Break me slowly by joya ryan
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Break me slowly by joya ryan

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Graduate student Katelyn Gunn is headed for her first day of assistant teaching when she is almost hit by a car. The nervous and inexperienced Kate is shocked to realize that it isn’t the near death ...

Graduate student Katelyn Gunn is headed for her first day of assistant teaching when she is almost hit by a car. The nervous and inexperienced Kate is shocked to realize that it isn’t the near death experience that has her heart racing, but the sinfully sexy man behind the wheel. Adam Kinkade is ultra-wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and the most powerful distribution mogul in Chicago—he is also the first man who ignites emotions inside of her other than fear.

Adam is a man used to getting what he wants. And he wants Katelyn—naked and often. Willing to stop at nothing to possess her, he relentlessly pursues Kate only to discover that it is she who possesses him—completely.

Kate quickly realizes that Adam has secrets of his own, secrets dark enough to break the walls she keeps so firmly in place.

Passion turns to possession, and Adam’s controlling nature and seductive hands sparks a desire so strong, it destroys her own demons. But when desire turns to addiction, Kate fears that it will rage too hot, and shatter her sanity.

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Break me slowly by joya ryan Break me slowly by joya ryan Document Transcript

  • Break Me Slowly By: Joya Ryan
  • Contents Copyright Dedication Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen
  • Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One
  • Copyright This is an original publication of Bear and Gunner Publishing, LLC This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Bear and Gunner Publishing, LLC or the author, does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content. Copyright © 2013 by Joya Ryan
  • All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. Contact Joya@JoyaRyan.com for permission. Printed in the United States of America www.JoyaRyan.com
  • Dedication To my husband. I love you. Thank you for dealing with my crazy and always supporting me. Acknowledgments Thank to my wonderful critique partner/BFF. This book would be nothing without you. Thank you to Viola Estrella and Jenn LeBlanc for the wonderful photos and cover art. You are both amazingly talented and I LOVE this cover!
  • Chapter One “You need to breathe, Katelyn, otherwise you’re going to pass out and I sure as hell am not hauling your ass all the way to campus myself.” I bounced in the four-inch heels, which I’d borrowed from Megan and were a half size too small. The expensive torture devices were currently cutting into my little toe. “What do you mean, all the way to campus? It’s right across the street.” My order came up and I grabbed my soy latte. “It’s still too far to drag you.” Megan took a sip of her coffee. Her sun- kissed skin and platinum blond hair
  • made her look more like a beach babe than a city girl. “You just need to take a deep breath…” Megan inhaled deeply and locked her brown eyes on me, expecting me to mimic her. So I sucked a breath in through my nose and released it through my mouth. Every draft of oxygen calmed the familiar hum of anxiety pulsing through my veins. “Good,” Megan said in a soothing voice she had picked up from all those yoga videos she forced me to watch—and participate in—with her. Despite making me exercise, she was amazing. Ever since second grade, when Bridget Burgess pushed me off the monkey bars, slinging a string of insults directed at everything from my ratty
  • clothes to my white-trash mother and effectively throwing me into my first panic attack, Megan had stood up for me. From the age of seven, she had always been there, reminding me to breathe and trying her damnedest to keep me from the brink of a meltdown. “You’re going to be great today, Katelyn. You’re one of the top students in the program and the professor is going to love you.” “Thanks, Meg.” We stepped out into the busy downtown Chicago morning. Traffic was booming. The cool September weather was crisp and carried the smells of gasoline and pastries fresh out of the oven. This time of year, when red
  • and yellow leaves blew past the skyscrapers like tiny flecks of paint, was my favorite. Megan held out her hand. She knew I wasn’t a hugger. People coming into my personal space made me uneasy, no matter how much I trusted them. And there was no one I trusted more than Megan. But having lived for years with my mother’s fists and nails coming at me, I shied away from any physical contact. Reaching out, I took her hand. She gave it a gentle squeeze. “Remember, if anyone gives you trouble, gets too close, or you feel like you’re on the brink of a panic attack—” “I know. I need to breathe.”
  • She nodded. “And if that doesn’t work, you just give their face a high five and run.” I laughed. Megan wasn’t the only person who knew about my past, but she was the only one who was aware of how it affected me. “I’ll see you tonight. Good luck!” Megan’s hand slid from mine and she walked toward my uncle’s real estate firm. We had graduated last summer with our undergrad degrees. Megan now worked for my uncle, Tim St. Roy, while I’d made the choice to return to school and go for my master’s in sociology. Two more years of school and volunteering at the Children’s Home and
  • I’d be on the fast track to being a full- fledged social worker. With every step, the clicking of my pumps on concrete sent a shiver up my calves. But when my heel got momentarily stuck in a crack in the pavement, I faltered. One of these days I would have to learn to walk in these damn shoes without looking like a stumbling drunk person. I ran a hand through my red curls, trying to tame them—not working—and continued my trek toward the university. Graduate school had been tough to get into, but when the opportunity to T.A. for the head of the sociology department opened up, I’d jumped at the chance.
  • Clutching my coffee, I fished my cell phone out of my purse to check the time— A horn blared and headlights flashed. A shriek caught in my throat as I stared down a black town car coming straight at me. Brakes screeched, I jumped, and my coffee tumbled down the front of me. The car stopped abruptly, just inches from my toes. Air finally found its way from my lungs as I struggled to breathe. Almost being crushed by oncoming traffic was not my ideal way to start the week. I stood dazed in the middle of the street, into which I hadn’t even realized I had walked.
  • “Are you all right?” The driver stood by his door. He was older and outfitted in a black hat and jacket. The chauffeur. Looking down at my ruined blouse, I slowly nodded. My knees shook as I made my way back to the sidewalk. Once I stepped up on the curb, my body relaxed a bit. The driver got into the car, pulled up alongside me, and parked. “Miss?” Standing outside the back passenger door was a man dressed in a three-piece, steel-gray suit and dark purple tie. His eyes were like frosted ocean water, two icebergs shinning at me.
  • His black hair was thick and coiffed perfectly in a rugged yet professional way that made my heart beat harder. The driver stayed behind the wheel this time while the sinfully corporate-looking man walked toward me on the sidewalk. Those intense eyes never left my face. “You should watch where you’re going.” “I…” I looked up at him. Even in Megan’s four-inch heels, he towered over me. Jesus, he had to be pushing six- three. He was close enough that I could smell him. Crisp and clean and amazing. He radiated power and confidence, from
  • his broad shoulders to his lean hips. Who knew suits could look so good on a man. Every stitch molded over him perfectly. His strength was very apparent even through the layers of expensive fabric. “Are you all right?” His voice was deep, but this time, there was a slight rasp when he spoke. “I’m fine. Thank you.” A tremor slipped out and coated my voice. “Can I offer you anything?” He looked down my body. Heat rushed over me. Shifting my weight, I tried to get a grip on my hectic heart rate. I knew I was staring—primarily at his mouth. It was thick and firm. His gaze slid over me again.
  • When it focused on my breasts, I inhaled sharply. Men had looked at me before, but none as blatantly as this. That heat that was pulsing? It surged so hot that my bloodstream caught fire. I opened my mouth to say something, anything, then realized he was really looking at the soy latte splattered all over the front of me. Damn! “I—I’ve got to go. I’m late.” And now I needed to find a new shirt. Anger decided to spark just then, and irritation that this man—this sexy, sleek man—had interfered and made me feel all…weird. Even though it was I who had walked into the street—and I who was
  • lingering like a goon, undressing him with my eyes. Still! This morning was turning to hell quickly, and standing in the middle of downtown Chicago looking like a rumpled mess and being stared down by Mr. GQ was not helping. “I must insist on giving you a ride.” I glared at him. Hating how cool and calm he was. Hating that he was standing there like chiseled perfection while my hair was frizzing by the second and the sugar from my coffee was sticking to my chest. A moment ago I had been keenly aware of all his earth- shattering attributes. I had never paid any man such attention before. But that was drowned out by the awareness of
  • my own shortcomings and general lack of grace. I was a twenty-three-year-old virgin, a fact I rarely gave thought to, but for the first time, I felt like it was written all over my face. The second dose of heat that burned through me was much different than the first. Shame. Embarrassment flooded me and I just wanted to get away from this moment. Adrenaline was crashing. I needed to run. From him. From this whole situation. “I don’t take rides from strangers.” The Walk light was now flashing across the street. “What is your name?”
  • My gaze landed back on him. “Katelyn.” “Well, Katelyn, I really must insist on giving you a ride.” The way he said my name made a shiver roll across my back. “No need, I’m just right there.” I pointed to the university and moved in step with the foot traffic and crossed the street. Careful not to look back. ~ I snatched a shirt from the campus bookstore on my way in. While it didn’t go with my heels and pencil skirt, it was dry. When I walked into Professor Martin’s office, he eyed me with confusion.
  • “Well, I admire your school spirit,” he said, his belly rumbling with each word. A brown sweater vest atop a tan button-down and chocolate corduroys completed Professor Martin’s look. The only contrast to his obvious obsession with earth tones was his half- bald head and white mustache. He sort of looked like Santa’s second cousin. “I’ve heard wonderful things about you, Miss Gunn.” He gestured for me to sit. The room had rich wood furniture, like the big desk he sat behind and the matching chairs in the corner, and was decorated in different hues of chestnut. Go figure. From the carpet to the paintings—brown, brown, and more brown.
  • “Thank you so much. I am excited to be your assistant this year.” “Tell me, what is your long-term career goal, Miss Gunn? Academia or workforce?” I folded my hands in my lap. “Well, I’d like to be a social worker.” He sat back and nodded. “I see. That can be difficult. Takes a tough skin to see what goes through there sometimes.” He smiled. “But they need all the good people they can get.” I couldn’t help but smile back. Professor Martin was nothing like what I’d expected. He was just so…jolly. “I’m teaching a full load this term. Everything from entry-level sociology to upper division. I’ll need
  • you to hold regular office hours, and, if you think you’re up for it, I would like you to step in and lecture my Soc one- oh-one classes from time to time.” “I’d be happy to, Professor.” “I’ve seen your transcripts— very impressive.” He winked. “I think that you will do really well here.” “Thank you.” “Here’s my schedule.” He handed me a piece of paper with the times and days he taught the various classes. “And these—” He circled the Tuesday and Thursday evening sociology classes. “—will be the lectures you take over.” “Great! When would you like me to start?”
  • “Might as well start at the beginning.” “Tomorrow?” “That work for you?” Excitement bubbled. “Yes, of course.” I was going to teach. A real college class. Granted, the first day was always short and generally you went over the syllabus and expectations, but it was still something! The morning might have started out a bit rough, but things were looking up. Somewhere between a near-death experience, a sexy stranger with intense blue eyes, and Soc one-oh-one, I was feeling like my life just might be finding an even keel. ~
  • Professor Martin had left right after giving me a spare key to the office and telling me to make myself comfortable. It took only an hour to select my office hours, cross-reference Professor Martin’s schedule with mine, and successfully color-code and organized every weekday in my personal planner. Right as I opened my laptop to tackle my thesis paper, a man entered the office. “Can I help you?” “Delivery for a Katelyn Gunn.” “That’s me.” The man handed me a rectangular box wrapped in shiny white paper, with no card or any identifying writing on it. Odd.
  • Even though I had lived with my aunt and uncle for the last part of my high-school career, we weren’t necessarily close. They had never once sent me anything. The only time I spoke with my mother was when she needed something, and I’d just seen Megan this morning. That girl couldn’t keep a secret to save her life, so if she had gotten me something, I would have known then. The messenger left and I unwrapped the mystery box. It was thin and light. When I pulled the last of the paper away, I saw the top of the box and frowned. Saks Fifth Avenue. I popped the lid off. Inside was a white silk blouse in my size. The card on
  • top said: Keep your eyes forward. ~A What the hell? How had he found me? Being borderline worried about the logistics of that should have been my first thought. Instead, I felt a little giddy and flattered. A small smile tugged at my lips. Had he picked this out himself? Probably not. He looked like one of those important people who had others do things for him. He had a personal driver, for God’s sake. The color of his eyes alone was seared into my memory. That intense
  • stare could likely burn right through a person. A man like that had power. Not just in general, but power over women. That much was obvious. It was also clear that he was very aware of his effect on others. Before I could let the embarrassment of this morning engulf me, I switched my thoughts to something else. Like the line of his strong jaw. Judging by his dark features and careful grooming, he probably had to shave every morning and by every evening he’d have a five o’clock shadow. He had to be in his thirties, but he was fit and obviously took care of himself. So much strength and poise seeped from every pore that he could easily pull off
  • late twenties if not for those eyes. There was darkness in them. A kind of wild knowledge that no twenty-something could pretend to have without actual experience. My skin broke out in goose bumps and I had to shift in my seat to alleviate the sudden throbbing between my legs. What was happening to me? My experience with men was minimal. It was hard to date when I didn’t like people coming within striking distance, let alone touching me intimately. My sex life consisted of myself, a few imaginary fantasies, and that was about it. But this mystery man? Just thinking of him had my whole body pulsing to life and all five of my senses begging for him.
  • Leaning back in the chair, I looked at the ceiling and groaned. Emotions of any kind were not fun to deal with. Which was why I tried not to. I had been on the receiving end of my mother’s rage and love for years. That was the tricky part of dealing with someone who was bipolar. I never knew which version of her I’d get. She could go from such hate to such joy in a matter of hours and it wasn’t until I felt her nails slice across my face that I knew which state she was in. Even keel. All the time. That’s where I preferred to be. That was where it was safe. Now if only I could get my stupid body to understand that.
  • Chapter Two “How was your first day, Miss Tits and Ass?” Brian sat in the chair on the other side of the living room and unleashed that all-American, boy-next- door smile at me. Too bad I was immune to it. Had been since junior year of college, when I met him. All Brian had to do was aim that grin, shaggy blond hair, and stubble at an unsuspecting female, and they’d instantly swoon. It was how he’d snatched up Megan, and the two had been dating for over a year now. “You do know that T.A. means Teaching Assistant, right?” He shrugged and sprawled on the
  • overstuffed chair, beer in hand. Megan and I had rented this apartment during freshman year at college. Since we’d moved in four years ago, Mondays were designated “sweatpants and take-out night.” It was my favorite. Especially when Brian came over to hang with us, even though he donned his normal ripped jeans and baseball cap instead of pajamas. Besides Megan, he was my best friend. “Tell Brian how you almost got creamed!” Megan yelled from the kitchen, where she was dishing up Chinese food. “I wasn’t watching where I was going and almost got hit by a car.” Crisscrossing my legs on the couch, I
  • took a bite of my chow mein. “Jesus! Are you okay?” Brian leaned forward, his forearms resting on his knees, and looked me over as if I were a walking bruise. We joked around a lot, but at the end of the day, we were all friends. He was as close to a big brother as I’d ever get, and like Megan, treated me like I should be wrapped in Styrofoam and sheltered from the atmosphere itself. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just stood there with coffee dripping down the front of me like a moron.” “But then Mr. Tall, Dark, and Dramatic sent her a new blouse,” Megan finished as she walked into the living room.
  • “Wait. The guy who almost hit you with his car sent you clothes?” I glared at Megan, who just shrugged me off. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust Brian, but another person weighing in on the oddity of this whole situation was the last thing I needed. “How did this guy find you?” “I don’t know. He knew my name and where I was going and I guess just figured it out.” Brian frowned. “That seems freaky.” “I think it’s nice.” Megan grinned. “And I think he’s hot.” I took a drink from my longneck. “You haven’t even seen him.” “So? You described him and he
  • sounds hot. I trust your judgment. Besides—” Megan took a bite of her lemon chicken. “—this would be a perfect opportunity to ask him out.” “I don’t even know his name.” Megan shrugged. “He found you. Maybe you can find him. All I’m saying is that you’re beautiful and smart and you have a lot to offer. Why not get your toes wet in the dating pool? You don’t have to get too close—maybe a cup of coffee or something?” “This is assuming I ever actually see this guy again.” “All I’m saying is that you smile a lot whenever you talk about him.” “I haven’t talked about him. You’ve been making me talk about him
  • all night.” “I don’t like it,” Brian stated. That didn’t really surprise me. Since I didn’t date, the issue had never come up, but where Megan thought that branching out was good for me, Brian obviously disagreed. “This guy is obviously thoughtful and it’s Saks Fifth Avenue. What’s not to like?” Megan spat back. Around a mouthful of noodles I mumbled, “I’m really sorry I told you guys.” “Don’t be! It’s Brian who’s being an ass.” “Oh, I’m the ass?” I threw my hands up. “I thought we established that I was the one with
  • the ass, so both of you shut up.” We all smiled. Megan rolled her eyes at Brian, but he didn’t seem to care. Dinner hit the spot and as I ate, I thought about what Megan had said. Hunting down this mystery guy wasn’t an option, but if I was given a chance to re- do that first meeting, I would. Either way, it was time I took action. My past wouldn’t hinder me. If I wanted to be treated like a normal woman, I needed to start acting like one. A cup of coffee wasn’t scary. “How about lunch tomorrow?” Brian asked. “I can’t. I’m actually running Professor Martin’s lecture.” “No shit? That’s awesome!”
  • “It’s the intro sociology class, but I’m pretty excited.” “You should be,” Brian said. “But, ah, do you think you’ll be able to handle that?” Anger swelled in my chest. I knew he cared. Knew Megan cared. But I wasn’t a child. Yes, I had anxiety problems and issues with personal space, but I wasn’t breakable. Being treated like a fragile doll was frustrating. And I’d decided a long time ago, when I walked out of my mother’s house, to stop being weak. “I can handle a lot, Brian.” He opened his mouth to say something, but Megan cut him off. “What time are you done? We can both meet
  • you afterward for dinner.” “Lecture gets out at four-fifty, so let’s aim for five.” “Perfect.” Megan clapped and Brian nodded in agreement. “We can celebrate your first lecture on the other side of the fence.” ~ I ran my palms down the front of my black pencil skirt. The emerald fabric matched my eyes and, as usual, my long curls hung loose around my face and down my back. This was my power outfit. The curtain my hair provided was my security blanket. Staring down a theater of one-hundred-plus students, I needed all the security and confidence I could get.
  • Starting up the PowerPoint deck, I cleared my throat, and reminded myself that I knew this material. I was prepared, organized, and all variables were accounted for. Any possible scenario that could disrupt the lecture had been thought of and a plan of action in place. From a student randomly vomiting to a surprise fire alarm, I had a solution for it all. Having control, or at least the illusion of it, gave me a sense of peace. I began the lecture, feeling more confident by the minute. Midway through, I glanced up from the presentation to look at the crowd. My blood pressure spiked and my palms went sweaty. Standing in the doorway of the
  • upper corner entry was Mr. GQ. With the lights off, it was hard to make out every detail of his handsome face, but those wild baby blues were bright against the darkness. He slid into the back row near the door and simply stared at me. My throat went dry and my whole body shook. I tucked a lock of hair behind my ear—then untucked it. I forced myself to concentrate and continue. Damn it. He was a variable I hadn’t counted on. Taking in a gulp of air, I prepared for the flood of anxiety to rush over me. But it didn’t. His eyes were intense, his
  • demeanor so fluid and calming I could drink from it. What he made me feel wasn’t fear, it was awe. He radiated power and control and with every stolen glance at him, I felt stronger. Simply being in his presence made me feel secure, but the explanation for such a feeling was eluding me. The next thirty minutes dragged by and though I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, my heart rate stayed above ninety. His eyes never left mine and I felt the heat behind every gaze. Ignoring him was a lesson in improbability—one I failed miserably. When the students left, he walked down the steps toward the front of the room where I stood.
  • “Hi.” I smiled, trying not to sound overly anxious. “What are you doing here?” My tone was accidently harsh, but damn it, my whole body was buzzing like I had been running a marathon for the last hour. His tone however didn’t falter. “I’m learning about sociology.” “Really?” His eyes skated over me and I fought the instinct to cross my arms over my chest and huddle into a ball. Appearing small and meek was a great way to avoid confrontation. But standing in front of this man, I found myself wanting to be noticed. Instead of cowering, I straightened my stance and smiled.
  • He was in a black suit and tie with a crisp white shirt underneath. Just as striking as I remembered. I grinned when I noticed his five o’clock shadow and couldn’t help glancing at the clock. It appeared I had been right about that. “Is something amusing you?” he asked. “Yes.” Maybe it was the adrenaline or the fact that I was coming down from it, but I couldn’t suppress the sheer joy that was rising in my gut. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had been certain I’d never see him again. But he was here. This was my chance. My makeover moment. “Did you like the blouse?” “Yes. Thank you. It really wasn’t
  • necessary, though. I would have returned it to you—” “Why would you give back something you like?” The words caught in my throat. I stood there once again at a disadvantage, and I needed to rectify that. Licking my lips, I rallied my courage, and mentally chanted: Coffee dates aren’t scary. You can do this. Will do this. Just ask his name, then ask him out. “What is your name?” “Adam Kinkade.” Damn. Even his name sounded sexy— “Wait. Kinkade? Like Kinkade Enterprises down the street?” I walked past the tall glass skyscraper every day on my way to and from the university.
  • “Yes.” Kinkade was a name associated with wealth and God knew what else, but I’d never imagined the man before me to be that Adam Kinkade. I was replaying how we’d met when reality hit hard. Every ounce of confidence I had called on instantly disappeared. He was a wealthy, well-known businessman, which was obviously why he was here: Business, not pleasure. Not a cup of coffee. I glanced at my feet. “Look, you don’t have to worry about me suing you or insurance or anything, if that’s why you’re here.” He cocked his head. “You walked in front of my car.”
  • “Well…yeah…but if that’s what you’re concerned about, then—” “I’m not concerned. I have an excellent legal team.” My heart raced. “So you’re suing me?” “You seem really worried about this idea of a lawsuit.” My eyes had to look like saucers. I might not be super rich or highbrow, but I wasn’t stupid and I knew when I was being jerked around. “Your cryptic answers are really starting to bother me.” He smirked. “Cryptic?” “Yes. Like repeating everything I say so you don’t have to answer a question.”
  • “I answered your questions. You just didn’t like my answers. I can hardly be blamed for that.” The urge to scream became overwhelming. This infuriating—sexy— man was messing with my emotions and seemed to be entertained by it. “Why are you here, Adam?” “To ask you to dinner.” “But that’s an entire meal…” I mumbled, then clamped my hand over my lips, making a mental note to think before speaking. The corner of his mouth turned up. “Indeed it is.” “I just…I was thinking more along the lines of coffee.” Was I interested in dining with him? Maybe.
  • Yes. Well…sort of. I just hadn’t mentally prepared myself for that. One warm beverage was a baby step while food was a frickin leap. “We can get coffee after dinner.” The flicker of unease quickly dissipated when I got lost in Adam’s rough voice and contagious grin. Before I could say anything more, Brian and Megan walked in. “Hey, Kate. How was your first day?” Megan’s words trailed off as she and Brian descended the steps toward me. Her stare zeroed in on Adam and she instantly flushed. I couldn’t really blame her for that, though. The man was a masterpiece. Brian came to stand right next to
  • me. He glared at Adam. But what concerned me more was the look Adam was giving Brian. His face appeared calm, but his eyes blazed like those of a poisonous snake ready to strike. “I’m so sorry, we didn’t mean to interrupt,” Megan said, tugging on Brian’s arm. He didn’t move. “Adam, this is Megan and Brian.” Apparently no one cared for my attempt at a polite introduction because neither man acknowledged the other. This must be was a pissing contest looked like. I just couldn’t figure out why the two men seemed to have a problem with each other. Brian was protective of me, but this was ridiculous. When I felt threatened or
  • nervous, I panicked. While Adam Kinkade did spark a lot of emotions, fear wasn’t one of them. “You ready for dinner, Kate?” Brian asked me, looking at Adam the whole time. Adam looked like he was about to rip Brian’s throat out with his teeth. Finally, he took his death stare from Brian and locked it on me. “I was unaware you had plans this evening. Especially since you seemed so adamant about coffee.” I didn’t have time to form a sentence before Megan piped up, “Oh! No, it’s totally fine if you two were going out. Brian and I will catch you next time, Katelyn.” Megan was all
  • smiley and I could have sworn she wiggled her eyebrows at me. I was going to argue, and from the looks of it, so was Brian, but Adam didn’t give either of us a chance. He leaned forward and placed his hand on the small of my back, leading me away. “Good,” he growled at Brian. He gave Megan a lazy grin. “Thank you, Megan.” The girl looked like she was about to fan herself. Adam Kinkade, with his abrasive swagger and lethal smirk, could melt the panties off any woman. And I was currently in his clutches.
  • Chapter Three I sat in the back of Adam’s town car while his driver wound through the city. Lights from the local shops and streets were bouncing off the wet pavement as we passed through downtown. “Where are we going?” He looked over at me and I checked the urge to sigh. He was so damned handsome it was kind of hurting my chest. Of course, remembering to breathe would have helped. “The best seafood restaurant in the city.” He didn’t say any more, and neither did I. Tension ran thick, though I
  • couldn’t really say why. It had been awkward with Brian and Megan earlier, but that shouldn’t make him mad. Right? We pulled up to the restaurant. It was packed, glamorous, and sat right on the waterfront. The large glass skyscrapers surrounded us and two open towers serving as parking garages made every car look like a Lite-Brite piece of a bigger, luminous puzzle. Adam got out, walked around, and opened my door for me, then silently ushered me inside. The host sprang to attention. “Mr. Kinkade, it’s a pleasure to see you this evening.” Adam simply nodded, his palm remaining on the small of my back. As if the host’s internal gears
  • had shifted into turbo boost, he showed us to a private table at the back of the restaurant. White linen covered the circular tables, dazzling chandeliers hung from the ceilings, and vibrant art lined the walls. Everything screamed class and wealth and not…me. “So, Adam.” After pulling my chair out for me, he seated himself. “Do you come here often?” “Yes.” His eyes bored into mine and I fidgeted with my hands in my lap. So much for small talk. The waiter came and Adam ordered wine and food, never once glancing at the menu. He didn’t ask me what I wanted. His actions didn’t offend me; rather, they made me feel a bit more
  • at ease. Being out of my element, I had to trust his expertise in this. Once our wine glasses were full, the waiter left. A long swallow of the crisp grigio left tingles on the roof of my mouth. “What is the situation between you and Brian?” I almost spat out my wine. “What? What do you mean?” He leaned forward, ensnaring my gaze. “Are you two currently, or have you ever, fucked?” This time I coughed and the wine burned as I forced a swallow down the wrong pipe. “That is none of your business. What kind of question is that?” “An honest one. I like to know in
  • advance if there are any obstacles.” “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Obstacles to what?” “To fucking you.” My mouth hung open. The waiter brought a tray of oysters and Adam put one on my plate. No one had ever approached me in this manner, let alone so bluntly and seemingly emotionless about it. Was this how dating worked these days? I didn’t have any experience with this—what with literally keeping everyone at arm’s length—but surely it wasn’t this forward. “I can hardly have a dialogue with you if you remain speechless.” His tone was somewhere between anger and boredom.
  • “I’m sorry.” Shock flared through my system. “I’m just trying to figure out what kind of asshole it takes to pull off this kind of ‘seduction.’” A wide grin split his face and I got a glimpse of those straight white teeth. My God, it was an incredible sight. “Not many people have the nerve to call me an asshole.” “Maybe not to your face,” I mumbled before taking another sip of wine. He sat back in his chair and looked me up and down, that sleek confidence radiating from him. “And here I was giving you a compliment.” “Compliment? By asking me first about my sex life, then informing me you
  • want to be a part of it?” “No,” he snapped, and sat forward. “I want to be all of it.” My brain short-circuited. This man was sexy, rich, and powerful. Was this how he spoke to people? Just expected them to fall at his feet? Part of me—and I knew which part—wanted to give in to him, because while I might be lacking experience, this man obviously wasn’t. “I see I have you thinking about it.” My cheeks flushed and my eyes shot back to his. There was no way he could have known what I was thinking. “You’re very expressive,” he said, as if once again reading my mind.
