‘Office sex the biggest mistake of my life’ Part 2
TO celebrate the launch of Harlequin's DARE series of romance novels, we are proud to present a day-by-day serialised release of Off Limits by Clare Connelly. To navigate between the chapters head to the bottom of today's segment.
IMPORTANT: Before you begin reading, remember - this is Mills & Boon as you've never seen it before, with plot lines featuring empowered women and extremely steamy sex scenes - for adult subscribers aged 18 and over only. Find more titles like this one here.
IT HAS BEEN a week and I'm still here. What's more, my brain and I are almost friends again. I have been behaving. Working hard, speaking politely, keeping my sexy, kinky 'if only' thoughts hidden behind a mask of disinterest.
Of course it helps that I've hardly seen Jack.
He's been in Tokyo for four days, on a trip I would usually do with him.
Here's how it would go: Private jet. Limousine. Luxurious hotel accommodation-his apartment there is being remodelled. Meetings. Late-night debriefing.
You get the picture, and you no doubt see the risk.
'I have too much on,' I said when he'd decided he needed to go personally. 'Seriously, there's no way I can leave the office now.'
He ground his teeth together, looked at me as though I were pulling some soppy, emotional crap and then he nodded. 'Fine.'
He's due back today and my desk is no clearer-it's just a different heap of papers that covers it now. My phone bleats and I grab it up, my nerves not welcoming the intrusion.
Perhaps my impatience conveys itself in my brusque greeting.
'You sound like shit.'
The cackling voice brings an instant smile to my face. 'Hi, Grandma.'
'Where've you been, lovey?'
'Oh, you know. . .' I eye the paperwork dubiously. 'Living it up.'
'If only. Let me guess. You're at work?'
'You called my work number, so I suspect you know the answer to that.'
Another cackle. 'Are you coming to see me any time soon? I have something for you.'
'Another lecture on my priorities?'
'You're a smart girl. You know your priorities are out of order.' She sighs. 'Take it from a woman at the end of her journey. There's a big, beautiful world out there, and even if you devote your life entirely to travelling you'll still never get to see everywhere and everything.'
'God, that makes me feel both nauseated and claustrophobic. It's saccharine and overly sentimental even for you, Grandma.'
She laughs. I love her laugh. My grandma shines a light with her smile alone.
'Everyone's allowed a bit of sentimentalism at some point, aren't they? Especially at my age.'
'I travel everywhere,' I point out, flicking my calendar onto my screen and scanning it. 'In fact I'm off to Australia next week.'
Crap. With Jack.
'Oh, yes? That wouldn't be a work trip, would it?'
I grin. 'No. And by no, I mean yes-but I imagine I'll still get time to pet a koala.'
'You know they're not just crawling around the streets? You actually need to go bush to find one.'
I burst out laughing. '"Go bush"? Grandma, you're a Duchess. I think it's in the manual that you're not allowed to "go bush"-or go anywhere, really.'
I'm not joking. Grandma really is a Duchess. She married my grandpa, who was a decade her senior and had come back from the Second World War with what we'd now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. She was a nurse, and his family hired her to care for him-to "fix" him. She quit on the first day. There wasn't anything wrong with him, she declared. He was just different.
They got engaged that afternoon.
It's the only fairytale I believe in-and only because it has a macabre degree of reality to it. Grandma did fix him. He made her a princess-of the social variety-and she made him whole in a different way, just like she said.
We lost him years ago, and now she's the one who's a little bit broken. But still amazing. The most beautiful person in my life. My other constant.
Jack and Grandma. Great. An emotionally closed-off sexy widower that I should definitely know better than to want, and a champagne-swilling octogenarian, relic of the aristocracy. These two are the anchors in my life. . .
I shake my head, my smile rueful.
'Pish! I'll have you know I went bush and did a great many other things in my time.' She sighs heavily. 'And now it's your time-and you're spending it in some ghoulish house on the edge of the moors.'
'It's a mansion, actually, with state-of-the-art offices. And it's Hampstead Heath-not a moor.'
'Still. . .' A huff of impatience. 'You'll come this weekend?'
I click in my calendar and make a note. Without entering my plans straight into my calendar I'm running blind. My eyes are dragged of their own accord to the entry for my parents' anniversary. Ugh.
'I suppose you got your invitation?'
'Mmm. . .' It's a noise of agreement that could mean a thousand things. 'Very elegant paper.'
I stifle a laugh. 'Stiff and unyielding.'
My implication hangs in the air, unspoken.
'Ah, well. At least there'll be booze.'
'And lots of it.'
I run a finger over my desk. Grandma and I got rather unceremoniously sloshed at the previous year's anniversary affair. If we hadn't been related by blood to the bride du jour we definitely wouldn't have been invited back.
'We'll do a rehearsal at the weekend,' she says, and I hear the wink in her words.
'Perfect. See you then.'
'Good, darling. Ta-ta.'
My phone rings again almost as soon as I hang up, and the smile is still playing on my lips as I lift the receiver and hook it beneath my ear. 'Yeah?'
His voice gushes through me like a tidal wave crashes over the shore. We've been in constant contact while he's been travelling-but only via email or text, and only in the most businesslike sense.
At no point has he reminded me of the way his mouth pushed me back, tasting me, robbing me of comprehension and hammering every last one of my senses. At no point have we discussed how he made me come against the wall of his office.
Hearing his voice now is as intimate and personal as if he strode into the room and straddled me, reached down and kissed me. . .
'I'm meeting some clients in the City. I need that presentation on the Tokyo project, as well as an up-to-date cost analysis and the report I had done. Meet me in an hour.'
