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Authors: Georgia Cates

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BOOK: Indulge
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Chapter 1
Anna James Bennett

I
t’s
night one at Indulge, and I’m hanging out in my room. Meredith and Grayson have gone out on the prowl. Not a problem. This suite is lavish. Spacious living room. Separate bedroom. Bathroom with an enormous double shower and soaker tub. It looks the part of a luxurious boutique hotel until you notice the mirrors. There are many and they’re mounted at all angles. I guess this resort wants you to be certain what’s getting slipped in where and by whom. The thought makes me shudder.

I’m starving. I had an early lunch but that was seven hours ago. That means my backbone is in danger of being eaten by my stomach. I need to get something in my belly soon so that doesn’t happen. I’ll need a strong spine for when I return to school in August.

Yesterday’s news included Drake’s refusal to leave his position as head football coach. That means I’ll have to work side by side with him every day since he didn’t have the decency to move on to another school.

Selfish twittlefuck.

I thumb through the resort binder to check out my dinner options. I was fairly set on staying in and ordering room service until I see the menu at a restaurant called Consume. “Hmm. Witty name.”

Meredith has given me the heads-up on resort policies, so I’m already aware that clothing is required in all restaurants. Thank God. I don’t want to see anyone’s junk while I eat.

Ethnic food is my weakness, and my craving for jerk chicken and a pineapple-coconut martini has convinced me I can’t stay holed up tonight.

Attire is smart casual, so I change out of my traveling clothes into one of my favorite sundresses. If I were home, I’d put on an uncomfortable strapless bra beneath it. But here, I’m going braless, erect nipples and all. Makes me feel like a damn rebel. And I like it.

I’m hardly out of my hotel room when I run into a bare couple at the elevators. Both are attractive. Maybe mid thirties.

“Hello,” they say in unison.

“Hi.” I’m confused about where my eyes should be, therefore I look down at my phone. It’s always a perfect diversion in an uncomfortable situation.

The elevator doors open, and the three of us step inside. Awkward doesn’t begin to describe how it feels to be enclosed in a box with this pair wearing only their smiles. “Lobby?”

“Yes, thank you.”

I still don’t know where to look, so I stare at the elevator floor. Without thinking, I step back and lean against the handrail. I consider all the naked asses that have probably been pressed in this same spot and jolt away. Gross. The germaphobe living inside me isn’t going to fair well these nine days.

I’m thrilled for more than one reason when I walk inside the restaurant. Number one: there’s food. Two: everyone is wearing clothes. “Good evening. Do you have a reservation?”

Wow. I didn’t consider the possibility I’d need one. “I don’t. Is that going to be a problem?”

“Let me have a look.” The hostess studies her computer screen. I notice her nametag. Michaela. Same as my mom.
Reminds me. I need to call her and Willa to let them know I arrived safely.

I cross my fingers hoping it’ll help Michaela find a table for me. “You’re looking at a minimum of two hours before I could seat you.”

Shiz. That means I won’t eat for almost three hours. “Good grief. Are the other restaurants packed like this?”

“Likely. It’s the dinner rush but also guest census is at its highest since Wicked Week is beginning soon. Things will be even more crowded next week. I highly recommend making reservations as soon as possible.”

“I don’t really know what I want to do.” Maybe there’s a snack bar or something. I’m not choosy at this point.

“Would you like me to check to see if there’s an opening with a single diner?”

In a normal world, I would assume she’s referring to a seat but I’m not so sure about this place. “I’m sorry. This is my first time at Indulge. Can you expand on what you mean?”

“Some single diners may choose to offer available seating at their table to other lone guests. I can see if there’s an open seat that way.” I’m certain splitting a table during dinner doesn’t hold a candle to all the other things that get shared around here.

I don’t think I can wait two or three hours for food. “What is your opinion on the speed of room service?”

“It’s hard to say. I’m guessing at least ninety minutes.” Then I’m not much better off. And I went to the trouble of getting ready.

“I’ll give this single diner thing a try.” I’m not the least bit excited about sitting with a complete stranger. It’s weird.

“Let’s see what we can find for you.” Michaela studies the computer screen again. “You’re in luck. I have one single diner agreeing to share. Right this way.”

