Dahlia McGregor was trying to avoid a guy. Not just any guy, but the sinfully sexy man she’d stupidly fallen into bed with a week ago. He definitely wasn’t her type; she wasn’t sure why she’d done it. He was way too . . . everything. Too sexy, too arrogant, too male, and way too alpha. Lia liked nice guys, the quiet types who shied away from confrontation. After being engaged to a pompous, selfish, vain peacock of a man, Lia was looking for someone sweet and pleasant and comfortable.
But there was no avoiding someone when you were in the same bridal party. When he was head groomsman to your head bridesmaid. He stood opposite her in the church, beside her in every picture, and would soon be sitting next to her at the wedding reception.
“So last week was fun,” Sam Brand, the guy in question, murmured into her ear, his gravelly voice more than a little smug. Lia shot him an appalled look. How could he be bringing that up here while they were posing for the group picture? Where anybody could hear him?
The ceremony had been beautiful, of course. Perfect and romantic, everything that Lia had once hoped hers would be. Lia’s youngest sister, Daisy, and her new husband Mason’s vows—which they had written themselves—hadn’t left a dry eye in the crowd. Lia was happy for Daisy, yet she couldn’t help but feel a stab of envy as well. If Clayton had been a better man—the right man—Lia could have been the one exchanging vows with someone who treasured her and loved her above all else. Instead, this was her sister’s wedding and Lia was saddled next to this man—who was interested in nothing but bedding her—for the duration. And he kept making excuses to touch her and breathe on her and rub against her, and now he was speaking to her.
About something that he’d promised never to talk about again. The biggest—okay, maybe second-biggest—mistake of Lia’s life.
“We’re not discussing that here,” she whispered, keeping her eyes straight ahead. “Or ever again.”
“C’mon, Dahlia. I’m leaving tomorrow, and since Daisy and Mason are moving, it’s not likely you’ll ever see me again. I’m single, you’re single—”
“So help me, if you say ‘Let’s mingle’—”
“Let me make you tingle,” he finished, ignoring her interruption. She gasped, fighting back unwanted images of her stupid, drunken mistake last week. It was completely uncharacteristic, and she was not going to repeat it. No matter how great he smelled right now, how enticing that roguish grin was, or how mind-blowingly fantastic his body was beneath that tuxedo.
None of that mattered. Lia learned from her mistakes, and there were a lot of truly nice men here today. She glanced over at Sam Brand and caught him staring at her breasts and fought the urge to cover herself up with her hands. Lots of nice men here who were interested in more than just her boobies.
The photographer now wanted shots of just the bridal couple, and as the rest of them heaved relieved sighs and turned to walk away, Sam placed his palm in the small of her back, ostensibly to lead her through the departing group. She shivered at the intimate warmth of his hand resting so close to her butt and tried to glare at him, but it was a bit demoralizing when you were trying to freeze a guy with a glare and he reacted by smiling. Thankfully, he dropped his hand and turned to face her.
“You’re so cute when you try to look stern, princess. You should get a pair of those half-rim glasses just so that you can glower at me over the tops. God, this is becoming a fully realized fetish,” he groaned in dawning self-recognition. “But I don’t even care. It’s hot. You’re hot. Let’s go somewhere and fuck.”
“You’re just so . . . ugh. The other night shouldn’t have happened,” she snapped, her voice low.
“The other night was awesome,” Sam recalled with a nostalgic smile. “I lost track—how many times did you come? Four times? Five? We could try for seven tonight. After all, I have to give you something to remember me by.”
“Mr. Brand . . .” He sighed, the first sign of annoyance he’d shown her.
“Sam. Or Brand. Drop the ‘mister.’ It’s weird since you’ve had my cock in your—”
“Oh, please stop.” She held up both hands and his mouth snapped shut. “I don’t usually sleep with strangers. It’s not who I am. I’m Dahlia McGregor. I teach Sunday school, volunteer at animal shelters, I want to be a kindergarten teacher, for crumbs’ sake. I don’t have these kinds of conversations with men.”
“I get it,” he said, his voice placating. “You wanted to break out of your shell for a night. Be a bad girl. But here’s the deal, princess, I’m not a stranger anymore. So it’s okay for us to have one more night. And tomorrow I’m out of your life for good. And you can go back to being Miss Priss and teaching the homeless to play harpsichord or whatever the fuck it is you usually do in your boring suburban daily life. But why not take this one moment out of time and walk on the wild side? With me.”
She stared at him mutely. She shouldn’t be tempted, but she was—and she knew he knew it.
