My heart pounded erratically. It was like his voice opened up a long lost, secret closet and the drums form Jumanji started playing, only it wasn’t a game. It was real. And it was terrifying.
“Grant.“ I stated, keeping my voice even. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” The sarcasm was evident in my tone.
I walked, disinterested, toward the wet bar off to my left. After I placed my now empty Collins glass into the sink I grabbed the nearest bottle of red. The sound of the cork popping was as loud as a gunshot in the deathly silent room.
My back was turned toward the man behind me if only to hide the tremble of my fingers as I poured.
He was silent.
I took normal, even breaths, careful not to allow my shoulders to betray the way my mind was reeling. Now was not the time to allow my true feelings to show. And honestly, was there ever a good time for that kind of nonsense? I learned a long time ago that feelings caused nothing but confusion and pain. It was best to bury them and move on.
I could feel the burn of his gaze on my bare back, almost as if he were touching me with a candle’s flame. Or pouring hot wax down my spine. I suppressed a moan at the memory that flitted through my mind like a butterfly. It was quick, beautiful, and then gone before I had the chance to grasp it.
I held the wine glasses by their stems and turned to face him. Several more flashes from the sky flickered while I walked toward him in silence. I placed the glass onto the desk and slid it toward his hand. Since he was sitting in my chair, I gracefully lowered my body into the leather one opposite him.
I sipped my wine, rolling the liquid around my mouth, enjoying the way my cheeks puckered at the tannins.
“Cat got your tongue?” I inquired when he still didn’t say anything.
I noticed his long, slender fingers twist the stem of the glass while I spoke. He finally lifted it and drank. Who knew watching someone taste wine could be such a turn on.
I allowed my gaze to take in the midnight color of his slicked back, wavy hair, the way his dark, chocolate eyes drank me in from under thick, furrowed brows, the way his shoulders filled out the suit he wore. I should have known he’d show up now. Of course, nothing could be as simple as me just enjoying a night to celebrate my accomplishments.
I decided I’d said enough and sat back, making it look like I was as comfortable as a teddy bear on a bed of fluffy pillows, when in reality it felt as cold and unwelcoming as the look in Grant’s eyes.
“You owe me a debt, Scarlet.”
My eyes betrayed nothing. I took another lazy sip. I really needed to make sure to send a thank you note to The Senator’s wife for that bottle, it was positively delicious.
I made myself even more comfortable, letting my wine glass dangle from the fingers of my right hand. I swirled the scarlet liquid within and cocked my head to the side, regarding him carefully.
“And you’ve come to collect.” I raised a perfectly manicured brow and swept my curtain of dark blonde waves over my shoulder. I stood and made my way around the large oak desk that separated us, placing my wine glass down carefully.
I could practically hear his thoughts churning. His gaze may have been icy cold, but the tick in his jaw screamed that he was about to lose control. I lowered my ass onto the edge of the desk, gripping it with my fingers. I crossed my legs and the toe of my stiletto deliberately grazed his thigh.
“Well, let’s get this over with then.” I purred, letting my finger trail down the front of his crisp, white button down shirt.
“Be careful what you wish for, Scarlet.” He growled out, his eyes dipping to the V of my dress where my ample cleavage rose gently with each breath.
I made a noncommittal sound just as another flash of lightening lit up the room. The rain chose that moment to finally burst free from the clouds in torrential waves. The ambient sound it created floated through the window, filling the silence.
“I don’t wish for things, Grant. I make them happen. You’re here to either fuck me or kill me, so let’s at least do one before the other. I prefer to…go out with a bang.” The double entendre had the desired effect and I saw a faint gleam come to light in his eyes.
His movements were swift, and if I hadn’t been expecting them, I would have fallen off the edge of the desk. I had to bend my neck backward to look up at him, he was so tall. His face was nose to nose with mine and another flash of lightening made the scar on the side of his right cheek gleam like an electric shockwave across his skin.
I would always feel bad about that, but that’s neither here nor there.
He gripped my wrists and, encircling his arms around me, pinned them together behind my back. The way his eyes raked over me made my body shiver. I knew he’d mistake my trembling for something it wasn’t, and I let him.
“Mmm.” He groaned, grinding his pelvis into mine. I could feel his erection against my hips and it took all my might not to fall to his feet and beg for him to take me to our own play room. Or take me across the desk. That would work. He could use his belt to — his next words interrupted my salacious thoughts.
“Are you trembling because you’re turned on right now? Or are you so scared, you’re about to piss yourself?” His voice was gruff and sent hot puffs of air across my skin.
I laughed in his face.
“You always were so dramatic, Grant. You’re no different from all the others. And I am definitely not afraid of you.” My admissions rang as clear and true as the twelve o’clock bells at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He gripped me tighter and my breasts swelled against his chest. In an instant, Grant smashed his lips against mine. I allowed his tongue to slip past my lips. Oh, the things of which his mouth was capable. The groan that reverberated from the back of my throat was uncontrollable. Even less controllable was the wetness that I could feel practically gushing from between my thighs.
Not a moment later, his head lifted and those cold, callous tiger eyes glimmered dangerously. He huffed out a humorless laugh. “You’re no different from any other woman willing to spread her legs for me with just a kiss, Scarlet.”
