Robbed of my fast reflexes, all I can do is watch, unsure what I’m seeing is real, when I’m struck from the side, arms locking around me as the crowd screams, and my senses return just in time for my heart to leap at a shattering sound so loud I feel the impact in the air.
Glass flies all around, hitting my exposed shoulders and sticking in my hair as I land with a thud on the marble floor of the ballroom. My fall is broken by something both hard and soft, and for a moment I just stare at the ceiling where the chandelier was a few moments ago. Then I realize it’s not something I’ve landed on. It’s someone. People are screaming and running, toppling over tables in the chaos as adults clutch children close to their chests and run for their lives.
“Are you okay?” It’s Maxim’s voice in my ear as the lights in the main part of the room come up, and I glance over my shoulder only to fall into his black eyes.
“Yes,” I answer, shivering not because of what just happened, but because I’ve never seen anyone look at me as he is now.
I’ve never been touched like this before. Never been this close to a man besides my father, and even dressed as I am, I feel completely naked under his grasp.
Fire blazes through me as his hands tighten around my waist, pulling me up and into him as we sit together.
For a moment, I’m lost in his eyes, my breathing labored as carnal thoughts run riot through my mind. I want him to rip the dress from me and toss it aside. I want him to bend me over the bench where I’ve just been carving and sink his cock deep inside me. I’m struggling under the weight of my own desires, and it’s like I’m watching myself, knowing that it’s the wrong choice but unable to stop what’s happening.
Then I spot my father moving toward us through the crowd, fear covering his face, and I come back to my senses. “I said I’m fine.” I fluster, pushing myself away and tugging my legs up under fabric layers of the skirt of my dress, trying to deny the dampness that soaks my panties.
“Seleme.” Papa is on his knees next to me, my mother by his side. His eyes run up and down, inspecting me, and I know if I was hurt his intense vision would pick up on it immediately. I only worry what else he can see. “You are not harmed. Just in shock.”
The relief in his voice clutches at my heart even as my pulse speeds. I’m overpowered by Maxim’s scent. My head is spinning, but it’s not simply from the rush of adrenaline and the danger; it’s him. He’s so close. Too close.
There’s no longer any way to deny the effect this human man is having on me, and it frightens me more than my recent brush with death.
Yes, death. Because until my coming of age, my mortality is a yoke heavy upon my shoulders and from the looks on my parents’ faces, theirs, as well.
We all stand, brushing glass crystals from our clothes, and I struggle to cast my eyes anywhere but back upon him.
“Thank you.” My father turns and extends his hand to Maxim, who takes it immediately. My father brings his other hand to cover their handshake as my mother runs her hands down my hair with concern. “How can I ever repay you?”
Maxim looks at me as I shift, and we both move together to stand between my parents. I look around the room and it’s clear at a glance that mercifully nobody else appears to be hurt.
His friend Dimitri rushes over. “Everyone okay? Jesus Christ, that was close.” He glances at the huge chandelier, nearly as big as a compact car laying on the floor next to where I stood, then at the ceiling, and then back to us.
“Yes,” I answer. “It was.”
“That was some accident.” Dimitri’s words are tinged with sarcasm.
“Yep.” Maxim’s eyes are locked on mine. “No way that chandelier just decided to choose this moment to fall.”
My father steps towards Maxim. “Your reflexes are more than impressive. Do you by chance work with your friend’s security company?”
In unison, Dimitri answers yes as Maxim answers no.
My father gives them both a quizzical look before finishing, “The thing is, I agree with you both. What just happened could well have been intentional.” He clears his throat, then turns to Maxim. “I want to hire you. We’ve had some security concerns of late. Seleme is insisting that she be allowed to carry on as normal, but I’m worried for her safety, and after what just happened, I don’t want to take any chances. Your reaction time. I’ve never seen anything like it in a hum—. I mean, name your price and your terms.”