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Seduced by You: A Steamy Billionaire Romance (Dark Billionaires Club Book 2) by Alexia Praks (1)

Chapter 1

The cell phone rang insistently as James waited for his daughter to pick up. It was going on to the fourth ring now, and he wondered if Aria was busy with her lessons or if she might have forgotten her cell phone while she was out playing with the dogs.

He glanced at his gold wristwatch and noted it was just after three thirty in the afternoon. It wasn’t their usual time to talk while he was away from home, but it couldn’t be helped.

As of last week, he’d had no choice but to call her after her school hours instead of their usual time around eight. He’d been getting busier with work since the incident with Andy. There were a lot of deep underground affairs he and Matt had to deal with to keep things under control. Despite that taking up most of his days, he’d never forgotten his time with his daughter.

The phone was still ringing, and James glanced at his watch again. Her piano lesson wasn’t until four, so there was plenty of time before the session started. He was about to hang up when the ringing stopped abruptly and a voice came through.

“Hi, Mr. Maxwell?”

“Sophie?” he asked. “Is Aria there?”

Sophie paused before replying, her voice soft and warm. “I’m sorry, Mr. Maxwell. She just left. She went downstairs to play with the dogs. Do you want me to get her for you?”

“Yes,” James said.

“Sure, Mr. Maxwell. Just hold on a minute.”

James waited as the phone went silent. A moment later, Sophie’s voice came through again. “So,” she asked lightly, her tone flirtatious. “How’s Las Vegas?”

“It’s fine,” he said. “Nice city.”

“It is, isn’t it?” she agreed softly. “I may go there again on my next vacation. Speaking of which, I assume Aria has never been to Las Vegas?”

James replied, “No. But I’ll be bringing her on my next business trip.” He thought it’d be a nice change for Aria, and it was a given Mia would be accompanying them. It would be just the three of them traveling. James and his two darlings.

The sound of Sophie’s delight reached his ear. “That’s great, Mr. Maxwell. Aria will be so pleased.” She laughed merrily. “By the way, I’ve got lots to report to you, Mr. Maxwell. Aria is doing very well with her school.” She chuckled. “She’s such a lovely little girl. Her math is great and so is her reading and writing.”

James smiled. “That’s splendid.”

Sophie hurried on. “And her friends came for a playdate yesterday. They had a lot of fun.” She giggled. “It’s nice to be young, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” James said, wondering how far away his daughter was. “Sophie?” He decided to cut her short because he was about to have a meeting with an important client he couldn’t miss.

“Yes, Mr. Maxwell?”

“Aria. You haven’t found her yet?”

Sophie paused and then sighed. “I’m sorry, Mr. Maxwell. I was sure she was in the living area or the piano room. But she’s in neither of those places. Hold on a second. I’ll just go and have a look in the kitchen.”

“Please do,” James said.

Not a moment later, Sophie went on to ask him about his business, to which James simply replied, “It is fine, as usual.”

James had no idea the woman liked to talk. Truth be told, this was the first time he’d conversed so much with her during the two years she’d been his employee.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Maxwell,” Sophie said a moment later. “She’s not here either.”

James said, “That’s fine. I’ll call again later.”

“Are you sure?” she asked. “If you could just hold on, I’ll find her in no time.”

He said, “I’ll call again later this evening.”

“Okay,” Sophie said. “Bye then.”

“Hmm.” James hung up and got ready to leave his office. He was at the door when his cell rang. He picked up and said, “Cole, what’s up?”

“I got some information on the whereabouts of Herbert Weston.”

“Yeah?”

“He was in Mystic Spring yesterday, but he already left when we checked the place out. He’s on the move again. I suspect he’ll be going to the West Coast. Either Los Angeles or Las Vegas.”

“He’s after Mia and Andy,” James said.

“Yep. Looks that way. Got a call from one of the waitresses back in Mystic Spring. She said a suspicious-looking man came in yesterday, asking about Mia. She told me the man said he’s her relative.”

“I see,” James said. “Keep tracking him. We can’t let him get away. And we can’t let him get near either Mia or Andy.”

“Sure, boss,” Cole said. “I’ll call again to keep you posted.”

“Yeah. We’ll talk soon.”

“Bye for now,” Cole said and then hung up.

James switched the phone shut. “Fuck!” he swore under his breath.

It was a few hours later, after he had his meeting with the important client, when he met up with Matt for a drink in one of their favorite bars in the city. They were sitting at the back, sipping beer, when James brought up the subject.

“Herbert’s after Mia and Andy.”

