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Lovers Unmasked

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Year:
2013
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Entangled Publishing, LLC
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english
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Lovers Unmasked

a Brazen anthology



FEATURING BESTSELLING AUTHORS

Katee Robert, Cari Quinn

Samanthe Beck, and Tessa Bailey





Table of Contents


Lovers Unmasked

Seducing Mr. Right

Other books by Katee Robert



Dedication



Chapter One



Chapter Two



Chapter Three



Chapter Four



Chapter Five



Chapter Six



Chapter Seven



Chapter Eight



Acknowledgments



About the Author



Wrong Bed, Right Guy



Chasing Mrs. Right



Two Wrongs, One Right



Tempted by His

Other books by Cari Quinn



Chapter One



Chapter Two



Chapter Three



Chapter Four



Chapter Five



Chapter Six



Chapter Seven



Chapter Eight



Chapter Nine



About the Author



No Dress Required



No Flowers Required



No Romance Required



Wicked Games

Other books by Samanthe Beck



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



Epilogue



Acknowledgments



About the Author



Lover Undercover



Private Practice



Protecting What’s Theirs

Other books by Tessa Bailey



Dedication



Chapter One



Chapter Two



Chapter Three



Chapter Four



Chapter Five



Chapter Six



Acknowledgments



About the Author



Protecting What’s His



His Risk to Take



Officer Off Limits



Dirty Trick





Seducing Mr. Right

a Come Undone novella





Katee Robert





Other books by Katee Robert

Wrong Bed, Right Guy

Chasing Mrs. Right

Two Wrongs, One Right

The High Priestess

Queen of Swords





This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2013 by Katee Robert. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled;  Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at www.entangledpublishing.com.

Edited by Heather Howland and Haleigh Rucinski

Cover design by Heather Howland

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition September 2013

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction: Jell-O; Catwoman; The Phantom of the Opera; Coke; Serta; Naked Cowboy; Thriller; The Goonies; Amex; The Notebook; Of Mice and Men.





To Ben. I think you know why.





Chapter One

“You really won’t reconsider?”

“Nope.” Danielle Kastien adjusted the lace mask covering her eyes. “Besides, he invited me to the party. It would be rude not to show up.” Especially since she had every intention of seducing the mail guy she’d been chatting up in her building’s coffee shop for the last few months at said party.

He’d spent every Tuesday and Thursday drinking her in with those warm brown eyes the same way he drank his coffee—slow and controlled, as if it were the most delicious thing in the world. If he could appreciate something as disgusting as coffee, it made her wonder what it would be like to have him focus that appreciation on her.

Yes, spending time with Grayson had the nasty habit of making her think all sorts of wicked thoughts. Considering that she’d somehow managed not to give in to the sexual tension between them before now, she was already petitioning for saint status.

That ended tonight.

Chelsea perched on the edge of the vanity and handed over the brilliant red lipstick Danielle favored. As a kid, Danielle had hated the fact that she was so short and built delicately—it meant she couldn’t keep up on the rare occasions her father actually spent time with her—but now she liked to play up her china-doll looks.

“I know you were invited,” Chelsea said, fidgeting a little, “but are you sure you’re not reacting to that blowout you had with your father yesterday?”

She flinched. Her dad, a decorated four-star general, didn’t like what she was doing with her life, and he never had. He didn’t approve of her corporate job, or the fact that she was twenty-six and still “mucking about” with various men instead of settling down with a good provider. He’d actually used that term—a good provider. As if they were still living in the fifties, and her place was to be pregnant, barefoot, and in the kitchen. He’d be thrilled if she ended up with someone like him—some man in a powerful job who’d steamroll her until she fit the perfect little mold he thought she should.

Danielle had never been all that good at coloring inside the lines.

“The one where he informed me all my life decisions to date are pathetic and worthless, and I’ll never amount to anything?” She finished with her lipstick and rolled her lips together. “Would that be the conversation you’re talking about?”

Chelsea gave her a look filled with concern. “Ah… Yes.”

She made an effort to keep her carefree smile in place, despite the fact that she felt like breaking something. If she was immature enough to be throwing tantrums, she was playing right into his beliefs that she was failing at life. Just because she didn’t have a soft and feminine job—what the hell did Dad even know about soft and feminine? Any appreciation he’d had of those things died along with her mother twenty years ago.

She might not have the most glorious of jobs, but she was putting herself through night school so she’d have the qualifications to be eligible for promotion. Not that she’d told her dad about night school—or anyone else, except for Grayson. He’d thought it was great that she was bettering herself. Hell, he’d even seemed to understand her reasoning for not sharing that fact with anyone else in her life. He also understood why she liked working in an office, pushing paper. She was pretty good with numbers, and liked how they were confined to a very specific logic.

But there was no use thinking about it now, especially when fights with her dad usually left her feeling reckless, which led to all sorts of stupid decisions. “I’ve had my eye on this guy for a while. My jumping him has nothing to do with my daddy issues.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to come with Nathan and me tonight?” From her best friend’s tone, she knew the offer was a lost cause.

Danielle’s smile was a bit more real this time. “Nah. You guys are great and all, but I’m not really into the whole third-wheel thing—or seventh-wheel since you have all those other couples with you.” Chelsea had recently made the decision to move in with the love of her life. This weekend was her last here before the movers showed up for the big pieces of furniture, and she finally settled into the gorgeous condo in the same neighborhood as the gallery she now shared with her husband.

“Are you sure? The bar we’re going to is filled with gorgeous single men who don’t work in your building.” Chelsea stood and smoothed down her Lucille Ball dress. With her red hair done up in the familiar style, she looked like both a blast from the past and a chic present-day model. The woman was made to wear that style.

“I’m sure.”

She frowned. “What happens after tonight? I don’t suppose you’re going to date this one?”

Date? Danielle paused and let herself actually consider it. She and Grayson had shared coffee twice a week for the last few months. It had started when he caught her checking out his ass on the elevator, and they just kept running into each other. She’d never admit it, but she caught herself lingering in the lobby longer than was strictly necessary just to see if he’d show up and give her that look, the one that made her knees turn to Jell-O.

He always did.

And then there were the conversations they had. What started out as a stolen fifteen minutes to down her energy drink while he had coffee sometimes turned into a full hour. A few times they’d even talked longer. When she sat across the table from Grayson, time seemed to stand still. He made her laugh, and he made her hot, and she found herself telling him things he had no business knowing—like her frustrations with her father, and her tentative plans for the future. He’d even gone so far as to give her a few different options to look into beyond the one she’d been considering.

But dating was something else altogether. Dating meant bringing him home to Dad and trying to build a relationship, which she’d never been all that good at doing. Relationships meant putting herself in someone else’s power, which was something she’d gone out of her way to avoid ever since she moved out. She liked not having to answer to anyone.

“Danielle?”

What was the question again? Oh, right. Dating. She plumped her boobs and then checked the effect in the mirror. “Don’t be ridiculous. You know me. I don’t date.”

“Not yet.” Chelsea laughed at the look on her face. “You never know what could happen if you meet the right guy.”

“Now you’re starting to sound like Dad.” Danielle stood up and turned a quick circle. “What do you think?”

“You look amazing, and you know it.” Chelsea smiled. “Catwoman was a stroke of genius.”

Danielle wasn’t going to deny it—the whole black catsuit and killer heels thing made her feel like a vixen. Grayson wouldn’t know what hit him. “I do my best.” She made a shooing motion. “Now get going. You don’t want to be late for your shindig.”

“Be safe tonight.” Chelsea squeezed her shoulder and then stepped into her heels. “Text me when you’re in for the night, so I know you’re home.”

“Honey, chances are I’m going to be late.” If she played things right, she wouldn’t be home at all.

“I know, but I worry about you.”

“I’ll text, I promise.” Danielle slipped her ID and credit card into her super sweet utility belt, and then picked up her bullwhip. It was a smaller version of the comic book character’s, but she hadn’t been able to find a full-length one in the amount of time she’d had. After taking one last moment to check to make sure she looked as fantastic as she felt, she headed for the door.

Tonight she was going to get her some hot mail guy. She’d worry about the consequences later.

…

Tonight would be the night he told her the truth.

Grayson Harper shook his head, amused at his melodrama. He wasn’t the type to leave anything to chance, and the same rule applied to Danielle, the sassy little thing he’d run into a few months ago. She’d made a sarcastic comment about him checking her out—which was exactly what he’d been doing—and he’d been intrigued despite himself.

Because she clearly hadn’t known who he was.

How she’d managed not to know surprised him since he owned the damn building, but he couldn’t turn down a chance to have coffee with her—to have a conversation with someone who didn’t know him as Grayson Harper, CEO and all-around corporate hard-ass.

Not that he minded, most days. He’d built up his corporation from little more than nothing. Doing so hadn’t left much time for friends or casual socializing, though he hadn’t felt the loss until the last few years.

Truth was, having coffee a few times a week with Danielle filled a need he had barely been aware existed. She treated him as if he was just a man and she was just a woman. When he was with her, his job and his very identity took a backseat to his personality. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d met someone who hadn’t recognized him instantly, and he hadn’t felt the weight of it until he’d met her. Over the years he’d stopped dating altogether because of the way women looked at him—as if he were a ladder into the life they wanted. When they saw him, they saw money signs and a position of power. While he didn’t think Danielle was the type of woman to cling to a man for those reasons—or any reason at all—he was almost afraid of the opposite reaction.

Perhaps he should have told her the truth the second time they met in the coffee shop, but Grayson refused to run the risk of her changing how she felt because of who he was. He enjoyed her company far too much to sacrifice it.

It didn’t hurt that he wanted her with a desire that nearly swept away all his hard-won control. Every time she looked at him, her independence and don’t-give-a-fuck attitude sparking in those dark eyes, it was everything he could do not to drag her into the nearest empty room and act out every single fantasy he’d had with her in it.

The last month had made it even more difficult to maintain control. She’d begun touching him with purpose. It started innocently enough, her fingers brushing his when she passed the sugar, her ankle pressing against his calf, her shoulder rubbing his when she leaned against him to laugh at a shared joke. But recently there’d been no mistaking her intent. She’d meet his gaze as she traced circles on his wrist. Just this week, she’d spent their entire time together sitting as close to him as she could while being in a separate chair, her shoulder brushing his constantly and her perfume teasing him.

