Jessica watched the busy traffic and streams of people passing by the window as she took a last sip of coffee, then set the empty mug on the table. One man crossing the street toward her caught her eye. There was something familiar about his face, but she couldn’t get a good look at him to figure out why.
She pulled her wallet from her purse and placed her credit card on the bill the waitress had left on a plastic tray on the table. Eating at this little restaurant a block from her hotel had definitely been a good idea. The food here was much cheaper than at the hotel restaurant and this trip to Philadelphia was already straining her budget. Coming here for the big career fair was worth the risk, though.
The waitress came by and picked up her card. As Jessica waited for her to return, she continued watching the men and women rushing by in business attire, trying to catch sight of the man again.
Self-consciously, she reached behind her head and checked her hair, which was coiled and held up with a clip. She didn’t usually wear her long, black hair up, but she felt it looked more professional this way. The same with her smart charcoal gray suit and white blouse. Not her usual attire, since the environment at her cousin Sally’s company, where Jessica had last worked, had been pretty casual and everyone who worked there normally wore jeans to the office. Thank heavens for credit cards.
She glanced at her watch, and her stomach churned. She had to get going. The waitress returned with her card and Jessica signed the slip and tucked the receipt into her wallet. As she slipped on her coat, she noticed the man again, this time buying a newspaper from a newsstand just outside. She froze when she realized why this man had drawn her attention.
It was Storm.
This man, in his expensive-looking, tailored suit, his dark hair in a short and stylish cut, was the opposite of the Storm she knew. Her Storm had spiky hair and was typically in comfortable jeans and a skin-tight tank top that showed off his muscles and tattoos, with a black leather jacket at the ready for when he hopped on his big, sleek Harley. He was a guitarist in her brother’s rock band, and he wouldn’t be caught dead in business attire.
She watched this suited man as he tucked the paper under his arm and started walking down the street. That was definitely Storm’s face. She gathered her purse and briefcase from the chair beside her and stood up. What was Storm doing here? And dressed like that?
She hadn’t seen him in over a month. Not since the night he’d walked out on her.
Everything had been so good between them before that. Her heartbeat sped up at the memory. It had been better than good. All the women in town had been gaga over him, but he’d only had eyes for her. Hot, incredibly sexy eyes. She almost giggled at the memory. He was so tall, sexy, and macho. He could have had any woman he wanted, but he’d chosen her. He’d always made her melt inside every time he looked at her with that bad boy smile, and those smoldering, love-filled eyes.
At least, she’d thought it had been love, but clearly she’d been wrong. He’d up and left her life as abruptly as he’d entered it six months earlier, leaving her heartbroken and lonely.
She strolled to the door of the restaurant and stepped outside into the cool air. The sky was overcast and she hoped the rain would hold off until she was inside the career fair.
She noticed Storm was now in the crowd of people waiting at the light on the next block. The light turned green and he crossed.
Why was he here in Philadelphia?
Was it possible he’d come here looking for her? Maybe her mom had told him she was here and he’d come looking for her to tell her he couldn’t live without her.
But surely Mom wouldn’t do that.
It was a far-fetched thought anyway, because right now he and the band should be traveling through California. But she couldn’t think of any other reason why Storm would be in Philadelphia. And he was
walking in the direction of her hotel.
Her heart swelled at the thought that he still loved her. She longed to be in his arms again. His hard, muscular body pressed tight to hers. His big, strong arms around her.
Oh, God, she’d missed him. Dreamt of him night after night, waking up quivering with need.
She glanced at her watch. She could grab a cab to the career fair, which would get her there fairly quickly. That way, a short detour shouldn’t make her late. She hurried across the street after him. He turned into a Starbucks. Perfect. She could go in and just casually run into him. No biggie. Just two old friends happening across each other in a new city.
She opened the door and hurried inside, then glanced around and saw him at the counter placing his order.
Her heart fluttered. She knew that if he turned and gave her that heart-melting smile of his, then told her he wanted her back, she’d throw herself into his arms and kiss him like crazy. Then she would probably drag him back to her hotel room.
A smile curled her lips. Why kid herself? If he was here to win her back—and why else would he be here?—she would welcome him with open arms.
She drew back her shoulders and marched toward him.
“Storm,” she said as casually as she could manage.
He poured cream into his coffee, then opened a sugar packet, totally ignoring her.
She stepped closer. “Storm.”
He glanced toward her and her heart stopped. Oh, God, that’s not Storm.
Her cheeks heated as she stared at the complete stranger.
A stranger who was every bit as handsome as Storm. Electricity sizzled through her as his piercing blue eyes locked on her. Those eyes were darker than Storm’s, but with the same navy ring around the rim. And his dark brown hair, though cut much shorter than Storm’s, was the same glossy texture and color. In fact, their features were strikingly similar, which was why she’d mistaken this man for Storm in the first place.
His eyebrows arched. “Excuse me?” he said, in a deep masculine voice.
“Oh, um…” She drew in a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I thought you were someone else.”
He smiled. “Are you meeting this someone here?”
“Oh, no. I’m from out of town and I thought … you just look like someone I know.”
“So you were hoping for a friendly face.”
The warmth in his eyes, lit up by that debonair smile of his, stirred something deep inside her. She imagined this man asking her to join him for coffee, then them talking … and him inviting her to dinner, and that leading to …
She swallowed. “Um, I just wanted to say hello. I mean, to Storm. Not you.” Oh, damn, now she sounded rude.
Her heart thumped loudly in her chest and all she could think of was getting out of here. Away from this man’s speculative gaze.
This sexy, drop-dead gorgeous man.
“Would you like to join me for a coffee?” he asked.
Panic welled up in her as she realized she was actually considering accepting. Did she really want this stranger to pick her up?
She glanced at her watch. “Sorry, I have to be somewhere. Um … good-bye.” With that she turned and raced out of the shop, her face still burning.
