Jackson eased us into the line. “Yup. Do you know why?”

I cocked my head. “Is this a pop quiz?”

He laughed. “Guilty as charged.”

“I can hardly have grown up in Los Angeles, love architecture, and not know about Googie,” I said. “It’s like a subset of futuristic design. Very Atomic Age. Starbursts and roofs that slope up. And lots of boomerang shapes. The building at LAX, the iconic Las Vegas diamond-shaped sign, about a zillion car washes. It’s all over the place. Do I pass?”

“Flying colors.”

“But the really important question is, how are the burgers?”

“As excellent as the building,” he assured me. And he was right. Soft buns, perfectly cooked meat, crisp lettuce and tomatoes, and French fries to positively die for. We chatted while we ate, talking about everything and nothing, and when I reached over to wipe a bit of mustard from the corner of his mouth, I was struck hard by the realization that though I barely knew him, being with him was so easy that it felt as though we’d been together forever.

That perceived familiarity didn’t lessen the heat, though, and when he caught my finger and drew it into his mouth, I gasped aloud, as much in surprise as from the sudden explosion of sparks that originated at my fingertip and then pooled, wild and needy, between my thighs.

He kept his eyes on mine, then so slowly I thought I might just melt, he teased my finger with his tongue before dragging his teeth gently over my skin as he released me. “Tonight,” he said. “I’m going to taste the rest of you tonight.”

My lips parted as if to respond, but I couldn’t manage words.

He smiled, a little smug and very sexy. Then he stood and held out his hand to me. I took it willingly.

“Where are we going?”

“I thought I’d show you some of my favorite places. You said you grew up in LA, right? How long have you been in Atlanta?”

“Not long. I came right after I graduated in August. I met my boss out there—he was brokering a deal for Damien Stark, so I knew that Reggie was legit. Reggie Gale,” I added. “He needed an assistant, I wanted real estate development experience, and so it just worked out.”

“Stark,” Jackson said, his voice flat.

“You’ve heard of him, right? Retired from the tennis circuit not long ago, and he’s exploded onto the business scene. He made a huge profit with some real estate investments before he retired, and he parlayed that into a tech company and a whole bunch of other ventures.”

“I’ve heard of him. I’m not entirely sure what to think of him. Or of his success.”

“Really?” I shrugged. From what I’d seen Stark was damn talented. “I actually applied for an assistant job with him, but when Reggie offered me this position, I took it. Closer to real estate.”

“And Gale brought you to Atlanta.”

“So it’s only been a few weeks. And everything’s been so busy with the Brighton Consortium project that I haven’t had much time to get to know the city. So, yeah,” I said. “This is perfect.”

I didn’t mention that it was especially perfect since I knew that my time in Atlanta might be short. Once Reggie had fired me, I’d sent an email to the HR department at Stark International asking them to please consider my application if the assistant position hadn’t already been filled. Even if I didn’t get that job, I knew I’d probably end up back in LA. I had friends there and connections. And at the end of the day, it was all about finding a job.

Right then, though, I didn’t want to angst about my job prospects. Instead, I simply wanted to enjoy the time with Jackson.

It ended up being an even more wonderful day than I imagined, with Jackson taking me around the city, showing me his favorite buildings, and telling me why he liked them.

We started by having a post-lunch drink at the Marriott Marquis with its alien-looking atrium that rose up to dizzying heights. We hit the Georgia Aquarium next, which had that same futuristic Googie quality. We entered, then went to the largest tank and sat in the dark. I couldn’t say what creatures lived inside that massive habitat. All I knew in that moment was Jackson. His heat, his scent, his presence. I could barely think, much less focus, and when he brushed his lips against my temple, even that sweetly innocent touch was enough to have me writhing with need and anticipation.

From under the water at the aquarium, he took me underground to a subway station. “This one is my favorite.” Jackson spread his arms out to encompass the Peachtree Marta station one hundred and twenty feet below the ground. The ceiling and floor were finished, but the sides of the tunnel were rough, blasted rock.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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