But she’d turned him down every time he asked her out, claiming a variety of excuses. If she didn’t keep showing up for coffee, he’d have thought she wasn’t interested.

Until now. Just this week she’d made a loaded comment about how she hoped both their desires would be fulfilled this Halloween. There was no mistaking that.

But even without sex in the picture, he wanted to spend more time with her—outside of the building’s coffee shop. The problem was, he couldn’t do that without telling her exactly who he was. Oh, he could, but lies had the nasty tendency to breed and cause problems later down the road. He hadn’t exactly lied—she’d seen the stack of mail in his hand that first day and automatically assumed he was the mail guy—but after a few conversations he’d realized what her opinions on powerful men were, and he’d chosen to stay silent.

Enough was enough, though, and tonight would be the night he came clean.

The Halloween party was a charity event they put together every year, but this was the first time they’d put together a full-on masquerade ball. It’d also be the first year he attended. His secretary had been thrilled about the entire thing, and the office was buzzing with speculation about who would show up as what.

He couldn’t help wondering what Danielle would choose as her costume. After several months of stolen hours and conversations, he should have a good enough read on her to know. That he didn’t delighted him to no end. She was a constant surprise, from what she’d say to what she’d do—a breath of fresh air in the stagnant swamp his life had become. He might be successful but, before he’d met her, he’d been so damn bored.

Not anymore.

Being around her was a growing addiction he didn’t want to fight. To have all that fire and lightning of a personality in his arms—and under his control in the bedroom—was something that had started consuming him. Christ. He rubbed a hand over his face, pushing down the desire threading through him at the thought of her on her knees, looking at him in open defiance even as she submitted. He wanted that badly.

Grayson adjusted the cloak about his shoulders and fixed the mask against his face. He’d always been a fan of The Phantom of the Opera, and lately he’d felt a keen familiarity with the man behind the mask. Everyone saw what they wanted to see—a terrifying creature bent on destruction—not what he really was, a damaged man driven mad by loneliness. That one he could relate to.

Not to mention he admired the Phantom for his willingness to do anything to get the girl.

Grayson had plans to do exactly that.





Chapter Two

Danielle passed her invitation to the guy at the door and strutted into the building. She’d always loved Halloween, loved the festive atmosphere and how nearly anyone could be convinced to have a good time once costumes were involved. There was also the aura of mystery around everything. You could be anything on Halloween. More than any other day of the year, it was rife with possibilities.

That wasn’t even bringing the candy into consideration.

Speaking of…

She made a beeline for the dessert table set up just far enough from the main doors so it didn’t mess with people’s ability to come and go as they pleased. There was every kind of sweet imaginable set up on tiered plates—cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries, and different types of candy. Danielle picked a strawberry and popped it into her mouth, nearly moaning with ecstasy. Oh, that was good. That was really good. That might be better than sex—at least the sex she’d had lately. She frowned. When was the last time? Oh my God, I don’t even remember. That’s how long it’s been.

“Enjoying yourself?”

Danielle spun around and nearly choked. Grayson. He stood so close, her dad would have whooped her ass for not noticing him approach. Taller than her by a good six inches, even in her heels, he looked all sorts of menacing with his close-cropped hair and a black cloak making his broad shoulders appear even larger than they actually were. His brown eyes danced behind the white half mask, lips drawn up in a small smile.

The man made a damn good Phantom.

She swallowed hard, reminding herself of why she was here. Yes, he was sexy as all get-out, and yes, she’d started to look forward to their coffee dates more than anything else about her week, but he was still just the mail guy. This was nothing she couldn’t handle. “Hey there.”

“Hey there, yourself.” With him standing so close, looking even better than the dessert table behind her, she was having a hard time focusing. Small talk. Small talk was safe. Once she had a few rum and Cokes under her belt she’d circle around to the real reason she was here. Danielle gave him her best wicked grin. “What’s a guy like you doing in a place like this?”

His gaze raked over her, making her glad her catsuit hid the fact that her nipples were perking right up. “I heard a certain thief was going to make an appearance. How could I pass up an opportunity to sweep her off her feet?”

Oh, he was good. She’d give him that. It was part of the reason she kept coming around for their little coffee dates. Grayson had a way of keeping her on her toes while instantly putting her at ease. How he managed to do that was a mystery, but she wasn’t in the mood to question it. Danielle laughed and poked his shoulder—his seriously well-muscled shoulder. “With lines like that, it’s no wonder you have to slum it around the office.”

“Danielle, you are anything but slumming it.” He moved closer and ran a finger down her arm. “I think I like you in leather.”

She tried to cover up her shiver and went for bold. “Look at me. How could you not like me in leather?” She’d busted ass in aerobics class four times a week for the last few weeks to make sure she fit into this damn suit, so his blatant appreciation felt like a payoff.

“I’d like you much better out of it.”

Heat flashed through her, centering on a few key areas. Holy shit, he’d just thrown it all out there. She had every intention of seducing Grayson—and, after their last talk, she’d figured he was on the same page—so this shouldn’t be a surprise. Not when she already knew he had a refreshing way of cutting to the chase in any conversation. That said, even if she’d hoped the night would end with her legs behind her ears and screaming his name, she wasn’t going to simply fold at his first pass.

“Hope springs eternal.” She gave him a flirty smile and turned back to the dessert table. There was nothing on it that interested her as much as the man behind her, but she pretended to inspect the different kinds of cake.

Gray reached around her to grab a strawberry, the move bringing his chest flush against her back. His breath ghosted over her ear. “You and I both know hope has nothing to do with it.”

That was the damn truth. “Maybe. Maybe not.” But she wasn’t going to give this to him that easily. Even if they never talked again after tonight, Grayson wouldn’t appreciate his time with her if she didn’t make him work for it. Danielle tried not to think too hard on the ping in her chest at the thought of never talking to him again. “So, what’s a girl got to do to get a drink around here?”

“I know people who know people.” He offered his elbow, as regal as any bigwig. “I think I can meet that demand.”

“You know people who know people?” She laughed as she slipped her hand into the crook of his arm and let him lead her through the groups gathered here and there. “Some mail guy you’d be if you didn’t have all the connections.”

His mouth tightened, making her wonder if she’d made a mistake. But then Grayson turned those blazing eyes on her and she forgot her worry. “I have more connections than you could dream of.”

Danielle laughed. “Honey, I could say the same thing.”

“I’ll just bet.” He motioned at the table in front of him. “As the lady commanded—the bar.”

They’d set up an actual bar with a full rack of alcohol behind it. Things were definitely going to get interesting later on if even half the supply was consumed. She couldn’t wait. There was nothing better than seeing people drop their professional masks and do things they wouldn’t normally. If she didn’t have her own plans for the night, she’d probably grab a bottle and post up in a corner to watch it all go down.

Danielle leaned against the bar and winked at the bartender. He was way too skinny for her tastes, but she appreciated the balls he had to wear a Green Man suit. Spandex was not everyone’s friend and he pulled it off like a champ. “Hey there, handsome. How about a rum and Coke?”

“Sure thing, beautiful.”

Grayson took up a spot next to her, his presence making him feel a whole lot closer than he actually was. It was a neat trick he’d pulled before and it never failed to make her shift closer to him. She’d spent considerable time wondering what it’d be like to have all that focus centered on her in the bedroom, away from the prying eyes of the public. She didn’t peg him for a selfish lover—not when he always held her chair for her, paid the bill despite her protests, and actually listened when she talked—but she didn’t think he’d be a pushover, either. No, everything about Grayson screamed of a man with airtight control. What would it be like when he finally let that control slip its leash?

The thought was both unnerving and thrilling.

Generally Danielle was the pursuer. She saw what she wanted, and she took it. If she got to thumb her nose at her father while doing it, so much the better. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d let a man get the better of her. Hell, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d wanted one to.

With Grayson sitting beside her practically oozing dominance, she definitely wanted.

Knowing that should send her running in the opposite direction. Hell, it should have made her back off months ago when she first realized that there was nothing safe about him—which was one of the reasons she’d turned down his attempts to get her on an actual date before now. She’d foolishly thought that planning on seducing him at the Halloween party would put the ball firmly in her court. If she was in control, she was less likely to be hurt.

Obviously it wasn’t going to go down like that. Not when one look from him had her in danger of dropping her panties right there in the middle of the conference room.

“What are you thinking?”

If any other guy had asked her that, it would reek of insecurity. She would have laughed and patted his head and strutted off to find someone more entertaining.

Gray asked the question like he already knew the answer. The sheer magnetism of his confidence drew her like a goddamn lodestone, just like it had from day one. It was everything she could do not to reach out and touch him. She clasped her hands around the glass. “If you have to ask, you’re not ready to know.”

“Fair enough.” He laughed, the sound rolling through her until it was everything she could do not to shiver. “How was your day?”

At his question she flashed back to the disappointed look on her father’s face when they’d met for lunch, the memory threatening to pull her into a funk. But Grayson was waiting for her response, and there wasn’t any point in dragging out her emotional bullshit right now. It ran the risk of ruining the mood of the entire night. “Fine.”

“You know, usually when a woman says that particular word in that particular tone of voice, it means the exact opposite.” He shifted, his shoulder brushing hers. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but if you do…?”

The man was too smart for his own good. Or hers. She took a healthy swig of her drink. “I had a fight with my dad. Again. He was in town for a day before he hopped off to Japan or something—just long enough to express his disappointment over everything that is me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why?” She shrugged, wishing she could do something about the tension riding through her shoulders. “It’s not like you’re responsible for him screwing up my good mood this afternoon.”

“Maybe not, but I still don’t like seeing you unhappy. And I know dealing with him upsets you.”

That was Grayson, the guy who cared about what she thought or if she was having a good day—and who set her blood on fire and made her body ache. Her smile was a bit wider this time. “You’re in luck then, because I’m pretty damn happy right now.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yep. I have a drink in my hand, a smoking-hot guy sitting next to me, and the night is full of possibilities.” Before he could say something or dig deeper, she changed the subject. “What about you? How was your day?”

“Tedious.” He turned around in his chair to face the rest of the room. “Honestly, the only thing that got me through today without losing my mind was knowing I’d see you at the end of it.”

Even though she told herself not to blush, Danielle felt warmth climbing her neck. Enough of this borderline deep talk. They’d done that so often, she felt like she knew Grayson nearly as well as she knew herself. Talking was not tonight’s goal. Her savior came in the unexpected form of a middle-aged woman walking by. “Are those feathers?”

