most between us, but it might as well have been five hundred.
He looked down at the floor, where I’d left my shoes earlier. “I wanted to. The FBI kept me pretty tied up.” He hesitated. “I got your letters.”
The air left my lungs in a whoosh. Terry Benitez had told me he wouldn’t be able to talk to me, but I’d needed to hear Alec say it.
Alec reached in his back pocket and pulled out an envelope. It was a little wrinkled, but otherwise in good shape. Carefully, he opened it, revealing a stack of notes I’d sent him. As he flipped through them I could see that the paper was worn, the creases nearly torn. He’d read them. A lot. Another shimmer of hope made me stand a little taller.
“How’d you get out early?”
He gave me a small smile. “Good behavior.”
“That doesn’t sound like you.”
His smile widened. “I’m a changed man, Anna.”
“I hope not too changed.”
He hesitated, and his gaze fell to my neck. The exposed skin around my collar heated. It took several heartbeats for him to find my eyes again.
I shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t get you something.”
You. I wanted to say. You’re here. That’s all I want. It made me sad that he would even consider I needed more.
“What?” I said. “You couldn’t stamp me out a license plate or something?”
His hand twitched, and my mouth went dry. I pictured that hand coming down on my bare ass, the sting smoothed by his tongue.
“Ouch,” he said, eyes gleaming.
“Too soon for jail jokes?”
He looked like he wanted to say something, but was holding back.
“I should take a shower,” he said. There was an unspoken question at the end, but since he didn’t say the words out loud, I didn’t answer.
“Okay. It’s just . . .” I groaned. “Sorry. It’s your place, you know where the shower is.”
He pushed off the counter and entered the dining room. “It doesn’t look like my place.”
I cringed. “Is it too much? Be honest.”
Without looking back at me, he said, “I didn’t say I didn’t like it.”
He made his way toward the bedroom where I had spent the majority of nights over the last three months. The door was left open, but I wasn’t sure if this was an invitation to follow him or not. A second later the water turned on in the bathroom. He’d probably seen that I had left all my toiletries strewn across the counter by now. Maybe he didn’t mind a spice rack or a dining room table, but most men would flip when they saw the amount of products that went into maintaining my wild hair.
“Come on, Anna,” I said quietly. “Time to pull your shit together.”
Things were going to be okay between us. So they weren’t as comfortable as they’d been when we’d parted, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t be again. I just needed to relax, help him readjust.
I meant to go back to the kitchen and clean up, but before I could stop myself I’d taken one step, then another toward the bedroom. Each time I moved forward, the butterflies in my belly seemed to multiply, until I had to keep both hands on my stomach just to contain them.
Soon I was standing on the threshold of the bedroom, my bare toes digging into the carpet. Thirty minutes ago I’d been walking around this place like it belonged to me, now I felt like a stranger surrounded by my own things. I peeked inside, and found his clothes strewn over the plush comforter I’d brought. His jeans were crumpled, his shirt thrown across them.
I closed my eyes, imagining him naked in the shower. His soapy hands sliding over his perfect body. The water running through his short hair down his face. I wondered if he was hard, if he had touched himself and thought of me while we were apart. If he was doing it right now.
Heat crept over my skin, and soon just the thought of him, accompanied by the steady spray of the shower, had me breathing hard. My breasts were aching, the apex of my thighs becoming sensitive and damp. I pictured his hand moving up and down his thick cock. His eyes drifting closed. His head falling back. I wanted to hear him groan. I wanted my name to be on his lips as he came.
I hadn’t realized I had closed my eyes until the water shut off. It took a few seconds for my brain to catch up, and when it did, I looked up and caught his reflection in the bathroom mirror. It froze me in place and I gasped, startled.
He stared at me unflinchingly, a dark, possessive look in his eyes. Lust tightened his features, drew his mouth into a tight line, made his jaw flex. The counter hid everything below the waist, but his chest was in full view.
He looked incredible. Just one glance at his wet, firm body and my sex contracted. My lips parted. I could almost feel how smooth his skin would be as I spread my fingers over his chest.
My shoulders were rising and falling with each breath. God, I wanted him. Around me, over me, inside me. Now.
A knock at the door rose over the static in my ears.
I blinked, unable to tear my gaze away from his until he disappeared from view behind the door and came out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist.
