Authors: V. K. Black
Still facing firmly away from Luke, Ariana gave the appearance of being mesmerised by the view. His hand slid down her arm, then further to her hip. It circled and moved to her stomach. Then he pulled her against him. His hard body against her back felt warm and the woodsy scent of his aftershave wafted towards her. Goodness, he smelled good.
Jason. She had to remember Jason.
Time to put the first part of his plan into action.
She turned within his arms and smiled what she hoped was a beaming, seductive, let’s-have-sex-in-half-an-hour smile. ‘Thank you, Mr—I mean Luke. But where’s your champagne? I think we should have a toast.’
Their bodies rested against each other, her breasts pressed lightly against his lower chest. She could feel the rock-hard muscles beneath his shirt. His hard eyes stared into hers for long seconds. Under the verandah’s fluorescent lights, they seemed black. Where was the Mr Charming who smiled at old ladies? She wanted
‘Sure, baby. Anything you want.’ He picked up the champagne flute behind him.
She might be short, but she
over twenty-one (well, recently), and a fully qualified accountant who’d worked hard to get there. Was this how he talked to women? As if they were a lesser species? Ariana felt her eyes hardening right back at him, as she gave a brittle smile. ‘To us, Luke…’
‘…and to an interesting evening,’ finished Luke.
Hah! You don’t know how interesting.
Scolding her mean inner voice for that snarky thought, she smiled politely as they clinked glasses. Her hand hovered briefly over his glass, and that easily, it was done.
Ariana took a huge gulp of her wine, and waited. Her heart began to thump uncomfortably in her chest. Had he seen her release the powder? Long seconds passed. Then he brought the fine glass up to his lips and took a large gulp. Have some more, she pleaded silently. But he placed the glass on the table in the corner and gently forced her to face the harbour lights again, pulling her up against him.
‘Are you any warmer now, baby?’ His hand stroked her stomach through the material of her stretchy black dress, and his thumb glanced past the underside of her left breast. Was that an accident? She took a sip of the champagne, cleared her clogged throat and tried to step away, but he held her tight. Nope, probably not.
‘Um, yes thank you, Luke,’ she said. ‘You don’t have to warm me up any more, I’m fine. So why don’t we finish this lovely wine and chat. And, you know, most people call me plain Ari or Ariana, not, um, baby, and…and oh —’
His fingertips brushed across her nipples.
Moving her hair to one side with his face, he nuzzled her neck. ‘Now, pretty one, I’m sure no one has ever called you ‘plain Ariana’ in your life.’ He grabbed her wrist and forced her to turn toward him. ‘I’ll make you a deal, though, sweetheart,’ he murmured, backing inside his room and dragging her with him. ‘I’ll call you Ariana, if you come inside with me and let me peel off that pretty little dress you’re wearing and show me the sexy bra and panties I’ve been feeling.’
Snatching her hand away, she narrowed her eyes up at Luke Donahue’s hard, arrogant face. Why did he seem so angry with her? ‘No, you can’t peel off my dress, Mr Donahue. I think you have entirely the wrong idea about me.’
Luke deftly removed her champagne flute from her slackened hold, placed it on the coffee table, and scooped her up into his arms. His eyes were laughing, but in a way she didn’t like — as if he was making fun of her — as he dumped her onto the huge, leather couch beside the table and followed her down. His powerful leg draped over both of hers and forced her to stay. Her jaw had dropped and she was pretty sure she gave the appearance of a startled guppy.
His long fingers touched her chin and closed her mouth. He traced the outline of her lips. ‘Ari,’ he said as he dipped his head and kissed her. The soft kiss hinted at much more to come, as did his softly delivered words. ‘How could I have the wrong idea about you? You looked at me across a crowded room and you wanted me. That’s how it was, wasn’t it?’ With a quick movement that bespoke years of practice, he reached around behind her and undid the zip of her dress. In an instant her dress was down to her waist and his hand cupped her breast. She was conscious of his other hand unbuttoning his shirt. He kissed the now wildly beating pulse in her throat and said in a lowered voice, ‘And I wanted you sweetheart. I’m so hard for you I can’t wait much longer.’ He ground his pelvis against her, and she felt the solid proof of his words against her hip.
I’m sorry, Jason.
‘Let me go!’ she screamed. She pushed him so hard, he fell off the couch and landed with a heavy thump on the thick carpet.
Turning over and quickly zipping herself up again, she crawled to the end of the couch and crossed her arms across her chest, scowling. Nothing like this had ever happened to her before. She’d made sure of it by doing the exact opposite to everyone she’d grown up with on that stupid, hippy, free-love-espousing commune.