For a second she didn’t think Grayson would let her change the subject, but then he shifted just enough to follow her gaze. “I do believe she’s an angel.”

“Are you sure?” She looked as if she’d taken a sheet and torn up a pillow to create the tiny wings that were currently leaving a trail behind her. As Danielle watched, another handful detached itself and drifted to the ground. The urge to sneeze was nearly overwhelming, even though she was pretty sure it was strictly mental. “I thought maybe she was a Serta mattress.”

With a laugh, he slid closer and lowered his voice. “That one has nothing on Bob from Accounting.”

Her gaze landed on the shirtless man. He might not have the best body she’d ever seen but he was hardly… Then he turned around and her eyes nearly popped out of her head. “Oh dear God.” What his guitar had hidden from view was the fact that he was wearing only a pair of tighty-whities that had stopped being white a long time again. Danielle turned back to the bar and tried to control her laughter. “We’re going to hell.”

“Maybe.”

Every time his shoulder brushed hers, it felt as if her entire body were contracting. Knowing what they were working toward, how the night would end, made her responses off the charts. It’d been hard to keep from inviting him home for a little afternoon delight before, but now she didn’t think she’d be able to make it as far as her apartment. She wanted him so desperately she could barely think straight. Stifling a shiver, she took a drink. “Seriously, though. We’re being mean.”

“Are we? Personally, I think Bob pulls off Naked Cowboy rather well.”

“Yeah, his pot belly really glows when it catches the light.”

“Now who’s being mean? And, look, Dolores agrees with me.”

She glanced over her shoulder and shook her head. The angel had taken up a spot next to him and seemed to be hanging on his every word. Danielle was slightly impressed that Grayson seemed to know the names of people she’d never even seen, let alone met. Then again, as mail guy, he’d have to, wouldn’t he? “Can you name every person in this room?”

Grayson shrugged. “Most of them.”

Damn. She barely remembered the names of everyone on her floor, let alone her entire company. “That’s impressive.”

“It’s part of the job.”

He could have used a list or something to deliver the mail. Knowing everyone’s name from memory really went above and beyond the call of duty. She could appreciate that kind of dedication and attention to detail. “Still impressive.”

“Stop it. You’re going to make me blush.”

She leaned in until her breasts pressed against his arm. “Promise?”

“Nope.” He grinned, a flash of white teeth against his darker skin.

“You’re impossible.”

“You like it.”

She’d like it a whole lot better if he were being impossible while getting naked, but she wasn’t sure if now was the best time to broach the subject. It would be just her luck that he’d flirt with her for weeks on end, dress up like temptation personified for this party, and mean nothing by it. Then she’d be the asshole who had to put it all out there and have him nicely—because Grayson would do it nicely—tell her that he never had any intention of getting her out of this catsuit.

Under normal circumstances, she’d say to hell with it and go for it. The worst he could do was say no. If this were any other guy, she’d laugh it off and keep drinking and talking and go home alone. But this wasn’t any other guy—this was Grayson. If she came on to him with serious intent and he turned her down it might damage their friendship. She hadn’t realized how much she counted on those coffee dates until she was suddenly facing the possibility of them going away.

And if his turning her down would change everything, how much more so would his saying yes do it?

“Why are you frowning?” He reached over and ran his thumb between her eyebrows, the innocent touch sending zings into parts of her body where they had no business being.

Relax. No need to rush this. Danielle almost laughed out loud. Yeah, right. She was in over her head and sinking fast. “Just overthinking things a little bit.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

Kiss her until she couldn’t remember her name?

Yank her against him until every one of her fears disappeared against the feel of his body pressing to hers?

Rip this catsuit off her and bend her over the bar, right here in front of everyone?

God, what was she thinking? She should just get out of there before she embarrassed herself more than she already had. Because right now she was pretty damn sure this was going to blow up in her face whichever way it played out. She downed the rest of her drink and set the glass on the bar. “I think I left the stove on. So I’m going to go make sure my apartment doesn’t burn down.”

She actually made it three steps before his voice stopped her. “Danielle.”

Don’t turn around. Just walk away. You can’t regret something you never actually did. Except she was turning around even as she told herself not to. Looking at him, the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome, she knew she was lost. How was she supposed to keep her head on straight when all of her self-control was going into not crossing the distance between them and climbing him like a tree?

And then he held out his hand. “Why don’t we find somewhere less crowded where we can talk?”

There was no mistaking his meaning. Not when he motioned her closer in a way that couldn’t be defined as anything other than a command. It made her want to bristle, but that was a conditioned response. A by-product of her upbringing. He wasn’t asking her to do anything she didn’t want to do. Because, no matter how much the possible negative outcomes scared her, she wanted this. She wanted him. “I think I’ve heard this line before.”

“I promise, I have only the best of intentions.”

“Said the spider to the fly.” Why the hell was she fighting this? Maybe she should get out of her own way and jump in headfirst. Because nothing could go wrong with that plan.

Gray’s hand never wavered, but his eyes darkened. “I won’t do anything to you that you don’t beg me for first.”

Danielle’s breath whooshed out. Holy shit.

What could she possibly say to that? Please, please, yes please. She managed a shaky smile. “You know, if I’d known you were going to pull out the big guns, I might have reconsidered coming tonight.”

“No, you wouldn’t. Because you like knowing exactly how much I want you.” He motioned her forward with his fingers. “Don’t leave me hanging here.”

For a long moment she couldn’t find her voice. Because he was right. Knowing he’d talk to her like this only would have made her more eager for tonight. And she did like the verbal confirmation that he was nearly as far-gone as she was. They both wanted the same thing for tonight—to end up naked and sweaty and swinging from the chandelier. Danielle swallowed past her dry throat. There was nothing to be afraid of. She wanted Grayson in bed, making her scream his name. Hell, she could barely breathe past the desire just being close to him made her feel.

She’d deal with the consequences when they showed up.

She slipped her hand into his, the contact soothing her worries in a way she might actually be concerned about, if not for the man looking down at her with a small smile curving his lips. This was Grayson. As long as she remembered that, she’d remember there was no reason to worry. No reason at all.

She let him lead her through the crowd to the edge of the room. They passed people drinking and laughing and dancing, and it felt strangely like she and Grayson were in their own little world that no one could touch. No one tried to talk to them, or even looked at them sideways as they reached the doorway and slipped out. He pulled her into a little alcove tucked off a nearby hall.

Danielle wasn’t familiar with this part of the building—she kept to her floor, a small little law firm owned by the Mulligans. This was a huge conference room utilized by the bigwig CEO guy who owned the rest of the building. Rumor had it that Mr. Harper was a scary-ass dude, though she’d heard a couple of his underlings giggling over how sexy he was. Whatever. Give her a mail guy any day. This mail guy. A CEO was far too close to a general in her opinion—you didn’t hit the top of the pyramid without some intense drive and a whole lot of “don’t fuck with me.” Not to mention the fact that that kind of person wouldn’t have a problem railroading anyone he thought beneath him.

She pushed the thoughts away. Tonight wasn’t about some faceless ass of a CEO. It was about following through on the promises Grayson kept making that made her weak in the knees.

Danielle had every intention of seeing it through.





Chapter Three

Grayson couldn’t stop looking at her. Her catsuit hugged every curve as if it were painted on. From what little it left to the imagination, it might as well have been. Combined with the lace mask that only accented her dark eyes, and those heels making her legs look a whole lot longer, he was having a hard time reminding himself to play this slow.

The zipper that ran down between her breasts, nearly to the vee between her legs, did absolutely nothing for his control.

Hell, he’d already jumped the gun and pushed her further than he intended, but he’d panicked when she’d said she was leaving. Tonight was the night where everything changed, and nothing would change if she left before he had a chance to make his move. The problem was that he didn’t want to scare her off, especially when she already seemed on edge.

She slid onto the bench next to him, her hip bumping against his in a way that couldn’t be accidental. He hoped. “Now that you’ve got me where you want me, what do you plan on doing?”

“Danielle, this is so far from where I want you, it’s not even funny.” He wanted… No, best not to get into too much detail about what he wanted. Not yet. Play it slow. Do not scare her. Grayson cleared his throat and leaned back to sip on his bourbon. Now would be the time to tell the truth. All he had to do was open his mouth and tell her who he was, but he couldn’t seem to do it. Instead, he took the easy way out. “I’m glad you came.”

“If I have my way, I will be later.” His cock hardened as his thoughts circled around exactly how he’d make that happen. A thousand ways, until she was as completely enthralled with him as he was with her.

He wondered what she’d say if she knew just how detailed his fantasies had become as he sat across from her those first few coffee dates and watched her drink her ridiculous energy drinks and nibble on her daily doughnut. It had only gotten worse as time went on, and he’d become attracted to more than just the pretty package. She was intelligent and driven, and completely unafraid of what the world thought of her. It was a trait he wished he shared more of. Being around her washed away the dust of the daily grind and made him feel new. Added to that, she had a wicked sense of humor that she didn’t hesitate to use when verbally sparring with him.

While he was lost in his thoughts, she slipped his bourbon out of his hand and took it as a shot before setting the glass aside. “Now, let’s stop playing coy. You didn’t lure me over here to this darkened bench just to make small talk.”

She obviously was used to being in control—had more than proven it with some of the encounters she’d mentioned when he first met her. Danielle liked her men where and when she wanted them, and then she wanted them to go on their way. That was too damn bad. Grayson had no intention of relinquishing control tonight—or later.

He’d allowed her to set the terms of their encounters up to this point, but that ended tonight. “Why not? I’ve always enjoyed our talks.”

Danielle narrowed her eyes. “I have, too…”

“Then what’s wrong with talking?” Unable to help himself, he took her hand and ran his thumb over her knuckles and around to her palm. “I happen to love talking.” Though he could think of much better ways to put his mouth to use right now.

Slow. Play it slow.

“Grayson—”

He kissed her knuckles, his tongue tracing the same pattern his thumb had just taken, ending with an openmouthed kiss on her palm. Jesus. It wasn’t the part of her he’d spent considerable time imagining tasting, but the feel of her skin against his mouth was addicting in a way he wasn’t sure he’d be able to shake. All from one little kiss. How much better would it be when he actually claimed her mouth? “Hmm?”

“You’re a terrible tease.” Her laugh came out shaky. “But I guess I should have known that, huh?”

