The Lover's Secret, страница 1
Copyright © 2014 J.C. Reed
All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without the prior written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarities to persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Trademarks: This book identifies product names and services known to be trademarks, registered trademarks, or service marks of their respective holders. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of all products referenced in this work of fiction. The publication and use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Cover art by Larissa Klein
Developmental editing by Shannon Wolfman
Inline editing by Autumn Conley & Edee Fallon
OTHER BOOKS BY J.C. REED
Big, white snowflakes fell from the darkening November sky, coating my hair as I walked past the empty benches in Central Park. Even though dusk hadn’t yet fallen, the street lights were on, casting their soft, golden glow on the white-speckled path.
Only ten minutes to go.
My high heels made hardly a sound as I trekked through the thin layer of snow covering the asphalt. With each step I took, my heart raced faster in my chest. The blonde wig hid my chestnut locks and stood in strong contrast to my little black dress, making me feel like someone else. I wrapped my coat tighter around me, even though the fabric was too thin to stave off the cold wind. It really didn’t matter; my on-edge nerves had me boiling inside.
This was it…the big night I had been waiting for.
I couldn’t wait to play the game. I couldn’t possibly get there fast enough.
Eager to get to my destination, I urged myself forward, hurrying my pace toward the busy streets of New York City. Only a few more minutes, and I finally reached the hotel. Men turned their heads as I strode into the luxury foyer and shrugged out of my damp coat. The snug little number I had borrowed from Sylvie, my best friend, was so tight it kept riding up my thighs, garnering even more stares. The material was as thin and light as silk, and so low cut that anyone who cared to look would catch an ample glimpse of my cleavage, but at least it wasn’t transparent. The dress, coupled with sinful, seven-inch heels and stockings that hugged my legs like a sheath, made me feel like a hooker and completely out of place; almost as if I didn’t belong in this expensive hotel that screamed old money and high society—a rich world that was foreign to me.
I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb, and not just because of my clothes—or the lack thereof. Simply put, my outfit wasn’t something I wore every day, or ever. But I’d really had no option. Today was an exception, because the instructions had been clear:
Wear something provocative.
So I had selected something daring from Sylvie’s skimpy wardrobe. Not the most daring ensemble, but the one that would still fulfill the request without making me want to hide behind the nearest tree.
With a sigh, I draped my coat over my arm, and then held it up to my chest in a weak attempt to hide some of my exposed cleavage as I made my way across the foyer to the back.
The doors to the club were wide open. I breezed through them, barely acknowledging the curious glances of the bouncers, and stopped for a moment to familiarize myself with the interior rooms. The club was dimly lit and carefully designed with elegant, upholstered chairs facing a long, narrow bar area. To my right were what looked like private tables, as well as a circular dance floor with mirrors hanging from the ceiling. Everything sparkled and shined, polished to perfection. The entire atmosphere screamed money and sex. Even the air smelled forbidden. All that seemed missing was a troupe of half-naked dancers I assumed would arrive soon enough.
And then my glance caught him, and my breath remained trapped in my throat.
He was sitting at the bar; his beautiful face, framed by his dark hair, was turned away from me. His gaze was glued to the glass in his hand and the swirling, golden liquid inside it. Dressed in a tailored black suit that did nothing to hide the perfection of his sculpted body, he was sexy, no doubt about it. But what really drew me to him was the mystery surrounding him. Even from across the room, I could tell instantly that he was the kind of man I would never have gone for a while ago. The kind of man I would have invited into my bed on a whim. He was the kind of man I wanted to fall under my spell.
I strolled over and perched myself on the bar stool near him. Far enough to watch him without giving the impression that I was desperate for company. Close enough for him to notice me. I crossed my legs, purposely allowing my borrowed dress to ride up just a little bit higher. The barman took my order, and for a moment, I turned away from the hot stranger. The next thing I knew he was gone.
Confused, I swept my eyes around the half-filled room, but there was no sign of him among the other patrons. Disappointment washed over me at the prospect that my outfit might not have been sexy enough to attract him to the extent I had expected.
Game over before it had even began.
With a dissatisfied sigh, I turned my attention back to my glass.
“Are you looking for me?” a deep voice with the slightest hint of a Southern accent whispered behind me, caressing my senses like an exhilarating summer breeze.
I sat up straight but fought the urge to put some distance between us. His voice was so sexy, a delicious tug formed inside me. Something much deeper pulsated within my core, urging me to play my cards right this time. I turned around ever so slowly, my gaze searching his, and for a moment, I was rendered speechless at the naughty glint in his eyes.
Talk about stunning.