  • “I—” I started to stutter, then just decided to stop attempting to talk. “Excuse me.” I got up from the table and headed toward the ladies’ room, desperate to get out of his presence. He brought out things in me that I didn’t like. Like emotions in general. My eternal balance was being tilted. Too far in any one direction could be bad. I needed to shut it down before it took me over. This man was tempting me. Sucking me in. And damn if I didn’t want to get lost in it. The way he spoke to me. Looked at me. Not an ounce of pity was ever present. Yes, he was blunt. But he didn’t know me or my past. Didn’t think of me
  • the way Megan and Brian did. They loved me and had only good intentions, but they assumed I was damaged and couldn’t handle myself. Adam Kinkade made me feel competent. A few short encounters had me feeling like something beyond an adult. He made me feel like a woman. I looked in the mirror and made sure the sides of my face and neck were covered by my hair. “Too bad…” I mumbled to my reflection. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how Adam made me feel or what I wanted—which, presently, was just him. My skin was actually throbbing for his touch. But if he got close, he’d see the scars, and if he saw the scars, it
  • would only be a matter of time before he found out about my past and either ditched me or looked at me the same way Brian and Megan did. I put a cool, damp towelette down on the back of my neck, and tried to calm the total body inferno. Adam Kinkade was intoxicating. Just when I felt good about my decision to walk out there, thank him for dinner, and call a cab, I was already backpedaling. Megan had told me once that the only things keeping my insecurities at bay were some low lighting and great makeup. The concealer I wore on my jaw and neck did cover the scars pretty well, and the restaurant wasn’t overly bright…
  • No! Whatever Adam was offering was not something I could take on. For some people, sex—hell, life in general —was simple. For me it wasn’t. I went through my mental checklist of why this was a bad idea. Between a job, school, and a mentally ill mother, my limit of crap I could handle was maxed out. I didn’t have time, much less the energy to screw a random stranger. Of course, he was the sexiest stranger I’d ever seen, but that was still no excuse. Relationships, sex, any of it, involved some kind of feeling. It made you give control to another person, whether long term or for one night. And I wasn’t interested in either. Which is why
  • I never dated. One slip was all it took. A shaky breath hit my lungs and I put my hands on my stomach. Growing up and enduring the ramifications of a bipolar mother was hard enough. It was scary and more often than not, it hurt. That would never be me. Once you crossed that line, got too high or low, you could lose yourself completely. Become violent. I had been too young to know when it had taken over my mother. But for twenty-three years now, I had never let myself even get close to that point. I was too afraid of what might trigger it. I wasn’t about to start hunting for that trigger now. Adam Kinkade was a bad idea. I exited the bathroom and was
  • immediately maneuvered against the far wall. Adam’s hard body pressed against me. He placed his palms on the wall on either side of my head, the cold sheetrock pressing into my back. “Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot,” he murmured. Those lips that I had been thinking about were now inches from mine. That little pep talk I’d just given myself? Out the window. “I can guarantee we did. Seeing as how you almost hit me with your car.” “I’m glad you’re safe, but I can’t say that I’m not happy about the meeting.” My breath hitched. He smelled so good. Those intense blue eyes softened just a touch. Enough to allow
  • me to see a man underneath that hard exterior. There was a difference, a switch almost from the Adam I was currently staring down and the Adam who had sat across from the dinner table from me a few minutes ago. But one fact remained. He was close. And for the first time, I enjoyed the feeling. Fear didn’t take over. Instead, anticipation and strength coursed through every cell. All the more reason I didn’t want to lose that. Didn’t want him to see all of me. I needed to maintain control and make a smart decision. “Adam, I don’t know exactly what you’re after, but I can tell you that
  • I’m not the girl you need.” He frowned. “I disagree.” “I don’t do one-night stands. Nor do I sleep with random men on a whim.” “What about Brian?” “No! I’m not sleeping with Brian. He is dating my best friend. And that’s not what this is about.” “Are you with someone else?” “No.” “Then I don’t see a problem.” I lifted my chin to meet him eye to eye. “You think you can just snap your fingers and get whatever you want? I’m not that easy.” He smirked and trailed his mouth along my ear. A shiver raced over my spine. This was a first. I either flinched
  • or warned them off before anyone had a chance to get this close. This was a bad idea, but I wanted more. “I was going to use my fingers in various ways on you, Katelyn. All of which I’m confident you’d approve of.” When his teeth nipped my ear lobe, I clutched the front of his shirt in both hands. “I don’t do casual sex, Adam.” “Ah. You want a commitment.” “No.” He pulled back slightly. “So, you don’t do casual or commitments?” “Correct.” I adopted his clipped tone from earlier. A useful trick, because my minimal answer left the mogul obviously stumped.
  • “What do you do, then?” he rasped. I shook my head, but his mouth moved toward my neck. My throat worked hard, struggling to swallow. He stroked the locks of my hair and skimmed his lips further down to my collar. It had never been my experience that touching someone’s neck could be pleasurable. Hands coming at me scared me, but I’d never thought of someone’s face getting this close. I clung to the two conditions I had that kept me from pushing him away: Low lighting and makeup. I currently had both. “I just have a lot going on…” I stifled a groan when he licked my pulse point. “M-my school…career…” Damn
  • it, where was my brain? Thinking was impossible with his mouth on me. “It sounds like excuses. You and I—” Lick. “—fucking—” Bite. “— would be amazing. You know it. I know it. The attraction between us…the intensity…tell me you didn’t feel it when we first met.” Oh, I felt it. And right now I was about to ditch my brain, right along with my panties, and take him up on his offer. Because whatever we shared, no matter how brief, would be mind-blowing. Later, I’d have to face what was actually happening, have to see that no matter how naïve I was now, in the end, I couldn’t handle this. “There are plenty of women who
  • would take you up on your offer. Why don’t you go chase one of them?” My hands eased and I let my arms fall to the side. He looked me in the eye and smirked. “I don’t chase.” “Stalk, then.” “That mouth of yours is in need of discipline.” He sucked my bottom lip between his teeth and I moaned. He pulled away enough to look at my face. Anger piqued and damn it—I was mad. Mad that he’d put me in this position. Mad that he’d taken his mouth from me. Just…mad! “Oh, yeah? So what? You wanna play Name That Complex? One quick lay while you command me to call you
  • Daddy?” “No. I want to sink my cock into you so deep that you scream with pleasure and call me lover.” He looked at my face. “And there will be nothing quick about it.” He mashed his mouth against mine and robbed me of any hope for breath. Delving his tongue inside, he took deep drafts, like he was drinking me down. This was too good and nothing could have pried me away from him in that moment. Every inch of my skin was buzzing, begging to be touched. I dug my fingers into his hair the way I had imagined. It was soft and thick. Scratching his scalp, I returned his kiss. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was
  • doing, but it didn’t seem to matter. It felt right. And Adam wasn’t complaining. His palm landed heavy on my ass and he lifted my thigh to his hip. My skirt rode up and I felt his erection press against my core. Instinct took over. I sucked his tongue. He groaned. I bit his lip. He growled. He pressed me further against the wall. “I knew you’d be like this,” he said between laps at my mouth. “I haven’t stopped thinking about you since I saw you on the street.” He trailed his free hand up my inner thigh, pausing to gently snap the laces of my garter. He looked down, our
  • breaths mingling. “Sexy,” he whispered. For the briefest moment that his mouth wasn’t on me, clarity pierced my brain. I was in the dim hallway of a restaurant, and Adam was against me. The cloud lifted and I fully realized that he was touching me. And I had allowed it. I was already losing my sense of self-preservation. “I—I can’t do this.” He frowned when I lowered my foot back to the floor and began adjusting my skirt. “You say that a lot. It’s a terrible word.” “What word do you prefer,
  • then?” He backed away, running both hands through his hair. No one would ever know I had gripped him there. His composure was back in place and I instantly felt a loss. Cold crept over my body as he eyed me. A few feet away, after what had just happened, seemed like miles. “Do you have any idea what you do?” His voice was laced with heat and malice. “Other than almost walking into cars?” “You command a presence.” “Says the CEO of all that’s rich and powerful.” “That mouth…” He looked like
  • he was about to throttle me, in a wicked way that had my heart jumping and my already aching clit throbbing harder. “You give off this essence. Like you need a man. Like whoever gets to possess you will reap the benefits of your entire body.” “And you think I radiate this?” He stepped closer to me. His jaw flexed as though he was gritting his teeth. “I can fucking smell it.” I licked my bottom lip and tasted him. If I didn’t get out of there now, I’d give in to anything he wanted.
  • Chapter Four “Well, that’s the sourest face I think I’ve ever seen on you,” Megan said when I walked through the front door. “I take it the date didn’t go well.” I shrugged out of my coat. “It wasn’t a date. It was a proposition. Thanks for throwing me to the wolves, by the way.” “Wolves? Wasn’t there just one wolf? One hot, sexy wolf?” But a wolf all the same. “Is Brian here? He looked about ready to punch Adam in the face.” “Brian will get over it. You know how boys get when their schedules get changed.”
  • No, I didn’t. Because Brian generally didn’t care about much beyond his motorcycle shop. “So what did the big, bad Mr. Kinkade proposition you for? The man already owns most of Chicago.” Don’t remind me. “He wanted a hook-up.” “What!” Megan was on her feet. “And?” “I asked him to bring me home.” She frowned. “Is that all?” She shook her head. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just…I saw how he looked at you, and how you looked at him.” “What? How did I look at him?” “Kate, you just perked up. It was like you were calm and excited at the
  • same time.” Lots of words have been used to describe me. Excited was a rarity, but calm was never used. Maybe the effect Adam had on me was more apparent than I realized. “Do you like him?” A smiled tugged at my lips. “I think I do—well—kind of. He irritates me. But there’s something about him that makes me feel all…” Megan’s eye went wide and she cupped her hands in front of her chest. “This is great, Katelyn.” “How is this great? The man basically asked for a one-nighter.” “No, not that. I mean it’s great that you’re feeling!”
  • “You make it sound like I’m devoid of all human emotions.” “Well, you do go out of your way to avoid them.” That was true. This whole thing didn’t make sense. Megan was beyond supportive. She knew what had happened to me when I was younger. Knew the kind of abuse my mother dished out. Which was why maintaining a distance from others was second nature. Megan was my best friend, and yet, she never made a move to hug me or get too close. I appreciated that she understood my hang-ups and worked around them. But somehow, I felt lacking in her presence. Adam didn’t skate around his
  • point or walk gingerly around me. He was in my face, demanding, and treated me like I could handle not only myself, but him as well. He brought out the person I wanted to be. Confidence trickled out whenever I was near him. Just a moment in his presence and he drowned out the darkness of the past, allowing strength to rise. And damn it, I wanted that strength. “I know it’s hard for you to open up after what you lived through…” Megan’s face changed and she gave me that look. I hated that look. “Whatever you decide with Adam is your choice. But feeling wanted—it’s a good feeling. I want you to have that.” It was a good feeling. Despite
  • the lack of anything else Adam had offered, I had never felt more desired in my life. He had kissed me like he couldn’t get enough. The passion was out of this world. Which was what I was afraid of. A man like Adam could get a girl addicted to him, then leave her jonesing for a fix he’d never again deliver. “Meg, I was with him only an hour and I already feel it coming on.” “Feel what coming on?” “Just…the unbalance.” She gave me that look again. “I love you, Kate. But honey, you’ve been fighting something that doesn’t exist.” “Oh, it exists.” “Not in you. You are not your
  • mother. Just because she’s a raging psycho, doesn’t mean you are, too.” “Well forgive me, but I’d rather not find out.” “So you just want to never feel anything? Too scared that you might— what? Do what she did?” I absently ran my fingers along my jaw where the scars were. “I’m sorry,” Megan said, more softly. “Don’t be. I’m the one with the issues.” “I know you’re not comfortable with all this, but Kate, you have to feel things out and see where they take you. I’m not saying a one-night stand is the key. But you’re starting to tackle things
  • you have shut yourself off from. Letting people in is a good thing.” That was the problem. I didn’t want one more person talking to me like a child who didn’t understand the basic concepts of humanity. I didn’t want Adam thinking I was some damaged weakling with an anxiety disorder. Even if that is exactly what I am… “We just need to find you that thing that brings out the girl I saw today. The one who squared her shoulders and stared down a stranger. Maybe teaching is really helping you.” “Maybe.” Yes, teaching was fun and it definitely pushed the walls of my
  • comfort zone, but the one thing that made my spirit flicker to life was Adam. There was nothing gentle about him. He was hard, domineering, and I responded to him in a way I never had with anyone else. Maybe if I went into this as an experimental project. Attack it from a clinical standpoint, its main purpose to see how far I could push my limits before I went over. I could keep my control and ease myself into the idea of dating. Or whatever the hell it was Adam was after. Sex was apparent. And I was a twenty-three-year-old virgin. At some point I’d need to lose it. Maybe now, on my terms, was the best way to go about it.
  • Adam had been upfront. This was a simple transaction of bodily pleasure and nothing more. Obviously a guy like him didn’t do commitment. A one-time thing, then boom—done. Emotions and control intact when it was over. “So.” Megan’s voice went up an octave. “Are you going to give me details and tell me what happened?” “He mapped out what he wanted, I said thanks but no thanks, and we parted ways.” Megan looked over my face and she unleashed a dazzling smile. “That all?” I nodded. “Then why are your lips all
  • swollen like someone has been kissing the hell out of you?” My eyes went wide. “You let him touch you! Kate, that’s awesome!” I rushed to the mirror. My lips were puffy and there was even a slight redness to my chin where his stubble had scraped me. There it was, staring back at me: proof that Adam Kinkade had kissed me. The sight made tingles spread beneath my skin. “I’d say he likes you.” Megan smiled. My phone buzzed with a text. I opened the message and all the blood left my head.
  • I can still smell you… ~ I was holding morning office hours. Professor Martin was lecturing in one of his several classes. I hadn’t seen much of him and based on the schedule, probably wouldn’t. Technically, I should be working on my thesis. Instead, I was doing Google searches on Adam Kinkade. About forty-seven bazillion hits came up, many with photos of him looking hot in a tux at high-profile events and charity auctions. The one common denominator in almost all the pictures was a stunning woman standing by his side. Never the same woman twice, but
  • a woman nonetheless. Out of all the images, he never fully smiled in any of them. I scrolled through the most reputable information available. Aside from finding out he had an actual fan club, his personal life was pretty vague. His mother died when he was ten and his stepfather, who had legally adopted him two years prior, raised Adam until he had been removed and put into foster care at age twelve. There was nothing else on why Adam had been put into the system. My heart sank a little for him. I had done some volunteer mentoring work with foster kids at the Children’s Home. Most kids struggled and had a
  • hard time coping. I thought of Adam as a child, with blue eyes and dark hair, being bounced from one place to another. No siblings or information on his biological father. He had been a child prodigy. Apparently he was insanely smart, graduating from high school at sixteen with a full academic scholarship to Northwestern. He got into the stock market at twenty-two and boomed from there. Founded Kinkade Enterprises at twenty-five. To say Mr. Kinkade was impressive would be an understatement. “Holy crap.” CEO of Kinkade Enterprises. He held stock in several companies, as well as diversifying into real estate. Megan hadn’t been kidding
  • when she said he owned half of Chicago. Amongst them was that restaurant he had taken me to the other night. I exhaled and shut my laptop. The man made no sense. He was powerful, calm, and obviously used to getting his own way while saying as few words as possible. But then he donated to charities and lost control in restaurant bathrooms. In fairness, it was the hall outside the bathroom, but still. Maybe Megan was right. Sometimes things just needed a chance to get off the ground before you could truly know what you could handle. But even if that were true, did I want to risk the attempt? With a guy like Adam Kinkade? His whole life freaked me out.
  • My uncle and aunt were wealthy, so I knew about money, but I’d never had any. My father left when I was a baby and the only time I talked to my mother was when she called asking for money or I dropped off groceries at her house. Megan and Brian were supportive, but in the end, the idea of giving in and possibly getting caught up —consumed—by another terrified me. Being left wanting more than I could have or handle wasn’t something I wanted to experience. I didn’t know much about the opposite sex, but it was clear that Adam was a lot to take on and not easily forgettable. My phone buzzed. The caller I.D. read: Kink.
  • Maybe it was juvenile, but that’s the label I’d given him when I programmed his number last night. I took a deep breath and answered. “Hello, Katelyn. How are you today?” “Fine, thank you. What can I do for you, Adam?” My goal was to sound professional and completely unaffected by his voice. Thank God he couldn’t see my hands tremble. I heard his smirk. “Now that you mention it, you can—” “Never mind,” I hissed. “I was going to ask you to join me for dinner, but I like where your dirty mind was going.”
  • “I wasn’t thinking anything dirty.” “Don’t lie to me, Katelyn.” His voice was rough and deep. Even over the phone he could make me shudder. “You don’t give up easily.” “It is not in my interest to insult you. But I cannot amend my entire process and daily life to accommodate all your wishes. I am attempting to find a middle ground.” “Why?” “Because I want you.” “And what exactly do you want with me?” “I thought we’d been over this.” “So it is just about sex?” “I can’t say for certain. You
  • intrigue me and I’d like to spend time with you and get to know you better. How much better would be up to you.” I thought about all those women he had been photographed with. Some weird anger I had no right to feel flared. “I’m not what you want, Adam.” “I haven’t heard the word no come out of your mouth. Have dinner with me tonight.” I flipped my planner open and checked my schedule. Since my office hours ended early today, I’d promised my six-year-old cousin Simon that I’d take him to the zoo for the afternoon. I’d have enough time afterward to shower and change before going to work. Though I would have loved to play
  • hooky and go out to dinner with Adam, I couldn’t cancel work on short notice. I needed all the hours I could get anyway. “I’m sorry, I can’t do dinner tonight.” He was silent for a long moment. “Good-bye, Katelyn.” The line went dead. Had I just turned down something I wouldn’t get a chance at again? The thought made me sick. ~ “You’re going to be here this weekend to help me set up for the party, right?” I had just walked through my aunt Grace’s front door. “Yes, I’ll be here to help.”
  • Simon race down the stars and run toward me. He threw himself into my arms and I swept him up in a hug. “You ready to see the zoo, buddy?” “Yeah!” Both his little hands shot into the air. “Go get your coat.” He took off for his room again. “Zoo today? That’ll be fun for you two,” Grace said as she looked over the mail on the counter. Her light brown hair was pulled back into a bun and her khaki slacks were perfectly pressed. She was two years younger than my mother and looked similar. Grace didn’t have to work due to her husband’s success in real estate. She had been pregnant with Simon the summer I’d moved in with
  • them. Going from my mother’s house to my aunt’s should have been a step up. But, like everything, it came with complications. “Your uncle is looking forward to seeing you at the party.” Bile rose in my throat. Tim St. Roy was married to my aunt, but I would never call him Uncle. There was something evil lurking in that man. In high school, right after I had moved in, he came home drunk one night and “accidentally” wandered into my room. I could still smell the whiskey on his breath and feel his sweaty hand run down my back. I stifled a disgusted tremor. Being snuck up on while sleeping was
  • something I was used to and the moment I’d felt his hands on me, I awoke throwing fists. He ran out of my room and the next day, made it very clear that if I told Grace, he would deny it. “Who do you think she’ll believe? Her husband or her crazy sister’s fucked-up kid?” He had been right. Grace wouldn’t have believed me, but the punch I’d landed on Tim’s face seemed to keep him out of my room. It didn’t, however, stop the sideways looks or the prickle of unease every time he was near. Anxiety crept up my spine and hummed through my bones just thinking about it. “Have you talked to your mother recently?” Grace asked, pulling me out
  • of my dark thoughts. “Not in the last few weeks. Something wrong?” Grace sighed and shook her head. “She was babbling something about getting kicked out of her apartment.” “What? Why?” She paid her rent, mostly because I helped her. I wasn’t about to tell Grace that, though. She looked at my mother like something she’d scrape off the bottom of her designer shoe. “I don’t know, Katelyn. I don’t even know if it’s the truth or another one of her scams.” “Ready!” Simon shouted, running into the room again, this time with his
  • coat. Grace waved us off and, taking Simon’s hand, I looked forward to the next few hours with my sweet little prince. Because after that, I’d have to stop by my mother’s apartment and find out what the hell was going on. ~ I dropped off Simon. Unfortunately, we had cut the zoo trip short when Simon complained about his tummy hurting. He didn’t have a fever but he’d eaten pizza before I picked him up. Simon was lactose intolerant. Nothing serious, but it made him uncomfortable. Driving north and finally getting inside Chicago city limits, I pulled up at
  • my mother’s apartment complex. Her car wasn’t there, but a big SOLD sign was plastered to the side of her building. In fact, the entire block of low- income apartments wore the same banner: PURCHASED BYKINKADE ENTERPRISES. “No. Frickin. Way.” Stepping on the gas, I drove with such furious intent that my vision blurred. It was four o’clock on a Friday evening. With only an hour before I had to be at work, I sped toward the one person I wanted to see…and demand answers from.
  • Chapter Five My idea had been to burst into Adam’s office and demand to know why he’d bought out an entire block of apartment complexes, one of which housed my mother. But the Kinkade building was massive and security was tight. The front desk had to call up to another desk, which had to call Mr. Kinkade’s executive assistant which eventually led me to be escorted up to the 40 floor and private office of Adam Kinkade. Okay, so my dramatic entrance didn’t pan out the way I had originally planned. But I was still fueled with anger so I slammed through his door and
  • stomped in. The breath momentarily left me. He was sitting, cool and calm, behind a large desk with the skyline of Chicago as a backdrop, seeping with soul-shaking power. He didn’t appear shocked or even annoyed. Granted, the fourteen calls from security to warn him of my impending wrath might have tipped him off. “You can’t just—” “Enough.” He put his hand up and stood, pushing his chair backward. A painful gulp stuck to my esophagus. Now he was pissed and I hadn’t even said a whole sentence. He rounded the desk and stalked toward me. He wasn’t wearing his
  • jacket. His dark blue vest and pants looked like the ocean at midnight and did crazy things for the color of his eyes. A long-sleeved white shirt and black tie completed the look. He stood before me, smelling like amazing cologne and money. The force of his presence hit me hard. He was gorgeous. His perfectly combed black hair made me want to plunge my fingers through it and mess it up like I had the night at the restaurant. His face was like chiseled stone, and though he looked irritated, he was still starkly beautiful. His light blue eyes were such a dramatic contrast to his dark features it was breathtaking. He looked me in the eye. Heat
  • radiated from his body and surrounded mine. He wasn’t a man, he was a force of nature. A smart girl would be afraid, at the very least cautious. But once again, when it came to this man, the only thing I felt was anticipation. “Don’t you dare open your mouth and attempt to tell me what I can and cannot do while you stand in my office.” His gaze drifted from my mouth to my hips and back again. Since I hadn’t lectured today, I was in a pair of jeans and a sweater, and probably smelled like the zoo. What did he think of me? Casual and unkempt? If he thought anything, his expression didn’t show it. Everywhere his gaze hit, heated me from the inside out. It was thrilling.
  • How could a single look make me feel sexy? A sudden empty feeling overwhelmed me. I took a deep breath and tried to squeeze my thighs together without being too obvious. My clit pulsed and I wondered if this kind of reaction to a man was normal. Normal or not, the truth was that Adam Kinkade affected me, and I had the wet panties to prove it. “We play by my rules in here, Katelyn.” He reached behind me and locked his office door. “Kneel.” “What?” I snapped. “There’s no way—” “You obviously came here to discuss something with me. But you’ve offended me. My time is valuable. You
  • want me to listen? Then you’ll speak on your knees.” My heart pumped double time and that ache between my legs throbbed harder at the way those words rolled off his tongue, smooth like molasses with a sharp bite of cayenne. I was compelled to obey—wanted to. The need that shot through me then was clear. Pure, raw lust. It rushed beneath my skin so acutely it through off my balance. I went down on my knees. “Good girl.” He circled me slowly. He was making it clear that my control didn’t apply here. I was on his turf. At his mercy. His to do with as he wanted. He decided how to treat me.
  • I should have felt frantic. Submit to someone else’s control? Never. But kneeling before him, I almost felt like a burden had been lifted, and my anxiety was replaced with anticipation. I felt vulnerable, but safe. Adam was a conundrum I couldn’t quite figure out. Neither did I understand how he managed to push my limits without frightening me. There I was, on my knees, yet I felt a sense of power that was not my own. It was his, and I was feeding from it. What would he do? Make me do? The thought didn’t terrify me, it excited me. And I was so turned on my body was nearly shaking. How did he do it? I ran from
  • everyone else…everything else that even threatened my tightly tethered sense of balance. And if I couldn’t run, I fought. Control over my sanity was the only thing worth clinging to. The only proof I had that showed I was still okay. That I was not sick like my mother. And Adam pulled at it as though it were something tangible. I was losing the fight. Giving in…letting him take over. “The time for games is over, Katelyn. I’ve given you ample opportunity to accede to my wishes, yet you defy me at every turn.” “Are you high? You can’t just demand things from people and expect them to do what you want.” He went down on his haunches
  • and looked me straight in the eye. “I expect a straight answer. I have been honest with you about what I want. You have not told me no, merely strung me along.” There was no way anyone could string this man along. He was too grounded and wore his commanding presence like a layer of lotion. Power was a part of chemical makeup. No. Stringing Adam Kinkade on was not possible. The fact that this was his interpretation baffled me. “I don’t know what I want. I just know what a wise versus unwise decision looks like.” “You want me.” My eyes widened.
  • “Don’t you?” I nodded. “Answer me.” “Yes.” My voice trembled on the words. “Yes, I want you.” He trailed his fingertip over my bottom lip. “Now we’re getting somewhere. So you want me, yet you think being with me is unwise.” “Yes.” “Why?” Because you’re beyond anything I know how to deal with. Because I’m excited and afraid to have a taste of you and be left wanting more. Because I already have a fascination that borders on obsession. Because no one will ever have the power to hurt me
  • again. Instead, I went with, “Lots of reasons.” He looked at me for a long time. Finally, he rose. He began to walk around me, pausing to lift a lock of my long hair and examine it. “I’ve never seen a color like this.” “Red?” He scoffed. “Red is too tame a word.” He dropped the tendril. His fingertips trail across the back of my neck. “And your skin is like a pearl. Polished. Radiant. Combined with those emerald eyes, I’d think you some kind of treasure chest of wealth.” My breath stilled and my lungs
  • burned from lack of air. His words startled me. No one had ever said anything like that to me before. Growing up next to Megan, a tall, thin blonde, I was typically noticed by how I stood out in the awkward ways. Somehow, Adam Kinkade, a mogul who spent time with supermodels, had just made me feel beautiful. “You don’t like that I see you?” “I didn’t say that.” “You tensed up.” My eyes squeezed shut of their own accord. As if telling me that sensory overload was approaching. I shook my head, trying to gain composure. I had come here for a reason. Instead of focusing on that, I was getting sucked in
  • again. I needed my anger. My irritation. And I needed to unleash it on him. “Stop hovering over me and inspecting me. I’m not some thing you can obtain.” “I disagree.” My gazed snapped to his. “Fuck you.” He wrapped my hair around his fist and gently pulled. “In time, sweetheart.” Holding my hair, he faced me so I could look up at him. I felt his power over me. His stare trailed down my body. Could he see how hard my nipples were and the goose bumps on my skin? “You like this,” he rasped. It was a statement, not a question. Adam was
  • very clear on the effect he had on me. “I’m learning quickly, Katelyn. How you behave and how your moods change. Whatever it is you’re hiding that is making you run from me—” He pulled a little harder and I gasped. The tiny flare of pain pricked from my scalp all the way to the tips of my breasts, hardening the little peaks even more. “—I’m going to break you of that.” He faced me fully and cupped my chin. My whole body was vibrating like a drumroll, begging for this man’s attention, any way he wanted to give it. For some reason, I felt the need to earn it. My mind and body were at odds— fighting the very things I wanted so desperately.
  • Acceptance. Belonging. Control. Adam Kinkade. I was eye level with his cock, which was hard and straining against his dark blue slacks. What would it feel like in my hand? What would it taste like? Like pulling thoughts straight from my mind, he unzipped his pants. My eyes were riveted to the action. “You kneel there, licking your lips and staring down my cock. It gives a man ideas.” I nodded, still enthralled with watching him. Aside from some brief encounters with photos and Cinemax, I had never seen a penis up close. When
  • he parted the fly on his pants, I saw his erection strain against his gray boxer briefs. The crown was bulging well above the elastic waistband. Holy God, the man was huge. “You want this?” He reached into his boxers and gripped himself. “Yes.” And I did. So bad. He pulled himself completely free. Gripping his massive length in one hand, he fisted my hair in the other. “I can be a very agreeable man, Katelyn. But I always acquiesce to the word no. Say it, and all this will end.” He stood still. I knew he was waiting to see if I’d say it. But I wouldn’t. Because I didn’t want this to end.
