Fourteen

Consciousness fluttered on the edge of my sleep-filled mind, and I tried to force it away. I didn’t want to wake up. I was warm and comfortable and content.

Vague visions of my dream passed behind my closed eyes as I snuggled into the warmest, best-smelling blanket I’d ever slept in. It snuggled back.

Something warm pressed against me, and my eyes fluttered open to see a head of familiar messy hair inches from my face. A hundred images flashed through my mind in that second as the reality of last night came crashing down on my muddled brain.

Holy shit.

It was real.

My heart rate quickened as I lifted my head slightly to see the beautiful man wrapped around me. His head lay on my chest, his perfect mouth parted slightly, releasing puffs of warm air across my bare breasts. His long body lay flush against mine, our legs tangled together and his strong arms wrapped tightly around my torso.

He stayed.

The intimacy of our position hit with a crushing force that actually took my breath away. He didn’t just stay, he clung to me.

I struggled to find my breath and not panic. I was keenly aware of each inch of where our skin touched. I felt the powerful thump of his heartbeat against my chest. His cock was pressed against my thigh, semihard in his sleep. My fingers burned to touch him. My lips ached to press against his hair. It was too much. He was too much.

Something changed last night and I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with it. I didn’t know what that change entailed, but it was there. In every move, every touch, every word, and every kiss, we had been together. Nobody had ever made me feel that way, as if my body were made to fit his.

I’d been with other men, but with him I felt as if I was being carried away by a hidden undertow, completely unable to change the course. I closed my eyes, trying to quell the sense of panic that was building. I didn’t regret what happened. It was—as always—intense and easily the best sex I’d ever had. I just needed a few minutes alone before I could face him.

Placing one hand into his hair and the other on his back, I managed to roll him off me. He began to stir and I froze, holding him close and silently willing him to go back to sleep. He mumbled my name before his breathing evened out again, and I slipped out from underneath him.

I watched him sleep for a moment, the panic receding somewhat, and was once again struck by just how gorgeous he was. Stilled by sleep, his features were tranquil and peaceful, and so very different from any expression he ever wore around me. A thick curl had fallen down across his forehead, and my fingers itched to brush it back. Long lashes, perfect cheekbones, full pouty lips, and a stubble-covered jaw.

Christ on a cracker, he’s pretty.

I started to make my way to the bathroom but caught my reflection in the mirror over the bedroom vanity.

Wow. Freshly fucked. That was definitely how I looked.

Leaning in, I examined the small red scrapes that were scattered along my neck, shoulders, breasts, and stomach. A small bite mark was visible on the underside of my left breast, a hickey on my shoulder. Glancing down, I ran my fingers along the red marks on my inner thigh. My nipples hardened as I recalled the feeling of his unshaven face brushing along my skin.

My hair was a wild and tangled mess, and I bit my lip as I remembered his hands twisted in it. The way he pulled me first into his kiss and then onto his cock . . .

Not helping.

I was jolted out of my thoughts by a voice thick with sleep. “Awake and freaking out already?”

Turning, I caught a glimpse of his naked body as he twisted in the sheets and sat up before pulling them over his hips and leaving his torso bare. I didn’t think I would ever get tired of looking at—and feeling—his broad, muscular chest, washboard abs, and tantalizing happy trail that led to the most gloriously hung man ever seen. When my eyes—finally—reached his face, I scowled at his lopsided grin.

“Caught you looking,” he murmured, rubbing a hand over his jaw.

I wasn’t sure whether to smile or roll my eyes. Seeing him rumpled and vulnerable in his half-awake state was disorienting. We never bothered to close the heaviest drapes last night, and now sunlight streamed in, blindingly bright against the tangle of white linens. He looked so different—still my asshole boss, but also someone else now: a man, in my bed, looking like he was ready for round . . . four? Five? I couldn’t keep track.

And as his eyes raked over every inch of me, I remembered that I too was completely naked. In this moment, his expression was as intense as his touch. I briefly wondered, if he continued to look at me like that, would my skin ignite? Would I feel his touch on my flesh the same as when he put his hands on me?

I fixed my expression into something I hoped camouflaged that I was mentally cataloging every inch of his skin and bent over to retrieve his white undershirt off the floor. It had been in front of the air conditioner all night and was a little cold but, thankfully, mostly dry. When I slipped the soft cotton over my head, I inhaled the sagey scent of his skin and then emerged, catching his dark stare.