Barely a few inches away from me stood the man I had watched earlier. As he stepped nearer and his hands brushed mine, my skin began to tingle. He was so close I could feel his hot breath on my lips and the heat emanating from his delicious body and light bronze skin. His shoulders were broad and his arms looked like they could carry a woman where she belonged—in his bed—but the most stunning feature about him were his dark green eyes that reminded me of haunted woods covered in morning dew, and lush meadows.
Eyes so beautiful, they had to be made of sin.
Was it the varied shades of green that gave the impression? Or his irises that looked like cracked stones on a beach? People always said the color green was calming, but it wasn’t calming at all. It was like a wild garden inviting you to run in only to trap you and never let you go.
I had never met someone with eyes like that—the kind of eyes that made me want to do crazy things such as dress like a stripper and give him a lap dance. There was a hunger in them—a strong power to devour my soul and my heart. Just prying myself away from them was hard, as if the hypnotic pull was too strong to resist. Or maybe I didn’t want to. If looks cou
“I’d love to have a drink with you, Miss, uh…” His eyes caught the credit card in my hand, and he held it up to read my name slowly, as if he were examining a rare bottle of wine he was about to savor. “Brooke. Miss Brooke Stewart.”
My heart skipped a beat at the way he spoke my name. I tilted my head to one side, narrowing my eyes.
“And you are?” I asked in mock disinterest and the most serious tone I could muster.
Gorgeous, boyish dimples formed in his manly cheeks as he smiled and sat down on the bar stool next to me. He was uninvited, and yet he couldn’t have been more welcome. As if sensing my unraveling, his lips slowly parted, revealing two strings of white, perfect teeth I would have loved to feel on my skin.
He held out his hand. “No need to know it,” he said. “After tomorrow morning, I’ll only be a memory for you anyway.”
Wow. Talk about blunt.
I smiled sweetly and inclined my head to regard him. “In which case, forget I ever mentioned mine.”
“I doubt I’ll be able to,” he whispered. “After tomorrow, you might just be the only thing I’ll be able to think about, Brooke.”
My name rolled off his tongue in a sexy, rumbling way. Ever so slowly, his fingers clasped around mine, and his head dipped low again, so close I could feel his breath on my ear.
“I couldn’t help but notice your sexy legs, Miss Stewart. Surely those high heels must be painful. How about I show you my room, so you can take them off? We’ll order drinks, get to know each other, and do something about that pain of yours.”
He was right; I was in pain, but it wasn’t coming from my shoes. My whole body ached with a yearning for him to touch me, begging to know whether the sexual tension between us would actually translate into mind-blowing sex.
As though sensing my thoughts, he pulled back, but he didn’t let go of my hand. His eyes kept probing mine with an intensity that made me swallow hard, and blood rushed in my ears as I watched his lips curve into a lazy, lopsided smile that instantly melted my panties, metaphorically speaking. Just looking at him, I felt drugged, as if the chemical reactions in my brain were some complex cocktail of sex-fueled hormones, waiting to diffuse.
He had that effect on me, yes, but I harbored no intention of letting him know it. If he wanted me, he would have to do more than shoot me that arrogant, self-assured smile my way. In all honesty, there was no way I’d get involved with a man like him—not when I already had accomplished half my goal. He had seen me, and I had let my guard down a bit. Now, I had to figure out how to get away.
“As flattered as I am,” I said, smiling politely, “I’m afraid I’m not interested. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other business to tend to.” Evading his heated gaze, I grabbed my bag and turned away when his hand clasped around my upper arm—gently but forceful enough to stop me. His touch was hot, burning through my clothes like lava.
“Why not?” he asked, wearing a lazy grin that spelled trouble.
The way he was standing, so close to me, with his hand around my arm, I felt myself heating up. His thumb started to move in circles over my skin, carrying with it an unspoken promise I couldn’t deny. A picture flashed through my mind: his lips and tongue licking my skin, his fingers prodding my knickers to find my secret entrance. Instantly, the telltale heat of a major blush scorched my cheeks.
“Are you scared because I’m secretly turning you on?” he asked. His hands moved lower, down my spine, until he reached the small of my back. It was just a small, almost innocent move, but his confidence overpowered me. “Or is it the prospect of me entering you that arouses you?”
I stopped his hand from wandering further south and laughed nervously as I tried to push the pictures of his exploring fingers inside me to the back of my mind.
“In your dreams, perhaps,” I said, sounding much more weak than I intended. My attempt to brush him off was a feeble one. And, judging from his wide grin, he knew it.
“I don’t believe you,” he said.
“Of course you don’t,” I muttered, and neither did I.
Get a grip, Stewart. Act like you’re not interested. Play hard-to-get.
