Authors: Locklyn Marx
Kenley had no idea who the guy standing in front of her was, but he was looking at her like she
know, which was weird. And kind of disconcerting. She racked her brain, trying to remember if maybe she’d run into him at the hotel or knew him from high school or something. But she was coming up blank.
She certainly would have remembered someone this good looking. He was the kind of man that made women catch their breath and turn their heads. Dark hair, dark eyes, a strong jaw with just the right amount of stubble. He looked a little bit like a pretty boy, but the small scar on his chin along with the fact that he was dressed in a pair of jeans and a navy blue hoodie kept him from looking too polished.
He was obviously hitting on her, what with picking up the straw wrapper like that and offering it to her. But why? Her hair was a mess, she was wearing black yoga pants and a cream-colored t-shirt, and she knew her eyes had circles under them from spending the afternoon crying in her hotel room.
“So do you want the straw wrapper?” the guy asked, raising his eyebrows at her.
“Thanks,” she said and took it from him, mostly because she didn’t know what else to do. She was kind of mesmerized by how good-looking he was. Their hands brushed, and she felt a shiver of electricity slide up her arm.
He sat down next to her without being invited.
“You doing work stuff?” He gestured to the list she was writing.
“Uh, no,” she said quickly. She put the napkin into the Expera folder and slid them both into her beach bag. Hopefully he didn’t share the bartender’s talent for upside down reading.
“You sure? Because if you’re doing work stuff, it’s okay.”
“Okay.” She thought he looked a little disappointed. But that didn’t make sense.
Why would he be disappointed that she wasn’t doing work? Maybe he really did think she was someone he knew? Or maybe his friends had dared him to do this, and he was looking for some kind of out. She turned around and scanned the bar. But it was empty except for the bikini-clad college girls who had moved on to doing drunken, giggling body shots off each other, much to the delight of the bartender.
“So are you here by yourself?” the guy next to her asked.
Kenley thought about lying. It was decidedly loserish to be on vacation by yourself, but she couldn’t think of a cover story quick enough. “Yes.” She hesitated.
“For the most part.”
“For the most part? Is that some kind of guy code that I’m supposed to decipher?”
“Some kind of guy code?”
“Yeah, like ‘for the most part I’m here by myself, but come and meet my girlfriend and the three of us can have some fun’?” Now
would make sense. When it came to threesomes, guys were notoriously not picky. Maybe he thought she was an easy mark. Or maybe his girlfriend had picked her out, thought she was just attractive enough to sleep with but not enough to be a threat.
“I don’t have a girlfriend.” He took a handful of peanuts off the bowl on the bar and had the decency not to look confused. Kenley hated that, when guys acted all surprised if you hinted that they might be up to something nefarious like cruising around for threesomes.
“That’s too bad,” she said, deciding to mess with him a little bit. She ran her finger around the lip of the glass holding the margarita the bartender had brought her. “I tend to get crazy when I get a little rum in me.” She licked her finger and waited for him to look impressed.
“There’s no rum in a margarita,” he said. He looked at her drink and frowned.
“And besides, I sent you a pina colada.” He turned back toward the bartender and started to motion him over, an exasperated look on his face. It was the kind of look that made it clear he was used to getting what he wanted. It wasn’t arrogance exactly– it was more like he wasn’t going to settle for getting pushed around.
“It’s okay,” Kenley said, reaching up and pulling down his arm. “I like margaritas better anyway. And either way I’m not going to sleep with you.” Even through his bulky sweatshirt she could feel the curve of his bicep. Her heart started racing and warmth flooded her cheeks.
“Oh, really?” he said, turning to her with a grin. “And what makes you think I want to sleep with you?” He moved a little closer to her, and Kenley got a whiff of some kind of cologne. It was dark and musty, and she felt heat pulse through her body.
“Don’t you?” she asked, leaning in closer to him. “Isn’t that why you sent me a drink?”