Matt nearly choked on his drink. “Fuck me!” he said. “If he lays his hands on Andy, he’s as good as dead. He’s on his way here?”

James nodded.

“Guess the bastard doesn’t realize the siblings are under our protection.” He chuckled. “He’s in for a big surprise.”

James nodded again.

“Come on,” Matt said, sliding off his seat. “Time to go. Another damn dinner meeting. Shit, James, when the hell is this going to end? It’s like this every time you’re in town.” He shook his head. “From now on, you’re not welcome in Las Vegas,” he teased. “Go back to LA.”

James chuckled. “Glad to. Once this shit’s over.”

“Aria must really miss you, huh?” Matt asked.

He glanced at his friend and nodded. “Yep. Though I couldn’t get ahold of her today.”

“There’s always tomorrow,” Matt said.

James didn’t comment on that statement.

They were just at the door, leaving, when James remembered he hadn’t told Mia about the fact that he wouldn’t be able to join her tonight, again. They were walking along the busy footpath as he dialed Mia’s number.

Matt glanced over and shook his head. “Fuck, James. You act like the world is going to end if you can’t hear her voice for a day.”

“Shut up,” James snapped, a little irritated the comment hit right on the mark. He knew he shouldn’t act like Mia meant so much to him, but hell, he couldn’t help himself.

It was on the fourth ring now, and Mia still hadn’t picked up the phone. Then it went to voice mail, and he cursed.

Matt gave a long, loud whistle and then laughed. “She’s not your wife, James.”

James gave Matt a dark frown. Dismissing his friend, he quickly sent Mia a text. Once done, he said, “I don’t want her to wait on me. Fuck, quit jumping to conclusions.”

Matt shrugged. “Sure,” he said, smiling knowingly.

* * *

It was nearly five that evening when I finally said good-bye to Savannah. Being able to spend time with her along with Andy helped ease my loneliness during the past few days while James had been so busy with his work.

During our seemingly short teatime, we gossiped about men in general. Especially James and William. It was fun, and we couldn’t help but giggle like schoolgirls. By the sound of things, Savannah seemed smitten with William. Her eyes glowed and her cheeks blushed every time she mentioned his name. Then we chitchatted about random subjects such as fashion, beauty, movies, and books, which to my surprise were some of Savannah’s favorite topics. I was glad she was an avid reader and loved books of all sorts, especially mystery novels and traveling guidebooks. She’d said she’d love to travel around the world one day, as I did. We promised each other we’d be traveling buddies when the time came.

That reminder stopped me short as I made my way back to the car in the parking lot.

Traveling buddies. That plan wasn’t likely to happen, at least until five years later, when my contract with James expired.

My heart raced at the thought, and instantly I felt both saddened and confused.

“I’ll no longer be with James,” I murmured under my breath, my eyes on the toes of my shoes.

I was so used to being with him already. It was like I’d known him for so long, and I knew our relationship would only grow deeper in the next five years.

“Miss Donovan.”

Patrick’s voice came my way. I said in a fluster, “Patrick, you surprised me.”

Patrick chuckled and said, “You look a little troubled there.”

I gave him a bright smile, pretending nothing of the sort was happening to me.

“I’m fine, thank you. No trouble at all.”

Patrick nodded and opened the car door for me. “That’s good then. Here you go.”

“Thanks,” I said as I slipped inside.

I was just putting on my seat belt when my cell phone beeped, telling me I had a message. I dug into my handbag and found the phone. Switching it on, I saw I had a message from James. After I’d finished reading, my heart felt as if it had sunk to the bottom of the ocean like a bombed submarine.

He was busy again tonight.

“Is everything all right, Miss Donovan?” Patrick asked.

I raised my head to him and nodded. “Yes.”

He didn’t look convinced but nodded nonetheless. “Back to the hotel then?”

I was about to agree when I thought of something better. “Actually, how about the supermarket?”

Patrick raised a brow. “The supermarket?”

I nodded. “I thought I’d make Andy and myself something nice to eat.”

Patrick laughed. “You cook, huh?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’m pretty good, you know. Andy loves my cooking.”

He chuckled. “And I’m sure Mr. Maxwell will enjoy it too.” He started the engine, and a moment later, we were out of the parking lot.

It was a full hour later when I finally arrived back at the hotel, my arms full of groceries. It didn’t help that people were looking at me weird. Well, of course they would. Who in their right mind would buy groceries and cook while staying in a five-star hotel in Las Vegas? Where there were literally hundreds of renowned restaurants sprawled within easy access across the city.