“I have to help Daff prepare something for the reception,” she said, her voice far from convincing, even to her own ears. “Excuse me.”
“That’s not a no, princess.”
Lia spent the next few hours trying her utmost to avoid the man. Because she really didn’t think she had it in her to say no if he was to proposition her again. Add a few drinks into the mix and she could feel her resolve weakening with every passing moment. After the toasts were made and the food was eaten and the dancing started, Lia began to think that she might have successfully avoided him. But then while she was watching the happily swaying couples on the dance floor, she looked up and saw him purposefully striding her way.
“Crumbs!” she muttered beneath her breath and ducked behind a waiter before inconspicuously slipping behind a huge floral arrangement in the corner of the grand tent. She stood still for a moment before realizing how ridiculous she must look, hiding behind the flowers in her poofy lilac bridesmaid dress.
She risked a quick self-conscious glance around the gigantic pale-pink-and-white peony arrangement and sucked in a horrified breath when she caught Sam’s gaze. Disgustingly bad timing, that. His eyes creased at the corners, and he adjusted his course and headed toward her no-longer-so-secret hiding place.
He was there before she could leave, and he angled himself directly in front of her.
“What you doing over here, princess?” He leaned forward to murmur the words in her ear. “Are you anti-socializing? Nice. I like it. I think I’ll anti-socialize with you. In our own private little nook.”
Not her intention at all!
“But it’s so cozy here,” he said, running a finger up her bare arm and raising gooseflesh in the process. Lia fought to keep her breath even and clamped her thighs together when her lady parts responded with Pavlovian inevitability. “. . . and so intimate.”
He now had his forearm braced against the support post above the flowers and was leaning into her, his breath warm on her face as he spoke into her ear, his lips brushing against her temple with each word. His other hand continued to trace lazy circles over her responsive flesh, and Lia bit back a groan. She was hanging onto the post herself; her legs had as much strength as a pair of overcooked noodles, and the post was the only thing keeping her upright at the moment.
“The party’s winding down,” he noted, making her moan when he caught her naked earlobe gently between his teeth.
“Stop it,” she whispered, her voice lacking any semblance of authority. But he obliged her by releasing her earlobe, even though he maintained the intimate closeness between them.
“Wanna head back to my room?” he invited.
“I don’t think so.” Was it her imagination or were his light movements on her arm becoming a little more purposeful? Yes, in one smooth movement, his large hand dropped to gently cup the indentation of her waist, just above her hip bone.
“Your place?” My place. Please, she lived with her parents, like a lame duck incapable of leaving the nest.
“Quickie in a closet?” What did it say about her that she paused for a beat before once again issuing a curt negative in response to his almost-playful suggestion?
“You’re making this difficult, Dahlia.”
She winced. She wished he would stop using her given name. It was positively cringeworthy.
“I don’t recall us doing very much talking. Just a lot of heavy breathing and moaning. And I remember you taking the Lord’s name in vain very many times. Come on, Dahlia. How about a farewell fuck? A shag for the road? One last, glorious spin around my cock?”
Oh God. He was so vulgar. Lia found him disgusting and disturbingly attractive in equal measure. But he did know his way around a woman’s body. He wasn’t a selfish lover like her fiancé had been—instead he’d placed her wants and needs front and center, seeming to find gratification in her pleasure.
“I don’t think it would be advisable at all.”
“Why not? What’s another night in the grand scheme of things? You have other plans tonight? You’ve already been introduced to my pointy end, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, yeah? I’m leaving first thing in the morning. You won’t ever see me again, so why deprive yourself of the joy my cock and I could give you?”
God, the arrogance of the man.
“The other night was a mistake that I don’t want to compound by repeating.”
He sighed, his chest heaving with the exhalation of his breath.
“Do you mean that?” he asked, his voice light but his eyes serious.
“I do.” Did she? She knew she didn’t sound very certain.
“Do you?” He arched an eyebrow as he unwittingly repeated her own doubtful question. His hand, which had been a stationary, warm weight at her waist, shifted with whiplike speed to cup a breast. She wasn’t wearing a bra—the dress had its own corset sewn into the bodice—but that meant that he could feel the immediate tightening of her nipple in response to his touch. He smiled appreciatively, and they both watched his thumb lazily circling the hard peak of her breast before deliberately brushing against the eager nub. She angled her eyes up to his face, but he was wholly focused on what he was doing, his eyelids at half-mast, his mouth slightly open as his uneven breath sawed in and out of his chest.
She lifted her hand and pressed it against his, flattening it against her chest.
