I sink down into the seat, and watch him walk toward the massive open kitchen overlooking the living area, and he is all long-legged, male grace and flexing muscle. He’s also one big contraction. Funny, charming, seemingly without the ego he has every right to possess. But there is more there. The man who’d faced off and won with the King of Egos himself, Mark Compton. The man who’d pressed me against a window and took me with a dark passion I’d sensed came from a deep, troubled place. The man who’d told me he’d show me things but he wasn’t ready for me to run. I burn to know what that means, what’s beneath his surface. And for the second time tonight, I think we are two messed up people destined to destroy each other but I can’t walk away. No. Can’t isn’t the issue. I simply don’t want to.

Chapter Sixteen


Chris has just set plates and two bottles of water on the table when a strange buzzing sound fills the room. I frown. “What was that?”

“My version of a doorbell,” he says with a boyish grin that is a complete contrast to the dark, edgy man who has just done wonderfully wicked things to me. “If a visitor manages to get past the elevator code, I still have to let them in from this side.”

“That can’t be the pizza, can it? They called about ten minutes ago.” He glances at his watch and the thick silver and black leather design has become somehow erotic to me.

“Right at ten minutes,” he confirms. “But I’m guessing they gambled and made my usual before they called me.” He pushes to his feet, running strong hands down his legs.

“Where’s the bathroom?” I ask, and stand up.

He motions to a door beside the fireplace and heads to the elevator. I watch him, trying to imagine how I’d react as a female delivery person if Chris answered the door, or elevator, with no shirt on. His tattoo. I never thought I was a tats kind of girl but his are hot, maybe the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. Or maybe Chris is simply the man who hits all my hot buttons.

He punches in a code in the panel by the elevator and I can’t see if there is a blushing female inside, but I do hear Jacob’s voice and Chris’s sexy rumble of laughter. The sound does funny things to my chest, the kind of funny feeling attached to unwelcome emotions. Oh boy. Don’t go there, Sara. Don’t start falling for Chris. This is an escape from reality.

He turns and heads back toward me, two pizza boxes in his hands, and all I can think of is being pressed against the window with him doing naughty things to me. I amend my prior thought. He absolutely hits all my hot buttons times ten. I refuse to clutter up a good thing with emotions and thoughts of tomorrow. When I was in this man’s arms, he pushed my limits and left no room for anything but what he was making me feel. I am instantly hungry and pizza isn’t what I crave. It’s him, and a desire to feel what he made me feel not so long ago.

He lifts the boxes in his hands. “They brought us two. If you’re going to the bathroom, go now. Trust me. It’s the best pizza on the planet when it’s scorching hot.”

I grin. “On the planet?”

“You bet, sweetheart, and I’ve done a lot of eating in Italy.”

Laughing, I quickly scurry away, and dart into a spare bathroom where I flip on the light to reveal a room so luxurious it makes my master bath look like a porta potty. The darn thing even has a sunken tub. Out of the blue, my chest tightens and I lean against the door, forgetting my hunger and my urgency. This life, Chris’s life, the expensive everything around me, was my life when I was growing up, and I’m apparently having a rare flashback to the past. A part of me misses the girly things like a fancy bathtub, soaps, and perfumes, but I quickly remind myself, there’d been a price for those things. Chris is a different story. He earned this life, he owns it and deserves it, and I know my desire to do the same has the Riptide ‘carrot’, as Chris had called it, enticing me. It’s my chance to ‘earn it’, or a tiny piece of this life Chris lives, myself.

I shake off my thoughts and quickly use the bathroom and wash up, checking myself in the mirror in the process. My lips are bare and swollen and my brown hair a wild mess. Not surprisingly, I look thoroughly f**ked, but remarkably better than I remember looking in a long time. Fucked. Not made love to. I smile into the mirror. I like the freedom this new me is experiencing. It’s sexy. He’s sexy. I feel sexier than I have felt in my entire life.

“Hurry, woman!” Chris shouts out and I laugh and exit the bathroom.

“Why do women do hurry so poorly?” he asks, as I join him on the couch.

“Why do men do impatient so well?” I counter, and my nostrils flare with the wonderful scent of baked bread, spices, and tomato sauce.

“Because you teach us impatience.”

I snort. “Like you men are teachable? I don’t think so.”

He opens the lid of one of the boxes and the cheese is bubbly and yummy looking. “That looks and smells so good. I’m not even going to be embarrassed to let you see how much pizza I can put back.”

He offers me a plate and I happily fill it will a large slice. “You don’t look like you can put down more than a slice or two.”

“Obviously, you know the right things to say to a girl, especially after she’s, ah, been naked.” I smile, less embarrassed with this man than seems possible considering his hot, famous, status. “But I assure you I can.” I take a bite and moan. “Oh…hmm.”

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