His to Command

His to Command

Opal Carew

St. Martin's Griffin

The Chase
 

It couldn’t be him!
The thought sent involuntary shudders quivering up Kate’s spine as she stared out the van window at the disturbingly familiar man calmly reading a magazine less than ten yards away, totally oblivious to her scrutiny. No, surely it wasn’t him. Her imagination must be playing tricks. She thought she’d finally recovered from her irrational fear of running into Matt Pearce again. After all, New York City seemed a lifetime ago and that was where she’d left him.
Except that two years wasn’t nearly enough time to soothe the pain.
As she continued driving by the main entrance of Cavendish Mall, the large shopping center near her house, moving slowly because of the density of shoppers out for the post-holiday sales, she allowed her gaze to travel the length of him, determined to convince herself that this long, lean stranger, who had the audacity to look like the man she had prayed never to see again, truly was a stranger. He stood with his legs carelessly crossed as he leaned against the brick wall near the entrance.
The day was mild for Connecticut in late December and his overcoat, unbuttoned, was pushed open by the hand he had stuffed in his pants pocket. The clothes visible underneath—expensive and well cut—emphasized his broad shoulders and narrow waist. With his head bent toward the magazine, she couldn’t see much of his face, but he had dark, wavy hair, styled with the same flair as Matt’s had been.
She watched as a light breeze lifted a few locks and swirled them onto his forehead. Long, careless tanned fingers swept them back. Kate’s throat constricted as she remembered running her own fingers through Matt’s hair and the feel of the sleek strands against her skin. Thrusting away the disturbing memories, she forced her attention back to the stranger. Unlike Matt’s, gray sprinkled through this man’s hair, and he was a little thinner.
The sharp blare of a car horn behind her made her jump. She’d been holding up traffic. The man glanced up at the noise and …
Oh, my God. Either that was him—or Matt Pearce had an exact double living right here in Connecticut.
Denial flooded through her, overriding the evidence of her own senses. She simply could not believe Matt stood within the sound of her voice. For a fleeting second, his gaze locked with hers. She felt her lungs freeze, as though someone had stolen the last breath of air in existence. Those unforgettable eyes, the exact shade of the sky at midnight, did not belong to a stranger.
As though he moved in slow motion, she watched a slight frown etch his brow, then saw his eyes widen in obvious recognition. The magazine fluttered as his arm dropped to his side and he stepped forward. It would only take him a few steps to reach the van. A choking panic welled within her as her fingers clenched impossibly tight around the steering wheel. She couldn’t seem to force her rigid body to take action, even though he continued to move toward her. The driver behind her honked again, shattering the frozen shell of dread that held her immobile. She pressed the accelerator, lurching the van into motion.
Had that been anger chasing the recognition from his eyes?
*   *   *
Kate parked the van in her friend Ellen’s parking space at the back of the apartment building. What would Matt be doing at a shopping mall? Of course, she remembered when his sister and young niece had come to visit him in New York and he’d gone shopping with them for souvenirs. Maybe he was buying something for little Lizzie. Or maybe one of his high-tech gizmos was being launched and he wanted to see how the major department store was handling it. He was very hands-on in that way.
She pushed thoughts of Matt out of her mind as she set about the task of getting her new rocking chair upstairs. It would never have fit in her own little car, so Ellen had lent her the van to pick it up, along with a trolley. She wrestled the new rocker through the lobby and up the elevator. Once she had it unpacked, she called Ellen to come and see it.
Kate set out some refreshments, then slumped into the chair to await the arrival of her friend. Unfortunately, with the cessation of activity, her thoughts again turned to the man she’d seen at Cavendish Mall.
Matt.
Had it really been him?
The jolt she’d felt as their gazes had locked sent remembered sparks crackling across her nerve endings. Surely, she’d only imagined the flare of recognition in his eyes. Certainly, there’d been an uncanny similarity between this man’s appearance and Matt’s unforgettable features, but that didn’t mean they were one and the same person. Besides, why would he be here in Connecticut? He was the owner of a large computer firm and …
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair as the names of several high-tech corporations that had their headquarters in the area sprang unbidden to her mind. Had Matt’s company set up an office here, too?
She continued to rock, trying to shake some sense into her brain. She was being silly. This speculation was all based on the possibility that the man she’d seen today was Matt, and it probably hadn’t been. The anniversary of when she’d moved here was coming up and that reminded her of the turmoil her life had been in when she’d left New York City two years ago. Her relationship with Matt had fallen apart shortly before that, then things had gone from bad to worse and she’d had to sell the wonderful apartment she’d finally managed to put a down payment on. She’d loved that place, and she’d loved living in the city. But she’d had no choice other than to leave.
No, surely her overactive imagination had tricked her into thinking that was Matt today.
Matt Pearce was definitely not in Connecticut.
A knock sounded on the door and she strode across the room to answer it, relieved for a distraction from her turbulent emotions.
“Oh, it’s lovely. Can I sit in it?” Ellen exclaimed when she saw the rocking chair.
The chair was a golden oak glider with beige-striped upholstery and a matching ottoman. She’d been torn between the beige and the berry red, but beige had won out.
“Be my guest.” Kate made a sweeping gesture toward the chair and smiled as Ellen sank reverently into it, stroking the beige fabric over the armrests.
“I love it,” Ellen said.
Kate sliced her famous blueberry-lemon pound cake—famous because it was the only thing she could bake—and handed Ellen a serving.
“So…,” Ellen said, letting the word linger. “A handsome man was asking about you this afternoon. He saw you driving my van.”
Apprehension jolted through Kate like a major electrical shock. Her fork slipped from her suddenly numb fingers and clattered onto her plate.
“What?”
Ellen put down her fork and leaned forward, concern sharpening her intent stare.
“Kate, what the heck’s the matter?”
“Who was he? Have you ever seen him before?” Amazingly, her voice sounded steady, totally unaffected by the tendrils of dread coiling through her. God, please, don’t let it be Matt.