* * *
Dane watched the lovely woman scurry out the door as if she were escaping a predator.
Lightning flashed outside and what had started as a light rain now streamed down the window panes. He liked to walk to the office in the morning, but he drew the line at getting soaked. He picked up his coffee and sat down at one of the tables, then pulled out his cell phone. Outside he could see the lovely stranger trying to hail a cab. He smiled as he watched her timid attempts. Not even stepping off the sidewalk and making a pitiful little hand gesture toward the street. She’d never get a cab that way.
* * *
Jessica stuck out her hand as a cab drove past, but it didn’t stop. Being from a small town, she wasn’t used to hailing cabs, but she’d watched others doing it and it seemed simple enough. Most of the cabs that had driven by over the past few minutes had their top lights off, indicating they were unavailable. This one had its light on, but there were passengers inside, so maybe the driver had forgotten to turn it off. She tried to hail another, but it stopped for someone a little farther down the street. After several more failed attempts, she started to feel invisible.
The rain, which had begun as a drizzle, started coming down harder. Why hadn’t she thought to bring an umbrella? Water streamed down her hair.
She tried for another cab, and was pleased to see it pull up, but then a couple pushed past her and hopped inside. She stared at them, her mouth agape at their rudeness.
A black limousine pulled up and the back window glided down.
“Would you like a lift?” asked a familiar male voice. It was the man from the Starbucks.
Should she just climb into a limo with a stranger?
Water dribbled down her forehead and she wiped it away.
“Yes, thank you.”
* * *
Jessica settled into the leather seat beside the stranger who looked so much like Storm. The limo pulled smoothly into traffic.
“Where are you heading?” he asked.
She pulled the address from her purse and handed it to him.
“Jeff, we’ll be dropping the lady at the DoubleTree on Broad Street.”
“Yes, sir,” the chauffeur said, then closed the smoked glass partition.
This man must be pretty rich with his expensive suit and a chauffeur driving him around. The thought intimidated her a little.
She shifted in the seat, aware that she was dripping water all over the buttery leather seats.
“Thank you again. I really appreciate the ride.”
The man beside her smiled. “My pleasure. My name is Dane.”
He offered his hand and she grasped it for a handshake.
“I’m Jessica Long.”
Heat hummed through her as his fingers closed around hers, then he gently squeezed before he let go. He was so big and masculine. Her hormones pulsed through her, tempting her to lean in a little closer and breathe in the musky male scent of him.
He reached into a compartment beside the seat and handed her a towel. “The rain has played havoc with your hair.”
He flipped open a mirror on one of the side panels and she could see her drooping wet hair.
“Oh, no. I look awful.”
He smiled. “I wouldn’t say that.”
She pulled the clip from the back of her head and her hair tumbled over her shoulders. She towel dried it, then pulled a brush out of her purse and ran it through her long, and now only slightly damp, tresses.
“Your hair looks lovely like that.”
She glanced at his smiling face and her insides quivered at the heat in his eyes.
“Um … thanks. I think it looks more professional up, though.”
“You’re going to a business meeting, I presume.”
“A career fair, actually.” She twisted her long hair into a coil, then clipped it up again. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror and tucked in a few loose strands.
“Ah, things too limiting in your current job?”
“I don’t have a job right now,” she admitted. “In fact, I’ve been out of work for four months.” She glanced at his face, expecting to see disapproval, but he simply waited for her to continue. “I come from a small town and jobs are really limited there.”
“Well, you’re doing the right thing coming to the city. There’ll be a lot of opportunities at the career fair.”
She nodded, but the thought of walking into a room with all those people looking for jobs, the employers assessing everyone who stepped into their booth, made her stomach queasy.
“You don’t look convinced,” he said.
She shook her head. “I’m just nervous because I’m not used to networking and being interviewed. For the past six years I worked for my cousin, Sally, who had her own company developing Web sites. Then she got married and moved to Oregon.”
Damn, she was nattering.
“When you’re talking to a potential employer, just keep three things in mind.”
She gazed at him with a keen focus, ready to soak in his words of wisdom.
“Listen to what the other person has to say. Respond with something positive.”
At his pause, she prompted, “And the third thing?”
“Smile. When you do that, your whole face lights up.”
She glanced down at her clasped hands self-consciously. “Thank you, but I doubt that will make a difference.”
“It will. It makes you memorable, and that gives you an edge. When these people go back to their offices with a whole stack of résumés and a vague memory of the short interviews they had with people, they’ll be more inclined to call back someone who stands out, even if that reason is because of a beautiful smile.”
She knew he was just trying to make her feel better, but she decided to put his advice into action. “That sounds like great advice. Thank you.” Then she smiled.
He chuckled. “I know you don’t believe it, but trust me. It’ll work.”
The limo slowed down and Dane glanced out the window. “We’re almost there.”
“Thanks for the ride.”
The limo pulled to a stop and the driver got out of the car.
“One more thing.” He pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to her.
She took what appeared to be a flat stone from his hand.
“It’s a tranquility stone. Keep it in your pocket and if you feel yourself getting anxious, rub it between your thumb and finger. It’ll help calm your nerves. It’ll also remind you to follow my advice.”
It was a lovely pale blue with white bands, flat, and completely smooth. And it was still warm from being in his pocket. Close to his body. She stroked her thumb over the surface. It was so … comforting.
“I can’t take your stone.”
He shrugged. “Of course you can.”
The driver opened the door.
“Oh, well … again, thank you.” She slipped the stone in her coat pocket.
The driver held an umbrella over her as she got out of the car.
She turned back and Dane held out her briefcase.
“Jessica, you’ll do fine today. I’m sure you’ll find a great job.”
She nodded and turned away as the driver closed the car door, then walked her to the entrance of the hotel. As she went inside, she realized she should have asked for his card. That was one of the basics of networking. Man, she really was bad at this.
