Page 43 of Wicked Burn

“I don’t need anything.”

She wondered if her heart was in her eyes, because he started to say something and then abruptly paused as he looked down at her.

“What?” he drawled.

“The play is amazing, Vic,” she said softly. But she meant that he was. And Niall thought he probably knew it when a slow grin curved his lips. Did he have any notion of how beautiful he looked at that moment . . . how happy?

She had assumed that he would go and have some terse exchange with one of the technicians or the stage manager during the intermission, but instead he spent the short break with them. Niall was only vaguely aware of Ellen and Meg approaching, and then the steady line of well-wishers who followed to offer Vic congratulations that were entirely too enthusiastic to be feigned. Not that Niall would have guessed otherwise. The electric intellectual vitality of the play had transferred to the audience. It was obvious in the expressions of the people who approached Vic, but also in the energy level of the lobby as people engaged in lively conversations about what they’d seen thus far.

Most of Niall’s attention centered on Vic, however, as he patiently listened while a newspaper critic gushed or made that subtle rolling motion with his jaw as a Hesse board member raved. He glanced up once and gave Niall a quick wink when a particularly garrulous city council member walked away glowing, not seeming to notice or care that Vic had barely uttered two syllables during their entire exchange.

“Guess what they say about Chicago being called the Windy City because of its politicians is true,” he murmured into her ear before he kissed it.

Pride for him swelled in Niall’s breast, mixing with a host of the other emotions that had been ignited by his soulful, volatile play. He introduced her to everyone who approached. He put his arm around her while Ellen detailed every item that she’d ordered at the restaurant.

“Vic, there’s something—” Meg began, but just then the lights dimmed, signaling that the intermission was over. Niall got the distinct impression from the concerned expression on Meg’s face that she’d been about to tell him that Jennifer Atwood was attending his play.

When Eileen Moore came onto the stage a minute later, Niall suddenly recalled what Vic had said about sleeping with her after he’d suffered a serious breakup with a woman he’d planned to marry. Her unease deepened. Had Vic been engaged to Jennifer Atwood? And more important . . . was he still in love with her?


The second portion of Alias X held the audience even more spellbound than the first. Niall had never seen a production that was so carnal, so volatile, and yet so intellectually thought-provoking at the same time.

During the second half she began to better understand Vic’s use of symbolism in his minimalist set design. She recalled what he’d said when they made love in her new condominium. I’m a guy. I like the visuals. Niall didn’t know if it was because he was a male or not, but as a scholar in the arts, she recognized the genius behind his vision for set design.

Vic planned to meet Niall, Meg, and Ellen at the opening night party after he took care of some business at the theater. They paused outside his office after he’d given them the backstage tour of the Hesse to which Meg hadn’t had access.

“You know the opening night party is going to be at Mina’s?” he asked Niall.

Niall smiled at the dry edge to his tone and nodded. She knew of the place. It was a posh restaurant with a clublike atmosphere that overlooked Michigan Avenue. Vic caught her grin and smiled back. Just like that, Niall knew that someone else had made the opening night party plans and Vic was resigned to spending his special night at such a trendy, fashionable venue.

She saw something else in that quick flash of his eyes as he smiled at her, though. He looked forward to tonight—to them making love after almost a week’s abstinence. And Niall was more than ready for it, too, especially given the near to bursting feeling she had in her chest cavity every time she glanced at Vic or touched him after watching his amazing play.

Vic abruptly grasped her hand. “We’ll just be a second,” he muttered to Ellen and Meg before he dragged Niall back into his office and slammed the door behind him.

“Vic, what—”

But he cut her off as he swept down and began to devour her with his mouth. He bent over her, drinking from her thirstily before he grunted impatiently. Niall felt him strengthen his hold on her and her feet rose off the ground. Her hands gripped desperately at his shoulders, instinctively recognizing she might be swept into uncharted, tumultuous territories by the magnitude of their combined desire.

By the time Vic slid her body erotically down the length of his lean body and set her boots back down on the ground, both of them were out of breath. Niall thought she would overheat at her core when he spread his hand over her breast and massaged and shaped it to his palm.

“You’re spending the night at my place tonight,” he stated firmly.

Niall moaned softly in pleasure at his touch and nodded.

“Don’t plan on getting any actual sleep, though.”

Niall laughed throatily and pressed her belly against his iron-hard erection. “Sleep wasn’t on my agenda, I promise you.”

He stared down at her for a few seconds, his features rigid. “I guess we should go get this over with,” he said regretfully.

“You should try to enjoy yourself. You deserve to celebrate. You’ve done a phenomenal job.”

He sighed and parted from her with a look of regret. “Niall?” he said as she turned toward the door.