After closing the door of the suite behind me, I went straight into the kitchenette and began my magic. After placing the groceries on the counter, I phoned Andy. He picked up on the second ring.

“Hey, guess what?” I asked excitedly.

Andy chuckled at my unmistakable enthusiasm. “What?”

I shook my head. “No, you’re supposed to guess.”

He laughed. “All right,” he said. “You’re going to cook something, aren’t you?”

“How did you know?”

“You did promise me you’d cook something for me while I was in the hospital. That never happened, did it?” he asked rhetorically.

“Okay, I’m sorry. A lot happened during that—” I paused immediately, thinking about Andy and Matt and their relationship.

Andy seemed to understand my abrupt break in speech and continued. “Hey, it’s not too late.” This was followed by a chuckle. “So what ya cooking?”

“Spaghetti Bolognese,” I replied eagerly. “One of your favorites.”

He laughed. “Cool. I’ll come over and help. Got nothing else to do.”

“Is Matt busy again tonight?” I asked curiously.

“Yeah,” Andy said. “Look, I’ll come over now and we can talk while we cook.”

“Sure,” I said and then hung up.

After putting the phone down, I took the ingredients out of the grocery bags and got everything ready. By that time, Andy knocked on the door, and I rushed over to let him in.

“Look what I got,” he said the moment he stepped into the suite, a cheeky smile playing on his face.

I chuckled as I gazed at him, pleased at what he was holding. I believed it was one of Matt’s favorite and most expensive wines, Sangiovese.

“Nice,” I said, taking the bottle.

As Andy made his way into the kitchenette, I eyed him like a mother hen for any signs of pain or discomfort. I simply couldn’t help myself. He’d only just been released from the hospital, and as his older sister, his health and well-being was my responsibility.

He looked well today. Although, I noted there were still a few bruises on his skin and that his gait was awkwardly slow and slightly crooked, as if he had a sore backside.

My brother. He had been through a lot of shit. I had known living with Uncle Herbert had been hard enough, but to be kidnapped and brutally beaten was altogether another level of hardship. It was probably hell. Torture.

Tears stung my eyes. Not wanting the damn things to pour down my cheeks, I blinked.

Andy turned to look at me. He must have seen my tears, because he sighed and raised his eyes heavenward.

“Come here,” he said, pulling me into his arms. “You’re being silly. Stop being so emotional.”

I shook my head. “I’m not being emotional, you ass,” I snapped, rubbing my eyes with the backs of my hands.

Andy chuckled as if he found my defensive words amusing. “It’s not that painful,” he said to reassure me. “I’m used to it. It’ll go away in a few days.”

I didn’t like the fact that he was accepting the beating he’d received as if it were a routine of sorts, like drinking, eating, and sleeping. As we had when we were little and living under Uncle Herbert’s cruel reign, kicking and smacking us because he felt like it. I thought we’d had enough of that shit.

“I know that,” I said. “But still… You’ve been beaten so badly. It’s painful just thinking about the torturous things you went through that night.”

Andy stared at me for a moment. He looked a little lost and confused at my words. Then suddenly he laughed as if he found something amusing.

I, on the other hand, didn’t. I was worried sick about him, and here he was, laughing at my concern.

“Stop it,” I snapped, my face red. I simply wanted to end this discussion right now. “Come on. Let’s start cooking. I’m starving.” With that, I turned my back on him and picked up some onions and garlic.

I peeled the skin of the onion and was just finished chopping the vegetable into small pieces when Andy said, drawing my attention to him, “Thanks for worrying about me, Mia.”

I sniffed, and Andy laughed. I knew he was laughing at me because I was crying.

“It’s the onion,” I snapped. “You’re jumping to conclusions.”

He kept laughing until I lightly slapped him on the arm to make him stop.

We took our time making the spaghetti Bolognese, and we enjoyed every moment of the process. About half an hour later, the kitchenette and living area smelled like an Italian restaurant. After putting some delicious-looking food neatly onto plates, I admired my handiwork while Andy poured us some wine.

As I gazed at the two plates, I couldn’t help but gush with delight at the fact that it looked worthy of a restaurant or a recipe book. Not wanting to let the pretty sight go to waste, I rushed in search of my cell phone while Andy watched me with interest. A moment later, I came back into the kitchen and took loads of photos, moving the plates this way and that, snapping the images in every which way possible.

I was about to put the phone away when Andy stopped me.

“Hold on. You haven’t taken photos with the wine yet.” With that, he placed two glasses of Sangiovese next to the plates of spaghetti Bolognese.