It almost sounds like a question, but we both know it isn't. My body hums with vibrations. I'm going to see him again. It's the most alive I've felt in a week. My abdomen clenches in anticipation. Of what?
My body is getting carried away, but thankfully my brain is still lucid-ish. 'Fine,' I hear my brain say, cool and unconcerned. Liar.
There's a pause and I wonder what's coming next. 'Good.'
The little tick of approval sends a thrill along my spine. I hate that. I repress my pleasure.
'And, Gemma? Rose has something for you.'
I gather the documents he needs and quickly run through the project presentation, then step out of my office, laden with files and my MacBook Air.
Sophia and Rose are in the office they share, heads bent, and I smile crisply at them. 'I'm meeting Jack in the City. He says you have something for me?'
I address the question to Rose, who reaches into her desk and pulls out an envelope. It has his dark, confident writing across the front. My name, scrawled in his handwriting. I resist the urge to run my fingertip over the letters.
'Thanks.' I nod crisply and Sophia reaches for her phone before I've said another word.
'Hughes-Miss Picton is travelling to the City.'
'Thanks.' I nod, pleased that things are working efficiently.
I hired Sophia to replace the last of Jack's assistants to quit. He's run through about six since losing Lucy; my own job has been filled a dozen times at least. I think it kind of bonds Sophia and me-a similar determination not to fail runs through us both.
'Will you be long? Shall I move your two o'clock?' asks Rose.
I can't reach my phone and can't remember off the top of my head what I have at two. I guess my blank stare conveys that, because Rose smiles at me kindly. How she's managed to work for Jack for three years is beyond me. She's a butter-wouldn't-melt kind of woman, and yet there's a quality to her that makes her oblivious to Jack's demanding requests and lack of charm.
'Right.' I nod distractedly, thinking only of the mysterious envelope. It's small and there's something inside.
Carrie is my friend who's looking for a new job-I have her in mind for something with the foundation, though I don't know exactly what yet. She was made redundant in the last round of restructuring at her company, and she's brilliant and incisive-far too clever to let go.
'Yeah, shift it to tomorrow. Thanks. Please apologise for me.'
'Here.' Sophia scrapes her chair back and walks towards me with outstretched arms. 'I'll help you to the car.'
I hand over some of the papers gratefully. The offices are in a separate wing of The Mansion, and we step out onto the short path that winds through a manicured garden before opening out into a gravelled courtyard. It's really well designed to keep business away from personal life-not that Jack has much of a personal life outside his fuck-fests.
At least, not that I know of.
I slide into the back of the limo, distracted; I don't think I even acknowledge Hughes, which is unusual because I like him and we usually have a nice banter going.
You know everything there is to know about me.
I'm startled. The words come from nowhere and I look over my shoulder, half expecting to see Jack's cynical smile. Is that even true? Do I really know him that well?
We've spent a heap of time together, that's true. But I don't know if I would say I consider us well acquainted. Out of nowhere the memory of his lips on mine sears me, pressing me back into the leather seat with a groan.
I reach for the envelope, and now I give in to temptation, running my finger over his scrawled writing before tearing the top off.
My emotions are mixed as the object inside falls into my palm.
The distinctive dark red foil denoting a Cherry Ripe confectionery bar is instantly recognisable. I check the envelope for a note; there isn't one. But his meaning is clear.
I can't help it. I tear the paper off the bar and inhale.
Cherries will remind me of Jack forever. I don't think I can say I hate them anymore.
My gut clenches as I recall the intimate way his finger circled me, teasing every nerve ending, finding where to press to make me moan.
A shiver dances along my spine and it is still pulsing even as the car pulls into the underground car park of the City high-rise that houses Jack's offices. I gather he used to be based here a lot more. It was only after Lucy died that he set up shop, so to speak, at his home.
I make a point of smiling brightly at Hughes as I step out of the limo, laden with documents.
'Need a hand, ma'am?'
'I'm fine,' I demur.
I can't help but wonder if my cheeks are burning after the delicious thoughts that have travelled along with me.
Why did he stop? What happened to push him away from me?
I wanted everything. I wanted him. That technically makes me a complete idiot, right? Because I know he's a total man-whore, and I know it would make my job pretty untenable to be fucking Jack, but in that moment none of it had mattered.
Which only goes to show that I need to be even more on my guard with him.
I am not going to let this get out of hand. There are plenty of hot guys out there. Plenty of men who can kiss you like you're their dying breath.
Except I don't think that's necessarily true. . .
I've dated a fair few guys-most of them smart, handsome, powerful. I have a thing for that sort of man, I suppose. But none of them has done this to me. My mind is still mushy. I only have to close my eyes and remember the way it felt to have his body pressed hard to mine, almost holding me up with the weight of his strength, and I'm having palpitations and flushing to the roots of my hair.
The lift whooshes up and reminds me of the glass elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It seems to be building up speed as we get nearer the top, and my tummy lurches as I imagine it bursting through the ceiling and flying into outer space.
Is it wrong that I'm just a teeny bit disappointed? I always thought that looked to be so much fun-the way that elevator flew all over London's skyline.
The offices are buzzing, and it's so strange to be back in this kind of environment that I freeze for a moment, simply soaking in the noises. Anywhere else I've worked, it's been like this. I was like a headless chicken most days, surrounded by people who were every bit as harried and exhausted as I was. Exhaustion used to bleed into energy, so that I fed off a state of perpetual tiredness.
