Authors: Adriane Leigh
I heaved a sigh, only watching her half-heartedly as she buzzed around the empty house. I still hadn’t laid eyes on him. For such a popular guy, he sure kept to himself.
As if he was laying low because he knew he had a trail. Of course he didn’t know — I was a pro, highly trained with a very specific skillset that allowed me to fly under the radar and observe every moment of any situation that most glossed over as unremarkable.
But still I was here, knowing he could show up at any second. I was convinced that she was in the dark on every vile thing he’d done, but I always wondered, if she knew, would she stay? The question rang between my ears like the incessant chop-chopping of a Blackhawk, haunting me long after it should be out of earshot.
Erin climbed the stairs to her bedroom after dark and tucked herself in bed with her phone, golden lamplight casting the only glow. I zoomed in on her screen, which from my position I had a remarkably good view of, and caught her looking at sexy black and white photos. It was only a minute before I noticed one hand snaking between the sheets and the soft cotton rising and falling between her thighs.
I watched with attention, feeling every part the stalker I’d become, when her eyes fell closed and lips parted on shaky breaths, I snapped away, hoping I’d never need to use these photos. Hoping they’d never see the light of day, wishing I could burn them along with all the other evidence that may implicate her.
“NEED YOU, CAR WILL be there in thirty,” Hunter grunted over the phone the following Tuesday morning as I stood in the bright sunlight of my kitchen. He hung up before I could even reply. I set my phone back on the counter. Within hours of landing in Chicago, he’d called to tell me there was a chance we’d be in LA before the week was out. I guess that was his confirmation.
I shot up the stairs, jumped in the shower, and then threw on a pair of shorts and a cotton shirt. I was just shoving my laptop in my bag when my phone rattled. My mother.
My loving, doting, suffocating mother.
“Where have you been?!” came her shrill voice when I answered. I held the phone from my ear and groaned. Maybe I should have just texted from the car.
“I’ve been calling all weekend! I drove by twice and no one was home.”
“I got a new job!” I said brightly, hoping to end her spiel in its tracks.
I began to tell her how I’d gotten a job and been whisked off to an exotic locale, excitement bubbling in my voice, before she cut me off and said she couldn’t believe I’d left town without telling her.
I groaned. My mother was a difficult person to say the least. At best, she was undiagnosed depressed, and at worst, I shuddered to think of the plethora of diagnoses a mental health professional would see fit to bestow. The best I could do was try to keep her at arm’s distance, which was difficult when she lived less than twenty minutes away and expected me to report in like an eight-year-old.
“You’d better watch yourself, young lady. Not everyone has your best interests at heart, ya know.” Her admonishment rang loud and clear over the line.
Another fuck-up for Erin,
she was saying.
Running full steam ahead into another relationship blinded by the idea of love.
I’d heard it all before. Was she right? Certainly when I was young and more impulsive, but at twenty-nine, I’d made enough mistakes and learned at least a few lessons.
Therapy had taught me that I was a classic case of paternal abandonment with resulting daddy issues, which apparently translated to my falling into bed with any man that flashed an interested glance and never failed to leave me drowning in a vicious whirlpool of lust and heartbreak in a matter of months.
But this wasn’t lust, and there wasn’t any room for heartbreak. It was business.
Taking the job with Hunter wasn’t a mistake; it was a financial necessity.
“I need a job, Mom. If I’m going to try to make it in this city, I need a job, and I’m more determined than ever to make it on my own.” I said with an air of defiance.
“Well, I bet it would have been nice to have someone to talk to about this new job, but if you didn’t want to talk to me…” And there it was — the pout. She had a marvelous way of sweeping the air out of someone’s lungs with guilt and shame piled stories high.
“Maybe, but I had to make a quick decision, so I did.”
“You know how you are with those.” I could see the condescending look in her eye from twenty minutes away.