“Sure I have. I don’t go around talking to strangers, you know. I met him when he moved in a few weeks ago.”
“Moved in?” Kate’s voice tightened, vibrating with tension. This couldn’t be happening. Was Matt Pearce living in this building?
Ellen plunked her plate onto her knees and grasped one of Kate’s shaking hands in her own. “Calm down. I promise I won’t tell him who you are if you don’t want me to. That’s why I brought it up. I think he wants me to introduce you so he can ask you for a date.”
“A date?” Kate shook her head. “Oh, no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.” If it was Matt, she didn’t know why he would be looking for her, but it wouldn’t be for a date.
“At least give him a chance. He’s young, very attactive—”
“Ellen, I don’t think—”
“—and a doctor. He’s just getting started in his practice but—”
“He’s a what?”
“A doctor. What is the matter with you?”
A doctor.
Matt was definitely not a doctor. He owned Cutting Edge Industries, a major high-tech firm.
“What did he look like?”
Ellen smiled. “Definitely handsome. He’s tall, obviously works out, has sandy hair. And big brown eyes you could get lost in.”
A definite catch.
Kate felt as though a devastating weight had been heaved from her chest. With her renewed ability to breathe in a normal fashion, she inhaled deeply, and started to feel almost lightheaded. She broke out laughing.
“What is the matter with you?” Ellen demanded.
Kate covered her mouth with her hand, quieting her frantic laughter, and took a few more deep breaths.
“I’m sorry. I’m just in a strange mood today.”
Ellen studied her uncertainly. “So, should I discourage Chris next time he asks? I just thought you might like to ask him to be your date for our New Year’s Eve party.”
Chris. Not Matt.
Kate stifled another giggle. She almost felt compelled to accept Ellen’s attempt at matchmaking to make up for her unprecedented behavior—but she really didn’t want to be fixed up with someone. She shifted in her chair, preparing to disappoint Ellen yet again.
“You know, I’m really not ready—”
Ellen waved her hand. “Yeah, I know. I’ve heard it before. You know, the way you’re acting, you’d think I was trying to push you into an arranged marriage rather than a simple date,” she teased.
“I’m sorry, Ellen.” Kate set her cup down on the coffee table, pushing aside the disturbing memory. “I really appreciate your concern, but—”
“It’s okay. I understand. I need to learn not to be so pushy.” Ellen grabbed a cup from the tray on the table. “Now, how about a cup of coffee?”
After Ellen had gone, Kate tidied up the dishes and climbed into bed. Still a bit wobbly from the shock of believing Matt was on her tail, she forced herself to calm down and tried to drive him out of her thoughts. Even if the man she’d seen had been Matt, why would he want to hunt her down? Maybe he’d wanted to possess her two years ago—completely and with a frightening obsession—but surely after all this time, he no longer cared.
*   *   *
That night, as she lay in bed, Kate couldn’t stop thinking about Matt. When she’d met him, he’d swept her off her feet. Handsome, powerful, charismatic. He’d had it all. And his potent masculinity had awed her.
She remembered their third date. The scent of fresh-cut gardenias in a glass vase on the table. Candles. Moonlight. The table set on his large balcony overlooking the city.
Matt, dazzlingly attractive, sitting beside her, enfolding her trembling hand in the warmth of his, pressing his lips to her palm, devastating her senses. She’d noticed a startling intensity in his unwavering blue eyes as if she were the most fascinating person he’d ever met, but he’d hesitated, as if uncertain. Until that moment, Matt Pearce—savvy executive, master of every situation—had never been uncertain. Yet, he’d parted his lips as if to say something, but then changed his mind. She’d wondered what he’d intended to say, but then he’d brushed his lips against her temple and electricity had shimmered through her.
She sighed and rolled onto her side.
God, and the first time they’d had sex, she’d nearly fainted with need. He’d been so … dominating.
They’d been out several times, and he’d been a perfect gentleman, but the good-night kisses were becoming more heated, and it had been clear they’d both wanted more. She’d also sensed he’d been holding back, which was a good thing, because when she experienced how intense being with him could be, it had unnerved her.
But it had been intensely sexy.
She closed her eyes and drifted back to that first time. She’d invited him in for coffee, but he’d pulled her into his arms as soon as the door closed behind them. His heated kisses had thrilled her and she’d wanted him more than she’d ever wanted any man before.
“Do you like a strong, powerful man, Kate?”
He was so close, so masculine. His breath wafted against her ear and she felt faint with desire.
“Yes,” she whispered.
He tightened his arm around her waist, pulling her snug against his body. Her nipples hardened, thrusting against the lace of her bra.
“Do you want me to touch you, Kate? To strip off your clothes and touch your breasts?”
Her insides quivered at his masterful intensity, and his eyes held her mesmerized.
“To lick your hard nipples? To suck them into my mouth?” he asked.
She sucked in air, inhaling the spicy, male scent of him, desperately wanting him to do all those things.
“Do you want me to be soft and gentle?” He nibbled the base of her neck, sending electricity jolting through her. “Or would you like me to back you up against this wall and take you now, hard and fast?”
She could feel his erection against her hip. Thick and hard. Longer than she’d ever imagined. Her insides clenched in need. She wanted to feel it inside her.
Kate lay panting and tried to shake the memories from her mind. Damn, now she was frustrated, and longing for him in her bed. Damn Matt for showing up and stirring these feelings in her. Every time he came into her life, even at a distance like now, it messed her up. The sex with him had been mind-blowing, but she had been shocked and surprised at her own behavior. Her will had melted away at his authoritative words, until finally she had begged him to take her. To control her. Her willingness to become completely submissive to him had unnerved her. She had never behaved that way before.
She never would have thought she’d allow a man to dominate her. To want a man to dominate her. But she had. With him.
The extent of her submission, of her willingness to beg and to give over complete control to him, had disturbed her deeply. What did that say about her?
