I swallow, not entirely certain I could form words right then, even if I had to.

“Surrender, princess, and you’ll get the orgasm I denied you earlier. Don’t stop, and I’ll be the only one who gets off for a very, very long time.”

I believe him. And while I wish I had the strength to follow through and make him come—to sacrifice my own pleasure for the sake of a victory—I just can’t do it.

I pull my hand away.

“Good choice,” he says, and there is no denying both the heat and the victory in his voice. “I promise, sweetheart, that you won’t regret it.”

He nods at the table and I realize that we’ve finished the meal. “Dessert?”

I shake my head.

“No? I want dessert. I just don’t want it here.” He brushes his finger over my lower lip. “A moment,” he says, then stands. He goes to the door, slides it open, then signals for the check.

As he’s returning to the table, the theme from Star Wars starts to blare from my purse.

I wince as Jackson laughs.

“Yoda calling?”

I roll my eyes as I rummage for my phone. “My brother.”

I glance down at the screen and feel the blood drain from my face as I read the text message.

Hey, Silly!

Guess who’s finally moving back to the good old USA?

Arriving in three weeks—just in time for Halloween.

Pick me up at LAX? Then let’s shoot down to Irvine.

Mom’s all psyched about putting on a huge spread for us.

And Dad says he doesn’t see enough of you, either.

Love you, big sis.

Miss you.

See you soon.

“Something wrong?”

I realize that I’ve been staring at the phone for a hell of a lot longer than it takes to read one text message.

“I—no. Not a thing. Just give me a sec.” I manage a smile as I type out a response, but am frustrated to see that my hands are shaking.

So psyched you’re coming home! At a work thing, so more soon.

Send flight details—I’ll be there with balloons!

Not sure can swing Irvine. Crazy busy at work.


I force myself to look up at him, then flash as bright a smile as I can manage. “So, check all taken care of?”

He hesitates, then nods. “We can go.”

I smile, trying my best to look normal, and follow him out of the restaurant.

Origami is one of the new, hot places on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, just a few doors down from the entrance to the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Jackson had parked at the hotel, and I’d anticipated dinner in one of its incredible restaurants. But he’d surprised me by leading me through the lobby and to the street.

Now, we’re heading back, and Ethan’s text still weighs on me, along with all the tension and fears that just the thought of seeing my parents raises.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

I turn to look at him, surprised. “I didn’t think that conversation was part of tonight’s program.” My words come out harsher than I meant, and I immediately regret them. Despite everything, there was genuine concern in his voice, and even though this night is all about punishing me, I truly didn’t mean to be a bitch.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “And no. I’d rather not talk about it. Really,” I add, because the expression on his face suggests that he is going to argue.

He nods reluctantly, and we continue walking in silence. But the odd thing is that I feel a bit better. The night is cool and clear, the air crisp and sweet-smelling. I’m on one of the prettiest streets in the world, with glitz and glamour lit up in the shop windows that we are passing.

And despite the fact that I hurt him so deeply, the man at my side still cares about me. At least a little.

It’s enough to sweep away my anger and fear. Three weeks is a lifetime away, and tonight is not the time to open the door to more memories. And, frankly, tonight I have enough on my mind with Jackson. I don’t need my family in my head, too.

I frown as we pass the valet stand. “Aren’t you getting your car?”

“Not just yet,” Jackson says as a liveried doorman greets us. With Jackson’s hand pressing gently against the small of my back, we enter the stunning lobby. It’s awash in a golden light that makes the polished marble floor glow in a way that draws out the iconic circular design that looks a bit like a target symbol. At the center of the circle stands a giant table with an enormous—and gorgeous—flower arrangement blooming bright beneath one of the most ornate chandeliers I’ve ever seen.

“I love this hotel,” I say. “It’s like stepping back in time with its mix of classical and art deco elegance.”

Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
Source: www.StudyNovels.com