* * *
Jessica relaxed into the soft, cushioned booth at the quiet restaurant six blocks from the hotel. She’d spoken to more than two dozen employers today and she was exhausted. She was looking forward to a nice quiet dinner, then going back to her room to recharge before tomorrow. One more harrowing day meeting employers, then she’d be on her way home.
Her fingers stroked over the tranquility stone in her skirt pocket. She was surprised she hadn’t worn a hole through it. Dane had been right, it had helped her relax. And she had followed his advice. Listen, make a positive comment, and smile. But she wasn’t sure how much good it had done her. After most of the interviews, they just said they’d keep her résumé on file for six months.
Having the stone, and following Dane’s advice, had made her think of him all day long. They’d said good-bye this morning and she knew she’d never see him again, but she wished it could be different. It was sweet how he’d offered her a ride, and then given her advice on how to succeed at the career fair.
Her finger stroked over the smooth stone in her hand. It was just a stone, but it had been his. He’d carried it with him. And he’d given it to her. As a gift.
The warmth of the stone against her fingers reminded her of the warmth of his fingers around hers when he’d shaken her hand. There’d been a spark of interest in his warm blue eyes.
The waitress arrived with the wine she’d asked for. Except instead of placing a single glass full of wine in front of her, she placed an empty glass and poured from a blue bottle, then set it on the table.
“I’m sorry, there’s been a mistake,” Jessica said. “I ordered a glass of the house wine.”
“I assure you, this is a much better choice.”
At the familiar masculine voice, she glanced up to see Dane standing beside the table smiling at her. She pulled herself up straighter in the chair, her heart racing.
“How did you find me?”
“I wanted to invite you to dinner, so I called the closest hotels to where we met this morning and asked for you. When I found your hotel, you weren’t in, so I stopped by the hotel and bribed the concierge for any information he might have about where you went. He remembered you calling down to ask for a recommendation on where to eat.” He smiled. “And voilà, here I am.”
She smiled. “So you were stalking me.” She couldn’t believe an important man like Dane would even give her a second thought.
“May I join you for dinner?”
His powerful masculine presence and devastatingly attractive smile dazzled her. She concentrated on keeping her breathing even.
“Well, I can’t drink a whole bottle of wine by myself and I’d hate to see it go to waste.”
He sat across from her and the waitress produced another wineglass, filled it, and set it in front of Dane.
He sipped it and smiled at her. “Very nice. What do you think?”
She tasted the wine and a subtle flavor of delicate fruits danced across her tongue. She didn’t know a lot about wine, but she found this one delightful.
“It’s very nice. Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” He ordered a seafood pasta from the waitress, then turned back to Jessica. “So how did it go?” He picked up the cloth napkin from his plate and unfolded it, then set it on his lap.
“All right. I handed in my résumé to about twenty-five employers. Some just answered general questions and took résumés, but about a dozen actually took time to interview me.”
“Good. And did you follow my advice?”
She smiled and nodded. “Yes, thank you. It was very helpful.”
“Then I’m sure you’ll get some calls.”
She wished she was as confident as he was.
The waitress brought their meals and she dug in to her salmon steak. She had barely eaten at lunch and was famished.
“I’m curious about this man you mistook me for this morning,” Dane said. “Does he live in Philadelphia?”
“No. Right now, he’s probably somewhere in California.”
“Then why did you think I might be him?”
She shrugged. “Wishful thinking, I guess.”
He offered her the basket of buns on the table and she took one.
“You know, when you first approached me in the coffee shop,” he said, “I was hoping you were using an excuse to pick me up.” He took a bun for himself and buttered it.
“I would never do that. When I realized you weren’t Storm, I was so embarrassed.”
He grinned. “I could tell by the way your cheeks turned crimson and then you fled. And I had so hoped you were secretly yearning to tear off my clothes and have your way with me.” His eyes glittered with amusement in the candlelight.
She smiled. “Well, if that were true, it was only because I thought you were Storm.”
“Then Storm is a very lucky man.”
The way he said those words, in his deep, seductive voice, his gaze warm and appreciative, set her pulse racing.
She sipped her wine. This charming, attractive man had a very disturbing effect on her. She wasn’t the type to jump into bed with a total stranger, but everything about him made her want to do just that.
“So you said I look a lot like this Storm?”
She gazed at him, taking in his square jaw, classic nose, and vivid blue eyes. The two men shared the same classic good looks and imposing presence, but up close, the resemblance wasn’t as similar as she’d thought. If she was honest with herself, she’d have to wonder if her lingering feelings for Storm were making her see him in every handsome man she saw. A kind of wishful thinking.
“I don’t know. You seem a bit older and more mature.” She smiled. “Maybe it’s the suit.”
“So the question is, do you like older men?”
Her smile broadened. “Well, I suppose I could be convinced.”
He sipped his wine and stared at her intensely. “That sounds like a challenge … and I accept.”
And he wasn’t kidding. All through dinner he was the most charming man she’d ever been with. He made her feel like the most beautiful, captivating woman in the world. That and the effect of his strong male presence had her practically panting for him by dessert.
The waitress poured their coffee as Jessica took a bite of her caramel crème brûlée.
“Why don’t you tell me a little about Storm? Were you two involved?”
She swallowed a sip of coffee, trying to tamp down the painful memories his words brought up. She was tempted to change the subject, but she really hadn’t talked to anyone about how much it hurt when Storm walked out of her life. Maybe talking about it would help.
“Yes. We were in love. At least, I was in love with him. I thought he returned my feelings, but a month ago he just decided to walk out of my life.”
“Do you still love him?”
She drew in a deep breath, then pursed her lips. She missed him. Every day and every night. He’d been a sensational lover and, despite the bad boy persona, oh, so tender. She’d really believed he returned her love. She’d felt special with him. But he was probably like that with every woman he was with. He was sensitive and considerate. Very hard not to fall in love with.
But if he didn’t return her love, how could she love him?
“No, I don’t still love him.” Even if that wasn’t true, she was working to make it so. She had to.