A chill quivered through her. Then she’d found out just how disastrous it was to trust a man like Matt Pearce.
*   *   *
Gripped by claustrophobia as swarms of people pressed by her, Kate zigzagged through the crowd of busy shoppers at Cavendish Mall. After her conversation with Ellen last week, Kate had wondered whether she really should rethink her social situation. It was the start of a new year—a good time to embrace some changes. To try and find some happiness. Loosening up and taking some time away from work would be a good start. She’d even thought about giving the handsome doctor Ellen had told her about a chance, but ultimately she had turned down Ellen’s suggestion of inviting him to her New Year’s Eve party because she wasn’t quite ready.
Ever since she’d started her own company, all she seemed to do was work 24-7, which allowed very little opportunity to meet people. Plus, about two months ago, her business partner had informed her he’d been offered a great job in Los Angeles and he wanted to exercise the clause in their partnership contract to have her buy him out. The problem was, unfortunately, they were only starting to see a profit and she didn’t have the kind of money she needed to pay what was required. So she was in search of an investor, and until that was sorted out, her personal life would have to stay on hold.
She climbed aboard the crowded escalator, heading to the third floor. A few moments later, she stepped toward a stylish shop with several female mannequins dressed in formfitting business suits.
Walking inside was like leaving a raging river to step onto a quiet shore. The thick carpet cushioned her feet, a welcome relief from the marble flooring outside, and soft, peaceful music drifted around her, soothing the rapid rhythm of her heart.
The elegant, wood-framed mirrors, smoked-glass tables, and cushioned chairs told Kate this was not the kind of store she was used to shopping in. She didn’t let that intimidate her, however. If she was going to meet with potential investors, she needed to look confident, in control, and successful. Her budget was tight right now, but this was a necessity … and the suits were on sale this week.
She meandered past racks of blouses and dresses and made her way to the back of the store. She glanced through the racks until she found some gray suits. Several sizes hung lifelessly on the hangers. She riffled through the selection and, finding one in her size, pulled it from the rack.
“May I help you, madam?”
Kate glanced around to see a tall woman, impeccably dressed in a tailored black suit with a white silk blouse, watching her.
“Yes, I’d like to try this on.”
The woman smiled and took the hanger, then led Kate to a changing room. She hung the suit in the small room and stepped aside. “Would you like me to bring a few more selections? We have a very nice royal blue that would go fabulous with your lovely auburn hair.”
“No, thank you.” Kate didn’t want to wear anything that bright. “Maybe something in charcoal, though.”
“I could bring some blouses, too.”
Kate nodded, then closed the door of the changing room. She enjoyed the next half hour of being pampered and persuaded to splurge. The saleswoman, generous with her flattery, regaled Kate with compliments about how the fitted jacket accentuated her lithe figure and how the slit over the right leg added a hint of the seductive without being too daring. Kate clung desperately to common sense while the woman suggested a beautiful silk blouse to go with the suit, along with a delicious assortment of lacy lingerie to wear underneath.
The blouse was gorgeous, but she had several good, serviceable blouses at home. Pretty lingerie, however, was a different story.
At first, she refused to try any on, until a pretty red and black lace bustier and matching thong caught her eye. She couldn’t resist trying them on. As she studied herself in the mirror—her breasts hiked up high, her long legs bare, the bustier making her body look shapely and sexy—she couldn’t help thinking of Matt. He would love this on her. She could just imagine his blue eyes darkening as he gazed at her.
Heat washed through her. And she would love him taking the lingerie off her.
Oh, God, what was she thinking? Matt wasn’t in her life anymore, and for good reason. If she saw him again, she would avoid him. She did not want to see him again. She did not want to talk to him. The man was dangerous.
She changed into her own clothes again and left the changing room. The saleswoman already had her new purchase in a suit bag hanging behind the counter. Kate looked at the black and red lingerie on the hanger in her hand and waffled for a moment, then drew in a deep breath and laid it on the counter.
“This, too.” She pulled her credit card from her purse.
Matt Pearce wasn’t the only man in the world. She deserved to have something sexy and feminine to wear, just for herself. And who knew? Maybe things would work out between her and that handsome doctor.
“Would you like a pair of black stockings to go with those?” the saleslady asked.
Kate nodded. Why not?
Once the transaction was complete, the saleslady handed her the suit bag, which Kate draped over her arm, and a small black and gray paisley bag with her new undergarments and stockings.
She returned to the flow of intent shoppers, beaming with thoughts of the possibility of meeting a new man. Going out to dinner, maybe seeing a show. After she got things sorted out with her company, she would make a point of ensuring she took time for a social life, and going out and having some fun. And definitely finding a man she could show off this new lingerie to.
With a big smile on her face, she stepped onto the escalator, descending to the second floor where she would slip into the department store at the center of the mall to treat herself to a new nail polish.
“Kate!”
Her breath caught in her throat. That voice!
She swung around and saw what she feared most. Matt Pearce, staring directly at her. He leaned over the third-floor railing overlooking the escalator, only three yards away—straight up.
She gasped and glanced desperately at the press of people in front of her. Panic exploded through her. She pushed past the teenage couple in front of her, excusing herself, then continued past the next few people, ignoring the dirty looks she received along the way. Mutters of discontent behind her made it clear Matt had decided to pursue her. At the bottom of the second floor, she hopped off the escalator and slipped into the throngs of people.
“Kate. Wait!”
He was much too close. Kate hazarded a glance over her shoulder and saw Matt only several yards behind her. His height made him visible over the crowd. Dodging back and forth amid the clumps of people, she headed toward the center of the floor. Would she be able to duck into one of the service hallways, under the obscurity of the crowd? Matt would assume she’d head for the set of stairs and continue that way once he lost sight of her.
Before she could swing around the corner, she felt a tug on her arm. She yelped and stumbled. The bag with her lingerie had caught on an information display as she’d rushed past. A quick yank didn’t free it and a quick glance back told her she didn’t have time to struggle with it, so reluctantly, she let go and forged ahead.
