Thank God for elevators. That’s all I can think as I stare silently at the display above the elevator door indicating which floor it is currently at. My phone is pressed to my ear while Sienna tells me what she did on the weekend, but I hardly take it in as I wait for the elevator and try not to think about how sore my body is.
“Lorelei!” Sienna snaps and I blink back to attention.
“Are you even listening to me?”
The elevator doors open and the five people in it exit, leaving me alone when I enter. As the doors close, I sag against the back wall and let out a long sigh. “Sorry, I wasn’t really listening because I can hardly focus today.”
She’s quiet for a beat, and I imagine her eyes narrowing at me the way they do when she’s trying to figure out why I said something. “What’s going on?”
Images of Ashton flash through my mind at that question, and I squeeze my legs together as a shot of heat hits me. “Ashton is what’s going on. He fucked me so hard and for so long last night that I can hardly walk this morning.”
She coughs as if she just choked on a drink. When she recovers, she says, “I only have two things to say to you right now. One, when did you start talking like that? And two, holy fuck! All night? And can you really not walk? Like, that’s some serious fucking we are talking about. Jesus, I am so jealous of you right now!”
“That was way more than two things. And seriously, if you were me today, you would not be jealous.”
“Well now you’re just being ungrateful. I don’t know any woman who wouldn’t want a man like Ashton to keep her up all night, screwing the hell out of her.”
I groan. She’s right. I loved every minute of it, but I woke up this morning wishing he wasn’t quite as good at sex as he is.
The lift reaches the floor I need, and I exit it as I concede, “The man is insatiable, Sienna. I think I need at least three days to recover.”
I make my way down the corridor I haven’t seen in about six months and try to ignore the hesitation churning in my stomach. Coming here today could turn out to be a huge mistake, but I need to do it for my own peace of mind if nothing else.
“Is that why you’re taking the morning off? You were very mysterious on the phone earlier when you called to say you wouldn’t be in.”
“No, I’m taking it off so I can see Boston and clear some things up with him before they get out of control. The reason I was guarded on the phone was because Ashton was in the bathroom, and I didn’t want to chance him finding out what I’m doing.”
“So you’re keeping this from him?” I can hear the disapproval in her voice, but I block it out. I know what I’m doing.
“I’m not keeping it from him so much as I’m avoiding a potential argument that isn’t necessary at this point. I’m going to make sure Boston knows where we stand, and once that’s done, Ashton and I can continue on as we were before he showed back up.”
“Mmmm, I don’t see this going down the way you do.”
Before I can reply, Boston’s voice sounds from behind me. “Lorelei?”
I come to a stop and spin around to face him. He’s been out running and is a sweaty mess. A very masculine sweaty mess with his chiselled muscles on display.
Keeping my gaze firmly on his face, I say to Sienna, “I’ve gotta go.” And then to Boston—“Hi.”
I’m a tongue-tied fool standing here staring at him while trying to gather my thoughts. I had expected to arrive at his sister’s apartment, spend a good five to ten minutes outside psyching myself up for our conversation, and then walk in there and tell him like it is. Instead, he’s caught me off guard, and I’m struggling for words in much the same way I imagine an Olympic sprinter probably struggles for breath after a race.
His lips twitch as if he’s about to break out into a grin, but he contains it and simply says, “I’m glad you came.”
No, no, no, buddy.
I’m fairly sure he’s misreading this whole situation, and I need to get us on the same page before his thoughts progress any further.
I raise my hand as if to say, “Stop,” at the same time that he steps closer to me. Unfortunately, my hand lands on his chest. A moment later, his hand is resting over mine, and he’s smiling down at me in a way that tells me he very much thinks there is more to this visit than there is.
Sienna was right—this is not going down the way I pictured it.
Still smiling, he cuts me off as he grabs my hand and leads me towards Amber’s apartment. “Amber has been feeling down since the accident. Seeing you will cheer her up.”
“Wait. I need to tell you something,” I blurt out, but we’ve reached our destination, and he interrupts me again.