  • I had no idea what I was doing. Going from never seeing a penis, to touching it—let alone putting one in my mouth—was a big jump. But I wanted it. Wanted him. He guided his shaft to my lips, coaxing me to open. I did. He rubbed the tip along my tongue. His eyes smoldered like blue embers. Deciding to test my nerve, I snaked my tongue along the slit. He groaned. “We will happen, Katelyn, but I’m not above working for it.” He wanted to work for me? That made me want to preen. In that moment, I was on my knees, his dominance taking me over, yet I felt more in control than I had in years. Because he wanted me.
  • Confidence reinforced, I licked the crown, then glanced up at him to gauge his reaction. Could he tell I had never done this? I hoped not. His gaze bore down on me with savage lust. I closed my mouth over the tip and gently sucked. He seemed to like that. His hand tightened in my hair. “Now, what did you want to talk to me about?” I released him from my mouth and looked up at him. “The apartments off Highway Ninety.” He tilted his hips, his hard penis prodding my lips. This was to be a multi-tasking situation. I sucked the head again, but this time I twirled my tongue on the underside before releasing him, and rained wet
  • flicks of my tongue from root to tip. “You bought them. What will you do with them?” He stared down at me. “Tear them down and build another distribution center.” I pulled back. “You can’t—” He shoved his big cock in my mouth and thrust hard, hitting the end of my throat. My eyes watered. “I can,” he growled. “Try again.” He withdrew slowly. My whole body vibrated with need and confusion. I liked his taste. Liked his forcefulness. But I loved that I didn’t flinch from him, because somehow, deep down, I knew he wouldn’t hurt me. This was something different. I
  • trusted him to read me. He had done a good job so far, to figure out my thoughts and body language. The desire to suck him deep and hard surged. So many new emotions that didn’t make sense and that conflicted with one another were blistering through my brain. I wanted to maintain my control as much as I wanted him to take it. Was this what it felt like? Losing your mind? Because I was certain that was what was happening. Nothing made sense. I wanted him. But I had to keep my mother in her home. “Please don’t tear them down.” I drew him into my mouth again and when he hit deep, I swallowed in reaction. My throat muscles constricted around the
  • head. He hissed and his thumb caressed my hair along my brow. I made a note that he seemed to like that swallowing trick. “Why do you care about these apartments?” I didn’t want to answer. I wanted to continue tasting him. Everything about my life beyond the daily routine stressed me out. Nothing was simple, and I didn’t want to go into all of it. Between financial aid and my job, I barely made enough to cover my own rent and bills, let alone my mother’s. The apartment was inexpensive and was all I could help her with. But it was never enough. There was always a call, a plea, for my
  • help, whether it was getting her power turned back on because she’d missed last month’s payment or bringing dinner by. I knew deep down I shouldn’t care, should probably hate her for everything she had done to me, but she was my mother, and she had no one else. “Why, Katelyn?” He tipped my head and withdrew. My eyes were forced up, locking on his. “M-my mother lives there. It’s where I grew up.” His lips thinned and he searched my face. I didn’t want to say any more and silently begged him to let this drop. He didn’t say a word. Instead, he pushed his cock into my mouth. I happily accepted. He cupped the back of my
  • head in one hand and began thrusting in and out. The position he took was clear. He was fucking me. I knelt there and let him. Loving every moment. The way his smooth cock slid between my lips. The side of myself normally kept dormant, the sexual side, raged to life. I sucked hard, swirled my tongue over and over. I didn’t know if I was doing this right or wrong and I didn’t care. I just wanted this moment to last. Because in this moment, I was free and tamed all at the same time. “I’m going to come, Katelyn, and I want you to swallow it.” My eyes shot wide. I didn’t know what to expect, but a part of me
  • wanted to taste what I brought forth from this powerful man. He groaned and suddenly a hot lash of liquid coated my throat. I swallowed quickly, but it kept coming. I could barely keep up. It tasted warm and salty. Some of it dribbled from the corner of my mouth but all I could think about was that I had made him come. When the last of his release came out, he slowly moved in and out, as if urging me to lick him clean. He pulled away, but kept his eyes on me as he refastened his pants. He reached out his hand and helped me to my feet. He ran his finger along the corner of my mouth, gathering
  • the small amount of liquid there, and placed it at my lips. I tentatively sucked his finger and his eyes went heavy- lidded. “You’re stealing my logic,” he said. If there was one thing I was learning, it was that Adam spoke plainly, yet there was a lot behind his words. I was stealing his logic? He had just ripped mine out by the teeth and shattered it. He ran his fingers through my hair, softening and straightening it. His glacier eyes melted a bit and I felt like we had come to some kind of silent understanding. My mind was mush, my body humming.
  • Suddenly, his expression shifted and the mask of stone was back in place. “Turning down my dinner offer only to show up here signifies that you weren’t honest with me when you said you couldn’t dine with me tonight. I will not ask for your company again. Not until sufficient effort is made on your part.” What? He thought I had lied and didn’t want to see him for dinner? The need to defend myself gathered, but Adam sounded like I had truly upset him. Like turning down dinner had sincerely bothered him. “I couldn’t—” He put up his hand, effectively shutting me up.
  • “No more excuses, Katelyn. The next time you come to me, it had better be with a yes or no answer.” It was clear what this was now. He had said he wasn’t above working for me. If I wanted more of him, he was going to make me work for it back. It was all or nothing. “What about the complex?” He had already turned his back to me and was staring out the window. “Good day, Katelyn.” I rose to my feet and bit my bottom lip to keep it from trembling. Adrenaline from what had just happened bottomed out. My skin was too tight and my pulse knocked like fists on the inside of my skull.
  • He was dismissing me. Folding my arms over my chest, I turned, unlocked the door, and walked out of Adam’s office. I couldn’t look at his secretary. Would she know? Was this a regular thing for Adam? To have girls come up to his office and service him? I pressed madly at the elevator button. My stomach churned and I focused all my energy to keep from vomiting. This feeling, this god-awful empty feeling, melted over my muscles like black poison. My body was on the far side of the sun, and no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t reach its warmth. Glancing over my shoulder at Adam’s closed office door, I was already
  • craving that heat again. The boiling need that burned me up from the inside out. He brought it out in me, then stole it away. I had a decision to make. The answer seemed easy. No. The bleak, shameful pang of pain that came with Adam’s dismissal was eating away at me. I didn’t know this kind of contrition was possible, but I never wanted to feel this again. The problem was, I wanted that moment back. The one right before I’d felt cold and bereft. The power and longing he made me feel was heady and…addicting. And shameful or not, addictions were dangerous.
  • Chapter Six Saturday rolled around and I had spent most of it helping Grace prepare for that night’s party. She loved to host, especially when it was a more relaxed setting and group of people attending. I, however, was dreading being under the same roof with my uncle. Tim had been working all day, leaving the house to Grace and me, but tonight, I’d be forced into his presence. I shook my head and turned my thoughts back to where they had been for the last few days. Adam. I craved him. Missed him. Part of me was terrified to call him or reach out. Rejecting a woman was probably something he did
  • on a daily basis. But the more I thought about it, I realized that he hadn’t rejected me. He wanted an answer. Yes or no. Which meant he wanted me still. He had also made it clear that I had to make the next move. The expression on his face before he dismissed me was chiseled into my memory. He’d looked almost hurt, as though he thought I had made an active choice to blow him off—only to actually blow him later. It had taken me several days, but I had my answer. It wasn’t a simple yes or no. It came down to what I could handle: the possibility of Adam’s eventual rejection, or never being with him again.
  • My phone buzzed and I took it out of my back pocket. A voicemail from my mother. It was probably about finding her another apartment. Since I’d found out about Adam buying her complex, I had spent the last few days trying to find her somewhere suitable to live. So far, all the viable options were too expensive. Grace frowned at me and lifted her chin at my phone. “Everything okay?” “Yeah. I just need to find Mom another place to live and so far, it’s been a nightmare.” “Didn’t she tell you? The owners aren’t tearing it down after all. They are actually renovating it and bringing it up
  • to code.” It felt like a dozen sparklers lit inside my chest. “Really? That’s great.” Grace looked at me like I had lost my mind, probably because I was grinning like a fool, and went back to making crab cakes. I walked out of the room and hit Kink in my contacts. “Hello, Katelyn.” His breezy tone caught me off guard. “Hi, Adam. I wanted to say thank you.” For some reason, rational thinking didn’t catch up to my mouth when it came to speaking to Adam. Instead, I tended to just blurt things out. “You’re welcome.” There was a tense silence. He obviously knew what I
  • was referring to. “Is that all?” “No, I wanted to invite you to a party.” He didn’t say anything. Dread boiled up, but I forced myself to go on. “I know it’s short notice, but it’s a house party tonight at my uncle and aunt’s place.” “Are you inviting me out of guilt or gratitude?” “I’m inviting you because I want to see you.” “What time?” “Well, it depends—do you want to walk into a house of drunk people or super drunk people?” “I want to walk into a house with you.” My heart sped up a little bit.
  • “Well, I’m already here. I’ve been helping set up. Most people are showing up around nine.” “Text me the address.” “Oh, okay.” I tried to hide the surprise and ridiculously happy tone in my voice but it was useless. “See you tonight.” “Yes, you will.” ~ My aunt and uncle lived on a few acres on the outskirts of Chicago, just far enough away that the skyscrapers were no longer visible. The open air and space were beautiful. I double-checked my reflection in the bathroom mirror. My hair was loose and thanks to
  • a lot of product, it looked sleek and shinny. The ends brushed my lower back and I reminded myself that I needed to get it trimmed. The black dress I wore was one of the only designer things I owned. Grace had given it to me two years ago saying that it didn’t fit her anymore. I was happy to take it off her hands. It was short and tight, but classy. My stilettos matched my hair and added a touch of color. After an application of cherry lipstick and some mascara, I took a deep breath and readied myself for the crowd downstairs. That familiar sickness rose at the thought that I’d have to interact with Tim, no matter how briefly. But tonight would be different. Because Adam was
  • coming. Just that fact made everything else seem easier. Calmer. Grace had picked me up earlier that morning, so I didn’t have my car, and I knew she wouldn’t be able to drive me home until the next day. I was secretly hoping that instead of my having to spend the night here, Adam would give me a ride home. Smoothing my dress, I walked into the large dining room. It was not set for dinner, but rather a buffet of food and drinks. Random people were scattered throughout the house, talking, laughing, and getting drunk. My aunt’s parties tended to get a little wild when her closest friends were present. “Pretty good turnout.” Brian
  • bumped my elbow with his and took a swig from his longneck. “Yeah, Grace likes these kinds of things.” Brian’s hazel eyes skated over my aunt before landing on me. He was a good friend—he always stayed late, later than me sometimes, and helped clean up. “You crashing here tonight?” Brian asked, empty beer in hand. Since my aunt’s house was several miles from ours in the city, making cab fare brutal, Megan, Brian, and I typically picked a designated driver for the parties. In the distance, Megan was swaying to music. She had already had a
  • few and I could tell that Brian wanted a second. Looked like I was the one staying sober and I had no problem with that. “I can drive your car, drop you off at your place, then take Megan home if you’d like.” Brian shook his head and cracked open another beer. “I thought we’d make a night of it. I can drive us all home in the morning.” It wouldn’t be the first time that a party had run late and Brian and Megan had slept it off in the guest room. I, however, always opted to go home, which is why I hated not having my car here. My friends knew a lot about my past, but I kept my uncle’s creepy perv
  • tendencies to myself. “You want a drink?” he asked. I shook my head. “Not in the mood tonight.” Brian’s eyes were on the room. “All right, but if you change your mind, there’s plenty to go around.” He winked and pointed at the bar across the room where everyone was congregating. Tim always kept it well stocked. When I had moved in with them at age sixteen, after my mother’s latest rage, I learned real quick that while there might be a short supply of vegetables and empathy, they were never short on liquor. The doorbell rang. “Have fun.” I smiled at Brian before walking out toward the entryway.
  • I opened the large front door. The cold air hit me, but a hot flame burst through my bloodstream. Standing in all his perfect glory was Adam Kinkade. If I’d thought he was delectable in a suit, in light gray pants, black belt, and white shirt, he was yummy. The first two buttons on his collar were undone and a wool coat that matched his pants draped his broad shoulders like a dream. A pang washed through me when I realized that I had been intimate with this man—kind of— but had never seen him naked. I hadn’t even got to witness the hard chest he was hiding beneath all those expensive clothes.
  • “Jesus, Katelyn,” he grated. My gaze snapped to his. I thought he was upset, but then I saw a familiar look in his eyes. It was the same look he’d given me when I was on my knees before him. Lust. “You’re beautiful.” My chest tightened. Not because of his words, but because of the way he said them. He spoke as though the wind had just been struck from his lungs. “Thank you. You look pretty great yourself.” A small grin split his lips. “May I come in? Or would you prefer that I drag you out into the cold and whisk you away somewhere else?” “Of course, come in.” I smiled sheepishly. He took of his coat and I
  • hung it in the closet. “The party is in here.” I turned to lead the way, but he grabbed my wrist, halting me, spinning me to face him. His blue eyes were shining like a moonlit iceberg. They reminded me that once again, I was drowning around him. “Thank you for inviting me,” he rasped. His thumb drew lazy circles on my inner wrist. The action made my whole body tense. “I’ve thought of nothing but you—” Still gripping my wrist, he raised his hand to my face and brushed my bottom lip. “—and this talented mouth for the past two days.” He kissed my palm. The gesture was intimate, as though he was praising
  • me. Odd, since I was pretty certain Adam Kinkade didn’t do emotions and sex. Not that we’d technically had sex. “Katelyn! Simon’s nanny just left with an emergency.” Tim stomped toward me. The sound of his voice sent a slow slide of dread down my neck. “Can you take care of—” He stopped midsentence, and midstride, when he saw Adam. “Oh, hello.” He extended his hand in greeting. “I’m Tim St. Roy.” “Adam Kinkade.” The look on Tim’s face was a mix of surprise and recognition. Obviously Tim had heard of Adam. “It’s nice to meet you.” When Tim’s eyes landed on me, unease
  • slithered through my body like a chafing eel. “I was unaware that you knew my Katelyn.” My Katelyn? I clenched my jaw. The endearment sickened me to my core. Apparently Adam didn’t like it either, because his whole demeanor shifted. He didn’t let go of my wrist, rather he slipped his hand into mine and twined our fingers together. The small gesture comforted me. Tim took notice. Adam’s body was thrumming, but he remained perfectly still. Adam was not the type to offer information. Instead of taking on Tim’s questioning expression, Adam turned toward me. “I’d be happy to escort you to
  • dinner if you’d like.” He unleashed that megawatt smile. “Or, perhaps coffee?” I beamed up at him. Somehow, he had picked up on my agitation and offered to remove me from the situation. “You can’t go,” Tim shot out. “You just got here. Come, I’d like to introduce you to some people, Mr. Kinkade.” Tim’s eyes briefly flashed to me. “Kate, you have Simon?” I nodded and stole a glance at Adam. His eyes were intense, watching every move I made. “It’s okay. I’ll be right back,” I whispered, and headed for Simon’s room. There was no doubt that Adam could handle himself just fine. It was the way he looked at me, as if silently
  • asking me if I was all right. The surge of strength and repose that came over me made me smile. Adam had done it again. Facilitating a lightning bolt of power straight to my self-esteem. When I got to Simon’s room, I found him lying in bed, clutching his blanket. I turned on his night light and sat next to him. “Hey kiddo, why aren’t you asleep yet?” He shrugged. “Bad dream.” “Want to tell me about it?” I ran my fingers through his hair. “Nah.” “Okay, well, why don’t you tell me about your day. Did you have fun at Gavin’s house?” He scratched his chin. “Yeah. I
  • told him about the zoo. He was really jealous!” “Oh yeah?” “Yeah! And I drew a picture of the ostrich we saw.” “Well, I’m so glad you had fun, buddy. We’ll have to do that again real soon.” “Promise?” “Of course.” He snuggled deeper in his bed. “What did you do today, Kate?” “Well, while you were at Gavin’s, I helped your mom set up the house and worked on my thesis a little bit. Then I had to shower and get ready…” His eyelids started to drift and
  • fall. It was way past his bedtime and I wasn’t surprised he was out so quickly. Some nights, when story time didn’t work, I recounted my day in painstaking detail and that usually conked him out. A six-year-old’s attention span could be a brilliant thing. “I love you, buddy,” I whispered, and kissed his forehead. I quietly rose, tucked the blankets in around him, and turned for the door. There was a shadow in the doorway. A sharp scream burned my throat, but I managed to stifle it. Before terror gripped me completely, Adam stepped into the dim light. My lungs struggled briefly, but after a few deep breaths, I pushed the fear away. A
  • shadowy figure coming toward me was an instant anxiety spike. I walked toward him, out into the hallway, and closed Simon’s door behind me. “I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he rasped. “It’s okay. I’m glad it’s you.” My lips trembled slightly. “I didn’t mean to be gone that long.” “You weren’t.” Adam’s voice was deep and laced with intent. He cupped my face in his hands. Before I could react, he kissed me. He parted my lips with his tongue and took a long, deep taste. It was quick, hard. Intense. If his goal was to steal all the oxygen from my lungs in one earth-shattering pull of
  • his mouth, he had succeeded. “W-what was that for?” I gasped, wishing I had more breath, but the sinful mogul had just kissed it all out of me. He shook his head and tucked a lock of hair behind my ear. I untucked it, letting it fall back over my jaw and neck. He frowned, but didn’t push the matter. “Are you ready to get back to the party?” “Not really, but yeah, we’d better.” He guided me down the hallway, his hand resting on the small of my back as he slowly led me downstairs to the crowd of people. “I can always find something far
  • better to occupy your time with, you know.” “Don’t tempt me. I just may take you up on your offer.” “About time, woman.” Oh my God! He smiled! Bigger than I had ever seen. It reached his eyes and gave him a boyish charm. I liked this side of him. The human side. The power and dominance was still there, but there was something deeper. Many children who grew up being bounced around in the system had issues with control and a warped sense of stability. It wasn’t a mystery that being a foster child played a part in his demeanor. But there was something more. Something almost broken that seemed to be buried deep
  • inside him. Something that called to me. I wanted to dig into that side of Adam and latch on tight. “There you are,” Eddie Stout slurred as he ambled toward me. The party had been in full swing for a little while and the handsy, middle-aged tax attorney had already had his share of Stoli. “You look fucking hot, Katelyn!” He raised his hand to my face. I flinched and instinctively squeezed my eyes shut. Though Eddie would only attempt to touch me, it was an instant reaction. But his hand didn’t meet my skin. I peeked and saw Adam’s fingers wrapped around Eddie’s wrist. “Don’t touch her. Ever.” Adam’s
  • voice was so calm and threatening it sent shivers down my spine. Eddie bared his teeth and made a weird noise before taking another swig of his drink and walking away, mumbling several choice words. “What was that?” Adam barked, as though he was mad at me for Eddie’s approach. “What was what?” He slowly raised his hand, his eyes on mine. It looked like he was about to perform magic or something. He stood there for a moment, his finger hovering from my nose to my cheekbone. I laughed. “Are you trying to hypnotize me?” “You’re laughing?”
  • “I’d call it a light giggle.” “You laugh at me, yet when your uncle approached you earlier, you tensed up. And then just now, when that man came near you, you flinched.” My heart stopped and my attention turned toward the floor. “But now…” He traced his finger from my ear to my neck. “And when I kissed you in the hallway, and before at the restaurant—my office—you didn’t feel threatened.” His eyes blazed with so much ferocity it scared me. “Did that asshole hurt you in the past? Has he touched you?” My brows rose nearly into my hairline. I didn’t know which asshole he was referring to, but either way, I didn’t
  • want to go into it. Eddie was a drunk and technically, Tim had never hurt me. I had shut him down before it got that far. He was just inappropriate and unnerving. Yes, he added to my anxiety issues, but my reaction to hands coming at my face was due to my mom. Another subject I didn’t want to get into. I grabbed both of Adam’s hands in mine. “It’s nothing like that. It’s just a reaction I have sometimes.” “Sometimes?” “Well, a lot of the time. Except with you.” “You trust me.” Once again, he wasn’t asking, he was affirming. But it was also impossible. I didn’t even let Brian or Megan near my face—not that
  • they regularly attempted it. I had been thinking about this a lot, and the only thing I could come up with was that my sense dissolved when I was near Adam. Logical or not, the simple truth was that I reacted to Adam differently than I did to the rest of the world. Why was that? I didn’t have an answer. “Someone has hurt you, Katelyn. Who is it?” “I don’t want to talk about it.” Especially not with him. His eyes took in the crowded room and he lowered his voice. “Maybe not here and not tonight, but we will talk, Katelyn. Because this—” He motioned between our bodies. “—is hitting me
  • hard. And you feel it, too. Of course, you fight me more than I’d like,” he growled with amusement. Playful Adam was back and I was relieved. “Well, I do what I can.” He gave me that look again, like he was in awe, like he had just seen his first sunrise or something. A girl could get used to that look. Tim’s voice rang out. He was telling a joke and everyone laughed. I didn’t want to be there, but I wanted to make sure Simon stayed asleep, because his nanny wouldn’t come until the morning. If he had another bad dream, he’d only have drunk parents to deal with. I’d give it a little more time, but I needed some space from the house.
  • “I think I need some air.” Adam nodded and we headed to the back deck. I leaned forward, resting my forearms on the rail, and looked out over the expanse of land. Beside me, Adam mimicked my pose. “You know, I used to wonder how far I could run before it all just disappeared.” “Why don’t you try it now?” I snorted. “I’m directionally challenged. I’d get myself lost in the dark.” “Not if I chased you.” I looked over at him. That word chase, he had made clear before, was something he never did.
  • “It wouldn’t be wise for someone like you to follow me into the dark and unknown,” I said. “Someone like me?” “You’re a pretty important man. You might get lost, and then where would we be?” “You think I’m important?” “Yes, I do.” His moved closer, his fingers skating down my spine. “I’m glad.”
  • Chapter Seven Adam insisted on escorting me home and I was happy to oblige. After an hour had passed, Simon still hadn’t awakened, so I felt okay about leaving. Adam drove instead of a chauffeur. His car was amazing. A sleek black McLaren, with heated leather seats. I’d never known watching a man shift a seven speed could be so hot. He handled the car like he’d been born with it. Every time the accelerator revved and his long legs flex and push the gears on the floorboard, a dose of lust coursed through my veins. His palm relaxed over the stick shift when he reached the speed
  • he wanted and we glided back into the city limits. I stole another glance at him. “Did you have fun tonight?” “I enjoyed your company,” he said. For once I kind of liked his cryptic responses. “This probably isn’t how you spend your typical Saturday night, huh?” He looked at me. “I tend to go where I want to go. Tonight, it was that house, where you were.” My pulse was beating in my ears. These small glimpses of Adam beneath that tough exterior made my heart do weird things. “Do you want to tell me now
  • why you don’t like people touching your face?” “No,” I muttered before I could catch myself. “It’s a beautiful face.” Heat rushed to my cheeks. He was persuasive, but I didn’t want tonight, this time with him, tainted by thoughts of my past. “Why did you help host and attend an event you didn’t seem to enjoy?” “My aunt asked for my help.” “Are you close to her?” He didn’t ask about Tim. Probably because my feelings toward him were pretty obvious. “They took me in after I moved out of my mom’s
  • house.” “That wasn’t an answer,” he said. “And I only ask because you acted as though you couldn’t wait to get out of there. Why?” “Why don’t we talk about your family?” “My parents are dead.” Oh, God. The Google info I had found hit my memory and felt like an asshole. I didn’t talk about my parents because talking about them made me think about them. “I’m sorry, Adam.” We didn’t talk any more. It was like we were both afraid to dig any deeper. I wanted to know all about Adam Kinkade. There was so much to the man that no one seemed to know.
  • Yet, every time I asked a question, I knew he’d be on me with one of his own. He walked me to my door. Megan and Brian had been pretty drunk by the time I left and they would be staying over at my aunt’s until one of them was safe to drive. “Thank you for the ride and for coming tonight.” “You asked me to come. I came. It’s that simple, Katelyn.” He surrounded me with his presence. My back hit the door. “Now I’m asking, would you like to come in?” His breath danced over my mouth. “Um…we’re at my house. Isn’t that supposed to be my line?”
  • He kissed me. Hot. Hard. Quick. Just as he had earlier at my aunt’s house. My words stuttered out. “W-would you like to come in, Adam?” “Why, yes, I would.” I fished my keys out of my purse and unlocked the door. I shut and locked it behind me, then tossed my coat on the sofa. Adam followed suit. “Hey, wait! Did you just do some kind of Jedi mind trick on me to get me to invite you in?” “The Force is strong in me.” He smiled. I was already addicted to the sight. He walked to the center of the living room and looked around while I slipped off my shoes. Our apartment was
  • smaller than his office, but it was cute and clean and I took pride in the fact that I’d earned everything in it. Adam looked around and that glimpse of a grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Cozy,” he said. “That’s a nice word for small.” He cupped my hip and pulled me close. “It feels like a home. I like it.” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but in that moment, Adam looked the most relaxed I’d ever seen him. We both knew what was going to happen. I was nervous, excited. I might be a virgin, but I had been around men and never once had my body reacted this way to any of them. I had made my choice when I invited Adam tonight. I
  • had chosen him over fear of the future, and I was ready to follow through with it. “Can I get you something to drink? Eat?” The tremor in my voice was evident. “Drink,” Adam said, then plunged his tongue in my mouth and kissed me deeply. “Eat…” He trailed that perfect mouth from my bottom lip to my chin, nipping with his teeth all the way. My bones felt weak, my whole body shaky. “Where is your bedroom?” I pointed to the open door down the hall. With both hands on my hips, Adam’s lips didn’t leave my skin as he moved them along my neck and collar bone while stepping toward my
  • bedroom. Walking backward on shaky legs was tricky for me, especially when he gently sucked my pulse. The scrape of his jaw tickled my skin like sandpaper and flicked sparks of fire along every nerve ending. “You’re smiling,” he rasped. “When you kissed me at the restaurant…later that night I could see it.” I trailed my fingertips over his cheek. “My lips were swollen and my chin tingled from your stubble.” I gathered his face in both my palms and looked at those amazing blue eyes. “I loved feeling you long after you left.” He ran his thumb along my chin. He gently pushed, causing my mouth to open slightly. Without warning, he thrust
  • his tongue inside. I moaned at the carnal way he devoured my mouth. He tasted like fresh mint and crisp wine. He kicked the door shut with his foot. The action rushed another dose of wetness between my legs. He was slow, but intense. There was a methodical intent behind his passion. I wasn’t sure what side I’d get, but I was so ready for anything he would give me. He pulled back just enough to look at my face. Without saying anything, he trailed his palms up my sides, to my shoulders and neck. He cupped my face in both hands. I stared, dazed. My whole body felt like smoldering Jell-O. “I like that you trust me,” he said. It didn’t make sense, but my body
  • seemed to recognize him. My mind definitely registered that he was dangerous, but in a way very different from anything I’d ever encountered. Somewhere, deep down, I was calmer when his hands were on me than when they weren’t. I craved him, wanted him, but at the same time, I didn’t like what was happening to me. The vulnerability was creeping up. I stood, literally in his hands, to do with as he wanted. I didn’t fight it. Emotions were firing and I let them. Let myself fall hard and fast and everything in my body was screaming to keep going. Damn the consequences and damn tomorrow.
  • “I hear your mind working,” he murmured against my mouth. I grabbed the back of his neck and kissed him with all the force I had. I debated telling him that I was a virgin, but decided against it. This wasn’t a conquest or a way to guilt him or myself into something it wasn’t. This was going to be sex. Functional. A means to an end. I could do this and come out on the other end just fine. Then this hurdle in my life would have been conquered and hopefully I would be able to handle these kinds of feelings with more control. Good. The plan was good and had a purpose. But this couldn’t be sweet and gentle because the moment I
  • slowed down, I started thinking too much—thinking about how I’d feel once Adam left. How I’d handle it if—when —he disappeared completely from my life. He was not the kind of man who could be contained in a long-term relationship. The numerous photos of him with random women were a blatant indicator of that. I had chosen Adam, but clinging to him more than I already was? Not smart. I was tired of holding back. If I wanted to be treated like a woman, I needed to act like one. Besides, he had been clear at the restaurant. Despite my feelings or how I had come to want him over this last week, I needed to
  • remember what Adam had said. The man wanted to fuck? Then that’s what he’d get. I gripped his crisp shirt in my fists and ripped it open. Buttons went flying and Adam growled. “That’s how you want to play this, Katelyn?” He pushed me backward. The backs of my knees hit the edge of the mattress and I fell back on the bed. I smiled. This was more like it. No more gentle. No more emotion. He remove the rest of his shirt. Good Lord, the man was a god. Lean, hard muscle roped from his chest to his abdomen. My eyes followed the small trail of dark hair that started just below his belly button. I wanted to lick the
  • entire length of him. His blue eyes burned bright against the darkness and when he unclasped his belt, those chiseled stomach muscles flexed even more. “You’re staring, Katelyn.” He removed his pants and finally, he stood, gloriously naked in all his masculine perfection. A flare of alarm skated through me. He was big. I knew this. I’d had an up-close encounter with his cock at his office, but seeing him like this, all hard and naked, that erection jutting past his navel, demanding attention—I groaned at the sight. He reached forward and his hands dove beneath my dress and
  • snagged my panties. He yanked them down and off. Holding my black thong in his fist, he peered down at me. “Spread those creamy thighs and show me.” His words hit me hard. Nervousness didn’t begin to grasp what was flowing through me. Heading into territory where I had no idea what I was doing weighed heavily on my confidence. But if I didn’t get a grip, he’d know I was less than experienced. I didn’t want to face that kind of awkward conversation. I would pretend that I had done this several times—with several men. As though I were a healthy, normal twenty-three-year-old woman who’d had lovers, and heartbreaks, and meaningful connections.