“I don’t just sleep with women the first night I meet them,” he said. “I’m not that kind of guy.” But she could tell he was teasing her, that he was exactly that kind of guy, that he did sleep with women the first night he met them, and that he wasn’t used to getting turned down.
But she definitely wasn’t going to have sex with him, no matter what kind of alcohol he bought her, or how good-looking he was. Kenley just wasn’t the one-night stand type. In fact, her sexual experiences were limited to that of the long-term boyfriend variety. And in her twenty-nine years, she’d had three of them. Jack in high school, Adam in college, and most recently, Jeremy. She was pretty much a serial monogamist.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like sex. In fact, she loved sex. But sex with strangers had always seemed like it would be too awkward and fumbling. And where were people even meeting the guys they were having all these one-night stands with anyway? At parties? At bars? Kenley worked late every Friday and Saturday night (or at least she had when she’d actually been employed), and on the rare occasions she did show up at a bar, she was always looking tired and disheveled -- definitely not like the kind of girl you’d want to take home. Not that she looked like the kind of girl you’d want to take home now. Although maybe the fact that she was wearing yoga pants made her seem like the sort who didn’t value herself enough not to engage in random sex with strangers.
“It’s good that you don’t sleep with people the first night you meet them,” Kenley said. “Because I don’t either.”
“Perfect.” The man nodded. “Then there won’t be any confusion when we don’t sleep together.”
“So do you want to know my name?” he asked. “Since we’re not going to be sleeping together?”
She shook her head. “That makes no sense,” she said. “Why would I want to know your name if we’re
going to be sleeping together?”
“Hmmm.” He tilted his head and thought about it, then nodded. “Good point.”
They sat there for a second, not saying anything. His knee was so close to hers that Kenley thought she might explode. She felt flushed and she kept thinking about sleeping with him. Now that they’d been talking about it, she couldn’t get it out of her mind. Which was ridiculous. She hardly knew him.
She needed a distraction, so she motioned for the bartender, who sighed loudly and then pulled himself away from the girls doing body shots. “I’ll have another margarita,” she said.
She needed something to cool herself down. The alcohol was actually probably making her hotter, and what she really wanted was a Diet Coke. But she couldn’t order a Diet Coke, because then whatever this guy’s name was would think she didn’t trust herself to order alcohol, that if she got too drunk she’d go back on her promise and have sex with him.
“Another margarita?” The bartender was looking at her blankly. “Weren’t you just drinking a pina colada?”
“She was supposed to be,” the guy next to her said, “but you fucked it all up.”
“Sorry.” The bartender looked slightly scared. “Do you want another one?”
“Yes,” Kenley said, sighing, “Why else would I have called you over here?”
“No, I mean, do you want another margarita? Or another pina colada?” He rolled his eyes, like he couldn’t believe he had to deal with her obvious stupidity.
“Whatever,” she said, waving her hand. “Just bring me something.”
“That kid’s a pain in the ass.” Her not-going-to-be-a-one-night-stand shook his head. Then he lowered his voice. “I might have to beat his ass.”
“Do you make a habit of beating up bartenders?”
“No,” he said, “but he got smart with you.”
“So you were defending my honor?”
“Is that okay?” He swiveled his bar stool toward her, and somehow, without even realizing it, she’d turned toward him as well. Their legs intertwined, and he laid his hand on her leg casually, like they were old friends.
“I don’t know.” She pretended she was thinking about it. “I mean, you don’t even know my name. Now you want to beat someone up for me?”
“What’s your name?”
“Kenley? That sounds made up.”
She reached into her bag and pulled out her license. She held it up in front of him, making sure to keep her finger over the picture.
“Kenley Mitchell,” he read. He went to take it, but she snatched it away and slid it back into her wallet.
“Afraid I’m going to see your picture?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “I’m afraid you’re going to see my address.”
“You think I’m going to stalk you?”
He nodded, like it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Kenley appreciated the honesty.