I chuckled, gave him a thumbs-up, and then continued to take photos. Once I had enough, we sat on the couch in the living area, and with the TV on and the volume low, we started eating.

We both enjoyed our dinner. It was better than going to a restaurant, and for what it was worth, cooking had kept me busy, which meant I didn’t have to think about James.

This situation, Andy and me sitting quietly together eating our dinner, reminded me of us back when we were in Mystic Spring, living in a small, run-down, one-bedroom apartment. I had the cramped bedroom while Andy slept in the living room connected to the kitchenette. The memory made me smile as I observed him enjoying his food. It had been a while since I’d seen him looking so content.

He must have noticed me looking at him. He said, “Stop daydreaming and eat your dinner.”

I chuckled. “I haven’t lost my touch, have I? It looks like you still enjoy my cooking.”

“Your cooking is the best, Mia,” he said and then devoured another forkful of spaghetti.

I nodded and returned my attention to my own meal, a smile playing across my face.

“So when are you due back for work?” he asked, his eyes on his plate.

I licked my lips and said, “In a week.”

“Have you told Mr. Maxwell yet? He needs to know, right? I mean…how is everything going to work out?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “And I haven’t told him about my job. I guess we’ll work something out.”

Andy nodded. “I guess so.” Though he looked doubtful.

A bit later, when I was just finishing the last of my spaghetti, my phone dinged, informing me I had a message. Knowing it was probably James again, I didn’t want to pick up. Then another ding came.

Andy raised his brows as he eyed my phone. “Sounds like you’ve got some messages. Aren’t you going to check them?”

I hesitated, because I didn’t want to read whatever it was James was messaging me. It’d be a disappointment. The thought of not seeing his face tonight made my heart ache in loneliness. It would be the fifth night in a row I hadn’t seen him.

When another ding came, implying there was another message, I grew curious. It wasn’t like James to text me so many times at once. The only person who did that was Aria.

Thinking back, she’d always enthusiastically messaged me after we had exchanged phone numbers. Then there were the pictures. Mostly they were of her toys, the food she ate, and her friends and dogs.

Another ding shouted at me, urging me to quickly pick up. I did. Scanning through the message application, I found my assumption was spot-on, as the messages were all from Aria. A bright smile flashed across my face.

“It’s Aria,” I said in delight.

In the messages, Aria told me what she was having for dinner in her short, childlike words. It was a beef burger, and it was delicious. Then there were some pictures attached with the messages. I chuckled when I saw the half-eaten homemade burger. The one below that was of Aria doing a thumbs-up, and she had a big grin on her face as she posed right next to the burger. The next one was of Alfie and Sammy having their pieces of burgers as well.

I laughed. The pictures were so cute. They were so sweet—Aria and the dogs. I wondered if I’d get diabetes from the constant exposure to such a cute, sweet child.

“What is it?” Andy asked curiously.

I leaned over and showed him the photos Aria sent.

Andy glanced through them and asked, “Mr. Maxwell’s daughter?”

I nodded. “Aria. Isn’t she cute?”

Andy laughed. “Yeah. She is. Well?”

“Well, what?” I asked.

“Aren’t you going to send her pictures of our dinner too?”

I hadn’t thought about that. Suddenly, I was excited by his suggestion. Usually, I’d just reply to tell her the pictures looked awesome, but I’d never sent pictures of my own to her before.

I typed in some texts, telling her the meal looked mouthwatering and she and the dogs were so cute. Then I attached a few pictures of my spaghetti Bolognese.

Within seconds after the message was sent, I received a reply of a hungry, drooling emoticon. I laughed. Curious, Andy leaned over to sneak a peek. When he saw the emoticon, he laughed too.

It was then the phone rang, which made both Andy and me jump. On the screen was Aria’s name, implying she was the one calling.

I picked up and said, “Hi, Aria, sweetie. Your dinner looks delicious.”

On the other end of the line, Aria giggled. “Yours looks delicious too. When is Daddy bringing you over? I wanna eat spaghetti Bolognese with you. Did you make it yourself?”

“Yes, I did, with my brother’s help.”

“You have a brother?” she asked.

I nodded as I replied, “Yep. He’s right here with me. His name is Andy, and he said you look cute.”

At this point, I could imagine Aria blushing and grinning widely. “Really?” she asked, giggling.

Seeing I would be taking a while talking with Aria, Andy took away my empty plate and wineglass. He started cleaning up the kitchen while Aria and I conversed, recounting our uneventful day to each other.