Someone rushes past, arms full of papers, and that reminds me that I need to do something with the files I'm carrying. I begin moving quickly down the carpeted corridor, eyes straight ahead lest I be called upon to answer a query. The problem with being Jack's right-hand woman is that people see me as a substitute for him. I cannot visit this office without being waylaid with a dozen queries at least. Only I don't feel like talking to anyone at this point in time.
The conference room is at the end of the corridor. Two enormous timber doors provide entry to it. I shoulder my way in, making straight for the table, and I've just dropped the files down onto its glass top when I realise I'm not alone.
There's a movement to my right. No, a shadow more than a movement. But it captures my eye and I turn around slowly, careful to keep my expression neutral, because deep down I know who it is.
'You're here already,' I murmur, pleased with how unaffected I sound.
Especially when he's wearing his charcoal Armani suit with a crisp white shirt. And a dark grey tie. Oh, God, help me. I turn around, on the pretext of straightening the documents, but I feel the moment he starts to walk towards me and sweep my eyes shut.
My heart is pounding and my blood is gushing. What happened to pretending not to be affected by him? To keeping him at a distance?
'I'd say it's quicker to get here from City Airport than it is from my place.'
His voice is barely above a growl. It's primal and animalistic and a slick of heat runs through me.
'How was Tokyo?' I skirt around the table, laying information packs down as I go, checking each space has a glass of water.
He shrugs. 'Fine. And here?'
But his eyes are dropping. He's looking at my breasts as though he wants to take them into his mouth. As though he's remembering the way it felt to suck my nipple through the fabric of my shirt.
I moan, low and soft, so soft I don't think he catches it, but his lips flicker and I am in serious trouble. They are beautiful lips. Not full, but rather sculpted as if from stone. His face is peppered with stubble, as though he hasn't shaved the whole time he's been away.
I turn away, my breath uneven. I don't know what to do.
'As usual,' I say, no longer dispassionate, no longer smooth. My voice is jerky and unnatural.
I want to kiss him.
I need to kiss him.
I realise it in an instant and I turn around, back towards him. Our eyes meet and I feel a pulse of heat that I know I'm not imagining. It's a need so deep, so desperate, that I instantly imagine us fucking on the glass-topped conference table.
Is he thinking the same thing?
He takes a step towards me, his eyes latched to mine, his expression almost haunted. I part my lips on a breath and he stops just in front of me, catching that breath with his chest, and I can almost feel his lips on mine. It's a phantom kiss, but no less mesmerising than a real kiss because he's so close I can smell him. . .I can feel the warmth emanating from him.
'Did you get the chocolate bar?' he asks, and I feel my skin heat with memories.
'Did you miss me?'
His voice is low and hoarse. I should laugh at him. That's what I would usually do. So why does his question fill me with a dawning despair? I can't ignore it. I'm suffocating under the realisation that I have missed him.
'Yeah, right,' I mutter, hoping it sounds more convincing to him than it does to me. 'I've been sitting in my office pining for you every day. One kiss and I've been writing your name in my notebook with little love hearts around it.'
I roll my eyes for good measure and so miss the moment he narrows his.
Jack isn't a man to be mocked. I know that, but honestly I wasn't intending to goad him. And yet I'm in no way surprised when his mouth crashes down on mine-for real this time, nothing phantom about it.
His hands pull through my hair, letting it out of the bun I looped it into earlier this morning. His fingers fist around it, holding my head under his so that his mouth has full access to me. And he plunders me. There's no other way to describe it. His mouth is a weight on mine and his tongue is angry.
Fierce heat pools between my legs.
He pulls on my hair as his mouth pushes mine, bending me backwards until my spine is on the conference table.
'Did you miss me?' It's a demand now, as he separates my legs and stands between them.
His cock is hard. I can feel it and unconsciously I writhe lower, trying to press myself against him, to connect myself to him.
His laugh is a dark imitation of the sound. 'Not now.'
It's a gruff warning, but insanity is cutting across me. I need him. If I don't have him I am going to scream. Sense is gone. Rational thought impossible. Even my brain seems to have momentarily forgotten itself.
I'm wearing a grey woollen dress and he rubs his hand over my breast, cupping it, holding me tight as his fingers graze my nipple. The fabric of the dress is coarse and the friction is unbearable.
His kiss is an insufficient prelude. I need so much more.
'More?' he murmurs, and I realise I must have spoken aloud.
He pushes my dress up my legs, and groans when he connects with the lace tops of my stockings. He digs a finger under one of my suspenders and then snaps it, hard, so that I make a sound of complaint. It's quickly muffled by a groan of pleasure as his fingers find my panties, pulling them roughly down my legs.
He stares at me and I wonder if I look as wanton as I feel. Hair tumbling around me like a golden halo, face pink, dress hitched up around my waist, legs spread around him.
His eyes are mocking as they meet mine. 'Haven't missed me, huh?'
I know I should say something sassy, pithy. Put him in his place. If his hard-on is anything to go by he's missed me, too. Or fantasised about me, at least.
'Like a hole in the head,' I murmur, but it's lacking spark.
He laughs, his hands firm around my calves as he spreads my legs wider, and before I can anticipate what he's going to do he brings his mouth down on me, running his tongue across my opening, lashing me with that same intensity he's just kissed me with. He pummels me, his tongue flicks my clit, and I am crumbling. I arch my back and stretch my arms over my head, my whole body trembling as wave after wave of need builds inside me. I'm so close to coming that I have to bite down on my lip to stop myself crying out.
'Have you missed me?'
He brings his mouth higher, dragging his tongue over my belly button, and his fingers push my dress up my body. His fingers find one of my nipples through the fabric of my lace bra and I jerk, because I am too sensitive already. I am only seconds from falling apart.