He unlocks the apartment door and says, “Catch up with Amber first, and then you and I can talk.” His eyes lock onto mine and he blasts another smile my way as he adds, “It’s so good to be back.”
My throat goes dry as concern races through my veins. This is definitely not going the way I imagined.
I sip my coffee and watch Boston silently while he sugars his. I’ve spent the last hour catching up with Amber and doing my best to ignore the growing dread in the pit of my stomach. Boston sat on the couch next to me while I chatted with Amber, acting like the past five months and a break-up hasn’t gone down between us. After I finished with Amber, he suggested we head to the café downstairs so we could talk. I was more than ready to talk and set a few things straight.
“Boston, this isn’t what you think it is.”
He glances up from his coffee and watches me quietly for a few moments. “What do I think it is, Lorelei?”
“You think that me coming to the apartment this morning means I want to get back together with you. But it doesn’t. I wanted to come over and see Amber, and I also wanted to come and see you to let you know it really is over between us.”
“It’s not over between us. Not by a long shot. I noticed the way you reacted when you saw me this morning.” He leans closer and drops his voice. “The way your body reacted to me.”
“The only reaction you saw was me being caught off guard.” The way he assumes to know what I’m thinking and feeling irritates me. It always has.
“Why did you feel like you had to be on guard in the first place?”
I frown. “This is why. You have a way of twisting my words and causing me to get all confused.” I pause for a moment before adding, “Don’t read more into this than what there is.”
“There is more to read into here. There always is with you.”
“Stop it. There’s nothing more here. We broke up five months ago, and I’ve moved on. You should too. I wanted to say that in a much nicer way to you, but you’re not giving me much chance to do that.”
He lifts a brow as he settles back into his seat. “You’ve moved on with Ashton Scott? Do you know much about that man, Lorelei? For instance, the fact that he sleeps with women all over the world and moves onto the next before he’s hardly finished with the previous one.”
Anger bubbles up from deep within me, as well as a desire to protect Ashton and not allow Boston to trash talk him. “I know more about him than you think. And to be honest, it surprises me that you would stoop so low as to put another man down. There’s better ways to convince a woman to take you back than to resort to that kind of behaviour.” I push my chair back and stand. “Please listen to me when I tell you that there’s no future for us. We had some fun, but we weren’t meant to be together forever.”
He stands too, a determined look on his face. “I told you last night that I wouldn’t give up as easily this time, and I meant it.”
“And I asked you to please not do that. I’ve just started seeing Ashton, and I want to give our relationship a good chance.”
“You loved me, Lorelei. You don’t just fall out of love with someone in five months.”
I stare at him for a beat, trying to decide whether I want to hurt him with a truth I don’t think he’s considered. I decide the truth is always the best course of action. “There are all kinds of love, Boston, and I’m not sure ours was the soulmate kind. Don’t get me wrong, I loved you—I still do—but I don’t think it’s the kind you want it to be.”
He stiffens. When he doesn’t respond to that straight away, I figure maybe he’s finally taking it in. But then he says, “That’s bullshit, and you know it. That’s you running from this because you’re scared. And Ashton is simply your safe place because you know he’ll never ask for what I’m asking for. I’ll give you the space to figure this out, but I won’t walk away. Not again.”
My heart beats rapidly as I watch him leave.
I don’t think I fixed anything today. I think I just made it a whole lot more complicated.
Lorelei’s beauty never fails to catch my breath. When I asked her earlier today if she could attend a party with me tonight, giving her only a few hours notice, she said yes, but she seemed a little panicked about finding a dress and getting ready on time. I told her it didn’t matter if we were late, but in the end she managed to pull it all off with time to spare. She also managed to pull it off looking more beautiful than I’ve ever seen her.
Watching her mingle with party guests, I take the opportunity to admire the strapless red dress she’s wearing. It hugs every inch of her, ending just above her knees. There’s nothing flashy about the dress, but Lorelei doesn’t need flash to draw every eye in the room. She manages that all on her own.