I stared at his collarbone, the hard line disappearing beneath the swell of muscles at his shoulders. He was like a walking fantasy; he felt untouchable, too good to be true. My hands started to tremble.
“Are you expecting someone?” he asked.
It was like he was speaking a different language.
“Anna,” he said more insistently. “Someone’s at the door. Do you want me to get it?”
“I . . .” I looked up, then back, shaking my head. My face must have turned candy apple red as the hypnotic effect he had on me wore off.
“It’s nothing,” I said, fumbling for the words. “I’ll take care of it.”
I retreated before he could respond, and had already begun to search the kitchen before I remembered that I’d dropped my purse when he’d arrived. I scrambled to the entryway, finding my wallet where I’d left it, and cracked the door, releasing the chain when I saw the square cardboard box.
I paid the kid more than double what I should have and told him to keep the change. With that I shut the door and carried the pizza into the kitchen, only to find Alec already there, considerably more dressed in his jeans and a fresh button-up shirt from his closet. The collar was damp and open, and beads of water still clung to the ends of his hair—hair I’d once dreamed of running my hands through. Now all I could think was how it would feel brushing against the insides of my thighs.
“You ordered pizza,” he said, and the surprise in his voice caught me off guard.
I set it down, not hungry. Not in that way, at least.
“Who did you think was coming over?” I asked. It was so quiet you could hear the consistent buzz of the overhead light.
His gaze flicked to the side.
“There’s been no one but you.” I tried to sound confident, but I was hurt that he’d doubted me.
He nodded slowly. “I thought . . .” His Adam’s apple bobbed. “I had too much time to think. I didn’t know if you’d be here when I came home.”
“I promised you I’d wait.”
“You did.” He crossed his arms over his chest, as if he didn’t know what to do with them. I could think of a million things he could do with them in that moment, but I didn’t know how to bridge the distance between us either.
“Your hair’s longer.” I was pretty sure this wasn’t what he’d wanted to say.
“Yours is shorter.”
He scratched a hand over his skull. “Yeah. They make you keep it short.”
“Did you wear an orange jumpsuit?” I asked.
He snorted. “It was gray, actually.”
“Did you miss me?” My chest ached, just to ask. His eyes found mine, and the room around him fell out of focus. The man could level me with just a look. If he touched me, I’d be putty in his hands.
“Every fucking second.” He stared at me as if trying to figure something out, then took a step closer.
“There’s a bat by the door, and another under the bed,” he said. I swallowed as he came within arm’s reach. “And there’s five kinds of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom.”
I combed my fingers through my hair. This was exactly why I’d wanted to clean up before he came back. He didn’t need to know that I woke up almost every night dreaming that he hadn’t reached the bridge in time, that Bobby was beating me or throwing me into the water. That every sound got me out of bed at night, and that some days I was sure that Maxim Stein had broken out of his barricaded estate on Davis Island where he was under house arrest and was following me around. Alec had enough to worry about.
“I can’t sleep sometimes.” I didn’t tell him that none of the pills worked. Maybe they knocked me out, but if I woke up there was no going back.
I didn’t have to explain anymore; it was clear by the look on his face that he knew what had been happening.
“I should have been here,” he said.
I shook my head, hating the tenderness in his voice because it made me feel weak. “Yeah, well. You have a pretty good excuse.”
He took another step closer, and I bumped into the wall behind me. I hadn’t realized I was moving backward. Now that he was closer, I had to look up to see him. I was overwhelmed by just how big he was.
“No one’s going to hurt you again,” he said, the promise clear in his voice. His words struck me deeply; it felt as though my lungs were trembling. My pulse began to kick faster. Faster, as his gaze lowered to my mouth. My tongue wet my dry lips.
“I was fine by myself,” I said. It wasn’t like I was too petrified to get out of bed every morning. I didn’t want him to think it was that bad.
He smirked, moving closer again until his arms rose, and pressed against the wall behind me, boxing me in. His body was inches away from mine, but I could feel the heat coming off of him, and smell the soap from the shower mingling with his dark, masculine scent.
“I believe you,” he said. “I saw the vibrator in the nightstand drawer.”