Quiet, sultry jazz tunes tantalize guests. The tables are dressed in white and crystal while little pops of red décor scatter the room. Elegant black and white damask wallpaper covers its walls. Enormous chandeliers provide soft light, and the glossy black marble tiles underfoot beautifully complete Consume’s décor. Mesmerizing.

White. Black. Red. If sin had a color palette, this would be it.

I stare at the sensual black and white art on the walls as I’m led to my table. I’m so engrossed by the nudie photos that I bump into a server carrying a full tray of food. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

This server looks so young. I’m certain he must be at least twenty-one to work in an establishment like this, but I swear he doesn’t look a day over sixteen.

“No. Pardon me, Miss.” Ah. He has a lovely Jamaican accent.

“It was all my fault.”

The hostess gestures toward the empty seat. “Kevin is your server. He’ll be with you shortly. Enjoy your dinner.”

“Thank you.”

I settle into my seat and observe the man sitting across from me. One look and I’m able to form an opinion: He’s too damn handsome for his own good. Thick, dark brown hair. Hazel eyes surrounded by lush black lashes. Rosy cheeks. Full, pink lips.

His rakish smile completes the package. “You sound just like a Georgia peach.”

He’s hit the nail on the head.
How unsettling.
“I’m sorry?”

“Your accent. Can’t mistake it for anything else.” His voice is deep. Smooth. Southern just like me.

“You sound a little peachy yourself.”

His smile broadens, deepening the dimples in each of his cheeks. “Guilty as charged. Buckhead, born and bred.”

Buckhead. Born. Bred. The three B’s.

Buckhead is an affluent uptown district of Atlanta, which tells me two things: this guy is probably wealthy. And by default, he’s likely a total jackass.

He tilts his head to the side and lifts his brows. “And you?”

“Buford.” I say the word and immediately regret it. I should have lied. He has no business knowing where I’m from.

“Been to Buford many times.”

Buckhead and Buford are close, only about forty minutes apart. I’m not sure how I feel about meeting someone who lives so close.

I need to chill. He’s likely feeling a little uneasy about me as well.

“I occasionally shop in Buckhead. My best friend and I love their boutiques.” It’s rare that I’m able to afford anything so I mostly look when I go with Meredith.

He holds out his hand over the table. “I’m Beau Emerson.”

I consider lying about who I am. This guy’s well within stalker distance but I wasn’t blessed with thinking fast on my feet. “Anna James Bennett.”

My double name is confusing for people since James can be both a man’s name and a last name. “My friends and family call me Anna James. Or AJ.”

“Very nice to meet you. I’m pleased to share a table with such a lovely woman.”

Is that a move? I’m not certain, but it’s probably best to nip this in the bud now. Beau Emerson doesn’t need to be under the impression this is anything but two people sharing a table because of a crowding issue. “I appreciate your interest, but no thank you.”

He leans back in his chair, his arms crossed over what I’m guessing is a well-built chest beneath his white linen shirt. He studies my face for a moment before a lopsided grin appears. “Miss Bennett. That wasn’t even close to being a proposition.”

Heat pulses in my face. I would love to crawl beneath this table. “I’m sorry.” I can barely breath the words through my embarrassment.

I feel obligated to explain. “I’m not familiar with the typical practices here; I’ve never been to a place like this.”

“Clearly.” Both of his dimples are back on display now; I’m amusing him. I’m not sure if I should be angry or embarrassed.

Humiliation wins.

I’m normally confident in all I do, but I’m out of my element. This is his world, and I’m an outsider. “You find my ignorance entertaining.”

“You’re wrong. I find your inexperience intriguing.”

“What part of that could you possibly find intriguing?”

“You’re new to hedonism.”

Oh. I get it now. He sees me as a newcomer. Fresh meat. A shiny new toy. “You’ve got this all wrong. I’m not here to participate. This is a free Jamaican vacation for me. A treat from my best friends.”

“Your friends brought you to a place where crazy stuff happens. And by that, I mean lewd sexual acts.”

“Meredith and Grayson warned me.”

“Are your friends trying to recruit you into a polyamory relationship with them?”