Smiling at me as the couple we’ve been talking to leave us, she cups my cheek and says, “You look deep in thought. What are you thinking?”
I slide my arm around her waist and pull her close. “I was thinking about how much I love this dress on you. And how I’m not sure we’ll be staying long at this party.”
She moves her hand from my cheek to the back of my neck. Threading her fingers through my hair, she says, “Do you know how much my body aches after you had your way with it last night? I’m not sure I’m up for another round tonight.”
I did fuck her hard last night. Sex is one area of a relationship where I never relinquish control, and after our conversation where I admitted the power she holds over me, I’d needed to be back in control again, so I’d used sex to do that. A tinge of guilt hits me, though, that I may have demanded too much from her. And yet, it won’t stop me from pushing her for more tonight.
I bend my face to hers, and my lips brush her ear as I say, “Do you know how much I’ve been thinking about my face in your pussy? Tonight is happening, Lorelei.”
She grips my hair as her breath catches. Before she can respond, we’re interrupted by Aaron Steele. He’s the reason I’m here tonight, so I allow the interruption.
“Good to see you, Ashton,” he says, giving me a second of his attention before shifting his gaze to Lorelei. “And who’s the lovely lady you’re here with?”
I feel Lorelei’s body stiffen, and I don’t miss the brief flare of irritation in her eyes as she takes him in. Figuring she’ll introduce herself, I don’t answer his question. Extending her hand, she says, “Lorelei Winters.”
That’s my girl.
I curb the grin that wants to spread across my face. Steele is the kind of man who thinks women should be seen but not heard. I haven’t mentioned him to Lorelei, but I’m guessing, by her reaction that his reputation precedes him.
Steele shakes her hand. “Aaron Steele.” Turning to me, he says, “We need to talk.”
Lorelei lets me go and says, “I’ll be back.”
I nod and watch her as she makes her way towards a woman who she greets with a hug. Steele draws my attention back to him when he says, “Cassia’s here tonight.”
Jesus, even more reason to leave as soon as possible. Engaging in conversation with my ex is the last thing I want to be doing tonight.
I ignore what he said. “What did you need to discuss?”
His brows lift. “I’m surprised, Ashton. I never did understand why you let her go. Cassia Brampton would make the perfect wife for you with her family connections and ability to fit in and know her place in business.”
I don’t like the tone of this conversation. “If I wanted a woman who knew her place in anything, I could find that anywhere, Steele. I’m not in the market for that kind of woman. Actually, I’m not in the market for a woman full stop. I already have one. And I didn’t come here to discuss my relationships with you.”
“You’re serious about Lorelei?” His tone is incredulous, and my displeasure with this conversation intensifies.
I don’t want to discuss Lorelei with him, but I feel the need to set him straight. “I’m deadly serious about Lorelei, and I’ll ask you not to bring this topic up again. The only thing between you and me is a business deal. I have no interest in explaining my life decisions to you.” Aaron Steele is a brilliant businessman, but he’s on his third marriage and is well known for being an ass to women. He’s not the kind of man I’d ever pursue a friendship with.
Distaste clouds his face. “This will be the last I’ll mention it. I think you’re a fool for walking away from Cassia and an even bigger fool for choosing a woman like Lorelei. What does she contribute to your life? I’ve never heard of the woman or her family. A smart man would think about those things when it comes to choosing a wife. By all means, keep her on the side, but never make her more than that.”
If Steele wasn’t absolutely necessary for a deal to go through that I need to go through, I would walk away from him and never look back. Instead, I force my anger away and say, “Now that you got that off your chest, let’s get back to business.”
Thankfully, he lets all talk of women drop, and we discuss what we need to. When our conversation ends about fifteen minutes later, I’m more than ready to get out of here, but Lorelei is nowhere in sight. I begin searching for her, but am frustrated to run into Cassia before I find her.
“Ashton,” she murmurs, her eyes meeting mine after they run all over my body first.