“I’m not the only one who teases.” If she knew how many times he’d fantasized about her raspy voice calling out his name, how many times he’d left their coffee dates and had to go shut the door to his office and palm himself through his slacks, maybe she’d appreciate how difficult it was for him not to yank that catsuit off her right here, right now.

And why not?

Because I am supposed to be taking this slow. Even as he completed the thought, he tightened his hand on hers. What was the point? He was barely hanging on as it was, and if she kept shivering like that, he was going to lose all semblance of control. Once again the little devil on his shoulder whispered, Why not?

Grayson glanced down the hall, to where the party seemed to be in full swing. “Thriller” blared from the speakers, overtaking the laughter and murmur of conversation. No one was looking for them—hell, no one would have expected him to make an appearance here, so they had no reason to look for him.

Why not give in to temptation? What was holding him back? He already knew he enjoyed Danielle’s company in more than a casual way, and that even being around her set his blood aflame. He knew he wanted more from her than just a physical commitment.

Watching her carefully, Grayson leaned in. If she balked, or even hesitated, he was prepared to call this whole thing off. They might have had several months to get to know each other, months of casual touches that turned into sexually loaded ones, but that didn’t mean she was on the same level as he was. Despite her teasing, he couldn’t afford to assume anything.

Danielle didn’t hesitate. She kissed him, once again striving for dominance by grabbing his shoulders and angling her mouth. He almost laughed, but the taste of her swept away the urge as if it had never existed. Chocolate and rum. Grayson couldn’t stifle his growl as he grasped the back of her neck, holding her in place while he plundered her mouth. Danielle clutched his cloak with both hands, pulling him closer as a whimper slipped free.

Fuck taking it slow.

He dragged her against him, only planning on getting more of her within reach, but Danielle took it one step further and climbed into his lap. She writhed against him, rubbing against his cock in a way that made him grab her hips. If she kept that up, he was going to throw his plan out the window, and he couldn’t afford to do so. “Patience.”

“I ever tell you I’m not all that good at being patient?” She licked her way down his neck and nibbled on his collarbone. “Besides, aren’t you supposed to be the big, bad guy everyone’s afraid of?”

For a second he thought she knew who he really was and dread turned his stomach to stone. Then Grayson realized she was talking about his costume. Ah, yes, the Phantom. He hissed out a breath as she rolled her hips again. “Maybe I’m just misunderstood.”

Danielle shifted, tracing her tongue along the shell of his ear. “Maybe. Or maybe you should just stop bullshitting and take what you want.”

Take what he wanted? Hell, she couldn’t have given him a clearer green light if she’d waved a flag in his face. He wanted to take her, wanted it so bad he could nearly taste it. Grayson grabbed her ass and pressed her tighter against him. “You feel how much I want you?”

“Yes.” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

Thirty more seconds of this and he would have her naked right here and to hell with the consequences. Once again caution reared its ugly head and shouted at him to slow down. They couldn’t do this here. It wouldn’t affect his career—though his reputation might take a hit—but it might damage hers. He refused to put her in that position, no matter how much he wanted to put her in certain other positions.

Which meant they had to get the hell out of this alcove before someone stumbled along looking for the bathroom.

Grayson took a deep breath and sat back, releasing his hold on her. “Get up.”

She blinked at him as if coming out of a daze. “Up?”

“Now.” Need made the word a little harsh, but Danielle jumped to her feet, instantly responding to his command. Since he knew for a fact that she didn’t instantly respond to any command, he relished it for the rarity it was. It also led his mind down the winding path of how far he could take the game. “This way.”

He pushed to his feet and started down the hallway, not bothering to look back to see if she was following. She was. He could hear the click-click-click of her heels on the tiled floors, just as he could hear how her mood transformed from shocked to confused to angry. “Grayson? Where the hell are we going?”

Instead of answering—he was hanging on to his control by a thread, and he didn’t trust himself to so much as speak if he wanted to get her out of this hallway without fucking her senseless—he stopped in front of the elevator and pushed the up button. The doors opened a few seconds later, and Danielle followed him inside. She grabbed his arm. “Hey, I asked you a—”

He spun her around and pressed her against the wall. “And I didn’t give you permission to speak.” It was a test, in the same way everything had been to this point. He had to push her until she shoved back—or gave in. Only then would he know exactly how far to take this.

Her brown eyes went wide. She opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again, the frown line between her brows getting deeper with each thought she didn’t voice. But she didn’t try to get away. Instead, she arched against him, ever so slightly. Grayson stroked her bottom lip, his thumb standing out against the red. “Would you like to play a game?”

She nodded, her eyes still wide.

“If you obey, I’ll see that you’re rewarded beyond your wildest dreams.”

Some of the almost-fear left Danielle’s face and she smiled. “This is where you tell me you’re a genie, right?” When he stared, she made a show of zipping her lips shut. “My bad.”

It had nothing to do with breaking her. He wasn’t the type to enjoy that sort of thing, but Grayson wanted her submission, had craved her submission from the first time he recognized what she might come to mean to him. He dropped his hand to bracket her throat, squeezing just a little to see if it scared her. When her eyes dropped to half mast and a sigh slipped free, he knew he had her.

The doors opened on the executive floor—his floor. There wasn’t much up here except for his office and the offices of his top three employees, all with their own assistant. All of whom were downstairs enjoying the costume party, which suited him just fine since he fully intended on enjoying his office.

Danielle snapped a jaunty salute. “Permission to speak, sir?”

“Now you’re just being cheeky.” But he liked it. He enjoyed this back-and-forth as much as he had the rest of it. As much as he liked the give-and-take of power, he could also visualize lazy Sunday mornings with her, laughing and making love and breakfast in bed.

Christ, he wanted that easily as much as he wanted her on her knees.

“Who, me?”

Grayson managed to keep a straight face, but just barely. “Speak.”

“Who the hell did you sleep with to get access to the executive floor?”

He’d forgotten for a moment that she didn’t know the truth. Grayson tried to decide the best way to approach this, but Danielle kept right on speaking. “Because, seriously, this is somewhere my dad would be comfortable spending time. And by time, I mean every second of every day. The people who work up here are probably more married to their jobs than any family they have on the side.” She shuddered.

Considering the tumultuous relationship she had with her father, it wasn’t exactly the most flattering of comparisons. The truth hit him like a sucker punch to the stomach—if he told her who he was now, she wouldn’t stick around to hear him out, not when she’d already acted as judge and jury to the people who held these offices. She’d take off because it was a knee-jerk reaction, and it wouldn’t matter that they’d spent hours upon hours talking or that a single kiss had him harder than he could ever remember being in his life. She’d still leave.

Unless he gave her a reason to stay.

Then he’d damn well give her a reason to stay. If he could prove to her beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were so well matched, she’d have to pause long enough to see reason. Tonight was his opportunity to do that. So Grayson gave her his most charming smile. “Mail guy, remember? I get into all the best places.”

“Oh yeah. Duh.” Some of the suspicion left her face, and she licked her lips. “So are we going to be very, very bad?”

His grin widened. “Sweetheart, we haven’t even gotten started yet.” Grayson yanked her against him and kissed her mercilessly, his tongue stroking hers, and then out of reach before she could respond in kind, again and again, until she melted against him.

Only then did he set her on her feet and take a step back. “Come on.”

This time the look on her face didn’t fade as they made their way into his office. He flipped on the perimeter lights, leaving the harsher overheads off. When he turned around, it was to find her watching him with a strange look on her face. “Yes?”

“It’s nothing. Just with the shadows and you in that costume… You really do remind me of the Phantom.” She glanced away, and then back, a slow grin pulling at the edges of her mouth. “Want to know a secret?”

“Tell me.”

“I always kind of had a thing for him. The tortured loner with a devious streak a mile wide—Phantom is my kind of fellow.” She frowned. “Except for the whole not-being-able-to-get-it-up thing. That was kind of a buzzkill.”

Grayson crossed to her and pressed her hand against the length of his cock that was pretty damn apparent through his pants. “Does it feel like I share the same problem?”

“Uh… Not so much.” Danielle leaned back against the desk, idly stroking him. “So, what’s the plan, Stan?”

As difficult as it was to walk away from the feeling of her hand on his cock, he did. He circled the desk and sank into the chair on the other side. “Strip.”





Chapter Four

Danielle blinked, sure she’d heard him wrong. “Uh, what?”

He made a motion with his finger. “Strip.”

With him sitting behind the desk, almost completely in shadow, the only thing that stood out was the brilliant white of the half mask on his face. He could be anyone, a complete stranger.

Except this was Grayson. The same man she’d confessed to about her up-and-down relationship with her father, who in turn told her about how rough things had been for him growing up with parents who were never around—the same man who’d made her wetter than she could ever remember being with only a kiss and a sharply worded command.

He sat in silence, not pushing her, but not giving any leeway either. He wanted her to strip? She could do that. Danielle tossed her hair over her shoulder and unbuckled her belt. Before she could drop it on the ground next to her, he lifted his hand. “Put that on the desk.”

Her gaze landed on the whip and she wondered if maybe she should just call the whole thing off. The thought coasted away under a wave of sheer desire when he tilted his head and she caught the glint of his eyes behind the mask. No one had ever looked at her like that before, as if she were owned. Plenty of men had wanted to possess her, had tried to make her theirs, but Grayson was the only one to walk in and just assume control. He’d done it to a lesser extent up to this point—as much as afternoons in a coffee shop would allow—but this was something else altogether. As if everything were already decided and it was just a matter of things falling into place.

She was so turned on she could barely think straight. Moving slowly, mostly to assure herself she wasn’t a total lost cause, she unzipped the front of the catsuit. It was so tight, there wasn’t exactly room for more than a G-string, so her breasts practically popped out of the thing once she got to the bottom of the zipper.

She was able to peel out of it without looking like a damn fool, but that was due to a whole lot of practice and some well-placed baby powder. As she stepped out of the suit, left in only her sad excuse for panties, she waited for him to say something, do something, have some sort of reaction to the sight of her naked.

He gave her nothing.

Perversely, it just made her want to perform further. She turned a slow circle, putting a little wiggle in her hips. Still nothing. Danielle propped her hands on her hips. “Well?”

“The panties.”

Shit, he really wasn’t giving an inch. Danielle toyed with the top of her panties, dipping her finger in, all too aware of how exposed she was. The satiny feel of the fabric against her heated skin nearly drove her to the edge. This was insane. Grayson shouldn’t be able to get her this hot without even touching her. Except he’d already done it countless times before, hadn’t he? This was just the payoff.

