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Building Storm: (A Hawke Family Novel) (The Hawke Family Book 4) by Gwyn McNamee (1)

1

Damn!

I didn’t even think you could fit two cocks in a vagina at the same time. Sure, in pornos, but in real life? Real people?

Heat creeps over my cheeks, and I try to turn away from the raunchy display, but debauchery surrounds me. To my left, a woman with a silver mask hiding her face rides a man’s cock like he’s a bucking bronco she can barely control. To my right, two men tag-team a woman in a red dress—one plowing into her from behind while the other has his cock rammed down her throat.

Maybe this was a bad idea…

“Remind me again why I let you drag me here?”

Caroline manages to pull her attention away from the scene before us and grins at me. “Girl, because you need to get the fuck out of the house. And don’t pretend to be shocked and offended. You know you love watching people have sex.”

The matter-of-fact way she makes the statement has me cringing. It’s a fact I now regret confessing to her that drunken night. I’ll just add it to the list of ways I’ve failed…the ways I continue to fail. The ways I’ve let my sorrow drown me and turn me into this person I don’t even recognize.

Mistake #1,576—telling Caroline that Ben and I had enjoyed a little voyeurism.

In retrospect, it was unwise to spill such an intimate thing to her. But in my defense, when I confessed that uber personal fact, I was a sobbing, blubbering mess, and Caroline was my “babysitter” for the night back when everyone thought I was so unstable, I shouldn’t be alone.

In those first few weeks after I lost Ben, things were so…up in the air. Uncertain. Agonizing. We were trying to make sense of not only his loss but also everything that happened with Dom and Stone.

The simple act of breathing—pulling air into my lungs and pushing it out again—was so excruciating, I had wished I could stop. I just wanted the pain to end.

Who am I kidding?

It’s still excruciating to wake up every day with the knowledge I’ll never see him again. To know he’s gone due to the actions of a man who was supposed to be like family, a man who was supposed to love and care for us. And even worse, that he’s gone because of what Stone did…

So, I wouldn’t have thought I would want to talk about the things Ben and I shared. But Caroline had insisted that a nice bottle of wine, or even a cheap one for that matter, and talking about the good times with him would somehow help ease the pain of losing both the love of my life and Angelina’s father.

I hadn’t meant to let it slip what we had been doing, but Caroline has a way of prying things out of you, whether you want them exposed or not. It’s the reporter in her. She’s more dangerous with a question than Stone, and I was powerless to stop the words from falling from my mouth once that bottle was empty.

Huge mistake.

“I can’t believe I told you about that.”

Seriously, what the hell had I been thinking?

I guess I wasn’t back then…and barely am now. But now I’m here and have to deal with the consequences of Caroline knowing that far too private information.

At least she’s not judging. So many people don’t understand it. We only attended parties like this a handful of times. It was all about watching and being watched. There was just something so thrilling about knowing someone else was getting off on seeing you get off, even if it was strangers.

We weren’t swingers. Both Ben and I were too fiercely loyal to ever touch anyone else. But their eyes on us made the sex…otherworldly.

My body heats just remembering it…the way he touched me, kissed me, loved me…even in front of total strangers.

“You’ll always be mine, Storm. Always.”

The tears well in my eyes, and my chest tightens.

I can’t lose my shit here.

Which is why I have to push him out of my head now, push out the memories of the parties we attended together…what his touch, what his kiss did to me. How safe and loved I felt in his arms. The way the world just disappeared when we were together, even when people watched us. How the parties made us feel alive…

Something he will never be again.

Caroline’s laugh interrupts the tears brimming in my eyes. She narrows her vision on a couple banging on a lounge to our left. “But I’m so glad you did tell me, honey, because coming to this party by myself would have been super awkward for me. I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say, I’m certainly enjoying it so far.”

I follow her line of sight to the hard, flexing ass of the man on top of a writhing woman, and I can’t help but chuckle even if I don’t really feel it. It helps loosen the tightness in my chest and banish the rest of my tears. “You would have been fine on your own, Caroline.”

The woman is so damn outgoing and adventurous. Not to mention how stunning she is tonight in her floor-length sequin black gown. Her pale, highlighted brunette bob shimmering under the muted lights and her bright green eyes practically scream come get me. Even if she had come alone, she would have been the life of the party. She doesn’t have a shy bone in her body.

Dragging me along was likely just a pity invite, and now that we’re here, things just feel so…different than the parties before. Dirtier. More illicit. It’s probably because I was with Ben. But being here, essentially alone, and watching this just feels…wrong.

Care sighs and scans the room. “Yes, I probably would have been fine, and I probably could’ve guilted one of the other girls into coming with me. But the Hawke men aren’t exactly known for being open-minded and generous about other men seeing their women, and I have a feeling they wouldn’t be cool with their women being here and watching other people fuck without them here, too.”