Then just before I was about to tell her good-night, she said, “Did you know I lost my phone today?”

“You lost your phone?”

“Uh-huh… I couldn’t find it before I went to school. I’m always good, you know, at not using my phone while we have class ’cause we aren’t allowed to play with the phone in class ’cause that’s like naughty. But I couldn’t find it this morning, my phone Daddy bought for me… So I got so worried… But then just before dinner, me and Sammy and Alfie were playing in Daddy’s room, and that’s when I found it. I found my phone… It was in Daddy’s room…

“Oh, actually, I lied. I didn’t find it. Sammy did. He barked so loud while I was in Daddy’s bed ’cause I missed him, and I sleep in his bed on the weekend ’cause I’m allowed to. So I got curious ’cause Sammy was barking so loud, and I followed him and found him in Daddy’s closet, and then I found my phone in there… But I don’t remember going in there…”

I heard her voice break as if she were upset about it. She continued. “I didn’t get to talk to Daddy… I missed his call… We were supposed to talk after school…”

“Oh, honey, it’s all right,” I said, trying to soothe her. “He’ll call you again tomorrow, and you’ll get to talk to him.”

At this point, I heard Aria sniffling, and I felt my heart ache for her. “Aria, sweetheart, are you all right?” I asked. “I’m here for you.”

There was a bit of a pause, and I was concerned. A moment later, Aria’s voice came through, low and croaking. “I want Daddy to come home…” she said quietly. “I miss him… I want Daddy to bring you home…”

At that point, I felt my heart crush within my chest. She was so young, and her dad was always so busy with work. I knew James’s jet-setting lifestyle wasn’t beneficial for his daughter’s growth and well-being.

“I’m sure he’ll be coming home soon, honey.”

The moment that statement was uttered, I felt my heart aching in dread. It reminded me to tell James that I, too, had to return to Mystic Spring, back to my home and my job. That meant I might not get to see Aria again after all.

“Really?” Aria asked. “He told you that? That he’s coming home soon?”

I bit my lip. “I’m sure he’s coming home soon, honey,” I repeated.

“Who’s coming home soon, Aria?” a voice asked from the distance.

I blinked, wondering who was asking.

“Daddy’s coming home soon,” Aria said to whomever was with her. Then I heard her giggling again. To me, she said, “I’m so excited. I’m so excited.”

I chuckled. Really, now I must ask James when he intended to return to LA.

“Aria, it’s time for your bath. Please hang up with your friend.”

“Just another minute, Sophie?” Aria asked.

“No,” I heard Sophie say sternly. “Hang up, Aria.”

I heard Aria give out a big sigh, and then to me she said, “I have to go, Mia. See you soon.”

“All right, take care, sweetheart,” I replied.

A moment later, the line was dead. I put the phone on the coffee table and headed around to the kitchen to see how Andy was getting on.

He’d just finished cleaning the dishes and said, “You’ve made another friend. I’m glad for you. Although, this one is a bit young.”

I chuckled. “I don’t think age matters where friendship is concerned. Thanks for doing the dishes.”

“There wasn’t a lot,” he said. “Anyway, I’m gonna go. Feeling like I’m about to collapse suddenly.”

“Are you sick?”

Andy shook his head. “I’m just tired.”

“Don’t overexert yourself.” I walked him to the door. “Good night, Andy.”

He waved, and once I saw him getting into the lift, I shut the door.

“Time for a bath,” I said to myself.

Some twenty minutes later, I lay comfortably in the tub filled to the rim with warm water. I relaxed back and closed my eyes and started dozing off.

I felt warm, cozy, and at ease, as if I were floating in the ocean on a pleasant summer day. It was just like that one time when Mom, Dad, Andy, and I had gone on a weeklong holiday. Dad had managed to save up enough money to afford one, and Andy and I had been so elated we couldn’t sleep a wink the night before we were due to depart.

It had been the best holiday I’d ever had… That was until the drive back when the accident happened. When a large truck carrying goods drove straight into us on Interstate 93 on our way back to Mystic Spring.

Memories came rushing back, flooding my mind with so much terror I couldn’t escape. I was left there alone and afraid, facing the wrath of my past full-on.

It was so clear, as if it had only happened yesterday. I tried to shut away the memories of that horrendous day. But the images seemed to have a mind of their own, flashing before my eyes stubbornly and insistently like a movie where I had no remote control to pause or shut it down to allow me a breather. More desirably, an escape.

My heart raced, and my body tensed as I held myself against the onslaught of my memories, the past that could not be undone, the one moment that unwelcomingly changed my life forever.