I closed my eyes, scrunching up my nose. I placed my hand on his chest, intending to push him away but finding I couldn’t. Instead, my hand gripped his shirt in a tight fist. “You shouldn’t snoop around.”
“It’s still technically my place.”
His head lowered, cheek nuzzling my temple, nose sliding up one side of mine, then down the other. I kept my eyes closed, savoring the feel of him. God, I’d missed him. Talking to him, being close to him. The way he felt, and the way I felt when he was near. The need inside of me increased until my back arched, and my hips jerked against his. He didn’t move his hands, but his body responded, rocking back against me. His hard length pressed against my belly while his knee slid between my legs, opening me for him. Excitement jolted through my body as I felt the physical demonstration of his desire.
“Look at me,” he whispered.
I couldn’t. My head was swimming, my pulse pounding in my eardrums, my chest, my sex. With his knee rubbing against my damp center, the sensations were rising, the heat taking me over. I was getting close, and if I opened my eyes I was afraid he would disappear, and this would have all been some dark, torturous fantasy.
“Anna, I have to see your eyes.”
They fluttered open. He stared straight into my soul, asking questions without words. My palm lifted to cradle his cheek, and he leaned into my hand.
“Christ,” he murmured. “You’ve been haunting me.”
He rocked against me again and I fought to keep my eyes open. That familiar tension was coiling tighter, threatening to snap, but now it was stronger and more acute because it had been trapped inside me for three long months. My blood felt like it was humming. Only he could make me feel this way. Only he could be my undoing.
“Alec.” My breath was coming in little gasps.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said, giving voice to my fears, and banishing them at the same time. His forehead pressed against mine.
He wanted me. Needed me. And there was love in his eyes, I was sure I’d seen it. I’d missed him so much there were times I could barely breathe.
There was still a chance to do this the way I’d wanted.
“Wait,” I said, louder than I’d intended.
He pushed back, breathing hard. “Wait?”
“You need to leave,” I said.
His brows rose. He fell back another step as if I’d punched him.
“Just for a little while. I have to do something.” I was already pulling him to the door.
“What’s going on?”
“You’ll see.” I unlatched the bolt and pushed him into the hallway. “Knock in five minutes. Don’t go anywhere.” I stared at him expectantly until he gave a confused nod.
Then I shut the door in his face.
Never in my life have I stripped so fast. The T-shirt went over my head and landed on the floor somewhere. I nearly tripped on my pajama pants on my way through the bedroom door. Bursting into the master bathroom, I rifled through my makeup, found the compacts and brushes I needed and went to work. It wasn’t as careful a job as I would have liked, but I got the basics: mascara, smoky eye shadow, and my new favorite lipstick that was appropriately called Orgasm.
I brushed my teeth while I combed my hair, teasing it a little. It was still mostly wet, but I didn’t have time to dry it—not while Alec and his enormous erection were waiting in the hallway wondering what the hell was going on. I giggled, picturing the baffled look on his face as I’d shut the door. He’d understand soon enough.
I pulled the pretty velvet bag from the drawer, hoping Alec hadn’t thought to explore there, too, and after a quick deliberation went for the black lingerie. The satin was soft and tight against my skin, and instantly bolstered my self-confidence. He wasn’t going to know what hit him.
Thanking the universe that the esthetician had had a cancellation yesterday and been able to bump up my waxing appointment, I pulled on thigh-highs and found my best pair of patent leather fuck-me pumps.
One last run through to turn off a few lamps and light some scented candles, and I took my place on the couch, draping my body over the cushions. I should have thought about poses—legs open or closed?—and ended up readjusting myself half a dozen times while waiting.
He didn’t knock.
“Come on,” I muttered. I was so hot for him I was starting to get uncomfortable.
With a groan, I rose, and walked to the door. I cracked it, and caught sight of his back as he paced by.
“Knock already!” I whisper-shouted.
He turned toward me, but I was mostly hidden. Quickly, I shut the door, now unable to stop the nervous laughter that bubbled up. Making a last-minute decision to stay there, I cocked my hip out and waited.
He knocked twice.
“Come in,” I called.
The door pushed inward, and he stood, gaping at me like he’d lost the power of speech. I bit my bottom lip seductively and tried to hide the smile. Now this was more like it.
“Fuck me,” he muttered finally.