She does have a good point.

Savage, Stone, and Gabe are rabid when it comes to Dani, Nora, and Skye. They would freak the hell out if she had mentioned it to the girls.

Shit. Now I get it.

“So, I was the last resort?”

That’s even worse than a pity invite. It should piss me off, but I have more important things to worry about than Caroline’s motives…like maybe finding an excuse to get out of here early. This whole thing just feels wrong. I can’t be here.

Her head jerks back toward me, her mouth agape. “What? No! It’s not like that. I just thought that since you came to these things with Ben, you’d be more comfortable here than any of the girls. Plus, like I said, you really need to get out.”

She’s not wrong about that, but I would never admit it.

The house Ben spent so much damn time renovating to make it perfect for me, for us, has become a tomb. A place I hide. A place of despair. A place void of laughter and joy. A place I merely exist.

Angelina is the only thing that matters now. There’s no need to go anywhere else other than family engagements, and even dragging myself to those is difficult. Being around everyone should make me feel better, but I only end up thinking of Ben—him laughing with Gabe and Savage; him swimming with Angel in Mom’s pool; him arguing with Stone about something asinine simply because Stone loves to argue. Even the office has been a struggle, and God knows I’m screwing my business royally with my almost total absence. But I just…can’t.

So, I sleep. I eat—sometimes. I work—far less than I should.

Life is simple. It has to be. I can’t do complicated.

And this…this party is bringing up memories I hadn’t planned on confronting tonight.

“We could’ve gone to dinner, Care. Why does it have to be coming to watch people bone?”

Caroline smiles and waggles her eyebrows. “But that’s the greatest thing! We don’t have to just watch. We can join.”

I have no intention of diving into meaningless sex with strangers simply to ease the ache between my legs or the gaping hole in the center of my chest. I will spend the rest of my life being the lonely widow and put my energy where it’s needed—into Angelina and what’s left of my pitiful life.

The only reason I even let Caroline drag me out is because that house was just too much tonight. Too empty. Too full of memories of Ben. With Angel at Mom’s for a sleepover, it was just all…unbearable. I had already cried enough to give myself puffy, red eyes before she called.

I couldn’t deal with the gut-wrenching loneliness anymore. Not tonight.

Going out was the lesser of two evils, even if it meant accompanying Caroline to this bawdy affair. It hasn’t lessened the pain, but at least it got me out of the dark pit of gloom that is my bedroom…if only for a short while.

“So, are you planning on partaking, Care?” I scan the room. Caroline doesn’t really have a type, but I feel like I’ll know it when I see someone who would pique her interest.

A familiar face stops my survey.

Saint?

The massive bouncer from TWO flashes me a white smile and nods in my direction from where he stands across the room. A warm flush spreads across my face.

Shit. What the hell is he doing here?

It’s bad enough Caroline dragged me along, now I have to run into someone I know? If he comes over here, I may die of embarrassment.

But instead of making his way toward us, he turns and disappears down a back hallway.

Caroline grins after him like the Cheshire cat. “Partaking? Well, I do have to do the professional thing first and interview Jennifer, but once I get that done and have everything I need for my article, then why the hell not?”

I’m not entirely sure if she’s referencing Saint or not, and I don’t bother asking. It’s not my business, and there are plenty of other options for her scattered around the room.

An Intimate Affair hosts amazing risqué parties, and the couples and singles here tonight are interested in enjoying things on the spicier side. While Caroline came to conduct an interview with the owner of the company, I’m not naïve enough to believe it’s the only thing on her to-do list.

With a lick of her lips, Caroline scans the room again. “If somebody catches my eye, why should I not have a good time? Especially now that my friends are settling down. It feels like I’m the only one who likes to have fun anymore.”

Fun.

I don’t even remember what that word means.

When is the last time I did anything I actually enjoyed?

Surely not in the last six months. They’ve been nothing short of excruciating for me and Angel. Not only have I been trying to pick up the pieces of our personal lives, but I’ve had to deal with everything going on with Ben’s business that I’m now a reluctant half-owner of.

Some days, the weight of it all on my shoulders feels like being crushed by a semi, and there are even days I’ve wished for that very scenario. It would be an escape from the suffocating despair that’s overwhelmed my life.

So, as much as I may be uncomfortable at the moment, a night out is probably a good thing for my mental health.

“Thank you, Caroline, for inviting me, but don’t get your hopes up that I’m going to get involved in any of the shenanigans.”

Not that I could even if I want to. The last-minute invite meant there wasn’t time for me to undergo the required health screening, let alone the necessary personal grooming before I could engage in any extracurricular activities. So tonight, I’m wearing a red bracelet given to me at the door indicating I’m an observer only. I didn’t fail to notice Care’s green wristband.

