EPISODE EIGHT

Chapter Twenty-One

Lorelei

 

Fifteen minutes after he hung up on me, Ashton bangs on my front door. The man is infuriating. I told him not to come over for a good reason and he just barges right on over. I know that if I let him in that door he’ll convince me to change my mind. And Goddamn it, I don’t want to change my mind. He may have given me the best sex I’ve ever had, but he’s too much in every other way. My heart isn’t ready for what I know he’ll demand.

He bangs harder. “Lorelei, open the door.”

I make my way to the door and give in. I expect him to stride through the door but he doesn’t. Instead he stays where he is and watches me, waiting. It unnerves me. Just being in his presence is enough to do that, but the way his eyes hold me captive, and the way his body screams desire completely messes with my thinking.

Not to mention the fact my body remembers every inch of his from earlier today.

Pointing my finger at him, I say, “Stop that!”

His brows lift. “I haven’t done a thing yet.”

His deep voice stirs butterflies in my stomach. Damn you, Ashton Scott. I wave my finger in the air. “Yes, you have. You came over here when I told you not to and now you’re just standing there staring at me…”

His lips twitch. “Staring at you isn’t doing anything.”

“Well, you’re talking to me, too. So just stop it all, turn around and go home. We had fun and now it’s ove—”

With one purposeful step, he enters my home and invades my personal space. His arm easily slides around my waist, pulling me hard against his body. “It is so far from over, Lorelei. I know that, and as much as you’re trying to convince yourself otherwise, you know it, too.”

My heart races so fast I can feel it all over my skin. And my core is begging for him. Traitor.

He holds me tight and forces his way further into my home while closing the door behind him. Once he’s got the door closed, he turns me and backs me up against it. Pressing his erection into me, he growls, “Tell me you don’t want this and I’ll leave.”

My hands go to his chest and I attempt to push against him, but my effort is weak at best. I open my mouth to reply, not even sure what I’m about to say. When no words come, I snap my mouth shut.

His eyes search mine. “I thought so.”

A second later his mouth crashes down onto mine. The traitor that it is, my body responds without hesitation. My arms circle him and my hips rock against him while my lips show him just how much I want this.

No, no, no.

Unwrapping my arms from around him, I push on his chest. Breathless, I manage to get out, “I don’t… I can’t… You need to go.” I’m scattered and still fighting to think straight, but I need to end this.

“Why?”

I blink, staring up at him. Again, he didn’t do what I expected. I assumed he would continue to try and bulldoze his way in, but he’s not. And that only bewilders me more.

“I told you on the phone, we’re too different for this to go anywhere.”

“Leaving aside the fact I don’t agree, why do we have to know where it will go before we begin?”

“Because I like to have a plan and know where I’m going.”

“Bullshit.”

My eyes widen and angry heat flushes my skin. “You’ve said that to me twice tonight, Ashton. I won’t put up with it again.”

“Someone has to say it to you. I suspect not many get the chance to challenge you.”

I fold my arms across my chest. “And what does that mean?”

“It means that you run hot and cold, and I can see that you close yourself off at the first sign of trouble. But what you need to know about me is that I don’t give up easily. I want you and I will have you.”

I exhale a harsh breath. “And I keep telling you that sometimes you just can’t have what you want.”

He dips his face to mine and traces my lips with his finger. “Baby, you can keep fighting me if you want, because trust me, I fucking love a good fight. But what I’d really love you to do is let me fuck that fight out of you. I thought I’d done that today. Clearly I need to up my game.”

My legs sway.

Ashton does not need to up his game.

Far from it.

But I’m finished playing his game.

I drop my arms, straighten my shoulders and take a deep breath. “No. I want you to leave.”

His face is still close and he doesn’t shift away fast. He holds my gaze for what feels like forever before finally taking a step back. “This isn’t done, Lorelei. Not by a long shot.”

With that, he leaves and I close the door behind him. His scent lingers, and I close my eyes and inhale it as I sag against the door. The tension knotting my shoulders eases, but not by much, because as much as I don’t want to admit it, Ashton was right. I do run at the first sign of trouble. Usually, though, that trouble takes a lot longer to find me. Usually, I don’t fall this fast.

 

***

 

“Why do you look like you’ve been hit by a truck?” Sienna asks the next morning over coffee in the office.

I sigh and place my mug on the table. “Because I’m pretty sure one hit me last night.”

She frowns. “Come again?”

“Ashton. He may as well be a truck with the way he rams into people’s lives.”

