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Authors: Nona Raines

Take This Man

BOOK: Take This Man
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Take This Man

 

by

 

Nona Raines

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

 

Take
This Man

 

COPYRIGHT
Ó
2011 by Nona
Raines

 

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

 

Contact
Information: [email protected]

 

Cover
Art by
Angela Anderson

 

The
Wild Rose Press

PO
Box 708

Adams
Basin, NY 14410-0708

 

Visit
us at www.thewilderroses.com

 

Publishing
History

First
Scarlet Rose Edition, October 2011

 

Published in the United States of America

 

Trademarks Acknowledgement

 

The author of this work of fiction

acknowledges the following trademarks:

 

Barnes &
Noble: Barnes & Nobel College Booksellers, LLC

BMW:
Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft Corp

Food Network:
Television Food Network, G.P.

GQ:
Advance
Magazine Publishers Inc

L.L. Bean:
L. L. BEAN, INC. CORPORATION

"Mad
Men":
American Movie Classics Company LLC

Maserati:
Maserati S.P.A. Joint-Stock Company Italy

Mustang:
Ford Motor Company

Novocain:
H. A. Metz Laboratories, Inc.

Weather
Channel:
The Weather Channel, Inc.

 

Dedication

 

With
many thanks to Denise Como,

critique
partner extraordinaire, and to all the members of Central New York Romance
Writers.

 

PRAISE
FOR AUTHOR

 

Nona Raines

 

AND
HER BOOKS

 

"
One Good Man
is
really a story with depth!... remarkably much more than just a romp with the
neighbor when on the rebound story…. Can two people on the rebound help heal
each other? Or will past issues and family keep them from finding happiness in
this sexy story about how finding yourself in someone’s arms is as important as
standing on your own."

~Four
Hearts from "Sizzling Hot Book Reviews"

 

“I’ve
been waiting for Adam’s story,
Take This Man
, since reading
One Good
Man
, by author Nona Raines. After Adam Vostek dares Elyse Zemanski into a
one-night
ménage a trois
, their relationship is doomed—and Elyse is
gone. Who does Elyse meet when she sneaks back to town to help her best friend?
Adam! Once again, Raines takes the reins and delivers with great characters,
devious plot, and fantastic dialogue.”

~Sophia Roslyn, Dragonetti’s
Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

She
felt the bed shift as he eased out of it, nude, and padded across the room.
Elyse turned to her side, watching through her lashes as he picked up the
clothing he’d draped over a chair and slipped into the bathroom. She closed her
eyes for a moment, listening to the water run. Then she slid from beneath the
sheet.

Once
her feet hit the floor, Elyse gathered her own garments, scattered around the
cheap carpet of the motel room—panties, short flirty skirt, and glittery top.
When she put them on last night, she thought they were sexy. Now they looked
sleazy. She wriggled into them and looked for her shoes. No hose. Since it was
summer, she’d gone bare legged.

She
scanned the floor for her gold strappy sandals with the high heels. Fuck-me
shoes. Right. One lay near the dresser, but Elyse couldn’t locate the other.
Screw it. If she had to, she’d go barefoot. She needed to get out of here.

She
crept to the bathroom door in her bare feet, and softly knocked. Opening the
door, she noted the grungy tiles on the wall and the faded shower curtain.
Jason stood at the sink, toweling the water off his face. His pants were on,
his chest bare.

Earlier
that evening, Elyse had been struck by his movie-star good looks—the dark wavy
hair, square jaw, and intensely blue eyes. Even now, after all their sexual
hi-jinx, he looked like he’d just stepped off the cover of GQ.

She
caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and winced. Unlike Jason, she was a
mess. Her blonde hair was a rat’s nest, her makeup so smeared she resembled a
ghoul.

Jason’s
eyes were still sleepy. “Need to use it?”

“No.
I—can you give me a ride home?”

The
sleepy blue eyes widened a bit in surprise. “You’re leaving now?”

“Yes,
can you take me? Please?” She hated adding that please, hated how needy it
sounded.

“All
right.” He draped the towel over his shoulder. “Sure.”

“Thanks.”
Her throat was tight, her eyes stung. “I’ll wait for you outside.”

She
longed to use the shower, to stand under the hot water and let the sweat and
stickiness wash away. How long would it take to make her feel clean again? An
hour? A week? A hundred years?

At
the bedroom door, Elyse spotted her other sandal, under the bed. She hesitated.
It was bad enough to make the walk of shame to Jason’s car in her hootchie
outfit. Despite her earlier bravado, she didn’t want to do it barefoot as well.

