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Authors: Faith Sullivan

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Take Me Now

BOOK: Take Me Now
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TAKE ME NOW

FAITH SULLIVAN

Copyright © 2013 Faith Sullivan

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States of America.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

If you are reading this book and you have not purchased it or won it in an author/publisher contest, this book has been pirated. Please delete and support the author by purchasing the ebook from one of its many authorized distributors.

Other books by Faith Sullivan:

Heartbeat (Heartbeat #1)

Come What May (Heartbeat #2)

Unexpected

Cover image ©
olly /
Fotolia.com

Edited by Mickey Reed at
http://www.ImABookShark.com

To those wanting someone they cannot have.

Prologue
Ivy

He looks at me with such longing in his eyes that it rips me apart inside. He’s everything I have ever wanted. That’s why it hurts so much to know that he can never be mine. His devotion belongs to another, even if I’m the one he desires. We both live in a shared state of agony, but I can’t ask him to be someone he’s not. He is an honorable man. He gave her his word. Despite what we feel for each other, whatever this is between us can never happen.

I’m about to walk away but he stops me by whispering my name. The yearning in his voice is impossible to ignore, but I can’t give in to him. If he cheats on her, he’ll never forgive himself. No matter what I do, it’ll end up driving us apart. Maybe I should be weak and fall into his arms. At least then I’d have a beautiful memory to hold on to. Is there any hope of a future for the two of us? All I know is that falling prey to this temptation would crush any possibility. I refuse to have him hate me later for the pleasure of having his body consume me now.

He calls me back, pleading with me to remain. No one else is here. The door is closed. He can take me right here on the table. His jacket is already off. My fingers could remove his shirt in seconds, exposing his trim torso. He could be on top of me, fully igniting the fire that is running through my veins. He’s putting himself on the line for me, sacrificing everything he believes in for one stolen moment. It’s not enough, even if it seems like it is. We both deserve more.

My resolve falters when he moves closer to me. My body aches for his touch. To place my lips on his is the only thing I dream about. I can lose myself in his embrace. I never thought I’d feel this way about anyone. We could be so good together. So why does it have to be like this?

His breath catches as he skims his fingers across my face. I close my eyes, unable to look at him. I’ve never wanted someone so much in my entire life. My body responds, craving more. His touch is driving me wild as his hand travels through my hair before resting on my waist. As he draws me against his chest, I struggle not to wrap my arms around him. His mouth is pressed to my ear, urging me to surrender to him. He thinks he’ll always feel like this about me but he’s wrong. The guilt would overwhelm him in the end.

Using every last ounce of willpower I possess, I release myself from his hold. He groans in protest sliding his fingers through mine to prevent my escape. Raising his fingers to my lips, I kiss each knuckle, imploring him to let me go. Slowly, he relaxes his grip as my hand falls across his chest. With tears streaming down my face, I physically push him away from me. The sorrow radiating from his eyes engulfs me. He has to understand I’d never reject him. It’s all because of the circumstances we find ourselves in, but I can already feel him withdrawing from me.

He’s an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If he’s forced to live without me, he’ll cut every trace of me from his life. It’ll be like we never existed, and that’s something I’m not strong enough to handle—not yet.

My legs tremble and the room starts to spin. I’m shut out of his gaze. He squares his shoulders, determined. He knows what he has to do. I hear him swallow as he attempts to keep his emotions in check. I’m making him do something that goes against everything he feels is right. I’m asking him to make what he considers an unforgivable sacrifice.

But I know him. Giving in to his passion is not what’s good for him. He always stands by those he protects. He never shirks his duty or unburdens himself of his responsibilities. He must still have feelings for her. I have to believe that or I will go insane. I want nothing more than for him to be happy even if it’s without me. I need to know he can go on from this. I can’t be the one holding him back.

I can no longer see his face. He’s almost at the door and I stifle a sob. I can’t lose focus. I have to remain strong for his sake. He’s only doing what I asked him to do. I’m the one sending him away. I grab onto the side of the table willing myself to remain upright. This is it. I’m allowing him to leave me for another woman. It’s my choice but I’m doing it for him. He has to know that.

He lingers and it’s almost more than I can take. He’s within my reach but he’s already so far away. It’s a kind of torture I did not prepare myself for. With every passing second, I’m losing more of him until there will be nothing left. My determination crumbles and I sink to the floor, unleashing a fresh round of sobs.