She raises her brows and her lips form an ‘O’. “Tell me more. The last I knew he’d rammed himself into things other than lives and you were smiling about it. How can a man fuck shit up that fast?”

“Oh, trust me, he can,” I mutter as I recall once again our conversation last night.

“See now, I find it hard to believe that he did this all on his own, babe.”

I know where she’s going with this, and as much as I wish she’d just let it be, I love her for pushing me. I can’t fault her for caring. “Why do you have to be the kind of best friend who argues with me? Why couldn’t I have found a bestie who lets me get away with shit?”

She smiles and when she speaks, her voice softens. “I think you’re having a hard time letting yourself fall for him. From everything you’ve told me, he’s as alpha as they come, and you’ve never dated a man like that. He’s pushing for a lot straight away, more than you’ve ever had to give at first.”

“It’s true. He is pushing.”

“And you’re resisting.”

I nod.

She leans her arms on the table. “Do you want him?”

“Yes, but—”

“No buts. I’m not letting you get away with that this time.”

“Sienna, I might want to screw him, but that doesn’t mean we should date.” I stand and gather the documents in front of me. “I appreciate what you’re doing, but Ashton’s not the man for me.”

“So that’s the end of it? Just like that?”

“Yes. I’ve got his sex toys here to give back to him and then we’re done. And now, I have to get ready for my meeting. Stan will be here in about five minutes.”

“That’s the guy who wants you to invest in his resort?”

“Yeah, the one he’s building on the Gold Coast. I’ve told him I’m in. I just want to spend some more time chatting with him and getting a feel for his way of doing things.”

She stands and places her hand on my arm. Meeting my gaze, she says, “I doubt you’ve seen the last of Ashton, babe. Like seriously, he doesn’t seem like a man who just gives up. I hope you’re ready for that.”

“I know he won’t, but I’m ready. I think the main thing with Ashton will to always be one step ahead of him and to try to catch him when he’s not expecting me. That’s why after my meeting I’m going to actually go to his office and drop those toys off.”

She grins. “You’re playing offence.”

I return her smile. “I’m pretty sure it’s the only type of play when your opponent is Ashton Scott.”

A deep voice sounds from the doorway. “It’s a smart move, but when your opponent is Ashton Scott, you need to remember one thing, Lorelei. He’s the one playing offence.”

His voice hits me first and then his smell.

And as I turn to face him, catching the three-piece suit he’s wearing, and the good looks he couldn’t hide even if he tried, I know he’s right. While I wanted to be the one who was a step ahead, Ashton is probably about five steps ahead already.

He watches me closely as he moves closer. “Shall we get started?”

I frown. “Started with what?”

“With our meeting.” He checks his watch. “I know I’m a minute or so early, and that Stan isn’t here yet, but you and I can get started.”

My heart beats faster. “You’re part of the deal?”

A slow smile spreads across his face. “Stan didn’t tell you? I signed up this morning.”

I stare at him.

For a long few moments.

Goddamn it.

I am so far from playing offence it isn’t funny.

 

Chapter Twenty-Two

Ashton

 

Lorelei glares at me like she wants to strangle me. “This wasn’t what I agreed upon with Stan.” Christ, her fight turns me on. I would have paid double what Stan needed on this deal just to ensure I could work with her.

I run my gaze down her body.

Slowly.

Deliberately so.

It’s a bad move on my behalf because today she’s opted to wear the tight black leather pants I love on her and stilettos that may keep me hard all day. The mental image of fucking her in nothing but those shoes will be difficult to remove from my mind.

When I meet her gaze again, I’m pleased to see heat there. She might be telling me no with her mouth, but her eyes and body are telling me exactly what I want to know. “Stan’s looking forward to working with you. Don’t disappoint him by backing out now.”

She continues to glare at me. “I’m not backing out, but I’d like you to reconsider your involvement. Unless you’re planning on a silent investment?”

“I don’t ever invest silently.” Our hands almost touch when I step closer to her. Again, my movements are deliberate when I don’t allow any contact. That will come later, once I’ve worked her up to it. “I’m not reconsidering. This is a good investment.”

Sienna coughs. “I’ve got an appointment, Lorelei. Are you good, babe?”

Lorelei’s eyes don’t leave mine as she answers her friend. “You go. I’ve got this.”

I fight the smile forming on my lips.

She’s going to give me one hell of a chase.

Sienna says her goodbyes and leaves us alone.

“You didn’t sleep last night,” I say as I take in her tired eyes.

“I was busy.”

I quirk my brows. “Playing with the toys I gave you?”

“No. Planning a holiday.”

“For when?”