Eyeing
the bed nervously, she crept over and hunkered down to grab her shoe. She gave
one last look toward the bed—and the man sleeping in it—then hurried out the
door.

****

Adam
Vostek lay alone on the bed in the no-tell motel. He’d pretended to sleep as
Elyse left with Jason. Adam’s insides were as twisted as the sheets he lay
beneath.

This
whole threesome thing had been his bright idea, his set-up. He’d pushed for it,
telling himself it was just a lark, a little fun. He’d be giving Elyse every
woman’s fantasy, two men devoted to her pleasure. Nobody would get hurt.

Yeah,
right.

Vostek,
you’re a lying sack of shit. And a cowardly son of a bitch, besides.

If
it was such a good idea, why had Elyse looked like she might burst into tears
when he suggested it? If it was so much fun, why had his guts churned as he
watched Jason touch her? Why had Adam wanted to pull her out of the other man’s
arms and snarl, “She’s mine”?

But
they’d both gone through with it. And Elyse had chosen to leave with a man she
only met tonight, rather than stay with him.

He
should have stopped her from leaving. Even now, Adam knew he should get out of
bed, get dressed, and go after her. Make it better somehow. Ask for forgiveness.
Tell her how much he loved her.

But
he wouldn’t. For the same reason he’d maneuvered the others into the whole
ménage game. Because he had to make Elyse let him go. And the only way to do
that was to make her hate him.

****

Elyse
stared out the passenger’s window of Jason’s sports car. She didn’t know a
Mustang from a Maserati, but she recognized expensive when she saw it. “Nice
car.”

“Thanks.”

Well,
that exhausted her store of conversation. What
did
proper etiquette
dictate after the course of a threesome? “Thanks
so
much. It was lovely.
We
must
do this again sometime.”

Not.

What
could she say that wasn’t lame?
I’ve never done that before?
Like he’d
believe her. Or even care.

What
difference did it make, anyway? It wasn’t like they knew each other. Except in
the biblical sense. Some sick impulse almost made her laugh at the thought.

Jason
spoke. “Won’t he be upset? To find you gone?”

Avoiding
his gaze, Elyse shrugged.

He
didn’t let up. “Are you running away? Is that what this is?”

Elyse
clamped her lips firmly together. She didn’t owe him any explanations.

Jason
took the hint. He sighed and dropped the subject. “What’s the address again?”

“344
Woodside Lane.”

Elyse
smirked. Woodside Lane. As though giving the street a countrified name would
keep people from noticing they lived in the dumpiest part of Summit, New York.
Keep them from noticing the empty storefronts and the broken sidewalks littered
with trash.

She
indicated the turn and had him pull over to the curb. “Here it is, right here.”

Jason
blinked, gazing at the building. “It’s a laundromat.”

Her
reply was short. “I live upstairs.”
What’s the matter, rich boy, not glam
enough for you?

She
hated Jason for his fancy car, for his designer clothes, and for his upper
class surprise at her digs.

She
hated herself for her slutty get-up, crummy neighborhood, and nasty apartment
above the Sud-Zee Laundromat.

But
most of all, she hated Adam, still asleep at the New Moon Motel. The man who,
until tonight, she loved without reservation.

She
swung the car door open and got out, surprised to see Jason emerging from his
side. “What are you—look, you don’t need to—”

“It’s
two a.m.,” he told her. “I’m not letting you go up alone.”

“The
door’s right there. I’ve got my key out. I’ll be fine.”

“You
still have to go upstairs.” His voice was firm. “I’m coming with you.”

“Fine.”

Let
him do what he wanted, it was easier than arguing. It wasn’t as though she had
to worry about him making a move on her. Been there, done that.

Jason
accompanied her to the outside door, which she unlocked, then followed her
upstairs to her apartment. Elyse unlocked that door as well and stepped inside.
“Thanks for the ride.” She tossed the words over her shoulder, dismissing him.

She
bent to pick up the little tortoiseshell kitten that greeted her, and kissed
the top of the cat’s soft head.

“Hi,
baby.”

Tucking
Jezebel in the crook of her arm, Elyse carried her to the bedroom and deposited
her on the bed. The kitten curled up. Elyse knew sleep was out of the
question—she was too angry, too keyed-up. Her mind raced. Her emotions were a
tangle. Reaching under the bed, she pulled out a battered old hard-shell
suitcase. She began to fill it with the sad contents of her dresser drawers.

“What
are you doing?”

She
jumped, her heart stopping. Jason stood in the doorway.

“Why
the hell are you still here?” she demanded.

“You’re
upset. I wanted to make sure you’re all right.”

“I’m
fine.” She grabbed her collection of paperback fantasy novels from a cheap
bookshelf and dumped them into the suitcase as well.


