I needed more. And without the fix, I was a wreck—my body burning in a deep-rooted need, twisting up inside, driving me into a circle of madness until the moment the tobacco filled my lungs. All I needed to do was light the end. All I needed to do was inhale.
And all of this would stop.
I’d tried to quit several times, but I’d been smoking since I was thirteen. Something ingrained that deep under the skin was difficult to forget. Yet, I was down to one a day now after months of hard-fought self-control. A victory of sorts and my little refuge right before I climbed under the covers.
“Are you going to light that cigarette, or does it need to take you to dinner before touching your lips?”
My breath caught, hearing the deep voice behind me. The initial surprise faded and I bit back a smile. This night just got more interesting. Turning around, I searched for Javier in the darkness until I found him in a lounge chair, hiding in the shadows cast by the draping limbs of the bushes. He must have been staring at my backside for quite some time as I wrestled with my dilemma.
“Do you find it funny to watch a woman without her permission?” I remarked.
He laughed softly. “Well, if a beautiful woman blocks my view of the pool, then what choice do I have?”
I took a few steps closer, seeing Javier slightly reclined with his feet stretched out on the chair. He wore only a pair of black swim trunks. Moonlight filtered down through the branches, emphasizing his bare chest.
Javier had well-defined arms and thighs—all balanced in solid strength. I assumed he didn’t have time for obsessive hours in a gym. But he kept up just enough dedication to hide a very attractive body beneath his expensive clothes.
I thought back to the question he’d proposed on the day we met. No, I didn’t prefer him outside cutting the roses or in his designer suit. I think he looked better naked. The sudden torrid thought warmed my insides. Our eyes met and his lips shifted into an amused grin. One at my expense since he could clearly see I was staring at his body.
I shifted my gaze away. “Do you swim?”
“Sí. But not as much as I like. Have you been in the pool yet?”
“It’s very nice. You should try it.”
The breeze ruffled my hair around my shoulders, tickling my skin. “I'm sure it is. But I just came for a quick smoke before bed.”
“Yet you only hold the cigarette.”
“We were having an argument. I was trying to end the relationship and he was asking for break-up sex.”
“I see.” Javier chuckled and then he shifted his legs to the side, freeing up space next to him on the reclining chair. “Take a seat, Sarina.”
My eyes drifted over his body again. I knew staying out here wasn’t the best idea. Not as an employee. My harmless curiosity in the man had already played too strong with my thoughts. Reluctantly, I shook my head. “It’s late. I probably should go back inside.”
“Maybe this will change your mind.” He grinned, holding up a large cigar. “Have you ever smoked a Damian? You won’t have a hard time saying goodbye to your cigarettes after one of these.”
He put the end between his lips and pulled out a pack of matches. Striking the side, a large flame rose up from the stick as he sucked in multiple drags until glowing embers formed at the end. The air filled with the sweet smell of high-priced tobacco, deep and rich. It was intoxicating, grabbing that place under my skin that ached for a hit.
“Want a taste?” His lips tilted into a devious smile.
The seductive tone of his question sent a heated flush under my skin. But it didn’t matter. My reservations had already caved when he said Dah-mi-an. Like a moth to a flame. One little smoke wouldn’t hurt. “Why not.”
I sat down next to him, separated by only a few inches. The minimal sleep clothes didn’t cover much, and I wore nothing underneath. I guess not any different than a swimsuit, but satin had a way of feeling more revealing than a bikini. The thin fabric brushed my bare skin like fingers, heightening the awareness of the man sharing my seat.
Javier handed the cigar to me and I gripped it between my thumb and index finger. Placing the tip against my lips, I felt the warm moisture of where his mouth had just touched the same place—like a secondhand kiss.
“Don’t inhale the way you do a cigarette. Hold the smoke in your mouth.” His voice caressed the words. “Let it settle on your tongue. Then release. Cigars are all about the taste.”
As I pulled in a shallow drag, I glanced over at Javier, seeing his eyes fixated on my lips. I held the smoke in my mouth for a few moments and then let it escape. I tasted the flavors in layers. At first, it was the hard, smoky richness of the tobacco followed by deep cherry and topped off with a faint hint of whiskey that came with a spicy after kick. “This is good.” I pulled in another puff and handed the cigar back.
“Muy bueno.” His lips closed around where mine had just touched the tip. Sucking in deep, the air between us filled with smoke as he handed it back to me. “The tobacco will soak into your blood soon. And you’ll get what you need. Una noche con Damian.” “What I need?”
“To win the argument with your cigarettes. You want to end the relationship? Experience sex with someone else. One night with Damian.”
He warned me. Said hawks were dangerous birds. Their majestic beauty could blind your eyes as they picked the flesh from your bones. But even hawks have enemies. And they eventually came for the Hawthorn family. Held us hostage. Demanded retribution.
But I wasn’t a Hawthorn. No, I was just the help. Caught in the turmoil of a tragic family. I worked hard for Delsey Hawthorn. Tried to earn the respect of the reigning tyrant. Assistant. Event planner. Gardner. Chauffeur. I added it all to my resume.
And then I met Javier Hawthorn. Delsey ordered me to stay away from her grandson. But like a moth to a burning flame, I gravitated toward him. He was so different than my world. Irresistible. Charming. He brought a calmness to the chaos.
But that was before the intruders came into the house. Tied us up. Hurt us. We struggled to get away. We fought to survive. But who were the men behind the masks? Did we know them? Because someone who got this close to the family at night must be even closer during the day.
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