“Stop it. We can’t do that here,” she said, her voice thick with desire.
She hesitated for a split second longer before nodding recklessly.
“But we can’t leave together.” He was staying in the only hotel in town, and she was already picturing everybody in town seeing her follow him in there. The rumor mill would start working before they even got their clothes off.
“You think I’m going to let you leave here without me? And have you change your mind again? My balls get any bluer and they’ll freeze the fuck off.”
She couldn’t take him to her room. Not with her entire family in the yard for the wedding. Besides, it seemed wrong to do what they wanted to do in her childhood room. The thought gave her the heebie-jeebies.
That left . . .
“I know a place. Follow me,” she whispered. “Discreetly.”
“Oh God, Lia, what are you doing?” she whispered to herself five minutes later as she stood waiting for Sam to make his appearance. She was on the verge of changing her mind when the door creaked open and the distant lights of the marquee dimly lit the dark, stuffy interior of the quiet barn.
“Here,” she called quietly. A cell phone light flickered on and swept around the area.
“Is this a barn?” he asked incredulously. A quiet whicker from the corner stall answered his question. “Are there actually horses in here?”
“Kiki sounds like a bird’s name. A bizarre choice for a horse.” He sounded fascinated. He aimed the light directly in Lia’s face and then switched it off. Leaving her disoriented in the dark.
“My father named her, and he’s not great with names. How do you think my sisters and I got our names?”
“Dahlia’s a great name,” he said. His voice sounded much closer than before. She couldn’t see his face, but he sounded sincere.
“Said nobody ever,” she quipped and gasped when his arm snaked around her waist and he dragged her up against his hard body.
“This is so fucking clandestine and hot. I like it.”
Of course he would. She didn’t have time to respond because his mouth was on hers, blistering and eager and sinfully delicious. His spicy tongue forged its way into her mouth, and she was alarmed by the instant sense of familiarity she felt in response to it. Her own tongue welcomed the invading presence with appreciative strokes and he groaned, practically eating her alive. He backed her against the wooden fence of an empty stall, and his hands fumbled with the layers of silk and tulle in her skirt before they found the bare skin beneath. He cupped her bottom and squeezed, lifting her against his rock-hard erection. He ground against her mound, and she moaned in frustration because she couldn’t get close enough.
Her arms wrapped around his neck, and he hoisted her up until she took the hint and crossed her ankles behind his taut butt. When she was comfortably situated, his hands stopped kneading her behind and roamed up her slender back until they found the hook-and-eye fastening above the zipper. He fumbled with it ineptly, seeming clumsy for the first time since they met. She heard something tear and he swore viciously before burying his mouth in her neck and drawing her skin into his mouth.
“Oh.” Why was that sensation so unbearably pleasurable? His fingers finally drew the zipper of her dress halfway down her back and his hands flattened against the exposed skin he found there. Her bodice went slack and gaped in the front. He took full advantage of that fact, his mouth tracing kisses down to the mound of one breast before latching onto her nipple hungrily.
Lia keened, her fingers burying themselves in his short, thick hair and tugging on it almost viciously. Brand refused to relinquish his relentless, suctioning hold on her sensitive nipple, though, and Lia was practically giddy as the combination of pleasure and pain escalated almost unbearably. He was fumbling with the front of his trousers, and she felt the thick heat of his penis against the lace of her panties seconds later. He sawed up against her and the friction sent her sighing into her first orgasm of the night.
His hand moved between their bodies and tugged her soaked panties aside before he pushed into her with a grunt. His mouth was on hers again and his other hand at her breasts, devoting equal time to each aching peak. He was thrusting urgently, and Lia sighed with each powerful retreat and advance of his shaft.
“Fuck!” he swore and quite abruptly dragged himself all the way out of her clutching channel. She cried out in protest. “Sorry. Fuck. No condom.”
He tugged at one of her ankles, and she reluctantly loosened her grip on his butt and allowed her legs to slide down to the ground until she stood wobbling in front of him. She couldn’t see him at all in the dark barn, but she heard the fabric of his tuxedo rustling as he fumbled around, searching for a condom. He made a satisfied sound and she heard the crinkle of the little foil package being ripped open.
“Turn around, princess,” he instructed her, and she turned blindly. He ran his hands down her arms until he found her wrists. He took gentle hold of them and lifted her hands until she felt the rough wood of the fence under her fingertips. “Hold on.”
Once again she did as he instructed, folding her fingers over the top of the fence, her breasts spilling over the top of the gaping dress, and Lia was grateful for the dark that hid her brazen display from his greedy gaze.