He sighs, pausing at the threshold. I know he wants nothing more than to turn around and comfort me. It’s tearing him up to listen to me cry. My outward expression of grief is the last straw. It’s more than he can handle. He slams the door, leaving me a huddled mess with my face buried in the rough fibers of the carpet.

With his departure, he’s taken everything I have to give. I have nothing left. He’s all I’ll ever want. If the universe is kind, I pray that somehow he’ll find a way back to me. I’ll never give up on him, and I hope he’ll never give up on me.

Chapter One
Ivy

This is shaping up to be one crazy internship and it’s only my first day. What did I get myself into? I glance hurriedly at the sticky note with the directions scribbled on both sides. Turn by the barn with the giant wagon wheel on the door. That must be it. My tires squeal as I hastily make a quick right onto the one-lane road. I never thought being a reporter would involve navigating through the countryside with nothing but word-of-mouth directions, guiding me to my destination.

Yep, this summer I’m working for the
Independent Gazette
, owned by the sharp-as-nails Lauren Price. She’s the stepsister of my oldest and dearest friend, Ryan, and he’s the one who hooked me up with this enviable gig. College students from all of the local universities are dying to work with her, and without Ryan’s help, I probably wouldn’t have scored an interview with one of the most prestigious businesswomen around.

But now I’m starting to second-guess my luck. It turns out my new boss is not just uber-successful—she’s also a mega-bitch. I knew it within minutes of meeting her as she sized up what I was wearing and found it lacking. Even though she’s only twenty-four, she was outfitted in a conservative suit with a strand of pearls and white pantyhose. Does anyone even wear pantyhose anymore? I, on the other hand, had received an out of the blue phone call from her to come up to the office for an evaluation. I didn’t even care what I had on at the point. I just wanted to make it there on time despite the fact that I was in my oldest pair of jeans and ratty flip-flops. Not exactly the look I needed to get off on the right foot.

Well, from there it went from bad to worse. All I could see was her red lipstick as she simpered at me from behind her mammoth desk that was overflowing with paperwork and mugs containing dried-up tea bags. She interrupted her incessant line of questioning as she took at least a dozen calls that buzzed through her phone, regardless of the fact that it was going on eight o’clock at night—well beyond quitting time. Who could possibly be calling her? What was so important that she needed to pick up every single time? She was the one who scheduled this meeting, not me.

“Ryan told me you’ve completed your junior year at…” She shuffled through my resume, searching for the name of the school I was attending. She obviously could care less.

Saving her the trouble, I chimed in. “Harvard on the highway.”

She leered at me in distaste. “Oh yes, that detestable nickname for the local extension of the state university.” She scrunched up her nose like she was referring to the county landfill instead of the education facility where I spent the last three years of my life.

“I’ll be transferring to the main campus in the fall.” I thought that should set her at ease. It sounded a bit more prestigious anyway. She’s such a snob but I had to kiss her ass a little or I wasn’t going to get this. Even though I had never met her before, I couldn’t pin the whole thing on knowing Ryan.

“Ryan will be working here too this summer.” I didn’t move a muscle. She was no doubt critiquing every facet of my response to her statement. Ryan’s a few years younger than me, but I have absolutely no romantic interest in him if that was what she was thinking. Yet if I came out and openly proclaimed my disinterest in her stepbrother, she might take it the wrong way and get offended. How was I supposed to play this? I was so confused.

“Oh yeah? In the office?” I stalled, trying to buy some time to feel her out.

“He’ll be in and out, but he’ll mostly be working with the delivery staff.” She was examining me like I was a specimen pressed between the slides of a microscope. What I wouldn’t have given to be a biology major at that moment instead of a wannabe journalist. The pressure this woman was placing me under was super intense. When did my personal life become an employment issue?

“That’s good to hear. Hopefully, I’ll get to see him around. It’s always nice to recognize a familiar face.” I smiled at her with everything I had, but she continued to stare stonily in my direction. Her people skills could definitely use some work.

“Don’t count on it. I expect to keep him very busy on the road.” Her high heels clicked against the plastic floor cover surrounding her desk as she moved her chair closer to her computer to check her email. I tried to pretend that she wasn’t being rude when she totally was. When the lull in our conversation became exaggerated, I stood up to leave. I wasn’t going to put up with any more of her bullshit than I had to.