“I’m glad, because I wouldn’t want to steal you away from another man.”
Her gaze jerked to his. “Steal me?”
He reached across the table and took her hand, then raised it to his lips. “That’s right. When I take you back to my place.”
Her back stiffened and she hesitated. She shouldn’t be surprised. It’s not like they hadn’t been shamelessly flirting all through dinner, but it had all seemed unreal. They were just sharing dinner.
Now it had become all too real.
She’d never had a one-night stand. Her chest tightened at the thought of having sex with a stranger. Especially this handsome, determined, sexy stranger. He was way out of her league.
But the feel of his lips playing over the back of her hand sent a shimmer of heat through her. Then when he turned her hand and pressed his lips to her palm, she melted.
“I know you’re considering saying no. But don’t.”
She stared into his mesmerizing blue eyes and felt her anxiety dissipate. She wanted to be with him.
But she was not comfortable going to his apartment.
She drew her hand from his seductive lips and shook her head. “I’m not going to your place.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re not?”
“No.” She smiled. “But you can come to mine.”
* * *
Jessica slid her key card into the slot then pushed open the door to her room. She had slipped off her coat on the elevator ride and now hung it in the closet along with her suit jacket. Once she stepped further inside, however, and saw the bed dominating the room, the heat that had been building inside her seeped away. Her heart thundering, she turned to face the virtual stranger behind her and tell him this was a big mistake.
“You aren’t going to tell me you’ve changed your mind, are you?” He stood far too close, and it sent her senses reeling. Part of her wanted to run, yet another part wanted him even closer.
He stroked her cheek. The gentle touch sent shimmers through her. She gazed at him, captivated by the intensity of his eyes. Compelling. Inviting. And reminding her far too much of Storm.
Her heart clenched. She really couldn’t do this.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure we should—”
Before she could finish the sentence, he swept her into his arms and kissed her, his lips moving on hers with firm authority.
Being enveloped in his big, muscular arms, held tight against his solid chest, sent her heart racing. His tongue glided along the seam of her mouth and without thinking, she opened. He slipped inside, invading her with gentle strokes.
When he finally released her lips, she stepped back, needing a little distance between them.
“I have a theory.” He stepped toward her and she took another step back.
“What’s that?” Her words came out breathless.
“I think the reason you’re nervous being with me right now is the same reason you’re having trouble in your job search. Because you’re uneasy around authority figures.”
“I don’t think that’s true.” But the words sounded uncertain even to her.
He took another step forward, and she stepped back again.
She hadn’t realized how tall he was, and his shoulders were so broad. She felt a little intimidated, but then he took her hand and brought it to his mouth. Tingles danced along her arm and down her back at the feel of his lips delicately caressing her palm.
“I want to help you be comfortable with someone of authority taking charge.” He smiled. “In fact, I’d like to show you that giving up control to someone else can be both stimulating…”—his mouth shifted and at the delicate play of his lips on her inner wrist, her insides quivered—“and pleasurable.”
When he stepped forward this time, her backward step landed her against the wall.
“So, I’m going to take charge and you’ll do exactly as I say.”
“I don’t think—”
His mouth captured hers again and her heart rate leapt. When he released her lips, she gazed into his inscrutable blue eyes in a daze.
“That’s good. I don’t want you to think. I want you to just do as I tell you.” His quiet tone was calming and persuasive.
Oh, God, this was sexy.
“But the choice is yours,” he continued. “I can leave now, or I can stay and we’ll let this play out.”
She gazed up at him with wide eyes, knowing she did not want him to leave.
At her nod, he smiled. “Good.”
He stripped off his suit jacket and tossed it aside, then took her hand and guided it to his chest. “Now unbutton my shirt.”
She could feel the solid muscles under the fabric. She swallowed at her deep desire to feel his naked flesh under her fingertips. Her resistance melted away and she released the buttons one by one, her throat going dry as she watched his tanned, sculpted flesh slowly revealed.
After she released the last button, he stripped off his shirt and tossed it onto his jacket on the floor.
He reached behind her head and unfastened the clip holding her long black hair in place. It tumbled around her shoulders and he stroked his fingers through it, then tucked it behind her ear. At the gentle touch, shivers raced along her spine.
His fingertips slid along her neck, down the V of her neckline, and then he released her top button. Then the next. At the feel of his fingers lightly brushing her skin, heat flashed through her.
Cool air caressed her skin as her blouse fell open. He drew it from her shoulders and it slipped down her arms. She sucked in a deep breath as she watched him gaze at her lace-clad breasts with admiration.
Then his fingers curled around her head and he drew her forward. As his lips approached, anticipation burned through her. She breathed in his spicy male scent, mesmerized by his compelling blue eyes filled with desire.
His mouth brushed hers and her knees went weak. His lips were coaxing at first, then demanding. He slid his tongue into her mouth and boldly explored. She sighed, stroking his tongue with hers as she melted against his hot, hard chest.
He stroked her back, then she felt the elastic of her bra loosen. He eased back, then guided her bra straps off her shoulders. The cups clung to her breasts for an instant, then the garment fell away.
Her cheeks heated at being half naked in front of him.
He brushed his thumb over her nipple and it blossomed into a tight bud. Wild sensations rippled through her. He brushed the other nub and it hardened, too.
“Take off your skirt,” he murmured.
She reached behind her and unfastened the button, then drew down the zipper. As he watched, a glint in his eyes, she pushed her skirt down her hips, then to the floor. She picked it up and he took it from her hand and tossed it on top of his clothes.
“Now the pantyhose.”
She wished she’d worn stockings and a garter belt, but she’d had no idea tonight would turn into a sexual tryst. She kicked off her high-heeled pumps and stripped off her pantyhose, tossing them onto the growing heap of discarded clothing, then stood before him in only her tiny panties.
He caressed her breast, sending electricity sparking through her. Her nipple thrust forward, pressing shamelessly into his palm.