But when Luke’s easy strength had drawn her up tightly against his hard-packed muscles and his hand had boldly cupped her breast, she’d been horrified by the zing of excitement that had arrowed its way down between her thighs. She pressed her knees tightly together and sat forward.
The cell phone in her handbag, which she’d placed on the counter as she’d entered the room, rang. She bit her lip, praying it wasn’t Jason, that he hadn’t been kidnapped or worse. Luke chuckled as he rose fluidly from the floor and strode over to the ringing and vibrating bag. He unzipped it, and Ariana stared, open mouthed, as he coolly took out her phone, checked the caller ID, then walked back to her.
’ he said, in mocking disbelief, and hit the ‘Talk’ button. As he listened, his eyebrows raised, he grinned, and he said, ‘My name is Luke Donahue, ma’am. Moonbeam is right here.’ He handed Ariana her phone with the first genuine smile she’d seen him give.
‘Hi, Grandma,’ she said. She watched with rapidly growing indignation as Luke proceeded to examine every item in her small evening bag.
‘How’s my little Moonbeam?’ boomed Grandma’s voice in her ear. ‘And who was that gorgeous sounding man?’ Ariana glanced at Luke, who had apparently satisfied his busy-body instincts, for he had zipped up her purse. She knew from his amused smile that he could hear every word Grandma said.
Ariana truly loved her Grandma. She’d always been there for her, even surprising everyone by finding the funds to pay for Ariana to attend an exclusive Catholic boarding school, a long, long way away from the commune, when it was evident Ariana couldn’t stand the place a day longer. But she had to admit that Grandma could be embarrassing. Her cheeks heated, and she walked toward the verandah, trying to place some distance between herself and her would-be seducer. ‘Like he said, Grandma, his name is Luke Donahue.’ She lowered her voice, but it was no good. Luke had strolled along behind her. ‘Um, you know Grandma, this isn’t a great time for me to talk. Can I…’
‘Moonbeam—’ Grandma interrupted, her voice excited. ‘I have big news. I’ve moved away from Nimbin.’
Ariana closed her eyes and breathed a prayer of thanks. At last. ‘Grandma, that’s great. But can I—’
‘Yes,’ Grandma continued blithely, never listening, as always. ‘I’ve moved up to Dingo Beach.’
’ Ariana laughed, momentarily distracted. ‘Where on earth is that?’
‘Up in North Queensland, love. Now, I’ve got to go. Andre wants a cup of tea. I’ll ring you again when it’s a better time. Give that lovely-sounding man a kiss from me. He sounds more of a man than that Jason will ever be.’ Grandma had never been a Jason fan, even when he was small. She’d always said he was sneaky. She’d been positively aghast when they’d started dating a couple of years ago, and had thrown a huge tea and cookies party at the commune to celebrate when they’d broken up. Grandma’s cookies packed quite a punch.
‘Bye Grandma,’ she said to the now-silent phone, smiling. She glanced up at Luke, whose lips twitched at the corners as he held out her handbag, letting it dangle from one long finger. Snatching it away from him, she stalked back to the couch. ‘Didn’t anyone ever tell you it was rude to go through a lady’s purse?’
* * *
Luke strolled after her. ‘I’ve been burned before, sweetheart. Didn’t Mai Ling tell you all about it?’
Her forehead creased in confusion. Okay, so Changpu’s women didn’t get together and swap girlie stories. He stared down at his pretty enemy, who’d gone back to her prim schoolmarm pose at the end of the couch. Moonbeam? Grandma?
He shrugged. Hitler had probably had a nice grandmother too. Moonbeam’s funny, warm-sounding grandmother was nothing to do with him. This was certainly a three-person battle, but it was him against Changpu and little Ariana. While Mai Ling had also been as sexy as hell, Ariana appealed on another, deeper level. The flash of fear in her eyes when he’d forced his hard-on against her had shamed him. Old Changpu sure had him worked out. This time round, with this girl, appeal to his chivalry.
Chivalry be damned. Ariana was no sweet young thing, despite the first-class acting job she was currently engaging in. Her knees and lips were pressed together, her back stiff, hands clasped tightly. Bullshit. She was a whore who used her body to earn her wages.
As Luke rolled his shoulders, his scar stretched. Although it was healing nicely with all the stitches the doctor had stabbed into him and the antibiotics he’d been chowing down on, it hurt. Ariana’s eyes, so vulnerable and apprehensive, lifted to his.