  • “Don’t get shy on me now, Katelyn.” He palmed one knee and jerked it open. My dress gathered at my hips and I was completely exposed from the waist down. Adam hissed in a breath, and the grip he had on my panties tightened. “Touch yourself. Show me how wet you are.” I swallowed hard and trailed my hand to my sex. I dipped my middle finger to my opening. Wow, I was damp. “Make use of your hands now, because soon you won’t be able to.” I stroked a tentative circle around my clit, then paused. “Again,” he bit out. I obeyed, but this time, didn’t
  • stop. “Good girl.” His gaze was riveted on my movements. “Dip your finger lower, inside.” My breathing sped up. Adam’s eyes fixed on my face. When I pressed my fingertip inside, my lips parted on a strangled breath. For Adam to watch me masturbate was too much. I was about to come just from his words and his eyes on me. “All the way in, Katelyn,” he grated. He was running a fist up and down his length. I sat there dazed and awestruck. He was gorgeous. His muscles tightened, his biceps flexed as he stroked himself. “I want you.” The words left my
  • mouth before I could think better of them. “Then do as I say.” He lifted his chin. “Sink your finger all the way inside that sweet pussy of yours.” I swallowed hard and did as he said. “Good. Are you ready for me?” I nodded eagerly. “Let me see.” I withdrew my finger and showed him. Adam’s grip on his cock stilled. “No. You’re not nearly wet enough.” He reached forward and gathered my hands in front of me. He took my panties and stretched them
  • around my wrists, binding them together. “Now put them over your head.” I did. He pulled the top of my dress down and wedged it beneath my full breasts. I usually wore a bra, but the backless dress wouldn’t allow it. “Fuck,” Adam hissed. I trembled, causing my breasts to rise and fall on a deep inhale. He latched on to my nipple, but levered his body so no other part of him touched me. Connected only by his mouth on my breast, I nearly went insane from the incredible torture. I craved more. Wanted to feel the pressure of his weight, his skin against mine. “These taste like little berries in
  • a bowl of cream.” He gently bit my nipple, then swirled his tongue around the tight point before sucking on it again. I had never felt anything more amazing in my life. He paid the same attention to the other and I was about ready to beg. But when he pushed himself down my body and began kissing my inner thighs, I pleaded. “Please…” “Please what, Katelyn?” My hips bucked up. I didn’t know what I needed, only that it was him. “Greedy little thing, aren’t you?” He sucked my inner thigh. With no other warning or preparation, his tongue delved inside me. I cried out and fisted his hair with my bound hands.
  • And I had thought his mouth on my breasts was amazing? This was mind-blowing. He thrust his tongue deep. I arched my hips, seeking more of him. “You taste like honey.” He flattened his tongue and covered my clit. Licking, sucking, biting. I went wild. Though I was on the brink of coming, I felt empty. I wanted something to connect us. His fingers, his dick. Anything. “You’re going to come like this, Katelyn.” He flicked his tongue over me again. “And then you’ll feel my cock inside you.” His words were my undoing. My orgasm flushed over me. Hot and wild.
  • He kept going. Devouring me like I was some kind of treat. I couldn’t hold on to the earth. Couldn’t think of anything but this man and his mouth and the way he made me shudder every time he looked at me. My nails dug into his scalp as I rode out the best orgasm of my life. The panties around my wrists held and the lace dug into my skin. I loved it—every wicked feeling of his power over me. He drew away and with closed eyes and hectic breathing, I tried to find gravity again. I heard a wrapper being torn. Then the sound of latex unfolding. His weight was on me. Hard muscle surrounded by tight, soft skin. “Look at me,” he whispered. The
  • mattress dipped by my head. I knew he was holding himself on straightened arms. I shook my head. “Open. Your. Eyes.” He kicked apart my thighs with his knees so he could settle between them. I didn’t want to look at him. Not because of what I’d see, but because of what I’d feel. I’d thought I could handle the repercussions of this, the idea that Adam would leave and this might all be over after one night. Now, I wasn’t so sure I could bear it. I drew in my strength, determined not to let this man have that much power over me. I had made my
  • decision and wanted to stick with it. I wanted him. I slowly opened my eyes. His face was hovering over mine. He hadn’t even come into focus when he plunged inside of me. I gasped and my eyes shot wide. A burn cracked though me. He must have split me in half. He was still staring down at me when he frowned. “Fuck, you’re tight… you okay?” I nodded, forcing the water back behind my eyes. “You’re just big. Give me a minute?” He remained still inside me. He bent and kissed my lips, slow, soft. When I arched into him, I felt his cock
  • slide against a tender spot deep inside me. A ping of pleasure raced through me. “Ready?” “Yes.” He withdrew, and pounded again. “Adam!” He hit the end of my sex—that spot—again. A shiver started deep in my chest, rose to the surface, and broke over my skin. He gripped my hips and tilted them up, sinking even deeper. I threw my bound hands over his head and gripped the back of his neck. I didn’t know what else to do. I just wanted him as close as I could get him, so I locked my legs around his back and rocked against him.
  • He stirred his hips, the crown of his cock sliding against my sensitive flesh inside over and over. He didn’t withdraw. Didn’t thrust. He ground against me, and I against him. This was incredible. Adrenaline soared and emotions fired. The need to cry rushed through me, misting my eyes. It was everything I could do to keep the tears at bay. The power of the moment, of Adam inside me, was overwhelming. We were connected. I felt safe, like nothing could touch me or hurt me, as long as he was a part of me. Still, I wanted more. I couldn’t get close enough. Couldn’t get him deep enough. He bent his head and sucked my nipple. I came instantly. Fire raced over my skin
  • and my blood turned to magma, slowly burning me from the inside out. My sheath flexed and released around his cock. “I feel you.” He kissed my lips hard. “Feel your sweet pussy milking me.” He rolled over to his back and took me with him. With my legs straddling his hips, he sat up. He tangled one hand in my hair while his other arm secured me tightly around the top of my ass. Then he thrust upward. With my recent orgasm wetting me further, he slid in and out without discomfort. All of his cut abdominal muscles rubbed against my torso. I loved feeling
  • his body tighten with his movements. My bound hands were still locked behind his head. Our bodies slickened with sweat as he continued to piston in and out of me. I looked down at his handsome face. His eyes were blazing. So icy hot they almost looked crystalline. I rested my forehead against his and my whole body relaxed. Another orgasm crept up on me. I gave myself up to it. Adam groaned and his arms tightened around me, as if understanding I was giving up. Giving in. To him. I came again. The slow blaze of pleasure consumed me like liquid flames drowning my bloodstream. His body tensed and I felt the large cock inside me twitch.
  • “Fuck, Katelyn,” he grated. Though he had a condom on, I felt his release. The force of it made his whole body shake around mine. We were both breathing hard. My head lolled and rested on his shoulder while my arms hung limply, still bound behind his neck. Exhaustion overwhelmed me. I hadn’t known it could be like this. This kind of intensity was what I’d seen in Adam’s eyes the moment I met him. I wanted to latch on to it—to him—and never let go. He had shattered me. Any plan or idea I had about controlling myself, or my emotions, was gone. I could only hope that he’d catch all the pieces he’d broken and put me back together.
  • Chapter Eight I woke up to the sun piercing though the window, blinding me. My body was sore in places that I didn’t know existed. But it was a good kind of sore. My dress was still bunched around my waist, my breasts and thighs exposed. I ran my fingers over my eyes and sat up in bed. My wrists weren’t tied anymore, but there was a light red mark left from where I’d pulled against the panties that bound me. A small smile flickered when I thought of last night. I looked around my room and it struck me how clean it was. Just as it had been…had always
  • been. No clothes were strung around the room. My panties were nowhere to be seen. It was still. Quiet. Cold. As if nothing had ever happened and no one had ever been there. I threw the blankets back and— “Oh, God.” There in the middle of my sheets was a bloodstain. Evidence of my virginity lost. Evidence Adam must have seen. I felt the color drain from my face as embarrassment set in. Anxiety climbed up my spine, and my hands began shaking. Terror dug between every vertebra like sharp claws sinking into cold butter. Panic was rising —soon it would flare out of control. I tried to breathe, attempting to keep the
  • icy grip of reality away. I rushed to the living room. Adam’s coat was gone. That breath I was trying to take caught in my throat. I hadn’t expected breakfast in bed or a declaration of feelings, but… Nothing. There was nothing. Horror snared me. Hating myself and knowing better, I still searched for a note. When there wasn’t one, I checked my phone. No missed calls or messages. My heart beat a heavy boom inside my skull. Pressure rose. I choked on my own inhalations, struggling to get enough air, but it came out as tortured hiccups. The cold from my room followed me and settled all the way to my bones.
  • He was gone. I looked down at my soiled dress and felt a barrage of fresh emotions I hadn’t had to deal with in a long time. Panic. Stupidity. Self- loathing. I had to get hold of myself and calm down. I walked to the bathroom, turned on the shower and let the steam and heat envelop me. Still, I was freezing. I looked in the mirror and for the first time in several years, that old feeling of disgust crept over me. I felt used. Useless. Empty. I shed my wrinkled dress and stepped beneath the water. But no amount of cleansing could wash away
  • my conscience. Sitting down, I clutched my knees to my chest, willing the panic to subside. I had known better than to let Adam Kinkade in. Let him affect my judgment and play with my unstable feelings. The worst part was…I already missed him. ~ It had been four days, and all I thought about was how Adam’s mouth had felt. My lips were no longer swollen. My aches and pains were gone. Each day that passed, I was losing more of him. He had left a small hickey on my inner thigh, but that, too, was fading. The blood would continue to leave the surface, and as Adam himself had gone,
  • so would any evidence of his presence in or around my body. I got through the week. Focusing and prepping for the lectures I taught, I used any excuse to submerge myself in sociology. I graded quizzes and papers. Held extended office hours. Picked up every extra evening shift I could. Waitressing at a small café wasn’t rocket science and did little to keep my mind busy. I was going through the motions, but concentration was difficult. “This is horseshit,” Megan said as I popped a Lean Cuisine tray into the microwave. “You are not staying in the house one more night eating that crap. We’re going out.” “I really don’t want to.”
  • “He’s one man.” She threw her hands up. “One douchey man. He doesn’t get to have this power over you. Remember?” That was the problem. I had given it to him. I’d wanted to. For the first time, I had felt like I had something exciting to look forward to. Something beyond. Adam was that beyond. I had gotten a taste and had hoped he would keep me, but he hadn’t. For a brief time, I’d felt wanted, and it was that feeling I couldn’t battle. Because I didn’t know how. The only good part about this whole thing was that I seemed to be able to cope decently well. When my mother
  • hit a depressive state, she didn’t get out of bed or even shower. I hurt. Life sucked. Poor Megan was right there with me, upset and looking about ready to cry, but I still functioned. I went to work, school, and bathed every day. That was a decent sign that I wasn’t totally losing it, right? “I hate seeing you like this. I hate him for doing this to you.” “He didn’t do anything to me.” Nothing I hadn’t allowed. I hadn’t told Megan the whole story, opting instead for a vague recount—Adam and I had sex, he left in the morning, and I haven’t heard from him since. Despite losing my virginity and Adam leaving, he’d never lied to me. He
  • hadn’t filled my head with false promises. I’d done that all on my own. “He hasn’t called you in days. What kind of man does that?” “Lots of them, I’m told.” “Not to you!” Megan snapped. I couldn’t ask for a better friend. She was always on the front line with me, battling whatever problem I was having. This time, I had to deal with it on my own. I pulled Megan into a hug. She tensed, obviously surprised by my actions. I didn’t care about the contact. Right now, a hug from my best friend was all I needed. She wrapped her arms around me. “You’re doing so good, Kate. Don’t let this set you back. Keep
  • reaching out.” I nodded, knowing she wasn’t talking about just reaching out for hugs, but reaching out for life. Adam had awakened me. Claimed me. Excited me. Giving that up—everything he made me feel—broke my heart. But I didn’t have a choice. Megan gently pulled away. Her eyes were watery, just as mine were. “I know what you need,” she said, smiling. Ducking into her room quickly, she returned with a handful of clothes. “Here.” She tossed me a pair of leather pants and an animal print top that was held together by a few strings. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know we were working the corner tonight.”
  • “That’s my ‘I’m fucking sexy and I know it’ outfit. Now get that perfect ass of yours into those pants and let’s go.” Megan’s smiled widened and I found it a little contagious. “All right. But only because bar food and beer sounds pretty good tonight.” Megan wound her hair up and fastened it with a tie. “That’s because it’s the universal medicine for Douche Bag Syndrome, and tonight, we’re gonna get you cured.”
  • Chapter Nine I was on my fourth drink. The numbness and slow brain function were a godsend. I was tired of thinking. Tired of feeling. “Hey, baby.” A blond frat boy with a goatee and popped collar placed his hand on the bar, caging me in. “Why don’t I buy you another and you can tell me if the carpet matches the drapes.” I rolled my eyes. Like I hadn’t heard that before. “Run along.” I waved my hand, dismissing him. I didn’t need a lot of words to convey a message. Something I had picked up from Adam. Adam… I placed my now-empty glass on
  • the bar, pushed past the prick, and walked out front where Megan had said she’d be. As soon as I walked into the chilly Chicago night, the fall breeze blew over me, pricking my skin. Thank God the alcohol was warming me from the inside out. “Hey, Brian will be here to meet us in a few minutes,” Megan said as she looked down the street. “I think I’m going to go home.” “What? You sure?” I nodded. “Okay, just let me call Brian.” Megan pulled her cell out. “No, you two stay out and have fun.”
  • “There’s no way I’m leaving you, Kate.” “Our apartment is right there.” I pointed, because we could literally see it two blocks down the street. “I’m just going to walk back. Tell Brian I said hi.” Megan opened her mouth to argue further, but I cut her off. “I love you, Meg. But I just…I need some time to myself. To gather my thoughts. It’s a short walk. I’ll be fine.” She looked me over. “I understand needing space,” she sighed. “I just worry about you. I don’t mean to be smothering.” “I know.” She squeezed my hand. “I may go
  • home with Brian and stay at his place tonight, so don’t wait up.” “Okay. Have fun.” I smiled and turned to walk down the street. I knew Megan would stay outside and watch me the entire way. This area was well lit, and plenty of people were out. I reminded myself that I was a grown woman, and could walk two blocks by myself. I didn’t know if it was the newly found motivation or the alcohol that inspired me, but I yanked my cell out of my back pocket and did the thing I had been too afraid to do for the past four days. I called Adam. He answered after the first ring. “Katelyn. What’s wrong?”
  • My words stuck to the back of my throat. This was a bad idea. I knew it, yet I didn’t hang up. “Why do you assume something’s wrong?” “Because it’s one o’ clock in the morning.” I took a heavy breath. “Yes, something is wrong. You didn’t call. I’m sure that typical one-night stands don’t require a phone call, but I’ve been racking my brain as to why I care. Why this bothers me so much.” “You’re drunk,” he stated. “And you’re an asshole. I’ve fought with myself for days. I’ve even convinced myself that I’m in the wrong because I knew what this was going into it. But you know what? It wasn’t just the
  • sex or you leaving that stung the most. It was everything you did before that.” “And what was that?” His voice was calm, deep, and mine was starting to get louder. “You pretended to care.” I ran my free palm down the side of my face. “You messed with my emotions on purpose.” “Damn it, Katelyn. You didn’t tell me you were a virgin!” His tone made me jump. Embarrassment flash- flooded my entire body. “I—I didn’t know that there would be…blood. I didn’t mean to gross you out.” “I wasn’t grossed out. I was surprised. Jesus, the way I treated you…” He exhaled loudly. “You should
  • have told me.” “What difference does it make?” “A big fucking difference! I—” My eyes went wide. Adam never stuttered. He always sounded totally confident and assured. Now, anger and frustration coated every word. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, Katelyn.” Tears stung the backs of my eyes like annoying little bees. I wouldn’t be weakened. I wouldn’t be that sad, terrified little girl who just wanted to be loved—to be wanted. I would not let him know that the last four days had been like living inside a lightless, depressing hole. I wanted to fight. To be mad and tell him that he had no power over me—
  • even though he did. “Well, you did hurt me, just not in the way you think.” “Where are you?” “I’m walking home.” “What? You’d better not be by yourself. Tell me that Megan is with you.” A sharp stab of rage boiled over. “I’m not a child. I can walk two blocks by myself!” I hung up the phone. I was so sick of it all. Sick of being pitied, sick of feeling like half a person. The call with Adam hadn’t made me feel any better. Of course, the alcohol churning in my gut wasn’t helping either. I looked both ways before crossing the street. I finally reached my building and
  • rounded the corner toward the front entrance. I gasped in shock. “You’ve got to be joking.” Adam paced near the front door and when he saw me, bolted toward me. “How the hell—” He didn’t slow down until I was against him. Breath knocked from my lungs as he wrapped those strong arms around me. “You said you were two blocks away from your home. Which is also a couple of blocks from my office.” “You were at your office?” He nodded. I noticed that his five o’clock shadow looked more like ten. He must have skipped a day shaving. He was in jeans, plain black shirt, and
  • leather jacket. It just wasn’t fair for one man to be that gorgeous and dangerous looking. His McLaren was still running and parked right in front of my complex. “Come with me.” He motioned to his car. “I can’t.” I used the most authoritative tone I could muster. “We need to talk, Katelyn. Get. In.” I pulled away from him and put a good three feet between us. Crossing my arms over my chest, I pursed my lips. “You want to hash this out here, then?” He stepped closer, shoving all that masculine swagger into my personal space. I glared at him.
  • “I can see in your eyes that you have much more you want to say to me.” That was true. I did. I wanted to scream and yell and hit him. Then I wanted to kiss him. “There are a few things I’d like you to hear from me as well.” His stance was strong, one that dared anyone to defy him. But there was a softness behind his deep voice that made my better judgment melt. I wanted to listen, to speak, to just be in his presence. Getting this close to Adam again was a suicide mission, but I had to. For no other reason than I was addicted. Maybe if I heard the words come from his own lips—if he just told me that he’d used me and didn’t want me
  • anymore—than I could completely let this go. I walked to the passenger side of his car and he opened the door for me. We drove in silence to his high-rise apartment, which was in the middle of downtown and not far away. I don’t remember much of the elevator ride, but I did see that he hit the top floor button and had a key to the elevator. When the doors opened, it delivered us straight into his penthouse. Everything was modern. Immaculate, but sterile. Not an ounce of warmth—only function and high-end décor that he’d obviously paid someone else to impose. It now made sense why Adam had called my little shoebox of a
  • home “cozy.” He put his hand on the small of my back and led me to the kitchen. The entire floor plan was open and spacious, and the massive living room windows overlooked the water. I sat down at the breakfast nook. He placed a glass in front of me and remained standing. I palmed my forehead and looked up at Adam. “What is this?” “Water.” “I know that. I mean this.” I motioned between our bodies. “Do you really get off on toying with people?” “No, I don’t.” “Then say something, Adam. Anything.” “You misled me, Katelyn. You
  • should have told me you were innocent.” “What would it have changed?” “Everything!” He ran his hand through his hair and took two steps to the side before facing me again. “The way I handled you in my office—was that a first, too?” “Yes, it was. And I’m an adult and can do what I want. Just because I was a virgin doesn’t mean it puts some kind of responsibility on you.” “The hell it doesn’t.” Why was he mad? I thought the whole losing-your- virginity thing was important only to girls. All that mattered to me was Adam, and why he’d treated me the way he had, then left. “I didn’t want you to be with me
  • because you felt guilty or obligated.” “Those two things are the furthest from what I feel for you.” His eyes bored into mine. “Are you on birth control?” “Why does that matter? You wore a condom.” He nodded. “Yes, but I want to know for future encounters.” “Wait, what?” Was the alcohol making me hallucinate? I was certain I hadn’t heard him right. “Adam, I haven’t talked to you in days. You disappeared the last time we…” I didn’t know what word to use. Fucked? Made love? Instead, I just waved my hand in his general direction and went with, “The last time we were together. Now you’re
  • thinking about the future? Assuming I’d even give you that chance?” “You will. Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.” My ire was rising. “You didn’t give me much of a choice.” “You always have a choice, Katelyn.” He leaned forward and put his palms on the table behind me, caging me in. “Are you on birth control?” Yes, I was. I had been since the age of thirteen because my periods got so bad. “Yes. But that doesn’t protect against everything.” “I have documentation I can show you that I am clean and healthy,” he stated. I shook my head. “Look, this is a
  • moot point. I came here because I wanted to know why you went out of your way to pursue me if you only intended to retreat immediately. But I realize now that it doesn’t matter.” I swallowed hard and gathered my courage. “This is too much, and I’m done.” He loomed over me like a predator. “You weren’t honest with me and I admit that I handled it poorly, but you need to be aware that we are not finished.” “Funny, because disappearing for days would have led me to believe otherwise.” “I was going to come see you tomorrow.”
  • “Oh, well then, I guess all this is solved.” “Don’t be sarcastic.” “Don’t tell me what to do!” He moved his hands to grab the edge of the table, pushing himself further into me. I was eye level with his hard torso. The black cotton that lined it stretched over the hard ridges of muscle. I wanted to reach out and touch him. Scratch him. Bite him. “I thought you liked it when I commanded you.” His voice was rough. I tried to huff out a breath, but he was too close and his amazing scent was clouding my lungs. He was right, I did like it. I liked how he made me feel. Safe and desired—powerful and
  • submissive all at the same time. He brought out contradicting emotions. High and low. Confused and restless. Manic and depressive. No. That wouldn’t be me. That would never be me. “I see you, Katelyn. You run from yourself.” I couldn’t hold back my hurt any longer. “Is that why you fucked me, then ran?” “What happened between us was a lot more than fucking.” His breath fanned over my forehead. “And yes, I ran. Because I didn’t know what the hell you had done to me.” “I did to you?” I looked up at him with all the anger I felt. He was the
  • one who affected me! “You don’t make sense to me, Katelyn. I’ve spent the last four days trying to figure out how you could be innocent, yet dark. Sexy and maternal. One moment you’re ripping my shirt, the next you’re timid.” “Exactly. Crazy emotions. You bring them out and that can’t happen.” I shook my head. “We’re done.” “Oh, we’re nowhere near done. Whatever the hell it is that spooks you, I’ll find out. Then I’ll eliminate it.” “I’m not giving you one more thing to manipulate me with.” “Manipulate you?” “This isn’t just about sex, Adam. That stunt you pulled with my face. What
  • was that?” “I found it interesting that you trusted me to touch you where you didn’t let others even come close.” Fury bubbled over. “Interesting? Messing with someone like that is interesting?” I shot to my feet. He moved just in time before I took out his face with the top of my head. “I wasn’t messing with you, Katelyn.” “You left!” I yelled. Those stupid tears I had been holding in rose to the surface. “Not a word, Adam! Not anything. It was like you were some kind of dream. You make me feel crazy.” Crazy.
  • The concept danced around my brain. How many times had I heard that word? How many people had said that about my mother? Thought that about me? I can’t be like her… He moved in on me, his body pressing into mine. The edge of the table was digging into my backside. I placed my palms behind me for support. Damn it, I shouldn’t have had anything to drink. I knew better. It blurred my shield, let everything that I worked so hard to keep hidden slip out. “I’m sorry, Katelyn.” He gripped my shoulders and stared down at my face. His eyes were like blue starbursts, wild and flickering with heat. “You
  • confused me. I saw you with your cousin, then later that night—” “What does Simon have to do with this?” His expression was fierce. “I watched you tuck him in. Take care of him. Like you’d never let anything hurt him.” “I wouldn’t.” “I know. I saw that.” I was so lost. What did my relationship with Simon have to do with this conversation? “You’re not even his mother, yet you care for him. I knew how badly you wanted to get out of that house, but you wouldn’t leave until you were certain he was sound asleep. You stayed while his
  • own mother and father kept company with random acquaintances all night. Would his mother have known if something had happened to him?” I shrugged. “No, they wouldn’t have. But you would.” I frowned. Something had shifted in Adam. Something dark and sad. “Adam?” My voice cracked and my words were barely a whisper. The man before me had his own demons, but the extent of them was where I was fuzzy. “I fucked up, Katelyn.” His hands slid down to my hips. “I don’t deal well with the things you’re forcing upon me.”
  • “Oh, I’m forcing you?” He grinned. “Woman, you have no idea of the power you hold.” He lifted me to sit on the table and stood between my thighs. His breath was tickling over my collarbone. I grabbed the hair at his nape, leaned in, and whispered, “I think I’m falling in hate with you.” His hands clutched my ass and rocked me against his jeans-clad erection. “I hope so.” He kissed me. Hard and deep. Like he’d missed me. And I kissed him back, because damn it, I’d missed him, too. Gone. I was gone for this man. It was amazing what I clung to—an
  • apology and a glimpse of the lost boy beneath the façade. It was that Adam I ached for. The one who commanded my body. The one I wanted to know and nurture. He wanted to eradicate the skeletons in my closet? I wanted to chase away that darkness in his eyes. His mouth worked mine. Hot and quick. Passion and desire fueled me. I couldn’t get enough. I fumbled with the button on his jeans. I needed him inside me. Needed to feel that connection again, knowing that when it was severed and he was gone, it would only hurt worse. But like a junkie for a fix, I was desperate for Adam, any way I could get him. He slid my pants off and threw
  • them behind him, then yanked his jeans down low on his hips. His erection jutted free. I spread my legs. He tore my panties. Fast. Hard. Desperate. I was clawing at him. Trying to find any bare skin I could to run my hands over. He yanked his shirt over his head and I was so grateful. I scored my nails down the hard muscles of his stomach. He hissed and gripped the backs of my knees, pulling me closer. Right when I dug my heels into his ass, he surged inside me. “God, I’ve missed you,” he groaned and thrust again. “Does it hurt? Are you sore?” “No.” I clung to his shoulders.
  • “It feels amazing.” “You feel amazing.” He pushed deep, over and over. I loved that there was no barrier between us. I threw my head back and gasped. Wrapping one strong arm around my lower back, he fucked me harder. The whole table shook. The cup of water toppled over, rolled to the floor, and shattered. The sound of glass breaking only urged me on. Apparently it did Adam as well, because he went wild. He bit at the swell of my breast, undoubtedly leaving teeth marks. I braced my hands behind me and arched into him. He consumed me. Every part of me was on fire and calling out to him to
  • drive the inferno higher. Hotter. My arms lost strength, so I lay back on the table. Spread out, totally open, I let him have me. “This—” He gripped my hips in his hands and pounded hard. “This is what you do to me.” He buried that big cock into me again and again while yanking my body toward his to meet every thrust. My breasts bounced, the thin shirt unable to conceal them with the few strings provided. Adam leaned down and ripped it away, then latched on to my nipple. He alternated between deep suction and toying flicks of his tongue. I wound my fingers in his hair and clutched him to me.
  • “God, yes!” He sucked harder right before he bit the sensitive peak. I came undone. My orgasm raced over me. Fireworks burst in my blood vessels and I cried out from the intensity. The pleasure was so sharp, it bordered on pain. And all the while, Adam fucked me through it. With a groan, he came and I felt the pressure of his release all the way to my core. Warmth spread and simmered. I felt his seed inside me, coating me. I was marked. Claimed. My arms and legs wove around him, clutching him close with everything I had. I was not ready to let him go. Not ready to let him leave my body. I would beg if I had to, but he couldn’t leave me.
