I hate how short my dress is, but I walk with confidence the way Miss Black told me to and step into the elevator. When I emerge, the hotel restaurant is in front of me. I pass the hostess at the podium and wave at her, like I’m here every day. Lately, I’ve been here too much. She nods and I walk into the restaurant, past poshly decorated tables to find Sean seated in the same location in the back. He has that look on his face, and the same dark intensity lurks behind his eyes that was there the first night.
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Lifting his gaze, Sean runs his eyes over me, taking in every curve. His lips don’t move. There’s no expression on his face. I don’t sit. Instead, I stand there, waiting for him to say something. Sean’s cold again. This feels like a business transaction and nothing more. Now I understand why he does it. It’s because he has to. There’s no way to be both warm and contained at the same time.
Sean lifts his steely gaze. I step forward and press my finger to the monogram on his plate. His eyes lock with mine. My heart tries to race faster when he looks at me, but I forbid it. I can be cold, too. I shut everyone else out. What’s one more person? I’m not sure why I let him into my messed up life in the first place.
Sean arches a brow at me, but my meaning is clear. Whatever happened this morning is gone. Things are back to the status quo now. Sean nods and extends his arm, waving me to sit. “Avery,” he says my name like we’re strangers.
My stomach feels like I ate a window—wood, glass, and all—and churns uncomfortably. The waiter appears from nowhere when I take my seat. He pulls back the chair for me and I sit down. Sean orders wine and the waiter disappears.
“Nice dress,” he says, carelessly.
“Nice tie,” I say, leaning to the side, like I don’t care. Sean looks stunning. He’s wearing a black suit with a black shirt. His silk tie is midnight blue which makes his eyes look bluer than I would have thought possible.
Sean smirks. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d wear something like that.” Sean is mirroring me. ] pretend not to notice. I sit up and tilt my head, making my hair fall over my shoulder.
“Yeah, well, it turns out that I do.” I lean closer to him and give him a lazy smile. “Before I left, Black stripped me and stole my panties, so half the work’s done for you.” I wink and sit back.
Sean is still leaning forward. His cool façade cracks a little. “You’re not wearing panties under that?” I shake my head slowly and smile at him It seems to do something to him, but he tries to hide it. Sean’s voice sounds a little too breathy when he speaks. “Well then, it’s only fair to tell you that. ” he leans closer. I lean in to hear him whisper, taking a sip of wine as he speaks. “I’m not wearing any panties either.”
I try so hard not to react to him, but I can’t help it. I snort laugh and choke on the wine. It’s so embarrassing. I keep coughing and I can’t stop. Sean smiles at first and then looks concerned. He moves his chair closer to me, leaning in and placing his hand on my back. “Are you okay?”
I punch his arm and he sits back and smiles. Everyone is looking at us. “You’re such an ass,” I
Sean scoots back to his place. The grin on his face lights him up. I can’t picture him looking more perfect than he does right now. “You started it, Miss Smith. I suggest you only step up to the net if you intend to play hard.”
“Tennis euphemisms? Really? Nothing says highbrow like tennis,” I lift the glass and make snobby face. I suck at not letting him affect me. Within minutes of arriving, Sean cracked my shell and is pulling me out, but I can’t have it.
“Well, the balls are the right size.” he opens his hands like he’s explaining something that would be rational.
I laugh. I can’t help it. “Not for you, they’re not.”
“Flattery will not get you anywhere, Miss Smith.”
“I already have a free pass into your panties after dinner, Mr. Jones. I expect my flattery to get me everywhere and then some.” I sip my wine again with a smug look on my face.
Sean’s expression shifts from neutral to that lazy sultry look that’s so damn hot. “Where exactly is the and then some. It sounds titillating.” He strokes his chin, drawing my eye to his lips as he does it.
“Check my preference sheet. It’s recently been updated.”
Sean’s smirk falters, but he puts it back. The movement is so fast that I’m not sure I saw it. Maybe I just hope that I did. “Is that so?”
I nod and tap my finger nail once against my wine glass. “You can titillate anything you want. No restrictions. No hang ups.”