His tongue darted out to wet his lips. “Come here,” he growled quietly.

I moved to the bed, intending to sit beside him, but he pulled me so I straddled his thighs, and said, “Tell me what you’re thinking.”

He wanted me to condense a million thoughts into a single sentence? The man was insane.

So I opened my mouth and let the first thought out: “You said you haven’t been with anyone since we were first . . . together.” I stared at his collarbone so I wouldn’t have to look him in the eye. “Is that true?”

Finally, I looked up.

He nodded and slipped his fingers beneath the undershirt, running his hands slowly from my hips to my waist.

“Why?” I asked.

He closed his eyes, shook his head once. “I haven’t wanted anyone else.”

I wasn’t sure how to interpret that. Did he mean he hadn’t met anyone he wanted but was open to it? “Are you usually monogamous if you’re sleeping with someone?”

He shrugged. “If that’s the expectation.”

Bennett kissed along my shoulder, to my collarbone and up my neck. I reached around him, grabbing the complimentary bottle of water on the nightstand and taking a sip before handing it to him. He finished it in a few long swallows.

“Thirsty?”

“I was. Feeling a little hungry now.”

“Not surprising, we haven’t eaten in like—” I stopped as he wiggled his eyebrows and grinned.

I rolled my eyes, but they fell closed as he leaned forward and kissed me once, sweetly, on the lips.

“Is monogamy the expectation here?” I asked.

“After what happened last night, I think you need to tell me.”

I didn’t know how to answer that. I wasn’t even sure I could be with him like this, let alone be monogamous about it. The idea of how that would work made my head spin. Would we actually be . . . friendly? Would he say, “Good morning,” and mean it? Would he feel safe criticizing my work?

He spread his fingers over my lower back, pressing me into his side and pulling me out of my rambling thoughts. “Never take this off,” he whispered.

“Deal.” I leaned back to give his mouth better access to my throat. “I’ll wear this and nothing else down to the poster session this morning.”

His laugh was low and playful. “Like hell you will.”

“What time is it?” I asked, trying to see behind him to the clock.

“Don’t give a shit.” His fingertips found my breast, and slipped back and forth over the soft underside.

But in the process of leaning away from him, I’d exposed the skin just above his hip. What the hell?

Was that a tattoo?

“What is—?” I could barely form the words. Pushing him away slightly, I looked up to meet his eyes before returning them to the mark. Right below his hipbone was a string of black ink, words written in what I guessed was French. How the hell had I missed that? I thought back briefly to all the times we’d been together. We’d always been rushed, or in the dark, or in only a state of semiundress.

“It’s a tattoo,” he said, bemused, pulling back a bit and trailing his fingers over my navel.

“I know it’s a tattoo, but . . . what does it say?” Mr. Serious Business had a fucking tattoo. Another piece of the man I thought I knew fell away.

“It says, ‘Je ne regrette rien.’”

My eyes flew to his, my blood heating at the sound of his voice dissolving into a perfect French accent. “What did you say?”

He definitely smirked. “Je ne regrette rien.” He spoke each word slowly, emphasizing every syllable. It had to be the sexiest fucking thing I’d ever heard. Between that and the tattoo and the fact that he was completely naked under me, I was going to spontaneously combust.

“Isn’t that a song?”

He nodded. “It’s a song, yes.” Laughing quietly he said, “You might think I’d regret that one drunken night in Paris, thousands of miles from home, without a single friend in the city, I decide to go get a tattoo. But no, I don’t even regret that.”

“Say it again,” I whispered.

He moved closer, hips rolling against mine, his breath hot in my ear, and whispered it again. “Je ne regrette rien. Do you understand?”

I nodded. “Say something else.” My breasts were heaving with each labored breath, my sensitive nipples grazing against the cotton of his shirt.

Bending slightly, he kissed my ear, saying, “Je suis ? toi.” His voice was strained and gravelly as he held himself up for me and I put us both out of our misery, sinking down over him with a groan, and loving the depth of this position again. He whispered a single, profane syllable over and over, staring up at me. Instead of clutching my hips, his hands fisted the shirt at my sides.

It was so easy, so natural between us, that it somehow just added to the space of uneasiness that I couldn’t seem to shake. Instead of focusing on that, I focused on his quiet grunts into my mouth. I focused on the way he sat us up abruptly and sucked on my breasts through his shirt, exposing the pink beneath. I got lost in his urgent fingers on my hips and thighs, his forehead pressed to my collarbone as he got closer. I got lost in the feel of his thighs under me, his hips moving faster and harder to meet every one of my movements.