Then his mouth swooped down on hers and his hard body pressed her against the wall. He pinned her wrists over her head with one hand as he continued to plunder her lips. Her whole body thrummed with need. At the feel of his thick shaft pressed tight against her belly, a small moan escaped her lips.
His gaze locked on hers. “I think you like a powerful man taking control.”
His free hand glided down her arm, then across her stomach. The cadence of her heart beat accelerated.
“I … um…” She did, but she wasn’t comfortable admitting it.
His possessive fingers moved over the crotch of her panties, then dipped under the fabric. She arched against him, her wrists straining against his grip, then sucked in a breath as he stroked over her slick folds and found the wetness there.
His deep blue eyes gleamed. “There’s my answer.”
She longed for him to slide his fingers inside her.
He smiled and drew his fingers from her panties. She held back a groan, wanting him to touch her there again.
He released her wrists and she watched him sink downward. She lowered her hands from above her head.
“No, keep them up.”
His words, firm and authoritative, sent shivers through her. Without even thinking, she raised her hands again, keeping them above her head as if he still held them.
He stroked a finger over the top of her lace panties. “Very pretty. Would you like me to touch you here again?”
She shivered with need. “Yes.”
His warm fingers were so near where she wanted them to be. He lightly dragged his fingertip along the elastic, then pulled it down slightly. Anticipation quivered through her.
Then he stopped again and she stifled a groan of frustration.
“Touch me again,” she pleaded.
His smile broadened and he tucked his fingers in the elastic of her panties and drew them down. Slowly. His gaze remained locked on the front of the tiny lace garment as he eased it lower, guiding it down her hips. Her breathing seemed louder as he exposed her, bit by bit, his eyes darkening with desire. Then her panties glided down her legs and off.
He stroked down her stomach, then over the neatly trimmed hair framing her intimate flesh.
“Nice. I like this.”
Pleasure washed through her at his approval. Then he leaned forward and licked her. She moaned at the intense pleasure of his tongue sweeping over her. He slid his fingers between her thighs and stroked her as his tongue found her clit. He nudged it lightly, sending intense heat winding through her. His fingers stroked along her slit, then one found its way inside, gliding along her slick passage. Then another slid inside.
Her head dropped back against the wall. Yes, that’s what she wanted.
“So beautiful.” His fingers slipped out and he drew her folds open and stared.
She shifted, uncomfortable with his intense scrutiny, yet wanting it all the same.
He stroked her with a single fingertip. She arched forward, wanting more.
“Are you willing to do anything I say?”
“Yes, yes. Anything you want. Just don’t stop.”
His eyes darkened. “Tell me exactly what you want me to do.”
Breathing became difficult and her heart hammered in her chest. “I want you to thrust your fingers into me. Stroke me until I come.”
His finger jerked into her and she sucked in a breath at the sudden, and deliriously pleasurable, sensation.
A second finger slid inside and he stroked her. With his other hand, he parted her folds, exposing her clit, then he eased forward and licked it. Vibrant sensations shimmered through her. His tongue quivered over her sensitive nub, then he sucked lightly.
“Oh, God, yes.”
She slumped back against the wall, her hands still over her head, as he licked and sucked her clit. At the same time, his fingers began to move inside her, in and out. She clenched around them, riding the rising pleasure.
His sucking turned to licking again, and the pumping of his fingers slowed. She arched forward, encouraging him to continue. He resumed sucking her button, his fingers plunging into her again, ramping up the waning pleasure, but then he slowed again.
“Oh, please don’t stop,” she whimpered.
He stood. “You agreed to do anything I want.” He took her hand and drew her toward the bed, then sat down and positioned her in front of him. “And right now, I want to do this.”
He leaned forward and his lips brushed her nipple. She sucked in a deep breath as his tongue brushed over her nub, then swirled around it. Then her nipple felt cold as he moved to her other one and drew it into his mouth, warming it with his swirling tongue. When he sucked, she gasped, then threaded her fingers through his hair and held his head against her. He lapped his tongue over her, then sucked deeper.
He drew her onto his lap, her knees on either side of his thighs, then sucked her other nipple again. Her heart thundered in her chest and she could feel her insides melting. She ached for him. She slid her hands over his naked shoulders, so broad and strong.
She could feel the fine wool of his pants brushing her intimate folds, then he drew her closer and the bulge in his pants pressed against her.
It was big. And growing bigger. She wanted him to take off his pants. She wanted to see his cock. To hold it.
She wanted it to glide inside her and fill her so full she would burst into orgasm.
Oh, man, she had it bad.
She stroked down his chest. The skin was satiny and pulled taut over the big, well-developed muscles.
Her fingers slid down his sculpted abs, but when she reached his pants and started to unfasten the button, he grasped her hands and drew them away.
“I didn’t say you could do that.”
“But I want to see you.”
He grinned, then took her hand and placed it over the bulge, then squeezed her fingers around it.
Oh, God, it was huge.
“Tell me you want to see my cock.”
She licked her suddenly dry lips. “I want to see your cock.”
He chuckled, a deep rumbling from his chest.
“Good. If I told you to suck it right now, would you?”
She squeezed him again, loving the feel of the hot, hard shaft in her hand. What did it look like naked? How would it feel in her hand? In her mouth?
He guided her to her feet and stood up, then released the buckle of his elegant leather belt. She watched as he drew down the zipper, unbuttoned his pants, and let them fall to the floor. Next, he tucked his thumbs under the waistband of his dark gray boxers and pushed those down, too. When he stood up, her gaze locked on his swollen erection. It stood up firm and proud, curving slightly toward his body. The shaft was long and covered with thick veins. It swelled to a large mushroom-shaped tip.
She reached for it, but he captured her hand.
She dragged her gaze from the delightful cock to his face.
He sat down on the bed. “Now kneel down in front of me.”
She obeyed, staring at the big shaft in front of her, eagerly awaiting his next instruction.