“Cassia.” I make sure to maintain eye contact. Cassia does not need any encouragement to think I’m interested in picking back up from where we left off.
“How are you?”
I ignore the step she takes to move closer to me, hoping that will be as close as she comes. If the past is any indication, it won’t be, but a man can hope.
“I’m well. You?” Fuck, I hate small talk.
Her heart-shaped face lights up with pleasure at my question, and I realise too late that it was the wrong course of action to take. “I’m good. Busy, though. You know what it’s like. A party nearly every night to show your face at. I’ve been disappointed not to see you at too many lately, but I know you’ve been busy travelling. I’m happy to see you back in town now.”
I need to end this encounter now. Before I manage to fuck it up any further than I already have. “I’m on my way out, Cassia, so I’ll have to cut this short. But it’s great to hear you’re good.”
I step away from her, but she reaches out and stops me, her hand gripping my arm. “We should have dinner one night.”
Turning, I face her again. “No, Cassia. I’m seeing someone.” My voice is firm in an effort to convince her she needs to move on.
She blinks a few times, clearly surprised. I haven’t dated since we broke up, and she knows that I don’t easily make relationships official. “Oh,” she says, her voice cracking a little.
I remove her hand from my arm. “Goodbye.” With that, I walk away, not waiting to see how she processes what I’ve told her. Cassia didn’t handle our break up well, and I still feel some guilt over how it all went down. We were together for four years, but in the end I realised I didn’t stay because I loved her, but rather because I wasn’t bored with her like I was with most other women. It was an asshole move to make with a woman who planned her life around me, so as soon as I became aware of the reason I stayed, I left. Cassia deserved more from a man than I could ever give her.
She doesn’t follow me, and I manage to exit the room without further delay. Fifteen minutes later, I finally find Lorelei. She’s deep in conversation with a guy I know only by reputation, and by the looks of it, whatever they’re talking about has her excited.
“Ashton!” She exclaims when she sees me. “Come and say hi to Ryan Shandwick. Do you two know each other?” Definitely excited about something. Every inch of her is alive with it.
My arm circles her waist as I shake Ryan’s hand. “I’ve heard a lot about your developments.” He’s only been in Sydney for about a year. Prior to that, he was working out of Melbourne. His business has grown fast, and he’s been plagued by rumours of shady operations.
Shandwick grins. “Lorelei sings your praises, Ashton, but she doesn’t have to—I’ve been following you and your business for years. Great to meet you, man.”
“Ryan’s been telling me about the project he’s currently working on—an apartment complex in Bondi,” Lorelei says, the excitement still clear in her tone, and I wonder at that. What shit has he been spinning her?
Shandwick’s still grinning at me. “We’re in the early phase of it, but it’s shaping up to be something—” His phone rings, cutting him off, and he says, “Sorry guys, I need to take this. I’ll be in touch, Lorelei.”
I watch him for a moment as he walks away. Even if I hadn’t heard the rumours about him, I wouldn’t trust him. He gives off a vibe, and my gut instinct is to avoid him. I always make it a point to go by that instinct—it’s never let me down yet. The fact he told Lorelei he’d be in touch concerns me, but I decide to leave that for a conversation with her later. I’ve got much more important things on my mind right now.
Shifting my gaze to her I say, “I’m ready to dedicate some serious time to getting this dress off you.”
Her eyes sparkle and she laughs. “Here? Now?”
“Okay then,” she plays along, still laughing. Reaching her arms around to the back of her dress, she says, “You want me to undo the zip and get you started?”
I tighten my hold on her. “Don’t you dare,” I growl. “There’s no fucking way any man in here is getting his eyes on you.”
Her eyes smoulder with desire. “You should take me home, but I need you to know that I wasn’t joking when I said you wore me out last night. This isn’t going to be another long night.”
“Don’t count on that, beautiful. You’ll be begging me for more within the hour,” I promise.
“Oh, God,” she groans as I lead her outside. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to kill me with sex, Ashton.”