“If we’re finished here, I guess I’ll take off.” Her glare zeroed in on me like a laser beam. Ut oh, I must have pissed her off—big time.

“You’ll leave when I say you can leave.” The angry beast within was surfacing. Why did I have to be such a smartass and rile her up instead of keeping my mouth shut? I was in for it now.

She proceeded to type away, once again ignoring me in the process. I glanced at the clock. It was way past the abbreviated dinner hour on campus. The cafeteria would be closed by the time I got back and I was seriously starving. I was surprised she was not yelling at me to keep my stomach from rumbling in her presence. That was probably next.

Nearly a half hour later, she finally rose from her cushioned throne and ushered me to the door. My butt was numb from sitting on that little folding chair for so long. I hobbled behind her as she led me out of her office. “You’ll start Monday at nine. See you then.”

I reached out to shake her hand but I was greeted with her door literally hitting me in the face. I rubbed the tip of my nose, still startled by the shock of it all. “I guess I’ll let myself out,” I mumbled under my breath as I trudged down the steps. It was already dark outside. Something told me that daylight would be a scarce commodity for me once I started this job—or should I say this unpaid indentured servitude? This summer was going to suck.

And so far, it has. Despite the fact that I’m riding on empty, Lauren sent me out on an errand with literally no gas in my tank. I’m scrimping by on what little savings I have for the next three months, and I was trying to stretch out my remaining cash, hoping the gas price would go down after I left work. Fat chance. Lauren said the
Gazette
reimburses traveling expenses as long as I fill out the requisite form, recording my mileage, and so forth. Unfortunately, it can take up to four weeks to get my money back. How that’s going to help me now when I stall out miles away from the nearest gas station? I have no clue.

But I think I know why she wanted me out of the office. Ryan’s coming in today to learn the ropes about sorting through the weekly delivery schedule. He texted me last night, hoping to take me out for lunch if we had time. Looks like that’s not going to happen. I’ll be lucky if I make it back at all. Besides, Ryan and I are just friends. It’d be too weird. I knew him when he was still in diapers. That mental image sort of kills any type of romantic feelings before they can develop.

I turn on my phone to see if Ryan happened to text me while I was on the road, but there’s no service out here in Hickville. If I break down, I’m going to have a long walk ahead of me. And it won’t be pleasant in these heels I wore to impress Lauren with my mad fashion skills. I’m never dressing up for work again.

Just when I’m about to lose it, I see the outlines of a town looming in the distance. I’m almost there. I can do this. I’ll find out where I have to go and then pay an exorbitant amount for a quarter of a tank of gas to make it back. I’ve got this under control. Fumbling for the sticky note detailing the final steps of my quest, I curse as it slips through my fingers and flies out the window. Just when things were starting to get better, fate laughs in my face.

All I remember is that I’m supposed to head to the independent cinema in order to pick up an overdue check and the artwork for their latest ad. They’re having a film festival coming up and the
Gazette
promised to promote it as long as they paid their outstanding invoices. If they don’t settle their account, I’m not to accept their new materials no matter what. I hate having to be the bad guy. I don’t even know these people but I can’t imagine that it’s easy running a one-screen theater in a town that’s not much bigger than a postage stamp.

My car is beginning to sputter. I’m riding on fumes. Main Street is up ahead and I can already see the theater’s marquee. I ease into a space in front of a parking meter that still has some time left on it. I have ten minutes to get in and get out. I’m going to be cutting things awfully tight but I think I can do it. I’m a girl on a mission. I refuse to let anything slow me down. I’m focused. I’m resolute. I’m determined.

Hopping out of the car, I race to the door, nearly twisting my ankle as I step on a grate, scuffing my heel. Cursing under my breath, I yank on the handle, but it’s locked. There’s a sign encouraging visitors to try the rear entrance since the main lobby is only open on nights and weekends. That doesn’t sound too encouraging. This must not exactly be a thriving business. Lauren is sure to ream me out if I don’t return with a check. She already set aside space in the upcoming Sunday edition for a full-page ad. The pressure is certainly on and I have less than nine minutes to get the job done.