“So now that I know your name, can we sleep together?” he asked. A cocky grin played on his lips. They were still turned toward each other and Kenley’s face flamed.
“No,” Kenley said. But even as she was saying the words, she was wondering why not. Wasn’t a one-night stand something everyone should experience once in their life? Here was this totally hot guy, right next to her, basically coming right out and saying that he wanted to sleep with her. She could do a lot worse. And besides, what had playing it safe gotten her? Nothing. Her job was gone, she had no boyfriend, hardly any friends….even all the money she’d been so careful to save had been blown on this trip.
“Actually,” she said, and took another huge sip of her drink for courage. “Maybe we should.”
Chad was startled. The girl from Expera that he’d been trying to get to sleep with him had now suddenly said that maybe they should. It was surprising for a few reasons, mostly because he hadn’t thought she had it in her. It had only taken him a couple of seconds of talking to her to realize she was one of those good girls, the kind that played it safe. He could tell by the way she had first reacted to the suggestion of sleeping with him, and the way she’d gotten flustered when he touched her leg.
But if that was true, then why didn’t she know who he was? Those kind of girls always did their homework – so it made sense that she would have figured out what he looked like, who he was, everything down to his favorite sports drink before the meeting tomorrow. It didn’t make sense. Was his disguise that good that she really didn’t recognize him?
He pulled his hat off and set it on the bar, then turned so that he was looking right at her. “Let’s start over,” he said. “Hi, I’m Chad. Chad Parnell.” He held his hand out, readying himself for the look of recognition and admiration that was about to cross her face, or maybe for her to be so surprised that she’d spit her drink out all over the bar or something.
“I’m Kenley,” she said, giving him a smile. A normal smile. The kind of smile you’d give a guy you were meeting in a bar. A random guy you were meeting in a bar, not a famous baseball player.
“I remember,” he said, smiling back. He decided to give it a few seconds and so he kept staring at her, waiting for her to recognize him. But she didn’t. It was getting a little awkward, actually, to just keep looking at her without saying anything.
And that’s when he figured it out. She was calling his bluff! She knew exactly who he was, but she was trying to pretend like she didn’t. He’d had this happen before, although not that often. Girls would act like they didn’t know him, or that they could care less that he was a professional baseball player. It was always bullshit, of course.
The ones who acted like they didn’t care were the ones who cared the most.
Anyway, that was obviously what this Kenley girl was doing – pretending she didn’t know who he was. But why? Just to mess with him? She didn’t look like the type to be manipulative, but whatever the reason, Chad was determined not to let Kenley get the best of him.
He set his drink down on the bar, and leaned in close to her. Then he put his hand back on her leg, making sure that his lips were touching her ear when he started to whisper.
“So, Kenley,” he said. “Did you mean what you said?”
“When?” She tried to swivel her chair around, to turn away from him, but he kept his grip firmly on her legs, forcing her to stay close to him.
“When you said maybe we should sleep together.”
She tried to pull away again, and after a second, he finally let her. She took a sip of her drink, and he could tell she was flustered. Her cheeks were flushed, and her blue eyes were bright with excitement. “Maybe.”
“Huh.” He leaned back a little on his stool and cocked his head like he was thinking. “Okay.” He nodded, stood up, and then leaned back down to whisper in her ear again. “I’m going up to my room,” he said. “I’m in the penthouse. If you want to come up and join me, I’d love it. If not, no hard feelings.”
He squeezed her shoulder, threw some money on the bar for the drinks, and then walked toward the exit without looking back.
Kenley stared at the money Chad had thrown down, her heart pounding. She couldn’t just go up to his room and sleep with him, could she? That would be crazy.
That would be insane. That would be so not like her. God, he was hot. She remembered how his hands felt on her legs, how his breath had felt against her skin as he whispered in her ear.