In the car, I’d been sitting in the back seat behind Dad, who was driving. Mom was in the front passenger seat, and Andy in the back beside me, sound asleep with his head resting against the cushion. I remember staring up at the bright blue sky as the car sped along the highway. I remembered how I admired the vastness of the space above us, of our planet, the solar system, and the universe itself, which had been the subject we’d been studying in school that year.

My young mind wondered at how beautiful the sky was, at the blue that seemed to stretch into the endless beyond.

“What are you doing?” Mom had asked, curious about me with my face so close to the window and my eyes gazing up at the sky, all sparkling.

“The sky is so blue today,” I had said. “It’s beautiful.”

Mom bent her head and looked up at the sky too. She chuckled. “It is beautiful, isn’t it?” she said. “It’s Prussian blue.”

“Prussian blue?” I asked, turning to look at her.

She nodded. “That’s the name of that blue,” she said.

I smiled and returned my attention to the sky, my eyes gazing at the unique color.

“Prussian blue,” I said softly. That had been the moment I decided the fascinating color was my favorite.

Suddenly the sound of loud honking came our way, and I tore my eyes reluctantly away from the sky. I turned my attention to Andy, who was still half asleep in his sitting position. Then I flicked my eyes to Mom. Something I saw on her face made my stomach knot in dread. She was pale and looked shocked, staring at the road ahead.

Curious, I cast my eyes in that direction, and that was when I saw it coming. The humongous truck, red and silver, heading our way at high speed from the opposite direction in our lane, followed by ear-deafening honking from Dad, telling the truck to switch back into its own lane. But it was too late.

It was too much for me to bear, and I panicked. I whimpered and forcefully fluttered my eyes open, terminating the flashback.

The moment I opened my eyes, I found myself staring at a pair of Prussian-blue eyes. I looked at them for a moment, wondering if I were still back there, staring up at the sky, and that I hadn’t yet escaped my own nightmare.

No. This was the blue of a pair of eyes, not the vastness of the sky. This was the present. This was now. This pair of blue eyes belonged to James.

I sighed in relief.

James was staring back at me too. I noted his hand was cupping my face. His touch was warm and comforting. It helped ease the tension in my body.

I tried to calm down by taking deep, slow breaths. I closed my eyes for a second, just to make sure the images and horrible memories had faded back to nothingness where they were kept locked away in the deepest, darkest corner of my mind.

Once I was sure I was safe from their intrusion, I opened my eyes again. This time I found I was staring at James’s sensual lips. Instantly, I wanted to kiss him. I wanted to feel the firmness and the warmth of his flesh against me.

I felt James caressing my cheek, which drew my attention. I flicked my eyes to his again. The moment I met his gaze, a mixture of both pure delight and agony coursed through my being. At that moment, I felt I could talk to him about anything. I felt as if I wanted to tell him about my past, about the car accident and my parents’ deaths. I wanted to spill everything I held close to my heart, which was weighing me down.

The moment passed, and I cast my eyes away from him. I touched his hand still cupping my face, feeling his warmth. Then, of course, I couldn’t help myself and rubbed my face in his palm, begging to be loved.

“James,” I whispered, wondering if he was merely a figment of my imagination to help ease my loneliness. James couldn’t be back from his important dinner with his clients this early.

“What are you doing?” he asked softly. “Come on. Enough soaking, angel,” he said, a smile playing about his lips.

I blinked, confused. Enough soaking? It was then I realized I was still in the bath, filled with now-chilled water.

I bit my lip and sighed. “How silly of me.” I moved around a bit to sit up straight. In doing so, the water splashed about, some landing on James’s shirt.

“Sorry,” I murmured and quickly stayed still so the water didn’t move as much. “I’ve wet your clothes.”

“I don’t mind getting wet,” he said teasingly, his eyes dark.

I blushed. Trust him to turn innocent words into something erotic.

Once the water calmed and I was sitting up straight, I raised my face and said, “All right. I’m getting out now.”

“Good,” he said.

I waited for him to leave, but James had other ideas. He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt, leaned forward, and dipped one hand into the water. A moment later, he pulled out the plug.

Noise of water being sucked away sang sarcastically at me, and the level of my wet blanket descended as I watched in horror.

I turned to glare at him. “You didn’t have to do that, you know.”

He cocked his head to one side. “I was aiming for a better view.”

I realized then what his intention had been. Me naked, my skin glistening wet, must be enticing for him to see. Instantly, my own body flared at the thought.

