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I heard a smile in his voice. “And that kiss, at dinner? Did I force that on you?”
“And I am not forcing you to do anything now. ”
“You’re commanding me to kiss you. ” God, I hated how petulant I sounded.
“And don’t you want to?”
I smelled his cologne, felt his heat. I couldn’t help but remember the kiss, and I knew he was right. I did want to kiss him again. I didn’t want to desire the kiss, but I did. I wanted to feel his hand on my cheek, his lips on mine.
“Damn you,” I breathed.
“I can read you like a book, Kyrie. You’re flushed. Breathless. You feel my presence. You want this. You want me. You’re afraid of your own desire, and you’re even more afraid of me. But you don’t need to be afraid. ” He placed both of his palms on my cheeks. Tilted my face up. “Now…kiss me. ”
I obeyed his command. I kissed him. I pressed my back against the wall and lifted up on my toes, touched my lips to his. Our mouths met as I sighed. It was an outbreath of need, of eagerness, of relief, of frustration. He sucked my sigh into his mouth and pulled my face to his, gently yet irresistibly. Our mouths, and his hands on my face, these were the only points of contact between us, yet…I felt him surrounding me. I felt as if he’d somehow blocked out the whole world, including my own fears. As if one taste of his lips erased my nerves and my fears and my hesitation, so all that remained was his mouth upon mine.
That in itself terrified me.
My hands once again betrayed me. They rose and reached out, touched a hard, broad human wall. Silk, cool and smooth, met my touch; a tie. My fingers splayed out, and my palms flattened against his chest. I felt thick muscle beneath his clothes. My hands drifted up and discovered broad shoulders. Far, far up. This man was very tall. I found the column of his neck and let my hands travel up to touch his jaw, rough and scratchy with day-old stubble. I began to search upward, attempting to learn the features of his face as if I were blind, but one of his hands pinioned my wrists together, drew them down, held them between us. My fingers fluttered in his grip like a wind-tossed sparrow, and the kiss continued. Deepened. The fires of my passion, once drowsy, were sparked. I lifted up higher on my tip-toes, leaned into him, and now it was not merely a meeting of mouths, this kiss, but a giving and a taking.
No longer just a kiss. An agreement that yes, I want this. I shivered as his mouth moved on mine, his face twisted to the side, our noses brushing, bumping, and the shiver was also an admittance that said yes, I am afraid of this. Even so, the kiss continued, driving, demanding. Becoming more and more, until this kiss shattered all the others, drowning the memory of any other kiss.
The tip of his tongue slid across the seam of my lips, yet before I could open my mouth, he was stepping away, freeing my wrists. From a foot or two away I could hear his breathing was harsh and labored.
Good to know that at least he hadn’t been unaffected.
As for me? I was shaking all over, hands pressed flat to the wall beside my hips, my back arched, my shoulders against the wall, head still tilted up as if in memory or parody of the kiss—The Kiss.
I heard a knob twist, the whisper of a door opening across the carpeting. His hands grasped my shoulders, and he guided me to the doorway. I felt his front against my back, and his hands slid down my arms, crossed over my stomach. He held me to him, just briefly. By the feel of his chest rising and falling with his breath, I was aware of his height. So tall. I barely reached his chest.
“Close your eyes,” he murmured.
“I have a blindfold on,” I reminded him, even as I closed my eyes behind the cloth.
“They are, they are,” I interrupted him. He made a sound of disapproval at my insolence, but said nothing.
His fingers caught the ends of the blindfold, pulled them apart, untying it. “Do not fail this test,” was all he said, as the blindfold fell away.
I kept my eyes closed, facing forward, listening carefully, so attuned to every sound. I heard him take a single step back. Two. Three. I wanted so badly to open my eyes and spin around, but I didn’t. Why didn’t I?
Because I was enjoying this game.
“Goodnight, Kyrie. ”
“Goodnight…. you. ”
He chuckled, the sound growing distant.
I opened my eyes and found myself in the living room of my quarters. On impulse, I spun around, tiptoed to peek around the edge of the door. I was just in time to catch a glimpse of someone extremely tall, a flash of blond hair, cropped close to his skull. Black pants, suit coat. He rounded the corner and was gone.
I closed the door, leaning forward to let my forehead rest against the wood.
What was I doing? I kissed him. Twice. A man I knew literally nothing about. Yet I couldn’t deny that they were by far the best kisses of my life.
And…I wanted more.
I thought sleep would come instantly to me. I’d started the day at home in Michigan, living life as usual. Within a matter of hours, my life had been totally changed. Now I was in Manhattan, locked away in a tower like f**king Rapunzel. Only, I could leave whenever I wanted. The only thing holding me here was my own stubbornness, my curiosity, my need to make sure the only family I had left was taken care of. I smiled to myself. I might be blonde, but my hair wasn’t that long. So I wasn’t like Rapunzel at all, except for being in a tower. And there were many towers in those old fairy tales.
Was this a fairy tale? If it was, I sure as shit wasn’t any princess. My…captor? My provider? What was he? A prince? He could be. Maybe he was some kind of European royalty; they did still have royalty in some European countries. He definitely seemed to have the mannerisms of an aristocrat. Proper speech, a touch of formality in even the most private and intimate situations, elegant manners. He even cursed with elegance. Clearly very well educated, obviously wealthy. I had a sense that he came from money, from privilege. He was not some dot-com startup billionaire, some rich real-estate yuppie. He was born into wealth, but something made me think he’d made his own fortune as well. The clues were there, after all, especially in the story of how he’d hired Eliza. I didn’t think he meant to reveal that much of himself to me this early, but the story told me a lot about him.
I struggled to go to sleep, and failed. There were no clocks in my rooms, so I could not tell the time. I had my phone somewhere in my purse, but the battery was dead, and honestly, I found myself not caring what time it was. Late, I knew that much. Harris had shown up at four in the afternoon. I’d just gotten home from a lunch shift at Outback, and had showered off the restaurant stench. A good four, almost five hours, had passed from the time Harris and I left my apartment to arriving here in this high-rise palace. Another hour from first meeting to dinner…it had to be past midnight, easily. Dinner had been long, slow, drawn-out affair. We’d lingered over each bite. There had been long silences between us, stretched-out moments devoid of empty conversation. Those silences, they should have been awkward, but they weren’t.
I wasn’t given to small talk, to idle chatter. I’d been on dozens of first dates in my life that had never gone anywhere, simply because I wasn’t interested in inane babble. I had no patience for men who rambled on and on. Shut up about the stupid football game. I couldn’t care less about f**king football. The Lions suck, they’ve always sucked and they will always suck. Shut up about stocks. I don’t care which stock rose ten points and which went down five. What does that even mean, and in what universe am I supposed to care? If the conversation doesn’t interest me, I’m out. Like, done, right now, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars, do not finish the date. I’ve stood up in the middle of a meal and said, “Thanks for the effort, but this isn’t working out. ” I’d rather eat alone and in silence than make idle small talk. And my mystery man,