Maybe she could just go up and check out his room. He said he was in the penthouse, which was intriguing. She’d never seen a penthouse before. It didn’t mean that anything was going to
They could just hang out, she could check out his room and then leave whenever she wanted. It would be kind of rude not to, when you thought about it. He’d invited her after all, and even though he’d said no hard feelings, it wouldn’t be polite to just not show up.
“Hey!” she yelled to the bartender. “Hey, you!” She was talking louder than she’d intended, which probably meant she was a little bit buzzed. She lowered her voice.
“Hey!” she said again. “Come here, I need to ask you something.”
The bartender reluctantly pulled himself away from the two college coeds, one of whom was now licking salt off the other one’s stomach.
“Another drink already?” he asked, picking up her empty glass. He looked at it doubtfully, like he thought maybe she’d had enough.
“No.” She slid the hundred-dollar bill Chad had left across the bar, hoping the bartender would think it was her that was paying the tab and leaving a big tip. “But I have a question.”
“Yeah?” He picked up the hundred and slipped it in his pocket, not bothering to ask if she wanted any change.
“The penthouse,” she said. “What would a room like that cost?”
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “A couple grand a night?”
He said it so cavalier, so casual, like he was used to people spending so much money just for the privilege of sleeping. Then he picked up her empty glass and walked away.
And before Kenley could talk herself out of it, she decided she
go and meet Chad. It didn’t mean she was going to sleep with him. She just wanted to check out the penthouse. It would be silly not to -- after all, she might never get another chance to see a room that cost two thousands dollars a night.
It turned out that you had to use some kind of special touchpad to get into the penthouse, which Kenley thought was ridiculous. They couldn’t have given it the same keycard system as the rest of the hotel? She ran her finger over the pad. Next to it, there was a small doorbell, but she didn’t ring it. Now that she was here, she was kind of losing her nerve.
She looked down at herself, wondering if it would be way too obvious that she’d stopped at her room to fix herself up. She was wearing a pair of skinny jeans and a black sleeveless sweater. She’d given her makeup a touchup, swiping some mascara over her eyes and lining her lips with a shiny pink gloss.
She thought she’d looked good when she’d surveyed herself in the mirror a few minutes ago, but now she just felt ridiculous. What had she been thinking, coming up here? She must have been crazy. This wasn’t who she was, the type of girl who just went following some guy to his hotel room. Yes, Chad was hot. And yes, he was obviously rich. But still. That didn’t mean anything. Money wasn’t important to her, and besides, it was always the rich ones who were getting crazy and killing people.
Like that Jordan Vandersloot kid. He was super rich, and always luring women back to his hotel room so he could chop them up. The thought of getting chopped up was enough to do it, and she turned around, ready to head back to the elevator and back to her room when the door to the penthouse opened.
Chad stood there, grinning. His baseball hat was gone, and his navy blue sweatshirt had been replaced by a black t-shirt. It was the kind of t-shirt that looked expensive, and it hung on his body, hugging his biceps perfectly. “What’s up?” he said easily, and leaned against the doorframe.
“How did you know I was out here?” Kenley asked.
“I saw you on the security monitor.”
“There’s a security monitor?”
“Of course.” He nodded, like it should have been obvious. He was probably one of those rich types that were always getting nervous that someone was going to break in and steal all of their super expensive things. People like that were so annoying. If you had to spend more time worrying about your stuff than enjoying it, what was the point?
“Oh.” She swallowed, and then smoothed her hair back. Now that he knew she was out here, he was probably going to expect her to come in. “Well, I was just leaving.”
“Don’t you want to come inside?” He must have sensed her hesitation, because he added, “Don’t worry, I’m not a psycho or anything.”
“Really?” she asked. “Because ‘I’m not a psycho or anything’ is exactly what psychos say right before they kill you.” Her jeans were sliding down on her hips a little bit, and she reached down and hiked them up. Damn low rise jeans. They were supposed to be sexy, but how sexy could you look when you kept having to pull your pants up?