As the water level lowered, my breasts became exposed. I gazed up at James and noted him staring hungrily at my breasts, which were flushed pink. The nipples, too, were already sticking out and in their full form, ready for whatever erotic teasing James had in mind.

He moved his hand over and cupped one ripe mound in his hand.

The moment I felt his touch, I caught my breath at the back of my throat and my body responded in excitement.

James played with my nipple, rolling the bud around between his fingers and thumb, pressing it and molding it until it became fully aroused and sensitive. As he continued his teasing and caressing, I groaned and arched my body forward, allowing him easier access, permitting him full advantage of my body.

James chuckled at my wanton response and said, “Your breasts are so sensitive to my touches now, aren’t they?”

I couldn’t deny his blunt question nor the fact that my pussy was already burning for him.

James dipped his head in and enthusiastically took one nipple into his mouth. A groan escaped my lips the moment his hot, wet mouth touched my sensitive flesh. Then he opened wide and licked me. This was followed by some intensive sucking and then kissing. My body was trembling and squirming while the onslaught of foreplay continued.

When James finally finished with his sensual attack on my breasts, I raised my face to his in an offering. It was an invitation to be kissed and ravished by him.

When my lips found his, I boldly initiated the kiss. His lips were firm and warm against mine, and oh God, he felt wonderful, just like the morning sun shining after a cold, lonely night.

James urged my lips to part for him, and I eagerly obliged. Then he slipped his tongue into my mouth and wildly and passionately kissed me. It was intoxicating and addictive as he worked on me, making my body tremble with ardor and my core burn feverishly for him.

I felt his hand move from my breast lower to my tummy and then to where my pussy was still partially hidden by the receding water. He caressed me while he lovingly invaded and explored my mouth with his tongue, stroking me and caressing me until I was senseless.

When he released me from our fiery kiss, I was dazed and aching, and my body quivered with sexual heat.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful, Mia,” he said darkly, his warm breath fanning my skin.

My heart swelled with delight at the compliment. I was so happy, in fact, that I instinctively wrapped my arms around his neck and drew his face in for another ardent kiss. James arrogantly obliged, and this time I played with him too. My tongue was wild and passionate against his, dancing together this way and that, sensually rubbing against one another inside each other’s mouths. After all, he had taught me well during the short time I’d come to know him—the way of kissing and lovemaking.

I loved this man. And I wondered if he loved me back.

A whimper escaped my mouth, which was followed by delightful groaning.

I whispered softly between kisses, “James…”

I was so wet by now that I felt if I didn’t get to be ravished by him, I’d surely die.

I buried my face against the crook of his neck as James continued to lovingly torture me, his finger furiously stroking and thrusting into me, readying me for him. I knew he must be so hard by now, too, ready to take me.

“James,” I begged, staring up at him, beseeching him to fuck me and release me from this wonderful agony.

He smiled, pleased with my unrestrained reaction. He got to his knees, scooped me into his arms, and then lifted me out of the tub. I thought he’d take me back into the bedroom where he’d have his way with me.

I was wrong. We didn’t leave the bathroom. At the basin, he put me down and made me stand facing the mirror. That was when it clicked. Suddenly I became even more excited. James was going to take me here in the bathroom in a standing position, with us facing the mirror.

My body trembled at the thrilling prospect.

“You’re already getting turned on at the thought of watching yourself,” he stated darkly, which was followed by a low chuckle of amusement.

I licked my lips, annoyed he should see right through me. Of course, I didn’t respond to his provocation, as I was too afraid I’d reveal just how much he could affect me.

I stared up at him haughtily and said, “You overestimate yourself, Mr. Maxwell.” I cocked my head to one side. “What girl wants to see herself being fucked by a man such as you?”

That got him laughing. The sound rose from deep within his throat. When he stopped, he leaned his face toward me until our noses were nearly touching.

“We’ll see if I can change that girl’s mind.” With that blunt declaration, he abruptly kissed me, his lips hot and demanding. He was rough, ruthless, and wonderful. So much so that when he pulled away, I was disappointed.

James then started stripping himself. During the whole process, I could only stare in amazement, and once he was done and stood there totally naked before my eyes, I was awed.

Surely he was the most beautiful specimen of a man I had ever seen. I glanced down and instantly felt my body flare with more heat the moment I saw his arousal.

I licked my lips in anticipation. James caught my hand and guided me to the awakened beast. I held my breath. He was going to let me touch him.

With his hand firm on mine, he guided me to his erect cock. Once close, I hesitated for just a moment before allowing him to continue his guidance, making my hand touch and wrap around the large organ.