“I leave in a week.”

“Where to?”

“I’m going on a cruise to the Pacific Islands.”

“That’s your way of playing offence? Running away?”

Her glare returns after easing for a few moments. “I’m not running away. I haven’t had any time off in ages and I want to get away from everything, so a cruise is perfect.”

Stan interrupts us. “Good, I see you two have met.”

With one last glare, Lorelei turns to greet him, a smile fixed on her face. “We have.” Gesturing for him to take a seat, she adds, “I didn’t realise you were bringing Ashton on board.”

As we all sit, Stan replies, “I was as surprised as you, Lorelei, but when he phoned this morning to discuss it, he solved some problems I was having.”

Her eyes widen as she looks at me. “This morning, huh?”

Stan glances between the two of us before settling his attention on her. “Yes, as a matter of fact it was about half an hour after my other major investor pulled out, so Ashton saved my ass. After I promised you I had everything sorted, the last thing I wanted to do was attend this meeting and have to tell you I didn’t.”

I lean forward, checking my watch. “Can we get started? I have another meeting after this one.”

She purses her lips. “Absolutely, Ashton. I’d hate to hold you up.”

While Stan runs through his presentation, I watch Lorelei. And listen to her. She’s smart and asks the right questions. The way she handles Stan impresses me and I realise where her talents lie. Lorelei is good with people; she’s firm, yet knows when to be soft, and she has this ability to direct a person to her way of thinking while allowing them to believe they came up with it by themselves. In the process, it makes them feel confident not only in themselves but also in the idea—the idea she wanted to make happen.

We discuss our next steps and then Stan summarises everything before saying, “I think this is going to be one of the best developments I’ve been involved with. You two have a wealth of experience behind you and the fact we all agree on so much should help this run smoothly.”

Lorelei glances at me. The glare she started the meeting with has disappeared.  “I don’t have anywhere near the experience that Ashton does. I’m looking forward to learning from both of you.”

I stand and shake Stan’s hand. “Contact Jessica if you need anything. I’ll get the ball rolling on what we’ve discussed.”

“Thanks, Ashton. I’d like the three of us to meet once a month if that works for you.”

“It does.” I glance at Lorelei for a brief moment. “This project is a top priority for me, so whatever you need, you’ve got.”

His phone rings and he excuses himself to take the call. I watch him leave, and then face Lorelei again.

“You just broke a few of your own business rules,” she says.

“I did.” My eyes drop to that exquisite body of hers. I’ve had a taste and it was far from enough, but this new tension between us is turning me on more than I imagined possible, proving that Lorelei Winters means more to me than a casual relationship. I want this woman by my side just as much as I want her under me. Finding her eyes again, I continue, “It seems you bring that out in me, Lorelei.”

“I’m just concerned for Stan. This project is everything to him and you’re treating it like a game.”

I close the distance between us. “I may have broken some of my rules today, but I never treat business like a game. I’m here for two reasons, the main one still being to make money.”

“And what’s the other one?” Her breathing is a little shaky as she asks this question and I know this is my moment to push her.

Placing my arm around her waist, I pull her to me. Moving my mouth to her ear, I growl, “I’m here to show you just how I do business so we can move past the standstill we’re at.”

“And what if you fail to change my mind?”

I draw back so I can meet her gaze. “I won’t. I’m good at two things in life, Lorelei: business and sex. I’ve shown you one, now I’ll show you the other. And when I tell you that I’m better at business than sex, that should mean something to you, because we both know that even though you’re saying no to me, your pussy is begging you to change your mind.”

Her eyes burn with lust, but she doesn’t disappoint me by giving in easily. Instead, she steps out of my hold and says, “You should leave now.”

“I am. Jessica will be in touch.”

“What for?”

“I thought you missed that point in the meeting. I really need to teach you to listen more carefully when I’m involved in a business deal.”

She places her hands on her hips. “What damn point?”

“The one that put me and you in charge of the interior design.”

“I didn’t miss that; I just thought we’d be overseeing a team who did that.”

“Welcome to my way of doing business. I believe in being hands on. This is going to be the most luxurious resort in Australia by the time we’re finished with it. To ensure that happens, you and I need to check out our competition.”

Her eyes narrow at me. “And what exactly does that mean?”

“It means cancel your cruise. We’ve got resorts to visit.”

“Oh my, God, you sneaky bastard.”

“I told you this wasn’t over and I meant it, Lorelei.”

“I’m not a pushover, Ashton,” she yells after me as I exit the office.

My lips curve into a smile.

Baby, I’m counting on it.

