Unravel Me ONLY
by National bestselling author Tori St. Claire
Attorney Cassie Blaire has spent most of her life living by rules. Rules that keep her life sensible, and on the right path. But five years after losing her husband, Cassie is saying sayonara to “sensible.” And it starts now—with indulging a need she’s long denied.
When he arrives in Colorado, all Brad Steele wants is a scotch before he has to play nice in the first face-to-face meeting with his co-counsel in an ugly divorce case. But instead, he finds her—a lush, inviting stranger whose dark eyes invite him to sin…and thirst turns into a raw, undeniable hunger.
Now Cassie is initiated into a world that has nothing to do with being sensible, and everything to do with sensuality. Under Brad’s guiding touch, she’s receiving an education in desire—one that breaks all of the old rules, and explores tantalizing new ones. And once she learns that her naughty one-nighter is her arrogant co-counsel, all of her objections will be sustained…
Title: Unravel Me
Author: Tori St. Claire
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 2014
©2014 Tori St. Claire
One drink. Just one drink.
Then Cassandra Blaire could return home and cozy up with case files, like she really needed to be doing tonight. Instead, she’d let her secretary, Stephanie, talk her into a blind date with some friend of her current go-to guy. A pity date, probably, given that she’d spent the two years since her husband’s death focusing on work and not her social life.
Sure, she went out now and then… Okay more “then” than “now.” But she’d done the settling down, meeting someone else’s needs, for five years. It was time to see to her own desires, and really the only desire she had currently was to successfully negotiate this Cooper collaborative divorce case so she could alter the criminal practice her husband had built into a family law practice. And that meant preparing to meet the renowned New York attorney she was collaborating with, not drinking it up with a stranger.
But she’d committed, and she couldn’t back out now. Stephanie would never let her hear the end of it.
Cassie glanced up at the twinkling lights strewn across the popular restaurant’s front entrance. One glass of wine. It was Sunday night; she could logically excuse herself after. Besides, the little bit of alcohol might unwind some of the nerves that kinked the closer her meeting with her co-counselor grew. He’d been doing family law a long time and she’d gotten the impression he considered her somehow beneath him. Even if they were working together, the last thing she wanted was to reveal her inexperience.
She shoved open the car door to a blast of cold winter air, set a black heel on the parking lot’s asphalt, and climbed out. After shutting the door, she smoothed the short length of her black skirt over her rear and approached the entry. Loud laughter filled the air as she stepped inside.
“Good evening, ma’am,” the hostess greeted her warmly. “Did you have a reservation?”
Cassie forced a wide smile. “Jefferson. For two?”
The woman ran a manicured nail down her guest book. A crinkle appeared in her brow as she turned the page. “Jefferson, you said?”
“Um…yes. Eight o’clock.”
The hostess shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t see anything listed.”
Cassie blinked. “Are you certain? I’m sure it was here at eight.”
With a sympathetic smile, the young woman nodded. “I’m sure. And I don’t have any available tables, either, to fit you in.”
Well, didn’t that just beat everything. She’d been stood up. After supposedly hounding Stephanie for the setup, the jerk didn’t even have the courtesy to cancel. It really shouldn’t have bothered her—after all, she didn’t know the guy—but the rejection still stung. That kind of crap hadn’t happened since college.
She let out a heavy sigh and scanned the bar area. Logic said she ought to go home, but she was here now, and her bruised ego definitely could use that glass of wine.
“I’m really sorry,” the hostess said again.
Cassie shook her head. “That’s okay. I’ll have a glass of wine at the bar.” She shrugged out of her coat, looped it over her arm, and struck off toward the crowded alcove, avoiding looking at the dining room full of couples and the rose-topped tables bathed in candlelight. So much for kindling up a new romance. Not that she’d really been hoping.
While the crowded dining room wasn’t a surprise, the bar’s elbow-to-elbow crowd was thicker than she remembered in years past. Maybe it was the significant January snow that had descended on the mountains. For the past month, it seemed like every place in Vail, Colorado, brought more tourists than usual. More single male tourists, to be specific.
Then again, maybe she’d just been paying more attention. Her house no longer screamed Chris’s absence every time she turned out a light. And her big four-poster bed had stopped feeling so damned empty. All it did was remind her she hadn’t ever wanted the monstrous thing anyway. Though admittedly, she’d made peace with the objections now that she could sleep flat out in the middle of the huge mattress.
Oddly enough, she’d realized a lot of those sorts of things—she’d done an awfully good job at letting Chris Blaire walk all over her. His sudden death had shattered her. But rebuilding awakened parts of her she hadn’t realized she’d let go of.
Cassie strode to the bar and shouldered between two men in business suits.
“Can I help you, miss?” the bartender asked as he plucked a glass off the shelf and set it under the beer tap.