  • Not this time. I couldn’t handle it. It made me weak, and I should be ashamed. But he was imprinted on my every cell. I might not want to need him, but that was what had happened. Adam didn’t draw away. He merely wrapped his strong arms around me and lifted me up. Still inside me, he walked down a long hallway. I held on as best I could, but I was limp and dazed. He slowly pulled out of me. Cool sheets hit my back. I was exhausted. This past four days had weighed heavily on me and all of a sudden, after having Adam, it seemed to disappear. I just needed him. A warm cloth rubbed between my thighs. I didn’t
  • have to open my eyes to know Adam was cleaning me, taking care of me. Then a thick comforter engulfed me. “Sleep now, lover.” The alcohol and orgasm induced sleep was creeping up on me. My body tensed. I looked around. “Shh…” Adam’s hand came down on my shoulder. “You’re in my room. My bed. I’m not leaving this time.” I settled back down, too tired to argue. Too tired to even speak. I lay on my stomach and slid myself down so my foot dangled off the end of the mattress. “What are you doing?” Adam’s voice was sounding further and further away as sleep surrounded me.
  • “So I know where I am.” I tapped my foot along the edge of the mattress. “So I know how far away the ground is.” “Why do you need to know where the ground is?” The answer seemed obvious in my drunken stupor. “So if she comes in…I can run…” I thought I heard him say, “You’re safe here,” but sleep enveloped me before I could be sure.
  • Chapter Ten It was still dark out. Adam was next to me in bed, asleep on his stomach. Happiness swelled. My brain was foggy from stress and lack of sleep, but somehow I thought today would be different. Surely some kind of progress had been made between Adam and me? I sat up and ran my hand along his spine. He snapped awake and in a flash, spun to his back and gripped my wrist so tightly I thought he’d break it. He stared straight at me. “You sick fucking bastard.” “Adam?” His eyes were open, locked on mine, but I didn’t think he saw me. His
  • brows furrowed. “Katelyn?” Sleep fade from his face. He blinked several times, then looked at where he held me. He instantly dropped my hand. “Forgive me. I am used to sleeping alone.” Part of me was so happy to hear that he didn’t share his bed with just any woman. The other part was worried about what I’d just witnessed. I knew from experience that what lurks in the night and in the back of your darkest memories can still haunt you. “Adam. What’s wrong?” “Nothing. I was just sleeping.” Whatever turmoil was churning in his mind, he obviously wasn’t ready to spill it. I could understand that. Knew
  • that some things didn’t bear recalling. I placed my palm on his cheek. “I’m sorry I woke you.” “I’m not.” He grabbed my hips and maneuvered me onto my back. He was over me a heartbeat later, spreading my thighs with his knees. He kissed me. “I’m glad you’re here.” My heart melted and he sank into my body. With his lips fused to mine, he brought us both to climax as we watched the sun rise over downtown Chicago. ~ Half way through the day, my phone buzzed with a text message. Thank you for this morning,
  • lover. I enjoyed myself immensely. I smiled.You are a wonderful host. I found myself thoroughly entertained. If only more people paid their guests such attention… Special attention for a special woman. Are you flirting with me? I don’t flirt. Boy, that was the truth.I have to get going. I’m teaching in fifteen minutes. It took several minutes for him to
  • respond, but when I saw the message in my inbox, I downloaded the attachment and clicked Play. “Hot for Teacher” by Van Halen boomed through my smart phone. I grinned like an idiot all the way to class, enjoying my own personal theme song. ~ “Well, look at you, Miss Happy Pants. I was worried after you went home last night, but you look great!” Megan sat across the table from me, smiling. She took a drink of her diet soda while I forked my salad. I was happy we were having lunch together today. When Adam dropped me off at my apartment early this morning to get ready for work, Megan hadn’t been home.
  • “How was staying with Brian last night?” I asked. Megan shrugged. And not her normal, happy-to-be-in-love shrug. “Everything okay?” “Yeah, it was fine. How was the rest of your night?” “It was pretty good. Adam and I…sort of made up.” Megan’s face stilled and she stared hard at me. “What does ‘sort of’ mean?” “Well, we talked through things. He told me he was sorry and I said the same—” “Wait, why are you sorry? You didn’t do anything.” I bit my bottom lip. “I didn’t tell
  • him I was a virgin. It spooked him a little the next morning.” Megan sat back in her chair, her mouth hanging open. “But he’s talking to me today, so that’s a good sign.” Megan shook her head. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t want you to get hurt again.” “I know, and I appreciate your looking out for me.” She blew out a breath. “Are you happy?” Warmth flooded my cheeks. “Yeah. Right now, I’m really happy.” “Okay, then. Are you going to see him again?” Before I could answer, my phone
  • rang. Kink flashed on the screen. I tried to hide my goofy smile as I answered. “Were your ears burning?” “You were discussing me?” I could hear the grin in his voice. “Maybe.” “That pleases me. Good things, I hope.” “Why, Adam Kinkade, what could I possibly say negatively about you?” “I keep warning you about that mouth, lover.” My breath hitched. “Perhaps we can discuss this more tonight. There is a silent auction fundraiser. I would like to invite you to come with me.”
  • Megan was chewing, her wide eyes skating across my face, obviously dying to know what was going on. “Um, is this a classy sort of thing?” “Yes.” I put my hand over the bottom of my phone. “Can I borrow a dress? A nice one?” I whispered to Megan. She nodded. “There’s no need, Katelyn. I will send everything you need to your home. I’ll pick you up at eight.” “That’s not necessary. I can dress myself.” “Yes, I am aware of that, but I want you to wear what I send. And only what I send.”
  • My heart jumped into my throat. Adam was picking something out for me? The idea that he wanted to see me in something specific had me excited and giddy. “All right.” “See you tonight.” I hung up the phone and a tremor raced down my spine. “So…?” Megan asked. “I think I’m going on a date with Adam Kinkade.”
  • Chapter Eleven “Oh my God and all things hot!” Megan screeched when I walked out of my room. As promised, Adam had a dress, shoes, and jewelry sent to my house the moment I got home. “This is way too much.” I looked down self-consciously at myself. When I opened the garment box, there had been a note that read: To match your eyes… ~A The dress was form-fitting. Every swell and flare of my body was hugged tightly by the thin nude sheath.
  • The outer layer was strategically placed emerald lace, woven all over the bodice and flowing downward. It was designed to look as if I were wearing only the layer of lace. The thin straps were made of green silk and draped across my outer shoulders, setting off the plunging V- neck. Combined with the nude heels and a pair of emerald earrings, I felt more like a princess than anything else. “You look incredible.” Megan looked like she was about to cry. “No, no. Don’t you dare! I already feel on the brink of a meltdown.” “I’m cool,” she said, wiping a fingertip along her lower lashes. “Let’s do your hair. With that color on your
  • pale skin, you need to sweep that mane of red madness up to expose your neck.” I fidgeted with my hands. “I don’t know about that.” Megan stood up and slowly reached for my hand. “If you let me do your makeup, I can make sure all the scars are covered.” As if sensing my unease, she added, “I can use a concealer brush. My fingers don’t even have to touch your skin.” I always used thick concealer to cover the smattering of crescent-moon scars that ran from my jaw to my neck. Some were bigger than others, pinker than others, deeper than others. My hair was the only other buffer I had to shield
  • me. “You’re such a good friend. I just…I think I’ll leave it down.” She smiled back. “No problem, we’ll just curl it, then?” I nodded. “Makeover time! This is going to be fun. Oh, and we’re going to charcoal your eyes to look all smoky.” Megan danced a little. She was the girly one of us two. It was a good day if I got around to putting on mascara. “Is this all he sent?” “Aside from a nude shawl, clutch, and heels, yes.” There was no lingerie. No panties. God knew even the world’s greatest strapless bra wouldn’t have
  • worked in this situation anyway. I was wrapped pretty tight. Adam’s direction had been, Only wear what I send. Megan hauled me into the bathroom. I nearly tripped on the floor- length gown, but hustled behind her as the tiny train trailed behind me. ~ Megan opened the door when Adam knocked. I stayed in my room, pacing. I was nervous, had no idea what I was doing. My own family looked at me like a second-class citizen and I was about to walk into a place where the wealthiest of Chicago gathered? They’d see right through me. Deep breaths were becoming overrated, but this was a step in a good
  • direction. I was excited to see Adam and that was definitely better than avoidance. I opened my bedroom door and walked into the living room. Megan smiled at me and scooted to the kitchen so I could be alone with Adam. My eyes landed on him and I nearly fainted. He wore a perfectly fitted black tux, but instead of a bow tie, he sported a narrow black tie and vest. The man made my entire body and mind react in a way that had me rethinking the no- panties idea. “You look…” He stepped toward me, his eyes roaming up, then down, then up again. “Beyond.” I smiled because I had used that
  • term when mentally describing Adam. He traced the back of his finger along my collarbone. “I love your skin,” he murmured. Leaning in, he placed a kiss on my forehead. “Radiant.” “Well, you look positively sinful yourself.” He smiled. I wanted to catch it and bottle it up so I could look at those sexy white teeth and dimples all day long. Adam glanced over my shoulder at Megan in the kitchen. “It’s nice to see you again, Megan.” She came out, yogurt in hand, and took a bite. Her smile was genuine, but her eyes were slightly narrowed. I recognized the look. She was not
  • Adam’s biggest fan, but she was trying. “You, too.” Adam nodded. It was almost as if I’d missed some secret conversation. Had Megan said something to him when I was in my room? “Shall we?” He offered his arm and I took it. Megan smiled and waved her spoon at me. Tonight would be fun, I reminded myself. Tonight would be fun. ~ We rode in the back of a limo. The night air was cold, but the inside, the car was toasty warm. The lights of Chicago lit up the left side of the car while the waterfront lay to the right. It
  • was a clear fall night. Adam hit a button and the privacy glass went up. “Do you like the dress?” “Yes, though I feel like it may be one size too small.” He shook his head, his eyes raking down my body. “The dress fits you perfectly and shows off each and every asset.” My cheeks heated. How did he do this to me? Make me feel…special? “Did you follow my directions?” I stared at him, knowing what he was asking, but couldn’t help teasing him. “You mean, am I wearing panties?” His gaze was intense. His finger trailed up my thigh. “And if I
  • wasn’t?” He smirked, his hand traveling higher. “Walking around the Four Seasons for hours knowing you’re completely bare beneath that dress is going to give me a permanent hard-on all damn night.” “Good to know.” “You’re toying with me.” I pulled in an exaggerated gasp. “I would never.” Based on the skyscrapers passing outside the window, The Four Seasons was only a few more minutes away. I reached into my clutch, dug out my red lipstick, and reapplied it. Snapping the top back on, I looked at Adam, sitting there all calm
  • and domineering. I wanted to show him I could be in charge. Be the one in control. I reached for his zipper and pulled it down, enough so that I could maneuver his thick cock out. He didn’t stop me. He was already sporting an erection, and I wanted him to keep it the rest of the night. The same way I wanted him thinking of me. I bent and opened my mouth wide to take his entire length down my throat. He hissed in a breath. When I had taken as much of him as I could, I fused my lips around his shaft. Then I retreated and let him fall from my mouth. He looked at me in puzzlement. “Not going finish the job?”
  • “Oh, absolutely I am. Just not now. The hotel is right up the street. Besides,” I licked my lips and snared his gaze. “I just needed to blot my lipstick.” He frowned and looked down. There, right near the base, was a red lipstick stain that surrounded the circumference of his cock. He grinned and looked at me as he tucked himself back into his pants. “It’s only fair, seeing as how you left a hickey on my inner thigh.” “This is going to be a battle of wills between us.” “Or you can just surrender now. I warn you, I do not submit so easily.” “No. You don’t.” He leaned forward and pushed my dress up to my
  • knees. His hand disappeared beneath it. His big finger plunged inside of me. I was wet. Had been since he’d walked through my front door. He hooked that finger and rubbed that sensitive spot inside me. I sucked in a shocked breath and clutched his arm. It was like going from zero to orgasm in two seconds flat. But just as the tremor of pleasure rose, Adam retreated, denying me release. “You must know, lover, that I am ruthless when it comes to something I want.” I watched him take the finger that had just been inside me and lick it clean. I was so hot and ready to jump his bones I could care less about the event, date, or dress. I just wanted him.
  • The limo stopped in front of the Four Seasons. Adam got out and held out a hand to me. We shared a heated look before we started up the steps. The hotel was beautiful, its textured rock and brick and rustic archways along the entrance making it look even more elegant. Warm orange lighting glowed from the windows. “Remember, Katelyn, you’re the one who started this game.” I looked up at him. His façade was in place. The rich and powerful Adam Kinkade beamed with every breath he took. “No, I just changed the rules.” “Either way,” he whispered in my ear.
  • A slew of people greeted us. Cameras flashed, paparazzi called out his name. Anxiety bubbled beneath my skin. This event was bigger than I had imagined. I clung to Adam’s arm. His breath was hot against my neck. “I will win in the end, lover.” ~ Adam had been busy making the rounds. Everyone and their mini-dog-in- a-purse wanted to talk to him. I stood beneath the chandeliers and tried to fit in as best I could. The orange and purple flowers in the centerpieces were elaborate and undoubtedly cost more than I made in a month. No one talked to me, and I hadn’t the first idea how to mingle. I clenched
  • and unclenched my hands to try to stop the shaking. My skin felt sticky and my heart kept a steady pace above one hundred beats per minute. Scooting closer and closer to the wall, I reminded myself to breathe. It turned out that Adam’s company was hosting the entire event. The dinner and silent auction were to raise money for Chicago’s Children’s Home and Aid. The foundation was one of the largest foster shelters in the city. I was beyond familiar with it, having volunteered there several times over the years. It made sense that Adam would have a soft spot for this organization, seeing as he had gone through it himself.
  • “Hello there.” A petite brunette stood next to me and offered me a glass of champagne. “After all these years, I still can’t get used to a bunch of wealthy tight-asses in the same room. But if it helps the kids, you subject yourself to the torture.” I liked her immediately. She seemed down to earth and had a nice bite behind her words. She had to be close to my age as well. “I’m Katelyn Gunn.” “Oh, I know who you are. You came with Adam. In fact, by now everyone knows who you are.” She pointed around the massive crowd of people. Various sets of eyes were skimming over me at different times, as
  • if sizing me up. “Oh, and word to the wise, the women taller than five-ten who all look like stone-cold bitches—” She waved her hand at the several females fitting this description. “—really are all bitches.” Good to know. Except for the fact that one of them was talking to Adam. The way she laughed and placed her hand on his shoulder made something burn low in my gut. They were obviously familiar with each other. I wanted to snarl, but was pretty certain that wasn’t ladylike. “I’m Emma, Adam’s sister.” “I thought he didn’t have any siblings.”
  • She took a sip of her champagne. “I was six when I met him. He was older and we lived at the same foster home for a bit. Neither of us had anyone. He looked out for me, and has ever since. He’s like my brother.” It didn’t surprise me that Adam took care of her. There was a protective instinct in him that was apparent. “That’s really wonderful.” I smiled at Emma. My eyes darted back to the leggy blonde hanging on Adam. He gave a half grin and appeared to be listening to what she was saying. “Don’t worry, that’s just a groupie,” Emma said. “A what?” “You know, one of those skanks
  • Adam slept with once who never got over him.” The admission came at me hard. Emma didn’t mean it rudely. She just seemed to speak the truth, which I appreciated. A trait she and Adam obviously shared. I looked around at all the women and realized I had jumped into my worst nightmare. I was surrounded by stunning supermodels in tiny dresses. They looked all class and perfect ass and I was lacking in every way. Had he slept with all of them? Most of them? God knew they weren’t idiot virgins. They would have known how to handle a man like Adam. Was I just another groupie? My throat began to close and the
  • anxiety I had been struggling to control cranked up a notch. I was in over my head. I didn’t belong here. Everything about this kind of life was not for me. I didn’t deal well with this feeling of insecurity, which was why I made it a point to stay out of situations that made me feel as though I was lacking. “I see you’ve met my sister,” Adam said as he approached us. He kissed Emma’s cheek, then looked at me. “You all right, Katelyn? You look pale.” “Well, if you didn’t leave her unattended in the middle of a snake pit, maybe she’d feel better,” Emma said. “Let’s get you some air.” He put his hand on the small of my back and led me away. “Emma, dinner is starting
  • soon. Will you find our table, please?” The cute brunette nodded and hopped off. “What’s the matter?” He wound me through some random hallway and around a few corners, until I had no idea where we were. We came to a door that led to a stairwell and he opened it. The cool air hit me. “What is it?” he growled, and faced me. “Why are you mad at me?” He looked down my body, stalking closer, forcing me to step back until my back hit the wall. “Because you have me so fucking hard that I can barely hold a conversation.” “You didn’t seem to have a problem chatting with Miss Skinny No-
  • Boobs back there.” That grin split open and I saw his dazzling, straight white teeth. “Katelyn Gunn, are you jealous?” “No, I’m pissed. You set me up.” The pounding in my ears was so loud I could barely hear myself speak. “What do you mean?” “I mean that you take me to an ‘event’ where the city’s biggest quadrillionaires are going to be, along with the entire cast of the Victoria’s Secret runway, which I was informed you’ve slept with—” “I never slept with Victoria’s Secret.” “You know what I mean. Why, Adam? Do you want to hammer home the
  • point that I don’t belong here?” My knees began shaking. Panic was overtaking me and soon I’d have a full-on attack. I squeezed my eyes shut, my breathing becoming more hectic by the second. “Look at me.” The moment Adam cupped my neck, it was as if someone had taken the screeching teakettle off the burner. Calm rushed through me. I latched on to it and concentrated on even breaths. Slowly I opened my eyes. He was crouching and face-to-face with me. “What was that?” “Nothing.” “Bullshit, Katelyn. You looked on the brink of fainting.” “I get panic attacks sometimes. I
  • felt it coming on, but I’m okay now.” Did this man have any idea what he was doing to me? Not even Megan had ever been able to bring me back from the brink of an attack the way Adam just had. “Listen to me carefully, Katelyn. You belong where I say you belong, and that is with me tonight. As far as my sexual history, yes, I’ve slept with women, some of whom are present, but I’m not sleeping with them now.” “That’s not the point,” I whispered. “Then what is?” “Do you really not get it? How would you like it if I brought you to some hole-in-the-wall bar all my ex-
  • boyfriends frequented?” His nostrils flared. “Point taken. But I cannot brush off important events because of who may or may not be in attendance.” I knew that. Adam was an important member of the community and what he did on his own time was none of my business. “You’re right,” I sighed. Exhaustion hit every bone in my body like a wrecking ball. Once again, I didn’t know what to do or how to feel, and it was wearing me out. All of my energy was consumed just trying to stay balanced. Trying to have a relationship of any kind with Adam wasn’t like walking on eggshells,
  • it was like walking on eggs. I was tired of trying to keep myself even, trying to fit into a life that wasn’t meant for me. “Adam, you don’t owe me any explanations. I’m not your mother or your wife. We have no commitment to each other. I think it would be better if I went home. This whole setup isn’t for me.” He pressed into me, the wall cold on my back and his rock-hard frame against my front. “You are my lover, and I am yours. You are gravely mistaken if you think there is no commitment between us.” He kissed me hard. I groaned, my hands gripping his
  • shoulders to pull him closer. “You do owe me explanations. I am new to the details of relationships, but be certain that you belong only to me.” His tongue thrust deep. I lapped at him, sucking and biting until he growled. “So, we’re exclusive?” I hated that I sounded like a begging little girl, but I needed to know. “That was my assumption. If you’re having second thoughts, let me assure you that I will not allow you to have another man.” “And what about you?” “My eyes are set on what I want.”
  • His strong kiss left me dizzy. His mouth forcefully ravaged mine with every hard stroke of his tongue. I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him with all I had. I wanted him closer. I tried to lift my knee and coax him further against me, but the dress kept me from moving my legs much. Adam must have figured out what I was trying to do, because he gathered my dress in his fists, hiked it up, and lifted me. My now free legs locked around his hips. Supporting me against the wall with one arm, he reached between us with the other and unfastened his pants. I felt his erection prod at my opening. This was going to be fast. Hard. No slow build, no nice words. Raw lust
  • was driving me and all I wanted was to feel him inside of me. I needed that connection. After shoving his pants low on his hips, Adam brought his hand back to his mouth and licked his fingertips, then reached down and rubbed the wetness over the tip of his cock. “Need you now,” he groaned. “Yes!” I dug my heel into the back of his thigh. He thrust hard into me. My breath caught. I was wet, but not overly so. There was a slight bite of pain from the tight fit, but that edgy burn sparked a fire and it smoldered beneath my skin. I felt him everywhere. So thick and long. He pounded in and out. There
  • would be a bruise on my ass from hitting the wall over and over as Adam hammered inside me. I didn’t care. In fact, I wanted it. Wanted the pain, the mark that showed he was here. Because with it came so much pleasure. My obsession for this man was dangerous. One look from him and the world fell away and I was his. However. Wherever. I came instantly, violently. With a groan, he was right behind me. I breathed deeply the scent of his hair and skin. I knew we couldn’t linger, no matter how badly I wanted to. He withdrew and I felt the warmth of his semen trickle down my thighs. He took out his handkerchief,
  • knelt before me, and wiped it away. I knew my mouth must have never quite shut because I had trouble getting enough air. He didn’t say anything, merely adjusted my dress, took my hand, and led me back up to the party. We arrived in the dining room just as everyone was being seated for dinner. Emma waved at us and Adam ushered me over. I sat in silence between him and his sister while the announcer gave the list of who had won what from the silent auction. My muscles were humming and my skin flushed hot. I still felt him. The last remnants of his orgasm coated my core, keeping me constantly wet. His
  • eyes fixed on me as the speaker announced another winner. Even as we clapped, Adam didn’t take his stare from me. Everything that had just happened, from the way he mastered my body to the deep blue fire burning in his eyes, was a reminder of the power he had over me. Here we were, surrounded by people I didn’t know—people he had had a relationship with at some point, and I didn’t know how to deal with jealousy. Mostly because I had never felt it before. As much as Adam calmed me, everything around him unnerved me. Not being prepared for him was one thing, but his lifestyle and all the emotions that went into it was another. When I didn’t
  • trust myself to act logically, I usually left the situation that threatened my sanity. Space was a tool I used to regain my sense, but Adam was taking over and instead of running away, I was hurling myself at him. If this was a game, Adam held the advantage… ~ I held on to my clutch as the limo bumped along the streets of Chicago. Emma and I had exchanged numbers. I liked her so much already. Very blunt, but sweet. She reminded me a lot of Megan, only with more edges. Plus, she had to deal with Adam on a regular basis, so it was nice to see a female able to tackle the feat and still have a full
  • head of hair. I didn’t even realize we had stopped in front of Adam’s penthouse. He got out and offered me his hand. “Aren’t you going to take me home?” “No.” He guided me through the doors and into the elevator. “I was hoping you’d stay with me tonight.” The thought made me happy. That warm and fuzzy happy. And I needed that. I had held it together through the event, but the truth was, I didn’t know how to handle these feelings. Assurance was something I’d need constantly until I gained enough emotional ground and security for this situation. I didn’t know if it was even fair
  • to ask that of Adam. The way he looked at me right then spoke volumes. We had just been surrounded by some of the most beautiful women in the world, yet Adam Kinkade had taken me home and wanted me in his bed. He leaned in and kissed me. Softly and gently. “You’re beautiful,” he whispered against my lips. “How do you do that?” The elevator opened into Adam’s foyer and we walked through. “Do what?” “You seem to…read my mind.” He shook his head. “I read your body. I’ve told you before you’re very expressive. I can tell how you hold yourself, when you tense, how your
  • brow starts to strain.” He touched my forehead and I immediately relaxed my frown. “You give off cues that tell me when you’re troubled, over thinking…” He clutched my hips and pulled my body into his. “And when you’re wanting.” His hard cock pressed against my stomach and I arched. I did want him. Wanted that connection and that crazed feeling of obsession. It was never enough. The moment he was inside me was like finding the rest of myself, and when we parted, I thought of him all day, missing him before he’d even gone. I was falling, and there was nowhere for me to land. Ever since Adam had come into my world, he’d clipped all the safety nets away.
  • “Come with me.” He grabbed my hand and led me to his master bath. It was large and lavish. With the overall modern theme, the fixtures were all black wood and gray steel. The shower took up an entire corner. It wasn’t enclosed, nor did it have a door. Glossy bricks of dark marble spread from the floor and up the wall. A massive waterfall shower head hung from the ceiling. Off to the right was a Jacuzzi tub. The vanity and mirror took up the entire opposite wall. Adam started the shower, then his hands were back on me, unfastening my dress. He kissed me as the zipper slipped down my back. “I want to
  • shower with you.” I caught the bodice before it fell from me and took a step back. “I can’t. You go ahead. I’ll just throw on a T- shirt and wait in the bedroom, if you don’t mind.” “You don’t want to shower with me?” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. Last time I was over, I’d passed out with all my makeup on. Sure, I’d probably looked like a train wreck in the morning, but I got to go home first thing and shower there. I couldn’t get my face wet in front of Adam. “I’ve seen all of you, you know,” he said, pulling and loosening his tie. I
  • started salivating watching him undress. Just his tugging on that thin, black piece of silk was sexy. “I know. I just…I just don’t feel like it.” My heart sank as soon as the words came out. I wanted to be with him. Skin to skin. Water falling between us. But the remnants that my mother’s talons had left behind were not something I wanted him to see. His tie hung around his neck. He worked open his shirt buttons. Every square inch of skin he uncovered entranced me further. He was strong as stone, masculine and powerful. Once his chest was bare, he reached out and tilted up my chin. My eyes met his.
  • “Lover.” He held out his hand, beckoning me give up the death grip I had on my dress. “Please.” His words were fierce, uttered like a command, but he had asked instead. I was helpless against it. He’d probably see the scars sooner or later. I had just been hoping for later. I let my dress fall to the floor. I felt every caress of his eyes over my skin. Cool air rushed over my nipples and they instantly hardened. Adam’s gaze was slow as he moved those baby blues up and down my body until my sex throbbed and I wanted to squirm. Never taking his stare from me, he undid his pants and finished undressing. He took my hand. I was
  • trembling and it had nothing to do with the cold. He stepped under the spray, his eyes still remaining on me. Water fell around him. The man was a god. His eyes burned bright against the soft glow of light. His black hair hung damp around his brow and ears. Tanned skin and rock-hard planes of muscles were sculpted by water drops slipping down his body. His shoulders eased, the tightness of his day was washed away, and I had never seen a more beautiful man. I wanted to kneel before him and take all that impressive length into my mouth again. I wanted him to make love to me while water rained down on us... First I had to get in.
  • He held his hand out for me to join him. He must have known I was nervous, because he didn’t push me. Didn’t rush. He just stood and waited. I slid my palm into his and entered. He gently pulled me against him and the water cascaded down. I hung my head and turned, giving him my back. He let me. Heat radiated. It wasn’t just the water, it was him. I could almost hear his brain ticking. He obviously wanted to know what my problem was. But he didn’t speak. Instead, he poured shampoo onto my hair and began lathering. His fingers worked my scalp and massaged me into a lethargic state. The press of his fingertips, followed by
  • the gentle scratch of his nails, sent shivers skating across my skin. He let the water rinse away the suds, then ran conditioner through the strands. “You have the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen.” When the conditioner was rinsed away, I ran my fingers under my eyes. My mascara must be running, but that was the least of my worries. Tears stung and I tried to fight them. Tried to shake away the memories. The fear of what Adam would think when he saw me like this. Would he ask me to leave? Would he think I was ugly? Every day I looked in the mirror and knew what was there. Though I told myself it was better for him to find out
  • now, I still tensed to run. It was too much to risk. His rejection would devastate me. “Katelyn,” he whispered. His hands on my shoulders slowly turned me to face him. Those tears I had been fighting slid down my cheeks. I looked up at him, face to face, while water continued to trickle down my brow. His jaw tightened and his eyes blazed with fury. My heart struggled to beat. He looked angry and shocked. I knew what he was seeing. I watched his eyes track from the hairline at my temple down my jaw, to my neck. My bottom lip trembled and I thought my knees were going to give out. He took my chin
  • between his first finger and thumb and tilted my head, examining me. The tears came quicker. My anxiety should be flaring, but it wasn’t. Adam didn’t make me feel nervous or afraid, he made me feel vulnerable. I was stripped bare—straight to my soul —completely naked. I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew the image he was seeing. Pink scars littered my skin, trailing from my temple to my jaw and down my neck like a pathway. He traced a finger along the line of scarring and I fused my eyelids together harder. I wanted this to be over. He had seen me now. All of me. Scarred and completely terrified.
