“I’ve seen it so long I can forget its effect. When you meet Mom, be sure to tell her.”
When you meet Mom. I nodded without responding, the car coming to a stop by a large, round fountain, my vantage point now showing a courtyard gate, a view into the house, which seemed to curve around a large pool, all overlooking a dark void which was most likely the ocean.
This house ... it wasn’t that of a rich man. This house, this oceanfront estate ... it was WEALTH. Wealth greater than anything in the Smith Bank & Trust coffers. The kind of wealth that kept Rolls Royces in the garage and butlers in the help quarters. I felt suddenly inferior, my flip-flops still wet against the interior of this car, my nails chipped when I reached for the handle.
Brett opened my door, helping me out before popping the trunk and grabbing my bag. “No butler?” I quipped.
He smiled. “Just us. Roughing it this weekend.”
I stopped him, pushing against his chest until he hit the car, my bag falling to the ground as he grabbed the offending hand. “Just us?” I repeated, glancing from left to right in the private courtyard. I suddenly wanted to do something, wanted to, in some ways, right the upside-down seesaw I felt on the short end of.
The corner of his mouth turned up, and he released my hand.
I reached down, popping the top button of his jeans, and dragged down the zipper. Used the best tool I had and kissed his mouth as I slid my hand inside. Gripped his cock through his underwear as our kiss deepened, his reaction rising against my hand. Yes. My confidence soared back to a more comfortable level.
“Riley, wait.” His voice was rough yet tender. I paused, letting him pull my hand out of his pants and my body into his chest.
“It’s not for the money, is it?” I looked up sharply, at his face, his heart beating a frantic pattern under my hand, his eyes deep in color when they looked down at me. “That’s not why you’re here. The trips, or the house ... it’s not that, right?” I had seen him in a hundred situations, a hundred looks, but never this one, young and vulnerable, like he was twenty instead of thirty-seven. It was shocking to think that, in my moment of insecurity, he was feeling it too, but for the completely opposite reason.
I relaxed in his arms and lifted my hand to his hair. Ran my fingers through it and then over his lips. “The money has nothing to do with this. And, to be honest, I could leave all the travel behind. I’m kind of a homebody, to tell the truth.”
A smile hinted, peeked, then stretched over his face. “Really?”
“Really.” I smiled. “Now, tell me the truth. Are you just with me for my rocking body?” I pushed off his chest and turned, my arms stretched out, modeling the very sexy jeans and rumpled blouse hanging from my frame.
He laughed, tucking in his cock and zipping up, his eyes taking a slow and obvious leer of my body before he stepped forward, my confident man back, and snagged my bag, slapping my ass and squeezing it. “Absolutely, baby. But I like the things that come outta that sweet little mouth too.”
“I think you like putting things in my sweet little mouth too.”
He laughed, looped his hand through mine, and we walked into the most beautiful house in the world.
(adj.) having close relations; secretive.
“a tight-lipped group”
Brett’s friends were odd. A fraternity of hard men, defined by straight posture, strong builds, and matching scowls. I hadn’t expected them, his mention of the ‘guys’ bringing to mind flabby middle-aged men with football jerseys and minivans. I stared at them and had the sudden urge to change, my bathing suit and robe too casual for this group of polo-clad men who surrounded Brett’s desk as if they were plotting world domination.
I paused in the doorway of what appeared to be Brett’s office. I had followed the sound of male voices, down a long hall, expecting to find a den or media room, the guys gathered around a pool table with beers. Instead, they were hunched over Brett’s computer, four rigid frames of masculinity, a few affirmative comments thrown out as Brett typed.
My gaze skipped over their faces, and I tried to match the voice I had heard so long ago with one of these faces. Nope. None of these men could have laughed with Brett on a sunny balcony at Atlantis over a cream cheese bagel.
Brett looked up from the center, his hands leaving the keyboard and bracing on the surface, the hunch of his body one that was primal and dominating and hotaseverlivinghell. I swallowed as he stared at me, they stared at me, and the study fell silent.
“Can I help you with something?” He didn’t smile, didn’t straighten, and I stared into his eyes and wondered what the hell I missed. Was this a fantasy football league on crack? A home renovation project they were taking way too seriously?
“No. I’ll be out by the pool.” I smiled. They scowled. “I’m Riley.” I smiled bigger. Waved tentatively. My cheeks were going to fall off at this rate of friendliness.
“Can you give us a moment, Riley?”
“Sure.” I stepped back, my wave wilting.
“Please shut the door.”
“Okay.” I met Brett’s eyes, and he smiled. A horrible smile, one that was warm and reassuring and fake. I wrapped my hand around the cold metal knob and pulled, breaking our eye contact, the firm snap of the door in place final and offensive. I stood for a moment, outside, my ear to the wood, but it was too thick, their words impossible to understand.
I walked down the long hall, marble flooring underneath my bare feet, the water bottle in my hand cold, the terrycloth robe floating out a little as I moved. I opened the french doors and stepped out, moving across a sun-lit area and toward the dark pool that stretched before me.
No, that wasn’t strange. Five grown men working over a desk, doing secret-secret stuff on a Saturday afternoon. My boyfriend dismissing me as if I were an irritating child interrupting Daddy at work. Not strange at all.
I stretched out on a cushioned chaise, leaving on my cover-up and positioning a pillow under my head. Lying back, I let my mind clearly define the puzzle piece, every bit of that room, that moment. I analyzed and formed the edges and shape of it. Then I worked through my other pieces, tried to make something fit, tried to form a connection with something ... but I failed. The puzzle piece fell, loose and unattached, to the bottom of the pile.
“Do I arouse you?” His fingers traveled freely over my skin, soft caresses over my breasts, his hands cupping one of them before traveling over to the second.