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Authors: H.M. Ward,Stacey Mosteller

Shadows of the Past (2 page)

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
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“Am I really bothering you?” I let out an exasperated sigh. “Right, I thought not. Ah, here we are. Just in time.” He looks up at a woman carrying a tray. “Place those right here, love. Cheers!”

After she leaves, I arch an eyebrow at him. “So, how’d you get her to bring shots over to the table?”

“Really? That’s your question? I thought you’d be more interested in what we’re drinking.” He gestures toward the golden liquid in the little glasses. The barkeep also brought limes and salt in clear, square bowls.

“I have eyes.”

“Yes, you do. They’re spectacular if I might say so.”

“You may,” I say with an indulgent sideways glance at him. I reach forward to grab a lime slice and salt. With my eyes on his, I lick the skin between my thumb and pointer finger before sprinkling it with salt.

He watches me but doesn’t take a glass. He doesn’t even move.

"What?" I ask, frowning.

"You’re very expressive when you’re irritated." Leaning in close, like he's going to tell me a secret, "It’s sexy."

His warm breath against my skin makes me shiver. When he straightens, his eyes appear to be a darker shade of blue, causing my breath to catch in my throat. Before I can get my equilibrium back, he licks the salt off my hand and downs the shot.

Shocked, I stare at him with my mouth open.

He grins. Reaching forward, he presses his finger under my jaw and lifts. My lips close.

“Gaping isn’t as sexy. Well, I guess it depends on what we’re doing at the time. Do you find me shocking love? Or do you behave like this around all British men? Is this how you behave in America?”

Inexplicably, my cheeks burn. I press my eyes shut and gather my thoughts. I’m here for a reason. Pull it together, Kayla. This guy wants me; I’m clearly attracted to him, so what’s stopping me? Besides my innate need to bicker?

“Dear Lord! You’re blushing!” He looks shocked. Before I he says anything else, I act.

Feeling brave, I take his hand in mine, which silences him instantly. He watches as I lift his palm to my lips and lick his skin. His breath catches and his back goes rigid, his deep blue eyes watch me shake salt across his moistened skin. Slowly I slide my tongue over the salt, licking it up. He stops breathing at the first swipe of my tongue across his flesh, then watches me intently as I down the shot before biting into a slice of lime.

“Bloody hell.” His voice is raspy, deeper. He shifts in his chair and watches me. The rawness of his pain is still close to the surface. I can see it flicker when I move. It’s as if he’s trying to shove his past behind him—for just a night—and forget. I know we’re on the same page, looking for the same thing. I down my shot, slam my glass down, and lean into his shoulder.

“How crazy are you?” My comment startles him. Proper Dude straightens and looks down at me.

“Well, I can honestly say no woman has asked me that before.”

“So, then you’re more of the closet crazy type, huh?”

“Come again?” His brow wrinkles.

“Ooh, a dirty talker.” I giggle softly and hold onto his arm, testing the waters. He’s firm under those fine clothes.

“Hardly," he returns with a smirk. "At least not in establishments such as this. I don’t bang women in the loo either.”

“Good to know. I've never been fond of bathroom bangers.” His muscle firms up as I lean into him, squeezing his arm.

He smiles at me. “Are you serious?” I offer a flippant expression that’s noncommittal. The alcohol is spreading through me, and I know the play on words is a bit crass, but I don’t care. “I can’t tell if you realize what you’re saying or not.”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out.” I’m snuggling his arm, when he lifts my chin. In response to his touch, I straighten and let him hold my gaze. I’m no longer fighting the death grip that was holding onto me when we walked in. I could melt into this guy.

“You have no grasp of local euphemisms, do you?”

“Psh,” I say, and smile before lifting my hand to his cheek. His face feels warm under my fingers. I want to trace his jaw and feel that stubble glide beneath the pads of my fingers. “I know enough. For example, all men are wankers, but all wankers aren’t men.”

He laughs. “That settles that debate.” He leans in closing the distance between us. The pull inside me is so strong it rips me out of my buzz. I notice how warm I’ve gotten, and it worries me. I haven’t felt this way in a really long time. Sparring helps it seem less real, so I smirk and pull back a little.

