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Excerpt: First Touch
He’d been watching me at the Expo, then. Before he’d come outside after me.
His question about Chris was spoken casually, but it was purposeful. A more naïve woman might have missed it, but I was too experienced with men like him. He wanted me to know that I was in his sightline. That this was what it meant to be part of his life. That he would monitor me, if he felt like it; he’d rule me. And he expected me to submit.
I couldn’t decide if that freaked me out or thrilled me.
So I played coy. “He’s an actor. We’ve worked together on occasion. I guess we’re friends.”
I walked into the kitchen and got a glass from the cupboard. Chewing my lip, I filled it with filtered water from the sink and debated full disclosure regarding Chris…It was a long shot, but since I hoped to contact Chris for more information about Missy at some point, I decided the less I said the better.
I drank some of my water then set the glass down and leaned across the counter to watch Reeve. His fingers trailed across the spines. I couldn’t see the exact books, so I tried to think what was there. My Katherine Hepburn autobiography. My copy of Rebecca.
He stopped and pulled one from the shelf then flipped through it lazily. This one I recognized from the cover. PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives, one of my coffee table books. I collected them and had so many that most lived on my bookshelf rather than on my coffee table. This particular book was a printing of blog posts that shared secrets anonymously. Parts of it read like my diary, and I’d marked several pages with Post-it notes so I could easily come back to them. Reading it had always felt comforting.
Seeing it in Reeve’s hands, though, wasn’t comforting. He flipped through the pages, stopping on the ones I’d tagged. Chuckling at some. Growing somber at others. At one, he lifted his head toward me and nodded slightly as if confirming what he’d just thought, what he’d just read.
I ran through several confessions I knew by heart, trying to imagine which it had been--
“Again and again. Used.”
“I’m more scared of court than I was when he almost killed me.”
“I would do absolutely anything in the whole world if I thought it would make her happy.”
Whichever ones he was reading, any of them—all of them—were private. Too private for him to know spoke to me. Yet, I didn’t stop him. I let him sink one layer deeper under my skin.
It was bad enough that he was in my apartment—in an apartment that I paid for myself. His presence reminded me of a time when everything I owned had been given to me by men. The things I had now, though small in number and worth, were all mine.
Trying to distract myself from the anxiety Reeve’s invasion caused, I asked, “Why do you want to know about Chris anyway? Do you want me to fix you up? He’s got a fiancé, you know.”
Reeve shot me a glare. “Cute.”
He put the book back on my shelf and moved toward me. When he reached the counter, he said, “Chris doesn’t look at you like he has a fiancé.”
Ah. I’d forgotten Reeve was a jealous man. Or I’d underestimated the depth of his envy. Strangely, it was a fairly common trait of the kind of men I’d involved myself with in the past, the kind of men who had everything. I knew how to pander to them, knew what to say to put their insecurities to rest. No one could ever be man enough to compare with you, I’d say. It might have been what Reeve was looking for in regards to Chris.
But I couldn’t bring myself to give it to him. “A lot of men don’t look at me like they have a fiancé.”
Reeve leaned across the opposite side of the counter so we were face-to-face. “I don’t like that.”
Jealousy was generally boring, yet, on Reeve, it was fascinating. And, I suspected, dangerous. “You don’t? What are you going to do about it? Lock me up and never let me out in public?”
“I have some nice secluded resorts I think you’d like. My island properties are so beautiful you’ll forget you’re in a prison.”
He flashed his dimple. It was subtle, only noticeable when he smiled in a certain way, the way he was smiling now. And his eyes…I’d thought they were blue, but now I saw green flecks. They caught in the light. They caught me in them, made me feel warm. Made me feel trapped.
I stood up straight, distancing myself without moving away. “Look at you. Acting as if you have some claim to me. I think I already blew you off the other night.”
“Look at you, acting as if I’m a person that you blow off. I think I already warned you about me.” He was teasing as I’d been. But he wasn’t all at the same time.
My heart skipped a beat. “Another threat?”
“If you want it to be.” He looked at me like he had earlier—that intent way that saw through me, into me. Saw all my dark parts.
In a way, he was showing me his darkness as well.