  • “What is this, Katelyn?” His voice was laced with anger. He must be upset that, like my virginity, I hadn’t told him about this, either. “Scars.” I hung my head. “I can see that. Scars from what?” “F-fingernails.” I risked a look at him, expecting to find disgust in his expression. Instead, he looked like he’d just been kicked in the stomach. “Someone clawed at your face?” His voice was deadly quiet. I nodded. “Who? Because these aren’t scratches. These are deep. Old. Like they were trying to—” He caught
  • himself. His temper was obviously coming out and his tone was growing harsher. “Like they were trying to rip my face off,” I finished for him. “Please don’t be mad that I didn’t tell you. I just —” “You think I’m mad at you?” He cupped my face in his palms. “I’m ready to kill the bastard who did this. Don’t ever, ever think for a moment that this affects my feelings toward you.” He kissed my cheeks, my eyes, my tears. I sobbed and he pulled me into his arms. “Is this why you flinch when people get too close?” He tucked a lock of damp hair behind my ear. “Why you remained a virgin?”
  • I nodded. “You’re the only person who’s gotten this close to me without being violent.” Adam tensed. His grip on me tightened. I pressed my cheek further into his chest and wrapped my arms around his middle. His lips trailed along the top of my head. “I would never put my hands on you with the intention to hurt you.” “I know.” Since the day I’d met him, that had never been a doubt in my mind. “I’m glad you showed me.” I looked up at him. “Do you think I’m weak now?” He scowled as though I had slapped him in the face. “I think you’re
  • strong.” He ran his fingertip down my jaw. “You’re kind, vibrant, beautiful. And you survived.” He skimmed my forehead with his lips. “Whatever I have to do to make you realize this, I will.” Adam’s endearments sounded like a threat I desperately wanted him to follow through on. He was changing me, flooding me with his will and might. He stood there and held me, skin to skin, as the water beat down on us. With one palm on the back of my head and the other tightly around my back, he clung to me and I felt like I could melt right into him. Leave this world and live out my existence as a puddle surrounding Adam Kinkade. And nothing sounded more
  • peaceful.
  • Chapter Twelve “Sure you don’t mind me borrowing your shirt?” I asked, strutting from Adam’s walk-in closet in only a white tee. He was lying on the bed, long legs stretched out and hands folded behind his head. He was in a pair of navy blue pajama bottoms and nothing else. Hot damn, the man was mouthwatering. “It’s a shame to cover up that body of yours.” He raked his gaze up and down as I came to the edge of the bed. “But seeing you in one of my shirts is fucking sexy as hell.” It had been weeks since we’d
  • shared our first shower, and every day seemed better than the last. Adam had tried several times to get me to talk about my past. How I got the scars and more important, who had given them to me. I refused to go into it. Which led to an argument. But the argument led to make-up sex and in the end, the secret was still mine. I didn’t want to think about the past or taint Adam with any of the bad memories from it. I was happy to be moving on. I crawled on my knees atop the bed and wiggled my eyebrows at him. His arm shot out and wrapped around my waist. In my squeal of delight, he pinned me on the mattress and hovered
  • over me. He tickled my sides and I burst into laughter. “I see you have a weak spot.” He smiled. I begged for mercy and he relented. He eased himself down on me, his face a few inches from mine, and brushed a lock of hair from my brow. “You’re so beautiful.” He trailed his finger along my jaw and the scars that marred it. “All of you.” He kissed my neck. “Especially when you laugh.” I smiled up at him. “You realize how unfair this is, right? You’ve found my tickling weakness. I have yet to find a single weakness of yours.” He looked at my face as though he was staring at Utopia. “You’re closer
  • to my weakness than you think.” He kissed me and I melted for him. Lifting my shirt up and exposing my bare thighs, he shoved his bottoms down and was inside me instantly. There, surrounded by Adam Kinkade in every possible way, I let myself fall even further into the abyss. ~ “Thanks for coming to get Simon today,” Tim said as he rummaged through the papers on his desk. “I need to close this sale and Grace is out shopping. She’ll pick him up in about an hour.” “It’s no problem.” I ruffled Simon’s hair and tried to keep the distaste out of my voice. I loved
  • spending time with Simon, but hated conversing with the man in front of me. “Simon, go see if Sue has some candy.” Tim motioned to his secretary and Simon went running. My uncle’s dark gaze landed on me. I balled my fingers into fists at my sides and focused on keeping the anxiety from rising. I wasn’t surprised he’d figured out a way to get me alone. He knew I’d come. All he had to do was say, “Simon,” and I’d be there. “What is the situation with you and Adam Kinkade?” I almost choked on my own spit. “I don’t see how that’s any of your business.” His desk was between us. He
  • leaned forward, teeth clenched. “It is when our companies are competing.” Ah. Now it made sense. Adam did have a lot of real estate in Chicago and his reach, wealth, and power far exceeded my uncle Tim’s. “Well?” He glared at me. “Well, what? You guys do what you do. I’m not a part of your business dealings.” “What the hell are you doing with him, anyway? You realize he dates models, right?” I tried not to let that sting as much as it did. “What does a guy like that want with you?” I clenched my teeth. It wasn’t my anxiety I was worried about anymore, it was my rage.
  • “Obviously this guy has other motives.” “You think Adam is using me to get to you somehow?” Adam didn’t need to hide behind anyone. I scoffed and turned to leave. “Hey,” Tim called after me. “Do you even know anything about him? The guy is unstable. He has big fucking issues.” I faced him fully and crossed my arms over my chest. “We all have issues.” “Does he know about yours?” I gritted my teeth. This was negative reinforcement at its finest. My aunt and Tim had always treated me as if I were my mother. Except when he
  • wasn’t busy eyeing me and using every excuse to either grope or degrade me. Once I had thought the same thing about myself, too. Thought maybe I was just like my mother. But little by little, that fear was fading. “I’m fine. He’s fine. There’s no need to concern yourself,” I snapped. “Adam Kinkade is not fine. He’s dangerous.” “No, he’s not.” “Oh? Did you know that his own stepfather kicked him to the curb because Adam almost killed him?” I recalled the article I had read. It had said that after Adam’s mother died, his stepfather had raised him for a couple of years, but then he went into
  • foster care for “unknown reasons.” No. No way would Adam try to kill someone. I have stared white rage in the face. I knew what it looked like, what it felt like, to be in the hands of someone who wanted to kill you. Adam wasn’t that way. I didn’t dignify Tim’s accusation with a response. I walked out, picked up Simon at reception, and took him with me. These days, the only thing I liked about my aunt and uncle was that little boy…and that was about it. ~ Grace had just picked up Simon. I hung his latest drawing of a kangaroo on my refrigerator and grabbed an apple. Biting into my late snack, I powered up
  • my laptop and went to work on my thesis. About an hour into it, my phone rang. Kink. “Well, hello there.” “Katelyn.” His tone was dry and quick and made me feel like I was in trouble. “I’d like to see you in my office immediately.” “Ah…why?” “We need to have a discussion.” “O-okay. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.” “Good.” The line went dead and so did my breathing. Whatever was going on was not good. Tim’s words replayed in my head. Adam Kinkade dates models…
  • what does he see in you… My hands began to shake. I couldn’t help feeling that I was on the verge of being dumped. ~ “Have a seat.” Adam motioned to the chair across the desk. “I’ll stand.” I was not about to play Master and Commander if he was just going to break up with me anyway. It took every effort I had to remain calm, and I was still failing miserably. “It’s rude to discuss business when one party stands.” “Business?” He glared at me. He obviously wasn’t going to say anything until I sat, so I did. He leaned forward, all
  • powerful and domineering, staring me down as though I had just insulted his grandmother. “I’m going to tear down the apartment complexes.” “What?” My voice raised an octave. “We talked about this a while ago. I told you my mother lives there.” “Yes. Which is why I am more driven than ever to expunge that shitty part of town.” My brain was rattling with his words. “But you said she wouldn’t be homeless.” “There is a women’s shelter right down the street,” he snarled. What had happened? Where was my sweet, wonderful Adam?
  • “How can you say that? Do that?” He tossed a manila folder across the desk and it landed in front of me. I opened it and when I saw what was in it, I almost vomited. My medical records. Page after page documenting every time I’d gone to the hospital for injuries. Then there were the photos… “Where did you get this? These are my personal, private medical records.” “Do you know how much money I have?” he asked with all the smugness in the world. “It really can buy anything.” I shoved the folder back at him.
  • “You had no right to do that. How would you like it if someone went digging around in your medical records?” “Impossible,” he stated. “You can’t do this.” “Yes, I can.” “No, you can’t! This is my private life.” “I gave you plenty of time to talk to me. Confide in me about what had happened to you and who hurt you. But you refused. So I found out on my own.” “Adam, did it ever occur to you that I didn’t want to talk about this because it’s not fun for me?” “I need to know these things, Katelyn.” “Why do you need to know?”
  • “So I can protect you.” “I can take care of myself.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “I would have told you. Despite how awful and painful it is, I would have shared every secret and recounted every detail if that’s what you wanted.” “Then why didn’t you?” “Because you never give me anything back. I took the leap, Adam. I stood in front of you with all my faults and scars bared. But you haven’t shared one thing about your past with me.” “That’s different, Katelyn.” My temper flared. “Bullshit. You don’t just get to play God and decide things based on how it best suits you.” “I do when my property is
  • involved.” I looked down at my stomach because it felt like Adam had just run a knife through my gut. I wanted to scream. To cry. Why he was doing this? “Are you trying to hurt me? Rub it in that you’re kicking my mom out of her home? Going back on your word to me? That’s so sick.” “No!” He slammed his hand on his desk and I jumped. “This is sick!” He held up a photo. A close-up of my face when I was eleven, bloodied and broken. That had been one of the worst. I still felt my mother’s nails sink into my skin like claws as she screamed at me. Hating me. Trying to cut the skin from my cheekbones and tear apart my
  • face with her bare hands. “I don’t know how you can care about someone who did this to you, but I sure as hell won’t.” His eyes were the darkest I had ever seen them. His breathing was coming quicker. Adam Kinkade was irate. I took a deep breath and tried to take a mental step back. I wasn’t used to being the calm one in a situation, but now it looked like I had no choice. He was all worked up and for what? Me? In his own way, he was protecting me. Attempting to save me from something that had been done. A raw anger seeped from him. I recognized it because I had felt it for most of my childhood. But I was an adult now, and
  • with that came responsibility. “She’s my mother, Adam.” His face went stark. He came around the desk and stood before me. I rose to meet him. When I did, he cupped my face in his palms and kissed me. Hard. Angry. I knew his intentions were good, but sometimes he set about things in a backward way. I was learning to combat this with the only thing I could. The truth. “I want to do something, Katelyn,” he rasped against my mouth. “I want to fix this. Make her pay for the hurt she’s caused you.” I never would have thought Adam capable of losing his control.
  • Standing there in his arms, I felt the heat of his rage. I was getting a glimpse of the side he refused to show me, and it was dark. A raw ache drifted off of him like morning fog along the water. That thick hatred that developed only through utter anger and shame. I wasn’t the only one running from a terrible past. Adam was, too. “Is that how you feel about your stepfather?” The words came out before I even realized I had spoken them. I hadn’t said it to be mean. I wanted to know him. He demanded the truth from me, and I’d give it. But I wanted him in return. Wanted to be a source of good in his life that he could turn to.
  • He dropped his hands and stepped away from me. Shock plagued his handsome face. He forced me to deal with my issues head on. It was his turn to unburden himself, and I wanted to comfort him. “What the fuck does that mean?” he demanded. “After your mother died…you lived with him for two years before foster care.” “I see you’ve been reading Wikipedia.” “At least I didn’t steal your medical records.” “My past is not a topic of conversation. Ever.” “How can you demand all this
  • from me? Throw pictures in my face, have me relive everything that happened, and stand there and tell me you won’t do the same? I’ve been honest with you, Adam. Yet you give me nothing.” “Let this go, Katelyn.” “Did you try to kill him?” He grinned. Grinned! “Yes. I did.” “W-why?” For a brief moment, pain trekked Adam’s face. But then it was replaced by a mask of rage. Whatever his stepfather had done to him— I remembered the first night I had spent with him. When I woke him and he gripped my wrist… Bile rose to my throat and I
  • resisted the urge to cover my mouth. I threaded all the signs together and it began making sense. Adam’s need for control. Dominance. The way he’d reacted to taking my virginity. The blood… Whatever expression I wore made Adam’s fit of anger skyrocket. “Don’t you dare pity me!” he snarled. “Whatever the fuck it is you’re thinking, you’re wrong and you need to stop.” I didn’t say anything, but then again, I didn’t have to. He had told me twice now that my face seemed to give away my thoughts. “Adam, nothing will change how I feel about you.” I reached for him, but he moved away.
  • “We’re done here,” he growled. He led me to the door and opened it. He damn near had to push me through it before he closed it, and me, off. My mind raced and I realized several things had just happened. Adam’s past was much more painful than I’d ever imagined, and I had no idea how to help him. He had made it clear that he didn’t want me right now. Maybe not ever, after this. When the elevator took me down, I sat alone in the car and cried. Cried for Adam, cried for myself, and cried for our obviously doomed relationship.
  • We were two broken people who couldn’t communicate about the darkness that was swallowing us whole.
  • Chapter Thirteen Megan and I sat on the couch in sweat pants, and a half-eaten pizza lay on the coffee table. I zoned out to really bad TV trying to gain a grip on today’s events, but it had totally fried my brain. Every internal organ hurt, as though I was physically aching for Adam. He was hurting. And there was nothing I could do. There was nothing he’d allow me to do. I felt useless. Angry. I wanted to take whatever pained him away and replace it with something better. Something that made him happy, that made him smile. He deserved to smile. He was a strong, domineering
  • man to his very core. I wanted to help him. The last few hours had consisted of me going from grief, to rage, to utter depression. I wanted to kill anyone who would ever hurt him. While I didn’t know the whole story, I knew Adam’s stepfather had abused him. The need to punish that mongrel was overwhelming. This must have been how Adam had felt when he found out it was my mother who had caused all the scarring on my face. The twisted part of me felt happy that he cared so much. Somehow, he felt the same as I did about him. Granted, his tactics were a bit extreme, what with getting my medical records. Could two people with this much baggage work out
  • in the end? I hoped so, because the alternative made me sick. Megan had pressed me all afternoon about what had happened. I was obviously in a bad mood, but I couldn’t tell her much. I would never break Adam’s trust that way. I checked my phone for the millionth time and still there was no call or text from him. “Seriously, what happened with you two today? Did he upset you? Hurt you?” “Adam wouldn’t hurt me like that, Meg.” She wasn’t Adam’s biggest fan, but I couldn’t have her thinking the worst. “He just…he found out about my mom.”
  • “Oh. How did that go?” “Not great. I’m pretty sure he hates her and is going to demolish her home.” “He can do that?” “Guess so.” “Well…can you blame him?” Megan’s reply startled me a bit. “Don’t look at me like that, Kate. I hate your mother for what she did to you. It makes no sense to me how you can even look at her, let alone support her. She’s a crazy bitch.” My eyes burned with liquid fire at the comment. I knew my mom was unbalanced—crazy. But hearing it out loud stung. At the end of the day, that crazy bitch was still my mother. She was
  • a part of me. “She didn’t get diagnosed until I was much older,” I said, as if trying to defend her. As though if she had known she was unstable and gotten help sooner, she wouldn’t have tried to claw me to death. Or throw me across the room. Or bash my head into the floor. “Nope.” Megan came to sit next to me. “I know where you’re going with this, and you’re wrong.” “You don’t even know what I was going to say.” “Yeah, I do. You were going to say that at some point you could just wham, come into this disease. Turn bipolar just like her.” Okay, so that may have been
  • close to what I was thinking. “Kate, you’re not her. You’re not sick the way she is. Your mom has had this illness her whole life. You are a level-headed, smart woman. You’d never hurt anyone. You have to stop running from yourself and start trusting that.” That was the problem. I didn’t feel very level-headed. I felt out of control and lost. A knock sounded at the door. Megan got up to answer it. “Probably Brian.” When she opened the door I heard the familiar rumble of a deep voice. I launched to my feet just as Megan held the door open and Adam
  • walked through it. “Hi.” He stood, his tie loosened and his hair slightly disarrayed from the wind. His thick black coat covered his broad shoulders. “Hi,” I choked out. Megan looked between the two of us and said, “I’m going to my room.” I appreciated her discretion, because right now, I just wanted to fix what had happened between Adam and me. He closed the door behind him and in two long-legged steps, ate up the distance between us. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into him. My toes came off the floor. His cold wool coat tickled my nose as he hugged
  • me tight. “Adam?” He let me down slowly and cupped my face, looking at me with those blue eyes burning. “You trust me with so much.” His thumbs brushed my cheekbones. “It’s a gift, I know this, and you make me a better man for it.” He kissed me softly on the lips. “From the moment I saw you on the street, I wanted to possess you. Keep you. Take care of you. Not because I question your own ability, but because I want to.” A sharp tingle raced along my spine. I hadn’t expected this from him. “I’m sorry I was harsh earlier. When I saw the pictures and read your
  • file, I lost it.” He trailed his lips along my hairline and to my jaw. “I understand,” I whispered. “Because I feel the same way.” He leaned back and looked me in the eye. “I hate your stepfather for hurting you.” That mask of rage I was becoming very familiar with took over his expression. “I never said he hurt me, Katelyn.” “You didn’t have to. I saw it on your face. Felt all the pain and anger—” “Stop.” I snapped my mouth shut. “Katelyn, I want you to understand something. My feelings for
  • you are strong, stronger than anything I’ve felt for another person. But the issue of my stepfather and my past is off limits.” “So, nothing? We can’t talk about any of it?” I placed my hands on his chest. “Adam, I just want to be there for you. Comfort you.” He ran his hand through my hair. “You do. Just you, with me, that’s all I need.” “But the rest you won’t talk about?” “No. And I don’t want to be asked about it again.” His eyes bored into mine and I realized this line was clearly drawn. Adam had told me once that he respected the word no. Say it,
  • and things would end. This was his deal. Could I accept that he would keep part of himself closed off? I had to. For now… I didn’t want to push him, I wanted to help him. Take some of the burden from him. Maybe in time he could trust me. I wanted the chance to earn it. More of it. In the meantime, I could only be honest with him and take small steps. “Adam, the property you bought…you can do what you want with it, but if you tear it down, I will have to find my mother another place to live.” “She can find another place herself.”
  • I shook my head. “No, she can’t. She’ll call me for help and I’ll go.” “You give her loyalty where she deserves none.” “You have my loyalty.” “Yes, but I’ve earned it.” “And have I earned yours?” He looked at me for a long time. It was a loaded question. We both knew it. “Yes.” He slid his hand down my yoga pants and cupped my sex. “You belong to me, Katelyn. Your body, your mind, your soul. I won’t stop until I have it all.” I was breathless when his finger toyed with my clit. “I want a fair exchange.”
  • He chuckled and his lips skimmed mine. “Of course you do.” I gripped his wrist, stilling his movements and trying to regain my focus. “I mean it, Adam. I need you. All of you. It hurts when we’re apart. Sometimes I think you’ve gotten me under some kind of voodoo, but…I need all of you back.” He bit my bottom lip. “It is you who have bewitched me.” He softly brushed his lips over mine. “I’ll give you everything I’m capable of giving.” “Stay with me tonight.” He picked me up and I wrapped my legs around his waist as he carried me to my bedroom. My fingers dug into his hair and when he’d kicked the door
  • shut behind us, he laid me on the bed. His hands, mouth, were everywhere. He made quick work of our clothing and joined me on the mattress. Lying flat on his back, he gripped my hips and I straddled his impressive erection. “I want to watch you move on me, lover.” His voice was raspy, but his eyes were clear and shone in the darkness. I sat there, his hot cock pressing against my clit. I timidly slid up, then back down, rubbing that steel rod against my most sensitive spot. Shivers raced from my nape to my toes. “You’re wet.” He stared up at me. “Use me to make yourself wetter. Don’t fuck me until you’re dripping.”
  • His words made my sex contract. My body was already begging for him. I rocked against him, my tender flesh gliding against his. Pressure built in my core and the smoldering embers of pleasure began popping like fireworks in my bloodstream. He palmed my hips, grinding me harder against him. My hands flew to his chest. Those hard muscles flexed beneath my palms and I loved the feel of this powerful man beneath me. I was so close. I shut my eyes to let the orgasm overtake me, but he stilled me before it erupted. “You’re ready.” I swallowed and reached between our bodies. I gripped his cock
  • —it was wet, wet from me. I scooted up and placed the tip at my entrance. Adam’s eyes stayed on my face. Clenching his jaw, he took his hands from my hips and placed them behind his head. “You’re in control this time,” he said. The strain in his neck showed how much effort it took for him to hold back. He was going against his nature to give me a taste of power. To show me what he was willing to submit to—for me. I sank down on him, taking his cock all the way to the hilt in one long motion. A low rumble came from his chest and I gasped at the exquisite feeling of fullness. Adam was in me. Part of me. I
  • never tired of the feeling. I rose up, then pushed down again. My body was vibrating, so close and so ready. But something didn’t feel right. Since I was young, I’d always fought for control. But with Adam, I wanted him to take me over. My body, my mind, all of it. I belonged to him. I realized right then that I truly trusted Adam with everything I was. “Take me,” I whispered. He frowned. “Do you know what you’re asking?” I nodded, my fingertips pressing into his rock-hard chest. “I want you to take my body, take over all I am.” His nostrils flared on a heavy inhalation. He sat up and cupped my
  • face. “You are full of surprises, Katelyn.” He tossed me off him, then grabbed my knees and spun me face- down on the mattress. His weight settled over my back and his breath was hot in my ear. “I hope you can handle what you ask for.” “With you…always.” He grabbed my hips and pulled me up so that I was on my hands and knees. His cock instantly ripped through my pussy in one hard shove. I cried out at the intensity. He always hit deep inside of me, but in this position, it was even more so. He pulled almost all the way out and thrust forward again. His hips slapped against my ass as he fucked
  • me over and over. Harder and harder. I gritted my teeth to keep from screaming. The pleasure was so raw and wild, my whole body unraveled. I felt nothing but Adam. He wrapped my long hair around one fist while the other stayed on my hip. He pulled me back into every push of his hips. It was too much. The tightly wound ball of pleasure shattered and my whole body bucked violently as I came. Adam was right behind me. He buried himself to the root and I felt his hard cock twitch as he released inside me. My arms and legs were weak. I slumped down, my face hitting the mattress. Adam lay with me. Remaining
  • within my body, he turned to his side and brought my back to rest against his chest. With my heartbeat pounding in my ears, I fell asleep, surrounded by Adam’s strength. ~ I awoke with Adam between my thighs. It was still dark. I stretched and loved the feeling of his hard cock disappearing inside me over and over. He made me come effortlessly, and only after I had started floating down from the intensity did he find his own end. He kissed my nose, my cheeks, and my eyelids. “Good morning, lover.” “Indeed it is.” He kissed me once more, then rose and started putting on his clothes. “I
  • have an early meeting.” “Oh, do you need to take a shower?” With his pants on and his white button-down open and hanging off his shoulders, he leaned down and kissed me. “I’d prefer to smell like you all day, but alas, I must bathe. I have a full bathroom and closet at my office.” Of course he did. That place was bigger than my apartment. “Oh, okay.” I didn’t want him to go. Well, I never wanted him to go. But that gray cloud of doubt and insecurity that hovered over me was lifting. Every day was better. My self-esteem was blossoming and I had Adam to thank for that.
  • He sat on the edge of the bed, running fingers through my hair. I sat up and began buttoning his shirt. “I love being here with you, Katelyn.” His words were tender. “Every time I’m with you—” He leaned in and nipped my earlobe. “—inside of you…I feel like I’m home.” I looked up at those intense, ice- blue eyes and knew that I was done falling. I was full-blown in love with Adam Kinkade. ~ My phone buzzed with a text. I looked up from grading midterms and read the message.
  • Come over for lunch. I can’t. I have papers to grade and a lecture right after. I’m starting to resent your job. Says the busiest man on the planet. I always have ample time for you. If you come over now I’d be more than happy to demonstrate my affection. I have been craving honey all day… You’re insatiable.
  • Only for you. Heat rushed over my cheeks and before I could respond, another message came in. I can see your blush all the way from here. I snapped my head up because I had actually believed he could see me. Of course he couldn’t—he just knew me too well. Tonight then. I want to take you out. I’ll pick you up at the University at five. I have a surprise for you. I need to go home and change
  • first. No, you don’t. If you say so. Mmm, I love it when you talk submissive to me. Well then, I’d better be a good girl and get back to work so I don’t stay late tonight and miss our date, SIR. Have I told you lately how sexy you are? Only this morning, but your
  • pants were down, so I don’t think it counts. Your pants were down as well, and I meant every word. ~ Adam was waiting outside in the car at five sharp. We headed to his apartment. He led me to his room, his steps quicker than usual. He almost looked like a kid on Christmas morning, excited and nervous. He stood me in front of his massive walk-in closet. “Don’t tell me you purchased Narnia and now you’re going to force me through the fur coats to spend the night in the snow?” “Smartass.” He squeezed my ass
  • for emphasis and urged me into the closet. I had gone in here only once to get a T-shirt for bed, but this time I noticed something different: the entire left-hand side of the closet had been reorganized. “Oh. My. God.” He stood behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Do you like it?’ I reached out to touch the various brightly colored silks hanging from the racks. Dresses, shoes, coats, blouses, pants….any and everything a woman could ever want was lining his closet. “Over here is the best part.” He kissed my neck, then walked me to the end, where a floor-to-ceiling row of
  • built-in shelves and drawers was. He opened one. I looked in and pulled out one of several pieces of lingerie. Silk and lace sets in all styles, colors, and textures filled the drawers. “Adam…I can’t accept all this. It’s too much—” I examined the hand- stitched lace garter belt. “This must have cost a fortune.” He tilted my chin and kissed me. “Good thing I’m worth a fortune, then.” I glared at him. “I wanted to do it, Katelyn. Now when you stay over, you’ll have everything you need.” “Ah, I think you’ve gone above and beyond here, big guy.” He shrugged and kissed me. This
  • was nuts. He was nuts. And I was grinning like a fool. He plucked a sleek red dress off a nearby hanger and handed it to me. “I’ll leave the lingerie choice up to you this time.” He walked out and left me standing there in every girl’s dream closet. Half my brain didn’t like the idea of him spending this kind of money on me. It was one of the many things I didn’t know how to handle. But the other side was actually excited to dig in and see what wicked things he had provided. In the end, the lingerie would be enjoyed by him as well, right? I couldn’t wait to tease and play with him wearing only that garter
  • belt and matching bustier. “You’ll also find everything you need in the bathroom,” he called from the bedroom. I exited the closet, and made sure I gave him a glare for good measure as I walked past the bed and into the bathroom to check it out. “Left-hand side,” he called after me. I opened a drawer—on the left as instructed—and found a complete makeup kit. The same makeup I used every day, right down to the concealer. My eyes watered and my throat closed up. He had gone out of his way to make me feel comfortable. Welcome. His. “Tonight, things will be
  • different, Katelyn.” He came up behind me and I looked at his reflection in the mirror. What a pair we made. Dark hair and tanned skin against my ivory and red. His eyes were like fresh mountain water and full of sexy wickedness. I knew Adam was a dominant type personality, but he had reined that part of himself in these last several weeks with me. We were both on a learning curve when it came to relationships. But now, he seemed to be silently promising me something. And, God help me, I wanted to find out what it was. “Do you trust me?” I swallowed hard. “Yes, Adam. I do.”
  • He stared at me in the mirror. “Good, because tonight we move forward. Together.”