“I know, Mother, but I thought you’d be excited. I’ve always wanted to travel, and this photographer is so talented, he’s won awards and everything. I’m only a PA; I’m not anything more than someone to hold the reflector and get the coffee, but hopefully it’s a start. And it’s good money.”
“How good?” Her interest was piqued again. Oh, my mother, always driven by selfish tendencies and dollar signs.
“Very good.” I allowed myself the one slip. I usually avoided talking finances with her. She had a way of taking advantage of even the smallest openings.
“Look, Mom, I have to run,” I interjected, realizing the car would be here any moment and I’d already given her more time than I had to give. “I have a million things to take care of, and then we’re headed to—”
“Okay, okay. Just keep an eye on yourself.”
“I will,” I replied. “Love you.” I hung up, relieved to finally be off the phone and off to see Hunter again.
THE FOLLOWING MORNING I found myself surviving a six-hour shoot in downtown LA on quad shot lattes and protein bars. Hunter had wolfed down two between setups and sipped his coffee every spare moment. I hovered quietly over his shoulder and watched him assess composition and angles through his lens before turning back to our model.
She was the wife of a wealthy head of a certain Pacific Northwestern outerwear company. This was her anniversary present to him, and I couldn’t deny that she was young, beautiful, and had had enough surgery to keep her nipped and tucked for many decades to come.
I packed his camera snugly into its padded bag once we’d finished. My stomach chose that moment to growl ravenously. “I’m starving. I need to eat, and then I need to see these pictures.”
His laugh filled the room before he said, “I didn’t know I would be working to the tune of your gut today.”
My cheeks flushed red as I lifted the bag over my shoulder and caught his dancing eyes. “Sorry.” I scrunched my face and shrugged my shoulders.
“It reminds me what a shit boss I am to not even give you a break, so lunch is on me.” He pulled the camera bag from my shoulder and slid it over his own, dusting a palm along the curve of my ass as he did it.
Thirty minutes later, Hunter and I sat in pajamas with lo mien and egg rolls spread out between us, his MacBook open on the coffee table of the luxe hotel room we were sharing. I watched fascinated, lifting a pile of noodles to my mouth with chopsticks, as Hunter chewed and tilted his head, browsing through the photos he’d taken earlier today.
I adored him like this. Hair damp from the shower, soft jersey shorts hanging low on his hips and a plain white tee defining his broad physique. I found myself distracted and shifting, wanting to slide onto his lap and discover the delicious sin that resided there. I didn’t understand him, but I found that I didn’t want to. He held his own personal brand of magic, and I was just content that he graced me with it.
“Look, if I soften the curve of the breast right here.” He mumbled out loud as the cursor worked over a small area. Hunter zoomed out on the photo, adjusted the contrast a finer shade, and then sat back, his eyes assessing his handiwork with a sense of self scrutiny I’d never seen anyone else posses.
“It’s perfect,” I offered.
“It’s not right.” He shook his head before punching a few buttons on the keyboard and slamming the top closed. He was shoveling chopsticks piled high with noodles in his mouth before I could even come to terms with what had happened.
“I hope you saved that. I really did think it was perfect.” I reached for the computer before his hand shot out and wrapped around my wrist in warning. His dark gaze pierced me, pinning me to my seat, my muscles rigid and senses on high alert.
I loved it.
“Don’t touch.” His gruff voice fell on my ears, reminding me of his original warning, and sending slow lustful curls unfurling down low in my belly.
“I’ll go back to it later. Don’t touch my stuff, Erin.”
I raised an eyebrow, my eyes glancing from his thick fingers wrapped around my wrist and back to his darkening eyes assessing me.
“Yes…” I glanced away, trying to contain the word that so easily teetered on my lips. “Sir,” I said softly. His eyes sparked for a moment before veiling over with dark and delicious lust. I knew I’d be calling him that again. And again.
If I’d only known then his brand of all-consuming love would ruin me.