I could see the disgust in his eyes and I allowed my own to blaze right back at him. I hoped he felt my seething rage sear his soul. I was not ashamed of my past. It shaped me into who I was in that moment. I was not about to let him make me feel like I did something wrong when I did the best I could with what I had.
He let me go abruptly, as if he started to get singed from holding on too long. I wavered, slightly off balance on my heels and took a deep breath, wiping his saliva from the side of my mouth. The fucking bastard. He rendered me speechless and that was not an easy feat.
I wanted to sputter in indignation but I wasn’t the one with the erection and I was also not a petulant child. I decided to keep silent and wait for him to speak. Maybe he’d get the point and finally tell me what the hell he came here for.
Grant was gazing out the windows, his strong hands on his hips looking like a warrior in a suit carrying the whole world on his shoulders.
“You know as well as I do that the last thing I’d ever want to do is come here.” I could hear the bitterness in his words. But, if my ears weren’t deceiving me, I’d believe that Grant was just as affected by that kiss as I was.
He turned and faced me just as a blast of lightening lit up his imposing form, his pale scar, and the storm of emotions brewing within his eyes. The little flecks of gold practically swirled with anger, determination, and something else I couldn’t quite decipher.
“I’m here because I need your help.”
The loud thunder boom punctuated his sentence. The sound reverberated within my chest and I stared at him in shock. This man had rendered me speechless twice within a matter of minutes and I was flummoxed.
When Scarlet entered the room, I was flooded with emotions I hadn’t felt in years. I thought that time would have lessened them, and it did to an extent, but as soon as she was in view, I knew the thousands of dollars I spent on therapy were wasted.
Perhaps the only thing I took from those sessions was solace between my therapist’s legs. But, that’s a story for another time.
Scarlet stared at me in shock. The flickering light from the sky illuminated her flawless, tan skin and flashed in her sapphire eyes like tiny bursts of blue flames I want to reach out and stoke. She was backlit by the flashing lights from what I was sure was a titillating show taking place behind her, a level down on the main stage.
She was a sight for sore eyes. Her beauty was unrivaled. The way she held her head high, her chin jutting out, daring me to challenge her as she spoke of her past made me respect her. Her alluring voice pulled me in with each word she spoke. She got too close to me and my control slipped. Feeling her quiver in my arms broke my last thread of sanity and I gave in and kissed her supple lips.
They were just as sweet as I remembered.
Fuck. I was fucked.
It hurt to admit that I needed help, but she was the only one who could help me. Trust me, I wasn’t lying when I said I wouldn’t have been there if there was any other way. On top of that, I was a masochist. I was going to enjoy the torture of her presence as long as it took to get what I needed.
I took a measured breath and spoke again, gauging her reaction.
“It looks like you’ll be coming out of retirement for one last job.” My smug smile did nothing to shake her.
Stoic. That was the one word that I could describe Scarlet in that moment. She was fucking granite.
At one point in time, I thought I knew her. I thought she opened up to me and I thought I fucking knew her. But I was oh, so wrong. I didn’t know a damn thing about her. Hell, the only things I knew about her were sexual in nature, and I wasn’t even sure if those were real, or if they were figments of my imagination, completely cultivated by her web of lies and deceit.
“Who?” Straight to the point and I begrudged the admiration I had for Scarlet.
“A woman named Jennifer McCall.” I figured honesty was my best policy with Scarlet even though I wanted to strangle her stupidly, pretty little neck. Then? I wanted to hate-fuck her. After that? I wanted to leave and never see her achingly gorgeous face again.
“What do you need?” Scarlet broke eye contact and smoothed her hair behind her ear then took a step to seat herself behind the desk. She looked like a dark queen, a modern day Maleficent, sitting on her throne. She tugged her wine glass toward her and the sound of the crystal sliding against the desktop was lost within another rumble of thunder.
“Information.” I replied simply, turning back to gaze through the rain streaked windows at the street bustling with activity below. Flashing brake lights and changing traffic lights glowed in a myriad of colors, smeared reflections in the wet pavement.
“What do you need me to do?” Her voice was devoid of emotion and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for this woman who sat behind me, queen of the underworld, ruler of all things unseen. Everyone always wanted her for one thing or another and there I was, just another peasant, asking for my needs to be met, not giving a damn about her in the slightest.
I hesitated only briefly. Then, I remembered that this was what she was good at. This was how she got to be so successful. This was what made her Scarlet Darke. This was who she was. And I was no saint. This was purely business. She would understand.
“I need you to seduce her, make her fall in love with you. Then, get her to tell you her secrets.”
Scarlet was silent for a moment and I turned around to stare at her back. She sat rigidly, with perfect posture. I had a brief desire to move her hair to the side and explore her exposed skin with fingertips, followed by my tongue until she was sated and relaxed. I scoffed internally and pushed the thought aside. Fool me once, and all that.
“Anything else?” She murmured, almost mocking me.
She pushed her toe on the carpet and her chair whirled around so she was facing me.
“Don’t hold me in suspense here, Grant. I’m tired of your theatrics. Get to the point or I’ll make my decision immediately and you’ll be sorry you ever came here.”
There was the feisty woman I barely knew. I both craved and despised her equally.
I walked toward her, stopping inches from her feet. I could feel the fabric of my trousers brush against her knees. She didn’t waver, didn’t flinch at my nearness.
“After that, I need you to break her heart.”