She was actually finding the whole situation incredibly arousing. And fun, too. She liked behaving differently than she normally did. Acting out a role. It was like she was someone else entirely.
“Now wrap your hand around my cock and stroke it.”
She reached forward and touched the big cock. The skin was smooth as silk. And hot. She wrapped her fingers around it and stroked.
The bulbous tip was now purple and she could feel the veins pulsing along the side of the shaft. She wanted to lean forward and take it in her mouth, but he hadn’t given her permission yet. She continued to stroke him, satisfaction growing at the quickened pace of his breathing.
“Oh, yes. That’s good. Now I want you to suck me. I want you to make me come.”
She leaned forward and licked the tip of him. The flesh was smooth under her tongue. She had to open wide to fit the big, plum-size tip into her mouth. As she swallowed him, he rewarded her with a groan.
His fingers coiled in her hair and he drew her head forward. She loved the feel of his cock filling her mouth and gliding deeper.
“That’s right. Take as much of me as you can.”
He was so big that she could get only halfway down. She wanted to go deeper—to give him more pleasure—so she relaxed her throat and went a little farther. He was deeper than she’d ever taken any man.
“Yes. That’s great.”
She drew back and surged deep again.
He groaned as she took him in and out, squeezing him in her mouth as she did. His fingers clutched her head and she could feel his body growing tense.
She stroked over his hairless balls, then cupped them in her palm. She caressed and fondled them as she continued to pump him in and out of her mouth.
His breathing was erratic. She sucked him, squeezing hard as her hand stroked his scrotum. She pumped her other hand along the exposed part of his shaft, determined to take him all the way.
But he coiled his fingers in her hair and drew her head away from his cock. “Stop,” he said in a commanding tone.
“But I thought you wanted me to make you come.”
“Don’t argue. Just do as you’re told. Now sit on the end of the bed, your legs open.”
Hesitantly gazing at his no-nonsense expression, she stood up.
“Now.” His commanding tone sent her scurrying to the end of the bed. She sat down with her knees apart. Anticipation rippled through her.
His intense blue gaze remained locked on her as he approached, then he knelt in front of her. His fingers stroked along her folds, then he parted them and his gaze shifted to her slick flesh.
“Oh, yes. You’re very ready.”
He leaned toward her, and when she felt his tongue rasp over her clit, she groaned and lay back on the bed, her eyelids drifting closed. Her fingers coiled in his wavy hair, but he glided upward, lightly kissing her stomach as he moved. Then she felt his lips wrap around her nipple. She clutched him to her chest as he suckled sweetly. Her insides fluttered with anticipation. His fingers found her slit and teased it, then slid inside. She clenched around them.
His tongue returned to her clit, sending ripples of delight through her. He licked, then sucked lightly.
“Oh, God, yes.”
Pleasure washed through her as his fingers moved inside her, stroking her. She moaned and arched against him, trembling as an orgasm began to swell within her. Then he drew away and she groaned.
She glanced up and saw him rolling a condom over his engorged cock, then seconds later he was back. He slid her higher on the bed and prowled over her, then his hot, hard flesh nudged her opening. She gasped as his massive cockhead slid inside. His enormous shaft moved deeper, stretching her with his tremendous girth, gliding on forever as he filled her.
Then he stilled, his big body over hers, holding most of his weight on his arms, as they both sucked in air.
“You’re so big. I can hardly believe you’re all the way inside me.”
He chuckled and kissed her lightly. Then he began to move. Drawing out slowly, then gliding back in. Stroking her sensitive passage.
Ramping up her pleasure.
His solid flesh slid in and out, over and over again, thrilling her with each stroke. She grasped his broad, muscular shoulders, arching against him. She squeezed him and the intense pleasure of his rock-hard shaft moving inside her sent her senses reeling.
Wild sensations tingled through her and she gasped as he drove deeper still.
He pumped faster and her breathing accelerated.
“Tell me you’re going to come.” His words rasped against her ear.
She nodded, barely able to catch her breath.
“I want to hear you say it.”
“I’m going to…” She moaned as pleasure swelled within her. He thrust faster. “Oh, God, I’m going to come.”
“Yes. Come for me, baby.”
An orgasm blasted through her. “Oh … Yes … I’m coming.” She gasped, then wailed long and loud.
He thrust deep and hard, then jerked against her and groaned.
She clung to his shoulders as he catapulted her orgasm to a new level. She sucked in a breath, then continued to moan as she shot to heaven.
Slowly, she returned to earth and the warmth of his body over hers. He rolled to his side, taking her with him, then wrapped his arm around her waist and drew her close.
She rested her head against his solid chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart. Part of her wanted to scoot off to the bathroom and collect herself. Another part wanted to stay right here, all cozy and warm. If she left, he would probably gather up his clothes and leave. She wouldn’t even get to see him dress. He’d give her a quick good-bye kiss and be gone. Never to be seen again.
That’s how one-night stands worked, right?
And that’s what she wanted, right?
He stroked her hair. It felt so sweet and tender.
She glanced at the clock. Eleven thirty.
“Are you tired?” he asked.
“Um, yes. I have an early morning.”
Unfortunately, he would probably take that as his cue to leave.
“Of course.” But instead of grabbing his clothes and pulling them on, he reached for the bedside lamp and turned it out, then enveloped her in his embrace.
Her head settled against his chest again, the steady thumping of his heart against her ear, and she decided she really liked this. Being close to him. Hearing his heartbeat.
She’d missed having a man in her bed. Being close and cozy. Feeling loved.
Well, maybe not loved, but cared for.
His breathing slowed. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the warmth of his arms.
He was an interesting man. Domineering but completely focused on her pleasure. Teasing and authoritative all at once. She mused at how sexy it had been. She never would have thought she’d be okay being ordered around by a man, but it had been a major turn-on.
And being with him had been nothing like being with Storm whose lovemaking was more tender and solicitous. In fact, she thought with satisfaction, Storm hadn’t even entered her mind until now. Maybe she really was starting to get over him.