And what a payoff it was.

“The panties, Danielle.”

There was no denying the command, and she didn’t want to. She slid her panties over her hips and dropped them to the floor. A quick sidestep and she was completely naked. For all that she’d been with people before this and wasn’t particularly shy, she’d never actually stripped for a man up to this point. Not to mention stripped in such a way that gave him all the power and her none. Her body felt as if it’d been hooked up to a battery, nerves vibrating as she wondered what would come next. Her nipples were hard peaks, giving him a visual indicator of her desire. If he decided to come closer, he’d get a whole list of others. She raised her eyebrows, silently challenging him to keep going.

“Bend over the desk, legs shoulder-width apart.”

Her breath stuttered in her lungs as she obeyed, this feeling so much more vulnerable than the striptease had made her. When she heard him move, she started to look up, but his voice stopped her. “Forehead to the desk, please.”

Against all reason, that “please” made her knees buckle, though she caught herself before she made a complete spectacle of herself by collapsing to the floor.

She could stop this right now. All she had to do was stand up, tell him she was done with his little power games, and kiss him again. She didn’t think Grayson would turn her away if she didn’t play by his rules… The thing was that she wanted to play by his rules. Which meant she needed to trust him to take the lead.

Did she trust him?

Yes. The answer came from someplace inside her that was deeper than reason. It was an instinctive need to give him everything and, though it terrified her more than a little, she couldn’t quite touch her fear. Not while in the same room with him circling behind her and making her feel safe even as he put her on edge. It didn’t make sense, but there was no denying the truth. She trusted him.

Danielle laid her head against the desk, giving herself over to him. There were few positions so vulnerable as the one she was in right now. He could do anything he wanted to her and she’d never see it coming.

The thought made her shiver.

“Do you know how many times I’ve imagined this?” He stroked a hand down her spine, making her gasp. It dawned on her that she was naked and bent over the CEO’s desk while the mail guy touched her. Wrong did not even begin to cover this situation. So the next time he touched her back, she arched into it. Who cared if someone could walk in? She was so damn close to orgasming, and he’d barely done anything yet.

“I asked you a question.”

He had, hadn’t he? Danielle cleared her throat, a smart remark on the tip of her tongue. At last moment she pulled it back. This felt too real, too raw, for her to belittle with a joke, so she went with the honest response. “As many times as I have?”

Grayson hissed out a breath. “You’ve thought about this.” He cupped her ass, then slid his hands down the inside of her thighs, spreading them farther.

It wasn’t quite a question, but she answered anyway. “Yes.”

“Tell me.”

Tell him? Actually admit to all of the times she’d lain in the dark and touched herself while thinking of him? She could do this. She wanted to do this. This was Grayson. She was safe with him.

She licked her lips. “I’ve thought about how many places in this goddamn building there are to have illicit sex.”

“Those are not the details I’m looking for and you know it.” He ran his hands down her legs and then back up again, thumb dragging dangerously close to where she desperately needed him to be. “You’ve thought about me touching you. Where?”

Obviously he wasn’t going to give her an inch. She closed her eyes, sparks from his fingers spreading over her skin. “I’ve imagined you sliding your hand up my skirt and fingering me, right at the table in the coffee shop.”

“Apparently I’ve missed several opportunities.”

Her huffed laugh turned into a strangled sound when he cupped her. It wasn’t enough to send her over the edge, but the possessive gesture brought out another shiver. “Please.”

“Not yet. How would have things progressed from there?”

From him banging her with his fingers? God, she didn’t know. In the past, all she’d had to think about was the look in his eyes and his hands on her and she’d come. If she hadn’t… How would she have wanted things to go from there? “After you made me come?”

“Who said I’d let you finish?” While he kept one hand between her legs, he stroked up her spine with the other.

Oh. Well, damn. “Maybe I’d come too fast for you to tell me not to.”

He gripped the back of her neck, not hard enough to hurt, but hard enough to communicate just how in his power she was. Danielle tried to rock against his hand, so his fingers touched her clit, but he immediately removed it. “Ah, ah. Not so fast.”

God, he was going to play with her. She wasn’t sure if she hated or loved him for it. Desperate, she kept talking, “I’d drag you into the nearest empty room, shove your ass to the floor, and jump your bones.”

She wasn’t aware he moved until his breath brushed the small of her back. “That’s not how it’d happen.”

Really? Because she was pretty sure she was about to happen. If only he’d touch her. “Grayson—”

“Do you want to know how things would have gone in reality?”

“They’re happening in reality right now.”

He slapped her ass, making her gasp. “The reality is I would have ripped off your panties and pinned you down as I licked your pussy until you begged me to fuck you.” Grayson kissed the small of her back. “Find something to hang on to.”

“What—” The only warning she got was his hand leaving her neck and half a second later his shoulders pushed her legs wider. Danielle bit her lip, barely daring to breathe for fear it would stop him from doing what he so obviously intended. He licked her as if savoring her taste, and made a sound in the back of his throat. As he stroked her again, she grabbed the edge of the desk, gritting her teeth in an effort to keep from moving her hips against him. No way in hell would she do something to risk him stopping.

When he sucked her clit into his mouth and rolled his tongue around the sensitive nub, she couldn’t hold back a moan any longer. “Grayson.”

She almost cried out when he moved back, desperate for him to keep going, but he shoved two fingers into her. “How close are you, love?”

Love? But she didn’t have the mental capacity to question the endearment as he kept fucking her with his fingers. Had he just asked her something? God, why couldn’t she put two words together? She’d never had this problem during sex before. “Close.”

“Come for me.” Then his mouth returned, his tongue lazily swirling around her clit.

Danielle dug her fingers into the wood of the desk, hanging on for dear life as pressure built, all centered on what he was doing to her. She rocked against his mouth, not caring about anything but the completion that danced just beyond her reach. Then he shoved a third finger into her and she screamed as her orgasm sucked her under. While shudders racked her body, Grayson gentled his touches and pulled away.

She managed a laugh even as her knees shook. “How’s that for reality?”

“I’m just getting started.” He ran his hand up her spine again. When she tried to rise—since Danielle was the only one who’d finished, she had every intention of returning the oral favor—he stopped her with his grip on her neck again. “Wrists, please.”

“But—”

“Wrists, please.” Once again, he waited until she complied instead of trying to force her. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him to position her how he wanted—and she would have loved every second of it. By forcing her to decide to do it, in a way he was putting the control solely with her.

Who would have thought she’d feel most in control when submitting?

As leather of her utility belt wrapped around them, heat shot through her. Even as he tightened the belt, forcing her arms behind her, she marveled that this was Grayson. Who knew the man would be able to make her come harder than she had with any other guy? How was she supposed to get over something like that?

The terrible thought surfaced and no matter how she tried to shove it away, she couldn’t. She must have tensed up, because he stopped rubbing her arms. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Grayson sighed. “I’d like to think I’m a man of reasonable intelligence. So let’s try that again. What’s wrong?”

If any other man had asked her that, she would have demurred. Or maybe gotten pissed and started a fight about something else altogether. But this wasn’t just some guy, no matter what she’d told Chelsea. “I don’t want things to change. Between us.”

And that was the crux of the matter. The fear that had her turning down his previous date requests, and that almost made her go home alone earlier. Danielle didn’t make a habit of hooking up and not sticking around long enough for messy emotions and complications to arise. Oh, she’d dated on and off since high school, but nothing serious. Hooking up was a completely different thing, though. She wasn’t an idiot any more than Grayson was. She knew sex was sex, and emotions rarely showed up. Real life wasn’t a story from her secret stash of romance novels—if they had sex it was entirely possible she’d fuck up their friendship beyond belief.

The thought of never sitting across a coffee shop table from him again made her want to cry.

His comforting hands on her arms tightened briefly. “Why would things change?”

It was such a guy question she almost laughed. Once again, the temptation arose to just brush this whole conversation off, but she didn’t think he’d let her get away with it anymore the second time than she had the first. “Because sex always changes things.”

…

Grayson couldn’t argue with her—sex did change everything—but he didn’t think now was the time to tell her that had been the plan all along. He thoroughly enjoyed every minute he’d spent with her to the point where his weeks had become a countdown to when he’d see her next. And he wanted more. More time. More talks. More of this.

She created such a breathtaking picture, naked except for her heels, bent over his desk with her utility belt binding her arms behind her back. When Danielle had stripped out of her catsuit, a challenge in her dark eyes, it had been everything he could do not to drag her over the desk and into his lap to finish this right then and there.

But they only got a first time once, and he’d be damned before he fucked it up.

He kissed the spot between her shoulder blades. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Who said I was talking about you being the one to play least-in-sight?”

Under no circumstances would he sit back and watch her walk away, but Grayson fought back the instinctive need to tell her so. He knew enough of her relationship with her father to know she wouldn’t respond well to him telling her how to live her life. If he tried to push her into something, her knee-jerk reaction would be to leave, even if she actually wanted to stay. So he had to make her want to stay.

He used her arms to leverage her up until she stood straight. In her heels, her neck was within easy reach and far too tempting to pass up. He ran his tongue over the top of her spine, surprised yet again by how much he craved the taste of her. Everything about this woman got to him on a bone-deep level. “Do you want to walk away?”

“No.”

Relief made him want to wrap her up and never let her go. It wasn’t until she said the words that he acknowledged that he had held the same fear that tonight would ruin everything. It didn’t matter how well he planned out things, or how carefully he played them, she could have easily taken what he gave and then told him she never wanted to see him again. He would have tried to change her mind and, if it didn’t work, he’d have mourned the loss of her presence in his life. As much as he wanted her—needed her—in his life, he wasn’t the type of man to try to force her hand when it came to staying. That she wanted to stay was more a relief than he cared to think about.

“Grayson?”

Get a hold of yourself, man. Now isn’t the time for this conversation. “We want the same thing, so let’s stop worrying about it.” He cupped her breasts and feathered his thumbs over her nipples.

“Mmm. Okay.” She arched against him, leaning her head against his shoulder. “But if we’re going to stop talking, maybe we should get on with the fucking.”

He laughed. “Yes, let’s.”

When he moved back, she turned toward him. The expression on her face stopped the command he’d been about to voice. She kept her eyes downcast, but there was no mistaking the need there—or the stubborn set of her chin. “I have a request.”