Sean just stares at me. After a moment, he asks, “Why the change in pace?”
I avert my gaze and trace my finger around the curve of the glass. “Why not? I mean, that is il you’re willing to. Unless, you’re only into fake relationship kind of sex. ” Sean stares at my lips like he wants to devour them He doesn’t speak.
“Oh, come on,” I say, leaning closer to him I take his tie between my fingers and feel the silky fabric with my thumb. Sean looks at my hand and slowly returns his gaze to my face. “You’ve got to have some fetish or kinky desire, something that you need.” I say the last word slowly, wrapping my lips around the syllables.
Sean sits perfectly still, like he’s under a spell. It breaks when the waiter comes back and puts our food down on the table. Sean lifts his fork. He doesn’t talk about my offer. Instead, he points at me with a fork and says, “Eat.”
Dinner progresses in silence. I don’t like eating with him It feels too informal, too personal. He knows what food I like. The meal on my plate wasn’t listed on the menu. It’s a salty sweet lover’s paradise with sweet sundried cranberries, sprinkles of feta cheese, and pork so savory that it melts in my mouth. There’s some kind of sweet glaze over the meat. I could die. It’s perfectly delicious. I chew slowly, wishing that Sean’s thoughtfulness didn’t appeal to me, but it does.
After dinner, Sean stands and takes my hand, pulling me up. With my heels on, I can look directly into his eyes. They captivate me and swallow me whole. The floor of my stomach falls away. I suck at this. I don’t know how I’m supposed to do this and not be affected by him Sean tells the waiter to send up the desserts in an hour or so. He takes my hand and leads me to the elevators.
Someone tries to come in with us, but Sean says, “Sorry, better catch the next one.” He holds up his hand until the doors close a second later. We’re alone.
I glance at him like he’s lost his mind. Sean grins wickedly and reaches past me. He pulls the stop button and the elevator goes dark. Sean presses into me and my back slams into the wall. Sean’s hands run over my sides as he leans in, pinning me in place. My breath catches in my throat. The darkness in the tiny room chokes me. Panic slide up my throat.
Sean whispers in my ear, “I’m sorry, but you seriously think you can tell me that you’re wearing nothing beneath this skimpy little dress and not make me hard the instant you say it? Feel me, Avery. That’s what you do to me.” Sean tilts his hips and presses into my leg. I feel his hard length press against me from under the constraints of his slacks.
I’m breathing harder and faster than usual. I hate elevators. I can’t breathe. The first time Sean stopped it, we started moving again two seconds later, but this terrifies me. Beads of sweat form on my face. I suck in a jagged breath, trying not to scream
Sean has me pressed against the wall, which makes it worse. I can’t see him. I can’t move. Voice shaking, I plead, “Stop.”
Sean drops my hands and before I know it, my palms are against his chest and I’m pushing him away. Sean steps back. I feel a vacuum of cold air fill his place. He must push the button back in, because the lights flicker on and we start moving again. Nervously, I tuck my hair behind my ear. I wish I could shrink into the corner and disappear. My heart is still pounding like I’m going to die. Elevators are like big caskets. When they stop, it feels like there’s no air. My heart nearly exploded. It’s not sexy, it’s terrifying. And then Sean pinned me. I gasp, thinking that I’m going to be sick.
Sean gazes at me with a strange look on his face. Desire still swims in his eyes. His affection for me doesn’t diminish, the way I thought it would. After watching me for a second, Sean says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you are claustrophobic.” His eyes are burning a hole in my face, demanding that I meet his gaze.
When I look up, I can’t breathe. Sean is so intense, so attractive. He lures me in and I never had a chance. “I’m not,” I lie. No one’s realized this about me. I hate it that Sean does. I try to break the gaze, but I can’t.
“Then what upset you?” When I don’t answer he steps closer to me. “Was it the way I touched you?” I shake my head. I know where he’s going with this.
Swallowing hard, I answer. “I just didn’t expect it, that’s all.”
Sean nods and seems to accept that as my answer. It isn’t until later that I found out that he didn’t accept it at all.