Fair game.

“Shenanigans? Did you really just say shenanigans while watching adults fuck?”

That draws a laugh from somewhere deep in my chest. I have to hand it to Caroline…she certainly has a way with words. And she always manages to break the tension and put a tiny crack in the wall of pain surrounding me. So, despite the way she can sometimes get a little overzealous, she truly is the kind of friend everyone needs.

“Yeah, I guess I did. What would you call it?”

She gives me another grin and reaches up to adjust the mask covering her face. “I call it open season.”

* * *

The raven-haired woman in the sparkling green dress and green and silver mask standing near the entrance calls to me like a beacon in this storm of flesh and sin.

These things are so often a heathen mess. I was a little reluctant to even come tonight, but Chris insisted I might actually enjoy this place since the company that organized it is very reputable.

He knows how badly I need to forget Chicago. How badly I need to just forget. Everything. And he knows I’ve spent the last several weeks there at parties just like this, trying to fuck away the pain. Somewhat successfully.

Still, how awkward is that? My brother suggesting I get laid at a random sex party…

But it’s been working. Sort of. A hot, sweaty fuck can do wonders even for someone like me whose entire life imploded in a single moment. The similar parties I attended gave me brief respites from the vile truth that invaded my perfect life and ultimately forced me from Chicago to New Orleans.

So tonight, in a new town, the start of a new life, the woman across the room can do the same—give me the release, a way to forget. Plus, the party is actually spectacular—music, dancing, food, beautiful people.

Masquerade balls always make things more interesting. Of course, participants are free to disclose their identities if they choose, but there’s something incredibly erotic and enthralling to be with somebody without truly knowing who they are. The required health screenings and the buckets of condoms ensure everyone’s safety in that respect, so as long as you’re willing to take a chance and play, you really can have an orgasmic time. I certainly have at the other parties…

But tonight has been different. The sultry women throwing themselves at me haven’t managed to stir any interest. They’re the kind of women I’ve gravitated toward at these parties before—beautiful, forceful, more than willing to engage in pretty much anything anyone has in mind. The perfect escape from the world and harsh reality. Yet tonight, I’ve found myself rejecting their advances without much of a thought.

“Hey, handsome.” A low, sultry voice whispers in my ear, and a small, soft hand with long red nails slides down my arm. I turn my head toward the woman beside me, and come face to face with a stunning blonde with hooded brown eyes and red lips on a mouth designed for pleasure. She grins at me from below the black mask covering half her face, and her tongue snakes out and across her bottom lip. “What are you doing standing over here all by yourself? Why don’t you come join the fun?”

She’s what I would have jumped at merely a week ago, but my cock doesn’t even stir at her offer. All I want to do is turn away from her back to see what the dark-haired woman is doing.

“I’m sorry, doll. I’m spoken for.”

A pitiful, unattractive pout pulls at her lips, and she squeezes my arm. “You sure I can’t convince you? My friend over there is dying to meet you.” She nods toward another blonde sitting on a couch to our left in a dress so short, it clearly exposes her bare pussy as she crosses and uncrosses her legs seductively.

Every man’s wet dream, yet tonight, I couldn’t care less. My focus is elsewhere. “Thanks for the invitation. Maybe next time.”

She pouts again but scampers off to her friend, probably to scout another target. Some lucky bastard will have a wonderful evening with them.

But not me.

Ever since she walked in, flanked by the petite brunette who can’t stop licking her lips and eyeing up every naked man in the room like she’s at a fucking smorgasbord, no one else has even been on my radar.

While I can appreciate the brunette’s obvious enjoyment of what’s being offered, it’s the relative silence and almost indifference of her dark-haired friend that draws my attention and my curiosity.

She doesn’t want to be here.

That much is obvious. Her rigid shoulders and the tight set of her lips scream get me the hell out of here now.

I’ve never seen someone at one of these things so utterly and completely miserable. It’s almost like she’s here physically but somewhere else entirely in her head. Sometimes people can be a little overwhelmed their first time, but this is more than that. Something deeper. Something darker and heavier is weighing on her.

The chivalrous thing would be to go over and see what I can do to turn those luscious lips up into a smile instead of a frown. Certainly, something needs to be done so this woman doesn’t spend the night looking so forlorn in a sea of so much ecstasy.

It would be a shame to waste an evening like this. And while I’ve turned down every other woman who has approached, this one is finally stirring something I haven’t felt in a long time. Interest. And not just sexual.

A short, curvy woman approaches them—the owner of the company who I met when I arrived. She greets the brunette and draws her away from the object of my attention.

Game on.

I swirl the Scotch in my glass and take a sip. The liquid burns down my throat and warms my stomach as I make my way around the dance floor toward the woman standing alone near the entrance.