“Ah, yes, I’ll take a—”
The feel of warm fingers brushing across her ankle brought her up short. She stumbled a step and looked down. Two heavenly blue eyes locked with hers. Blond hair tumbled loosely over his forehead, and as he grinned, an impertinent dimple broke free. She barely registered the square of plastic beneath her toe that he pointed at with his free hand before his fingers slid a fraction higher, and electricity shot through her system. Gasping, Cassie grabbed for his shoulders to keep from toppling over backward.
Brad Steele sucked in a sharp breath as the leggy brunette braced her weight on his shoulders. The sensual fragrance of exotic flowers and citrus assaulted him far more dangerously than the slender knee that bent just beneath his chin. A few inches more, and he’d be nursing a cracked jaw. What in the hell had possessed him to grab her ankle, as opposed to merely tapping her on the shoulder?
Her damned legs. He’d taken one look at those long, toned limbs and lost his ability to think. One need dominated—to touch. The credit card he’d dropped seconds before she appeared at the bar posed the perfect opportunity.
But the blanket of slender curves now draped around him brought his nose a breath away from her thigh, and her perfume was playing wicked games with his mind. He cocked his head before sheer instinct could override common sense and attempted to disentangle himself enough to look her in the eye. “Sorry. You’re standing on my credit card.”
She regained her balance, pulled that delectable ankle from his fingers, and set her black stiletto back onto the floor. A soft laugh tumbled off full lips. “Gives a whole new meaning to ‘shoestring budget,’ doesn’t it?”
His grin deepened as he picked up his credit card and straightened. Luminous tawny eyes met his, their sparkle full of laughter. Her jest, however, held him transfixed. Humor was the last reaction he’d expected, given his rather inappropriate spontaneity. Most of the women he knew in Manhattan would have thrown him a scathing look, accompanied by “Get lost, jerk.”
Before he could recover enough to respond, she waved her hand dismissively. “I apologize. Bad pun. It’s been a long day.” A slight infusion of pink filled her cheeks.
Brad’s breath caught. What a fascinating contradiction—one moment a confident quip, the next demure softness. The sudden desire to unwrap whatever layers she possessed struck fiercely. He eased back into his seat, determined not to let her slip away just yet.
“I understand long day. Can I get you a drink?”
Her gaze tripped down his body, roving over his dress slacks and shirt, which was rumpled from several hours on a plane. The slow perusal, followed by the keen interest in her eyes when she met his gaze again, only served to ramp up his rather neglected libido. He hadn’t expected that either, certainly not in this tourist trap. Snow and a warm hot female would make a week of negotiating with the uptight attorney on the Cooper divorce case infinitely more enjoyable. Vail, Colorado, might just prove interesting. At least for the short week he’d be here.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” she asked, her confidence returning with her smile.
“Is it the suit?” As the man beside him vacated the bar, Brad leaned an elbow on the polished wood. He crossed an ankle over his knee, acutely aware she hadn’t answered his question. “Or is it the accent?”
Rich and husky, her laughter caressed him like fine velvet. “Definitely the accent. I deal with suits every day. New York?” She moved into the space in front of him.
At the same time, the man behind her took a backward step, forcing her to twist sideways. The thin fabric of her black dress brushed Brad’s knuckles. Again, her perfume tickled his nose. He breathed it in, sifting through the fragrances he knew. Jasmine. He couldn’t define the other aromas, but jasmine brought him to his knees every time.
“Yeah. Manhattan,” he answered, hoarsely. He cleared his throat, nodded at the bartender, and asked again, “What are you drinking?”
“A glass of moscato. So what brings you to town?” Mirroring his position, she set her coat on the bar and leaned on it. Her thigh came shockingly close to fitting between his knees.
Brad checked himself, torn between scooting back and moving closer. He didn’t really want to confess that work brought him halfway across the country. This would be his first night of downtime in weeks before he was back to working his rear off for his upcoming promotion to partner. Though he wasn’t keen on lies, he didn’t want to be an attorney tonight, dissecting every word and nuance. “Just checkin’ out the slopes.”
A faint frown touched her brow, then quickly cleared. “Oh? How long are you staying?”
This time, when her gaze roamed over his body, the flicker of attraction became unmistakable. And the interest in her question was impossible to miss. In a heartbeat, he recognized a game of seduction he knew all too well, and he fell easily into the cadence. He shifted so when he brought his arm up to gesture at the bartender, his fingertips grazed her elbow.
The way she drew her lower lip between her teeth and indecision puckered her brow, however, set his system on red alert. If he barreled forward, she’d run. But the flash of her softer side was such a sharp contrast to her otherwise confident demeanor it only made him more determined not to let her bolt. He backed off and gave her a casual grin. “I’ll be here for about a week. Then it’s back to the big city.”