How very careful she was being, playing the game he’d started when they walked in here. “Yes?”

She seemed to force herself to meet his gaze. “I want to suck your cock while you sit in the boss’s chair.”

He hardened to a near-painful degree. As many times as he’d sat in this very office and imagined Danielle naked and in countless positions, that was one particular experience he’d been damn near obsessed with. Though it hadn’t been something he’d planned to demand—not this time—he didn’t have the willpower to turn her down.

Not when he wanted her so much.

He undid his cloak and dropped it near her pile of clothes. His shirt followed quickly after. When he reached for his belt buckle, she made a protesting noise. “Leave them on.”

How quickly the tables turned, though one could argue he was still in charge considering she was bound. Grayson suddenly didn’t care. He undid his buckle and freed himself, dropped into the office chair, and waited while she knelt between his knees. Having her here like this was almost too good to be true. He closed his eyes for a long moment, barely resisting the urge to pinch himself. Because this was real. He was in his office with Danielle—the woman he’d been unable to get out of his mind since they met—naked and on her knees in front of him.

He opened his eyes in time to see her take his cock into her mouth.

She moved slowly, humming a little in the back of her throat. As she licked her way down to his base, he took fistfuls of her hair, though he couldn’t have said in that moment if it was to control her movements or to keep it free of her face so he could see what she was doing to him. Her lips were brilliant red, even in the low light, and watching them slide down his cock was nearly enough to send him over the edge.

He held on to his orgasm through sheer force of will, refusing to let go until she’d done the same at least once more. If there were anything more captivating than this woman in the midst of an orgasm, he had yet to lay eyes on it.

As if sensing his faltering control, Danielle picked up her pace, taking him so deeply he bumped the back of her throat. Three strokes of that and he knew he wouldn’t last a fourth.

Grayson drew her off him and leaned forward to kiss her. When she tried to go for his cock again, he braced her throat with one hand while keeping a hold of her hair with the other. “Not so fast.”

“No fair.” She leaned forward, pressing her throat more firmly against his hand as if relishing the contact. “You finished me off.”

“No one said anything about being fair.” He maneuvered her up until she was standing in front of him. Though the temptation to keep her like this rose, he wasn’t sure she’d be able to avoid falling. He’d catch her—no way was he letting her get hurt—but the threat of falling might prevent her from giving herself over completely.

No fucking way was she holding back.

He pushed her back onto his desk and yanked off her shoes. “You aren’t going to need these.” Positioning her heels on the edge of the desk opened her to him completely. Grayson sat back and ran his hand over his mouth. He tried to breathe through his need to kiss her everywhere, touch her everywhere, fuck her right this very second.

He’d never be able to sit here again without seeing this mental picture.

With that in mind, he allowed himself a smile as he dragged a finger over her pussy. “You’re wet, love.”

“Yeah, well, an orgasm will do that to a girl.”

He pushed a finger into her, using his free hand to hold her hips in place when she tried to rock against him. “It wouldn’t be that you enjoy sucking me off, would it?”

“That’s just ridiculous.” Her eyes drifted closed as he used his middle finger to circle her clit.

He chuckled. “My mistake.”

“Yep. Make sure you don’t make it again.”

“Most definitely.” He slid his hands under her ass and lifted her as he leaned over to lick her again. Her back bowed as he licked and nibbled his way down from her clit and back again. Though he could spend all night tasting her, that wasn’t part of this night’s plans.

Reluctantly, he lifted his head, once again debating throwing the damn plan out the window. The night was young, and there was plenty of time left to take this to the next level while still allowing himself an hour or two of driving her wild with his mouth.

Danielle cursed, interrupting his thoughts. “You’re killing me, Smalls.”

Which was the plan, though he had to laugh that she was quoting nineties movies while in this position. “God forbid.” He leaned back and lifted her to drape her legs over the arms of the chair. At the last minute, he remembered the condom. With a curse of his own, he yanked a packet out of the top drawer and ripped it open.

“Whoa. Boss man is a dirty birdy.” She frowned. “How the hell did you know he had a stash?”

“Mail guy, remember? I know all the employees’ dirty secrets.” The lie turned his stomach, but he couldn’t exactly tell her the truth until he’d proven how good they were for each other. Before he could think about how pathetic that excuse sounded, even to him, he rolled the condom on.

“Remind me not to let you look through my mail.” Her laugh was cut short as he pulled her down onto his cock, sheathing himself to the hilt. She arched against him, but with her hands bound and her legs in their position, she was helpless to do much more.

Grayson took full advantage of that, trapping her against him with his arm across the small of her back and wrapping his fist around her hair. He kissed her even as he ground against her, his tongue lashing hers.

She pulled away with a gasp. “Grayson, please. Please let me touch you.”

Part of him wanted to deny her, to keep her helpless until he drove her out of her mind with pleasure. But the need to have her hands on him rose, so strong it was as if his very skin cried out for it. This had never been a problem before—when he’d been with other women, he’d had no problem keeping them tied until they were both exhausted—but things felt different with Danielle. Yes, he enjoyed dominating her, but he craved her touch on a level that would have scared him if not for the fact that he was buried inside her at the moment.

He reached around her and undid the belt, giving in to that need for the first time he could remember.

Immediately she ran her hands up his sides and pulled him into another kiss. Though it was just as deep and desperate before, something shifted in his chest, falling into place. It was right with this woman. Everything was right with this woman.

Grayson slid out of the chair and down onto to the floor, careful not to dislodge her. The carpet was cool against his back, a direct counterpoint to her wet heat wrapped around his cock. She rose above him with a grin, lightly raking her nails down his chest. “Control freak on his back?”

She had no idea how close to the truth she’d hit. The fact that he let her out of her bonds felt like a huge step, let alone this. “Only for you.”

The moment stretched on, and a thousand words he couldn’t say created a silence he couldn’t break. Not in this moment. Not tonight. Soon, though. Danielle ducked her head, her hair temporarily shielding her face from view. She started riding his cock, her slow movements changing the entire tone of the encounter. The need didn’t dissipate, but the softer emotion inside him threatened to take hold and never leave.

So be it.

He pulled her down, kissing her even as he used his grip on her hips to keep her decadent rhythm. The feeling of so much skin sliding against his as she rode him nearly sent him over the edge. He existed on a precipice, riding it as if there were no danger of falling. As if he could continue on like this forever.

All too soon, her rhythm became choppy, but he kept her going as she came, her whispering his name quite possibly the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard. Then and only then did he give in, pounding into her as he lost control. She clutched his shoulders as his fingers dug into her ass, sealing them together as his hips came off the floor. His vision actually blacked out for a second while he relearned how to breathe.

Fuck, that was intense.

Grayson kissed her again, a slow playing of his tongue against hers, half considering keeping this up until he was ready to go another round, until Danielle slid off him with a laugh. “Slow your roll, cowboy. I need a breather—and probably a shower—before you start getting me all riled up again.”

“Come home with me.” He spoke without really considering the implications. If she came home with him, he’d have to answer all sorts of uncomfortable questions—namely how a mail guy could afford a penthouse down on Vine Street.

He had to tell her the truth, even though the prospect worried him far more than it had at the beginning of the night. Before, he’d known he enjoyed spending time with her and that he didn’t want to lose that small thing they had together. Now… Now he’d been given a taste of what being with Danielle really meant. She was the full package—and he still wasn’t sure how she’d react to finding out his true identity. He’d like to think she’d forgive him for the lie, but he wasn’t sure. And, because he wasn’t sure, he couldn’t force himself to open his mouth and ruin what was turning out to be a perfect night.

She solved the dilemma for him. “Why don’t you come to my place? I’m only about three blocks from here.”

Avoid any potential problems and get a chance to see her in her comfort zone? He jumped at the chance. “I’d like that.”

She smiled. “Me, too.”





Chapter Five

It wasn’t really as simple as saying, “Come home with me.” Danielle eyed her catsuit—getting back into it was going to be a bitch. Somehow she was going to have to make it look like she hadn’t just been having the best sex of her life before walking out of here.

There had to be a back door somewhere.

Grayson came to the rescue. “Why don’t you wrap up in this? It should do for three blocks.” He set his cloak over her shoulders and the fabric slid sensuously over her skin despite the weight of it.

She closed her eyes and inhaled, loving that she caught the barest whiff of his cologne. Up until tonight, Danielle hadn’t been willing to act like a creeper and risk getting caught sniffing him or his clothes. Now everything was different.

Once again, a faint fear that everything would be ruined as a result of tonight rose, but she ignored it. She wasn’t going to worry about something that might never happen. He’d said nothing would change, and she had to take him at his word. Determined to outrun the doubts in her mind, she yanked on her panties and then slipped on her shoes. The cloak would have to be enough to get her home.

While she was brooding, he’d fixed his pants and put his shirt back on. He picked up her suit and folded it far more neatly than she would have been able to. “Ready?”

Taking his hand felt like a way bigger step than it should have. It was just sex. Sure, sex with someone she’d come to consider more than a friend, but it wasn’t like she’d gone and professed her undying love or something. Danielle’s chest twinged at the thought and she used the excuse of holding the cloak in place around her to slip her hand free of Grayson’s.

She cared about him, knew she cared about him. There was no shame in admitting that. Grayson was unlike any man she’d ever met and, as much as she’d run her mouth with Chelsea, there was a whole lot more to this thing than wanting to bang the gorgeous mail guy. But how much more? That was the question, wasn’t it?

“What are you thinking about so intently over there?”

It was a question he’d asked her often enough over their coffee dates. The fact that she felt comfortable enough with him to space out instead of prattling on was something she’d never been willing to examine too closely. Danielle opened her mouth to say “Nothing” but then reconsidered. Why not be honest? Worst case, he’d make some excuses and go home alone, and she’d know now that he’d lied when he said things wouldn’t change.

That didn’t sound like a great option. But what was the alternative? To spend more time in this delicious limbo and then get kicked in the teeth with the truth later on? No, it was better to know now.

“I like having coffee with you.”

He frowned. “I like having coffee with you, too.”

“I really don’t want to lose that.” She felt like she was beating a dead horse. Hadn’t they just had this conversation? He said nothing would change, and she should probably just take him at his word instead of questioning him like she was some insecure twit.

“Why would you lose it?”

“We talked about this. Sex changes everything.”

“Of course it will change things. Nothing stays the same.” He shook his head. “Would you like to have breakfast with me tomorrow, Danielle?”

