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Authors: Roni Loren

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BOOK: Caught Up in You
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His cock nudged against his fly, all the blood in his body charging south. He’d imagined
her so many times, what she’d look like stripped out of that waitress uniform. But
the fantasy wasn’t even in the same zip code as reality. She was absolutely, unequivocally
breathtaking. And though he’d beat the urges down for so long, the old dominance inside
him rose up like a phoenix from the ashes—ravenous and seeking.

He wet his lips. “How do you block out these windows?”

Jace frowned. “Don’t go there, Wy. You’re only supposed to be talking to her. If Colby
comes down here and sees the window darkened, he’s gonna come in.”

“Then keep him busy.” Wyatt turned the knob on the door and stepped inside, closing
the door behind him before Jace could say anything else. Deadly quiet surrounded him,
augmenting the little catch in breath Kelsey gave at the click of the door.

Her lips parted as if to call out to whoever was there, but then, apparently remembering
her role, she clamped them shut. She shifted her position slightly, her nerves evident.
Wyatt glanced back through the window to find Jace sending him a warning look, but
Wyatt ignored him and caught sight of the switch next to the window. Wyatt smiled,
gave Jace a little finger wave, and flipped the switch. Instantly, the glass darkened,
eventually reflecting only Wyatt’s image back at him.

He turned back around to look at Kelsey again, savoring the sight of her there on
her knees. She looked so pristine, so lovely and lush. The stark overhead light caressed
sun-kissed skin that called to be touched, tasted. A perfect gift perched there just
for him.

No. Not for him. For some other guy, he reminded himself. The reality check made him
flinch. This wasn’t fair to Kelsey. She hadn’t given her consent for him to see her
this way. He cleared his throat. “Kelsey?”

She startled, her entire body stiffening. “Who’s there? Where’s Colby?”

Before he could respond, her hand went straight to her blindfold, yanking it off.

He held up his palms. “Kelsey.”

She blinked once, twice, then her eyes went round.
“Wyatt?”

“Yes, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to burst in on you like this.”

She glanced downward, as if remembering how little she was wearing, and scrambled
to her feet. She reached for a robe on the bench behind her and wrapped it around
herself with hasty movements. “What the hell are you doing here? How did you even
get in?”

He stayed on the far side of the room, not wanting to make her retreat further. “I
was worried about you, and no one could tell me where you were. I needed to see if
you were okay. So I called in a favor to Jace.”

“Goddammit. He shouldn’t have told you anything.” Her whole face was flushed now.
Part of it was clearly anger, but he also sensed shame there, embarrassment. “I didn’t
want you to . . . This is not your business.”

He frowned, rubbing a hand over his jaw and feeling like a jackass for putting her
in this position. “You’re right, it’s not. I’m overstepping bounds all over the place,
but I had to see you. And God, to see you like this . . .”

Her expression turned pained, and she looked away. “Right. Like this. Guess you can
let whatever shred of respect you had left for me go now.”

He took a tentative step closer, unable to resist the magnetic pull she always seemed
to have on him. “Is that what you think? That I’ve lost respect for you? Kelsey, it’s
taking everything I have not to haul you off to a private room and tie you to something
so I can spend the rest of the night showing you exactly how I’d like to respect you.”

Her face whipped back his way, surprise morphing her features. “What?”

He peeked back at the closed door, hoping he still had a few minutes before being
interrupted. “You’re not the only one with secrets.”

She stared at him for a long moment, and he could almost see when the awareness dawned.

“You’re a dom,” she said flatly, not looking at all happy about this conclusion.

The term sounded almost foreign to his ears, it’d been so long since someone had called
him that. “I used to be.”

She shook her head and looked to the heavens. “I should’ve known.”

Wyatt crossed his arms. “But Jace told me you were, too. Why are you in here?”

All the starch seemed to leave her body as she knotted the sash around her waist and
pulled the robe more tightly around her. “I’m trying to get promoted to a trainer
so I can make more money. This is part of the process.”

“How much money do you need, Kelsey?” he said, the possessiveness flaring up in him
again. He’d be damned if he was going to let her turn her body over to some random
guy so she could get cash.

She pinned him with a warning gaze. “I appreciate your concern, but don’t get any
charitable notions. I don’t take handouts, Wyatt. I can handle this.”

The door opened behind him, and he spun around to find his brother with an I-told-you-so
look standing behind a man who could only be Colby. The guy was as tall as Wyatt but
built like a fucking lumberjack. And he looked mad enough to swing an ax Wyatt’s way.
“Kelsey, you all right, sweetheart? Or do I need to haul this fucker outside?”

Wyatt gritted his teeth.