“I don’t usually get involved with strangers,” I stated as emphatically as I could, my voice betraying me with its trembling.
A devilish glint appeared in his eyes.
“I wasn’t suggesting a date,” he said with the same confident tone. “It was a proposition—sex and nothing else. What I’m offering is something you’ve never experienced before. You seem like a practical woman, but you’re also curious. I can tell by the way your eyes keep glinting, challenging me to keep this up until your resolve crumbles. You want me to push you hard enough to the point you can’t bear it anymore.”
I swallowed hard, because he was right. “What if I’m married, with five kids and a husband waiting for me?”
“I highly doubt that.” His eyes scanned my face, my half-exposed chest, and then slid lower, until I could feel the heat of his gaze on my legs. It barely lasted a second, but the brief span was enough to send another delicious pull through my abdomen. Eventually, our eyes connected again.
“I don’t see a ring on your finger, Miss Stewart.”
“Maybe I left it at home,” I suggested weakly.
He inched closer, pressing his hands down on the bar beside me, until his lips were mere inches from mine. He was so tall I had to lean back to look all the way up. But it wasn’t his height that intimidated me; it was that confidence of his, bordering on an inflated ego. I knew what kind of man he was. Men like him loved hard and played just as hard. I wanted to love hard for a night, but could I take the heat?
“If you left it there, you did it on purpose.” He made it sound like a fact. His lips twitched, and I couldn’t help but stare at their luscious perfection: lips I wanted to kiss and nibble on; lips I wanted to kiss me back; lips that would make me scream his name.
“What are you saying?”
“You’re here for a reason.”
I raised my brows, feigning surprise. “And what reason would that be?”
His lips moved closer, and for a moment, I thought he might kiss me. An electric tingle washed over me as he whispered in my ear, “Excitement, action, sex—all three, which you so obviously, desperately need today.” He leaned back and tucked a stray lock behind my ear, then continued slowly, “You’re looking for someone to give you a new sense of reality, someone who will help you forget your crappy day at work and take you on the ride of your life.” With each word, his deep tone sent another ripple of hot lava through me.
“You make it sound like I’m a cheater.”
He shook his head and leaned forward again. “No, not a cheater. More like someone who’s bored with her life and works too hard.”
His hot breath tickled my neck, and my thighs clenched in lust. I wanted him to kiss me, but more than that, I wanted him to take me.
“I can offer you that and more, Miss Stewart. All you have to do is join me in my room, which is conveniently located upstairs.”
I forced a scowl. I knew I should try harder to brush him off, but there was something about him that entranced me, and it was more than just the promise of getting what I had come for. I was captivated by his voice, his touch, and the hard masculinity of his body.
Fight, Stewart. You’re giving in too soon, too easily.
I moistened my suddenly parched lips and smiled. “I know what kind of man you are.”
He lifted his eyebrows in mock interest, but said nothing.
“What makes you think I’d choose you when there’s a whole club full of potential suitors?” I asked. “Maybe I’m looking for a neat guy, a nice guy, who doesn’t usually break the rules, someone conventional and not hell bent on winning another set of panties.”
He chuckled, his eyes still on me. “
His confidence was so huge it ought to be listed as the world’s biggest in Guinness Records. But was it working? Hell, yeah. It was working far better than I wanted to admit. My heart pounded in my chest as I watched him pull out a keycard from his pocket and place it in my hand.
“Room 521,” he said with a smirk. “Be there in twenty.”
“I’m not coming.” I shook my head, just in case he hadn’t heard my weak voice.
He smiled, revealing sexy dimples that urged me to touch them. “Of course you will…and I promise I won’t bind you to my bedpost, at least not for the entire night.”
The mere suggestion aroused me, and judging from the way his lips were twitching at the corners, I was sure he knew that and was feeling the same way.
“Twenty minutes.” With that, he picked up his coat and left.
Craning my neck, I followed his broad shoulders. Only after he disappeared in the crowd did I turn around. A laugh escaped my lips.
“Dammit,” I muttered under my breath and stood from my bar stool.
He wasn’t just eye candy. He was pure sex, a conjurer of wicked naughtiness. He was a paradise for lady sinners, and I was about to be one of them. I knew it just as well as he did.
Of course I’d join him. After all, a bet was a bet, but first I’d let him simmer a bit, let him think I had ditched him. Maybe my resistance would put a little dent in that big ego of his. I was certain he was completely self-assured I’d play along and join him in his room. Maybe he had kept his voice low on purpose, so I’d chase after him, go in search of him, or whatever would give his ego another boost. Maybe he thought there were no exceptions to his rules, but things would be different today. Today, I was going to be the only exception to his game, because I had no intention of losing to the likes of him.