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 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

  1. 1. Break Me Slowly By: Joya Ryan
  2. 2. 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
  3. 3. Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One
  4. 4. 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
  5. 5. 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
  6. 6. 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!
  7. 7. 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
  8. 8. 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
  9. 9. 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
  10. 10. 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.”
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. 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.
  13. 13. 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.
  14. 14. “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.
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. 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.
  17. 17. 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
  18. 18. 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
  19. 19. 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?”
  20. 20. 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.
  21. 21. “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.
  22. 22. “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
  23. 23. 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?”
  24. 24. “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. ~
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. 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
  27. 27. 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
  28. 28. 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
  29. 29. 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.
  30. 30. 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.
  31. 31. 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
  32. 32. 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
  33. 33. 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.
  34. 34. “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
  35. 35. 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
  36. 36. 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
  37. 37. 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!”
  38. 38. “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
  39. 39. 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.
  40. 40. 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
  41. 41. 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
  42. 42. 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.
  43. 43. “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.
  44. 44. 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
  45. 45. 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.
  46. 46. “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.”
  47. 47. “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.”
  48. 48. “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.
  49. 49. 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
  50. 50. 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
  51. 51. 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
  52. 52. 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.
  53. 53. 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
  54. 54. 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
  55. 55. 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
  56. 56. 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
  57. 57. 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.
  58. 58. “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
  59. 59. 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.
  60. 60. “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
  61. 61. 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
  62. 62. 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…
  63. 63. 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
  64. 64. 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
  65. 65. 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
  66. 66. 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
  67. 67. 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
  68. 68. 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.
  69. 69. “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
  70. 70. 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
  71. 71. 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
  72. 72. 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
  73. 73. 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
  74. 74. 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,
  75. 75. 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
  76. 76. 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.
  77. 77. 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.”
  78. 78. 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
  79. 79. 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!”
  80. 80. “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
  81. 81. 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
  82. 82. 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
  83. 83. 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
  84. 84. 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
  85. 85. 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.
  86. 86. 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
  87. 87. 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.
  88. 88. 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
  89. 89. 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
  90. 90. 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
  91. 91. 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.
  92. 92. 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.
  93. 93. 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.”
  94. 94. “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
  95. 95. 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
  96. 96. 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.”
  97. 97. 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
  98. 98. 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
  99. 99. 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
  100. 100. 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
  101. 101. 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
  102. 102. 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.
  103. 103. 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
  104. 104. 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
  105. 105. 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
  106. 106. 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.
  107. 107. 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
  108. 108. 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.
  109. 109. 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
  110. 110. 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
  111. 111. 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.
  112. 112. “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
  113. 113. 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
  114. 114. 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
  115. 115. 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
  116. 116. 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.
  117. 117. 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
  118. 118. 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.
  119. 119. 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.
  120. 120. 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
  121. 121. 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
  122. 122. 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
  123. 123. 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
  124. 124. 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
  125. 125. 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
  126. 126. 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
  127. 127. 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.
  128. 128. 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.
  129. 129. “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.
  130. 130. 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
  131. 131. 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.
  132. 132. 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
  133. 133. 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.
  134. 134. 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
  135. 135. 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
  136. 136. 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.
  137. 137. “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
  138. 138. 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
  139. 139. 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
  140. 140. 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
  141. 141. 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
  142. 142. 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.
  143. 143. 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.
  144. 144. “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
  145. 145. 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
  146. 146. 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
  147. 147. 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
  148. 148. 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
  149. 149. 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
  150. 150. 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
  151. 151. 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
  152. 152. 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
  153. 153. 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
  154. 154. 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
  155. 155. 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
  156. 156. 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?”
  157. 157. “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
  158. 158. 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
  159. 159. 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
  160. 160. 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.
  161. 161. “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.
  162. 162. “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.”
  163. 163. 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
  164. 164. 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

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