 

***

 

“I’ve scheduled this weekend and next for you, and shuffled your Friday meetings to free you up on those days,” Jessica says over the phone a couple of hours later.

I enter my father’s building as we talk, ignoring the tension that has settled into every muscle of my body. “Let Lorelei know. And don’t allow her to say no.”

“Will do. She sent a box over with a note. You want me to open it and tell you what it says?”

“I’m fairly sure I know what it says, but humour me.” I wait for the elevator to take me up to the top floor.

A moment passes before Jessica’s laugh sounds through the phone. “Oh, I love this woman. No wonder you’re chasing her all over town even after she’s shot you down a million times.”

“Tell me what it says,” I mutter.

“She says she’s keeping the toys you sent her except for the one that’s in the box. She’ll need all the rest because she’s decided to take a break from dick for a while. And that she thinks you should stick the toy she sent back in the same place you should stick your idea for her to go away with you.”

“She sent the butt plug back.”

“She did.”

Stepping into the elevator, I smile. “Change of plans. Don’t contact Lorelei about this weekend. Leave it to me to handle.”

“You ruin all my fun,” she grumbles.

“Goodbye, Jessica.” I end the call as the elevator reaches my destination. Taking purposeful strides, I make my way to my father’s office.

This meeting has been a long time coming.

 

***

 

“Ashton, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

I stare at my father as he stands and moves towards me from behind his desk. He’s hardly aged in the last six months since I’ve seen him. I doubt the flecks of grey hair he’s sporting have even increased in that time. His rugged good looks are only enhanced by his tanned skin and immaculate style. My mother doesn’t work, but she spends a great deal of her time ensuring her husband looks good when he appears in the gossip columns.

“Let’s cut the bullshit, Dad. What’s your plan for Willow Street?”

He clenches his jaw as he glowers at me. “What makes you think you’ve got a right to come here and ask me that after you cut me out of your life a year ago?”

“You know damn well what right I have.”

“Whatever you think you have, you don’t, son. Now, is that all you came here for today? Because if so, I’ve got better things to be doing than standing around squabbling like children over a business deal. I suggest that if you want to play with the big boys you grow the fuck up.”

I step closer to him and lower my voice as I spit out, “I know what you did back then and I’ve held onto that knowledge all these years. Don’t make me use it.”

He never saw that coming and he flinches. But I’m still left with nothing but anger.

Fuck.

I’ve wanted to say those words to him for years.

Why the hell don’t they make me feel good?

As I stalk out of his building, I curse myself for coming. I should have known better. My father always, always, manages to get under my skin. The only thing different about today is that this time I managed to get under his, too. The fact I’m not leaving feeling victorious confuses me.

What the fuck is wrong here?

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Lorelei

 

Throwing my house keys on the kitchen table, I sort through my mail. Besides a phone bill, there’s not much of interest, so I dump it on the table and grab some cold water from the fridge. The spin class I just returned home from kicked my ass and every muscle aches. Or maybe that was the sex with Ashton yesterday that did that.

Just thinking about the man causes my blood to boil. When he turned up to the meeting with Stan this morning it threw me. To then discover he’d forced his way into the project irritated me, but when he dictated to me that we’d have to spend time away at resorts together, that just pissed me off.

Why can’t he take no for an answer?

I finish my drink and head into my bedroom to take a shower. The class ran over tonight and it’s now past seven thirty. I’ve got a stack of work to get through and the fact I’m home late and tired doesn’t give me confidence that I’ll get it all done.

A knock on my front door slows me as I trudge into the bedroom. I wouldn’t answer it except for the fact I told my neighbour she could bother me for help anytime. She’s a single mum of two rowdy boys and I figure she needs all the help she can get.

Swinging the door open, I’m surprised, as well as annoyed, to find Ashton standing on the other side. I don’t know why I’m surprised, though. I should have expected it. He is playing offence after all.

“Ashton, it’s late and I’ve got work to do.”

The determination in his eyes softens a little and concern flashes across his face. “It’s not late, Lorelei.” With that, he enters my home and leads me into my lounge room before I manage to stop him.

I pull out of his hold. “God, do you do this with everyone in your life?”

“No.”

The way he watches me with such intensity as he answers my question, along with the answer he gives me, unleashes a wave of desire that I don’t want to deal with right now.

When I don’t reply, he takes charge again, settling me on the couch. “Have you had dinner?”

Oh, God. I realise how I must look after my spin class. I didn’t even wear my good gym clothes today because they’d all been in the wash. Looking down at the old T-shirt and tights I’m wearing, I cringe. “No, but I’m not hungry.” Pushing up off the couch, I say, “You need to go so I can have a shower and get my work done.”

