I shrugged. “Maybe. It’s just—okay, I used to skip school sometimes and take the bus downtown. I lived in Los Angeles,” I added. “My parents had no idea, but there were days when I just couldn’t deal with all the crap that was going on in my life. And so I’d stand there, my head tilted back, and I’d look at the city rising up around me. And it would fill me. I didn’t understand it then—all I knew was that it gave me hope.”

“Do you understand it now?”

“Yes,” I said softly. “I do.”

“So do I.”

“Really?”

“You were right about the hope,” he said. “But you were only a kid, so you didn’t get the core. That understanding came later when you realized that the clean, soaring lines of an office building are a testament. A reminder that circumstances and the world can be controlled, no matter how futile and lost some moments might feel.”

My throat tightened, because he knew. He truly got it. And in that moment I was grateful I never cried, because I didn’t want to shed tears in front of him. “Yes. Exactly.”

“Why didn’t you pursue it? As a job, I mean?”

“I would have,” I admitted. “But I don’t have the skill set or the vision. I can see a building and understand its greatness, but my mind isn’t set up to conceive of it in the first place. So I guess it’s more of a hobby with me, and why I’ve got a job in real estate. And I like to walk cities and look at the buildings. Read books. Take photographs. I take a lot of photographs,” I added.

I didn’t ask why he became an architect. I didn’t need to. I could tell simply by watching him that he was doing exactly what he’d been born to do. Even something as simple as his confident precision when he handled the Porsche proved that he embodied everything I admired. He was a man who didn’t shrink from the world, but walked proudly within it, both capable and eager to reshape it in accordance with his own unique vision.

Had I seen that quality in him from the first moment? I must have, because why else would nothing more than a look from him have brought me to my knees?

I was still wondering as we climbed the steps to my second floor apartment in Buckhead.

I broke the silence as we arrived at my door. “I don’t do this. Not usually.”

“Go home?”

He was teasing, of course, but I remained serious, and with my hand I gestured between the two of us. “This,” I said. “I don’t date. Not very much. It’s not—it’s not really on my radar.”

“Good. I don’t want you to date. But, Sylvia, you’re on my radar now. And I think that’s a very good thing.”

My cheeks flushed as I fumbled in my purse for my keys. “So, I’ve only got wine inside. Do you like red?”

“I do. But I’m not coming in.”

“You’re—but—” I stopped talking, afraid I sounded as gobsmacked as I felt. He’d asked me if I wanted more, and so I’d been expecting everything. Wanting it. Even craving it.

Now I stood in front of my doorway, confused, off balance, and uncertain where exactly I’d gone off the rails.

“I’m not coming in tonight,” he clarified, as his fingers brushed my cheek. “But make no mistake, Sylvia. This isn’t over. It hasn’t even begun.”

“I don’t want it to be over,” I admitted.

“And what do you want?” he asked. “Because I will tell you right now that when I want something—or someone—I pursue it relentlessly and don’t stop until I have possessed it fully. Do you want sweet words and chocolates? You’ll have them. Hand-holding and gentle kisses? I welcome them. But I want so much more, Sylvia, and you need to know that I will have you in my bed.”

My mouth had gone completely dry. The rest of me was hot and wet, and I had to reach out and press my hand against the doorjamb simply to keep from melting onto the floor.

I expected the dark to take hold, my fears to pull me down, and the cold, unforgiving fingers of memory to yank me back into myself and away from this man and his words that were both a seduction and a demand.

But there was no cold, and the only dark came from the night sky, and was bright with stars. That tingle I felt wasn’t fear, it was excitement. And when I met his eyes, I was certain that he could see in mine how much of a miracle he was to me.

“Christ, you tempt me. My fingers itch to take you right now. To strip you bare and just look at you, naked and hot and wet for me. And I will, too. I’m going to touch you. I’m going to stroke every inch of you. I’m going to bury myself deep inside of you. And I’m going to memorize the way you look when you find release in my arms. All of that,” he said as my body went limp and hot under the force of his words. “But not yet. Not tonight.”


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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