“Kate!”
She actually thought he had reached her when she felt a hand brush against her arm through the sea of people as she surged forward. But it hadn’t been Matt. The mirrors on a nearby wall showed that someone had tried to grab her attention, holding up her precious paisley bag. But Kate couldn’t stop. Matt was closing the distance rapidly.
Suddenly, through the throng, she could see that the mirrors surrounded an elevator only a few steps in front of her. And the doors were closing. She sucked in a lungful of air and raced forward. She made it inside but she’d caused the doors to whoosh open again. Glancing back, she saw Matt burst through the crowd. She jabbed the CLOSE DOOR button.
As though in slow motion, the next moment stretched on forever. Completely helpless, her breathing stopped and every part of her body froze while the opening between the doors shrank as Matt raced toward it. With his arm flung out in front of him, he strained to reach the barrier before it closed between them. Kate’s throat tightened. Anxiety ripped through her at the thought of being trapped in the tiny elevator with no possible escape.
Face-to-face with Matt.
Her heart thumped loudly as the doors finally closed. The elevator began to move downward.
Panting, Kate leaned against the wall, the rasping sound intensely loud in the silent elevator. The other shoppers made a concerted effort to ignore her and she edged toward the doors, ready to flee once they parted.
Until this moment, she’d always hated the layout of this mall. The stairs and escalators were placed at each end of the single straight corridor, while the elevator she rode was in the center. She knew Matt couldn’t dodge his way to a set of stairs and get back in time to catch her, especially through the crowd of Saturday shoppers.
The doors whooshed open and she dashed through the crowd and out the mall’s main door. Within moments, she had reached her car, unlocked it, and hopped inside. As she started the ignition, she had trouble controlling her breathing as she gulped in the frigid January air. As she pulled into the main traffic area of the parking lot, she gasped as she glanced in her rearview mirror and saw Matt tear out the main entrance, scanning the parking lot with an efficient eye. A line of tightly packed traffic in front of her prevented her escape, and she was confined between a concrete pillar and a narrow walkway.
Trapped.
Her heart thundered in her chest. Any second now he’d recognize her car and there’d be no escape. But then Matt marched past the cars behind her and into the parking area.
Not toward her.
The car in front of her started to move. She pressed the accelerator, moving slowly ahead with the traffic. She watched in her side mirror as Matt walked toward a gray van and glanced inside. She giggled nervously as realization struck. Last week, he had seen her driving Ellen’s van. She sucked in a deep breath and released it slowly.
He thought she drove a van.
Five minutes later, she drove onto the highway and sped away from the mall.
If she’d thought it would help, she’d have gone faster.
She frowned. Matt knew she was a creature of habit, and typically went out shopping every Saturday around the same time. She wasn’t sure why he had been at the mall last week, but she was sure this week it was because he’d been watching for her.
But why?
*   *   *
When Kate arrived at her apartment, she heard the phone ringing. She unlocked the door and rushed inside to snatch up the handset.
“Kate, thank goodness you’re home.” Ellen’s voice on the other end, out of breath, almost frantic, accelerated Kate’s heartbeat. Her fingers flexed tightly around the phone.
“What’s wrong, Ellen?”
“You’re asking me what’s wrong? For heaven’s sake, I saw you racing through Cavendish Mall with that guy right behind you. What the heck was going on?”
She struggled for something to say that would satisfy her friend, but failed miserably. She pressed her hand to her forehead and shoved her hair back. “Ellen, it was nothing.”
“I don’t believe you. Look, I’ll be right over and we’ll talk. It’ll take a few minutes because I’m just leaving the mall now. Is there anything you want me to tell mall security about him?”
“About who?” Kate asked, afraid of Ellen’s answer.
“The guy who was after you, who else? Come on, Kate. Get with it.”
Kate sank onto a dining room chair. “Why would security—”
“Are you kidding? When I saw you in trouble, I raced straight to get help.”
Oh, God, Ellen hadn’t really reported Matt, had she? Images of Matt being handcuffed and dragged off to jail flared in Kate’s mind.
“Did they … go after him?”
“No, mall security isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I was a few minutes from calling the real police. If you hadn’t picked up…” She heard her friend take a deep calming breath.
It was just as well. Even if the police had apprehended Matt, he would have had them apologizing profusely for detaining him, and probably offering to help find her. He had a knack for turning every situation to his own advantage.
“Do you know this guy?” Ellen asked.
“Ellen, I just … really don’t want to talk about this.”
“Okay, not over the phone.” Ellen’s frustration was clear.
Kate could imagine her friend’s face puckered into a scowl.
“But I’m coming over there right now so we can talk in person,” Ellen continued.
By the time Ellen rapped on Kate’s door, she’d pulled together a pot of coffee and a plate of chocolate chip cookies, desperate to distract herself from agitated thoughts of Matt.
“So,” Ellen said as she strode into the room, “tell me what that was all about. Who was that guy?”
Kate waved her to a chair and sat across from her. She poured some coffee for both of them from the thermal jug she’d set on the table, then added cream and sugar to her own cup. Ellen sipped her black coffee, watching Kate carefully.
“Remember I told you that just before I moved here, I was in a relationship, but it didn’t work out?”
That’s all she’d told Ellen about it. Just the bare facts.
“Sure. That’s why you never date. I figured you’re still hung up on the guy.”
More like gun-shy, but Kate didn’t confirm or deny Ellen’s assumption.
When Kate didn’t explain any more, Ellen’s eyes widened in astonishment. “You mean that was him?”
At Kate’s confirming nod, Ellen’s expression of astonishment shifted to one of anger. She grabbed the phone from the stand and handed it to Kate. “Call the police,” she commanded. “Right now.”
Kate took the phone and laid it on the table. “I’m not going to do that.”
Ellen sighed in exasperation. “You’re crazy. The man could be dangerous.”
“Ellen, I am not going to call the police.”