'Please. . .' I groan, moving my hips nearer to him, needing him to release me from this sensual torture.
'Please what?' he asks with a quiet anger I don't understand.
'Please,' I insist.
Our eyes clash; it's a battle of the wills. I don't care enough to try to win it. At one time I would have fought tooth and nail, but not now. Now only one thing matters to me.
'Fuck me, Jack.'
'Here? In the boardroom at my office?'
I am going to hell. I don't even want to think about what my brain's going to have to say.
'Yes. Now. Please. Fuck me,' I whimper, so hot that I need him to do something. To fix this.
I drop my hand to my clit, but when I touch myself he grabs my wrist and pulls it away.
'No, that's cheating,' he whispers, his eyes on me as he loosens his belt and pushes his pants down just enough to release his gorgeous, glorious cock for me to see. I've seen it so many times, but now. . .? It's for me.
'Please. . .'
His eyes hold mine as he layers protection over his length, quickly, easily.
I push forward on the table, seeking him, and then he thrusts inside me, slamming me hard, and I feel the coiling of a pleasure that I cannot control. It is hot and fierce, and I cry out at the invasion that is so much better than my wildest fantasies.
His hands on my shoulders pull me up; he's so strong and I am lost in the moment. He pulls me against him and lifts me off the table so I can take him deeper, and I have a fleeting moment of gratitude for the heavy tint on the windows that surround the boardroom. His cock is spearing me, and I am wrapped around him, and he kisses me again-a kiss of such ownership and possession that I don't think I'll ever be able to lie to him again.
I did miss him.
'You want this?' he asks me, lifting my hips easily, gliding me up his length before pushing me down and making me cry out, my back arched, my nipples hard.
'I didn't hear that.'
'I want this,' I groan, my fingers tearing through his hair, my mind completely scattered.
His laugh is throaty as he lifts me once more, but this time he eases me down to the floor, stroking up my dress as he goes.
I know outrage must show in my face, and I know he appreciates that.
'You want me.'
Mortification, anger and impatience are firing bullets across my desire.
I reach down and cup his hard-on, my eyes issuing him with a challenge. 'And you want me.'
He nods slowly, his eyes locked to mine. There is no mockery there now; instead I see something darker. Resentment.
'I want you.'
He turns away from me, pulling his pants up, buckling his belt, his shoulders set square.
He turns to face me, his expression suddenly businesslike. 'We'll talk after the meeting.'
I blink. The meeting. Shit. It's the reason I'm here but how quickly I've forgotten its existence.
My eyes fly to the clocks on the wall, each showing a different time zone. There are minutes to go before the others are expected, which means they could literally arrive now. I run my hands down my dress, then neaten my hair. No time to pin it back into a bun so I just smooth it with the palms of my hands until it sits neatly around my face.
I turn to face him, intending to ask for my underpants back. But the look he gives me is so fulminating that I lose my voice.
'You look like you've just been fucked,' he says darkly, and I sweep my eyes shut, shame spiralling through me.
What the hell has come over me?
I stalk towards him, my hand extended, waiting for the scrap of lace he must have somewhere, but he grabs my hand and jerks me against him once more.
'I like the way you taste.'
And he pushes me against the glass, and his hand pushes between my legs, and he pads a thumb over my clit. I'm already at breaking point. His body traps mine, but he doesn't kiss me. He watches me from a distance as he torments me with his thumb, moving faster until my breath is ragged and my eyes are huge.
'I want to taste you tonight. I want to spread your legs and dip my tongue inside you. Then I want to flip you over and take you from behind. You are so fucking hot when you're turned on.'
I whimper-a sound of pure confusion-because the pleasure of his words combined with the torment of his touch is almost more than I can bear.
I swear-a low, throbbing whisper-as my pleasure bursts like a waterfall. I come. I come hard. And as I do he slips a finger deep inside me, swirling it against my walls as my muscles contract. He stays there as I fall apart and then he glides his finger out and lifts it to his mouth, sucking on it while his eyes watch me.
The door is pushed inwards. It happens so quickly. I am still breathless, and I'm sure my orgasm is written all over my face. It's not like it was my first time, but this was Jack. He's Jack Grant-seriously sexy.
He should come with a health warning.
I hear my colleagues move into the room and I turn away on the pretext of getting myself a coffee from the back of the room.
He still has my underwear, and the tops of my legs are wet with the evidence of my own satisfaction. My breath is uneven.
God, this is going to be the longest hour of my life.
* * * * * * * *
Is that what everyone in the universe except me calls her? Her back has been towards me for at least three minutes and I've gone through the greetings and I'm waiting for her to turn around. I want to see her full red lips, her messy hair, her passion-soaked expression, and I want to know that I did that to her.
She angles her head sideways to greet Barry Moore, one of the transition team consultants on the Tokyo deal. 'Hey. . .'
Her smile is cool, her expression calm. The only sign that she was ravaged by me only minutes ago is that her nipples are straining against the fabric of her dress-something that might be explained by the ice-cold air conditioning.
'You did a great job on the summaries-thanks.'
'You got my email, then?' Her voice is calm and clipped, as always, those haughty, aristocratic syllables like plums in her mouth.
'On the flight over.' He nods, his eyes briefly dipping to her breasts so that I am flooded by an urgent need to bodily shove him aside.
'Jack? Shall we begin?'
I draw my attention away reluctantly, turning to the manager of the takeover team. 'Yes. Take a seat.'
I nod towards the table and find myself drawn to one seat in particular. I press my hands to the tabletop, right where Gemma's legs were spread, and my eyes seek hers.
She meets them with fierce resentment.
She's pissed at me.