The bartender moseyed to their position, and Brad ordered another martini along with her wine. He turned back to his stunning companion, picked up her delicate hand, and ran his thumb over her ring finger. “What brings you out tonight?”
A tremor ran through her palm but she didn’t miss a beat. “Better than sitting at home, right?”
Hell yes. If she’d stayed at home, he wouldn’t be staring into the most compelling light-brown eyes he’d ever seen. For a moment, the uniqueness of that chestnut color held him spellbound. He stared, soaking in the warmth of her hand against his, feeling his breath harden with each passing second. Her lips parted. Alongside the elegant column of her neck, her pulse beat strong and quick. Momentary nervousness, however, made her smile waver, and she once again drew her full lower lip between her teeth.
A vision of that softness beneath his mouth wound Brad’s entire body into a frustrated knot. Good Lord. He was no stranger to women, but the tightness in his gut and the sudden strain behind his fly couldn’t be ignored. She had him captivated, and he was aching to discover all he could.
“Cash or plastic?”
The bartender’s voice jerked Brad out of the fantasy, and he released her. With his opposite hand, he passed the man his credit card. “Keep it open.” Turning back to her, he gestured at an open bar table in the corner. “Join me?”
The hesitation that passed across her face made something foreign inside him twist sharply. Surely he hadn’t read her wrong. Don’t let her refuse.
With a slight dip of her chin, she let out a breathy, “Yes.”
Cassie slid into the seat, scarcely able to believe she’d accepted the handsome blond’s invitation. She couldn’t really be entertaining the idea of a one-night stand with a stranger, could she? This wasn’t the sort of thing a mature, professional, widowed woman would do. Particularly not with a huge meeting tomorrow. This kind of spontaneity could only lead to trouble.
But damned if the idea of one wicked night, no holds barred, held excitement. He was hot—no other description fit. His broad shoulders hinted at college football days and filled out an expensive suit that had to have been custom-tailored. He exuded an air of assertive confidence. Yet at the same time, the day-old stubble on his face and the impishness of his dimpled grin spoke of a devil-may-care attitude. No doubt he knew exactly what he wanted…and exactly how to get it.
Moreover, the way his hungry gaze ate her up sparked primal urges of her own. She’d been craving that kind of passion for entirely too long. What could it hurt to indulge?
It could hurt a lot of things.
As he moved to stand at her shoulder, he rested one hand casually on the back of her chair. His gaze skipped down the deep vee of her neckline. Cassie ordered her conscience to hush. She was twenty-eight and had needs that could be fulfilled with a stranger who’d leave town in a few days. A man who couldn’t threaten her freedom. No commitments, no entanglements, just…fun. Two years had passed, void of fun.
She leaned forward a smidgeon, knowing the loose fabric would gap and give him a flash of bare skin beneath.
“So…” Her companion cleared his throat. With effort, he pulled his gaze back to her eyes. “What do you do?” he asked.
Cassie shook her head. “Let’s not go there, shall we?” Even as the cool words slipped free, she surprised herself with the answer. Lifting her eyebrows, she sucked up her courage and smiled over the rim of her wineglass. “That’s professional. This…” She took a long, slow sip, then finished, “…isn’t.”
As a slow burn infused her bloodstream, Cassie slid her gaze to her sexy companion. He regarded her noncommittally, but the flare in his vibrant blue eyes made her throat turn dry. The wry crook of one corner of his mouth left no doubt in her mind he’d let her glimpse that spark of desire intentionally. That he was completely aware of how he affected her.
“As you wish.”
He winked, and she experienced a moment’s hesitation. Could she really do this?
His dimpled grin was nearly her undoing. Her heart tripped erratically. At once, the room was too crowded and much too hot. When she had to sit down with counsel for the entire afternoon tomorrow, too sleepy to keep her eyes open, she was going to hate herself for following through on this. But that darned dimple sealed the deal—no way was she going home alone tonight.
A thrill raced down Cassie’s spine.
Yes. I’m doing this.
Brad shifted position in the chair he’d requisitioned when they claimed the table a half hour or so ago. But it was useless—he was so aroused he couldn’t create enough room behind his fly to be remotely comfortable. The woman was fascinating. Their conversation illustrated she was clearly well educated. Assertive. Yet there was a shyness about her that sucked him in each time it peeked through.
No. Not shyness, he countered as she lowered her lashes. Submissiveness. Like there was some part of her that naturally deferred to him…and he could tell she wasn’t quite sure she wanted it to.
He wasn’t quite sure he wanted it to either. That could be dangerous. The kind of dangerous that would make her unforgettable. And he had no intentions of getting sidelined by a woman he couldn’t tuck neatly away into the corner of his mind where pleasant, but altogether uninspiring, memories resided. Anything more was a recipe for disaster. He was too much like his old man, who was on affair number five. Brad didn’t want to learn the hard way that they shared the gene of unfaithfulness. It was better for everyone if he took pleasure as it was offered and kept things uncomplicated.