“But the way he was chasing you, I don’t think he had a pleasant chat in mind.” Ellen examined Kate’s expression. “Have you seen him hanging around recently?”
Kate pursed her lips. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Uh-huh. The guy’s stalking you.” Then sympathy filled her eyes and her tone softened. “Kate, you really need to call the police.”
Kate’s sense of helplessness flashed to annoyance. “Why would I? They aren’t going to do anything just because an ex-boyfriend pursued me in a mall. And even if they did, Matt is a rich and powerful man. With his resources, he’d be out immediately.” A pounding started in her temples and she pressed her palm against her forehead.
Ellen paused, watching her with concern.
“I know I get a little overzealous sometimes, but…” She reached out and took Kate’s hand. “I’m just worried about you.”
Kate patted their clasped fingers. “I know. Look, I’m sure he just wanted to talk.”
“If you think that, why did you run?”
Kate frowned as her gaze darted to Ellen. What could she possibly say?
“Kate, why don’t you tell me about what happened? For instance, why did you break up with the guy?”
Kate’s hands clenched tightly around her mug as she shook her head.
“Just go back to the beginning and tell me as much as you’re comfortable with,” Ellen said gently. “From the look of you, you really need to talk about it.”
Kate stared into her coffee, wondering if she should. It couldn’t hurt if she was cautious. She took a quick sip of coffee, giving herself time to compose her thoughts, then she placed her mug on the table.
“All right.”
Ellen leaned forward in her chair and nodded. Kate could feel her friend scrutinizing her every movement, which made her more nervous.
“I was the project leader for a consulting contract for Matt’s company. That’s how I met him.”
“You weren’t worried about an office romance?”
“Not really. I didn’t actually work for him. I was a contractor and didn’t even work on-site. The only reason we met was because he visited our offices to meet my team. Later, I went to his office to talk to some of his staff, and Matt happened by. He invited me to lunch, and things progressed from there.”
A half smile turned up her lips as she remembered the flutter of her heart when he’d asked her to lunch and she’d sensed his interest had more to do with her than the project. “He was this incredibly sexy, intelligent, successful hunk and I just couldn’t believe he was interested in me.”
“Come on, Kate. Have you been near a mirror lately?”
Self-consciously, Kate shoved her hair behind her ears and stroked its length. Matt had always loved her long, auburn hair.
“I know there were things about me he found attractive but … Well, every time he stared at me with that sexy grin on his face, I had to stop myself from glancing around to see who he was really looking at.”
Ellen waved a cookie in Kate’s direction. “You obviously had something that attracted him or he wouldn’t still be chasing you after all this time.”
Kate sipped her coffee. How had such a wonderful beginning led her to such heartache?
“Did you love him?”
The unexpected question caught her off guard. She stared at the arrangement of pink silk roses on the center of the table. She didn’t have to think about the answer. She thought about it every night before she went to sleep and every morning after she woke up. Her dreams wouldn’t let her forget. Nights full of passion, and pain.
“Yes, I loved him.”
“So why did you break it off?”
Oh, damn, she couldn’t answer that. At least, not the whole reason. She tightened her fingers around the mug, refusing to think about the nightmare that had torn her from Matt.
She grabbed a cookie and nibbled. Maybe it would be good for her to tell Ellen part of it. To share what she’d never shared with anyone before.
“I…” Her free hand bunched into a fist. This was hard. She set the cookie down. “When I was with Matt, I didn’t like how I behaved.”
Ellen’s eyebrows raised, but she said nothing.
“Matt was always strong-willed and when we were … together…” She glanced at Ellen. “He was very dominating.”
Ellen’s eyes narrowed. “So, in the bedroom he was too rough with you?”
“No, not that. It’s not the way he was, it’s the way I reacted to him.”
At Kate’s hesitation, Ellen shook her head. “I’m not quite getting it.”
“I became another woman. He took command, and I wanted him to. I wanted him to totally control me.” She drew in a deep breath. “And that bothered me.”
“Really? Because there’s nothing wrong with a little role-playing in the bedroom … as long as he didn’t take things too far.”
He had gone too far, but that’s not what Kate wanted to talk about.
“But to totally submit to a man? It didn’t feel right.”
“They why did you allow it?”
Kate shook her head. “It’s not that I allowed it. As I said, I wanted it. I needed it.” She stood up and paced. “The closer we got, the more I gave up to him. I felt I was losing myself.”
“Did he take advantage of your submission? Pressure you to do things you didn’t want to do?”
A memory flashed through her mind. Of lying in bed, Matt stroking her cheek with a loving look in his eyes.
“No, never.” Her jaw clenched. But that wasn’t really true. At the end, during that party …
“Kate, are you okay?”
She drew in another deep breath. “Of course.” She gazed at Ellen. “It wasn’t about what Matt did.”
Again, that wasn’t quite true. Ultimately, it had been what Matt did that caused her to walk away, but even before that, Kate had struggled with the relationship, and still didn’t understand why she’d behaved the way she had.
“It’s about why I submitted to him so completely.”
“And why is that?” Ellen asked.
“That’s the thing. I really don’t understand it.”
“Well, okay. Tell me a bit about your childhood.”
Kate thought back. She really didn’t like thinking about her childhood. She’d been happy to get out on her own and away from her family.
“Well, my father was overbearing. And very critical.”
For as long as she could remember, he had constantly berated her mother. Then as Kate and her brother got older, he’d started on them, too. He’d often told Kate she would never amount to anything, and she was sure that had led to a lack of trust in her own abilities. Something she’d had to fight against her whole life, including getting through college. She’d had to keep telling herself she could do it and not let his constant voice in her head discourage her.
“My mother never really stood up to him,” Kate continued.
Her mother hadn’t protected Kate and her brother from the emotional abuse. As an adult, Kate realized her mother had been incapable of doing so, but as a child, Kate had felt that lack of protection as a deep betrayal.