I gasped the moment I felt his cock in my hand. It was large, hard, and hot.

James chuckled in amusement. “Doesn’t quite wrap around, does it?”

I stared at my hand, at the slim fingers. My face flamed red. I’d admit it couldn’t completely wrap around his fully erect beast, but he didn’t have to sound so pleased about it.

More than annoyed, I pulled my hand away and was about to leave when James caught me around the waist and pulled me back. I found myself by the basin and facing the mirror again, James behind me, intimately close.

James buried his face in the crook of my neck and started kissing me sweetly, slowly, seductively. At the same time, his hands were busy caressing my breasts and taunting my nipples, pinching them and squeezing them until they were once again sorely sensitive and aroused.

“I love your small hands,” he said roughly. “I love everything about you.”

I groaned as I arched my body against him, allowing him more access. While this was happening, he rubbed his cock against my pussy from behind, making my body squirm and burn for him.

“James…” I whispered softly. “Please.”

He chuckled, understanding my plea. He moved into position as I eagerly waited for him to enter me. And then when he did, I groaned in satisfied delight.

He fit perfectly. His firmness and heat invaded me, driving me insane.

With his cock deep inside me, he hugged me tight from behind as if he were afraid to let me go.

I stayed there, enveloped in his arms, my eyes closed, savoring the beautiful moment, he and I together as one. James then started kissing me, and at the same time, he started thrusting in and out of me.

I sang to him, my voice erotic and soft. “James… I love you…” I couldn’t help myself, crying out what was in my heart most—mindlessly, shamelessly.

At that moment, I felt James stiffen and halt his movement, as if he were shocked at my words.

My heart raced, and I felt a little sick.

I hadn’t meant to say those words, but the overwhelming emotions of being with him, connected to him, it was unbearably wonderful, and I slipped up.

I felt cold, alone, and unwanted as I stood there, staring into space, flabbergasted with myself, at what I’d just done.

James plunged roughly into me again, surprising me out of my thoughts. At the same time, a powerful sensation coursed through my body, making my head spin and taking my breath away. Once I came back to Earth, James pulled me against him so tight our bodies connected.

“I like the sound of that,” he said into my ear.

I held my breath as I stared at us through the mirror. I noted James’s face was hard and dark with a hint of an amused smile playing across his lips.

James licked and bit my ear as he continued to pound into me, which made my body dance with him in an erotic way.

We were in a rhythm now, moving along to his pounding, in and out. His cock was rubbing sensually against the lining of my pussy, which was making my muscles convulse and pulsate in ecstasy. My body buzzed and flared with intoxicating sensations as I cried out to him.

James said darkly, “Mia, your pussy is so sweet.”

I groaned and begged him for a kiss as he continued to pound into me, which he obliged. When I pulled away a little later because the pleasure was making me weak and nearly insane, I rested my weight on the basin for support. At the same time, James increased his pace, screwing into me so hard and fast that I couldn’t bear the force of his strength.

I groaned loudly, crying out erotically. I couldn’t breathe. My chest felt filled to the brim and tight while my body was buzzing. James was going all out now, thrusting into me like a raging bull, and I loved it.

“James,” I cried.

“Fuck, Mia,” James whispered into my ear.

I cried as he drove into me harder and faster, his cock slamming into me roughly. I knew it wasn’t going to be long before we released.

My body tensed a split second later and then I came, long and hard, as I shuddered in delirium there against the basin, with James behind me, kissing my neck and embracing me in his arms. I felt exhausted and collapsed, heaving like I’d just finished a marathon.

I shut my eyes, savoring the moment. When I came to and opened my eyes again, I saw James watching me, a handsome smile on his lips.

“That was spectacular,” he said.

I gazed at him, and slowly I remembered what I’d said. The words I should have kept to myself, locked deep within my heart. Sooner or later we’d have a serious talk about the subject of love. It had no place in our relationship.

I licked my lips and opened my mouth, intending to tell him to forget about what I’d said earlier. He interrupted me and kissed me hard on the lips, as if to shut me up. Then he moved over to kiss my forehead.

Once he was done, he said, “I need a shower. Unless you want to join me.” He chuckled. “You’re welcome to.”

I straightened and shook my head. Not when my mind was in a muddle, even after that amazing sex we’d just had. I needed to think.

“No…that’s okay,” I said, grabbing a towel from the top shelf. After wrapping it around myself, I said, “Can we talk after you’re done?”

He stood there looking at me for a moment and then nodded. I smiled and headed out the door.

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