He picked up the bottle of wine and topped his companion’s glass off with the last of it. When it was empty, he fully intended to escalate this little tango to the next level. He leaned in close, tucked his fingers into her free hand. “You know, you haven’t told me your name yet.”
She shook her head, sending her long, silken hair spilling over one shoulder. The curled ends cupped her left breast. Bare breast, he amended. She’d bent forward often enough he’d realized there wasn’t a trace of satin or lace beneath the dress.
“I don’t intend to.” She gave him a taunting smile. “You don’t need to know mine; I don’t need to know yours.”
Oh, holy hell. If she had any idea how incredibly hot that was, or just how it made his already-at-attention cock harden further, she’d run before he could get his hands on her. He was swimming in dangerous waters. He couldn’t remember ever being this turned on. But damn, it made the prospect of tangling the sheets with her that much more enticing.
He fought a grimace as he shifted his weight to his opposite hip. “I can play by those rules. Have any more I need to know about?”
“Nope,” she answered simply. Her grin appeared with her next blink, and she dropped her hand to his knee. Slender fingers traversed his inseam to the base of his thigh. Her voice lowered intimately. “But I have an offer to propose.”
“Oh?” The fantastically erotic husky tone her voice assumed had heat barreling through his veins.
“In exchange for anonymity, there are no masks behind closed doors.”
No masks… It took a moment, but the blatant suggestion that brimmed in her eyes settled around him fully. No boundaries. No need to keep up appropriate facades. No expectations on behaviors.
Sweet angels above, he’d died and gone to heaven. It was like she’d ripped a page right out of his personal book of fantasies. One night where he could let down everything. Sure, he’d had more than his fair share of memorable sex. But there were…rules of engagement. Certain delicacies most women expected.
Yet this one, this strange combination of confidence and hesitation, didn’t want any of those expectations. She’d just given him a blank check and demanded he take it to the bank.
He dropped his hand to her wandering fingers, catching them a hairbreadth from the swollen length of his cock. Bending his head toward hers, he brushed his lips across her cheek and whispered, “My hotel’s fifteen minutes away.”
Her fingers laced with his. She turned her face to his, her mouth a breath away. God, how he wanted to taste her.
“My house is closer.”
When he quirked an eyebrow, surprised by the invitation into her home, she pulled away with a light laugh. “And I have neighbors who will come to my rescue if I scream.”
Ah. Okay then. Brad grinned. The faster he could get his hands on her, the better.
Forcing himself to not leap to his feet, he slid out of his seat and motioned for the bartender. His heart beat a strangely uneven cadence as she rose and slid into her coat. He hadn’t been this keyed up since high school. But between the two martinis, the restaurant’s intimate atmosphere, and that damned jasmine perfume, all he could think about was sliding his hands over those never-ending legs and sampling those bare breasts with his mouth.
The bartender brought him his credit slips and Brad quickly signed his name on one. The other he stuffed into his wallet. Clasping her hand in his, he escorted her from the bar toward the front door.
He had just cracked it open when the hostess called out, “Oh, wait!”
Biting back a mutter, Brad glanced over his shoulder to find the young woman hustling after them, a long-stemmed red rose in her hand. “You forgot this. It’s complimentary for our guests on our tenth anniversary tonight.”
Brad glanced at the rose, hesitating for a moment before he accepted the blood-red bud. In thirty-two years, he had never once given a woman flowers, except his mother, because no one else did. Though his father had been more than generous with his assortment of lovers.
Brad’s date’s attention drifted to the flower. What the hell—there were always firsts. He passed the rose to his companion without production. One rose couldn’t harm much, considering he didn’t even know her name.
The way she lowered her lashes, as though willing to accept anything he might give her, nearly knocked him to his knees. His gut clenched, and his breath lodged like someone had wrapped steel bands around his ribs.
In that moment, he would have sold his soul for the price of her name.
I can do this. I’m an adult. It’s my choice.
I can do this.
Cassie swallowed hard as she led Brad toward her vehicle. Taking a stranger home was crazy, wild, and so unlike her. But her body had been running on autopilot ever since he’d grabbed her ankle. She simply couldn’t stop herself.
As she hit the remote to unlock her Cherokee and reached for the door, strong, masculine fingers wrapped around her wrist. A gentle pull drew her to a halt, and she slowly turned to face her companion. His step forward forced her to take a step back. He braced one arm on the doorframe, caging her between hard planes of muscle and the cold, unyielding steel of her vehicle. His body hovered near hers, his expensive suit pants barely brushing her knee. But, oh, how she felt his heat. It radiated into her, calling to her hands, begging her fingers to slide around his neck and draw him closer.