“Come here.” Before I knew what was happening, Hunter was on his feet and hauling me to the seating area. “Stay.” He sat me on the sofa and turned to fumble with something on the nightstand.
Slow beats filled the room from a small speaker, and my nerves immediately shot to standing when he sauntered back to me with a dark quirk of his lips. Hunter’s fingers trailed through the dark curls of my hair and brushed them over one shoulder. His fingertips trailed across my shoulders and goose bumps burned across my body before I felt his soft lips place a reverent kiss at the nape of my neck. My core flooded and tears pricked behind my eyelids. This was feeling —
The deep thrums of the bass guitar charged through my blood as Hunter’s fingers danced up my skin, trailing the dips of my elbows, over my biceps and back down again. Exploring his hard body with my own fingertips, I caught his wrist here, a bicep there, before my fingers finally curled at his neck and brushed across the cold chain that was ever present. His muscles tensed before his fingers curled under the hem of the tank top I’d intended to wear to bed.
His knuckles dusted up the curve of my waist as the ribbed cotton pulled over my body. I sucked in a quick breath when he pulled the fabric over my head and my hair fell in a curtain around my shoulders, causing the cool air-conditioned room to caress the lace fabric of my bra and raise my nipples to aching peaks.
“Jesus,” Hunter growled as his hands danced across my aroused flesh, before he dipped beneath the waistband of my sleep shorts and every alarm that my body had went off at full alert. “So fucking beautiful,” Hunter uttered as his fingers teased at my waistband and his lips found the hollow beneath my ear. He wasn’t kissing — what he was doing was worse, so much worse. He was teasing, just like he always did.
“Tell me what you want,” he growled, and I grew wet.
“You,” I breathed, caught up in him and the heavy music notes flooding my senses. His scent, his touch, him.
“You. I want you inside me,” I whimpered as my knees buckled. Hunter’s hands clenched around my waist, his fingertips digging so deeply it nearly had me cringing with pain.
“Erin, from the first moment, I…I should have told you…fuck.” His eyes shot up and caught mine. I stood there with quiet anticipation, until his eyes seemed to harden with resolve, and he finally spoke. “I want to shoot you tonight.”
My eyes widened before my head did a slow nod in ascent. I couldn’t speak, could hardly breathe, but I could agree. There was a flickering awareness in my tummy that I would soon know what it felt like to be on the opposite side of his lens.
Hunter swayed my hips back and forth in his warm palms, his thumbs hooked in the waistband of my shorts, and with his lips at my ear, he whispered the words and hummed along to the tune while the cotton slipped down my thighs to the floor.
Within minutes, my body felt like smooth silk and melted butter as my hips swayed of their own volition and Hunter’s palms disappeared. Seconds later, he was laying me back on the inky black couch. My heart ached and my stomach fluttered as he twisted from his crouch on the floor, looking at me through the different angles of his lens. He snapped pictures, tipping his head to one side or another, that slight frown I’d grown to adore appearing on his face as he lost himself in thought.
“We need to take more off.” His eyes bore into mine and gone was the mischievous sparkle that was normally present. “Do you mind?” Hunter’s crooked smile glanced from the vee at my thighs up my body to land on my eyes. “Just the panties.”
I breathed in a few slow, torturous breaths.
Just the panties.
Whoever heard of
the panties? My nerves screamed for oxygen and the relief that it carried, the much needed lifeblood that would allow my brain to function normally again.
“Okay.” My stomach flipped painfully, unsure whether to run to the bathroom and toss up my lunch or wrap myself in his strong, golden arms and ride him until we were both coming and screaming and sated. “Okay,” I said again more confidently and hooked my thumbs in my panties.
“Let me.” His deep voice carried in the cool air between us, and my stomach coiled and unfurled again, slow circles twisting up my insides with nervous bliss. The pads of his fingers hooked beneath my panties for the second time today, and my thighs rocked back and forth, waiting and wanting like a whore.