Kelsey raised a palm. “It’s okay, Colby. He’s a friend of mine. And was just leaving.
I’m sorry about the delay. I’ll be ready for our session in a second.”

Wyatt looked between the two of them.
The hell she would
. He stepped closer to Kelsey, thinking fast, altering his original plan. “I can offer
you a job.”

“Wyatt—”

“I’ll pay you twenty-five thousand dollars for a week of work,” he said, snagging
a figure out of the air. “But you’ll need to come with me right now.”

Her lips parted in surprise. “What?”

“I can explain everything to you, but not here.” He glanced at Colby and Jace, then
back to her. “You don’t have to do this right now. At least hear me out first.”

Kelsey stared at him for a stretch of seconds, and he thought she was going to tell
him to take his money and fuck off, but then she blew out a breath. “Fine.” She peered
past Wyatt. “Colby, I’m sorry, hon. I didn’t mean to screw up your schedule. Can I
take a rain check? I need to take care of something.”

Colby shrugged. “Sure thing. Gives me a good reason to cut out early tonight. I had
a long week at the day job anyway. Let me know when you want to reschedule.”

Kelsey walked around Wyatt and pushed up on her toes to kiss Colby’s cheek. “You’re
a sweetheart.”

His lip curled. “You wouldn’t have said that if you’d gone through my training session.”

Kelsey smiled and patted his arm before peeking back over her shoulder at Wyatt. “Come
with me. I have to change, then you can walk me to my cabin and we’ll talk.”

For the first time ever, Wyatt saw the glimmer of dominance in her own eyes, the sass.
He was on her turf now and he sensed the confidence of that running through her. The
sight should’ve warned him off. He didn’t have a submissive molecule in his DNA. But
somehow it only made him want her more.

“Yes ma’am,” he said, the corner of his mouth lifting as he sidled up next to her,
slipping a hand on the small of her back. “You’re in charge.”

For
now.

SIX

Kelsey curled her legs under her in the arm chair, listen
ing to Wyatt make his offer. She was still having trouble wrapping her mind around
the fact that Wyatt Austin was here at The Ranch and in her cabin, chatting with her
like they had some actual friendship. It was like she’d stumbled through some portal
where fantasy and reality collided and morphed. But what Wyatt was suggesting was
even more mind-scrambling than finding out that he used to be a dom.

“What do you think?” he asked after laying out his crazy proposal with stoic precision.

She strung together his last few sentences in her head, rewinding and digesting them
again to make sure she was hearing him right
. Yep. Still crazy
. “So, wait a second, you want to pay me all that money to be your
date
?”

Small frown lines appeared around his mouth, like parentheses framing his dissatisfaction
with that explanation. “Sort of. You would be posing as my girlfriend and accompanying
me to events at the retreat.”

Unbelievable. She would’ve never thought the man delusional. She reached up to pull
the too-tight band from her hair, releasing her ponytail and some of the pressure
building in her head. “Wyatt, have you met me? I’m a waitress who grew up in a neighborhood
that cops were afraid to go to at night. No one’s going to believe I’m some rich chick
from out of state.”

He leaned forward on the couch, bracing his forearms on his thighs, his features half
in shadows in the lamplight. “Yes, I have met you. And what I see is a beautiful woman
who can think on her feet and who has the ability to charm anyone in a room. I can
get you up to speed on the finer details, the etiquette. And maybe you can help me,
too, because God knows making small talk and schmoozing clients are on top of the
list of things I suck at.”

She arched a brow. “You can’t be that bad.”

“No. Trust me. The universe gave all of that skill set to my brother.” His focus drifted
to the hand she was using to finger comb her hair, his gaze tracking her movements
with open appreciation. “I like your hair down. I never get to see it that way.”

“Thank you.” She clasped her hands in her lap, the memory of how he’d looked at her
in the training room coming back to her. Even before she’d gotten over the surprise
of seeing him standing there, her body had gone hot and needy at his blatant perusal
of her form. Never had she had that kind of reaction to such a clearly dominant assessment.
The rush of it had nearly knocked her on her ass.

But she couldn’t let herself get distracted by the bone-deep attraction he always
roused in her. This was dangerous territory. The suggested deal was way too reminiscent
of how her mother first started her “career.” Rich men making seemingly harmless offers.
A night on the town, a few pretty things to wear, and a wad of cash to help a girl
with her tough situation. What was expected in return was easy, right? Especially
if the guy was good looking and charming anyway. Her mother had stepped into the trap
of that fairy tale facade, and the sharp-toothed demons waiting on the other side
had devoured her and spit her out, leaving her irreparably broken.

And though Kelsey didn’t want to believe that this was the type of arrangement Wyatt
was suggesting, she needed to ask the question. She cleared her throat. “What exactly
would you be expecting for the money?”