Picking my way down the cobblestone alley, I turn the knob of a battered door. It creaks open, and I’m in some sort of storage room lined with packets of unpopped kernels and rolled-up movie posters. Moseying into the adjoining room, I find the cash register without an attendant. The place seems empty. It looks like no one’s here.

“Hello?” I call out, but I don’t receive a response. I thought they knew I was coming. How could nobody be here? Why would Lauren send me on a twenty-mile wild goose chase? Is she really that sadistic about setting me up to fail? Too bad I wasn’t into Ryan. I’d stick my tongue down his throat right in front of her just to get back at her for this. But I need these internship credits or I’m not going to graduate on time. She knows that, making her scheming infinitely more evil.

Wandering into the lone theater, I fumble against the wall, guiding myself to the seats. The projector is on but it’s still pretty dark in here. I feel a resurgence of hope. They wouldn’t walk out and leave a film up and running, right? Someone has to be here. I just have to find them.

Despite the clock ticking down, I halt when I see what’s playing. It’s the final scene of
Casablanca
. I’m a sucker for old movies. I catch them whenever they’re on cable. My friends in the dorm think I’m nuts for watching hours and hours of what they consider cheesy romances, but I love them. They capture the essence of love without the need for bare bums and exposed nipples. It was a classier time. One I wish I could have been a part of.

I’m so caught up in the heartache of the moment that I nearly jump out of my skin when the movie flickers to a stop and the lights come on. There’s the sound of footsteps jogging down a set of wooden stairs, and the door leading to the projection room swings open. And standing there with a smug expression on his face is my worst nightmare. It’s Will Carter, the guy I’ve had a crush on since fifth grade.

“What are you doing here, Ivy?” He looks me over, appraising my appearance.

“I’m here on business. And you?” I desperately try to stand my ground even though I’m rattled. I can’t let him see how much he gets to me. But man, the boy looks good. I’m a sucker for falling under the spell of his brown eyes. I better keep my wits about me. Those eyes are dangerous.

Will studies me before responding and I can’t help remembering the music class we had together our freshmen year of high school. He always tried to make me laugh and I’d try my hardest not to. Not because I didn’t think he was funny, but because he’d lose interest in me and turn his attention to Danielle, the slutty cheerleader sitting behind him who gave nearly every guy on the basketball team a blow job. Yeah, I couldn’t compete with that.

“I’m revamping the film festival while I’m home on break from UCLA. I thought it’d be a great little summer project to keep me occupied.” I heard that he went to film school in California but I never expected to find him in this practically off-the-grid theater. Why would he waste his time here when he could be doing so many more important things in Hollywood? Something doesn’t sound right. His story doesn’t ring true when it comes to the Will I know.

“Yeah, seeing how there’s only one screen they’re going to need all the help they can get.” I can’t resist zinging him. A flash of anger smolders in his eyes, and I’m glad I hit my target. He thinks he can intimidate me but he’s wrong. I’m not that timid girl anymore.

“You’d be surprised how difficult it can be to purchase the rights to the latest independent films from Sundance and Cannes. You have to know the right people. Distribution can be very expensive.” He’s talking down to me like I’m a child. Really? But my anger starts to evaporate as he strides over to where I’m cemented in place. His presence unnerves me on so many levels. He’s the first boy I ever fell in love with, and it still stings that he never thought I was good enough for him. I think I’ve always been seeking his approval whether I realized it or not. It’s one of those deep-seated issues that never really go away.

“You’re looking good.” The compliment is out of my mouth before I can reign in my thoughts. The tight jeans he’s wearing are definitely from a designer label and his linen shirt is blindingly white. His dark hair is still cropped close, and while he was always lean, there’s a new definition to his shoulders and biceps that didn’t exist before. He must be working out at some exclusive gym, probably with a trainer who coaches celebrities. I wouldn’t be surprised.

He’s close enough to touch me but he doesn’t. The pull that’s drawing me to him is hard to resist. The scent of his sandalwood cologne is filling my senses. He’s not a boy anymore. He’s grown up into a full-bodied man. A man who’s probably an expert in knowing what it means to pleasure a woman. He was my first kiss after all. My thoughts betray me and I start to blush. He doesn’t comment. He only raises an eyebrow, a gesture I find provocative like an invitation to something more.

BOOK: Take Me Now
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