“Like a motherfucker.”
I don’t want to hurt her. It’s why I can’t admit everything to her, but it’s also why I can’t leave her. She’s confirmed it now. And while I fully realize that there will be pain at some point in our relationship, I decide that it’s not going to be right now. “Then we better follow through.”
It’s wrong, I’m sure. It’s definitely selfish because I want this more than anything.
I pull her closer, wrapping her in my arms, and say the words I came here to say. “Alayna, you’re fired. You can’t be my pretend girlfriend anymore.” Then I add the new ones that I’ve only just chosen in my mind. “Be my real girlfriend instead.”
Happiness flares in her eyes. “I kind of think I already am.”
“Can I still call you H?”
“Absolutely not.” That ridiculous nickname for me of hers. It’s somewhat endearing. I’ll never tell her that.
I kiss her then, sealing our new deal. It’s here, as I mold my lips to hers with tender passion, that my plan solidifies. I’ll love her like this, without words, but with my life. I’ll let her in as far as I can. I’ll commit to her completely. Her world will be mine. And I’ll do everything I can to protect her from being hurt, including hiding the one secret from my past that will hurt her more than any other—the one involving her.
All of this I tell her in my kiss.
She’s the one who pulls away, but only far enough to ask, “What now?”
I feel her trepidation. She has no idea all that I’m offering her, and I have a feeling it will take a while to make her understand. Soon, hopefully, she’ll be able to hear everything I tell her with my nonverbal cues.
For now, I’ll try to use my words. I smile slightly. “Come to my place after you finish here.”
“I’m not off until three.”
“I don’t care. I want you in my bed.” I want her in my life. I’ll move her into my penthouse as soon as she’ll let me. And more, when she’s ready.
Am I moving too fast? I’m nearly thirty years old and feeling for the first time in my life. I think that by most standards I’m far behind the curve.
She helps me up, and I reluctantly let go of her to straighten my clothing. I miss her touch already, but it won’t be long until I see her again. My eyes catch sight of the furniture behind me—we just f**ked there, and it only occurs to me now that it’s new. “Nice couch,” I say. Really nice couch.
She laughs. “Thanks.”
I study her, untangling her sex-mussed hair and straightening her dress. God, she’s amazing. She’s everything that I never knew I wanted. I’m addicted to her—she’s my drug and I can’t get enough of my fix. But she’s also just the opposite. She’s my cure. She’s a balm that eases and relieves me. She’s rehabilitation. She’s remedy. She’s reason.
I take her hands in mine, surprised to find that I’m not shaking. Inside, adrenaline is pumping, not with fear, but anticipation. “Tell Jordan to take you to The Bowery. He knows where it is.”
“Not the f**k pad?” Excitement sparks her voice.
“No. My home. I’ll leave a key with the doorman.”
She laces her fingers through mine and giggles. I love the sound. Almost as much as her words. “We’re really doing this, aren’t we? Moving forward.”
“We are.” I pull her into my arms, wanting her to know how completely I am doing this, hoping this embrace tells her.
Her mouth is at my ear, and she whispers, “I’m going to rock your world.” Then she sucks on my lobe.
I nip at her neck, already thinking about how we’ll christen my bed later tonight. “I can’t wait.”
“Neither can I.”
I leave her to her job and head home, a list forming in my head of all I need to prepare for her. She’ll need clothes and bathroom products. I have almost seven hours until she’ll arrive. That’s more than enough time for my assistant to make my home presentable for my girlfriend.
Since I was born, I’ve had everything I could want. Money has bought me my every whim. I could never begin to fathom all that belongs to me, and still I know there’s never been anything as beautiful and special and precious as Alayna. And she is mine. As much as I am hers. I know I appear stoic and steady, but inside, I’m delirious and dizzy with this knowledge. How could I ever believe that my strength was in impassivity? This—this never-ending rush of love and joy and vitality—this is real power.
I’m not fooling myself—this won’t be easy. There will be obstacles. Celia. My mother. My past. Her past, even. But none of that feels as monumental as what’s going on inside of me. Alayna is reason enough to fight every foe and more.
So, while much of my night is filled with preparing for Alayna’s physical presence in my life, it’s also spent formulating a plan to protect our love. I’ll find a way around Celia. I’m the one who built her; I can surely outplay her.
And Alayna…I’ll keep my secret from her. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost. She’ll never know the betrayal that brought her into my life. For her sake, I’ll hide this truth. Only for her.
Opening the door to the loft was tricky with my mouth lip-locked to the curvy brunette I’d brought home, but somehow I managed. Inside, I pressed her against the wall and held her hands above her head, my torso digging into hers, trying to find some comfort for my raging hard-on.
I licked her lower lip and pulled my head away. “Monica, I’d like to be a gentleman about this, but there’s just no polite way to tell you how much I’m going to make you come tonight.”
She gasped, and I leaned in to nibble on her ear. The moans elicited from the sharp nip of my teeth on her lobe made my c**k pulse.
She gasped again, but this time it wasn’t quite as sexy. She pushed me away from her and with an angry look over my shoulder asked, “Who the f**k is she?”
It took me a second to follow her gaze. When I did, I had to fight against the smile that tried to crawl across my lips. “Celia. I didn’t realize you’d be over tonight.”
I was as surprised as Monica to see my guest. Good thing I was excellent at winging it.
“Yeah,” Celia said, feigning embarrassment. “I guess I should have called first.” She was dressed only in a white fluffy towel, her hair wrapped in a second towel on top of her head. Even without the blush that would add to the authenticity of the moment, her speech and gestures appeared genuine.