I watch the slow blink of her eyes as she says this and take in the way her breathing picks up. I see the rise and fall of her chest, the flush that covers her skin, and the way she bites her bottom lip. Everything about this woman intoxicates me. I wasn’t exaggerating when I told her last night how much power she holds over me. What she doesn’t know, though, is that I’ve never given this kind of power to any woman in my life.
“Mmmm, good morning,” I say as Ashton trails kisses down my stomach. Scrunching my fingers in his hair, I try to stop his progress.
Looking up to meet my gaze, he says, “You want me to stop?”
“Yes… No… But really, yes. I can’t take any more of you at the moment.” At the twitch of his lips, I widen my eyes and say, “Seriously! I am sore in ways you can’t even imagine. I told you I couldn’t handle much more last night, but you just kept on going.”
He positions himself over me so our faces are close. “And I heard no complaints from you then. In fact, I recall you screaming out my name a few times. Just so you’re aware, that’s the kind of feedback that tells a man to keep going, not to stop.”
I smack his arm. It could be because of what he just said or it could be the huge smile spread across his face that makes me smack him. Either way, he deserves it. “I’ll be sure not to scream in future.”
He moves a strand of my hair off my face and drops a kiss on my lips. “Don’t you dare stop screaming.” Shifting, he lies next to me on the bed and lazily traces patterns on my stomach. “What have you got planned for today?”
I love this side of Ashton. Fun, playful and a little softer than usual. I wouldn’t trade his dominant side for anything, but it’s nice to have this part of him as well. “I’m in the office all day. How about you?”
“I’ve got a couple of meetings this morning, and then I’m spending the afternoon with Jack.”
“Have you guys got something fun planned?”
“That depends if you classify golf as fun.”
“God no! Don’t ever ask me to go golfing with you. Bost—” I cut myself off when I realise I’m about to mention Boston to Ashton while in bed with him. Definitely not something I want to do.
He’s silent for a beat. “Lorelei, you can talk about your ex with me. He was a huge part of your life. I don’t expect you to never mention him.”
Guilt slices through me that I didn’t tell Ashton about going to see Boston yesterday. I contemplate telling him now, but I don’t want to ruin the easy mood we’ve got going. Instead, I roll to face him, slide my hand over his waist and down to his ass, and say, “Okay, but at this point, I’d rather talk about you.”
His erection presses against me, and he groans. “If you keep your hand on my ass and your body next to mine like this, we’re going to have to renegotiate me fucking you.”
“Did we actually negotiate that or did I just tell you it wasn’t happening?”
“The negotiations took place last night. I won if you’ll recall.”
“Oh, so this morning when you tried to have your way with me, that was just you trying to squeeze more out of the deal?”
A slow sexy smile hits his lips. “She’s finally learning how I like to do business.”
“Let me see if I’ve got this right? Negotiate hard. Don’t ever lose. And get everything you can out of the deal. Does that about cover it?” I make sure to keep my hand on his ass as I throw a leg over his body and press myself against him more than I have been.
“Fuck,” he hisses. “You’re sexy when you talk business.”
I lean forward and kiss him, right before I leave the bed. Looking down at him, I smile. “My turn to negotiate now. I’ve got two tickets to an advance screening of Mr Alpha tonight. I want you to take me. And before the movie, I want you to take me to dinner at Agostino’s.”
He moves off the bed and joins me. I can’t be sure, but I think there’s approval in his gaze as he says, “You want me to take you to a chick flick?”
He crosses his arms in front of him. “What do I get out of this deal?”
“Time with me.”
His lips twitch. “I can get that whenever I want, Lorelei. You’re going to have to negotiate harder for this.”
“Maybe you can’t get that whenever you want.”
“Ah, so you’ll withhold yourself from me if I don’t agree to this?”
He shakes his head. “No, baby, you need to be firm. Hard. You have to stick it to me to win here. Remember rule number two—don’t ever lose.”
God, negotiating with Ashton is hot. I need to do more of this. Straightening my shoulders, I say, “Okay, yes, I won’t agree to see you for the rest of this week if you don’t agree to this.”