Neither of her parents had been a very good role model, and Kate had certainly learned not to trust authority figures, even when they meant well, like her mother had.
A big reason Kate had been attracted to Matt was because while he was authoritative, he was slow to anger, he stood up for what he believed, and he encouraged his subordinates to grow and thrive.
“It sounds like you don’t want to be overwhelmed by a domineering man, because from your mother’s example you’re afraid it makes you weak. And you said your father was critical of you. Was Matt critical of you?”
Kate gazed at her. “No. He was actually very encouraging.”
“So, although he dominated you, he was nothing like your father.” Ellen squeezed Kate’s hand. “You know, maybe you should talk to him and try to work out your issues. You said you still loved the guy.” She shrugged. “Maybe you could still make it work. I mean, he is gorgeous.” She winked. “And you said he’s rich. He’s certainly worth a little effort. Maybe you can convince yourself that it’s okay being submissive—which it is, as long as it’s only in the bedroom—or learn to be the one who takes charge. Who knows? He might just love it.”
Ellen’s total about-face flummoxed Kate. “A minute ago, you were telling me to call the police on the guy. What gives?”
“Well, honey, that was before I realized you were running from yourself, not him.”
*   *   *
That night, Kate replayed the conversation with Ellen in her head. It had been good talking to her about her relationship with Matt. She’d never told anyone how she reacted to Matt, and Ellen’s acceptance of it, even encouragement, helped.
But Ellen was wrong about Kate being able to make it work. Kate had thought about that a lot during the lonely nights after she’d walked away. Even if things hadn’t turned out so terribly wrong, she didn’t believe the two of them could ever have made it work.
When they’d still been together, she had tried to change how she reacted to him. Even tried to take control. It hadn’t turned out as she’d expected.
A few months into the relationship, Kate had been feeling a little overwhelmed by her submissiveness. How could any woman in this day and age allow herself to be controlled by a man? Especially after women had fought for so long to have control in a man’s world. She’d felt like a traitor to womankind.
Yet, she’d loved being with Matt. When she realized she was falling in love with him, she’d decided it was time to do something about it and try something new.
It had been on a Saturday afternoon, and she’d been spending the weekend with him at a luxurious country house he’d rented. He’d had a few hours of work to do that day, so he’d been in the den at the computer, while she’d been out by the pool.
As she lay stretched out on the lounge chair, she imagined Matt sitting beside her, wearing only a bathing suit, his muscular chest and well-sculpted abs on display. She’d love to convince him to go skinny-dipping with her. The thought of him stripping off his swimming trunks and walking to the pool with the hot afternoon sun blazing on his naked body as his large cock swung back and forth set her insides quivering. He’d dive into the water and surface, his body glazed in glistening water. Then he’d walk toward her and … things would progress nicely from there.
She sighed, an image of his big, hard cock in her mind. She licked her lips, wishing she could wrap her hands around it right now. Wishing she could take it in her mouth.
Then she realized there was nothing stopping her. He was only a few yards away, with only a brick wall between them. She could march in the patio door and down the hall in ten seconds flat. The fact that he was working and she’d have to coax him away made her realize this was a great way to turn the tables. Give her a chance to be in control.
She put her book on the teak table beside the lounge chair and stood up. Then a grin curled her lips. It would be much easier to distract him from his work if she was naked. She reached behind her and unfastened her bikini top, then wiggled her bottoms down her legs and off. As she walked toward the patio door, she cupped her right breast, and grazed her thumb tip over the nipple, sending sparks of awareness dancing through her. She flicked back and forth until it hardened.
She slid open the patio door and stepped inside, shivering a little as she stepped from the eighty-degree weather outside to the cool air-conditioned house. Both nipples tightened to hard nubs, but when she reached Matt’s office door, she toyed with them to ensure both were hard and thrusting straight out. Then she knocked.
“Come in,” he said.
She turned the doorknob and stepped into the room.
Matt sat at his desk, staring at the computer. He didn’t even glance up when she entered.
“Hi,” she said, leaning against the doorjamb.
“Hi,” he said without looking up, totally engrossed in whatever was on his screen, his fingers flickering across the keyboard with a tapping sound.
She pursed her lips, but strolled across the room undaunted, her hips swaying. Not that he noticed.
“I thought you might want a little break.” She stood beside him now.
“Not really. I’d like to work for another hour, then I’ll be yours for the rest of the weekend.”
She had no idea if he really meant an hour or if one would turn to four. He’d never brought work to do when he was with her before.
“But I’d like you to be mine right now.” She crouched beside him and stroked her hand up his thigh.
His eyes widened when he realized she was naked. But to her shock, he returned to typing on his keyboard. “I’m afraid I have to keep working.”
But the slight smile turning up Matt’s lips tipped Kate off that he was toying with her. Not to be put off, she glided her hand over his crotch. The feel of the growing bulge under the fabric encouraged her. She stroked several times, then glided her fingers firmly along the sides of his shaft. The already-large bulge grew even more. It was rock-hard under her fingertips.
She grabbed the tab of his zipper and pulled it down slowly. The soft denim opened as she pressed her hand inside, then slipped it under the thin cotton boxers beneath until she found his hot, hard staff. Like molten marble.
She drew it out and gazed at it. Long and hard. Thin veins pulsing on the sides. She stroked it, from base to tip, then back again. She glanced at his face. His lips were tightly compressed as he continued to concentrate on the screen.
She shifted in front of him, shimmying under the desk since he continued to type. She leaned forward and pressed his big cockhead to her lips, then licked him. She thought she heard a groan, but when she glanced up, he was still staring intently at the computer screen. Her lips wrapped around his huge tip until it filled her mouth. She sucked and this time she definitely heard him groan. As she watched, he determinedly continued to type, but his fingers faltered as she glided down his hard shaft, taking him deeper. She squeezed as she glided away again, then sucked and licked the crown.