“Is it?” Chad asked. He sounded amused.
“Well, do you want to come in anyway?” He glanced over her shoulder into the room, like he had something important to get back to and didn’t care either way. “I ordered room service. We can sit out on the balcony, watch the people down by the pool and eat hamburgers.”
It sounded so innocent, the way he said it. Just hanging out on the balcony, eating hamburgers, people watching and chatting like two old friends. It really was completely harmless, when you thought about it. And besides, isn’t that what people did when they went on vacation by themselves? Meet new people and hang out with them? Kenley’s sister Melissa was always traveling around by herself, meeting random strangers as she went. One time in Paris she met a friend she stayed in touch with for, like, years, and then later met up with in Australia. Kenley had always been jealous of this – the ability to just start talking to people, to forge bonds with them and make friendships out of nothing. She’d never been good at that sort of thing, which probably had something to do with why she was having such a hard time finding a new job.
She didn’t know how to network. At conferences and wine parties she’d just freeze up, and spend most of her time sitting at the bar sipping a drink, making herself look busy whenever anyone approached her. Small talk wasn’t her forte. It wasn’t that she was shy – it was more that she just wasn’t a people person. She liked to be by herself.
“So are you coming in?” Chad asked again. He held the side of the door between his two hands and pushed it back and forth, waiting to see if he was going to open it further, letting her in, or close it, leaving her to head back down to her room alone.
Kenley took a deep breath. “Yes,” she said. “I’m coming in.” And then she followed him into the room.
Chad couldn’t believe this chick. She was so bold, the way she was still pretending like she didn’t know who he was. When he’d left her in the bar, he’d been almost positive she wouldn’t follow him upstairs. He was hoping she would, of course –
despite the messy hair and the oversized t-shirt, there was something about her that he found intriguing. And she certainly looked a lot better now, with that sleeveless top she was wearing and the way her jeans hugged her curves. She kept having to pull them up as they slid down over her hips, and he imagined what kind of silky, sexy little things she was wearing underneath.
“So what do you want to eat?” he asked, crossing the room to the huge mahogany desk in the corner and picking up the phone. “We can order whatever you want.”
“Order?” Kenley asked. She was standing in the middle of the room looking around, and it was obvious she was trying not to show how impressed she was. Not that Chad could blame her. The room
impressive, even to him, and he’d stayed in some of the best hotels in the world.
The penthouse took up the whole top story, with floor to ceiling windows encasing the suite, and a balcony that spanned one whole side of the room. There were gleaming dark hardwood floors, a huge circular bed on top of a cream-colored shag rug, and shiny crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. There was a bar in the corner with black leather stools, and crystal wine glasses hanging from a rack hooked to the wall behind it.
“Yeah,” Chad said. “We can call down to room service.”
“I thought you said you already ordered hamburgers.”
“Did I say that?”’ He put a fake-confused looked on his face.
“Yes.” She whirled around and looked at him. “You said we were going to eat hamburgers on the balcony like two old friends.”
“I never would have said something as corny as ‘like two old friends,” he said.
“But is that what you want? A hamburger?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen the menu.” She crossed the room and sat down at the bar. She set her purse down and crossed her legs primly in front of her.
“We don’t need a menu,” Chad said.
He saw the look pass over her face as she realized what he meant– that he was in the penthouse, and so he could order whatever he wanted, whether it was on the menu or not, and they would make it for him, no questions asked.
“Cheeseburger and fries,” Kenley said, “with bacon. And some barbeque sauce on the side.”
Chad nodded his approval, then picked up the phone to order. Kenley walked behind the bar and started glancing through the bottles of wine.
After Chad got off the phone with room service, he walked over and joined her.
She was struggling with the wine opener, trying to get it into the cork of a bottle of red.
He took it out of her hand, and their fingers brushed. “Opus One,” he said, popping the cork and pouring it into two glasses. “Expensive tastes.”
