I nod and fill my own cup before replacing the pot and sitting down. I pour creamer into my coffee and stir, avoiding Chris’s scrutiny.
“Do you talk to him?” he prods, apparently not worried about pushing me as I was him.
I sip my coffee, in no rush to deliver my reply but finally confess, “Never and I don’t talk about him, Chris.” I add his word choice for emphasis. “Ever.”
He ignores my obvious plea to change the subject. “When was the last time you actually saw or talked to him?”
“I said my goodbyes to them both at the funeral.” I sip my coffee and I wish it were liquid chocolate comfort, not ground brewed beans. Chris is still staring at me when I set it down.
He looks puzzled. “She died of a heart attack, right?”
“So why do I get the feeling you blame your father for her death?”
My lips thin. ”I blame him for her miserable life.”
Understanding washes over him. “You didn’t take a dime. You just walked away.”
“Yes.” A lump forms in my throat. “Which brings me to last night. I don’t know what is up with you and Mark, but-”
“It’s not a cock-fight,” he teases and I can tell he’s trying to lighten the mood.
I cringe at the memory I cannot escape. “I still can’t believe I said that.”
“We aren’t enemies,” he adds, answering what I have not asked but planned to. “I just know him and I know how he works. I wasn’t — I won’t - let him manipulate you.”
“I’m an employee trying to earn my way into a permanent job, and one that pays more than an intern on the floor.”
“And your desperateness to make that happen showed. He can’t manipulate you. If he thinks you have something to offer, he’ll give you the opportunity at Riptide, minus the head games he was working on you.”
“My father is the king of users and I handle him just fine. I can handle Mark, Chris.”
“You ended up with nothing from your father, Sara. You didn’t handle him just fine. Any father worth a grain of salt takes care of his f**king daughter, no matter how hard-headed she might be about letting him. You deserve to be taken care of.”
Anger surges in me and I stand up. “You have no right-”
He’s on his feet towering over me. “What if I want to have a right?”
“You aren’t a relationship kind of guy, Chris and that’s why I’m here. I’m not a relationship kind of girl. No white picket fences, remember? We both agreed on that. You all but insisted on it. Therefore, you get to f**k me but you don’t get to f**k with my life. This is my opportunity to prove I can have my dream just like you have yours. I appreciate the commission. I do. More than you know but it changes nothing. I still need more than money or I’d be my father’s whipping dog right now, lapping up his money.” My heart is about to explode from my chest. “I need to get dressed and go home.” I start to walk away.
“Already running away? Can I scare you that easily?”
I stop dead in my tracks and my chest burns. “I’m not running,” I hiss, facing off with him.
“You look like you’re running to me. The first time I push a button you don’t like you bolt.”
“A few orgasms does not give you control of my life.”
“You know, sweetheart, I know I’m f**ked up. But if you think the guy trying to protect you instead of walk all over you is the one trying to run your life, you’re just as f**ked up as I am. Walking away from your father is not managing him. It’s running.”
He’s hit every nerve I own like a lightning rod. “But you want me to walk away from the gallery and Mark and you don’t call that running?”
His expression clouds and he reaches for me, pulls me hard against his body, his hand snaking into my hair. “Because Mark wants to f**k you, Sara, and I don’t share. You’re with me or you’re not. Decide now.”
I can barely breathe. He’s jealous. Chris is jealous. It’s hardly conceivable and I want him all the more because of it, which probably means he’s right. I’m f**ked up. But then, I know that already. He’s wrong about me being a doormat, though. I’ve been there, done that, and I’m not going there again. “You want me, Chris, you accept my job and you support me.”
“What do you think I was trying to do by taking away Mark’s control over you last night? But damn it, Sara, say what I want to hear. Tell me you don’t want him.”
“I don’t. Just you.” And suddenly his mouth is on mine, his tongue pressing past my teeth, stroking me until I’m mindless. We are all over each other, touching and kissing, and I barely register the robe falling away.
“Damn it, woman, you are making me crazy,” he groans, pressing me against the wall, his fingers caressing my br**sts, teasing my ni**les, his mouth already devouring mine.
I can feel him shoving down his pants. “Hurry,” I plead. “I need-“
He kisses me. “Me too, baby. Me too.”
And then somehow, he’s inside me. Oh God. Yes. He’s inside me, thick and hard and I’m no longer on the ground or against the wall. He’s lifted me and my legs are wrapped around his waist. He is thrusting into me, pulling me down on top of him, pushing me so that I’m leaning so far back I feel like I might fall; only he has me. His arm is around my waist, his powerful body pushing into mine, his hot gaze raking over my br**sts, and he has me. He won’t let me fall and that knowledge, that certainty that comes from some place deep inside, allows me to let go. I let myself feel and not think. I am lost to the passion, to the moment, and the push of him inside me, the pleasure of him stretching me, is more than I can take. An orgasm ripples through me with a sudden, intense blast, my body clenching around his. He groans with the impact and God, that groan is hotness personified. I feel the wet, warm heat of his release and I am past my release, and clear-headed enough to revel in the beauty of his face etched with the pleasure I am giving him. I am spellbound by the sight of him, hanging on every second of his release, watching the tension in his features slowly ease into relaxation.