I just made her come in what I gather to have been a spectacular fashion and she's angry with me. Mind you, I guess I didn't really choose my time or place well. Leaving her breathless and wet right as some of the company's most senior staff filed into the room might explain her anger with me.
I sit down, my eyes not shying away from hers.
She chooses a seat at the other end of the table, on the opposite side. I cross an ankle over my knee and something catches my eye. Something dark and small. With a smile, I reach down and lift her underpants off the floor, palming them thoughtfully.
Her eyes are watching me and I see embarrassment creep along her cheeks, creating a hole in the armour of her professional composure. Her beautiful neck moves visibly as she swallows. And while I have her attention I lift my finger to my mouth and run it over my lower lip thoughtfully, tasting her openly.
Even from this distance I hear her sharp intake of breath and I smile.
I'm going to make her do that a lot.
'I BELIEVE YOU have something of mine.'
Like my dignity. My self-control.
The meeting took almost two hours, and I managed to concentrate for the most part. But every now and again my insides would clench, reminding me that Jack had driven himself inside me-that he'd made me come against the glass windows of his boardroom and he hadn't experienced the same pleasure. I should have felt satisfied by that, but instead I was annoyed. Like he had proved how easily he could tear me apart and I hadn't done the same to him.
'Yeah. . .'
His smile makes my heart pound. Desire is slick in my blood, heavy and needy.
'So?' I put my hand out, then retract it, remembering belatedly that he has a habit of yanking me towards him when I give him the chance.
'So. . .' He reaches into his pocket and retrieves the underpants. 'I like the idea of you not wearing them.'
I roll my eyes. 'What a cliché. Do you expect me to dress a certain way for you from now on?'
His smile is a flicker at the corner of his lips. 'No. . .'
He wraps an arm around me easily, pulling me to him. Of course he doesn't need my hand as an invitation. He has arms and hands of his own, and if he wants to touch me Jack Grant isn't going to wait for a bloody invitation.
'But if you did I'd enjoy doing what we just did over and over.'
I'm wet again. I can feel it building and I know that only fucking him-properly-is going to release this beast of need inside me. But I'm still fuming with Jack. How dare he do that to me right before an important meeting?
'No way,' I snap. 'Never again.'
He raises a brow, his smile genuinely amused. 'Really?'
And he reaches around for my hand, dragging it to his cock. I stare at him, challenging him, showing him I'm not afraid, as he curls my fingers around his length, rock hard inside his suit pants. My heart begins to bang into my ribs so hard that I absent-mindedly wonder if anyone has ever broken a bone that way.
'You don't want me to sprawl you out on the table and fuck you so hard you forget your own name?'
I want that so badly-but I have enough self-respect to know that he's playing with me. That the way he can knock me sideways is insulting.
And so I shrug. 'I think you've got a pretty fucking exaggerated idea of your abilities in bed.'
His laugh sends sparks of warnings through me. 'Really?'
'I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.'
I jerk away from him but my hand forms a fist; it wants to go back. To grab his cock and hold it tight.
'You want a demonstration of how wrong you are?'
'Arrogant son of a bitch. . .' I mutter, my eyes scanning the room until they land on my vintage Balenciaga bag.
I scoop it up, sending him a fulminating look. 'Keep them.'
I want him to chase me. To follow me and slam the door shut. To press me against it and moan into my mouth. To beg me to get on the floor and let him take me. Because at the smallest sign of conciliatory, normal behaviour I would do anything Jack asked of me.
But he doesn't.
I leave and I don't even know if he watches me go-I am too proud to turn around and check. My knees are shaking as I make my way through the corridor. It's only early afternoon, and I have a mountain of work to do, but suddenly I'm not in the mood.
I don't want to be near Jack.
Oh, really? my brain prompts sarcastically, rolling its eyes with such force that my head starts to throb. Really?
I jab my finger onto the lift's 'down' button and wait. As I step in I see Jack emerge from the boardroom, looking every bit the confident billionaire bachelor.
I press the button for the car park impatiently, and slam my palm against the 'door shut' button, holding my breath and praying I can avoid a shared lift ride with Jack to the basement. I'm not sure if I'd shout at him or jump him but neither is advisable.
I tell myself I'm glad when he doesn't arrive, jam his hand in the closing doors, out of breath from racing to catch me like men do in movies. The lift cruises downwards, taking my plummeting stomach with it.
Hughes is waiting in the limousine. I smile at him tersely as he steps out and opens the door for me, grateful to slide into the luxurious leather interior. I stare at the screen of my phone and that ridiculous sense that I might cry is back.
What the hell is happening to me?
I tap out a quick email to Sophia, asking her to clear the rest of my afternoon-from memory I had a phone conference scheduled and I'm really not in the mood. Nothing won't wait until tomorrow.
I double-check the itinerary I've been sent for the Australia trip-it's jam-packed, but that makes sense. Jack's too busy-and so am I, come to think of it-to go halfway around the world on holiday.
He's setting up an office in Sydney, which will start with a staff of almost four hundred to oversee two of the companies he's recently acquired there, as well as a winery in New Zealand that he's bidding on, should he be successful. It's a huge venture, and it's the first time I've been involved in anything like it.
Challenges like this are another reason I love working for Jack. Really, I was hardly qualified for this kind of job when I started working for him-my background in law and then banking give me excellent corporate insights, and yet this just works. He's always challenged me. Trusted me. Thrown down gauntlets and stood back to watch me pick them up.
He's doing it now, isn't he? Pushing me in ways I could never have imagined. But instead of meeting his challenge I'm acting like a terrified child.
A frown tugs at my lips. Why have I just run away from him? He wants to fuck me and I want that, too.