  • Chapter Fourteen The club was dark and booming. The bass of the music shot from the bottom of my toes to the tips of my breasts. The charge was electric. Sexy. Adam steered me through the posh surroundings. I had heard of this club, of course, but had never actually tried to get in. I wasn’t surprised that Adam owned it. Like every other thing he owned, it was upscale, flashy, and amazing. He took me to a private table in the VIP section. We were surrounded by shadows and flickers of light beamed from the ceiling and skating across the club, keeping time with the music. The
  • place was packed. Though we sat a good distance away from the action of the dance floor, I could still see people mash their bodies together and sway. Some movements were more exotic looking than others. A bottle of some alcohol I couldn’t even pronounce was immediately delivered. The short red dress he had picked out barely covered my ass. I was a little nervous, but despite the hemline, I was feeling pretty great. Besides, the table was high and should anyone look our way, they would only be able to see me from the waist up. I had opted for a pair of dazzling gold heels. My hair hung down in messy curls and I had put a little extra eyeliner
  • on. “You look incredible,” he whispered in my ear. The music was loud, but with him this close, that deep voice had no problem drowning out any other sounds around me. He trailed his hand up my thigh. “What panties did you decide on?” “Gold lace to match the shoes, of course.” He grinned. His hand disappeared beneath my dress. I squirmed and looked around anxiously. There were people only a few feet away, walking by our table. “No one can see,” Adam rasped in my ear. His big finger toyed with my panties, right over my clit. A tremor
  • raced up my spine and pricked my scalp. “While I like your choice in lingerie, I find these are in the way.” He hooked his finger around the center of my panties and moved it aside, giving him more room to explore. I started when he sank one finger deep inside me. Thank God the table was high and covered in a floor-length black cloth, effectively concealing the lower halves of our bodies. I was more worried that my expression would give something away. Like the fact that Adam’s hand was doing wicked things to me. “Adam Kinkade!” A man with slicked-back white hair approached us. I tried to scramble away, feeling caught
  • and embarrassed, but Adam’s free palm landed heavily on my thigh, stilling me. My eyes went wide. Adam flashed me one of his rare smiles. He had no intention of removing his finger from me. “Zach, how are you?” Adam squeezed my thigh, a silent command to stay still, then lifted it to shake Zach’s. “This is my girlfriend, Katelyn.” I looked at Adam with wide eyes. He raised a brow and I knew right then that the challenge had been issued. When I didn’t say anything, Adam returned his focus to the man before us. “Hello, there.” Zach smiled at me. I tried to return the smile, but my
  • eyes darted back to Adam. His focus remained on Zach as both men began discussing real estate. Adam’s finger however, kept moving. In and out. I sat there, boiling with need and lust and the terror of being caught, all the while being fucked by Adam’s hand while he carried on a business conversation. My blood temperature was rising as pleasure pricked at my belly. And all this was happening in front of an unsuspecting stranger. A voice in the distance called out Zach’s name and he turned to greet the passer-by. Adam took that moment to whisper in my ear, “I want you to come, but you’d better do it quietly, without
  • anyone knowing.” He plunged his finger deep and I bit my lip to keep from crying out in ecstasy. He didn’t thrust in and out, rather crooked his fingertip and swept it along that sensitive spot inside, over and over. Zach turned back around. “This is really a great club you have here, Adam.” Adam nodded. His finger quickened. My body was tight as a bow. “You enjoying yourself tonight?” Zach asked me. It took me a moment to realize he was talking about the evening and the club. With Adam’s assault on my body, I found it hard to form any kind of
  • sentence. “Yes,” I breathed. Adam grinned at me then looked back at Zach. “She loves coming…here. Don’t you, Katelyn?” I nodded, my face nearly twitching from the effort it took to keep a steady expression. Fire was licking at my skin. Adam was relentless. My orgasm ripped though me so violently, I had to grip Adam’s forearm beneath the table for support. Zach said something to Adam, but I couldn’t hear over the pounding in my head. My sex rushed dose after dose of liquid heat as I spasmed around Adam’s fingers. I looked at his chiseled profile. He was carrying on a
  • conversation with Zach, but I saw the slightest upturn of his mouth. Yes, he’d felt me coming. “It was good to see you, Adam. Nice to meet you, Katelyn.” I smiled the best I could, but my lips trembled. When Zach left, Adam turned to look at me. “That was a mean trick.” “You seemed to enjoy yourself.” “But I can feel—” “That’s the point.” He withdrew his finger from me, then came back with two. “You have me so hard all the time.” He thrust deep and I did moan that time. Patrons continued to pass by, many of them waving or acknowledging Adam in some way. His eyes stayed on
  • mine, his fingers buried deep in me and yet, the world kept spinning none the wiser. He clasped my nape in his free hand. “You are mine. Anywhere I want. Anytime.” “Yes,” I agreed. I heard the slight ting of metal over the loud music. I hadn’t realized I’d closed my eyes, but when I opened them, I saw Adam unclasp his belt and pull his hard cock out. In one quick motion, his fingers slipped from me and he sat me on his lap. He positioned the hem of my dress so that it was covering my thighs, but beneath me I felt his erection prod at my opening. He moved my panties aside
  • once more, pushed my hips down and buried himself to the hilt. I stifled a scream, almost coming again. I glanced around nervously, wanting to make sure nobody knew what was going on, but to anyone who passed us by, it would look like I was just sitting on my boyfriend’s lap. “Hey, Adam!” I saw a younger man amble this way. Blond and obviously wealthy— trust-fund wealthy, from the looks of it. Before he reached us, Adam bit my earlobe. “You have the sweetest, tightest little cunt, Katelyn.” He gave a quick thrust and I gasped. He wrapped one strong arm
  • around my waist while the other reached for his drink. With all the poise in the world, Adam took a long swallow of liquor, as if I wasn’t currently impaled on his cock. “Gary, how is the stock business treating you?” Adam said. “Not as good as it’s treating you, I hear.” The guy went on about someone “losing their ass” due to poor investing. I was too distracted to pay attention. “This—” Adam moved his hips slightly. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from moaning. “—is my girlfriend, Katelyn Gunn.” Trembling smiles were my forte tonight because speaking was too difficult. Partly because Adam was
  • inside me and I was on the verge of coming again, and partly because he’d called me his girlfriend. He had said it to that other white-haired guy and now this man. I liked the sound of it. Tonight was the first time I had heard it out loud. “Pleased to meet you, Miss Gunn.” “A-and you.” Adam tilted his hips and I closed my eyes, trying my damnedest to focus my breathing. But no matter how much I fought it, Adam was going to make me come again, and he knew it. So he adjusted, sending more of those hot tingles racing through me. His cock pulsed inside me. Every nerve ending was sparking against the feel of him
  • sealed deep within my body. Adam continued talking to Gary as if he wasn’t fucking me right there in front of him. The pressure built. My heart banged against my ribcage and goose bumps coasted over my skin. I gripped his thigh. His hand tightened around my waist. Somewhere around mergers and acquisitions my body erupted. A powerful orgasm blazed through me. My pussy flexed and released around Adam’s cock. My inner walls slickened further. It took everything I had to look like I was sitting normally and not experiencing mind-blowing pleasure that had me wanting to throw my head back and scream at the intensity of it.
  • Gary didn’t seem to notice. He was babbling about something— I felt the unmistakable hot jet of Adam’s release. He was coming, deep within me, while Gary continued to talk. When Adam was spent, he stole a look at me and smiled. I was beyond dazed, spastically thrumming, and he was grinning, in control. “It was good to see you again, Gary.” “Oh, yeah, you too.” It seemed like Adam had given the guy an abrupt dismissal…mostly because he had. Adam signaled for two shots and when they arrived, he slid out of me, repositioned my panties, and tucked himself back inside his pants.
  • “Give me your hand.” I did as I was told, limp and staring like a mindless fool. He took my hand and placed it palm up on the table. Then he reached down and dabbed a finger in my soaking entrance. Soaking from him. He trailed his newly wetted finger along my inner wrist. “Take your shot, lover.” I looked at him. The sun itself was burning behind those blue eyes. I was entranced. Keeping my gaze fastened on him, I licked the salty taste he’d left from my wrist, then swallowed the shot whole. I gave him a saucy smile and his jaw clench with renewed heat. “Delicious,” I rasped.
  • He cupped my chin and kissed me hard. Adam had laid down the challenge, and I had risen to the occasion. I felt proud, hot, happy. The part of me that was used to being caged and afraid was gone. In its place was Adam. His essence was branded on every nerve, every cell. His tongue ravaged my mouth. I realized what true addiction really felt like.
  • Chapter Fifteen I was on test duty. Midterms had come and gone, but Professor Martin seemed to have an affinity for pop quizzes. The class had finished in record time. I tried calling Megan to let her know I was on my way home early today. No answer. I sent a quick text to Adam. Done early! Thinking of you. Can’t wait for tonight. I’m always thinking of you. I look forward to it, too.
  • Have you packed all necessary items? You mean my pajama pants? Yes. The blue ones, right? Yes. But a man starts to wonder when his girlfriend is so adamant about him wearing clothes as opposed to not… Those PJ bottoms get me all hot. I only want you to wear them so I can take them off…with my teeth. In that case, I’ll buy twenty
  • more pair and wear nothing else. I’m sure your business associates would love that. I’m the boss. I do what I want. I know you do. You love it. See you soon. I giggled. Our sexy-texting had made the walk home fly by. I fished the keys from my purse, unlocked the dead bolt, and opened the door. The house was dark. I heard cursing. A man. “Megan?” Something broke. Panic swept
  • through me. A shadowy figure raced at me. Before I had time to react, he pushed me hard into the wall. A splitting pain shot through the back of my skull and the whole world went dark. ~ “Kate…Kate, honey, look at me.” “Megan?” I forced my eyelids to flutter open and was greeted with a screaming pain pounding from the back of my head. I looked around. I was on the couch. Megan was in her little pink robe hovering over me. “Oh, thank God. Are you okay?” Reality hit. “Meg! We need to
  • get out of here, there was an intruder—” “I know. He’s gone.” “Did he hurt you?” “No. I was in my room. You must have spooked him. I saw him run out and knock you against the wall.” “What the fuck is going on?” Adam’s voice boomed from the doorway, and instantly he was kneeling beside me. “I’m fine. It was a burglar, I think.” “Jesus Christ.” He cupped my face and kissed my lips, softly, though I could tell he wanted to do it much harder. “I’m really okay. Just a bump on the head.”
  • He moved to examine it. “I want you to come home with me.” “It’s really okay. We’ll get some new locks and everything will be fine.” I tried to keep the terror out of my voice, but it was there. Having a stranger break into my home left a violated feeling deep in my gut. I wish I had been able to see his face. But all I had registered was that he was barreling toward me. Adam looked over at Megan. “Are you okay?” She folded her arms over her chest and nodded. Adam’s blue stare was back on me. “Stay right there. Don’t move.” He went to the front door and fiddled with the doorknob and dead bolt. “The lock is
  • not broken.” He moved to the windows, checking them all. None were broken or even open. All were locked. After going through the entire apartment, he was back at my side. “Nothing looks like it was disturbed. Did you leave your door unlocked?” “No, we always lock it.” I had to unlock the deadbolt, right? I was certain I remembered doing that. “But Megan was here.” Adam’s eyes darted to her. “Where were you?” “I was changing in my bedroom.” “And you didn’t hear him.” She swallowed. “N-no, I didn’t.” Adam looked at me, then back at
  • Megan, then me again. “I don’t want you staying here.” “Adam, this is my home.” “It’s not safe. I want you to move in with me.” “Whoa, what?” I sat up and my head throbbed harder. “I was going to ask you anyway, but this just proves my point that it’s necessary.” I gingerly felt my scalp where I had hit the wall. I wasn’t bleeding, but I didn’t have the energy to rationalize why moving in wasn’t a good idea—or to fight with him. “It’s too soon, Adam. If we don’t work out, I’ll have to—” “If we don’t work out? What the
  • hell do you think this is?” “I thought we were dating. Am I wrong?” “Yes. We’re together. All the time. I want you and not just for now.” My brows shot into my hairline. I looked at Megan, who looked just as stunned as I felt. If ever I needed her opinion telepathically, this was it. Adam frowned and looked over his shoulder at Megan. “Can you give us a few minutes, please?” Megan looked at me, silently asking if I wanted her to stay. “It’s okay,” I whispered. She nodded. “I’ll just be in my room if you need me.” “Thanks.”
  • Once Megan shut her door, Adam’s focus was back on me. “Move in with me.” I shook my head, my jaw flapping because I was still unable to pick it up off the floor. Adam and I had been doing great lately, but there was still a long way to go. For instance, his opening up to me at some point. I wanted him. The thought of not being with him hurt my chest, but moving in was a big step. It could prematurely ruin things before we had a chance to get it right. “Adam, this is…it’s just not a good idea right now. We’ve just gotten to a place where we’re stable…kind of. These things take time. I’m still learning how to do the relationship thing.”
  • “Are you happy when you’re with me?” “Yes.” “And I’m happiest when I’m with you. Stop running and finding excuses. I want you to move in with me. I won’t let anything happen to you.” “I can take care of myself, Adam.” “I can take care of you, too.” For some reason, the urge to cry was coming on. Had I thought about the long term with Adam? Yes. But this felt like it was a move because he was worried. I didn’t want him to want me out of obligation. That was how I’d ended up at my aunt’s house all those years ago. I didn’t want to make a choice
  • that would end up hurting even more in the end, and possibly costing me Adam. “Will you just stay with me tonight? Please. My head hurts. I just want you to snuggle with me.” His features softened. “Do you have any ibuprofen?” “In the kitchen cabinet by the sink.” Adam stood, got the pills and a glass of water, and brought them to me. Once I took them, he scooped me up and took me to bed. He kissed my forehead. “This conversation isn’t over,” he murmured. I believed him, but I was in too much pain to think about it. He gently placed me on the bed
  • and I scooted down, finding the edge with my foot the way I always did. I thought I heard him growl, as though he was furious. He took off his clothes and climbed in behind me, wrapping himself around me and pulling my back into his chest. The delicious smell of his skin helped calm my mind. I tried not to think about what had just happened. Tried not to think about the familiar feel of my head being bashed in. Adam tucked a curl behind my ear. “Did she come in at night when you were sleeping, and attack you?” The question made my chest tighten. I ran my foot along the edge of the mattress.
  • “Not always at night. She’d lock me in my room for hours, sometimes days at a time. I tried to stay awake, but it was like she knew. The moment I fell asleep, she came in, yanking me up by the hair…the face…” Adam stroked my hair softly. “I don’t know what I did to make her so angry. I got the most scared when she pinned me down and dug her nails in my throat.” A sob broke deep in my chest. I had never said any of this out loud. Adam pulled me tighter against him. “She told me once when she was choking me that I had ruined her. Not just her life, but her. I learned that if I knew
  • where the edge of the bed was, I would be able to jump off it before she got to me, and try to make a run for it.” Adam exhaled harshly. “Do I scare you?” I rolled over to face him. “No.” He ran his thumb along my lower lashes, dabbing the tears away. “But you run from me.” I nodded, because it was true. From the moment I’d met him, I knew Adam was something I could never obtain fully. And over the last several weeks, I realized that I had fallen in love with him, opened myself to him, and he hadn’t given any part of himself back. It scared me. Made me feel like this state of bliss I was in would never be
  • permanent. “At some point, you’ll break my heart, and it will hurt. Now or later, it will happen.” He cupped my cheeks. “Yes. I’ll fuck up, hurt you, and make mistakes.” His eyes were searing when he said, “But I’ll never abuse you.”
  • Chapter Sixteen Despite Adam’s grumbling, I had gone to work today. I had a bad headache, but it was time to move on. Megan said she’d file a report with the police, but nothing had been stolen or damaged aside from the backside of my skull. Between Adam’s move-in proposition and the recent head trauma, my brain was neither functioning fully nor able to tackle big life choices at the moment. We were safe, the locks changed, and that was that. It had been a long day. Adam called and texted relentlessly to check in on me. The walk home in the crisp air
  • felt good against my face. When I came to my front door, ready to kick off my shoes and relax, I was greeted with red tape and a sign that said UNDERGOING CONSTRUCTION. Megan was outside stomping her foot and talking to Phil, our landlord. “What is going on?” “I’m sorry, ladies, but you’ll need to find another place to live for the next month or so.” “What? Why?” Megan glared at Phil and I followed suit, utterly pissed off. “We’ve never missed the rent, and you haven’t given us any notice.” “I’m sorry, we were bought out and the new owner found black mold.
  • Due to health risks, it has to be removed and your whole apartment is undergoing construction.” Phil handed Megan and me an envelope. “All the documentation is in here, as well as a check that will cover all living expenses for you girls for the next month.” I looked down the hall. “No one else is being forced to move?” “Nope. Just us,” Megan snarled. “Apparently our apartment is the only one with this severe case of black mold.” “We’re just trying to keep you girls healthy.” Megan opened her envelope and when she yanked out the check, her eyes went wide, then turned into pissed-off
  • slits. My gut churned and a nagging sense of doom crept through my pores. “Phil, who bought this complex?” I asked. Megan shoved the check back into the envelope and didn’t give Phil a chance to answer. “Take a wild guess!” she barked. A slow simmering rage began to boil as the dots connected. I returned my attention to my landlord. He looked bewildered, tentatively glancing between Megan and me. “Kinkade Enterprises bought it.” ~ “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I yelled, storming into Adam’s office. His secretary and the entire
  • security staff knew me by first name now, so this time I got my dramatic entrance. He sat back in his chair. “Good evening, lover. Something the matter?” “Don’t give me that crap! You’re kicking me out!” “Do I need to remind you of what happened last time you stomped in here in this manner?” “You bought my apartment complex and are kicking me out because I didn’t agree to move in with you right away.” “I’m looking out for your health. The renovations should be done in a month, at which time you’ll have your newly updated apartment back.”
  • “Is there even black mold?” His face was like stone. “There was something black on the wall.” “I’m sure there is. Simon drew on it with crayon two years ago.” “I felt it needed further investigation.” I shook my head. “Oh, really? And how does this work now, huh? All my things are in an apartment I can’t get into, because you’re throwing a tantrum about living together.” He sat back in his chair and threaded his fingers over his lower abdomen. “It looks like you are the one throwing a tantrum. I gave you and Megan plenty of money.” I clenched my jaw. The check
  • Adam had written could keep both of us living in the penthouse of the Four Seasons for well over a month while dressing in a different designer outfit every day and eating caviar for breakfast. But that wasn’t the point. “I don’t want your money.” He shrugged. “Being the owner of the complex, I have insurance for cases like this.” I threw my hands up. “That’s not the point. I want my home. Not a hotel. What am I supposed to do? And don’t you dare say live with you.” “Why? It makes sense. It’s a good trial period. You can see that you belong with me, yet retain that false sense of security you have with that
  • apartment.” “False sense of—” I took a deep breath. My anger was dialed to defcon- freak-the-fuck-out. “How do you not see what you’re doing?” “I’m going after what I want.” “You’re strong-arming me.” This was another moment where I knew that Adam was trying to do something nice—sort of—but going about it the wrong way. He wanted me to move in. It was a big step. Part of me loved that he felt something for me. Something strong enough that it would enable him to share his space with me. But this wasn’t how a normal couple approached things. “You seem to have a fancy for
  • kicking Gunn women out of their homes,” I snapped. He stood up quickly and rounded the desk, walking toward me. “I’m not tearing down that complex. You mother can stay. Though everything in my being says I should throw her ass on the street. I don’t want you to ever have to deal with her again. Her rent is taken care of. She can live there indefinitely without a single bill as long as she stays away from you.” “Are you serious?” He nodded. “It is not my intention to burden you. Ever. I want you happy. And I want you with me.” He cupped my chin. “What is keeping you from giving in? Why do you choose to
  • fight me on everything?” “Because you can’t force someone to feel something they don’t.” He took a step back. “So you feel nothing for me?” Heat left my cheeks. What I felt for Adam was not nothing, it was everything. I didn’t know if it was the headache or the bombardment of all this new information, but I was exasperated. “Adam, you drive me nuts, but you’ve also helped me realize that while I have these crazy emotions, it doesn’t make me crazy. I crave you in a way that borders on unhealthy. You know me. You force me to deal with things. You know my secrets, my weaknesses, but I know nothing about you.”
  • “You know me,” he argued. I shook my head. “You close yourself off. I don’t know what causes you pain. I don’t know about your past. You demand all this from me, yet keep half of yourself hidden. It’s like walking along a cliff. Any moment you have the power to throw me over and I’ll be left shattered and broken while you escape without a scratch.” He stared at me for a long moment. “You bring me to my knees, Katelyn. Every damn day you have me ready to beg.” His words hit my heart. He hadn’t said he loved me. Hadn’t admitted to anything deep or personal, but it was a start. Admitting he was off
  • kilter just as badly as I was. He swept me up into his arms. I locked my legs around his waist and kissed him with all the breath in me.
  • Chapter Seventeen I woke up in Adam’s bed. I’d agreed to stay with him while “renovations” were being done on my apartment. My only other option was to go to my aunt and uncle’s—which would never happen—or use the money Adam had given me to stay at a hotel. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to spend it. So far, things were going well. We woke up, had coffee and breakfast together. Drove into work together. Convenient, since we worked down the block from each other. He always dropped me off first and kissed me good-bye. A few times we snuck in a
  • quickie in the backseat and I walked around the rest of the day with my skin tingling and smelling like his cologne. I was happy. Deliriously so. And if it was a dream, I didn’t want to wake up. ~ “How’s domestication treating you?” Megan asked. Her anger had ebbed over the last couple of weeks when she’d put the check from Adam to good use. She was living it up and I was happy because she had seemed a little down lately. “Pretty good. How’s staying with Brian?” “I’ve only stayed there a couple of nights.” Megan looked down. She and
  • Brian had been together a lot longer than Adam and I, yet he’d made no move to take their relationship to the next level. “You okay?” I asked. Her head snapped up and she waved away whatever sad thoughts had obviously been churning. “I’m great. I took a peek at our apartment the other day—state-of-the-art alarm system, new fixtures and appliances. It’s looking really good.” I liked that Adam had left me the choice to move back, though secretly, I didn’t think it was a choice. He had been doing his damnedest to convince me to stay with him permanently. And I just might be caving. “So, you were saying that Mr.
  • Moneybags has a birthday tomorrow, right?” I nodded. “What are you supposed to get a man who has everything?” I groaned. “My thoughts exactly.” “Well, did you ask him?” I smiled. “Yeah. He said for his birthday, he wanted me.” Megan rolled her eyes. “I don’t know exactly what to make of you two, but it kind of grosses me out.” She winked at me. “Besides, he already has you.” Yes, he did, but I knew what he was really getting at. He wanted total control. No more running or questioning. Giving myself over to him would require
  • my soul. He made me feel beautiful. Cherished. And completely crazy. When was the last time someone had told Adam how amazing he was? I did my best to tell him, show him, every day, the same way he showed me. An idea hit me. Adam wanted my heart for his birthday? He just might get it.
  • Chapter Eighteen “Good morning, birthday boy,” I whispered, and kissed his lips. He smiled. He was doing more of that lately and I never tired of the sight. “Best birthday ever,” he said, cupping my ass. He rolled me over and parted my thighs with his knees. “No, wait, you have to open your present first.” He frowned down at me. “Aren’t you my present?” I laughed like a fool, but the man made me so damn giddy sometimes. “Of course, but there’s more.” We had dinner reservations
  • tonight, but I couldn’t wait to give him his gift. I moved him to a sitting position on the bed. I was in one of his shirts and it glided around me when I reached under the bed and brought up his present. “Happy birthday, Adam.” He looked at me as he untied the ribbon. The tissue paper fell away, leaving him with a mason jar in his hands. He examined it. “What’s it filled with?” “Open it and find out.” He did, and when he reached in, he pulled out one of the hundreds of small red paper hearts I had cut out. He looked at the paper. His eyes darkened to a fierce blue.
  • “See, each heart has a different reason I love you written on it—” My voice cracked. I was so nervous. His eyes shot to mine. “I love you, Adam. Everything I am…my heart, my trust…it’s yours.” Shock marred his perfect face. I could see the boy beneath the man. The one who looked wary of such a declaration, but who really wanted to believe it. “Don’t say things you can’t take back,” he rasped, his hands tightening around the jar. My heart broke a little because he looked like he was clutching something he wanted, but didn’t know for certain if it was real. I recognized
  • this, because I’d felt it. I had grown accustomed to the bottom falling out, but Adam had changed that. I wanted to be the same anchor for him that he was for me. I ran my fingers through his hair. “I mean it, Adam. I love you so much. In a way I have never, or will ever, love another.” He dropped the jar and it gently bounced on the mattress. He cupped my face in his palms and pulled my mouth to his. His kiss was urgent, seeking, but sweetly slow and filled with intensity. He laid me back. The jar tipped and rolled, scattering little paper hearts over the sheets. He kept kissing me, the wildness
  • building. He snagged my lip between his teeth and plunged his tongue inside to take a deep taste. I wound my fingers into his hair and pulled him closer. My shirt was riding up, leaving my lower half exposed. Through his pajama pants, I felt his hard shaft press against me. Seeking. Demanding. I hooked my feet on the waistband of his bottoms and worked them down his legs and off. He lowered himself over me. With his weight on his forearms, he skimmed his hands along my temples and looked down at me. “Thank you,” he breathed. I had never seen such soft emotion lace Adam’s features. The crown of his cock nudged my entrance,
  • but before he slid all the way in, he cradled my face in both hands. “Katelyn. I’m in love with you.” His admission made my eyes water. He fused his lips with mine and surged home. As Adam buried himself over and over, I saw a stray paper heart out of the corner of my eye. I love your intensity… ~ “So…you excited about tonight?” I smiled at Emma. “Yes. I guess we’re going somewhere fancy for dinner. I wish you could join us.” Emma and I walked down the
  • Magnificent Mile. The small brunette was nearly skipping, shopping bags twirling in each hand. I was happy when she’d called and invited me out for a girls’ day. Even though it was Adam’s birthday, he encouraged me to go and pick out a dress for dinner tonight. After our amazing morning in bed, I didn’t want to leave his side. But he had an important meeting that would take up the majority of the day, so I took Emma up on her offer. I had called Megan to invite her, but once again, got her voicemail. Megan had been acting weird lately. Had I known better, I would have thought she was avoiding me. “There’s no way I’m crashing date night and becoming Miss Third
  • Wheel. Besides, I’m taking Adam out for lunch tomorrow to celebrate.” Emma smirked at me like she knew a secret I wasn’t in on. “Oooh!” she shrieked, and pointed at the mannequins in the window across the street. “That is the dress you have to wear tonight!” Before I could respond, Emma grabbed my hand and hauled me across the street. The dress was a modern take on a nineteen-twenties design. Cream silk and lace was embroidered over the bodice and gathered at the hip. It was stunning. And way out of my price range. “Emma, I don’t think this is necessary—” “Before you say any more, I have strict instructions from Adam to get you
  • whatever you want. And…” She dug in her purse and pulled out a black American Express card. “He gave me his credit card.” I shook my head wildly. “It’s just dinner and he already bought me a closet full of dresses—” “Tonight is special,” Emma interrupted. The tone in her voice was starting to worry me. Surprises made me nervous, and I got the distinct feeling something was going on between the Kinkade siblings. Emma took both my hands in hers. “My brother has completely lost it over you. Tonight is going to be great.” Her large brown eyes looked at me. “Thank you, Kate.”
  • I frowned. “Why are you thanking me?” “Because for the first time, Adam isn’t walking around like a shadow of doom is following him, and it’s because of you. You’ve…changed him.” A wide grin tugged at my lips and I couldn’t contain it. “I love him.” “I know. I can tell.” She gave me her brightest smile and tugged me into the shop. “Now let’s get that dress!” ~ A small knock sounded on my bedroom door. The apartment was officially finished as of yesterday. After a morning of amazing sex, an afternoon of shopping, and a dinner date that
  • started in an hour, I was a big ball of exhausted euphoria. I told Adam I was excited to see the renovations. To my surprise, he told me to take my time and he said he’d pick me up at eight. I stepped out of the shower and fastened my robe around me. “Come in.” Megan peeked her head in. “Bad time?” “Not at all. I’ve been wondering where you’ve been lately.” A sad expression laced her face. “A lot has happened, Kate. I can’t keep it from you anymore.” Fear flicked my nerve endings and called all of my awareness to attention. Megan was usually the one who had it all together. Not much got her
  • down. “Whatever it is, you can tell me, Meg.” I motioned for her to sit on the bed. She sat on the edge of my mattress and looked down at her hands. Her shoulders slumped and her hair hung over her face. She was hurting, ashamed. I wanted to help her. To take whatever this daunting thing was from her. “What’s wrong, Meg?” Her eyes met mine and there were tears in them. “It’s about your uncle Tim.” It felt as if my lungs had fallen out of my ribcage and crashed to the floor. I opened my mouth to take a breath, but no air came through.
  • “What did he do to you?” Megan shook her head. “Nothing. I stopped him before he could…” I clamped Megan’s hand in mine. Rage lit my blood on fire. I’d always known Tim was awful, but if he’d hurt my best friend— “It was a mistake. He kissed me at the last house party he had. We were drunk. Brian and I got in a fight. I didn’t mean it.” Her words were overlaid by sobs and she dropped her face into her palms. I sat down next to her and did the only thing I could do for my friend who had been there for me time and time again. I hugged her. “Did he force you? Hurt you?”