Jazz music floats through the air, enveloping the room in the cool sounds of saxophone, piano, and bass. Couples who aren’t busy engaging in other endeavors dance. The combo on the stage is quite good. I haven’t heard a live band perform like this in years, and my feet itch to dance, specifically with the mystery woman in my arms.

She isn’t like the other women here, the ones flaunting their sexuality and throwing themselves at anyone with a cock. Those women are easy—easy-going, easy to please, easy sexually, easy to keep happy…or so it would seem. I’ve done easy women, and I can spot them from a mile away—fake hair, fake nails, fake smiles…

This woman is anything but easy, and she’s one hundred percent real.

She’s stoic. She’s contemplative. She’s…stunning in her sad beauty.

Something deep inside me recognizes that kind of grief. I’ve been there. Too recently to want to relive it. But a pang in my chest refuses to let me walk away from her without at least trying to ease some of that sorrow from her.

A waiter circles toward me, and I down the rest of my drink and drop the empty glass on his tray with a mumbled, “thanks.”

The woman scans the room, pulling her plump bottom lip between her teeth and wringing her hands together at her waist.

She’s nervous. And sad.

Not a good combination for anyone, but especially someone at a party like this. These are meant to be fun and freeing. They shouldn’t stress you out. And this striking woman is most definitely stressed.

Her tense body and harsh, straight spine scream leave me alone, but I am always up for a challenge, particularly one this agonizingly dark and beautiful. The air of mystery and melancholy surrounding her draws me to her, despite the obvious signs warning me away.

It won’t be the first time I make a bad choice in women.

Which is exactly why sex at these parties is the best option right now. No attachments. No drama. Nothing more than a release and a good time. Something this woman needs.

I move slowly around the dance floor and reach her as the band wraps up the song and starts a new one. She doesn’t see me approach. She’s too busy focusing on everything going on around the room to notice me sliding up next to her.

“Your first time?”

She jerks, and that lip falls from between her teeth, drawing my attention to the place my mouth is almost watering to taste. “What?”

I grin at the bewilderment on her face. Her wide blue eyes search mine for an answer to her question.

Adorable.

“Is this your first time at one of these parties?”

“Oh…” She turns back toward the room and scans everyone before returning her focus to me. Her eyes meet mine again. “Uh, no, actually. But it’s been a long time.”

Given her demeanor, I would have bet money she hadn’t set foot at one of these things before. Something is definitely up. Why come if you’re not interested? Why come to only be miserable?

What’s your story, beautiful?

“I’m Landon.” I hold my hand out to her and wait while she considers it, almost as if she doesn’t know what to do.

She’s cautious. Probably smart in a place like this.

I shift my weight while I wait for her to make a move.

Maybe I’ve made a massive mistake coming over here. Maybe whatever she’s so wrapped up in inside her head is too much to try to overcome with a little flirting.

If anyone had approached me in the days or even weeks after my world ended, I wouldn’t have been too interested either. So, maybe she just wants to be left alone.

But she finally reaches out and clasps my hand with hers. “Storm.”

I grin and bring her hand up to place a kiss to the back of it. Her soft, pale skin feels like velvet under my lips.

Will the rest of her feel like this?

The soft, flowery scent of honeysuckle invades my nose, and I peer up at her as I pull my lips from her skin.

Storm fits her. The cascading mane of jet-black hair, the cloud of darkness in her blue eyes peering out from behind the silver mask, the swirling uncertainty surrounding her, it all reminds me of a massive hurricane threatening on the horizon.

And I am more than willing to let that storm crash down around me. Because those eyes are hypnotizing me even as she diverts them back to the room and tugs her hand from mine.

Maybe the kiss was a bit overkill?

I didn’t mean to make her uncomfortable. Before she died, Mom did her best to teach me and Chris to be chivalrous, and the kiss seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But my perception may be skewed by what happened back home, or maybe the atmosphere here has warped my ability to think clearly. Or it’s just this woman. Because up close, she’s even more breathtaking. My heart thuds wildly just being close to her.

Her mask can’t hide the blush that’s crept into her cheeks and also spread across her exposed breasts in the plunging neckline of the green number she’s wearing. I don’t know anything about designers or dresses, but whoever made this created it just for Storm and her body. It’s like it’s been painted on her with an expert brush, perfectly accentuating her every luscious curve and tempting me to do things that would only be appropriate in private under normal circumstances.

But these are anything but normal circumstances. This party is designed for pleasure. And I want nothing more than to erase everything that haunts Storm and show her the greatest pleasure of her life, at least for one night.

Because I need to forget. Because I’m leaving my troubles in the past. Because I’m moving forward. And one amazing night together is what we both need.

One night.

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