“That’s the idea.” I trailed one finger between my breasts, which were practically chin level thanks to some well-placed padding. The cups barely hid my nipples, and as his gaze became stuck there, I could tell he was thinking the same thing.
“This is what I wanted to do before,” I said.
He took a step forward and slammed the door behind him.
“This is what I wanted to do before,” he said, voice rough.
He was on me before I could take another breath. His hands flew over my body, sliding down the smooth satin, gripping my backside with a firm, demanding pressure. His mouth claimed mine; his lips were hard and wet, and when his tongue plunged into my mouth, he swallowed my hoarse cry. We battled for leverage, each fighting for dominance, but as his tongue slid over my teeth beneath my upper lip, I gasped with pleasure. He’d never kissed me like that before.
He pulled me against his pelvis, grinding his hard length against my sex while I frantically pulled his shirt up over his stomach. His abdominals flexed as my hands skimmed over them, driving me crazy. I reached for his belt, unhooked it, jerked open his fly.
Wet, frantic kisses trailed down my neck, hitting all the spots that made me wild. Finally, I got his T-shirt over his head and as he shrugged out of it I scraped my nails down his hard pecs.
“Fuck, that feels good.” His eyes were dilated, his breath ragged. I loved knowing I had this effect on him. That I could make him as crazy as he made me. I wanted to watch him lose control, to see him fall apart, but as one hand swept between my thighs, I lost the ability to think.
“You’re so hot,” he said. “So wet.” He circled the heel of his hand over my clit, the fabric between us now soaked.
“Inside,” I gasped. “Inside. I need you.”
He pressed harder and I shouted weakly.
“I thought about this every day. You squeezing my cock. Clenching around my fingers. I thought I was losing my mind.”
His dirty words stoked the fire, and as his hand pushed aside the thin strip of fabric and his finger made a wide arc around my entrance, my knees buckled. He supported me with one arm around my lower back and pressed inside.
“Yes,” he hissed as I groaned. “I heard those sounds you make in my head. They made me so hard.” He added a second finger. It was a tight fit while I was standing, and the satin pulled taut against my swollen lips, bringing new sensitivity. I gripped his shoulders.
He lifted me, and the air huffed from my lungs as my back slammed against the wall. A framed beachscape fell to the floor with a crash. He leaned into me, his cock still sheathed by the jeans I hadn’t managed to get off. Positioned higher, he had more access to my body and his tongue traced a searing line over the swell of my breast. One hand reached to pull the cup open, but the shoulder strap held tight.
“Rip it,” I said.
He stared at me, mouth a tight grimace. Then he wrapped the thin strap around his finger and yanked, forearm flexing. The fabric scored my skin, and he eased the sting with his tongue as my breasts spilled free, licking a trail down to one hard nipple. He circled the tight peak, lapped at it, and finally drew it into his mouth, making me writhe in place still pinned between his hard body and the wall.
“Alec,” I said. And then I shouted his name. “Oh God, oh God, oh God.”
I was so close. So close and then weightless. He turned around, taking three quick strides to the dining room table and setting me down on it. His mouth never left my breast, and when his teeth raked over the sensitive skin I shuddered, and arched back.
I was coming, my center clenching and empty for a full second before he swore, and the smooth, hard head of his cock surged through my swollen folds.
The feel of him inside me lit my desire like gasoline. Spasms raced through my body. Every muscle flexed, pulling him deeper, hungry for us to be joined in the most intimate way. My nails dug into his shoulders and he groaned, and the sound stroked my sex again. It had been too long since we’d been together, and the desperation made the intensity of my orgasm nearly unbearable.
“I couldn’t wait,” he said tightly. “I had to feel it. That way you grip my dick when you come. I needed it.”
I whimpered as the tremors faded, aware that the other places our bodies connected—my hands around the back of his neck, his palm on my thigh—were now slick with perspiration. I hastily shoved the hair out of my face, closing my eyes to concentrate on the feel of his thick shaft inside me.
“You’re so tight,” he said. “Lie back, baby. I’m going to push all the way in.”
I didn’t understand what he meant until I looked down, and saw that he was firmly gripping the base of his cock in his fist. He’d stopped himself from plowing all the way in while I’d been coming, but now intended to fill me completely. For some reason this touched me; in the midst of his own lust he still put my comfort first.