The car door opens abruptly and I tilt my head upwards, expecting to see Hughes's face. It's Jack instead, and he's visibly pissed off.
Ignoring the way my pulse immediately starts to fire in my veins, I send him a look of barbed curiosity. 'Yes? Can I help you?'
He doesn't answer. Instead he leans forward and taps on the glass that separates Hughes from us, then settles back into the seat beside me. The car glides out of its parking space, moving through the underground car park with finesse.
'Jack?' I snap, angling in my seat to face him fully.
My eyebrows shoot upwards. Even for the dictatorial side of Jack, this is a tad too much. '"Not now"?'
'No.' He turns to face me, and there's such a searing. . .something in his expression that I blink several times, trying to understand him. This-us.
But I get nada.
'Okay, but I think we need to talk,' I respond after a moment.
He glares at me and my temper bubbles. 'I don't want to talk. I want to fuck.'
My jaw drops. 'You don't just get to say that!'
A muscle jerks in his cheek. He turns away from me, sits back in the seat, his body rigid, his face tight.
'Not another word.'
I'm not afraid of Jack. Not even a bit. Many times I've gone up against him, arguing my case until he either sees it my way or at least understands my perspective. I won't do that now. I'm too fond of Hughes, and the idea of subjecting him to the tirade I'm about to unleash doesn't appeal to me, so I bite my tongue-literally-curling my fingernails into my palms as I stare out at the City.
It takes me a moment to realise we're not going towards Hampstead.
'I want to go home,' I say coldly.
His look is one of silent impatience, but before he can say anything the car pulls into yet another underground car park and comes to a stop right near the lift.
I can't describe how lost and confused I feel. I'm a swirling tempest of rage and insecurity, uncertainty and doubt. It's as though I'm in the middle of a swamp, reeds tangled around my ankles, water rising.
I want to fight with him. I'm angry. But I don't know what about! Putting into words what I feel seems impossible.
And then he speaks.
'Come with me.'
Three simple words, but they are enough because there is a plea in their depths.
I nod slowly, and there's a plea in that, too. Please don't hurt me. Please don't use me. I haven't even realised I feel it until this moment, but the idea of becoming to Jack what all those other women are is unpalatable. I weigh that against my need for him, and desire wins. I can only hope I won't regret it.
He pushes the button for the lift and then swipes a keycard. Soon the elevator is soaring towards the heavens-I'm in another lift, only this time with Jack Grant by my side.
'Am I allowed to talk now?'
He glares at me, then stares ahead until the lift doors open.
I guess not.
I stand with my hands on my hips, angrily admonishing him with my look. 'Nuh-uh. I'm not getting out until you tell me what's going on.'
'What's going on?' His tone shows incredulity.
He turns back into the elevator and lifts me easily, throwing me over his shoulder in a way I have only ever fantasised about. He carries me into an apartment-a palatial space. I gain a brief impression of glass, steel, white leather furniture and a state-of-the-art kitchen before he's storming down a tiled hallway and turning into a room.
With an enormous bed in the centre and floor-to-ceiling windows that show a glinting view of London below.
'You are driving me crazy-that's what's going on. And I don't want to want you like this. I'm sick of waking up about to fucking explode because I've been dreaming about you. I'm sick of looking at you and imagining you naked every time we're in the same damned room.'
He drops me onto the bed but I'm too shocked by his angry confession to care. So he does feel it, too-this burning, all-consuming, unwanted, unwelcome, unasked-for need.
'So, if it's all the same to you, I want to fuck you properly-right out of my head-so we can go back to working together like damned adults instead of horny teenagers.'
My breath is burning my lungs, exploding out of me in fierce bursts. 'You think you can fuck me out of your head?'
'Yes.' He stares down at me, flicking his shirt open button by button.
My eyes follow his movement and though I've seen him naked before it was never like this. He's never been naked for me.
'Why? Why now?'
'Because I need you now.'
Still, my brain is shouting at me and, having ignored it in the past and had it lead me into disastrous temptation, I push up on my elbows and roll off the other side of the bed.
His eyes stay trained on me even as he continues to undress, and my throat is dry, parched. I feel like I've been dropped from a great height; I'm in free fall with nothing to grab. Gravity no longer exists.
'How dare you? You drag me here, to your. . . your. . .lair. . .' I spit angrily, only to have Jack burst out laughing.
'My lair?' He throws his head back.
He's so sexy. God, this isn't fair. I know what I should do. I know what I need to do. But he is laughing at me, and my pride is being thumped with each sound he makes.
I jump back onto the bed, storm across it quickly and step off the other side, surprising him with the force of my body against his, knocking him partway to the floor. He catches his balance, his hands steadying me even as I keep on pushing until we are at the wall.
'I'm not some nuisance you can get rid of. An itch you can scratch and lose.' I push a fingernail into his chest and glare up at him, my eyes firing at his.
'So what are you?' he demands roughly, his chest moving with each strained breath. 'Why are you all I can think of lately? Why do you consume my every damned waking thought? What sort of magic is this?'
I have needed to hear these words and they fill me with something I don't understand. There is awe and confusion, and anger, too-because he is just like Mr Darcy, telling me he loves me against his will.
Only Jack's not promising love so much as sex, and Mr Darcy would never have made Elizabeth Bennet come pressed hard against a glass window on the forty-second floor of a high-rise in the City of London.
You know what else Lizzy wouldn't have done. . .?
I drop to my knees in front of him, and before he can guess what I want, or say anything to stop me, I move my mouth over his length, taking him deep-so deep that I feel him connect with the back of my throat.