“Did I pick the Opus One?” she asked innocently. “I didn’t notice.”
He shrugged, like it didn’t matter. Obviously this was all part of her plan. First she was pretending that she didn’t know who he was. And now she was taking it even further, opening expensive bottles of wine and acting like she hadn’t noticed.
took a sip and wondered if he should just put an end to the charade right now --- if he should tell her that he knew that she worked at Expera and that it was time to drop the big game. But that would be giving up. And Chad hated to give up.
“So what do you do that you have this big room to yourself?” Kenley asked.
“What do I do?” He almost spit out his drink. It was one thing to pretend she didn’t know who he was, but to come right out and ask him what he did for a living? His first impression had been right – she really was bold. Well, whatever. She wasn’t going to break him. In fact, it would be fun to knock her down a peg or two.
“Yeah, are you here for business or something?” She cocked her head and looked at him. She had big blue eyes, and blonde curls that tumbled over her shoulders in loose waves. He had the sudden urge to reach over and push one of her curls off her forehead.
Her skin looked smooth and tan, the kind of skin you could spend hours exploring. He wondered if the rest of her body was just as tan and soft.
“Yes, I’m here for business,” he said.
“You don’t look like you’re in finance or anything,” she said. “You’re too relaxed.”
“Who said I was in finance?”
She blushed. “Sorry,” she said, “I just assumed since you’re staying in the penthouse…”
“That I must have tons of money?”
He moved closer to her now, hoping that he would be able to get her to admit what was really going on here. His leg pushed up against hers. He felt himself get hard and suddenly, he wanted to plunge his hands into her curls and pull her close, kissing her over and over again.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I just figured you must be in an industry that allowed you to live this kind of lifestyle.”
He moved even closer to her, telling himself he was doing it so that he could break her down, get her to admit that she knew who he was, and that he was scheduled to have a meeting with her tomorrow. But deep down he knew it was more that that -- for some reason, he needed to be next to her, needed to get closer to her.
“I am in an industry like that.”
She turned her head, and cocked it to the side, giving him that same adorable look she’d given him a few minutes earlier. “Really?” she asked. “What industry?”
“I don’t really like to broadcast it,” he said, not wanting to be the one to blink first.
“Drugs?” she whispered, her eyes widening in mock surprise.
There was a witty comeback on the tip of his tongue, but he bit it back.
he thought. If she was determined to pretend she didn’t know him, if that’s how this was going to go, then so be it. He would have his way with her in the bedroom, and that would be the way he won.
He put his hand on the back of her neck, pulled her toward him, and kissed her.
The kiss surprised Kenley, even though she’d been wanting him, almost begging him, in her mind to kiss her. He was getting so close to her while they were sitting there, and she could see the stubble on his chin, the small scar he had right over his lip, the way his tongue darted out and licked his lip when he looked at her.
Even so, she’d thought he’d been playing with her, teasing her, wanting her to want him. It was working, but when he finally went in and kissed her, she was surprised that he would be so forceful. So surprised that she tried to pull away, but his hand was in her hair, on the back of her neck, and he pulled her toward him, refusing to let go, pressing his lips into hers.
Finally, she surrendered to the kiss, letting his tongue into her mouth. Heat coursed through her body and settled, pulsing, between her legs. Chad’s tongue was on hers, and the next moment he was pulling back, teasing her, sucking on her bottom lip before returning and claiming her mouth again.
She’d never been kissed like this – it was taking over her whole body, and she prayed he would pick her up, take her over to the bed and continue what he started.
He stood up and swung her bar stool around until she was facing him, then pushed himself in between her legs, his mouth never leaving hers. She could feel his hardness against her. He pulled her even closer, and now his hands were in her hair, on the back of her neck, on her shoulders. His mouth moved down, tracing kisses over her collarbone, soft and quick, a contradiction to the hard, deep kisses he’d just been giving her, and she shivered.