  • She looked at me. “He was persistent, but when I realized what was happening, I stopped him. He got mad… said some things…” She started bawling again. I stroked Megan’s hair, giving her time to catch her breath. Thank God Tim hadn’t pushed too far. I still had the urge to rake my fingernails across his face, though. “It gets worse.” Megan’s pretty face was smudged with mascara, her blue eyes red-rimmed and watery. “I caught Brian and Grace having sex.” My brows shot up. “What? My aunt Grace?” Megan nodded. “I walked in on them. Apparently it’s been going on
  • since before we even got together.” “Oh, Meg.” My head was spinning. I didn’t even know where to start in terms of unwinding this mess. Her hands tightened into fists and rested on her thighs. “I always felt like I had to prove I was good enough for Brian. And apparently, I never was.” “Don’t you say that. You’re amazing—” “No.” She shook her head. “I’m not. And Tim was happy to point that out to me.” “What do you mean?” “The burglar…” Megan whispered. I felt my whole face lose its structure. It was like my cheekbones had
  • melted. I knew before she said more where she was going with this, and it was everything I could do to keep from retching. “It wasn’t a burglar. It was Tim. He came over because he said he wanted to talk about what had happened between us, but he went off on me. First he said he wanted to leave Grace to be with me. I told him that the kiss was a mistake, that I didn’t want him to leave his wife and I didn’t have feelings for him. His whole attitude changed. He started yelling at me. Said that if I had kept my boyfriend satisfied in the first place, he wouldn’t have to fuck another man’s wife.” Megan was shaking. “Then when Tim heard you come through the
  • door, he freaked and ran.” “Oh, God, Meg. I’m so sorry he said that. He’s an asshole.” I knew how it felt to be manipulated by Tim. He was a vicious, miserable man who wanted to drag everyone down with him. I hugged Megan closer. Just the thought of Tim disgusted me. Knowing he had touched my best friend, one of the nicest, sweetest people in the world, sickened me. He had taken advantage of her, drunk and upset. Then he had shown up to make her suffer more and drive the knife home. Truthfully, I didn’t even know how to process all of this. I hated Tim. But I loved Megan. All I could do was support her and be there for Simon when
  • it all eventually erupted. Megan was a good person and this was an awful situation. On top of everything else, Simon was a child caught between two cheating parents. I hoped he wouldn’t be the one hurt in the end. “I’m here for you, Meg. We’ll figure this out.” “Th-thanks. I’m so sorry, Kate.” “Shhh, you don’t have anything to be sorry about.” Her whimpers made my heart sink. “D-do you ever wish you could just escape…leave all the badness behind you…and start fresh?” I nodded. “All the damn time.”
  • Chapter Nineteen Adam pulled my chair out, then seated himself. The restaurant was elegant, with soft lighting and a warm atmosphere. I had offered to cancel my plans and stay home with Megan tonight, but she insisted I go, swearing that she wanted to be alone. I tried to focus on the incredible evening and the even more incredible man I was sitting across from. The dress Emma had picked out for me really was amazing. Adam and I were halfway through our hors d’oeuvres when the light conversation about our day and plans for the weekend turned more
  • serious. With all the commotion of the afternoon, anxiety was buzzing just below the surface of my skin. “Did you like your apartment?” Adam asked, eyeing me from over the wine glass. I nodded. “Have you given any more thought to my offer?” I was learning that when Adam was entering a conversation where he was unsure about the outcome, he approached it from a business standpoint. “What? Me moving in with you full-time? The only thing you’ve been demanding over and over this past month? That offer?” I smiled.
  • He didn’t. Because Adam was dead serious. I had thought about it. A lot. And tonight I wanted to tell him that yes, I wanted to move in. I sat up straight and looked him in the eye. “Adam, I love you. I want to be with you…all the time.” He smiled and damn if it wasn’t contagious. “Katelyn, there’s one more thing I want to ask you.” My heart stopped when he went to stand, but before he could even push his chair out all the way, his eyes locked on something behind me. The normally pale blue of his eyes turned dark. He sat back down in his chair. Adam’s brow broke out into a sweat and the hand on the table curled
  • into a fist and began shaking slightly. “Adam?” I whispered and reached for him, but he jerked his hand away. I looked over my shoulder. The only thing I saw was a tall, elegant older man. Gray hair, lean frame, and a sinister face. He wore an expression a politician might, like he was constantly looking for a different angle to argue. When the man’s eyes locked on us, he looked briefly stunned, then smiled and walked over. Adam’s nostrils flared and his jaw clenched. “Son, it’s been a long time.” The man reached out to shake Adam’s hand. Son? I stared at Adam. His face
  • was locked into ice. He didn’t move. Didn’t speak. It was as though he’d been hit by a taser gun. “He never did have good manners,” the older man chided when Adam didn’t accept his handshake. The man’s attention turned to me. “I am Roger Stevenson, Adam’s father.” “Step,” Adam snarled. He nodded at Adam. “Yes. Stepfather.” I glanced between Roger and Adam. Adam looked tense and pale. I stood, putting both hands on the table, and faced Roger fully. “You need to leave.” “Excuse me, young lady?” “I said, leave.” I stepped close
  • enough so that I was face to face with him. Fury boiled over and I looked Roger in the face with all the hatred and rage I felt. “Get the hell away from him. Now.” He had the grace to look shocked and unnerved. He leaned in, crowding into my personal space. I didn’t flinch or back away. I wasn’t about to let this man threaten me or Adam. “Do you have any idea who you’re talking to, young lady?” His voice was low and dark. “I’m talking to a disgusting coward who thinks he can get away with hurting a child and using his size to intimidate others.” I stepped even closer. “You don’t scare me. Now get
  • away from us.” “No need,” Adam growled. He rose so quickly that his chair crashed behind him. He reached for me and grabbed my arm. He nearly sprinted with me out of the restaurant and into the town car, never once looking back. The moment we got into the backseat and the chauffeur started away, Adam’s demeanor shifted to an even darker place. He was quiet. Deathly still. His fists were balled in his lap and he stared straight ahead. I was beyond worried. I didn’t know what to say. I reached for him, wrapping my arms around his middle, hugging him tightly to me. He didn’t move.
  • I hunched down, trying to coax his gaze to meet mine. I held his face in my palms, trying to comfort him, trying to get his eyes to focus on me. He didn’t budge. It was as though ice had crept through him and frozen him from the inside out. His blue eyes were stark and void, staring at nothing. “Adam, Adam honey, look at me.” Cupping his face, I kissed his cheeks, his chin, his jaw. “He’s gone.” I placed a small kiss on his lips. “He’s gone, honey. I’m here. Look at me, please.” His jaw clenched so tightly that I thought he would crack his teeth. He didn’t move his head, but finally his gaze unlocked from its trance and focused on
  • my face. “There you go. Just look at me.” As if pulled from a spell, Adam shot forward and pushed me back on the seat. He shoved my legs apart and ripped off my panties in one swipe. I didn’t even have time to register what was happening. He unzipped his pants and plunged inside of me. I wasn’t ready for him and the invasion burned. He growled and fisted my hair in his hands. He thrust harder, deeper, as if trying to fuck away the memory of whatever had just happened. I couldn’t move. A trickle of something simmered in my gut and the buzz of anxiety spread. Fear.
  • I had never felt it with Adam before. He was hurting, and I didn’t know how to help him. So I lay there. Trying to hold on to him. Trying to be that safe place for him to land. But he was racked with tension. Grief. Hatred. I wouldn’t push him away. Wouldn’t leave him. Whatever his demons were, I would be right by his side fighting them. I clutched him, hoping he could feel me, feel my love and know I was there. That’d I take his hurt if I could. He didn’t relent. He kept going. The sounds that came from him were more like those of an animal than a man. Harder and harder—until finally he
  • came. He groaned as if it had caused him pain. He pushed himself off me, his gaze never meeting mine. He sat there, motionless, staring forward as the bright lights of Chicago sped by us.
  • Chapter Twenty I knocked lightly on the door to Adam’s home office. He looked up from his desk. “Hi,” I said in a soft voice. Once we had come home, he’d gone into his office and I knew he needed some time alone. So I gave it to him. I had taken a shower and tried to wrap my brain around what had happened. I knew what deep, long-past pain felt like. How it crept up on you and smothered any ray of light you had. In a pair of sweatpants and a shirt, I stood at his door. “I think we should talk about what happened tonight.”
  • “I’m sorry if I was too rough with you,” he said, but didn’t look up from his desk. I stepped inside. My heart was breaking for him. The demons he carried weighed heavy in the room. “Adam?” “No,” he snapped. “I told you, Katelyn. This topic is closed.” I frowned and took a few more steps toward him. “Adam, I saw the way you reacted to your stepdad. We need to talk about it. What did he do to you?” Adam slammed his hand down on his desk and eyed me. “Drop it, Katelyn.” “I want to help. Let me.” “Oh?” He stood and walked
  • around the desk. Placing his palms behind him, he gripped the edge of his desk and leaned back against it. “Are you going to tell me what to do now?” “No. I just want you to talk to me.” I reached out to him. He stood there. Stone. His face was devoid of any emotion as his eyes bored into mine. I barely recognized him. “Do you enjoy making me angry?” He looked at the hand I offered him and scoffed. “Pathetic.” His words hit me like a slap in the face and I dropped my hand. It was like being a child again, wanting to make everyone okay, wanting my love to be enough, only to be reminded that it
  • wasn’t—I wasn’t. I hugged my middle. “Who are you right now?” He held his arms out. “Same guy I’ve always been.” “No. The man I know wouldn’t treat me this way.” “Here we go. It’s always about you, isn’t it? What I can give you. What —clothes, jewelry aren’t enough?” “I love you! That’s it. I don’t care about the rest and you know it. I want to help you. Be there for you.” I swallowed back the tears rising in my throat. I knew he was hurting. Knew this piece of himself was difficult even for him to handle. From the looks of it, he’d
  • never handled it. He was lashing out. I just needed to stay strong. “I know this is hard for you, but you don’t have to face this alone. We can deal with this. Together. If you need more time, that’s okay, but I’ll be here, whenever you’re ready.” He stared at me. “No.” My heart sank. He was refusing to let me in. Stay strong. “Do you have any idea what I’m capable of?” He took one slow step toward me. “I’ve almost killed a man with my bare hands…and I’m not sorry.” I nodded. Breath was strangling in my windpipe. “I don’t blame you.” He took another step. “You should be scared of me.”
  • “You’d never hurt me, Adam.” Step. “You seem sure about that.” I inhaled deeply. Though he was moving closer, he was using his words to put a wall between us. A wall that was dependent on my fear. I wouldn’t give in. I loved him too much and knew deep in the center of my being that Adam would never raise his hand against me. He wasn’t my mother. “I trust you,” I whispered. “Then you’re ignorant.” Everything we had shared, everything we worked to build, was falling into a shambles around me. He was driving me away on purpose. Admitting to this kind of abuse was
  • devastating. I had gone through it, and the first time was always the hardest. Once you accepted it, voiced out loud what had happened to you, it became real. But once it was out there, handling it and moving forward became easier with every step. “I love you, Adam. I trust you. I want you whole and happy. There’s nothing ignorant about that.” His lips pulled back from his teeth as though my words offended him. “You think you’re special in this? Do you think you’re the only woman who has claimed to love me? All of them were happy with what I offered, but not you. Never you. You’re always wanting more.”
  • Bleak terror hiccupped in my throat. “I only want you.” He stood right in front of me and looked at my face. His eyes moved from my cheek to my neck, following the line of scars I knew he couldn’t see but were there all the same. Disgust squeezed his face like he’d sucked on a lemon. “Well, I don’t want you.” My knees nearly buckled. I gripped the edges of my shirt. My stomach burned so badly, like I had swallowed acid, and it was eating me from the inside out. I couldn’t breathe. My chest caved in on itself. I loved him. So much it actually pained me. He possessed everything I was, and I was merely a spectator in his life
  • because I wasn’t enough. “Go.” The look he gave me was clear. I was dismissed—only this time, he’d thrown in a sucker punch and vicious words that unraveled my entire existence. I walked out of his office. Tears were screaming behind my eyes, but somehow, I couldn’t shed them. This must be what shock felt like. I grabbed my purse from the foyer table and hit the elevator button. I looked around, realizing nothing was mine. It was his. All his. Right down to the clothes he bought me and the shampoo I used in his shower. He was my whole world and I was just another fixture in his life.
  • I walked into the elevator, turned, and hit the first floor button. As the doors closed, I saw Adam rush into the foyer. His blazing blue eyes were the last thing I saw before the metal doors clamped shut, closing me off from him completely. I began my slow descent down. A sharp pain shot through my chest like a rusty blade. I slumped to my knees, and cried.
  • Chapter Twenty-One “Are you sure you’re okay?” I clutched the phone to my ear and waited for Megan to respond. “Yeah, I’m better. I thought you were staying at Adam’s tonight?” I bit my bottom lip to keep from telling her how wrong things had gone, asking instead, “Where are you?” “I’m going out of town for a few days. I need some time to think. I went over to Grace and Tim’s. I talked to Grace. Everything is in the open. Tim, Brian, all of it.” “A-are you okay? You don’t sound upset,” I said, trying to keep the trembling out of my voice.
  • I hugged my knees to my chest and sat in the middle of my living room floor. My world was collapsing around me. After the fight with Adam, I’d hailed a cab and barely remembered the ride home. My eyes were swollen and I could hardly see through the tears. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with Grace and Tim, but it didn’t look good when I left.” “Was Simon there?” “No, Tim mentioned something about him staying with Tim’s mom for a few days.” That was good. Tim was a poor excuse for a human being, but his mother was a nice lady. Simon would be okay staying with her for a little bit until this
  • mess could be sorted out. “Are you okay?” Megan asked. I put my palm over the receiver to keep the hiccup of despair out of my voice. “Yeah. Fine. Keep me posted, okay? I know getting some space can be good…” “I’ll check in with you. I’m going to visit my mom upstate. I’ll see you next week, okay?” “Okay,” I whispered. The line went dead. I looked around my cold apartment. Alone. I was completely alone. Even the dysfunctional world I’d had before Adam was in shambles. There would be no picking up. No starting over. Because there was nothing left to
  • salvage. ~ There was a loud pounding in my ears and I my head felt like it was being pushed between two planks of wood. My eyes hurt. I tried to open them and was greeted by a fog of leftover tears. The booming sound rang out again and it took me a moment to realize I was on the living room floor. It was still dark out, so I must not have been asleep that long. I sat up. Every bone creaked and whined. I palmed my temple and willed the rising headache to go away. It was no use. Every muscle was aching. Every brain cell was screaming. I heard a jingle like keys coming
  • from the other side of the front door. Had Megan decided to come home after all? I tried to make use of my legs, but sleeping on the hardwood floor had stiffened my entire body. I glanced at the clock. It was three in the morning. I stood up just as the front door burst open. I grabbed the wall behind me to keep my knees from buckling. There, standing in the doorway, disheveled and looking like a god from hell, was Adam. “No…no, don’t you dare do this to me.” I shook my head back and forth. My mind was spiraling, my anxiety dialed to high. I wanted him near, yet couldn’t run far enough away. I wasn’t ready to go round two with him. My
  • home was my sanctuary. And he’d plowed right into it. “You can’t break in here. This is my home. Y-you told me to leave…you can’t take this from me, too.” His eyes were fierce, like lighting striking the ocean at daybreak. He stomped toward me, not stopping until he cupped my face in his hands. Had I not known better, I could have sworn relief washed over his face. “I didn’t break in, I have a key,” he rasped. I pushed away from him. I wasn’t in the mood for whatever it was he was dishing out. Sarcasm, hate, love…I couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t want to find out it was the latter.
  • “Are you okay?” I scowled at him with my raw eyes. “No. I’m not okay. What are you doing to me? You throw me out of your place just so you can stalk me at mine?” I shook my head, tears beginning to fall again. “I’ll never know peace from you, will I?” He looked down at me, an intense frown bending his brow. “No, you won’t. Because I’ll never leave you, and I’ll never let you leave me.” “I don’t believe you,” I whispered. “You did let me go.” “No,” he snapped. “Listen to me, Katelyn. I made a mistake. I didn’t mean it.” His voice sounded so far away.
  • The only thing I could focus on was the slow beating pulse in my ears. With every breath my body grew weaker. Adam was my drug, and though he stood right in front of me, I knew I should run away or suffer the withdrawal. And it would be painful. “I gave you everything I was,” I whispered. “It still wasn’t enough.” “That’s not true,” he grated. Still cupping my face, he forced me to look at him. He ran his thumbs beneath my eyelids, tracing the tears away. “I want to be a better man for you, Katelyn. I didn’t—” His voice caught and I saw his crystalline eyes gloss over. “I have never had to share my past with someone outside of a shrink. I was caught off
  • guard by Roger at dinner and I didn’t think you could ever look at me again.” “I love you, Adam.” “That’s what confuses me. You’ve known for a while…about the things that happened when I was young, but you still stay by me. What happened…what he did to me…I never wanted you to know the kind of shame and hate I carried for myself.” Before I could think better of it, I wrapped my arms around his neck and tugged him into me. “I’m sorry you suffer. Nothing could ever make me think less of you. You own my soul, Adam. I wish I could take the pain for you.” I backed away enough to look him in the eye. “But I can’t handle your rejection.
  • Throwing me away…” “I’m sorry, Katelyn. God, how I’m sorry. I wanted you gone because I didn’t want you to look at me. Not the other way around. I pushed you away. I’ll never forgive myself for that. As soon as you left, I knew the mistake I had made.” He tilted my chin up. “It took me all of five minutes to run after you.” “It took you hours to get here,” I argued. He took a deep breath and took several steps backward. “I know words aren’t enough. I would have gotten here sooner, but I had to wake up and harass my psychiatrist to get this before I showed up here.” Adam took a manila envelope from inside his wool coat and
  • handed it to me. “Outside of my shrink, you’re the only one who’s ever seen this. Who will ever see this.” My hands were shaking but I opened the envelope. Documents, records, photos. A big pile of Adam. I saw the picture of Adam as a young boy right before he went into the custody of the state. His eyes were stark and deathly looking. “Oh, Adam.” “It’s all there. The last twenty years of my life. And it’s all yours, if you’ll still have me.” My chest felt tight and my stupid eyes wouldn’t seem to stop dripping. “You don’t have to do this.”
  • “I want to. Because I trust you, Katelyn. And for you…I’ll try.” A watery smile split my face. My tortured, brave man. He was trying. I knew dealing with this, airing your darkest secrets to another, left you vulnerable and terrified. But he trusted me. Just like I trusted him. “From the moment I met you, Katelyn, I knew you were it for me.” He took my left hand and placed a small piece of paper in it. “Dinner was ruined. I had planned to ask you something, but I realize that now is not the right time. I do want you to know, though, that I will not give you up. Whatever I have to do to make this right, I will. But I want you to
  • realize that I mean what I say.” I looked at the folded piece of paper he’d handed me. Setting the file down, I used both hands to unfold it. It was some kind of receipt from a Lorraine Schwartz. I heaved and my stomach twisted when I saw the price for a…ring…written down. I tried to form words, but I couldn’t. So I clamped a palm over my mouth. Another tear slid down my cheek when I read the date of this invoice. It was dated the same day I’d met Adam. My gaze snapped to him. “I knew, Katelyn. I just want you to know that. Know that I have no intention of letting you go.”
  • “A-are you proposing to me with a piece of paper?” I was in so much shock, I didn’t know what to do, or how to react. He grinned. “Kind of.” He pulled a massive diamond ring out of his pocket and sank to his knees. “Or I could use this.” He lifted the shiny ring in one hand and gripped my hip in the other. “Katelyn. I’ve never bowed to anyone, but I will gladly live the rest of my life on my knees before you, if you’ll be mine. I wanted you to know that this isn’t a game, or a ploy to get you back. This is real. And it has been since the moment I saw you.” His thumb rubbed over my hipbone. “Katelyn Gunn, will you marry
  • me?” I sank to my knees and kissed him with all the breath I had left. “Yes,” I whispered between sobbing and peppering his mouth with kisses over and over. “Yes.” He wrapped me in his arms. “I love you, Katelyn.” And I believed him. Our pasts couldn’t hurt us anymore, because we had let them go, and reached for each other instead. Yes, we still had a long way to go and a lot to deal with once the light of day hit, but for now, we were happy. And there, on our knees, submitting to one another, Adam and I finally found our middle ground.
  • The End Visit www.JoyaRyan.com for all available books and get a look at what is coming out next!
  • Chapter Twenty-One “Are you sure you’re okay?” I clutched the phone to my ear and waited for Megan to respond. “Yeah, I’m better. I thought you were staying at Adam’s tonight?” I bit my bottom lip to keep from telling her how wrong things had gone, asking instead, “Where are you?” “I’m going out of town for a few days. I need some time to think. I went over to Grace and Tim’s. I talked to Grace. Everything is in the open. Tim, Brian, all of it.” “A-are you okay? You don’t sound upset,” I said, trying to keep the trembling out of my voice.
  • I hugged my knees to my chest and sat in the middle of my living room floor. My world was collapsing around me. After the fight with Adam, I’d hailed a cab and barely remembered the ride home. My eyes were swollen and I could hardly see through the tears. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with Grace and Tim, but it didn’t look good when I left.” “Was Simon there?” “No, Tim mentioned something about him staying with Tim’s mom for a few days.” That was good. Tim was a poor excuse for a human being, but his mother was a nice lady. Simon would be okay staying with her for a little bit until this
  • mess could be sorted out. “Are you okay?” Megan asked. I put my palm over the receiver to keep the hiccup of despair out of my voice. “Yeah. Fine. Keep me posted, okay? I know getting some space can be good…” “I’ll check in with you. I’m going to visit my mom upstate. I’ll see you next week, okay?” “Okay,” I whispered. The line went dead. I looked around my cold apartment. Alone. I was completely alone. Even the dysfunctional world I’d had before Adam was in shambles. There would be no picking up. No starting over. Because there was nothing left to
  • salvage. ~ There was a loud pounding in my ears and I my head felt like it was being pushed between two planks of wood. My eyes hurt. I tried to open them and was greeted by a fog of leftover tears. The booming sound rang out again and it took me a moment to realize I was on the living room floor. It was still dark out, so I must not have been asleep that long. I sat up. Every bone creaked and whined. I palmed my temple and willed the rising headache to go away. It was no use. Every muscle was aching. Every brain cell was screaming. I heard a jingle like keys coming
  • from the other side of the front door. Had Megan decided to come home after all? I tried to make use of my legs, but sleeping on the hardwood floor had stiffened my entire body. I glanced at the clock. It was three in the morning. I stood up just as the front door burst open. I grabbed the wall behind me to keep my knees from buckling. There, standing in the doorway, disheveled and looking like a god from hell, was Adam. “No…no, don’t you dare do this to me.” I shook my head back and forth. My mind was spiraling, my anxiety dialed to high. I wanted him near, yet couldn’t run far enough away. I wasn’t ready to go round two with him. My
  • home was my sanctuary. And he’d plowed right into it. “You can’t break in here. This is my home. Y-you told me to leave…you can’t take this from me, too.” His eyes were fierce, like lighting striking the ocean at daybreak. He stomped toward me, not stopping until he cupped my face in his hands. Had I not known better, I could have sworn relief washed over his face. “I didn’t break in, I have a key,” he rasped. I pushed away from him. I wasn’t in the mood for whatever it was he was dishing out. Sarcasm, hate, love…I couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t want to find out it was the latter.
  • “Are you okay?” I scowled at him with my raw eyes. “No. I’m not okay. What are you doing to me? You throw me out of your place just so you can stalk me at mine?” I shook my head, tears beginning to fall again. “I’ll never know peace from you, will I?” He looked down at me, an intense frown bending his brow. “No, you won’t. Because I’ll never leave you, and I’ll never let you leave me.” “I don’t believe you,” I whispered. “You did let me go.” “No,” he snapped. “Listen to me, Katelyn. I made a mistake. I didn’t mean it.” His voice sounded so far away.
  • The only thing I could focus on was the slow beating pulse in my ears. With every breath my body grew weaker. Adam was my drug, and though he stood right in front of me, I knew I should run away or suffer the withdrawal. And it would be painful. “I gave you everything I was,” I whispered. “It still wasn’t enough.” “That’s not true,” he grated. Still cupping my face, he forced me to look at him. He ran his thumbs beneath my eyelids, tracing the tears away. “I want to be a better man for you, Katelyn. I didn’t—” His voice caught and I saw his crystalline eyes gloss over. “I have never had to share my past with someone outside of a shrink. I was caught off
  • guard by Roger at dinner and I didn’t think you could ever look at me again.” “I love you, Adam.” “That’s what confuses me. You’ve known for a while…about the things that happened when I was young, but you still stay by me. What happened…what he did to me…I never wanted you to know the kind of shame and hate I carried for myself.” Before I could think better of it, I wrapped my arms around his neck and tugged him into me. “I’m sorry you suffer. Nothing could ever make me think less of you. You own my soul, Adam. I wish I could take the pain for you.” I backed away enough to look him in the eye. “But I can’t handle your rejection.
  • Throwing me away…” “I’m sorry, Katelyn. God, how I’m sorry. I wanted you gone because I didn’t want you to look at me. Not the other way around. I pushed you away. I’ll never forgive myself for that. As soon as you left, I knew the mistake I had made.” He tilted my chin up. “It took me all of five minutes to run after you.” “It took you hours to get here,” I argued. He took a deep breath and took several steps backward. “I know words aren’t enough. I would have gotten here sooner, but I had to wake up and harass my psychiatrist to get this before I showed up here.” Adam took a manila envelope from inside his wool coat and
  • handed it to me. “Outside of my shrink, you’re the only one who’s ever seen this. Who will ever see this.” My hands were shaking but I opened the envelope. Documents, records, photos. A big pile of Adam. I saw the picture of Adam as a young boy right before he went into the custody of the state. His eyes were stark and deathly looking. “Oh, Adam.” “It’s all there. The last twenty years of my life. And it’s all yours, if you’ll still have me.” My chest felt tight and my stupid eyes wouldn’t seem to stop dripping. “You don’t have to do this.”
  • “I want to. Because I trust you, Katelyn. And for you…I’ll try.” A watery smile split my face. My tortured, brave man. He was trying. I knew dealing with this, airing your darkest secrets to another, left you vulnerable and terrified. But he trusted me. Just like I trusted him. “From the moment I met you, Katelyn, I knew you were it for me.” He took my left hand and placed a small piece of paper in it. “Dinner was ruined. I had planned to ask you something, but I realize that now is not the right time. I do want you to know, though, that I will not give you up. Whatever I have to do to make this right, I will. But I want you to
  • realize that I mean what I say.” I looked at the folded piece of paper he’d handed me. Setting the file down, I used both hands to unfold it. It was some kind of receipt from a Lorraine Schwartz. I heaved and my stomach twisted when I saw the price for a…ring…written down. I tried to form words, but I couldn’t. So I clamped a palm over my mouth. Another tear slid down my cheek when I read the date of this invoice. It was dated the same day I’d met Adam. My gaze snapped to him. “I knew, Katelyn. I just want you to know that. Know that I have no intention of letting you go.”
  • “A-are you proposing to me with a piece of paper?” I was in so much shock, I didn’t know what to do, or how to react. He grinned. “Kind of.” He pulled a massive diamond ring out of his pocket and sank to his knees. “Or I could use this.” He lifted the shiny ring in one hand and gripped my hip in the other. “Katelyn. I’ve never bowed to anyone, but I will gladly live the rest of my life on my knees before you, if you’ll be mine. I wanted you to know that this isn’t a game, or a ploy to get you back. This is real. And it has been since the moment I saw you.” His thumb rubbed over my hipbone. “Katelyn Gunn, will you marry
  • me?” I sank to my knees and kissed him with all the breath I had left. “Yes,” I whispered between sobbing and peppering his mouth with kisses over and over. “Yes.” He wrapped me in his arms. “I love you, Katelyn.” And I believed him. Our pasts couldn’t hurt us anymore, because we had let them go, and reached for each other instead. Yes, we still had a long way to go and a lot to deal with once the light of day hit, but for now, we were happy. And there, on our knees, submitting to one another, Adam and I finally found our middle ground.
  • The End Visit www.JoyaRyan.com for all available books and get a look at what is coming out next!