“Precisely what I said.”

She lifted her gaze to him. “But we’d be staying in the same room.”

“Of course,” he answered, looking a bit exasperated. “I thought that was clear.”

She shifted on the couch, the answer stinging and anger welling. “So you think because
I let men pay me to beat them, that I’d just take a check to fuck someone, too?”

For a second, he looked as if she’d thrown ice water in his face, then he grimaced.
“Kelsey, no. Do you honestly think I’d expect sex in return for money?”

She shrugged, her heart still beating too fast. “You wouldn’t be the first guy in
my life to make that offer.”

Or the tenth.

When she’d stripped at the club, the offers had come nightly. Luckily, even in her
haziest days of drug addiction, she hadn’t taken anyone up on it. But she’d be lying
to herself if she didn’t admit that she’d stayed with boyfriends much longer than
she would’ve because they’d funded her habit. She bet if Wyatt knew all of that he
wouldn’t be sitting here wanting to parade her around his clients. He wouldn’t want
to be seen with her anywhere.

He dragged a hand through his hair, appearing to be truly pained that she’d ever been
propositioned in that way, and met her gaze. “Look, I’m not good at lying. So I’m
not going to sit here and pretend that I don’t want you. That I haven’t thought about
you in exactly the position I found you in tonight. That sharing a room with you and
not
touching you isn’t going to be a challenge. But nothing has changed since the day
I didn’t kiss you in the car. I’m not going to pretend to offer something I don’t
have to give just to get you in bed.”

The stark honesty startled her, hitting some unfamiliar spot inside her. She wasn’t
used to guys straight-shooting with her. All her life, the men she attracted were
the smooth-talkers, the snake charmers, the guys with the wink-and-a-smile promises.
This man wasn’t feeding her a line. If she took this money and stayed with him, he’d
keep his hands off her no matter how much he wanted to do otherwise. She knew it without
a shade of doubt.

But the question was, would she survive it? She hadn’t slept with anyone in almost
a year and for the last few months, the man sitting across from her had been playing
the lead role in her fantasies. Fantasies that had scared her, had made her want things
she hadn’t been able to do with anyone else. Things she’d been dreading doing tonight
with Colby . . .

“Thank you for being honest with me. And I know I can take you at your word,” she
said, her voice steady as resolve began building in her, crystalizing.

“You absolutely can,” he assured, some of the darkness and tension lifting from his
face, hope replacing it. “So you’ll do it?”

Twenty-five grand would solve her most pressing issue with the snap of her fingers.
She’d be able to move and get on her feet, find another job. One magical sweep of
the money wand and it’d be done. Someone else fixing her problems for her again. The
carrot danced in front of her at the end of that stick. And it looked mighty delicious.

But before she could reach out and take a bite, she thought back to her session yesterday
with Hawk, the way she’d felt when he’d dropped that fifty-dollar bill on the table.
Did she want to be bought by yet another man? Hired help? The little spark of pleasure
she got when she was around Wyatt would be twisted and tainted once money got dumped
into the mix. And that spark was the only pure thing in her life at the moment.

A menacing voice whispered in her head.
You’re going to trust this guy, you stupid girl? You’ll be all alone with him. He
could hurt you, Kelsey. It could be a trap like last time. Why else would someone
like him want trash like
you?

She swiped her damp palms on her pants and mentally gave Davis Ackerman’s ghost and
his ugly whispers the finger. “I’m not taking your money, Wyatt.”

His mouth went slack. “What? If it’s about sharing a room, I can get a suite with
a sofa sleeper—”

She shook her head and held up a palm, halting him. “You
may be able to survive sharing a room for all that time. But I won’t.”

He clamped his mouth shut, his brows quirking upward.

“I’m not exactly in the market for a relationship either, you know. I’m not searching
for some guy from the castle on top of the hill to come save me from my poor, peasant
life. Up until that asshole dragged me into the alley, I was pretty damn happy with
where I was. And now I’m just pissed that I have to turn everything upside down because
of him.”

“I wasn’t trying to imply that—”

“I’m not done,” she said, shifting her feet back to the floor and leaning forward.
“What I need is a job that pays more so that I can get away from this current mess
and get back on track with my plans. And what I have to have in order to get that
job is for a dom to put me through a month of sub training.”

He scowled. “With that fucking lumberjack.”

She smirked. Colby would love that nickname. “Maybe. Or maybe you and I could do an
even exchange.”

“An exchange?” he asked, his tone growing wary.

“I’ll go with you to your retreat and be the best pretend girlfriend a guy could have.”
Before she could think too hard on it and chicken out, she slid off the chair and
onto the floor, her knees hitting the cool wood and her heart trying to pound right
out of her chest. “And you knock the dust off your dominance and put me through my
paces for the first week or so of this. After that, you can decide if you want to
finish my training or send me back to Colby for the rest.”