Polyamory is the hard-core stuff. Meredith says she and Grayson will never go there. Too much commitment for them. “Oh, God no! Meredith has been my best friend for nine years. She and her husband just wanted to do something nice for me.”

“Right.” He’s wearing a different kind of smile now, the skeptical kind.

“I know what you’re thinking but they’re really not.”

“If you say so.”

I don’t know why I feel the need to convince him. “I had a shitastrophe in my life. This trip is their divorce gift to me. They thought the sun and sand would do me some good.”

“Has it?”

“I don’t know. We only arrived a few hours ago.”

“Then welcome to Indulge, where your fantasies meet reality.”

“Thank you.” I think.

Our conversation is briefly interrupted when our server appears. Good thing I already know what I want because I’ve not even looked at the menu.

After placing my order, I resume my study of the nude photography on the walls. They’re actually tasteful and elegant.

“Like what you see?”

Oddly, I do. “I’ve never seen anything like them. They’re lovely.”

“Third one on the left. That’s me.”

I search the walls and find the one he’s referring to. Holy shizzle. That erection is enormous.

I swallow. “It’s very nice.” Shit. That was a dumb thing to say. “The picture, I mean. It’s artful.”

He bursts into laughter. “I’m kidding. I just wanted to see your reaction.”

The heat has returned to my cheeks. “Well, aren’t you the comedian?”

“I’m a good-time guy who enjoys a laugh. And that was a fine one.”

“At my expense.” I think he enjoys laughing at me.

“Sorry. Not sorry.”

“Right.”

Kevin returns with our drinks, a pineapple-coconut martini for me and a draft beer for Beau.

I sample my cocktail. It doesn’t disappoint. “Are you a frequenter?”

“I don’t know what makes one a frequenter, but I typically come four times a year.”

“That qualifies you as a patron in my book. Is this your quarterly visit or a special trip for Wicked Week?”

“I, too, had a shitastrophe in my life. I thought the sun and sand would do me some good.”

He’s using my words. “Divorce?”

“No.” That’s all he says. No explanation. I’m curious to know what he means but not rude enough to ask him to expand if he doesn’t volunteer the information.

I decide to steer the conversation in a safer route. “What do you do for a living?”

“Real estate agent but I also flip houses with my brothers.” I’m guessing Beau has a lucrative business. He’d have to if he comes here four times a year. This place isn’t cheap.

“What about you?”

“High school teacher. English and creative writing.”

“So you’re out for summer.”

“Yup. Can’t lie. Summer break is a huge perk for being a teacher.” It’s one of the things that drove me to choose that profession. That and my love of words.

Words are powerful. They can evoke countless reactions. Joy. Pain. Arousal. Make a heart skip a beat. Or shatter it into a million pieces.

Dinner arrives quickly considering the crowd. Our conversation never slows despite the fact we’re stuffing our faces. “You mentioned divorce. Is it safe to assume that a split from your husband is the shitastrophe you were referring to earlier?”

“Yeah.”

“How long were you married?” He’s asking more questions than I’m comfortable answering.

“Our divorce was final a week after our first anniversary.”

“Irreconcilable differences?”

Yeah. All that and a bag of chips. “I guess you could call it that since I was unable to accept him screwing one of our former students. And he had a bad case of douchebaggery.”

“That’s fucking low. And illegal. I hope the prick is being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” I’m a little surprised by his annoyance. It can’t possibly be out of concern for me, but I can’t ignore the slight ping of joy to hear someone else’s disgust.

“Technically, his relationship with Caitlyn isn’t illegal since she’s nineteen. They both claim their relationship started after she was of age and had graduated so there’s nothing to pursue from a criminal aspect.”

“And you believe that?”

“Absolutely not.” I’m no fool.

“You seem like a great girl, so your ex must be a dumb bastard. I don’t have to spend more than a few minutes with you to come to that conclusion.” He’s quick to defend my honor. Sort of reminds me of Grayson.

Everything about Beau seems normal. I could almost forget where we are and that his tastes are likely something I’m not accustomed to.

“Are you married?” He’s dining alone, but that means nothing in a place like this.

“Almost. I was engaged until a month ago.” I’d like to know what happened but I don’t want to pry.

“I’m sorry.”

BOOK: Indulge
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