His darkly sensual expression sent chills rushing down to her toes. He bent closer, whispering his lips across her temple. “I’ll drive.”
Her breath caught audibly. Drawn to the temptation of his mouth, her chin tipped up. Her lips parted of their own accord. A bit of logic filtered through the sudden haze of sexual awareness that clouded the rest of her thoughts. “You don’t know where you’re going.”
Somehow, he’d wrestled the keys from her grip. They jangled in the quiet as he lifted his hand and drew the key fob slowly down her neckline, between the upper valley of her breasts. His voice was hoarse as he murmured, “I like to drive, sweetheart.” Taunting her with an undefined promise, he grazed his lips closer to her ear.
Part of her objected to that remark. But a deeper, untapped portion of her buried spirit surged past barriers she’d erected too many years ago. That neglected fragment latched on, creating vivid, erotic images of the many alternate meanings his simple comment could hold.
She pressed her hand to the sexy stranger’s chest to keep her knees from buckling. Her body swayed into his, but as if he had anticipated her weakening, he edged ever so slightly away, denying the satisfaction of contact. Her nails curled; she bunched his linen shirt in her palm.
He feathered his lips across hers, then with a maddeningly wicked grin, stepped back. “Let’s go.”
Struggling to swallow, Cassie managed a short nod. As she turned, his palm connected with her bottom. The playful swat could hardly be called more than a pat, but heat spread slowly through her veins. She refused to rub the offended spot and hurried around the fender to climb in her side of the car.
He’d already started the engine when she slid inside the Jeep. She laid her flower on the dash. “Take a left out of the lot, then a right six blocks down. Up the hill, second house on the right.”
He nodded and backed out of the lot. Turning onto the main street, his hand fell to her thigh. His fingers crept beneath the hem of her short dress. The contact was too much for her oversensitized brain, and she clapped her hand on top of his.
He drew his hand back. “Everything okay?”
“Yes.” Nothing was wrong. But if those fingertips glided any higher, she’d crumble apart. All she wanted to do was part her knees, lean back, and let him ease the ache between her legs. And while she was more than willing to go through with this, she didn’t want him to know just how easily he affected her. A tiny bit of wonder might do him good.
He kept his gaze on the road, turning at the stoplight. But his continued silence as they climbed the tree-laden hill warned her she needed to do something quick if she intended to convince him she was really okay with their agreement. Yet what could she say? Sorry, you just overwhelm me? Not hardly.
He glanced her way. “It’s okay to change your mind. I’m not going to go all psychotic on you. I’ll turn around and we can go our separate ways. No hard feelings, no objections.”
Cassie reached for his hand. “I’m all right. I promise.” To emphasize her words, she pressed his palm to her thigh once more.
He blew out a tight breath, then flashed a dimpled grin. “Is this permission?”
The laughter in his voice left her grinning in return. She nodded. “Indulge as you wish.”
“Believe me, I intend to.” His fingers nudged the sheer fabric out of his way as they climbed higher. Slowly, maddeningly, he scalded a path to the crease of her hip.
Oh, sweet, sweet heaven. Everything inside her began to tingle. She bit down on her lower lip to silence a bubbling moan and closed her eyes.
And then he stopped. Not dipping down to glide beneath the edge of her panties and stroke her damp flesh. Not trailing back to her knee. He merely drew his finger back and forth through the crease where her leg bent. Goading her. Teasing until it became a physical impossibility to sit still.
With a frustrated whimper, Cassie shifted in the seat.
For a moment, she questioned her sanity. This man knew his way around women. Obviously understood the art of pleasure. And there was no doubting that he intended to maintain the upper hand. She’d wanted a bit of dominance. Wanted to stop thinking when it came to sex and let a man hold the reins.
But now that she was getting a taste of what it felt like to lose control, she wasn’t entirely certain the experience wouldn’t have everlasting effects. Ten minutes alone with him and he already had her wanting to beg for more.
Brad nosed into her driveway, cut the engine, and passed her the keys. He waited for her to exit the Cherokee first. When her door shut, he drew in a very necessary deep breath. If he didn’t watch himself, he’d spiral into reckless abandon. And frankly, though they’d part as strangers, he wanted her to remember tonight. To remember him.
But she was so damned alluring she made focusing on keeping his libido in check almost impossible. He just wanted to sink home and forget himself for a while.
When she set a foot on the bottom step of her lighted front porch and glanced back at the car, Brad stepped outside. The cold January air washed across his face, helping to temper the heat in his bloodstream. He took a moment to breathe and found himself confronted by her house. Brad blinked. The stone facade blended into thick trees, disguising its immense size. Two stories, and easily a good 6,000 square feet judging from the lights he could see deeper in the snow-tipped branches. Tall picture windows overlooked the sleepy street, the warm, inviting light within adding ambience to what was already a picturesque getaway. This virtual mansion put his eighteenth-story Manhattan apartment to shame.
