Authors: Jeanette Grey
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To Scott, for showing me the world
but also giving me a home.
This book wouldn't be what it is without the help of a lot of people. My thanks to:
My editor, Megha Parekh, for seeing exactly where this story needed to go.
My agent, Mandy Hubbard, who always has my back.
My critique partners: Heather McGovern, who flailed and kept me company and believed in me and these characters even when my faith was flagging; and Brighton Walsh, who's been a rock and a voice of sanity through a hell of a lot of storms.
The beautiful blogging ladies of
Bad Girlz Write
, for always raising a glass, and the amazing folks at Capital Region Romance Writers of America, for their constant guidance and support.
My college art professors, for helping me find my vision and make it come to life.
My incredible husband, family, and friends, who never questioned my messy house or my canceling plans because I needed to stay in said messy house and write.
And Sebastian. For his face.
“Then you had better make it count.”
Rylan Bellamy's heart pounded as he stared up at Kate, scarcely daring to believe what he was hearing. He'd come to her prepared to begâof course he had. She'd changed his life, made him want things he'd forgotten he could have. He'd do anything he had to for the chance to win her back.
And yet somehow, a part of him had honestly never believed that she'd say yes.
He remained there, literally on his knees for her, palms on her thighs and lungs burning as he waited for the catch. But nothing about her expression changed. This was real. She was giving him his shot.
Seven more nights together. Seven nights to prove he was the same man she'd fallen into bed with in Paris.
Damn right he was going to make them count.
Darting his gaze from her eyes to her mouth, he released his breath and licked his lips, flickering images of all the things he wanted to do to her heating his blood. Resolve made him firm up his grip. He'd prove to her exactly how good they could be together. With his flesh, with his body. The only way he was sure he could. The only way she'd made it clear she would accept.
Sliding his hand up higher on her thigh, he leaned in, and it was like the walls and miles between them shivered, ready to collapse. But instead of going for her lips and taking the kiss he'd been dying for these endless months, he skimmed his way to her jaw. With a rasping inhalation, she tipped her head to the side, inviting him in, and the first, uncertain lick of arousal in him ignited.
He could have this. After all this time, longing for her and cursing himself for his mistakes. Three months of self-imposed celibacy, and the nearness of her had him shockingly, achingly hard. He moaned as he pressed his brow to her temple, letting his nose rest just beneath her ear.
He'd done the difficult part, convincing her to let him touch her at all. But as his body vibrated, suddenly starved for contact, a whole new difficulty blindsided him.
How was he supposed to do this? To contain himself, when he wanted so much?
Forcing his eyes closed, he fought for control and prayed for patience. He shook his head, and the words that came out were too honest by half. “You don't know how badly I've wanted this.”
The sparkling sound of her laughter filled the air. She smelled and tasted just the same as she ever had as he laid a soft, closed-mouth line of kisses down the column of her throat.
“I think I have some idea,” she said, tilting her head farther and threading her fingers through his hair.
God, it felt good to be touched.
He slid a hand up to grasp the back of her neck, holding her where she was as he traced his lips to her ear. He bit there as softly as he could, sucking at the lobe and letting out a wet breath. “What do you want me to do to you?”
“Oh God.” Her fingers tightened in his hair. “Make meâmake me come.”
Lightning shot down his spine and went straight to his cock. But at the same time, her bluntness made him pause.
How long had it taken him to coax the barest hint of a request from her their first time around? She'd been terrified to touch herself in front of him, had scarcely been able to admit she knew how to.
Something in his stomach squirmed. With all the steadiness he had, he fit his hand to the juncture of her thigh and hip, digging his thumb into the seam of her jeans. “Has anybody else?”
She stiffened a fraction in his arms, and a jealous flame fired off inside his chest.
Running on instinct, he dug his thumb in harder and skated his other hand to hover just above her breast. “Tell me. Has anybody else been taking care of your sweet little pussy? Giving it the attention it deserves?”
She pressed her hips into his hand and arched her back, pushing her tits out like a written invitation he was only too happy to accept. She swallowed a whimper when he molded his palm to that curve.
“Well?” he insisted, but he read his answer in her moan.
