“It was worth it as soon as I saw you.” Soft words. Dramatic impact.
I smiled, stepped up on the thin ledge, one that allowed me to lean over the balcony and put my face fully into the wind. “You don’t know me Brant.” I don’t even know myself.
“No, I don’t.” He said the words mildly, as if the concept was unimportant.
I turned and watched him. Saw the calm set of his features. He was poised, undeterred. As if my attraction to him was unimportant, either due to confidence or because he didn’t care if we ever saw each other again. The path of confidence was the option I preferred; the other was a problem. I was unaccustomed to denial, to losing, the thought of being discarded difficult to comprehend. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, but I knew I was want-able. Had nothing if not self-assurance. I swallowed a foreign seed of insecurity. “Let’s get out of here.”
That turned his head. Hands in his pockets, he moved closer, enough for me to smell his cologne, an expensive scent that made me think of yachts and cigars. “Where do you want to go?”
I faced forward, closed my eyes against the ocean breeze, and exhaled. “Out of here.”
We hopped the balcony fence on the far end, where there was a staircase that was closed off for the party, the tiny act of rebellion perfect in its ridiculousness. I removed my heels, our dash down the stairs almost Cinderella-like in its execution, his strong hand pulling mine, our fingers interlocking when we reached the bottom. I tried to gather the bulk of my dress, the expensive fabric ruined at the bottom, Versace making an ironclad appointment with my dry cleaner. Giving up, I looked for my driver, the sea of black cars in the lot signifying the upper classes’ lack of ability to diversify in any way. The silver Rolls moved, seeing me first, a bellman’s white glove appearing and opening the door for me. “Ms. Fairmont,” the young man said stiffly, extending a hand to help me into the car.
I half-expected Brant to touch me in the car, his hand to steal onto my leg, his prostitute-loving self to put those beautiful lips on my body in some way. He did nothing, just settled into the seat beside me, his fingers drumming a pattern on the armrest as he stared out the window.
“My house, Mark.” My family’s driver, a man who had been in my life for over a decade, nodded, his eyes never flicking to the rear view mirror. My use of him was rare, reserved for situations like this, events where I expected to imbibe. Despite my mother’s scrawl on his paychecks, I had his loyalty. Who knew what secrets he kept for my parents, but he kept a file cabinet’s worth of mine. I turned my attention off him and to the mystery beside me.
I’d known plenty of geniuses. Stanford was stocked full, so I had experienced every make and model. And, for the most part, there were known types. The ones who genetics had blessed with intelligence but no social skills. Then there were the pompous, insecure men who feigned confidence by vomiting knowledge tidbits at every opportunity. Then the kind who made me the most nervous: the quiet types who watched you while notating every nuance of your character for analysis at a later moment. The type I shared a car with at that moment in time.
He took his eyes off the view and turned to me. Studied me with open intensity, his eyes scraping open every damaged pore on my psyche.
“Stop.” The words came out before I could stop them.
His mouth twitched. “Why?”
“Don’t think. Your brain could probably use a rest.” I smiled.
“Worried about what I will come up with?”
“Why’d you leave with me?” Open curiosity in his eyes. Like any woman needed to explain running off with a billionaire.
“I figured you should have one night you didn’t have to pay for.”
His eyes smiled. “I like paying.”
“Why?” Now I was the curious one. About every piece of this man. He was fascinating, the most interesting piece being his utter lack of concern about my opinion of his actions.
“It’s less messy. I can dictate the night. No emotions involved.”
“Emotions can make it hotter.”
“And more painful.”
“You been hurt?”
“Not yet.” He stared at me so steadily, an odd emphasis placed on the words, as if he was giving his heart to me with both hands, certain that it would lead to his demise.
I suddenly didn’t want it. Didn’t want the weight and pressure of expectation. Didn’t want to do anything but bring the light back into this man’s eyes.
The car slowed, and I saw the gates before us, moving slowly as we waited for entrance. I reached over, unclicked his belt, his eyes following my hand, his brows raising slightly.
Mark dropped us before the front doors, my hand pushing on the knob, my hand stealing behind and pulling Brant into the dark house, his quiet steps following me straight through to the back. There, the silent slide of glass against rubber opened the back wall of my bedroom, the ocean stretching before us. It was an act I’d done before, the view impressive, the ocean air clearing the room of stiffness, the view suddenly embarrassing in front of a man who probably owned islands. I turned away from him, hid the sudden blush of my cheeks, and held up my hair. “Unzip me.”
There was a moment of pause, a moment where I tilted my head, waited for the pressure on my zipper. Then it came, the slow drag, the fingers of his other hand following, four points dragging down my bare back as he took it the entire way, past the curve of my back, until he stopped, half of my backside bared, his breath changing in tempo, a few stuttering inhalations bringing a smile to my face. So, he is human. His hands slid up, hot points of contact, and skimmed the tops of my shoulders, shedding me of the dress as the material fell down my arms and off my body. I turned, naked, save my underwear, and cast a mischievous smile toward his clothes.
“You do it.” A challenge and order in the tone.
I shook my head. “I’ve got to break you of the habit of ordering women around.”
He scowled, pulled at his bowtie, yanking it loose and working the buttons on the front of his shirt. “When’s the last time you did what you were told?”
I shrugged. “Hard to think back that far.” Then, as much as I wanted to stand there and watch him strip, I turned and stepped out of my dress, heard the thud of his dress shoe as it loosely hit the floor. I stepped toward the bed, reaching forward to pull at the duvet, and jumped a bit when I felt the heat of his hand turn me back into the hard surface of his chest. A full body press of skin against skin, hard planes meeting soft curves. Nothing between him and my…