His gaze crept back to where the owner stood, seeing her in a new light. She might just be the only woman he’d ever slept with who couldn’t benefit from his money. But how had she managed to afford this hulking monstrosity? His paycheck was no small beans, but she had to be bringing in an easy million a year to afford this luxury.
“This is gorgeous,” he murmured as he joined her on the front porch step.
She chuckled and shrugged delicate shoulders. “Thanks.” Her keys jangled as she slid them into the lock. “It helps to have in-laws who are builders.”
“In-laws?” He frowned. This ended here and now if she was married. He might be like his dad, know it deep in his gut, but he wasn’t going to prove it beyond a doubt.
A faint, faraway expression touched her pretty chestnut eyes before she put her shoulder against the door and opened it. “My husband died two years ago. Skiing accident.”
“Oh.” The minute the word left his mouth, he mentally kicked himself. So not the appropriate response. “I’m sorry.” Damn it. Bringing up dead husbands was a surefire way to put a damper on desire. From the look on her face as she dropped the rose into an empty vase on the nearby table, she didn’t care for the subject either.
Brad stepped inside and shut the door, no longer interested in inspecting the fantastic architecture. He caught her by the hand, tugged her around to face him. Setting two fingers under her chin, he tipped her face to his. “Are you absolutely sure you’re okay with this?”
“Yeah.” Her smile struggled but finally broke free. “More than okay.”
Thank the saints above. He’d never forgive himself if he ruined this now. The car had been awkward enough and already had him second-guessing for a moment. Presently, he intended to make damn sure her deceased husband was the last thing on her mind. Sliding one hand to the slope of her hip, he stepped in closer. “I’m dying to kiss you,” he murmured.
Her voice lowered to a whisper. “I wish you would.”
Brad swept his thumb across her lower lip, aching to feel that softness beneath his mouth. But before he gave in to the temptation, he wanted her like she was in the car—a heartbeat away from asking for his touch and squirming for relief. “You’ll have to wait a little longer.” He curled his fingers at her waist, drawing her dress into his hands, easing it up her amazing thighs. “Let me know when you can’t take it anymore.”
A shiver rolled through her body. Long lashes dusted her cheekbones as she closed her eyes and nodded. If he thought he could pull himself back once he gave in and sampled her sweet flavor, he’d kiss her right now when she least expected it and put an end to his own torture. But a nagging voice in the back of his mind warned once he went down that path, once he made intimate contact, he’d tailspin out of control.
Instead, he leaned away from her graceful curves and focused on gathering her dress into his hands. He exposed her shapely legs inch by inch, mesmerized by her smooth, olive-toned skin. When he uncovered black lace panties, his gut hollowed out. He didn’t need to touch to know she was completely shaved beneath. And that flimsy scrap of lace did nothing to hide the evidence of her arousal that glistened at the inlet of her thighs.
Gritting his teeth against the straining of his cock, he roughly instructed, “Raise your arms.”
She complied without hesitation, and he jerked the dress over her head. It tumbled out of his hands to land at his feet. Brad stared, momentarily incapable of thought. She stood before him wearing black stilettos, matching panties, and nothing else. Her breasts were only large enough to fit his palm, but they were pert and full. Rosy nipples stood at attention, hard little buds he couldn’t wait to feel against his tongue.
And he had no intention of waiting.
As thought slowly returned, he bent and drew one into his mouth. Her back arched, and she let out a moan that threatened to undo him. Closing his eyes, he swirled his tongue around the nub, suckled just enough to bring her forward onto her toes. When her fingers latched onto his shoulders and her nails pricked through his shirt, he couldn’t contain a satisfied groan.
That’s it, baby. Let me take you there.
He fitted his hand at the small of her back and held her steady, taking time with her breast, leading her into the fire that scorched through his bloodstream. He wanted her to fall apart in his hands. But the sexy little sounds that rumbled in her throat were picking away at his resolve. Before they could burrow beneath his skin and do damage, he let her nipple slide off his lips.
Straightening, he exchanged his mouth for his hand and cupped the weighty softness of her breast. Her eyelashes lifted. Wide, wondrous eyes held his. Eyes a man could get lost in if he looked too long.
Brad nuzzled the side of her neck. Ran his tongue over the bounding vein alongside her throat. She shuddered, and her head tipped backward, spilling her glorious hair over his fingers at the small of her back. He slid his hand up her spine and through those long, silken lengths. Tilting her head to the side, he grazed his teeth across her dainty earlobe. “I bet you taste sweet,” he whispered.