No way had another man laid a hand on her. She was too primed, too desperate. She'd been left unattended for far too long, and damn if it wasn't his new mission in life to correct that.
And her body fucking loved that he had asked.
She shook her head, and possessiveness sang through his blood. Who even cared that he had known what the answer would be? He'd been the last man to touch herâhe wanted to be the last man to
He scraped his teeth against the shell of her ear as he snapped his jaw closed.
It wasn't exactly a foreign thought. You didn't cross oceans for casual; you didn't decide to change your entire life for anything less than forever. But here and now, it was too much, too soon. He'd only barely managed to talk her into giving him a chance at all.
Shaking his head, he put the thought out of his head and bent to his task again, wringing those perfect, breathy sounds from her with fingertips and lips. With words. She'd always loved it when he talked. “Let me hear you say it out loud, beautiful.”
“Nobody,” she panted, finally. “There's been nobody else.”
Deep inside, he crowed. “And how about you? Have you been taking care of this?” He rubbed at her clit through the fabric and blew a breath across her ear. “Bet it gets so hot and achy. Needs so bad to be touched.”
“Sometimes.” Her other hand came to rest at his side, a warm weight against his abdomen. “When I wasn'tâ” She cut herself off, and he didn't like that at all.
He pulled away to look her in the eyes, and what he saw there was even worse. His gut churned. “When you weren't what?”
“When I wasn't too pissed at you to get myself off.”
It stung like a slap. And yet he knew the story all too well. His body had needs, but they'd been muted these past couple of months. He'd taken care of them perfunctorily, almost mechanically. How could he blame her for admitting to much the same? Only with that twist. That edge of accusation.
It'd take more than a few orgasms for her to forgive.
For a second he feared the moment was lost, but she hadn't let go of his side or his hair. The husk to her breath, the darkness of her eyesâthey weren't gone.
Slowly, he pulled his hand from between her legs to wrap his arms around her. “I'm sorry.” He murmured the apology into her neck, breathed his regrets against the heat of her skin. “I'm so sorry.” With soft, chaste kisses, he worked his way over collarbones and ribs, until his mouth lay right above her heart. He turned his gaze upward and then kissed her there, too. Pitching his voice lower, he promised, “I swear I'm going to make it up to you.”
Kate couldn't decide where to put her arms.
One second, Rylan had her panting, a new kind of possessiveness she'd never seen on him before driving him to whisper the filthiest things in her ear. The next she'd been saying something stupid, bringing up the rift between them again when she was supposed to be ignoring it.
That was their agreement after all. He got his chance to try to win her back, and she got sex. She got another shot at the kind of pleasure she'd thought she'd lost for good.
When it all inevitably fell apart again, she got to walk away without any doubts.
After a moment, she settled for resting her hands on his shoulders, letting him keep pressing his apologies into the tops of her breasts. Clenching her jaw, she swallowed the instinct to tell him it was all going to be okay. She couldn't promise him that. Not even close.
She'd probably been insane to promise him even his seven nights.
Restless, she shifted. The ache between her thighs hadn't abated at all despite the awkwardness, and the heat of his breath at her chest had her ready to drag him down onto this bed with her and tell him to just get over it already. She was fineâa little more guarded and maybe still a tiny bit brokenhearted for his presence in her life. But fine. He hadn't done anything to her she shouldn't have expected, considering. The people she trusted had a habit of making her wish she hadn't. Of turning mean as soon as they'd lured her in. After the way her father and her ex had treated her, Rylan's conveniently forgetting to tell her he was the heir to a billion-dollar company was nothing, right?
She gritted her teeth and fought to push those thoughts away. She'd moved past the hurt, goddammit all. She'd been so close to moving on entirely, right until he'd shown up at her door, looking gorgeous and saying all these things she shouldn't believe. Things that'd struck her to the quick, regardless. And then he'd touched her.
And filled her with a need she'd nearly forgotten was even possible.
Stroking her thumbs against the collar of his jacket, she shifted her hips. It would be something if she were the one to throw him down and have her way with him, wouldn't it? In their past encounters, he had always been the one urging her on, challenging her to tell him what she wanted and to take her pleasure with neither shame nor reservation. That kind of sexual freedom had come more and more easily for her as they'd gone on.