“So spill,” I say as I scoot back in my chair. Somehow I ended up on the edge, nose to nose with him. If I go home with this guy, I need to know he won't kill me and toss my body in the Thames. Hot guy doesn’t let me back away. Instead, he scoots closer to me and takes my hand.

“Ask away.”

My stomach flips. Swallowing hard, I ask, “Fetishes, warrants, criminal record? And then tell me what gets your freak on.”

The man actually giggles. He tries to pull away, his cheeks flaming with embarrassment, but I lace my hands around his neck and hold him in place.

“I’ll go first, “Yes, no, yes—and no freaky fetish stuff.”

He arches an eyebrow at me. “Nothing freaky?”

“You would fixate on that part. It's your turn now.”

“You’re very direct, American Girl.”

“I’m a New Yorker.”

“I can tell. I feel like you might castrate me if I answer incorrectly.”

“There is no wrong answer at this point—only the truth. And don’t lie to me, or this is over. I want to know what I’m walking into.”

He grins again, his blue eyes darting to the side and back as if he’s considering telling me something.

“Fetishes—not tonight. Warrants—none. Criminal record—none. I’m not a colorful person in that regard.”

I’ve been tracing his cheek while we talk. Nothing is setting off my crazy-o-meter, which makes me realize that this is going to happen. I don’t have to go home and cry. I won’t have to relive this night again. My eyes glass over as the thought flashes and fades.

Hot guy notices. He leans in and takes my face between his palms and rubs his thumb over my cheek.

“I noticed you outside and can tell we’re in similar positions this evening. I don’t do this—at all—and honestly you’re somewhat intimidating, but I feel drawn to you.” The confession startles me, as does the affection in his voice.

My chest tightens and I want to wrap my arms around him and hold on tight. He seems like an anchor in a storm, a safe spot. Leaning in slowly, I close the distance between us and brush my lips against his. The result is immediate. Shocks cascade through my body, electrifying my skin and torching my insides. My heart slams into my chest so rapidly I can’t breathe.

We both pull back and stare with mirrored expressions of shock and that four-letter dirty word—hope. I see it in his eyes and felt it when we kissed. There was a connection that’s deep and pure. It startled both of us, and hardly anything does that anymore.

I sputter out, “This isn’t going to happen.”

He stares at me, wide-eyed. His lips part, but Emily cuts him off.

She perches on the seat opposite him and reaches out for his tie. Grabbing it, she yanks the guy forward.

“Listen, if you hurt her I will track you down, and feed your balls to my cat—while they’re still attached to your body.”

I bury my face in my hands. “Emily, stop.”

“Good to know.” Hot guy pulls his tie back and glances at me. “This one should come with a wick warning.”

I laugh. I can’t help it. “That’s on her other shirt.”

Emily frowns. “Fine, go off together and have hot, hairy sex. See if I care.”

“Hairy?” We both say in unison and look at Emily, then each other. She leans back in her seat and looks over at the bar.

“If you end up dead under a bridge, it’s not my fault. I warned you.”

I put my hand to the side of my mouth and say in a loud whisper, “Is she talking to you?”

“I thought she was addressing you. Unless you have something dangly to tell me about, of the hairy variety—”

My jaw drops. “No!”

“Well, you mentioned a wick once already. I wouldn’t want to get you home and find that you really DO have one under that dress.”

Emily laughs. “Straight people are weird. If you’re not into her, I can take her home tonight instead.” Emily winks at me.

I want to punch her, but instead I squirm in my seat. To my surprise, hot guy takes my hand, helps me up, and hands me my purse before addressing Emily.

“As much fun as it is chatting with you, Emily, I need to take your friend.” He cuts off like he was going to say more, but didn’t.

“Uh,” I babble, “that meant something else since you didn’t finish the sentence.”

“I think you caught my meaning.”

He looks down at me, intense once again. The sensations shooting through my body originate at the point of contact. His touch is electric and all consuming to the point that I shiver.

“Here, take my coat.” Before I can protest, he has it wrapped around my shoulders. Damn, it smells good—like him. He presses his hand to my back and guides us to the door. Emily’s laughter rings out from behind me.

