Ben’s gaze flicked to mine and my cheeks blossomed in heat. I felt like I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar. But I guess he’d been the one with his hand there. He said something to the stylists and then strode purposefully toward me.
His penetrating gaze remained on mine. Warm honey with flecks of mossy green. “Can we talk?” His voice was low and laced with concern.
I nodded. “Of course.”
His hand captured my wrist and he towed me around the corner, out of sight from the crew. I caught Fiona’s eyes, which zeroed in on Ben’s hand on me and narrowed.
Following Ben behind the large drop-clothed set, we stood just inches apart. His hand remained on my wrist, his fingers lightly pressing into the skin. My pulse was thrumming at the contact, my body instantly responding.
Ben looked cool and in control. “Thank you for taking care of me.”
“That green concoction didn’t look very appetizing.”
“It’s not.” He chuckled lightly.
“Well, you’re welcome, but it was nothing.”
His voice softened, “I appreciate it.” Ben took a step closer and heat raced down my spine. “Emmy, about last night . . .”
“I’m sorry about that. . . .”
His jaw clenched. “Sorry you ran out on me or sorry that it happened?”
“Ben, we work together. We shouldn’t . . .”
He stroked my cheek lightly with his free hand. “Things like this happen on the road, Emmy. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
Now I felt like an even bigger idiot. I’d drunkenly slept with the man one time, and suddenly I was acting like we were dating. Get a grip. “It was fun, right?” I attempted a more lighthearted stance.
He smiled his panty-dropping smile that I’d grown so fond of. His brilliant hazel eyes burned brightly, flecks of deep green glinting in the light. “Tell me what you really want.”
“Ben,” I managed, my voice just a whisper. I couldn’t admit what I really wanted.
He stepped in closer, his fingertips dropping away from my jaw as he studied me closely. I was terrified he’d see how I really felt. This wasn’t some fun fling—fuck buddies due to the convenience of a close living situation, like he’d implied. I was developing real feelings. I wanted to get to know him, the real him. I wanted to go on romantic strolls around the city, to lounge in bed in his arms, to learn all about the many sides of this man.
Fiona appeared around the corner, obviously curious about what business Ben and I could possibly have together. Her gaze darted back and forth between us. “Photographers are ready, love,” she drawled in her perfect British accent. Her eyes moved again between Ben’s playful expression and my stiff posture. “Everything okay?”
Ben dropped his hand from my wrist. “Of course. I was just thanking Emmy for her concern earlier.”
Fiona’s mouth clamped closed, her jaw working. “Brilliant. Good thinking, Emerson.”
I nodded. “It was nothing.”
The three of us made our way back to the set by silent agreement. The photographer was waiting for Ben, a DSLR that likely cost more than a small car hanging around his neck. He motioned Ben over.
I watched him converse with the photographer about his vision and review the storyboards and inspiration shots. Ben took his work seriously, he managed to be commanding—all testosterone, edgy yet cool, and playful all at once. He was mesmerizing.
Despite his fame in this industry, he had a way of setting people at ease. Everyone from the set designers, to makeup artists, to executives who lingered just off set. Which was good, because Fiona usually put everyone in a f**king tizzy. I know she did me. But I watched Ben work, discussing the specifics of the shoot with this famed photographer, and I instantly calmed again. He had the strangest effect on me. One minute he was winding me impossibly tight, and the next captivating me with just his presence.
Ben got into position in the center of the set and was fussed over again briefly by the stylists, hair and makeup people, but honestly he looked perfect. I felt like slapping their hands away. Can’t mess with perfection.
The photographer took a few shots then called for lighting adjustments. A big, white umbrella-looking thing and a silver reflector were adjusted at different angles.
Once they were ready again, the photographer prompted Ben very little. He knew how to move on camera, holding each pose for a few clicks then turning, tilting his jaw just slightly, pouting his mouth, placing his hands on his hips, in his hair. He knew how to work the camera. The one thing that remained constant despite his movements was his death stare, looking straight into the camera. Those hazel eyes burning so intensely. A shiver raced up my spine remembering how dark and hungry his eyes looked when he rubbed the toy against my panties last night.