Her quiet whimper tightened his body into hewn steel.
“Like the wine tonight.” He took her nipple between thumb and forefinger and gave it a slight twist. The gasp she let out ricocheted through him. He tugged on her hair, tipped her face to his. “Kiss me.”
The feathery brush of her lips snapped through him like a live current. He willed himself to remain still, waited for the parting of her lips, the hesitant stroke of her tongue. It was everything he could do to not crumple her close and savage that pretty mouth, though God knew he wanted to. He counted backward from ten, then twenty, giving her time to get comfortable with him. Then he surrendered to the wild need that gnawed at his gut. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he dragged her body flush with his and took control of the kiss.
Her hands skimmed up his chest and her nails scraped his scalp. A throaty groan rumbled between them, but Brad didn’t know who made the sound. He dropped his hand to her bottom, squeezing as his hips thrust forward. She ground against his swollen cock. A shock of ecstasy surged down his spine.
Fuck—he was in trouble. He’d known he would be, but he hadn’t anticipated anything quite like this. Hadn’t expected that one kiss would leave him wanting to shove her against the wall, wrap her ankles around his waist, and sink inside her with abandon. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d experienced true abandon. But this woman…good God, he’d never encountered a connection like this.
Brad tore his mouth from hers in desperate need of a measure of distance.
“Tell me,” she managed between gasps.
He chuckled. “Sweetheart, you’re doing everything just right.”
“No.” She shook her head, her voice clearer. “Tell me.”
Oh, holy crap—he couldn’t possibly be interpreting that correctly. Not that he had any objections. Truth to tell, the last woman who had satisfied his darker need for domination had been in college. He just wasn’t entirely certain this woman, this successful woman who knew how to take care of herself, really knew what she was asking. Likely this was some temporary fascination that she would run from once it became uncomfortable.
There was only one way to find out—test the water with something relatively nonthreatening. He trailed a fingertip down her breast and flicked her nipple with his thumb. Inclining his head toward the wide window behind them, he suggested, “Let’s move this somewhere else first.”
“My room’s upstairs.”
Brad clasped her by the hand, led her up the polished pine staircase, and arched an eyebrow on the landing.
“Left. Right side of the hall.”
There was one door, and he escorted her inside. He closed it behind them with a nudge of his heel. As he unbuttoned his shirt, he nodded at a large four-poster bed positioned across from a stone fireplace. She went without instruction, turned the heavy quilt down, toed off her heels, and sat on the edge of the mattress.
He tossed his shirt on the footboard. Soft down compressed as he set a knee on the bed. Leaning into her, he guided her to the pillows with the weight of his body. When she was completely supine, her hair spilling out around her shoulders, he straddled her thighs. Those wide, compelling eyes held his, no hesitation flickering in their depths. Maybe she did know precisely what she’d meant.
Still, he couldn’t be certain. Asking her to take them away from prying eyes wasn’t exactly like asking her to yield to a total stranger’s desires.
Cupping her breasts, he manipulated her distended nipples with his thumbs until her lashes fluttered and she arched her back. Those damnable teeth sank into her lower lip again as she fought to stay silent.
“I want your hands here,” he murmured thickly and gave her breasts a gentle squeeze.
She didn’t flinch as she formed her fingers around his and lifted them into her hands.
At the sight of her soft flesh giving beneath the caress of her hands, Brad bit back a groan. Good God, he wasn’t just in trouble. This beautiful, compliant woman would wreck him before the night was through. He didn’t need this. Couldn’t confront discovering someone who could satisfy cravings he kept buried when he lived half a continent away and his dreams of partnership were in sight. If he had any sense at all, he’d kiss her soundly and excuse himself from the night before he became wrapped up in something that couldn’t go anywhere. Hell, he didn’t even know her name. And she had no intention of sharing it.
But God help him, he couldn’t stop. It had been too long. He’d suffocated his needs for too many years. Pushed them into a dark corner where he meant to forget them.
Beckoned by a force stronger than his will, he slid down her body and dipped the tip of his tongue into her navel. His hands crept to her hips to shimmy her panties down her thighs.
In five years of marriage, Cassie had done everything right. She’d played by the rules, didn’t challenge the boundaries, and devoted herself to supporting her husband’s goal of specializing in criminal law. She dabbled in family law when his caseload allowed, and she’d been a low-maintenance wife. For a while, she’d even believed she was happy.
But not once had she ever known passion. Not until this moment, as one sent-from-heaven stranger instructed her to fondle her breasts and she’d witnessed the gleam of white-hot desire burning in his vivid blue eyes. That desire flared into her, unlocking doors she’d barred and releasing a yearning to please him that strangely excited her even more.
He fastened his hands at her hips, pinned her legs in place with his body. His gaze met hers, darkened by arousal. “Ground rules,” he murmured huskily.