“Remember to use protection,” she shouts across the pub. A few male voices snigger. Before I fully realize what happened, we’re outside.

“Your friend is very, unique.”

Rubbing my arms, I look up and down the street. “That’s one word for it.” Hot Guy turns me toward him.

“I like you. I want to see where this goes. Come with me.” His confidence is contagious, and I find myself nodding, even though my mind is screaming for me to run the other way.

A sleek black Bentley pulls up to the curb, interrupting my thoughts. I glance at him. “Who are you?”

“No names tonight, American Girl. We both know that’s not what we want.”

I press my lips together and look up at him. Hot Guy opens my door and waits. Part of me wants to run—the attraction to this guy is too strong—but the other part of me knows I can’t go home. Heart racing, I reach for his outstretched hand and slip into the car.


As soon as the car pulls away from the curb, Hot Guy pulls me under his arm. His lips brush against my ear when he speaks.

“Have you and Emily been intimate?”

“No!” I pull away. “I’m not gay. Why do people keep asking me that?” Oops. I said too much. I stare at the seat in order to avoid his gaze.


“No, I’m not. It’s not interesting at all. I’m plain, normal, and totally uninteresting.”

He’s smiling again. That look makes my chest tighten and my skin flush. He lifts his hand to my cheek and brushes the back of his fingers over my smooth skin. “You are anything but uninteresting.” The touch makes me shiver, but I try to hide it. The result has me sitting ramrod straight.

He touches my arm and slips the jacket away, letting it fall to the floorboard. I wait, heart pumping, wondering what he’s going to do. The way he lets his eyes linger and the way he moves his hands makes me want to lean into him and get lost in his lips.

Hot Guy lifts his finger and touches my shoulder lightly. The soft touch is amazingly sensual as he glides his hand down my arm, tracing the curve of my shoulder all the way down to my wrist. When he’s done, he takes my hand in his and lifts it to his lips. The warm pressure of his kiss on the back of my hand ignites an explosion in my stomach. The result is a breathy gasp that turns my face red.

He glances up at me from under his dark lashes. “If a caress is that powerful, I can’t help but wonder what the rest will be like.”

I’m lost in his gaze, drowning in twin pools of blue. I smile hesitantly, tucking a stray hair behind my ear. Shyness is sucking me into its clutches, but I’m fighting it. There’s something about this guy that is so intense, something from deep within that’s calling me to him so I can’t pull away. When he touches me, it's like my mind gets fried. Rational thoughts become hazy, and I feel how lonely I am and how much I want him to hold me. My eyes fixate on his lips, wanting to taste his kiss and feel the exquisite pressure of his touch.

It’s as if he can read my mind. He reaches for me and gives me a soft kiss, gently brushing his lips over mine. It’s light, like his touch, but it leaves me breathless and wanting more. I shudder, gasping, when he pulls away. The car stops, and I look out the window.

“What are we doing here?”

His car door is suddenly opened, “This is where I’m staying. Come up with me? I want to find out what makes you smile, American Girl.”

I can’t help it, I grin. Putting my hand in his, I slip out the car. We’re at one of the insanely expensive Victorian-styled buildings. I’ve always looked through the windows of this building on my way to work. It’s a beautiful combination of modern and ancient, melded together into breathtaking splendor.

“You live here?”

He nods and looks at his feet for half a second. “For now, yes.” When he looks up, our eyes catch, and I know there’s a painful story beneath his beautiful eyes. I can still feel the sting of betrayal and a memory that wants to wither away into dust, but it can’t.

I understand him all too well.

A doorman in a top hat and tails pulls open a massive door for us. We pass through and head toward the lift. It has a lavish gate that closes on both sides of the shaft. He presses the button for the penthouse and then glances at me. “I’m not trying to impress you, if that’s what you’re thinking.” For a moment, he seems unsure.

It’s endearing. I step toward him and press my body into his, taking his tie in my hands as I do so. “That’s not what I’m thinking about at all.”

His voice catches in his throat. “What are you thinking about, then?”

I open my mouth, but nothing comes out. There’s something about him, and once we’re touching, it’s like two drops of water—the pull toward him is consuming me.

BOOK: Shadows of the Past
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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