What
are you doing?” Jason repeated, stepping into the room.

She
crammed as much as she could into the suitcase, and struggled to get it closed.
Cheap-ass thing. She couldn’t get it fastened. “Shit.” Her finger got pinched
in the metal closure. “Ow! Oh, shit. Fuck!” She jammed the finger in her mouth,
sucking, tears stinging her eyes.

“Here.”
Jason took her by the arm, sat her on the bed. He easily snapped the locks
shut, then sat down beside Elyse. They were silent for some time. Jason’s
neatly manicured hands were stroking little Jezebel, who was curled on a
pillow.

“Pretty
little cat,” he remarked.

“Thanks.”

Then
he sighed. “What are you doing, Elyse?”

“Just
what you said. Running away.” She glanced at the suitcase. It now contained all
her worldly goods. Whatever didn’t fit inside, she’d leave behind and never
miss. Whoever rented the apartment after her was welcome to them. She didn’t
care if the landlord put them out on the curb. It didn’t matter.

She
was leaving the place without proper notice, so she wouldn’t get her security
deposit back. Too bad—she could use the money.

She
had thirty-six dollars and change in her purse. It wouldn’t get her very far.

Jason
spoke. “What about Adam?”

Her
heart thunked at the mention of his name. “What about him?”


Elyse
.”

“We’re
over.” Her face felt stiff from the effort to appear calm, from holding back
the rage clawing her. Not just rage. Betrayal.

“You’re
not going to talk to him?”

She
shook her head. “No.”
I never want to see his face again.

“So
you’re just going to up and walk away from everything in your life.”

Her
life? Elyse wanted to laugh. What life? Working at the Hi-Lite Bakery? Living
in this crappy little apartment with the puke-yellow walls? Her life had been
Adam and her dreams of a future with him. But that was over now.

Jason’s
hand brushed her shoulder. “Listen, hon. You’re over-reacting, big time.”

She
flinched, not only from his touch, but from the memory. “Don’t.”
Don’t touch
me. Don’t talk about it.

He
took no offence at her reaction. In a gentle voice he said, “What happened
tonight was just a blip on the radar. A little experiment. No big deal. Happens
all the time. Just put it behind you, and—”

“Can
you take me to the bus station?”

Jason
went still for a time, as though silently counting to ten to summon patience.

Before
he finished the count, Elyse said “Never mind. I’ll figure it out on my own. I’ll
take a cab,” then, remembering her meager store of cash, “or walk.”

For
the first time, Jason’s temper snapped. “Don’t be stupid. You’re not walking anywhere
in the middle of the night.” He indicated the kitten curled up on the pillow. “What
about your friend? Are you going to leave her here?”

“Of
course not.” Elyse’s cheeks burned. In all her half-assed planning, her jumbled
brain had completely forgotten poor Jezebel. “I’ve got a carrier for her
somewhere.”

The
plans kept coming. She had a credit card. She could use it to get a motel room
for a week or so in a new place, until she found a job. She’d make it work out.

But
Jason insisted on pointing out all the inconvenient facts. “Summit is not New
York City. The bus station’s not open this time of night.”

Shit.
He was so fucking reasonable. Elyse wanted to punch him. “Then I’ll hitch-hike.
Someone’s bound to give me a ride.”

“Like
who, a rapist? A serial killer?” Jason’s voice was sharp. “Are you out of your
mind?” He stood up and sighed. “You’re determined to be an ass about this, aren’t
you?”

Elyse
firmed her jaw and said nothing.

“Well,
then.” He gestured to the suitcase on the bed. “Get your shit. Get the cat. You’re
coming with me.”

Elyse
got to her feet, blinking at him. “Huh?”

“Get
your stuff. I’m not leaving you alone here to pull God knows what idiotic
stunt. You can stay with me tonight, and in the morning I’ll take you wherever
you want to go.”

“With
you?”

“I’ve
got a room at the Hotel Excelsior. You can stay with me there. Don’t give me
that look. You’re utterly safe with me. We can share the bed. I promise I won’t
touch you.”

“No.”

“Fine,
then.” He rolled his eyes, the gesture of a man using up his last reserve of
patience. “You can sleep in a chair. I’m not giving up the bed—that much of a
gentleman I’m not.”

“I
mean, no, I’m not your problem.”

“You
are now. Look, I’m exhausted, and not in the mood for these arguments. Now
where’s the cat crate? We’ll get her in it and go.”

He
did look tired, his face pale and dark half-moons hanging under his eyes. And
suddenly she realized she was tired, too. “In the closet over there. Does the
hotel allow pets?”

BOOK: Take This Man
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