'Holy hell, Gemma,' he groans, but he doesn't pull away.
His hands drop to my hair, tangling in its blond lengths. It is still wild around my face from when he almost fucked me in his office. His fingers pull at it and I glide my mouth over his shaft, rolling my tongue across its tip and tasting just enough of him to make my insides clench with fevered desire. I squeeze my fingers around his length and then take him deep inside my mouth again, my eyes travelling up his honed body to meet his. I see the swirling depths of emotion in them. . .I see that he is as lost as I am. . .and it is all that keeps me going.
If I'm going to feel like I have no clue who I am anymore then he should, too.
I move my mouth faster, rolling my tongue over his sensitive tip each time I am close to pulling away completely, and then his hands on my hair tighten, slowing me down, holding me still. His breath is rough, and I taste more of him spilling into my mouth.
I try to take him deeper but his fingers hold me still, the pressure on my scalp almost painful.
'This isn't going to end that quickly,' he says darkly, pulling me away completely and staring down at me before reaching beneath my arms and lifting me to stand. He stares into my eyes and there is so much triumph in my face that he must see it.
'Holy hell, Gemma,' he says again after a moment, and pulls me back towards the bed.
My heart twists achingly in my chest. He pushes me backwards, onto the middle of the mattress, and bends down, grabbing for something off the floor.
A second later I see what it is: his belt. He's naked-spectacularly so-and so hard and firm. He runs his hands over my arms, catching my wrists and pinning them over my head.
'Do you trust me?' he asks-deep, throaty, gravelled.
I shake my head but my lips are twitching. 'I trust you to make me come. I don't know if I trust you with anything else right now.'
His laugh is soft as he loops the belt in and out of the bedposts, and then grabs my wrists and incorporates them into it, pinning my arms behind me and above my head. It's not particularly comfortable.
'Then let me make you come again and again and again, Gemma.'
Gemma. The way he says my name like that-rich with passion and want-makes my body catch fire. Like it's not already an inferno!
He pushes at my dress, his hands on my thighs intimate. I still have no underwear on and he smiles to see my nakedness.
'You are beautiful,' he grunts, almost as though he's never noticed me before.
He brings his mouth down against me and I jerk my arms, wanting to touch him.
He laughs. 'And you're mine.'
Butterflies ravage me angrily. I am his. For this moment. . .for this night. Is this how it always is with him? When he makes love to those other women does it feel to them as though they are the only woman in the world?
The idea of being one of them is anathema to me.
'Remember what I told you in the boardroom?'
He pushes the dress higher, over my breasts, then leaves it bunched under my arms while he turns his attention to the scrap of lace that covers me. He doesn't bother to unclasp it-just lifts my breasts out of the delicate cups, bringing his mouth close to one of them and breathing warm air over the sensitive, erect nipple.
I arch my back instinctively and he laughs. 'Do you want this?' he murmurs, flicking it with his tongue, then circling the darker flesh slowly, teasing me, taunting me.
I nod, incoherent with need. 'I want everything,' I say seriously.
'All of this,' I agree, pulling at my hands again, not caring that I am conceding all that I am to him. 'Please,' I add.
'Do you remember what I said?'
He is insistent. What did he say? 'Not to wear underpants again?'
He laughs, and then his teeth clamp down on my nipple and I cry out. The pleasure radiates through my body, slick in my abdomen.
He rubs his stubble over my nipple and it's so sensitive from his mouth that I make a soft sound of surprise.
'I said I am going to fuck you until you can't remember your own name. Okay?'
I nod. I am lost, and I need him to see that. 'What's happening to us?'
His smile is haunted as he slides a condom over himself once more. 'What's happening? I think I've finally found my cure-that's what's happening.'
And he thrusts into me, so deep and hard and fast that the peculiar statement is lost. I am lost. I jerk my wrists so that the belt pulls against my skin, and I cry out in frustration that I can't touch him like I want to.
He is so big, and his dick reaches places inside me that I didn't know existed. He moves his mouth to my other breast and lashes his tongue against me as he pounds me hard. My hands jerk above my head. I am his prisoner, but even without the belt at my wrists I would be.
'Are you on the pill?' he demands, and I nod.
I am incoherent with pleasure, saying his name over and over again. My body is on fire. He is its master. His hands are rough on my smooth skin. He touches me everywhere as he moves inside me, thrusting deep, and still I want more.
'Please!' I cry out, not even sure what I'm begging for now.
But he knows what I need. Somehow he has mastered my body already, even though we are so new to one another. He pushes inside me and rolls his hips. I lift mine to meet him and I'm exploding, falling apart and flying at the same time, dropping through the earth's core as my body tries to cope with these sensations.
I groan loudly, wrapping my legs around his waist, holding him right where he is. But before the waves of my pleasure have begun to subside he guides my legs over his shoulders, so that I am bent over myself and he is so deep I see stars. Pleasure is tingling through me and he blows through it, rocking me in rhythm with his needs, kissing the sensitive flesh behind my knees before running his fingers lower to cup my arse.
I am shuddering with the strength of what he's doing to me. Then he pulls out, and I almost sob with the emptiness that threatens to cut me in half.
His laugh is dark. An acknowledgement that he understands.
His hands on my hips are strong; he flips me easily onto my stomach and my arms are crisscrossed, my dress tangled around my breasts and my neck.
I don't have time to tell him this, or to shift and adjust myself. He spreads my legs wide, puts an arm under my belly and lifts me higher. And then he drives into me from behind. He brushes against new nerves, makes me feel new things, and I gather from the muttered string of dark curses that fill the room that this is different for him, too.