“Oh,” I said, and then “Oh” again as his fingers brushed the slick skin around my entrance. He unhooked the bottom of the teddy to give himself more room, and pushed the black, wet satin up my belly so that he could see my bareness. I lay back on the table, my hair fanning out around me, and he lifted my knees, latching his arms beneath my thighs.
“God, you’re beautiful,” he said. But he was the one that was beautiful. With the candlelight flickering off his skin, and the thin sheen of sweat accentuating the cuts of muscle, I could barely breathe. It seemed impossible that this sexy man had chosen me.
His head fell forward, breaking our stare. He was huge, rock solid and soft as velvet, and as he impaled me I felt our souls meld together with a searing pleasure.
“Breathe, Anna,” he said tightly. “Relax.”
I inhaled in a hard rush, then forced my clenching muscles to be still. It was difficult; my sex was a greedy bitch, and once she’d gotten what she wanted there was no stopping her from taking more.
I gripped his forearms, feeling them tremble. I could tell he wanted to drive into me, fuck me hard, but he was taking this first entry slow so as not to hurt me. He felt larger than before, and just as I wasn’t sure how much more I could take, he pushed deeper.
“Alec, oh God.”
He pushed until his big cock was buried inside me and his balls brushed against my ass.
“Wait,” I said, wishing that I could do the same but finding it impossible. I was unable to hold still, but even so my body acclimated to him. Remembered.
“God, Anna,” he said between his teeth. “You feel so good.”
I rose onto my elbows, and he grimaced and squeezed my thighs harder. I was distracted by his flexing pecs momentarily before looking at his face, at his dark brows drawn together in concentration, and the thin band of scar tissue at the bridge of his nose. His high, solid cheekbones and square jaw, and those perfect, bitable lips.
His eyes, dark as thunderheads, stared into mine, and his cock twitched inside of me. The tiny move nearly made me combust I was so tightly wound.
“Now,” I panted. “Now. Please.”
He slid out, then back in slowly.
“More,” I said. “Faster.”
“I can’t,” he said, diverting his gaze to the side. “I won’t last.”
He groaned. “When you beg like that . . .”
He pushed into me hard. Withdrew. Buried himself again. “I can’t say no to you.”
“Yes,” I said as he found a faster rhythm. My cries began keeping time with his thrusts. Soon, I felt it. The spark, deep inside of me, that would launch me into bliss once ignited. It had been three months since I’d felt that deep friction. Only Alec could reach it.
“Come with me,” he said, already getting close. “Now, Anna.”
I was suddenly desperate for the feel of his chest against my breasts and sat up. He locked me against his body just as my world erupted. Had I been able to think, I would have been glad for his hold on me then, because otherwise I would have bucked myself right off the table. His grip tightened—one arm slung around the back of my neck, the other hand digging into my hip. The pleasure wasn’t gentle. It was hard and powerful and unrelenting. It consumed me completely. His drives became fast and punishing, and with a sharp curse, he slammed deep into me and held, head thrown back in victory.
I felt him coming, felt the warmth of his love and the strength of his passion. Finally, I thought. Finally, he was home.
Cock still pulsing, he lowered his forehead to mine.
“Again,” he said.
We lay on the floor on our sides, a tangle of arms and legs and shredded satin, slick with sweat and our own desire. He kissed me gently, but though his lips were soft, there was a passion behind it that made my heart thunder against my ribs. His fingers trailed over my cheek, down the nape of my neck, over each individual vertebrae of my spine, as if relearning the contours of my body.
“Black was a good choice,” I said quietly as he began kissing each one of my fingers. How many orgasms had I just had? Six? I’d lost count after he’d pulled me onto his lap in the chair—now overturned beside us—and helped me ride him until my legs no longer worked.
He gave a little wince as he glanced at the teddy, now hanging by just a few small clasps around my waist. One thigh-high was gone completely. The other torn and pooling around my calf. He’d made certain to put my shoes back on.
“I may have gotten a little carried away,” he said, reaching behind me to remove the rest of the tattered garment. He paused. “Wait. What do you mean, choice? Was there a second option?”
His cock stirred against my thigh, making me laugh.
“Yes. The super sexy pajama pants and T-shirt combo.” I didn’t need to tell him about the red bra and panty set yet—some things were better left as a surprise.