The photographer clicked away in obvious joy at getting to work with such a talent. “Chin up,” he directed. “Beautiful.” Click, click. “Relax your shoulders.” Click. “Stunning. Just like that.” Click, click.
The ads for the designer jeans hugging Ben in all the right places would be on billboards and in magazines in the fall. I felt like a cool kid that I got to sneak a peak of the behind-the-scenes action.
“Great, now look off camera. Pick something to focus on,” the photographer told Ben.
His eyes found mine.
“Good, stay there,” the photographer said.
Ben’s pouty lips parted and his gaze slipped lower, settling over my chest. His jaw twitched. Desire raced through my system. My br**sts felt so full and heavy, they practically throbbed for his touch.
Every tilt of his jaw, each flex of his arms, felt sexual to me, a silent beckoning. I suppressed a hot shiver. The things he could do to my body without laying a finger on me scared me. This man was devastating to my system.
“Smoldering!” the photographer called out, continuing to click away.
If he only knew . . . my panties were about to ignite. Honest to God, I was a fire hazard. Ben needed to stop looking at me like that. His eyes wandered the length of my body, and I lost any interest I had in keeping us apart. My body wanted this too bad. Craved it. Like a junkie needing a fix.
I became aware of Fiona beside me, her posture stiff and foreboding. She knew Ben was watching me. “Don’t drool, darling,” she warned, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
I snapped my mouth closed. Oops. I guess I had been staring open mouthed at him, and my breathing was much too fast. I was thankful she couldn’t possibly know the thoughts racing through my mind, the blood pumping south, making my lady parts throb.
“He’s doing great,” I commented instead. Even my voice betrayed me, sounding husky.
Fiona’s thin lips curled into a practiced smile. “Ben’s very good at what he does. Don’t let him fool you, though; he’s a complicated man. With a very complicated past. I’ve been with him since he was eighteen. Trust me when I say girls come and go. He needs to focus on his career, not get hand-fed by some southern housewife type. I know what’s best for him.”
I nodded. Her warning was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? She couldn’t really think that Ben was interested in me, could she? But Fiona obviously knew him well, working alongside him for the past four years.
The photographer captured his final shot and Ben’s gaze reluctantly dropped from mine and landed on Fiona. I fled to the makeup area, needing to find something to do with my shaking hands.
Gunnar and I had rescheduled our outing and spent the day silently roaming the massive Notre Dame Cathedral. Afterward, we headed to a little sidewalk café to grab some wine and appetizers.
I listened to him complain about the latest guy he was seeing while nibbling on still-warm, crusty bread slathered with generous amounts of butter.
We were on our second glass of wine and I still wasn’t sure how to pump him for information about Ben. I didn’t want to give away anything—didn’t want him to know I’d begun seeing him on the down-low.
“What’s on your mind?” He grinned at me. “You look like the cat who caught the mouse, honey. Spill it.”
Okay. So much for being inconspicuous. Was I that obvious? “It’s nothing. I just . . . I’ve begun sort of seeing someone. It’s still really new.”
“Oh, that wonderfully fun, exciting new stage. New sex! Cheers!” He lifted his wineglass to mine. “Who’s the lucky guy? A local? They’re not circumcised here, you know.”
I nearly spit my wine. I knew that circumcisions weren’t common in European men, but geez. Was this really our lunchtime conversation? “He’s been . . . uh . . . never mind.” I smiled politely. I was not telling him that Ben was circumcised. Lord.
Gunnar chuckled. “He’s been cut . . . hmm, so he’s not a local.” He leaned forward on his elbows, his eyes widening. “Holy shit, it’s not one of our boys, is it?”
Heaven knew I couldn’t tell a lie to save my life. “No comment.”
“Ha! He’s a Status model, isn’t he?”
Shit. This wasn’t good. There were only a few models traveling with us in Paris. “Maybe.”
Gunnar grinned. “Emmy. Stop being cute. I know it’s Ben.”
“How?” I blurted.