“No, I’ll order dinner while you have a shower.”

“Ashton—”

“Lorelei,” he growls, “shower, now. We’ll talk after.”

I stare at him. And I just know he’s not going anywhere.

I huff out a breath. “Fine.” I wave my finger in the air at him. “But make sure you order me something good. And a cupcake. If I have to deal with you tonight, I want a bloody cupcake.” With that I stalk into my bedroom without waiting for his reply.

Bloody infuriating man.

 

***

 

After my shower, I find Ashton engrossed on his phone at my kitchen table. When he hears me enter the room, his gaze sweeps slowly up my body before settling on my face. Jesus, the man has perfected the art of sending a woman from zero to one hundred in one second flat. By the time he finds my eyes, my body is panting. Well, it would be if it could.

“Dinner is on its way. As is your cupcake.”

I feel a tinge of guilt about my irrational request for that cupcake. But damn, he listened and ordered me one. “Thank you.” I join him at the table. “So, what did you want to discuss with me?”

“That can wait. We’ll go over it while we eat. Tell me about your day first.”

I raise my brows. “You really want me to detail my day for you?”

His lips twitch. “I do.”

I cross my legs on the chair, getting comfortable. “Well, let me see… It started off with a bang this morning when the guy I said no to last night forced his way into a business deal that had nothing to do with him. Then I discovered my building had been vandalised. Again. And after that I found out the council is looking into noise complaints at that address. So I’ve had a pretty craptacular day really.”

“Let’s start at the beginning. You have to admit that I bring a lot to the table with that deal.”

I don’t want to admit he’s right, but it’s the truth so I begrudgingly give him that one. Sighing, I nod. “You do. But seriously, you managed to get someone to back out at the last minute just so you could spend time with me?”

That intense look returns to his eyes. “I did. And I’d do it again, and will do it again if I need to, Lorelei.”

I’m not sure whether to yell at him to stop or to simply give in now. Our dinner arrives, saving me, and I take a moment to pull myself together when he leaves to answer the door.

Surely he’ll give up soon. He must have hundreds of women who’d happily go out with him. He doesn’t need me.

Returning with dinner, he passes me a white paper bag. “Your cupcake, in case you want it first.”

I track his movements as he searches my cupboards and drawers for plates, cutlery and glasses. He’s still wearing his three-piece suit. His pinstripe suit. Those things are dangerous to womankind.

Stop looking at the damn suit.

Ashton Scott is not the man for you.

Dragging my attention away from him, I open the cupcake bag. He’s right, I do want it first.

My eyes widen as I look at what he had delivered. “Jesus, Ashton, are you trying to kill my hips?”

He joins me at the table. Eyeing the four cupcakes in front of me, he says, “You’re going to need more than one tonight.”

“Oh, God, what have you done? Tell me now!”

He smiles and I do my best to ignore it. And the lust that hits me. “Let’s just say your next few weekends are now booked, so I’m preparing for backlash. The cupcakes might help.”

My eyes narrow at him. “You’ve already booked those resorts, haven’t you? I could be busy those weekends.”

“You’re not busy,” he says calmly, as if he knows for sure. I want to throttle that arrogance out of him.

Then it hits me. “You know my schedule?” My voice is practically a shriek.

He holds my gaze. Doesn’t give me an inch. And sure as hell doesn’t allow me to look away. “Lorelei,” he starts, his voice deep. “You should know me well enough by now to understand that I have made you my priority.”

I should tell him where to go.

I want to.

Really, I do.

Instead, my core clenches and I simply stare at him.

And I don’t say anything.

He stands and moves around to where I’m sitting. Placing one hand on the table and one on the back of my chair, he bends so our faces are close. “This is the last time I’m going to tell you that you will be mine. You can run and you can say no, but I’m not a man who will accept either of those things. I will be patient, Lorelei, and I’ll do whatever you need to believe in me, but I won’t give you forever. And in that time, I won’t stay away.” His voice drops to a growl. “You are not a woman I can stay away from.”

I thought Ashton had taken charge already.

I was wrong.

This is him taking over.

And if I ever thought I had a hope of holding him at arm’s length, I was wrong about that, too.

When Ashton Scott wants something, he gets it.

He made that promise to me and he’s keeping it.

Right now, I’m certain that whatever he asks for in this moment, I will give.

I’m also certain that my life is about to change.

 

EPISODE NINE WILL BE LIVE ON THE 11TH JULY

 

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