His brows lift. “You won’t win if you try to bargain with something unbelievable.”
He chuckles. “Yeah. You are. We both know there’s no way you’ll go without seeing me for that long.”
His smugness makes me want to fight harder for this. Summoning the firmest voice I’ve ever used, I say, “I’m telling you right here and now, that if you don’t agree to take me to a chick flick tonight, you won’t be getting any pussy for the rest of the week.”
Heat flares in his eyes. “One night.”
I frown. “Huh?”
“If I don’t take you to the chick flick, there’ll be no pussy for one night.”
“Uh, uh. No. One week.”
His eyes drop to my lips. “Three nights.”
I realise he has no intention of backing down. I should have known he wouldn’t go easy on me. Hell, it’s one of the reasons why I love spending time with him. He treats me like an equal. But damn if I’m not winning this today.
I run my finger lightly over his lips. “Let’s see about that.” I drop to my knees and take his cock into my mouth. Slowly. All the way in. And then I take hold of it as I slide it out. After I lick it from one end to the other, I look up and say, “You agree to take me to dinner and the chick flick tonight, and I’ll suck your cock right now and make you come.”
He grins. “That’s how you do it. Deal.”
I stand. Keeping hold of his cock, I say, “On top of that, I’ll blow you on the way home from the movie if you agree to do whatever I want tomorrow night, too.”
His arms snake around me and he pulls me against his body. Our faces are so close and my heart is beating so fast at the raw need and respect radiating from him. Having Ashton watch me like this awakens something deep inside me. Something so erotic and pleasurable that I never want him to stop looking at me like that.
“That’s right, beautiful, get everything out of the deal that you can,” he says, his voice deep and sexy.
“So that’s a yes?”
He kisses me. Slowly and so very thoroughly. By the time he ends the kiss, my knees are weak, and I’m not sure I would still be standing if he wasn’t holding me up. His eyes find mine as he says, “I’ll agree to all of that with one stipulation—after we get home, you fuck me all night long again.”
I hold his gaze for a long few moments before finally nodding. “Deal.” I press my lips to his and kiss him before saying, “And that last bit I agreed to… That’s called a compromise. Because sometimes when you negotiate with people, you have to do a little give-and-take. Just so you know.”
His arms tighten around me. Not that they weren’t already around me firmly, but it’s like he’s trying to clear every last obstacle between us. Like he’s trying to get as close as he possibly can to me. “Fuck, you’re something else.”
I’m about to kiss him again when my doorbell sounds. “They’ll go away,” I say, bringing my mouth to his.
“Who would it be so early in the morning?” He asks as I try to kiss him. “I imagine it wouldn’t be just anyone.”
Shit, he’s right. It might be my neighbour looking for help. Letting him go, I say, “Okay, wait here. I’ll go see what they want, and then I’m coming back to make good on our deal.”
I pull on some clothes and make my way out to the door. I expect to see my neighbour when I open it, but am surprised when I discover it’s Alessandra. My surprise turns to concern when I realise she’s been crying. Her face is puffy and her eyes are bloodshot.
Reaching for her, I say, “What’s wrong?”
She allows me to pull her into a hug, but it’s like she doesn’t even realise what I’m doing. “I’ve been trying to call you and Ashton, but neither of you answered your phones.” She’s so disoriented that it causes alarm to slither through me.
“Aly?” Ashton joins us. “What’s going on?”
She lets me go and moves to him. Tears stream down her face as she says, “Mum has had a heart attack. She’s in the hospital.”
Ashton’s face pales as he pulls his sister into his arms and holds her while she cries. Alessandra is completely devastated, and for the first time since I’ve met him, Ashton appears bewildered. It’s the kind of reaction to be expected, but it throws me to see him like this. And when I realise that not only is his mum not well, but that this means he’ll have to see his father, I know that life is about to be turned upside down for my man.
EPISODE THIRTEEN WILL BE LIVE ON THE 3RD APRIL