But she'd been so comfortable with him then. And he was the one who was supposed to be making things up to her, after all.
Finally, after what felt like hours, he kissed up higher on her chest, withdrawing one of his arms from around her body to tug the neckline of her shirt down. Warm, damp lips met skin, his tongue darting out to taste the hollow between her collarbones, and she dug her fingers into his shoulders.
“I think you were saying something about making it up to me?”
He chuckled against her ribs and nudged her shirt even lower. “Do you have some suggestions for how you'd like me to?”
“I can probably think of a couple.”
“Be sure to let me know if you do.”
With that, he pulled away from her flesh, wrapping both his hands around her hips and shoving her bodily toward the center of the bed. She swallowed hard. Now that's what she was talking about.
Still on his knees, he nodded to himself, and the doubt that had seemed to cling to him these last few minutes fell away.
“For now,” he said, voice deliciously firm, “I have a few ideas of my own.”
Standing, he fixed her with a gaze so hot it threatened to sear straight through her. Intent lay heavy in the clear blue of his irises, the thick fall of his lashes against his cheeks. All steady, precise movements, he loosened his tie and pulled it free, folding the stripe of silk before setting it aside. His jacket came next, revealing the breadth of his shoulders. Draping it over the end of the bed, he undid his cuff links with deft flicks of his fingertips against the polished silver studs, then dropped them in a pocket and rolled up his shirtsleeves.
And it was almost too hot. Crisp, charcoal slacks and a vest to match, a sapphire-blue shirt with the collar open, and his forearms, thick and muscular. And above it all, still, that look in his eyes like he was planning to eat her alive.
If there was something lingering around his mouth that seemed more lost than domineering, it was easy to ignore, if she tried.
He settled one knee on the bed, grasping her feet and hauling them apart to make space for him to rest between them. With one ankle held in his hand, he worked the laces of her shoe as he talked. “Lie back.”
He said it with an edge behind the command, one that was on a direct line to her clit. Her breath caught. “Why?”
“Because.” He pried her first shoe off and sent it rolling across the floor, then started on the other one. “I'm planning to eat you out until you cry.” The corner of his mouth twitched up. “If you aren't lying down for it, I'm afraid you might hurt yourself.”
Holding his gaze, she settled herself down. Lifted her arms to rest her hands above her head.
“Good girl.” He gave her calf a teasing slap as he released her leg. He nodded toward her hands. “Now keep them there.”
“While you do what?”
“First”âhe climbed up higher on the bed and hooked his hands in the waistband of her jeansâ“I get these abominations off you.” The button all but melted beneath his fingers, the teeth of the zip too loud in the quiet room.
Somehow, she kept her cool, arching a brow while her chest heaved, heat pooling in her abdomen, nipples tightening. “Abominations?”
But it wasn't just arousal making her flustered. The whole time they'd been apart, she'd second-guessed his reaction to everything. Her hair, her barely-there makeup, her taste in restaurants. Her naÃ¯vetÃ©.
She lacked both the money and the time for high fashion, and half her wardrobe ended up covered in paint and charcoal anyway, so why bother? Who cared if these jeans were old, if they weren't a brand name? They were hers.
He just shook his head and clucked his tongue, peeling the denim from her hips. “They don't begin to do you justice.” He dragged them lower, dipping to press his lips to the bare skin of her knees, her thighs. Warm fingertips brushed every new inch of flesh he revealed. “Then again, I'm not sure anything could.”
How did he always know precisely what to say?
Oh. Right. Practice. She steeled herself and lifted up so he could pull her jeans the rest of the way off, her socks going with them. His lines had always worked on her before, but she'd never let him know that.
She was pretty sure it was why he'd decided to keep trying.
“I don't know.” Her voice shivered despite her efforts to keep it steady. “You're rocking the suit thing pretty hard.”
“Oh?” Warmth seeped into the question. He braced his hands to either side of her hips and lowered down, dropping kisses along the hem of her panties. “You like?”
“It does you justice,” she admitted, tipping her head back and groaning aloud as he nuzzled right above the place she wanted him the most, nose brushing skin while his breath washed hot across her sex.