He pulled the bodice free and tossed it behind me, then kissed the tip of my nose. I didn’t remember him being so sweet after we’d been intimate. I sort of loved it.
“I liked the pajama pants,” he said. “Stretchy. Easy access.” His hand lowered down my stomach and I wiggled away as he grazed over the ticklish spot on the front of my pelvis.
He pulled himself up on one shoulder and looked down at me. There was a calmness in his eyes now, the storm had passed. It was comforting, considering the anguish I’d seen there before he’d gone to jail.
“I did like it,” he said, more serious now. “You in my shirt, making yourself at home. That wet hair.” He growled a little, and I smiled.
I love you, I thought. But I didn’t say it. And even though his lips parted again, and his eyes filled with emotion, he didn’t say it either.
“I thought things might be different,” I confessed. “All that time apart.”
“Who says they’re not?” He nuzzled my neck, nibbling my earlobe. “They’re worse. Three months without a fix nearly killed me.”
His words reminded me of something I needed to say, but had hoped for a better time.
“Alec . . . there’s something I need to tell you.”
He stiffened, pulled back. I wished I could erase the doubt from his mind, but only time could do that. He would have to learn to trust me again.
“Have you seen your dad?” I asked. The man’s image immediately came to mind—dark hair, a flirty smile, his trusty Seeing Eye dog Askem at his side. Early macular generation had left him mostly blind before Alec was born, but that wasn’t the issue he struggled with now.
His brows flattened. “I came straight here.”
I took his hand and flattened it against my heart, circling his knuckles with my fingertips.
“He fell off the wagon.” I searched his face for any kind of response, but there was barely a flicker of surprise. “I’ve been visiting him some. I hope you don’t mind.”
Now he had a response. His eyes pinched at the corners, and his mouth pulled into a frown.
“He called you? He’s a real pain in the ass when he’s been drinking.”
“He was still sober the first time I saw him,” I said, glancing away. “You didn’t tell him you were going to jail.”
Alec lay back on the floor, staring up at the underside of the dining room table. I rose on my side, my throat tightening.
“You told him,” Alec said.
“He’d been trying to reach you,” I said. “He was worried.”
Alec made a noise of disbelief. According to him they got along all right now, but they hadn’t always. His father’s addiction had left them homeless, and driven Alec to sell drugs for money.
I bit my lip, hard. “I didn’t know he’d start drinking again.”
Alec laughed dryly. “Yeah. Well. That’s what he does.”
I pulled back, remembering one particularly notable visit with Thomas last month. He’d been too thin, substituting booze for real food, and I’d made him an omelet, which he’d promptly thrown up on my shoes.
I tried not to blame myself—it wasn’t like I’d handed him a bottle—but I still felt terrible for triggering his relapse. My own birth mother had been an addict, and more than once she’d blamed her inability to quit on the stress I caused her.
I sat up and pulled my knees to my chest. I was small enough that my head still cleared the underside of the table. Right now I couldn’t even remember how we’d gotten under here.
“I’m so sorry,” I said. “Maybe I should have stayed out of your business. It just . . .” I squeezed my knees tighter. “It just made me feel like you weren’t so far away.”
His head lifted, eyes round with surprise. When he sat he had to duck because he wasn’t nearly as compact as I was. Giving up on getting comfortable, he scooted out from under the table.
“It’s not your fault,” he said. “I’ll call his sponsor tomorrow.”
“I already did.” I winced. “Too far?”
Alec’s brows arched. He shook his head slowly.
“Thanks,” he said, looking a bit perplexed.
“I have to work in the morning,” I said, looking for a change of subject. “But maybe we could meet for lunch.”
He nodded. “I have to meet my lawyer. Then my parole officer.”
I stiffened at the mention of parole. Sometimes it all felt too real. Alec had served time in prison. His life would be different now. Mine, too.
“What?” he asked, like he expected me to bolt.
“Nothing,” I said, not wanting to dampen the mood further. “You’re about to become a very good boy.”
He smirked. “They gave me the rules with my discharge paperwork. No drugs, no fighting, no weapons.” One of his fingers slid down my breast and circled the hard point. “No running away to Mexico.”
“How will you ever manage?”
“I’ll figure out something.”