She loved having his cockhead filling her mouth. Loved squeezing it inside her. The tip of her tongue glided over it, then toyed with the small hole, tasting a salty drop of pre-come. It was definite evidence that he was interested. Not that the huge cock in her mouth wasn’t a dead giveaway.
She drew it from her lips and stroked, his shaft warm and damp from her saliva. “I think you’re ready for a break.” Her lips curled up in a smile.
He gazed at her, but shook his head. “No, I really have to keep working.”
If it weren’t for the twinkle in his eyes, she would have been uncertain, but he was definitely toying with her. She drew her shoulders back in determination, then swallowed his cock into her mouth and began sucking in earnest. He swelled even bigger. She dove down as deep as she could, taking him down her throat, then she drew back. Down again, then back. Her fingertips found his balls and she stroked, then glided underneath and cupped them in her hand, all the while sliding his hard cock in and out of her mouth.
His balls tightened and she knew he was getting close. She could just continue and suck down the fountain that was sure to blow at any second, but she didn’t. Not with him still typing away, though quite erratically now.
She grabbed the armrests of his chair and rolled it backward as she pushed herself out from under the desk. Then, holding his cock firmly in her hand, she turned her back to him and lowered herself until he pressed against her slick slit. Then she lowered herself the rest of the way onto his lap.
Oh, God, that marble-hard shaft felt like heaven gliding into her. It stretched her like no other had before. It was so long and so freaking thick. She groaned when she finally rested on his muscular thighs, then tightened her passage around him.
His typing had stopped, but then he had the nerve to start again. She glanced at the screen in front of him and smiled as she noticed everything he’d typed over the past few minutes was all gobbledygook. She took one of his hands and placed it on her naked breast, then pressed it hard against her. Her rigid nipple pressed deep into his palm. She took his other hand and pressed it to her mound, encouraging his finger to find her clit. His fingers moved frustratingly away and gripped her hips.
“You’ve displeased me by interrupting my concentration. Now I need to punish you.”
She frowned. Really? For taking control this time? But the thought sent quivers through her. How would he punish her?
He grasped her waist and lifted her from his lap. His hard cock dragged along her sensitive passage, nearly sending her over the edge. Then it dropped from her and bounced upward as he set her on her feet. He stood up and grasped her shoulders, then guided her around the other side of his big desk. He swiped his arm across the surface, knocking everything to the floor. Papers, pens, desk accessories. Even his empty coffee mug.
Then he leaned her over the desk until her naked nipples pressed against the cold oak surface. A flattened hand on her back pressed her down harder, her breasts crushed against the hard wood.
“You are a very bad girl, disobeying my wishes like that.”
He pressed his knees between her thighs and pushed her legs wider apart. His hand stroked over her behind, then slid between her legs. He stroked her wet slit several times, then she felt something hard and hot press against her. His cock pushed forward, and slid inside her.
“Do you like that?”
Oh, God, of course she did, but she wasn’t sure if she should say yes or no. After all, this was to be a punishment.
When she didn’t answer, he coiled his hand in her long, auburn hair and drew her head back until her neck curved against his shoulder.
“I asked if you like it?”
“Yes,” she responded.
“Good, you’re being truthful with me. I’ll go easier on you this time.” Then his cock slid away and he withdrew.
“No … please, Sir.” Oh, God, but she needed him inside her.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, I’m sorry, Sir.”
She heard his steps retreating. Oh, damn, he really was going to punish her by leaving her turned on and frustrated. She drew in deep breaths, not daring to move. Hoping he would come back.
Then he returned and she felt blazing hot, rock-hard flesh press against her slick opening and drive deep inside her. She cried out at the exquisite feel of his invasion. He pushed her hard against the desk, his shaft pinning her from inside. Then she felt his hand glide over her round ass, then between her cheeks. He dipped a finger in beside his cock, then drew his glazed digit upward until he found her other opening. He pressed against it, then slid inside.
She sucked in a breath as he swirled his finger inside her tight opening, his huge cock still filling her vagina. A spiral of pleasure swept within her at each whirl of his finger. Rich, vibrant pleasure.
“Oh, God, that feels so good.” She practically clamped her hand over her mouth. Would he now withdraw again, to punish her properly?
But his cock was so hard, he must be aching to release inside her.
He drew back, sliding his cock along her passage, sending a quiver of intense pleasure through her. Then he drove impossibly deep, his engorged cock filling her so full she thought she’d burst from the intense pleasure.
His finger slid from her ass and he grasped her hips. He began to thrust deeply. In and out until she felt as if she would pass out.
“Tell me how much you want me to fuck you,” he demanded.
“Oh, yes, I do, Sir.” She gasped as he jolted deep. “I want you to fuck me.”
“Oh, God, Kate, you are so fucking sexy.”
She gasped again as pleasure swelled through her. “Oh, yes. You’re going to make me come.”
“Fuck, yeah.” He drove into her faster. “Tell me.” He groaned as his cock stroked her insides. “Tell me when.”
As his cock entered her again and again like a big, solid piston, she cried out, her passage clenching tight around him.
“Now, Sir.” She gasped as pleasure expanded through her like a shock wave. “You’re making me come … now.” She wailed the last word as blissful sensations exploded through her.
Kate lay in her bed staring at the ceiling, her breathing heavy. Damn, she definitely missed the sex. But even when she’d tried to take control—even thought she had succeeded—he’d still managed to dominate her.
*   *   *
The next couple of weeks were hectic, but Kate didn’t mind. Keeping busy helped keep her mind off Matt.
What kept her busiest was trying to find an investor for her company.
She sat at her desk, staring at the big red circle on the calendar two weeks from today. The contractual deadline to buy out her partner was fast approaching and if she didn’t find an investor before then, she’d have to sell the business.
Her chest constricted. She really didn’t want to do that. She’d worked hard to build up her small consulting firm, and it meant the world to her. It gave her a sense of accomplishment. It made her feel successful.
