“I’m looking for Tobias Bennett,” she said.
The security guard sauntered over, his thumbs hooked in his pockets. He looked her up and down. “Is he expecting you?”
She was going to give him the whole story, but decided to keep it simple. “Yes.”
He tilted his head. “You’re not his usual type, but who am I to judge? Top floor.”
Adora bit her tongue and hit the elevator button. She’d grab her mother and get the hell out of this overpriced neighborhood. It was hard enough getting by without all the judgmental stares and stereotypes.
She wasn’t one of Mr. Bennett’s whores.
Her mother had told her all about the old bastard’s weekly escapades. There wasn’t enough money in all the world to pay Adora to sleep with him—not that he’d want her. She imagined a man in his position could have whoever he wanted. It made her sick thinking of all the beautiful young women who gave themselves to him in exchange for money or status. That would never be her. A degree in architecture would be her way out, a chance to make a real life for herself.
When she reached the penthouse suite, she softly knocked on the door. When no one answered, she turned the handle. She decided to slip inside and find her mother for herself. If she knocked too loudly, she could wake Mr. Bennett. Adora was used to finding her mother on the job. When she was younger, she’d helped her clean the condos and offices so they could get home sooner.
The condo was huge, and not what she expected. She knew he had money, but nothing like this. Adora whirled around in slow circles as she admired the vaulting ceilings, massive windows, and impressive collection of artwork. She couldn’t even imagine living like this. It would be like stepping into a fairy tale. Mostly she craved the security that money could offer, not the luxuries. When she was a kid, she’d pretend to live in the homes her mother cleaned, role-playing and escaping into her imagination. Now she was an adult, and knew the only way she’d get ahead was working her ass off.
She studied the streets below from the massive floor to ceiling window, the people and cars scurrying about like tiny ants, when a throat cleared behind her. Adora paled, slowly turning to the sound. She swore her heart stopped when she saw a man standing there wearing an open robe. He wore navy pajama pants underneath and no shirt, an empty coffee mug dangling in his hand.
It couldn’t be Tobias Bennett. She’d already envisioned exactly what her mother’s boss would look like, and it was nothing like the man in front of her. This man wasn’t haggard with sweaty palms and balding head. His chest was hard, with a light sprinkling of dark hair, and chiseled abs. A thin trail of hair led down into his low waistband … she averted her eyes. Adora swallowed hard, waiting for the shitstorm. She didn’t want her mother to get fired because she was uninvited in Mr. Bennett’s very expensive condo.
He didn’t say a word, just stared at her, like a predator planning its attack. Should she say something? Apologize? Explain the situation? No words came out of her mouth, even when he started to walk closer.
“You’re not Maria.” His voice was deep, a hint of teasing, but no malice.
“I’m just picking her up. I’m sorry if I startled you.”
He wet his bottom lip and moved to the side to get a better look at her. She felt as if she was on auction. This was exactly the reason she was enrolled in college, so she’d never be at the mercy of a man. She could only imagine the horrors her mother had to deal with over the course of her life, especially speaking minimal English.
“Do you work in the building?”
She’d kept her head down, but dared to look up into his eyes. “No. I’m her daughter.”
He smirked, realization softening his features. His hair was still damp from a shower, and his dark, musky scent suited him perfectly. “You know, Maria’s worked here for what? Ten years? I never knew she had a daughter.”
“Did you ask?”
“My Spanish isn’t the greatest.” He held out his hand. “Tobias.”
This was actually Tobias Bennett? One of the wealthiest men in the city? She wasn’t sure how she felt about him now that she’d seen him in the flesh. Her mother had a job because of him, but Adora had always associated money with everything debased in society. From her experience the wealthier the person, the higher they expected you to jump.
She shook his outstretched hand. “Adora Garcia.” His grip was firm, and he didn’t allow her to pull away. She looked down at his hand, and hers was tiny in his grip. Her body coiled tight, a wash of need taking her by surprise. When she glanced up to see his intention, her breath caught.
“Such a pretty name,” he said. His words were slow and deliberate, mesmerizing her.
Then she thought better. He was a renowned playboy, and she had no intention of being his next victim. She pulled her hand back, which only served to amuse him.
“Have you seen my mother?”
“I don’t know what I’d do without her. She knows exactly how I like things, and half the time I don’t even know she’s here.” He ran the backs of his fingers along the length of her hair. She’d left in such a rush, she hadn’t pulled it back into her usual ponytail. “I can see her in you.”
She instinctively flinched away from his touch.
“Are you afraid of me?” he asked.
“I don’t know you.”
He moved toward his open concept kitchen, setting his mug on the counter. Tobias flicked on his coffee maker and then leaned over the counter, using one curled finger to beckon her closer. She took tentative steps, making sure to stay on the opposite side of the granite island. “How about we change that?”
“Change what?” she asked.
“I want to get to know you, Adora. Can I take you to dinner?”
She narrowed her eyes. “Really? Why would you want to take me to dinner?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
She scoffed. “Where would I start? You know nothing about me. What if I’m already dating someone?”
Tobias poured his coffee, then left it aside. He walked around the island to where she stood, bracing a hand on each side of the counter, caging her in. “Are you?” he asked.
Adora forgot how to breathe. He was so much taller than she was, his shoulders blocking out the rest of the room, making her feel small and feminine. He had such a commanding presence, and she imagined he got everything he wanted.
“Cat got your tongue?”
“Yes, I have a boyfriend,” she lied. For all she knew he had another one-night stand still sleeping in his bed. Adora decided it was best to put up a wall to protect herself from this shark. If she rejected him flat out, her mother could lose her job. A boyfriend was a safe answer, an easy out.
He shook his head, his dark eyes stripping her layer by layer. “You’re a terrible liar, little one.” He ran the pad of his thumb along her lower lip, making her bolt back, hitting the counter. Tobias still wouldn’t let her escape. “I’ll bet all my shares in the Bennett Corporation that you’re a virgin, too.”
He chuckled, a deep, rumbling sound. “I didn’t get this far by not being able to read people.”
“Where’s my mother?” she repeated, looking side to side for an escape. This stranger had unraveled her in just a few minutes. She felt so exposed, so deliciously violated. He had to be over twice her age, so why did he affect her like this? She wasn’t used to watching all her control slip away.
“Relax, baby girl. I’m just playing.” He stepped back, running his hand through his dark hair, a bit of grey at the temples. Everything about him was composed and deliberate. “I’m just asking for one date.”
“I don’t think I’m your type,” she said. “I’m not interested in a good time, and I can’t be bought.” She stood firm on her beliefs. No way would she be used and discarded. Not for all the money in the world, no matter how tempting he may be.
But a part of her, deep down to the marrow, wanted to be his. Wanted to be taken and claimed. Was she dea
ling with daddy issues? Was she sick for desiring a man exuding power and control? He was everything she tried to steer clear of, but she was inexplicably drawn to him. That one touch made her desperate for more, but she had to resist her twisted desires. Adora was convinced her DNA was against her, leading her to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She wanted more from a man, demanded more from her life.
“Everyone has a price,” he said.
She pushed away, finally able to breathe once she put space between them. His scent was addictive, pulling her under his spell. Adora turned around once at a safe distance. “Maybe in your world. Not mine.”
“Then prove me wrong. One date.”
It took all her willpower to refuse him. “Sorry, I’m not interested.”
End of sample chapter