He made some noise in the back of his throat, and she couldn’t tell if it was a pleased
sound or a horrified one. “Kelsey, I don’t . . . I haven’t since college.”

She sensed fear there, resistance, but it was underscored by the pure need that flared
in his irises. And that alone sent more heat through her than anything she’d experienced
in years. “Were you any good, Mr. Austin?”

He closed his eyes, rubbing his brow bone, as if looking at her wasn’t allowing him
to think properly. “I mentored under the best. He told me I was a natural.”

She didn’t doubt it. The man reeked of power and control. And she had a feeling Wyatt
Austin didn’t do anything unless he could master it completely. “Why did you stop?”

His eyes snapped open at that, a veil sliding down between them, his whole demeanor
going distant. “Things got too . . . intense. Kelsey, I don’t think I can—”

She scooted closer, sliding her hands onto his spread knees. His reluctance only added
more fuel to her resolve. He was scared, too. “It won’t be easy for me either. It’s
been a long while since I’ve been with any guy. And giving over control triggers a
lot of old fears in me. But with you, I feel like maybe I could do it. Like I want
to try.”

He looked down at her, conflicting emotions waging a battle in the set of his mouth,
the clench of his jaw. He cupped her face. “You asking me this while on your knees
in front of me is not even close to fair fighting.”

She let a slow smile curve her lips. This was what she loved about being around Wyatt.
He didn’t see her as the fuckup or a trauma victim or even as a piece of ass. He saw
her as a woman. He saw
her
. And the simplicity of that felt amazing, empowering. “A week away. We both get something
we need
and
something I think we’ve both been wanting since the day you sat in my section. And
at the end, I don’t expect anything of you, and you don’t expect anything of me. Clean
finish.”

He traced her cheekbones with his thumbs, and the simple sensation rocketed through
her. She rarely let subs touch her, and never without permission. But even a brush
from Wyatt had her swallowing hard. “I’d be taking advantage of your situation.”

“Maybe I’m taking advantage of yours,” she countered. “I’m attracted to you. I wanted
you to kiss me in the car that day. And I’ve wanted you to act on those looks you
throw at me in the restaurant. I was just afraid to make a move because I figured
you wouldn’t like what you saw behind the sweet, young waitress image you’d assigned
to me.”

He gave a rueful smile. “You
are
young. And I still think you’re sweet.”

“I’m twenty-five.”

He groaned. “Christ. I’m more than a decade older than you.”

“Like that matters.” She let her hands slide farther up his thighs, growing bolder
there at his feet. “And I promise you, I’m not as sweet as you think.”

His gaze devoured her, and he pressed his palms into the couch cushions, as if it
was taking everything he had not to reach out and pillage. “I wasn’t an easy master.
You need to know that. And if I open up that part of me again, I’m afraid I won’t
be able to keep it to a CliffsNotes version.”

A shiver went through her, some strange cocktail of apprehension and anticipation
stirring. She knew—really
knew
in the deepest part of herself—he would never harm her. She’d been eye-to-eye with
evil before and could sniff out the stench of it like a dog. But seeing the honest
worry in the lines around Wyatt’s mouth and the tight hold of his shoulders had her
wanting to curl into his lap and kiss away those fears. “You aren’t a man who does
things halfway. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you in this arena either.”

He regarded her for another long moment, then finally reached out for her.

“Come ’ere.” He cupped her shoulders, his palms hot against her bare skin, and guided
her off her knees and onto the couch, straddling his lap like it was the most natural
spot for her to be. Like they hadn’t been simply server and customer a few weeks ago.

He adjusted her, and the hard ridge of his cock pressed against her through the thin
material of her yoga pants. She closed her eyes, overwhelmed for a moment with the
feel of him, his heat, the heady masculine scent she’d only gotten teasing whiffs
of before. God, how long had she imagined being this close to him? Moisture coated
her sex, her whole body going into melt mode at the contact. And the feeling was
good
—so good—to just be turned on and hot for a guy. A taste of normal.

She forced her eyes open, not wanting to miss a moment of this. Up close, Wyatt was
even more potent than she’d imagined, the blue in his eyes more intense, the curve
of his mouth more sensual. Male beauty tucked behind dark-rimmed glasses and a stoic’s
disposition. His palms glided across her shoulders and over the straps of her tank
top, then his fingers were threading in her hair. He touched her as if he were sculpting
a piece of clay to create her form—a reverence and appreciation there that made everything
in her want to break open. “Promise me you won’t let me hurt you, Kelsey.”

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