What the hell? “Well, I hadn’t planned on kicking you out of my apartment before you were dressed and fed.”

“While that’s good to know, it’s not what I meant.”

The pieces clicked into place and her jaw dropped. “Are you asking me out?”

“Don’t look surprised. This isn’t the first time.” He paused. “Are you finally saying yes?”

Was she? As terrified as she was of losing her coffee dates with Grayson, she wasn’t sure how she felt about an actual date. That was almost scarier than losing everything. It was why she kept turning him down—she didn’t want to rock the boat. Why mess with a good thing, right?

She gripped the cloak with white-knuckled hands and then frowned. What the hell was she bitching about? He wanted to date her. She had a blast spending time with him, and the sex was off the charts. Why not try to date him for real? “I’m considering it.”

He led the way to the elevator, his silence turning into something much less comfortable. She took in the tightness around his jaw and how stiffly he held his shoulders. Great, now she’d gone and stepped in it. As usual. “Why are you pissed now?”

“You have to be the most gun-shy woman I’ve ever met.”

It’s something she never would have called herself. Brazen? Sure. Out there? Oh yeah. Gun-shy? Not so much. “You’re mad because I have yet to fall all over myself to say yes to dating you?”

“When you say it like that, you make it sound ridiculous.” And he didn’t sound any less pissed.

They stepped into the elevator, and Danielle clutched the cloak more firmly around her. “The sex makes this different. You know this, and I know this. So excuse me for being a little cautious.”

“You wouldn’t know cautious if it bit you in the ass.”

She jerked back, stung. That sounded exactly like something her father would say. No. Grayson isn’t anything like him. She needed to stop reacting without thinking and calm down. Just because he had sounded pretty damn superior there for a second didn’t mean a damn thing. This was the man who’d held her hand and comforted her after the last time Dad went off the rails at her. The guy who listened to her hopes and dreams and encouraged her when she hadn’t had the courage to tell anyone else in her life about it. He wanted her exactly how she was—he wasn’t trying to change her.

And she wasn’t a little girl anymore, so desperate for approval and only receiving a verbal slap-down for her trouble. She took a deep breath. “Maybe not, but I’m also not an idiot. I said I’d consider a date, and I will. So stop pushing.”

“I think you like it when I push.” He didn’t move, but he suddenly seemed a whole lot closer. He reached out and ran his fingers through the ends of her hair, not pulling or trying to maneuver her—just touching her with a propriety that made her weak in the knees.

Who knew the daughter of General Kastien would have a submissive streak?

A shrink would probably have a field day with the revelation.

She watched as he moved his hands, nearly as dark as her hair, up to her chest, parting the cloak so he could touch her bare skin. “What do you think, Danielle? Do you like it when I push?”

In some ways, hell yeah. Having him order her around in the office had gotten her nearly as hot as his touch did, but she wasn’t sure she liked the idea of giving him control outside the bedroom. She looked up into his brown eyes, and the words felt as if they were being dragged out of her mouth. “Sometimes.”

“Would you like me to back off?”

She licked her lips. “No.”

“No?”

“No, I don’t want you to back off.” In reality, she wanted him to shove her against the wall and fuck her right here, but the falling numbers were a reminder of how little time they had right now. Sure, they could pull the emergency stop lever, but that would draw attention, and she really didn’t want to lose her job over a handful of orgasms.

Even if they were earth-shattering-forget-your-own-name orgasms.

“Good.” He hauled her against him, taking her mouth as if he owned her.

As Danielle wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned into him, she wasn’t sure he didn’t.

…

He had to tell her the truth. He knew he did. But as they climbed the stairs to her apartment and she let them in, he couldn’t find the right words. There had to be a better way than just blurting it out.

Grayson stopped inside the door as she flitted about the room, turning on lights in her wake. From their conversations, he knew she had a roommate, and the clash in styles was easy to pick out. The classic beige three-piece sofa set surely wasn’t Danielle’s, but the brilliantly colored knit blankets laid haphazardly on them were. So were the shoes tossed into a pile near the front door, along with the case of energy drinks on top of the fridge. She didn’t like coffee—for all that they met in the coffee shop—but she drained those Monster things as if they were the best invention ever created.

They’d long ago agreed to disagree there.

While he was musing, she opened one of the doors. “Give me a second to get into something a little less cloak-and-dagger.”

“Stop.”

He loved how she instinctively responded to his commands. His pleasure was made even better by the fact that he knew she got off on it as much as he did—possibly more. Grayson motioned. “Come here.” When she took a step, he held up a hand. “Leave the cloak there.”

Though she sighed as she dropped it, there was no hiding the way her nipples pebbled or the flush rising beneath her skin. Her breasts bounced as she walked toward him, and he appreciated the way her hips swung, though he still wasn’t sure if she did it on purpose or not. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was the fact that there wasn’t a single thing about this woman that he found wanting. He valued her opinion, and her sharp wit, and the way she made him laugh even when he’d had a hellish morning.

As he’d told her earlier, he wanted more than the little slices of time their coffee dates had offered.

Grayson smoothed her hair back and framed her face with his hands. “Will your roommate be home tonight?”

“Nope.”

“Good.” He kissed her forehead. “Let’s watch a movie.”

“What?”

He laughed. “A movie. Lady’s choice.”

“Uh-huh.” She propped her hands on her hips. “I don’t suppose you’re going to let me get dressed first, are you?”

“Not likely.” He had no intention of watching a movie, either, but Grayson loved being able to keep her off guard like this. He dropped onto the L-shaped sofa and watched her dig through the shelf of DVDs. Her ass was right at eye level and he was almost 100 percent sure she’d done that on purpose. If so, he definitely appreciated her ability to tease, even if he had to grip the end of the couch cushion in order to keep from reaching for her. She grabbed a film and popped it in before heading toward him.

Danielle turned off most of the lights and stopped next to the couch, a small frown on her face. He took the choice of where to sit away when he hooked an arm around her waist and yanked her into his lap. “There.”

“Ass.” She wiggled into a more comfortable position, all the shifting making his cock jump to attention. He looped an arm under her shoulders and moved her up so she could lean against the pillows on one side of him and stretch her legs out on the other side.

As the movie started, he was unsurprised to recognize The Goonies. Of course she’d pick that after quoting The Sandlot to him while naked and spread out on his desk. “Nice.”

“I happen to have excellent taste in movies, among other things.”

“I believe that goes without saying.” He waited for her to relax, enjoying the freedom of having her naked in his arms. This, even more than the sex, was something he craved. It had been so long since he actually dated someone for enough time to facilitate the casual touches so many people took for granted. Grayson had found that, as much as the last few women he dated had wanted him, they didn’t have much use for him outside of his bedroom and credit cards. His most recent ex never would have been caught dead cuddling on the couch, and that was part of the reason they were no longer together—along with the fact that she charged eight grand on his Amex card in a single day.

Somehow, he knew he’d never have to worry about that kind of thing with Danielle. As if sensing him watching her, she glanced over and mock-glared. “Eyes forward, sir.”

“I like my eyes where they are.” To prove his point, he slid his hand up the inside of her thigh.

“You are a bad, bad man to interrupt this movie. For shame.” But she spread her thighs a little to give him better access.

“I’m a shameful kind of guy.” And then he pushed a finger into her.

…

Grayson worked her with his fingers, rubbing over that spot guaranteed to make her lose her mind. They’d only been together tonight, and it was like he knew Danielle’s body better than her single long-term boyfriend ever had. Every time he touched her, she lost a little more height from the walls surrounding her heart.

If she were going to be honest, he’d started doing that before he ever laid a hand on her. She clung to him and closed her eyes, not ready to deal with what the look on his face meant.

Of course, he wouldn’t even let her have that. “Open your eyes.”

God, why did he have to look at her as if she were the most priceless thing in the world—as if she were all his?

Her orgasm loomed as he played with her, just out of reach. She tried to tilt her hips so his wrist would press against her clit, but Grayson easily held her in place. “Tell me something.”

She was about to come, and he wanted to talk? What the hell was wrong with this guy? She gasped a little when he twisted his hand. “What?”

“What’s holding you back from agreeing to date me?”

It was official—this man was insane. No one else would be bothering with a relationship talk while banging her until she was nearly out of her mind with pleasure. Then again, maybe it was all part of his plan. It was pretty genius, now that she thought about it. “Grayson…”

He withdrew his fingers and circled her clit. “Answer the question.”

What the hell did he want her to say? There wasn’t any reason for her not to date him, especially if she could look forward to this kind of treatment on the regular. Combined with how well they meshed on a nonsexual level, Grayson was pretty much the perfect guy.

So why fight it?

“I don’t know.”

He plunged two fingers, and then three, inside her, watching her face the entire time. “Then why not?”

She didn’t know. Danielle’s breath hissed out when he leaned down to suck on her nipple, putting the slightest of pressure on it with his teeth to make her head fall back. Since his hold still kept her from moving, she dug her nails into his shoulders, fighting not to lose herself. “What? You want me to be your girlfriend or something?”

“That’s exactly what I want.” He moved to the other nipple. “But first I want you to come for me.”

As if her body had been waiting for her permission, the pressure inside her wound to a near-painful degree. Then Grayson cupped her, his palm sliding against her clit in rhythm with the thrust of his fingers, and it was all too much. She buried her face against his shoulder and sobbed his name as she came.

It felt as if every bone in her body turned to liquid, so she didn’t protest when he lifted her off the couch. “Bedroom?”

Danielle motioned vaguely toward her room and laid her head on his shoulder. God, this man was something else. What was she supposed to do with him?

Date him, you idiot. Oh yeah, that.

He laid her down in the middle of her bed—which was simple since she’d shoved all her covers and comforter off this morning in her sleep and never gotten around to putting them back—and stripped. After rolling on a condom he pulled from his pants pocket, he stretched out on top of her. Even though she’d had more orgasms tonight than she’d managed in a week with her idiot exes, she couldn’t help arching against him.

Grayson kissed her neck. “Your room is a mess.”

“Are you seriously complaining right now? You have a naked woman wrapped around you.”

“Mmmm.” He repositioned and shoved into her. “And she’s wet for me.”

Every word that came out of his mouth felt like a brand digging into her heart. Please, please, please don’t let this all be an act to get laid. She kissed him, the feel of his tongue sliding lazily along hers silencing her doubts like little else could. He slid his arms beneath her back, cradling her even as he ground against her. She wrapped her legs around his waist and fell into rhythm with him, while he murmured in her ear, “Tonight you’re mine, Danielle.”

