Stripped Read online

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  This car is worth more than I’ll see in my life, and he’s driving with an absolute disregard for it and our safety. I’m flung forward as we skid to a stop. My door is opened, and the belt I don’t remember buckling is unlatched. I’m lifted from the car by Dawon’s powerful arms. I smell him, some kind of faint but heady cologne of sweat and man. I recognize the way my body reacts to his presence.

  I push against him. “Put me down. ”

  “No. ”

  I look around me. We’re on the USC campus, and the entire student body is watching, it feels like. I hear whispers. I see people holding up cell phones and snapping pictures.

  “Which building?” His voice is silky and intimate, almost gentle. Almost.

  I point, and he makes a beeline for it. I’m nothing in his arms. He moves as if unencumbered. “Please. Put me down. I can walk. ”

  “No. ” He pushes open the door and pauses.

  “Second floor. Two-sixteen. ”

  Word has spread, and doors are opening as we ascend. I hear whispers, hear the electronic click of cell phone cameras.

  I hear the shriek of a female voice. “That’s Dawson Kellor! Omigod, that’s Dawson! Can I have your autograph! Please? Do you want to come in?”

  He ignores her, brushes past brusquely. “Not now, ladies. I’ll sign a few autographs when I leave. ” Something in his voice brooks no arguments.

  He’s at my door, somehow twisting the knob without letting go of me. I hear the telltale moans of Lizzie and her latest boyfriend. “Boy-toys,” as she calls them. They are toys to her, too; she goes through boys faster than she does outfits. The door bangs open, thumping against the door and shuddering noisily as it swings back toward the frame.

  “Omigod, what the hell—” I hear Lizzie start, and then she recognizes who it is barging through. “Dawson Kellor? Omigod, you’re even more gorgeous in person, Mr. Kellor! Grey, what’s going on? What’s he doing here?

  I feel Dawson tense around me, his hands turning to steel around my shoulders and under my knees. “Not now, Lizzie. I’m not feeling well. Can you give me a minute?”

  “Leave. Now,” Dawson growls, and the sound is pure threat.

  I’m twisting in Dawson’s arms to see Lizzie fumbling from under the sheet to grab her panties next to the bed. Her current boy-flavor does the same, but he accidentally kicks away the sheet, and they’re both left naked. Lizzie squeals, smacks him on the arm, and scrambles into her panties, covering her br**sts with one arm. Dawson hasn’t put me down, and even though I’m a solid one-forty, he’s holding me with complete effortlessness. He just waits impassively while Lizzie tugs on her clothes.

  The boy—who really is a boy, a good-looking blond freshman with a big build that he hasn’t entirely grown into yet—jams his feet into his jeans and hops out with his shirt in one hand and ADIDAS sports sandals in the other. It’s an awkward dance that he does with enough familiarity to make me think he’s done it many times. When they’re gone, Dawson looks around the room for somewhere to put me. I kick my feet, and he reluctantly sets me down standing, but his hands don’t leave my arms.

  I wriggle in his grip and move away to sit in my desk chair. “I’m fine, Dawson. Really. ” My stomach growls again, and his brows furrow.

  “When was the last time you ate?” He demands again.

  I shrug. “I don’t know. This morning?” I don’t lie well, or easily, and Dawson just lifts an eyebrow at me. I sigh, and mutter, “Before class. Six?”

  Dawson’s face contorts. “You haven’t eaten in twelve hours? And you walked how many blocks to the office?”

  I dig a Powerbar out of my desk and unwrap it, holding it by the wrapper. “I’m fine. See? Dinner. It’s fine. I’m fine. I’m used to it. ”

  “Used to it? Meaning you routinely go twelve hours between meals?” When I just shrug again, he growls. “That’s not healthy. And a Powerbar isn’t dinner. ”

  He rummages in the mini-fridge, but I stop him. “That’s Lizzie’s. Nothing in there is mine. ” I open my snack drawer in my desk, where I keep Powerbars, granola bars, a bag of bagels, and some Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips.

  Dawson just stares at me. “Where’s the rest?”

  “The rest of what?” I ask between bites.

  “Your food. What do you eat?”

  I shrug again, and then determine to not do it again. I seem to shrug all too often around Dawson, and I’ve only known him for two hours, if that. “I eat. Just not here. I have a bagel in the morning, and I sometimes grab a snack from a vending machine between classes. I have dinner at work. ”

  “And lunch?”

  I’m getting irritated. I crumple the wrapper and toss it in the little round white garbage can under my desk, which is filled with wrappers. “Why are you so interested in my eating habits?”

  Dawson just stares at me. His eyes were a light shade of blue when he was angry, out on the street. Now they’re back to a muted hazel. I can’t look away, can’t take my eyes off his. Off of him. His jaw shifts, and I realize he’s grinding his teeth, thinking. He digs a cell phone out of his pocket, and I’m kind of nonplussed to realize it’s an iPhone. After the expensive sports car, I expected him to have some kind of space-age gadget from a sci-fi movie, not a basic black iPhone 5. He taps at it a few times and then holds it to his ear.

  “Hey, Greg. Yeah, look I’m on the USC campus, and I need some food delivered. ” He turns to look at me. “Are you a vegetarian or anything weird?”

  I shake my head. “No, but—”

  He glances away from me and speaks into the phone once more. “Just a spread of food, I guess. Sandwiches, burgers, whatever. Yeah, campus housing—” He gives basic directions to my dorm room. “Oh, and Greg, bring the Rover and the set of spare keys. I’ll drive you back in the Bugatti. Cool, ’bye. ”

  Bugatti. That must be the silvery-mirror car.

  He stuffs the phone back in his pocket and slumps into Lizzie’s desk chair. Before I know what’s happening, he’s removed my shoes and has my legs on his knees. His hands and fingers are kneading into my right foot. It’s shockingly intimate, sensual, and not a little scary. I want to take my foot back, but he won’t let go. He holds my foot by the ankle and digs into the arch of my foot with a thumb. It feels so good I can’t stop a groan from escaping. It’s a loud, embarrassing sound, and I clap my hand over my mouth. Dawson just smiles, and the small, pleased grin on his lips makes him so beautiful my breath catches in my lungs.

  Page 25


  His touch on my foot is like…it’s sinful. It makes me feel things I don’t understand, makes my stomach roil, makes things flip and twist. Something happens down low, near my core. I don’t know if this is an unusual reaction to a foot rub or not. Maybe I have sensitive feet. Maybe he’s just amazing at rubbing feet. All I know is, it feels incredible and I can’t help but relax into my chair as he massages my foot. And then I realize I’ve been on my feet all day, and they probably stink. I jerk my feet away and tuck them under my leg, keeping the fabric of my skirt modestly draped over my knees.

  “Don’t like foot massages?” He seems amused.

  “No, I just…they stink. That’s gross. ”

  “Your feet don’t stink. ” He leans forward and grabs my foot. His hand is on my thigh, near my backside, as he tugs my feet back out. “Now, give them here. I wasn’t done. ”


  “Why what?” He resumes his slow, thorough massaging of my right foot.

  I start to shrug again and then stop, which ends up in an awkward roll of my shoulder. “Why are you here? Why did you…why are doing all this?”

  His eyes are intense, going dark and stormy as he regards me and considers his answer. “Because I want to. ”

  “But why?”

  He doesn’t answer, but instead returns with his own question. “Why are you questioning it?”