Cassie nodded, fighting back the urge to shift her hips, to lift them closer to the breath that whispered across her swollen feminine flesh.
His devilish grin returned as he shifted his weight to one elbow and traced a fingertip over her mound. “It’s okay to ask, but I won’t guarantee I’ll comply.”
She swallowed to clear the cobwebs from her throat. “Anything…else?”
A slight frown touched his forehead. “Have you submitted before?”
“Not…really.” Ugh, this was not the sort of conversation she wanted to have at this moment.
He dipped his mouth and pressed a chaste kiss to the juncture of her thighs. When he lifted his head, he arched an eyebrow. “You said no masks.”
“Then this is me, unmasked.” He paused to trace the sensitive skin with the tip of his tongue. “I’ll try to take it easy on you.”
A shiver snaked down her spine, and she could only manage another weak nod. She could surrender to him. Because he didn’t know who she was. Because he posed no threat, and she couldn’t become attached enough to sacrifice her own desires when he’d be gone at dawn.
For one night, she could revel in the freedom of being nothing but a woman.
“Flatten your feet,” he murmured as he bent one knee until her foot pressed into the mattress.
She slid the other into place.
“Part your knees, and don’t forget about your hands. I don’t want to have to remind you again, beautiful.”
Oh damn—he expected her to remain coherent enough to keep her fingers in motion, when she knew that heavenly mouth was about to descend upon her needy flesh? With another hard swallow to pull her thoughts back into line, Cassie lifted her breasts into her hands and stimulated her nipples. Closing her eyes, she allowed pleasure to seep into her bloodstream.
“That’s the way. Just like that.” His breath scalded across her exposed center, sending chill after blissful chill shooting through her veins. With two fingers, he parted her folds. His hair tickled the inside of her thighs as he bent his head. “Look at me.”
Dutifully, she lifted her lashes. His fathomless blue eyes locked with hers. Holding her gaze, he dipped his chin and slowly swept the tip of his tongue from her opening to her clitoris. A strangled gasp escaped. Her knees threatened to lock together, to hold him in place, but somehow she found the strength to keep them apart. As his gaze dropped to her breasts, scolding glinting briefly, she gave them a squeeze. Approval came with his short nod.
“Good girl.” He brought his free hand across her abdomen and swirled his index finger over the hard nub between her legs. “You’re going to come, and then I’m going to lose these pants and slide deep inside you.”
She barely had time to process his words before he raked his tongue across her soaked flesh again. He lingered at her clitoris, replacing that masterful finger with a slow swirl, a gentle suck. Her body arched into the heat of his mouth, and she let out a low moan.
“Because if I don’t come soon myself, I’m going to crack into pieces.”
There was something fantastically erotic about his confession that gripped Cassie with such force, she writhed beneath him. Each word he uttered pried off another layer of the wall she’d built around her soul. Like somehow he’d connected with her mind and knew exactly what she needed, exactly what it would take to send her off like a firecracker.
His mouth fastened on her again, his teeth scraping against her clitoris. Hard enough that she squirmed, but miles away from pain. And those amazing eyes never left her face, silently forbidding her to look away or escape from the riot of sensation behind lowered lashes. Heat washed over her body, lifting her higher, raising her up to a dangerous precipice. In between the ebb and swell, she remembered his instructions and massaged her breasts, toyed with her nipples, adding to the rising ecstasy.
She arched against his mouth, opened hers legs further. “Please…,” she murmured.
The ache only deepened as he ignored her plea and added weight to the arm across her abdomen. Holding her to the bed, he tongued her again.
It was too much. The mesmerizing quality of his heated gaze and the taunt of her own hands threatened to suck her under and eradicate her ability to move. Her stomach clamped down hard, and she twisted her head to the side, breaking eye contact. She dragged in one ragged breath after another.
“You’re not looking at me, beautiful.”
Cassie gave in to a plaintive whimper. “I…can’t…”
His voice held a note of warning she didn’t dare ignore. She forced her gaze back to his, unwilling to test those waters just yet. God, she wanted to please him. But it was so damned difficult to think like this. To remember how to do anything but drag in gulps of air.
“Don’t look away again.”
She opened her mouth to assure him she wouldn’t, but as her lips parted he slid a thick finger inside her. Her inner walls contracted around that invasive digit, and satisfaction lit his eyes. She fought the surrender. Battled to maintain his heavy-lidded stare and plucked at her nipples.
“Now, sweetheart,” he whispered. “Let go now.”
Before he had finished the quiet demand, she was already cresting. When he encircled her clitoris with his tongue once more, a cry tore from her throat, and her entire body curled forward. Dark spots stole across her consciousness. No longer in control of her own actions, she fisted her hands into the sheets and trembled against his beautiful mouth.