How could she deny it? She’d done everything he’d asked of her—and more—and loved every second of it. “Yes.”

He kissed her neck again, setting his teeth against her skin. “I’m never letting you go.” Then he shifted, lifting her legs and spreading them until she was completely helpless as he drove into her. All she could do was cling to him as she was swept away yet again. He went completely rigid as he came, his arms a cage around her she never wanted to escape.

God. She was so in over her head it wasn’t even funny.

For the first time, she let herself consider if that was really a bad thing. As he rolled off her and tucked her against his side, she couldn’t think of a damn reason why she shouldn’t date him. “Yes.”

“Hmmm?”

This was her last chance to back out. Grayson wasn’t exactly the type of man to throw himself at the feet of a woman he enjoyed just because he wanted her. No, he’d stand back with that imperious tilt of his head and motion her forward like a king holding court.

But she didn’t want to back out. She swallowed hard, trying to regulate her breathing—which was pretty damn tough considering what they’d just been doing. “Yes, I’ll be your girlfriend.”

He pulled her to him, holding her so tightly she half wondered if he thought she was going to take it back and run naked from the room. When he didn’t show any signs of letting go, she smacked his chest. “Can’t breathe!”

“Sorry.”

“Liar.” She wiggled up to press a kiss against his jaw. “I know you mentioned breakfast, but can we skip that and do brunch instead?”

“Brunch?”

“It’s this meal between lunch and—”

He laughed. “I’m aware of what brunch is.”

“I’m not a big fan of the whole morning thing—especially after the night we’ve had. So let’s skip getting up early and just mosey on over to my favorite diner at a reasonable hour—like noon.”

“I think we can manage that.”

“So glad we’re in agreement.”

Grayson reached over the side of the bed and grabbed the comforter to cover them. “How do you feel about Hawaii?”

“Never been there.” It was one of the few states she hadn’t managed to visit while moving near-constantly with her father. The longest they’d stayed in one place was in Texas, and that had been barely two years. It wasn’t the normal military brat’s existence but, as Dad was so fond of saying, they weren’t normal people. They were Kastiens.

“I have a trip planned next week. You should come with me.”

She lifted her head and frowned at him. “Honey, that’s all well and good, but I don’t exactly have a few grand lying around that I can blow on a last-minute trip to Hawaii.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“No, thanks.” She frowned harder. She wasn’t going to let him throw away his entire savings or something for her. “Unless being a mail guy for Mr. Harper pays a whole lot more than anywhere else in the city, there’s no way you can afford that.”

A look passed over his face, gone so quickly she was half-sure she imagined it. What the hell did he have to be guilty about? Danielle shook her head, shoving it from her mind. It had been a long night and she was dead tired. There was no use making mountains out of molehills. She yawned so widely that her jaw cracked.

Grayson smoothed her hair back again. “I think it’s time for some sleep.”

She couldn’t argue there. “Definitely.”

“And tomorrow, we’ll grab some brunch.”

She fell asleep in his arms, wondering how she could have been so lucky to end up with this man. Maybe her love life was finally actually working out.





Chapter Six

Danielle woke to the smell of bacon. She smiled and rolled over, deciding today was off to a brilliant start. Not only did Grayson give her mad orgasms and want to date her, but he cooked, too.

She definitely won the boyfriend jackpot.

Boyfriend. She wasn’t sure how she felt about throwing a label on this thing so early in the game, but the more she thought about it, the more she wondered if it was her personal problems getting in the way. She’d be the first to admit that she had Daddy issues in a bad way, and that was part of the reason she’d made such…questionable…decisions in the past when it came to men. The one time she’d gone to a therapist to see if the man could smack some sense into her, he’d told her she was remarkably self-aware when it came to her problems and seemed to have things well under control.

Not so much.

But the thing she kept coming back to was the fact Grayson was different. He wasn’t in some high-powered job that would keep him from his family—from her. He was the type of man to fight for those he loved. Hadn’t he basically spent the last few months quietly waiting her out until she was ready to make the next move? A man who’d make that much of an effort just to date a woman he was interested in wouldn’t spend all his time tied up in a love affair with his job. If he had, he never would have looked at Danielle twice after she didn’t fall all over herself to go on a date with him. He wouldn’t be an empty chair at an even emptier dinner table.

That was the kind of man she’d actually consider building a life with.

As she sat up and reached for a pair of sweats next to the bed, a buzzing sound vibrated from the nightstand. Danielle frowned and leaned over to get a better look. “Is that a Takaski Luxom?”

How the hell had he gotten a hold of one? Not only were they expensive as all get-out, they weren’t in any of the stores in town. She knew, because she’d looked even though she couldn’t afford to buy one.

Even as she told herself it was an asshole thing to do, curiosity got the better of her. These things were supposed to have triple the battery life and be twice as fast as anything else on the market. She’d half convinced herself that the press was exaggerating, but there was only one way to tell for sure.

She picked up the phone and brought up the home screen. The first thing to pop up was the text message alerts, but she clicked out of it without reading anything—no way was she that kind of girlfriend. Grayson had left the damn thing in the room—the fact that it wasn’t attached to his hip meant he had nothing to hide. So she flipped through the system setup, her eyes widening at the capacity. “I have got to get me one of these.”

Resolving to make it happen, she started to put the phone down. A message popped up on the screen as her finger hovered over the button to put it to sleep, and a familiar name caught her eye in the preview. Mr. Harper.

Why the hell was he getting an e-mail addressed to the owner of the building they worked in?

Dread curled through Danielle’s stomach. Surely he wasn’t involved in something illegal? Grayson was wicked smart—too smart to hack into Mr. Harper’s account. She hoped. And what would he think to find? From what she understood, Harper had a reputation for being fair—if tough—with his employees. He could have ruled through fear like a lot of CEOs out there, but everyone she’d talked to respected the hell out of him. He didn’t seem to be that bad of a guy when all was said and done—a workaholic, but that was nothing surprising. Hell, he was the one who’d thrown the Halloween party. Hardly the type of guy who had skeletons in his closet important enough to warrant hacking.

But what did she know? It wasn’t like she’d met the man.

Before she could talk herself out of it, she opened the e-mail and skimmed it. It was some confirmation of a meeting the next week between Harper and the guy sending the e-mail—not exactly top-secret stuff. Danielle frowned and flipped back into the e-mail account, scrolling through the messages.

Every single one of them was to Mr. Harper

What the hell?

All of a sudden, her dread tripled. No way. Absolutely no way. She switched to the Internet browser and typed in Grayson Harper. As it loaded, she tried to tell herself it was bullshit. The search would bring up nothing—probably some poor guy in South Carolina who sold hot sauce out of the back of his truck or something. And yet, when the page finally appeared, the top picture was of a painfully familiar face. “No.”

Her Grayson and Mr. Harper were the same damn person.

Betrayal swept through her, thick enough to choke on. He’d lied. The fucking mail guy? Was this all some sort of joke? Let’s see how far we can string poor, stupid Danielle along. She bet he got a great laugh out of it when she agreed to be his girlfriend.

Reality kicked her in the chest. That office they were in last night had been his. No wonder he hadn’t been worried about getting caught. What the hell would anyone be able to do to him? He owned the freaking building.

Which meant she’d been wrong about him all along.

He wasn’t the type to create a family or settle down, let alone with a girl like her. He was just like her father—married to his goddamn job. Danielle knew all too well how mere humans measured up in comparison.

God, she was so stupid.

She should have known something was up, but she’d been so swept away with their conversations, she’d let all her reservations go. She’d let everything go.

She looked at the door to the rest of the apartment, wanting to do anything except walk out there and confront him. Considering she normally enjoyed a good knock-down, drag-out fight, the thought of going toe-to-toe with Grayson made her want to cry. He’d played her. Everything about him was a lie, and that realization hurt way more than it should have.

There was no help for it, though. Her dad might be an ass, but he hadn’t raised a coward. With a deep breath, she lifted her chin and reached for the doorknob.

…

Grayson carefully set the bacon on the paper-towel-covered plate and reached for the eggs. She might have mentioned going to a diner, but there was no reason to leave the apartment when he was perfectly capable of cooking. Besides, he fully intended on keeping her naked for as long as possible. He heard the bedroom door open and turned to greet Danielle, but the smile on his face died when he saw the look on hers. “What’s wrong?”

“What could possibly be wrong?” She dropped his phone on the table, the screen still open to the search she must have done on him. In the picture, he was smiling as he shook hands with the owner of Washington Tech.

Fuck.

“Danielle.” He reached for her. “I can explain.”

She slid back a few steps, putting the table between them. “I don’t doubt it. You’re good with words, right? You knew exactly what to say to make me trust you. Why? Was it all some game?”

A game? Her accusation couldn’t have been further from the truth, though he felt a whole lot like he was losing right now. “No, of course not. How could you possibly think that?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you lied. God, I should have known better, you know? You were too good to be true.” She shook her head, her eyes shining with unshed tears.

Grayson held up his hand. “Wait—let’s just hold on a second. I made a mistake when I didn’t tell you who I really was, but that doesn’t mean everything else was a lie—last night wasn’t a lie. I know you feel the same connection I do.”

“What connection’s that? I trusted Grayson, the mail guy. I can’t say the same for Grayson Harper.”

“You’re splitting hairs.”

“No, I’m really not. Because the man I thought you were wouldn’t have lied to me, and he sure as fuck wouldn’t have set me up like this. You’re no better than my father, manipulating the little people around him to get his way.”

And this was the reason he hadn’t told the truth. Granted, he usually had to worry about the opposite reaction—women sidling up to him because of his last name and the influence his money brought him—but the fact remained the same. He thought she’d seen beneath the surface level, had actually seen him. After last night, she should have been able to see past the job to the man beneath. Apparently he’d been wrong about a lot of things. “I’m nothing like your father.”

She met his gaze steadily, though her lower lip quivered. “You’re right. Dad might be a lot of things, but a liar isn’t one of them.”

So this was it. He should have known this wouldn’t work out. Relationships never did once his career came into the picture. This had just ended a hell of a lot earlier than he anticipated. Grayson took a deep breath and tried to get a hold of his pride before he turned around and walked out of her life for good. “Danielle—”

“I think you should go.” She wrapped her arms around herself, as if she were barely holding it