* * *
Jessica woke up and opened her eyes. It was still dark. And a man’s arms were around her. She glanced toward him. Although she couldn’t really see his features in the dark, she remembered Dane’s face. So much like Storm’s.
Oh, man, she couldn’t believe she’d actually had sex with this man she hardly knew. And the things they’d done. The way she’d behaved, allowing him to order her around. Embarrassment spiked through her.
She glanced at the clock on the bedside table and realized it was five a.m. She wouldn’t get back to sleep now, so she’d spend the next hour just lying here, stressing about having to face him when he woke up. That
would be really embarrassing.
She glanced at the clock again. It would take her about forty-five minutes to shower and get dressed, fix her hair and makeup, then finish packing the few things she had into her overnight bag. That meant by the time she checked out and had the front desk lock away her overnight bag for safekeeping while she was at the career fair, it would be six and she’d have time for a leisurely breakfast where she could prepare herself for the day ahead.
Slipping away now would mean no muss, no fuss. And he’d probably be just as happy to avoid awkward morning-after conversations.
She’d be tired today, but she wasn’t going to sleep any more, anyway. She might as well do something useful.
She slipped from the bed, being careful not to waken Dane. When she returned from the bathroom, dressed and ready to go, he was still sleeping. She tossed her makeup bag and toiletries in her case along with yesterday’s clothes, and quietly zipped it closed. She grabbed some stationery from the desk and wrote a quick note for Dane, then headed out the door.
* * *
Dane woke up to an empty bed. He glanced around and saw a note sitting on the dresser. Pushing aside the covers, he shoved his hair from his face, then strolled over and picked up the note.
Last night had been delightful. Jessica had resisted being commanded at first, but clearly she enjoyed it once they got going. In fact, it had turned her on immensely.
He grinned. It had been fun coaxing her into submission. He would love the opportunity to pursue more with her. To ease her into a full Dom-sub relationship.
He read the note, telling him that she’d wanted to get an early start on breakfast and to prepare for the career fair.
He snorted. Right. She had definitely fled. Just like she had from the Starbucks.
She went on to assure him that she’d paid for the room and all he had to do was leave the keycard behind when he left.
A woman who left a note and fled in the middle of the night—from her own hotel room—definitely had issues. Whether they were with him, with the domination, or with getting over her ex, he didn’t know.
But he was willing to take the time to figure it out. He just needed to find a way to see her again.
* * *
Jessica sighed as she sat down with the paper coffee cup in her hand. The noise of the hustle and bustle in the big ballroom where the career fair was taking place washed over her. She had been networking like crazy and had talked with representatives from a few companies which offered positions that she felt would be well suited to her, but after the interviews she didn’t feel that prospects were good. They wanted experience that directly related to what they were doing, and seemed disinclined to take on an inexperienced but enthusiastic employee to train because, frankly, with the job market the way it was, they didn’t have to. There were lots of people with the exact experience they were looking for in search of a job.
Her experience was just too general. She stroked her finger over the smooth stone in her pocket.
“Do you mind if I sit with you?”
Jessica glanced up at the female voice. A pretty woman with upswept hair and wearing a tailored suit—the basic uniform of the day for everyone here—stood by the table with a coffee in her hand. There were a few empty tables around, but Jessica knew she should take every opportunity she could to network.
“Not at all.”
The woman placed her coffee and small clutch purse on the table and sat down. Jessica noticed her badge with the blue band, indicating she was an employer.
“My name’s Melanie Taylor.” Melanie held out her hand and Jessica shook it.
“Hi. I’m Jessica Long.”
Jessica sipped her coffee, wondering how many more employer booths she could squeeze in before the fair ended, two hours from now. To be honest, though, she’d be happy to just keep sitting here and veg until the whole thing was over. If it weren’t for the fact she had to justify her travel costs to get here, she’d leave right now.
“You look pretty discouraged. The hunt not going well?” Melanie asked.
Jessica glanced at her table companion. “No, not really. Every employer I’ve talked to wants specific experience I don’t have. I don’t know how to break into something new and what I was doing before is so general that no one is really interested.”
Melanie nodded. “I know what you mean. Have you talked to anyone at Ranier?”
Below Melanie’s name on her badge were the words Ranier Industries, so that was the company she represented.
“Yes, they were one of the first companies I handed my résumé to, but the lines were so long I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone. They look like a great place to work.”
“We’re a growing company and we have fabulous benefits.”
“That’s great.” Jessica found herself wearing her positive smile—the same smile she’d plastered on her face for the past two days—but she doubted she’d hear from them, since so many people were handing in their résumés and they probably all had way more relevant experience than she did.
She stroked the stone in her pocket.
“Oh, honey,” Melanie said, “I can see your eyes glazing over and that smile is pathetic.” At Jessica’s frown, Melanie smiled warmly. “I’m sorry, I’m not criticizing. I totally sympathize. I’m not with Human Resources—I’m just helping out at the booth today because, as you saw, they’re swamped—but I feel for you, and all the others that come by. It’s tough out there.”
“I’ve been out of work for four months. I’m probably going to have to give up my apartment and move in with my parents.” She hated having to admit that. A grown woman shouldn’t have to live with her parents.
“Oh, you poor thing. I just had my roommate move out a month ago and I haven’t been able to replace her, so I’m feeling the pinch, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to move in with my mom. I love her dearly and all but, whoa, that’s too close quarters for me.”
Melanie glanced at her watch. “Look, my break is almost over, but come on back to the booth with me. I’ll get you in to talk to Stephanie in Human Resources. You can give her a new copy of your résumé and have a bit of a talk with her. She’s really nice.” She smiled warmly. “And I’ll put in a good word for you.” She stood up and gathered her things.
“Thank you, I really appreciate it.” Jessica stood up and grabbed her purse and briefcase.
“You look stunned.”