Flipping me over, he spread his hand flat on my chest, hips stilling. “Your heart is pounding. Tell me how fucking good this feels.”

Instinctively, I relaxed when I looked up at his cocky grin. Did he know I needed some reminder of who we’d been less than a day ago? “You’re doing that talking thing again. Stop.”

His smile widened. “You love my talking. You especially love it when it coincides with my dick being in you.”

I rolled my eyes. “What gave that away? The orgasms? The way I ask you for it? Good sleuthing.”

He winked, pulling my foot up to his shoulder and kissing the inside of my ankle.

“Have you always been this way?” I asked, tugging uselessly on his hips. I hated to admit it, but I wanted him moving. When he was still, it teased, it was sore, it felt incomplete. When he moved I just wanted time to freeze. “I pity the females whose discarded egos litter the path.”

Bennett shook his head, leaning over me and propping himself up on his hands. Mercifully, he started moving, hips shifting forward and up, pushing deep into me. My eyes rolled closed. He hit the perfect spot again and again and again.

“Look at me,” he whispered.

I looked up, watched the sweat bead on his brow, his lips part as he stared at my mouth. Shoulder muscles bunched as he moved, his torso shone with a thin layer of sweat, and I watched where he moved in and out of me. I’m not sure what I said when he pulled almost all the way out and then pushed hard back into me, but it was quiet and filthy and instantly forgotten as he pounded into me. “You make me feel cocky. It’s the way you react to me that makes me feel like a fucking god. How can you not see that?”

I didn’t answer, and clearly he didn’t expect me to, his gaze and the fingers of one hand drifting down my neck and over my breasts. He found a particularly sensitive spot and I gasped.

“It looks like someone bit you here,” he said, his thumb sweeping across his bite mark. “Did you like it?”

I swallowed, pushing up into him. “Yes.”

“Fucking wicked girl.”

My hands slid over his shoulders and down his chest, across his abs and to the muscles of his hips, my thumb running back and forth over his tattoo. “I like this too.”

His movements grew jagged and forceful. “Oh, fuck, Chloe . . . I can’t . . . I won’t last long.” Hearing his voice so desperate and out of control only intensified my need for him. I closed my eyes, focusing on the delicious feeling beginning to spread throughout my body. I was so close, teetering right on the edge. Reaching between us, my fingers found my clit and I began to rub it slowly.

Tilting his head, he looked down at my hand and swore. “Oh, fuck.” His voice was desperate, his breath coming out in deep pants. “Touch yourself, just like that. Let me fucking see you.” His words were all I needed, and with one last brush of my fingers, I felt my orgasm overtake me.

I came hard, clenching around him, the nails of my free hand digging into his back. He cried out, his body seizing as he came inside me. My whole body shook in the aftermath, tiny tremors continuing even as my orgasm faded. I clung to him as he stilled, his body sinking against mine. He kissed my shoulder and my neck before placing a single kiss to my lips. Our eyes met briefly, and then he rolled off me.

“Christ, woman,” he said, exhaling a heavy breath, forcing a laugh. “You’re going to kill me.”

We rolled to our sides in unison, heads on our pillows, and when our eyes met, I couldn’t look away. I lost every hope I ever had that the next time would be less powerful, or that our connection would somehow melt away if we just got it out of our systems. This one night with a “truce” didn’t dim anything. I already wanted to move closer, kiss the stubble on his jaw, and pull him back over me. As I gazed at him, it became clear to me that when this ended, it would fucking hurt.

Fear gripped my heart and the panic from last night returned, bringing an uncomfortable silence with it. I sat up, pulling the sheets with me and up to my chin. “Oh, shit.”

His hand shot out, wrapping around my arm. “Chloe, I can’t—”

“We probably need to get ready,” I interrupted before he finished that sentence. It could be the beginning of a million forms of heartbreak. “We have a poster session in twenty minutes.”

He looked confused for a moment before speaking. “I don’t have any dry clothes in here. I don’t even know where my room is.”

I fought a blush as I remembered how quickly everything had happened last night. “Right. I’ll use your key to go get you something.”

I showered quickly and wrapped a thick towel around myself, wishing that I would’ve had the sense to bring one of the hotel bathrobes in here with me. With a deep breath I opened the door and stepped out.