She’d moved to Connecticut two years ago because she’d needed the work. Things had been going well at the firm she’d worked at, but suddenly she’d found herself laid off. While she’d always been able to find consulting contracts before, they had suddenly become very scarce. A friend had told her about a project in Connecticut and, as much as she didn’t want to leave New York, she’d finally had to face the fact that she had no choice.
The project had been perfect for her and her clients were extremely happy. They’d asked her to manage another, bigger, project, and soon she found herself bringing in other consultants to work under her. One of her associates suggested that they partner up and form a company and take on staff of their own. That was the start of her now-successful business, and she didn’t want to lose it.
She stood up and walked to the window, then stared out at the snowy landscape beyond. What was she going to do? She’d worked too hard to make this business a success to lose it now. She clenched her fists. She had to find a way.
The phone rang and she crossed to her desk and picked up the phone.
“Kate, there’s a Mr. Elliott, president of Facts and Figures Inc., on the phone for you.”
She wasn’t familiar with the company. “Thanks, Ann. Put the call through.”
Ann connected them.
“Hello, Mr. Elliott. This is Kate Hayward. May I help you?”
“Yes, I understand you are looking for an investor. We’ve heard great things about your work and I would like to set up a meeting to discuss the possibility of our doing business together.”
Her heartbeat accelerated. Could it really happen this easily?
Elation coursed through her, but concern followed on its heels. What if they insisted on a controlling interest? Or if they made demands she didn’t want to meet?
“Of course. When would you like to meet?”
“How about this Friday?” he asked.
Kate circled the date on her desktop calendar. “That works for me.”
“Fine. I’ll have my assistant send over the details.”
*   *   *
As Kate got ready for bed on Thursday night, her stomach fluttered at the thought of stepping into that meeting tomorrow, sitting in front of a group of high-powered executives and answering questions that would affect the future of her company. The representatives from Facts and Figures Inc. were coming in from New York and the meeting was set up for six o’clock in the evening. They had arranged all the details of the meeting, which was a relief since, with her partner leaving, her regular workload had doubled.
The weather was turning nasty overnight and the light snow was supposed to turn to freezing rain tomorrow. She hoped that wouldn’t prevent them from traveling from the city.
*   *   *
Kate woke up to the sound of ice pellets hitting her window. By the time she got ready and stepped outside, it wasn’t too bad. It had been above freezing overnight and was dropping now, but the ice melted when it hit the ground. If the rain kept up, though, it would soon start freezing to the pavement.
As the day wore on, the rain started and stopped. By late afternoon, Kate stared out her window at the trees glazed in ice.
Ann walked into her office. “Hey, Kate, I just e-mailed you the information for your meeting this evening. They never did send me a complete list of the attendees. I think they weren’t quite sure who’d be able to make it, especially given the weather,” she said as she nodded to the window, “so I attached a list of their executives along with a bio for each one so you’ll be prepared, no matter who shows up.”
“Have you confirmed the meeting’s still on?” Kate asked.
“Yeah. The car will pick you up here at five o’clock. They say the location is only about thirty miles from here, but they’re allowing extra time for the bad weather.”
“Okay. Thanks, Ann.”
Ann smiled and headed for the door, then stopped in the doorway. “If I forget to say it before I leave, good luck. We’re all counting on you.”
*   *   *
Kate climbed into the long black limousine and felt the soft leather seat enfold her. She rested her head against the headrest and closed her eyes briefly as the car pulled away from the curb with a smooth thrust of power. The chauffeur had arrived at her office and identified himself as a representative of Facts and Figures Inc. with a photo ID and all, then led her to the sleek vehicle.
She longed to just relax and nap, since she’d slept so fitfully last night, but she wouldn’t. She didn’t feel it looked very professional.
At this time of year, it was already dark outside, so she couldn’t see much out the windows. The lights of the city soon slipped behind them as the miles drifted by. She grabbed her cell phone and opened the e-mail Ann had sent her and began reviewing the bios of the executives of Facts and Figures Inc., but she quickly tired of it. She’d already been over them several times this afternoon.
She leaned forward and stared at the reflection of the driver’s face framed in the rearview mirror. “Excuse me.”
He glanced up and their gazes met in the glass.
“Where are we going?”
“To Erin Gate Manor, ma’am.” He smiled politely. “It’s a lovely spot, right on the lake. It’ll be about forty-five minutes before we get there.”
Some companies held their meetings at resorts where their executives could unwind and reduce stress levels between meetings. It sounded like this was such a place. In January, with snow carpeting the world and the temperature well below freezing, it would probably be lovely. Too bad she wouldn’t be able to see it in the light.
The driver turned on some quiet music and she watched the snow-clad trees, glowing in the light of the moon, zip past along with the miles. When they finally turned off the main road, they drove along a densely treed road, which eventually opened onto a wide, curved driveway. The driver stopped the car, then got out, opened her door, and helped her out. Her gaze drifted over the warmly lit country house before her, drawn to the spectacular stained-glass panels on either side of the huge oak door. Although large, the house didn’t look like a lavish resort.
She followed the chauffeur along the stone path to the entrance. Inside, a huge stone fireplace stood majestically in the center of the large room they entered, a welcoming flame licking at the wood logs behind the glass screen.
She slipped off her coat and thanked the driver as he hung it on a coat rack by the door. After he made his way out, she found herself alone in the large, quiet room, uncertain what to do next. It was clear as soon as she’d walked into the foyer that this wasn’t a hotel or restaurant. It seemed more like a private residence. Maybe it had been easier to pull together a meeting at one of the executive’s homes. It was a big place and would allow them the privacy to talk about financial matters, but in a comfortable setting.
She set her purse beside the couch, then wandered over to the fireplace, staring into the mesmerizing flames, letting the heat swirl around her.
“So, I see you’re settling in.”
Shock vaulted through her at the sound of that deep masculine—and very familiar—voice. She spun around, and came face-to-face with the one man she would have given anything to avoid.
Matt Pearce.

 
Copyright © 2013 by Opal Carew