My lip quivered, but I wasn’t scared. Well, not scared enough. “I do.”
His eyes sparked, and with that simple phrase, we entered into an agreement. He would have me. He would fuck me. He would bring me into his world.
And in return I’d let him break me.
Book Summary & Purchase link
Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she's drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she's forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?
More First Touch
With Amber, I’d been a glorified hooker. In Hollywood, wasn’t I pretty much the same thing? I’d simply left one bed to move to another. I chuckled at the paradox. It deserved a laugh, at least.
Footsteps sounded behind me, and I stifled the last bit of humor threatening to escape. Without looking over my shoulder, I felt the air change. The hair at the back of my neck bristled and the sting of electricity huddled around me.
I turned, somehow knowing what I’d find--who I’d find.
He leaned against the concrete doorframe watching me with eyes that pinned me in my place. He was captivating and magnificent, his tux fitting him better than clothing had the right to fit a person, better than any one of the pretty men that filled the room beyond him. Those men, my peers, they were a sea of beautiful—calm and serene. Reeve was the ocean, dark and commanding and turbulent. They moved in gentle waves. Reeve stood still and set the world crashing around him.
That easily, the breath I’d just managed to get under control was knocked from my lungs.
He spoke before I could regain my composure. “What a coincidence that you’d be at the same event that I’m at.”
The boldness of his accusation shocked me into response. “I’m not following you, if that’s what you’re insinuating.” My pulse fluttered in fear, in excitement. In irritation. I didn’t like the way he agitated me. Maybe I’d deserved it at his resort, but this? This was my turf.
With a surprising display of fierceness, I locked my eyes to his. “I’m the one who belongs at this event. Not you.”
He laughed and the sound of it fueled my indignation. It also sent heat rushing up my thighs, heat that turned my rage inward as well as out.
Hands in his pockets, Reeve stepped toward me. “Calm down, Emily. I was only teasing. Of course you aren’t here because of me. Perhaps, I’m here because of you.” He paused long enough for panic to jolt through me with reminders of the ominous words he’d delivered to me the last time we’d seen each other. “Perhaps, this time I’m the one who’s examining.”
My anger stepped up another notch, overwhelming my unease. “Examining me? Like, why—to scare me? To see if I’m as fun to mess with when you’re outside the home field? How dare you? Come here, into my world and prod at me just because you feel like it. Proceed to make it your playground. How dare you?”
His lip curved into a chiding smile. “Now you know how I felt.”
I refused to acknowledge my humiliation, though the flush that swept down my neck more than likely gave it away. “Thank you for the lesson, Mr. Sallis,” I said, my voice surprisingly steady. “I assure you that I have more than gotten the point. You won’t be having to give me any further demonstrations.” I started toward the venue doors, praying I could manage the walk. High heels and weak knees did not make for a good combination.
I circled widely around him, wanting to keep as much distance between us as possible. But I could still feel the warmth pulsating off him like the driving beat of a dance club. It trembled through me, coming up from the ground, shaking me, gripping me. I fought through it, forced myself past him.
“Emily.” His address caught me mid-stride. Five more feet and I’d be back in the Expo. Just a few more steps…
I couldn’t help myself—I stayed. I didn’t turn toward him, though. That was my single act of restraint.
“What I did to you at the spa—”His voice was silk and stubble all at once. The texture of the sound, as much as the mention of the spa, was bait on a hook. I practically leaned into his next words. “It wasn’t very nice.”
I spun toward him. “You think?”
“I like my privacy. I was mad.” It wasn’t an explanation so much as it was a reminder. You provoked me, he was saying. You deserved it.
“So you made me think you wanted to kill me?” Admittedly, I had earned his admonishment. I hadn’t earned a death threat.
“Eh. I never said I wanted—”
I cut him off with a point of my finger. “You did. In every way you could without the specific words.”
He opened his mouth as if to defend himself further. Then his expression changed, his features darkened, his eyes gleamed. “Did it scare you?”
“What do you think?” A shiver ran down my spine. He knew he’d scared me. It had been his intent to rile me up, make me afraid. What I hadn’t realized was how much he liked that he had.
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