He was sitting on the bed, and his eyes rose to meet mine as I entered the room.

“I just need . . .” I trailed off, motioning to my bag. He nodded but made no move to speak. I was usually never self-conscious about my body. But standing here in nothing but a towel, knowing that he was watching me, I felt uncharacteristically shy.

I grabbed a few things and rushed by him, not stopping until I was once again safely behind the bathroom door. I dressed faster than I thought possible, deciding I would pull my hair back and finish the rest later. Grabbing the key cards from the counter, I returned to the bedroom.

He hadn’t moved. Sitting on the edge of the bed with his elbows resting on his thighs, he appeared lost in thought. What was he thinking? All morning I’d been a nervous wreck, my emotions shifting wildly from one extreme to the other, but he seemed so calm. So sure. But what was he sure of? What had he decided?

“Do you have anything in particular you want me to bring you?”

When he lifted his head, he looked slightly surprised, as if the thought hadn’t occurred to him. “Um . . . I just have a few meetings this afternoon, right?” I nodded. “Whatever you pick will be fine.”

It only took me a second to locate his room; it was right next door. Great. Now I could imagine him in a bed just through the wall from mine. His bags were already there, and I paused briefly, realizing I would have to go through his luggage.

Lifting the largest one and placing it on the bed, I opened it. His scent hit me and caused a heavy pang of desire to wash through me. I began looking through the neatly packed items.

Everything about him was so tidy and organized, and it made me wonder what his home looked like. I’d never thought about it much, but I suddenly wondered if I would ever see it, if I would ever see his bed.

I paused as I realized that I wanted to. Would he want me to?

It struck me that I was stalling and I continued searching through his clothes before finally settling on a charcoal Helmut Lang suit, white dress shirt, black silk tie, boxers, socks, and shoes.

Putting everything back where it belonged, I gathered up his clothing and headed for my room. I was unable to stifle my nervous laughter as I walked into the hall, shaking my head over the sheer absurdity of the situation. Thankfully, I managed to compose myself as I reached my door. I made it two steps inside before I froze.

He stood in front of the open window, awash in morning sunlight. Each beautiful line of his chiseled form was accentuated in perfect detail by the shadows cast across his body. A towel hung indecently low on his hips, and there, poking out just above it, was the tattoo.

“See something you like?”

I reluctantly returned my attention to his face. “I—”

My eyes drifted back down to his hip as if pulled by a magnet.

“I said, did you see something you like?” He crossed the room, stopping just in front of me.

“I heard you,” I said, glaring. “And no, just lost in thought.”

“And what exactly where you thinking?” He reached out, moving a piece of my damp hair behind my ear. Just that simple touch caused my stomach to jump.

“That we have a schedule to keep.”

He moved a step closer. “Why don’t I believe you?”

“Because you’re self-absorbed?” I suggested, meeting his gaze.

He quirked an eyebrow and watched me for a moment before taking his clothing from my hands and placing it on the bed. Before I could move, he pulled the towel from his hips and tossed it to the side. Sweet mother of God. If there was a finer specimen of man on this earth, I’d pay big money to see it.

Picking up his boxers, he began to step into them before he stopped, looking at me. “Didn’t you just say we had a schedule to keep?” he questioned, eyeing me humorously. “Unless, of course, you see something you like.”

Son of a—

I narrowed my eyes and turned quickly, returning to the bathroom to finish getting ready. As I dried my hair, I couldn’t get past the unsettling feeling that he was trying to say something more important than “Look at my naked body some more.”

Before I could even untangle my own emotions I was trying to guess at his. Was I worried he would want to leave or stay?

When I returned to the bedroom, he was already dressed and waiting, looking out the large window. He turned, walked to me, and placed his warm hands on my face, staring at me intently. “I need you to listen to me.”

I swallowed. “Okay.”

“I don’t want to walk out that door and lose what we found in this room.”

His simple words rocked me. He wasn’t declaring, he wasn’t promising, but he said exactly what I’d needed to hear. We might not know what was happening, but we wouldn’t leave it unfinished.

Letting out a shaky breath I brought my hands to his chest. “I don’t either, but I also don’t want your career to swallow mine.”

“I don’t want that either.”

I nodded, feeling like words tangled my thoughts and I was unable to think of anything articulate to add.

“Okay then,” he said, looking me up and down. “Let’s go.”

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