“Well, we don’t even know each other. I’m not sure why you’d be willing to go out on a limb for me.”
She followed Melanie through the crowd.
“You remind me of myself two years ago when I was standing in your shoes, so trust me, I know how much it sucks to be unemployed.”
They arrived at the Ranier booth and Melanie smiled brightly. “And if you want some company for dinner, come by the booth later.”
“I’d like that, but my flight leaves at seven, so I have to head to the airport as soon as this is over.”
“Of course.” Melanie pulled out a card and handed it to Jessica. “Well, if you do get a callback for an interview in town, or wind up living here, give me a call. I could show you around the city.”
Jessica took the card and tucked it in her purse. “Thanks.”
It was nice to know that if she got the opportunity to move to the city, she’d know at least one person.
“Now, let’s go find Stephanie.”
* * *
A week later, back in her apartment in Bakersfield, Jessica stacked her DVDs in the cardboard box sitting on her dining room table. There should be enough room for her CDs in the same box. A stack of bills sat on the table beside the box. She hadn’t heard back from any of the employers from the career fair yet. It was a little early, but either way, she’d need to move out of this apartment. Either she’d be moving in with Mom and Dad, or she’d be moving to Philadelphia. She sighed. The former seemed the most likely.
The phone rang and she walked to the living room to pick it up.
“Ms. Long, please.”
“Speaking,” Jessica said.
“Hi. This is Stephanie Reynolds. I work in Human Resources at Ranier Industries.”
Jessica’s heart jolted into high gear.
“Yes, Ms. Reynolds. How are you?”
“Fine. I’m calling because we’d like to have you come in for a second interview. Would that be possible?”
“Um, yes, of course.” Jessica wrote down the details. When she hung up the phone, she couldn’t stop smiling.
Maybe she wouldn’t have to move in with her parents after all.
* * *
Jessica pushed open the glass door of the tall office tower and walked across the lobby, Melanie alongside her. The clacking of their high heels on the marble floor blended into the sounds made by dozens of other people heading to their jobs in the huge building.
Excitement skittered through her at the thought of starting her brand new job.
“Human Resources is on the eighth floor,” Melanie said as they stepped into the elevator. “They’ll process you then bring you up to the executive floor. If you have any questions, feel free to call me. You wrote down my extension, right?” Her eyes glittered with excitement.
“Yes, I’ve got it.” Jessica grinned. “I think you’re just as nervous as I am.” Other people crowded into the elevator around them as Melanie pressed the button to floor eight and floor thirty-six.
“Maybe a little, but I know you’ll do fine.”
Jessica couldn’t believe her luck at having fallen in with Melanie. Melanie had arranged for her to talk to Stephanie Reynolds at the career fair, which had led to a second interview. The company had even paid her expenses to come back to Philadelphia. They’d put her up in a hotel, and Melanie had shown her around the city after the interview. Since they’d hit it off so well, Melanie had invited her to stay for the weekend so she could get a better feel for the city. They’d had such a great time together that when Jessica had received the job offer, Melanie had suggested she take over her ex-roommate’s old bedroom.
The past four weeks had been a whirlwind of activity and excitement. She’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that part of that excitement was knowing she and Dane were living in the same city now, and while the odds of them bumping into each other on the street weren’t very high, stranger things had happened. Still, she had other things on her mind, like her glamorous new job.
Now, here she was, on day one, her heart beating quickly in nervous excitement.
The elevator door opened on the eighth floor.
“Good luck. I’ll see you later,” Melanie said.
The door closed and Jessica glanced around, then headed to the reception desk. “Hi. It’s my first day here. I’m supposed to see Ms. Reynolds.”
The receptionist was a lovely young blonde in a white satin blouse, with soft pink lipstick and a bright smile. “Welcome. I’m Gina. Stephanie’s office is the second on the left down that hall. Go ahead in.”
“Thanks.” A moment later, she tapped on Stephanie’s open door.
Stephanie chatted to her a bit about benefits and company policies, then sent her to the reception area to fill out a pile of forms—for payroll, insurance benefits, taxes, et cetera. An hour later, she finished the last one and walked back to Reception and handed Gina the folder of paperwork.
“Great. Stephanie asked me to take you up to your new office once you’re done.” Gina stood up and led Jessica to the elevator. Butterflies danced through her stomach as she realized that in a few moments she would be at her new desk and would be meeting her new boss.
The ride up the elevator seemed too fast and suddenly the doors opened to a new floor. The décor was a notch up from the Human Resources offices. Actually, several notches up. The chairs in the waiting area were of rich, warm brown leather and the carpets were plush. The view from the floor-to-ceiling windows along one wall gave a spectacular view of the city below.
Gina led her across the large reception area. There were several closed doors, all rich red, cherry wood.
Melanie sat at an elegant desk in the corner. She smiled as soon as she saw Jessica.
“Hi, Melanie. Is he in?” Gina asked.
“Yes, go ahead in.”
The butterflies in Jessica’s stomach became more agitated. She was working for a high-level executive?
Gina tapped on the door and a deep muffled voice inside said, “Come in.”
Gina pushed open the door and stepped inside, Jessica on her heels. “Mr. Ranier, this is Jessica Long your new assistant.”
Jessica was in awe, gazing around at the lush office with its rich mahogany wood bookshelves, leather chairs, and expensive-looking artwork on the walls.
“Good morning, Miss Long.”
At the familiar voice, Jessica’s gaze jolted to the man sitting behind the impressive desk by the huge window overlooking the city. Her stomach tightened.
There sat the man she’d had a torrid one-night stand with. Her cheeks burned at the memory. Oh, God, he couldn’t be her new boss.
Copyright © 2014 by Opal Carew
OPAL CAREW is the author of thirteen erotic romances for St. Martin's including Forbidden Heat, Pleasure Bound, Twin Fantasies and other erotic romance novels. She lives in Canada and makes regular trips to the US to speak at conferences and industry events.