Her creamy boobs, edged with her bra’s black lace from when she’d hurriedly pulled up her dress, drew his eyes down. He smiled. He’d take that lovely little body she was offering, but there would be no reward. Revenge was going to be very sweet.
‘Moonbeam,’ he crooned as he sat next to her. ‘Did I frighten you, baby? Didn’t your mother or your
tell you not to go up to strange men’s bedrooms?’
Ariana’s eyes snapped from vulnerable to angry. She clambered up onto the couch, perched her bottom on the top, with her feet resting on its cushions, and glared straight at him. ‘Listen, you sleazy, sexist creep,’ she spat. ‘My name is Ariana — A-R-I-A-N-A. Not Moonbeam. Not baby, okay?’
He sprang up, placed two hands around her hips and hauled her off the couch, cutting short her brief height advantage. Cupping her backside, he yanked her against him and then lifted. Her feet swung above the carpeted floor and her six-inch heels dropped one at a time. Plop. Plop. Their pelvises met.
Did this little bitch believe she had him under her thumb? That she could dictate conditions? He barely refrained from growling.
‘Baby, I know all about why you’ve come onto me tonight. You think you’re going to get what you want, Moonbeam? If you lie down, spread your legs, and fuck me hard, like you’ve been told to do, you’ll get the map?’
His anger suddenly dissolved as he observed, with incredulity, the stain colouring her cheeks. He put her down. ‘Are you
How can someone like you possibly blush?’
She took a deep breath and flexed her fingers. ‘Mr Donahue, I think you are a very rude man, and that what you said to me was disgusting. So I’ll say good night to — Holy Mary Mother of God!’ Her eyes widened in horror. Glancing down, he saw why. His shirt had fallen open to reveal his chest, with its long, jagged, stitched-up scar.
Luke shook his head in wonder. ‘What is it with your vocabulary? “Mr Donahue”?, “Mary Mother of God”?’ Furious as he was, he smiled. She was kind of cute. ‘Do you ever say “fuck”, Moonbeam?’
He grinned in delight as her cheeks turned a pretty pink again.
, I try not to, even when I’m under a lot of pressure.’ She glowered at him, but her eyes drifted again to his chest. ‘What…what happened to you?’
His grin faded. ‘A lady, about your size, slashed me with her knife.’
Okay Moonbeam, enough with the theatrics
. As she gazed at the ugly red cut, she paled even more. Her knuckles were white as she clenched her fists. Was she going to faint? He almost laughed. Grasping her chin tightly between his thumb and knuckle, he forced her to meet his eyes. ‘You seem to have gone pale. You can act amazingly well for such a little slut.’
But as furious as he was, even knowing his words were true, he regretted saying them as soon as they came out of his mouth. He was twice her weight, two heads taller. He could call her anything he wanted, and she couldn’t do a thing about it. He hated bullies and that was what he was being now.
But she tossed her head, dislodged his fingers from her chin, and fixed him with a death glare. ‘How dare you!’
Luke laughed. Really laughed. His muscles, which had been drawn in tight and hard, relaxed. ‘There you go again. ‘How dare you’? Who says that?’ He reached out to take her hand. She snatched it out of his reach. ‘I’m sorry I called you a slut,’ he said, softly and sincerely. ‘I’m not usually that rude, but I’m a little angry right now. I guess bad memories of a knife-wielding lady have spoiled my manners.’
Feeling dizzy for some reason, he sank down on the couch, sprawling back, his hands behind his head. ‘Ariana? That’s a pretty name, baby. Almost as interesting as Moonbeam. Your parents must have been unusual people.’
‘Oh, shut up.’ Her lovely big eyes were still spitting fury. Despite his genuine anger over what she was trying to do, his lips twitched as he forced himself not to smile. She looked like a cranky kitten. A very pretty, cranky kitten.
‘You’re in with Changpu, aren’t you Ariana? Get me up to my room, promise me sex, and relieve me of my map — was that the plan?’ He let his eyes wander down the entire length of her body, lingering at her breasts, before sliding back up again. She stood stock-still, like a martyr enduring torture, her flashing eyes the only evidence that what he was doing affected her.
‘Unless you’re some sort of martial arts expert, and you’ve shown no signs of that so far, I can’t see how you’ll manage to get the map away from me.’ His eyes slid down her tiny body again. ‘I’ll take you up on your offer of sex, Moonbeam. You’re lovely. But if you want the map, you need to grow a few inches in a hurry. At least Mai Ling had a knife in her purse. We both know you don’t have one. So I guess that leaves you and me. Man against…woman.’