His fingers dig into my hips as he holds me steady, thrusting into me and making me different, somehow. He drops forward, kissing my shoulder, dragging his mouth down my back before biting me on the arse-gently, but enough to make me groan. And then he's sucking the flesh at the small of my back, and I wonder if I'm going to have a mark there afterwards.
His finger between my arse cheeks surprises me. It is not somewhere I've been touched before, but it's only the lightest suggestion of a touch. A finger lightly pressing against my butt. A curious flash of wonder flies through me. But instinctively I shy away from it and he understands, laughing and moving his hand to my clit.
He strums me as though I am a guitar, and it's so intense that I almost cannot bear the pleasure. But I don't dare ask him to stop because perhaps he would and I couldn't bear that. It is like being prodded by a hot iron, though: I am burning up.
I explode angrily, loudly, my body shaking from head to toe, glistening with sweat.
He holds me tight, waiting for the waves to slow, to recede a little, and then runs his hands over my flat stomach to my neat breasts. He rolls my nipples between his finger and thumb, plucking them in time with his dick as he takes me again and again.
'It's not fair. . .' I moan, resting my head on the pillow, trying to catch my breath. 'I want you to feel this.'
He makes a noise. It could be agreement or amusement; I'm not sure. 'Do you think I'm not enjoying myself?'
No. I know he's having a good time. But that's not enough. I don't want to think I'm like all those other women, just being 'had' by him. I want to rock his goddamned world.
'Do I get to tie you up?' My words are as fevered as my sex-stormed soul.
He laughs and shakes his head, his chin gravelly against my back. 'No.'
'Why not? What's good for the goose isn't good for the gander?'
'Not in this case.'
'Isn't that a bit sexist?'
'You don't like it?'
My cheeks flame and I'm glad I'm facing away from him.
He brings the flat of his hand down on my arse, just lightly, but enough to spark the fire back into me, to make me forget what I want to do to him momentarily and enjoy what he's doing to me instead.
I push my arse higher and he massages me with his fingers, digging hard into the muscles there. I moan, low in my throat, and then he pushes inside me. I'm so wet. I drop my head lower and now he reaches up, unclipping the belt and freeing my wrists.
He pulls out of me. 'Turn around.'
A command. I obey, even though a part of me wants to tell him to stuff it purely as a point of pride.
Flat on my back, I stare up at him, my breath rushed, my lower lip sucked between my teeth.
'I want you to see what you do to me.' The admission is hoarse; as though drawn from deep in his throat.
He pushes my legs up again, lifting them over his shoulders as he drops into me, and I welcome him as though he's been absent for months, not moments. He laces his fingers through mine, pinning my arms either side of me, and he stares down at me as he takes me once more.
I sweep my eyes closed as another wave begins to build, but he drops his mouth to mine and pulls my lower lip between his teeth, pressing into it just enough to startle me into looking at him.
'I want to see you. And I want you to see me.'
Mesmerised, I can't look away. I watch as his face contorts with pleasure and he rocks inside me, and my own pleasure rides high with his until we are climaxing together, my body flaming to his, leaping with his, burning like his. It is him and me, and no one else in the world exists or matters.
He explodes inside me-a powerful release that makes him cry out loudly. . .a guttural sound that rips through the room. And I echo it deep within my soul. I am as overwhelmed as he.
He stays above me, his breath uneven, his eyes almost accusing as my own climax recedes, and I am left weak and confused by what the hell just happened to us.
I stare up at my boss, at the man who's just given me-I don't know. . .four orgasms? Five orgasms? I've lost count. It's still the afternoon and my body is covered in goose bumps.
Holy shit. Is this what it's like with his other women?
They are like ghosts, immediately hovering on my subconscious. I hate it that they're there, but my brain clearly needs me to remember them. To remember what Jack's like.
'So I suppose you don't get complaints after all,' I murmur, running my fingertips down his back. Like mine, it is wet with perspiration.
'Not so much.'
He pushes up, with a smile on his face that somehow doesn't fill his eyes. He presses a light kiss to my forehead and then stands.
'I'll get Hughes to take you home.'
The words seem to be spoken in a foreign language for all the sense they make to me. He'll get Hughes to take me home? Is he fucking serious? Am I being dismissed?
I smile, even as my mind is reeling from the sheer rudeness of that statement. 'I need to finish something at the office.'
I am amazed by myself. How do I sound so unbothered? So casual? It's a bald-faced lie, but it's the best I can come up with while my body is numbed by shock and fulfilled desire.
He nods. 'Fine. He can take you there.' Another tight smile. 'You're okay to let yourself out? I'm going to grab a shower.'
Jesus fucking Christ. Is he indeed?
'I think I can find a door without a map,' I drawl sarcastically, reaching for my phone without so much as a smile.
I flick it to life and load my emails, but the words swim before me like one big puddle of grey matter.
Which is what his brain is going to be against the crisp white wall if I don't get the hell out of there.
He walks towards a door across the room and I continue staring at my phone. Yet I know he's paused and is watching me. So I smile at an imagined joke on my phone, then pretend I'm typing a reply.
If you'd asked me an hour ago what could go wrong I would have said exactly this. Pushing past the boundaries we've always wisely obeyed, only to have Jack reinstating them just as fast as he's able-brick by brick, blocking me out.
My fingers move over my phone but I'm play-acting, doing what I can to distract him from the fissures running through my heart, my hopes and my confidence.
Eventually Jack moves into the bathroom and I hear the shower running.
It might have been the best sex I've ever had, but I'm pretty sure it was also the biggest mistake of my life.
Text Copyright © 2018 by Clare Connelly
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.