He laughed easily, tipping his head back. “One, you just admitted it. Two, he’s straight, unfortunately for me. And three, I’ve seen the way you look at him.”
Damn. Was I that obvious? “Don’t say anything, Gunnar. This is still new, and I don’t know where it’s heading.” Disaster City, that’s where.
He took another thoughtful sip of his wine. “I don’t like it, Emmy.” He frowned.
“It’s all in good fun, Gunnar. Seriously, it’s not a big deal.” My dreams of pumping him for information vanished. Gunnar was not in support of this, and I wasn’t even sure why.
He reached across the table and took my hand. “You’re a sweet, wholesome girl and he’s got more issues than Vogue, honey.”
My stomach turned, the wine I’d consumed churning. How could this possibly end well? Maybe Gunnar was right. I needed to be careful, keep my wits about me. Of course, all I wanted to do was crawl right back into Ben’s bed. Crap.
• • •
Four: the number of days since I’d seen Ben.
Seven: the number of times I’d allowed myself to read our thread of naughty texts.
One: the number of times I’d made myself come while moaning his name. That would be a dangerous habit to get into. I couldn’t have him running circles through my head all day and owning all my orgasms. I needed something within my control.
I crawled into bed, flipping off the lamp and resting my phone on the pillow beside me, just in case. I hadn’t heard from him, but I hadn’t reached out to him, either. I knew the past few days he’d been busy meeting with casting directors and designers for the upcoming Paris Fashion Week. He had been cast in a slew of shows, according to Fiona. I should’ve felt proud of him, excited for the agency I worked for, but instead I just felt lonely. I wanted the man, not the model.
There was nothing quite so lonely as crawling into bed alone four thousand miles from home. My legs were restless under the sheets, my limbs aching with the need to do something. A good mattress workout would do the trick.
Ben beneath me.
Come on top, cowgirl.
I remembered the way he lifted me by the hips, moving me over him, positioning himself at my entrance . . . controlling both our pleasure.
A hot shiver ripped through my body, making me crave him more. I was so wrapped up in him, my emotions twisted and raw, my body hot with desire, that I briefly considered just quitting—flying back to New York and looking for a regular job. One without supermodels and bitchy British cougars. I was a wreck.
I kicked the covers off my restless legs, suddenly too warm. Several days without hearing from Ben, especially now that we’d been intimate, seemed like a lifetime. At least Fiona and I were getting along okay. Thankfully, she didn’t suspect that I’d hooked up with her prized possession. Otherwise, shit would hit the fan. Hard. I’d kept things professional with her this week and tried my best not to let her cryptic comments cut into me. But during the quiet times, and especially at night, I couldn’t help my mind from drifting to thoughts of Ben. I wondered what he was doing. If he was sleeping okay. What all those pill bottles were for. I know I should just let it go, but something inside me couldn’t.
I needed some girl talk. I grabbed my phone and checked the time before dialing Ellie.
We caught up briefly while she got ready for work. Mostly she complained about the new roommate drinking all her soy milk. I took a deep breath and decided to tell her about things heating up with Ben.
“I will spazz if you tell me you’ve slept with him,” she said.
I chuckled. “Initiate spazzing.”
“WHAT?!” She screamed into the phone, making me laugh harder. “Holy shit, Emmy. Details, stat.”
“Well he’s amazing. Honestly. The best ever. http://mobilism.org
“Wowza. Big dick, too?”
“Ellie!” I laughed again.
“What? Inquiring minds want to know. What’s that boy workin’ with? A teeny peeny or hung like a hippo?”
“Um . . . hippo.” I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. God, I missed Ellie. I was seriously overdue for some girl time.
“So what’s the problem?”
I took a deep breath. “It’s just . . . he’s repeatedly told me he doesn’t want a relationship. I think I’m in over my head.”
“Babe. His dong rivals a Subway foot long. Enjoy it. What the f**k is there to think about?”
I let out a sigh. She made it sound so easy. “He’s hard not to fall for, Ellie. He’s gorgeous, smart, funny, considerate, amazing in bed. . . .” The list went on. Oh, and apparently he had more issues than Vogue—according to Gunnar.”