His hands trailed down her naked back and over her rump, curling into the material of her skirt, which he dragged up until she could feel only air on her exposed behind, cooling the wet heat between her thighs. His fingers found her, once again moving the lacy scrap of underwear aside, and tested her receptiveness, easing gently in and out, getting her back into the swing of things. Lia gasped when his thumb came into play, teasing her clitoris with sure strokes. She was on the verge of another orgasm when he replaced his fingers with something much bigger and harder and she cried out helplessly, her legs nearly giving way and forcing her to hang onto the fence for dear life.
His large hands were at her hips, holding her steady while he continued to plunder her most tender flesh. When she pushed into his thrusts, he released her hips and his hands found her naked breasts, plucking at the tender nipples.
Lia groaned helplessly as her orgasm built until she came with a high-pitched cry. He continued to thrust into her, forcing another, gentler climax fast on the heels of the first, and still he continued. Lia was so unbearably sensitive by now that she almost begged him to stop, but when he lowered his hand down her to clitoris again, and buried his face in her neck to suck on the highly sensitive skin beneath her ear, she came again. Even harder and longer than the first time.
This time he groaned as she clenched tightly around him. When she loosened her death grip on the fence, lifting a trembling hand to cup his stubbled jaw, he made a surprised sound and slammed into her so hard she almost crashed into the fence. Luckily she braced before that happened, but he pushed her up against the wood anyway, until she could feel each individual slat grinding up against her torso and abdomen. He had his arm wrapped around her breasts, to protect her tender, naked skin from the wood, and she went up on tiptoes and then left the ground completely as his next couple of powerful thrusts completely overwhelmed her.
She felt him shudder, then sob and finally groan, the sound almost anguished as he held her suspended between the fence and his hard body for what felt like eons, her feet not touching the ground at all anymore. Eventually she felt the tension leave his body, while the shudders and hoarse breathing continued unabated for much longer. He eased her down until her toes and then the soles of her feet were back on the ground. He scrupulously adjusted her skirt, not saying a word, just dusting her off and zipping her up. He couldn’t refasten the broken hook and eye, but her hair—which had been up in a chignon before this—had come completely undone and spilled halfway down her back, effectively shielding the broken clasp from view.
She ran her shaking hands through the tangled mess of her hair and then dabbed self-consciously at her damp cheeks. The first release had been so intense it had brought tears to her eyes, despite there being no actual emotional connection between them. Luckily the floodgates had closed almost as soon as the orgasm had waned, but she was almost certain she had raccoon eyes. She would have to make a quick detour back to the house and to her room to fix the damage as much as she could. She only hoped nobody else was in the house.
She heard Brand fumbling with his own clothes, heard the elasticized snap as he pulled the condom off, and she wondered what he would do with it. He couldn’t leave it in here for some poor unsuspecting farmworker to find. But where would he put it in the meantime?
All the possibilities grossed her out a bit, and she shoved it to the back of her mind. That was his concern—she had other stuff to worry about right now. She sniffed and winced at the wet sound. She would kill for a tissue.
“You okay, princess?” he asked, his dark voice sounding almost genuinely concerned.
“F-fine.” Well, she would be if she could stop shaking. She distractedly wondered if she were in shock, because she was trembling so badly despite the pleasantly balmy spring evening. He pressed something into her hand and, for a split second, she irrationally thought it was the condom and her reflex was to drop it. Luckily she didn’t, because she soon recognized the soft, folded linen square in her hand as a handkerchief, and she gratefully lifted it to her face to pat at her wet cheeks and then blow her nose noisily into it.
“I don’t want to do this again,” she said in a high, shaken, and almost hysterical voice. She sounded terrified and shocked, even to her own ears.
“Well, it was fun while it lasted,” he quipped, but his own voice had a tremor to it and she wished she could see his face.
“I don’t usually . . .”
“No need to explain yourself to me, princess. I’m all for meaningless hookups. It doesn’t make me respect you less. Besides, it would be hypocritical for me to judge you based on something that I enjoy doing so much myself.”
His words made her feel a little sick and made the entire encounter seem even more sordid.
“Have a nice life, Sam Brand. I look forward to never seeing you again.”
Her eyes had adjusted to the gloomy interior of the barn, and she knew from his dark silhouette on a slightly less dark background that he was standing directly in front of her. But even so, it surprised her when he cupped her face and graced her with the sweetest of kisses.
“You take care of yourself, princess,” he said after lifting his lips from hers.
Lia didn’t respond and turned to gingerly make her way, in the dark, back to the barn door. He didn’t follow her.