At any moment, p.20
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       At Any Moment, p.20

         Part #3 of Gaming the System series by Brenna Aubrey  

  She squinted at me. “That’s from a movie, isn’t it?”

  I smiled. “You know me so well. Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman. ”

  I took her hand and led her to the floor. There were a few other couples out there, but many had sat down once the band had started playing tango music. The steps I’d taught her were simple and I could guide her easily enough through anything more complex.

  We faced each other and she looked into my eyes. Her gaze then darted around the room and she took a deep breath. She was feeling self-conscious either about the dance or about her looks. If I did my job right, she should forget about both.

  “Put your left hand on my shoulder. Higher. ”

  And she complied. I took her right hand in my left and curved my right arm around her to press firmly against the center of her back. “Relax your body. Try not to be stiff. ”

  She grinned. “I’m having a weird déjà vu feeling. ”

  I smiled. “Amsterdam?”

  “Yep. ”

  “You did beautifully then. You’ve got this. ”

  She took a shaky breath and nodded. “Okay. ”

  The music started up again and I stepped forward, guiding her to walk backwards for three steps before gliding to the side. She fumbled for a moment, stepping forward just as I did.

  “Sorry!” she gasped as she stomped on my foot.

  “Let me lead you, Emilia. Do you trust me?”

  She looked up at me and nodded. “Yeah. ”

  “Then look in my eyes and stop watching our feet. ”

  She took a deep breath and relaxed in my arms. And for the rest of that first song, never looked down. Once she was more comfortable, I added a few more complex things, like a turn, a dip. The first time I dipped her she let out a little squeak and laughed like crazy.

  “My scarf is going to fall off and you are going to expose my chrome dome!”

  Our bodies moved together. The tango was a sexy dance. Much like the sexual act itself, it was our bodies in close proximity, moving together, our hands holding each other, our eyes, fastened to one another. Our breath coming quicker. Our hearts beating faster.

  Yeah, I’ll admit it was turning me on. Between the alcohol, the kiss on the tower and now this dancing, it was going to be hard to resist her.

  But then she pulled out the big guns—because I was well aware of what she’d been doing all night. She’d enacted a studied, careful campaign to seduce me. And I’d played dumb and let her do it.

  “Don’t twirl me so fast next time. My dress will fly up too high. ”

  “What, you don’t want the old goats in here to see your underwear?”

  “I wouldn’t care about them seeing my underwear, if I was wearing any,” she said with an impish grin on her face. “Happy birthday. ”

  I stumbled midstep. “You aren’t wearing any underwear?”

  She paused for a beat and I dipped her, holding her there until she answered me. She looked up at me, hooking a leg around mine as I bent into a deeper dip. “Nope. Not a stitch. Full commando. ”

  Fuck me. I was hard immediately at the thought.

  I pulled her up and stood absolutely still. “You are a very naughty girl. ”

  Her gorgeous, puffy lips formed a pout and her eyes, all doe-like and innocent, grew wider as she said, “Mmm hmmm. I should be punished. ”

  I pulled her closer, her feminine body felt like heaven pressed to me. “You should,” I whispered.

  She pressed her face to my ear, took my lobe in her hot mouth and dragged her teeth over it. Hot lust streaked through me. God, she was a siren. And there was little holding her off tonight. My blood was on fire for her. She must have felt my erection pressing against her, because she undulated against it, eliciting a gasp of surprise from me.

  And before we started doing anything indecent, like fucking right there in front of everyone, I grabbed her hand and pulled her off the dance floor. With a laugh swallowed in a gasp of surprise, she trotted along behind me as I strode with purpose to the elevator that led directly up to our suite. I wasn’t even sure I’d make the elevator ride without committing some sort of lewd act.

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  The minute the door closed she turned to me and I had my hands up her skirt, confirming the absence of her panties.

  “You see? Nothing for you to rip off of me. ”

  I pressed her against the wall of the elevator. “I’m going to push this dress up right now and fuck you. ”

  She let out a breathy moan that cut right through me. “Yes, please. ”

  “You want it,” I said, my hand stroking up the inside of her silky thigh.

  Her lids drooped. “Yes, I do. ”

  “But I shouldn’t give you what you want, naughty girl. I should punish you. ”

  When the elevator dinged and the door slid open into the suite, I gave her a light push out in front of me, turning back to press the lock button on the elevator so we wouldn’t be interrupted. She cast a wary glance up at me and then turned away from me, facing the wall.

  “Punish me, then. ”

  Chapter Twenty-Nine


  Project Seduction was about to cash in. With breathy anticipation, I waited as he moved up behind me. He stopped, standing very close without touching me. I stood perfectly still, even holding my breath.

  Adam grabbed my wrists and pulled my hands up by my head as he pushed me forward. His hips pinned my body to the cold marble wall.

  “I need to fuck you,” he said. And he began to kiss me. His mouth slipped across the back of my neck, my shoulders, my ears, my jaw, his kisses sizzling on my skin like icy raindrops on a steaming hot street. I tingled with his touch, his hands braceleted around my wrists. He spent time tasting every inch of me and I could feel or think of nothing besides his mouth, his hot breath on my skin. I shivered and his hands tightened around my wrists, his breath faltering where his mouth devoured my earlobe.

  “Adam, please,” I whimpered.

  He pressed my hands on the wall beside my head and dropped his hold to fumble with the fastening on my dress, unhooking and unzipping it in two quick movements.

  “My God, you are beautiful,” he said in a tight voice. Everything in me hummed to the vibrations of his uttered words. I swallowed, still fearful for him to see me. If he stripped off my dress, he’d still find my serviceable, unattractive bra hiding my disfigurement. I’d just ask him not to take it off.

  And I could brag to Kat that I was so good, I didn’t even have to show him the girls to get into his pants.

  His hands slid inside the dress, tracing my spine from the small of my back to the base of my neck, and then his hot, wet mouth replaced the touch there while his hands went to cup my hips. The sensations were stunning, overwhelming, and I was certain that if I hadn’t been propped up against the wall, I might have swooned like an old-fashioned lady in a too-tight corset.

  Inside my dress, his hands moved from my hips, over my stomach, one settling between my legs. He traced his finger there, pressing his mouth to my ear. “You’re so wet for me. ”

  I leaned my head back on his shoulder and barely managed to answer with a hoarse whisper. “Yes. ”

  “I think my naughty girl needs to come,” he said, stroking me again. I gasped. Oh yes, she really, really needs to come.

  “I think the birthday boy needs to come, too,” I replied.

  Suddenly his hands were everywhere, moving over my thighs, over my stomach. He moved them so fast it was like he was trying to make up for lost time in minutes, like he didn’t know where he wanted to touch next. I was the air he needed to breathe, the water he needed to drink.

  Those hands came up to my breasts and cupped them over the thick material of my bra. I took a deep breath and fought the urge to push his hands away. He rested them there, as if testing me to see what I would do. So against my instinct, I relaxed against him, my heart racing in fear
mixed with anticipation. He moved his thumbs across my nipples and they immediately responded. I cried out, the feeling shooting through me so intense. Too intense. I arched against his broad chest and his hot breath scorched my neck.

  He was flame and I was paper. His touch immolated me and I felt light, like the fiery embers of paper ashes carried away on the wind. I wanted him—needed to accept him into my body, feel him move inside me, touch every corner and every hidden alcove, empty himself into me.

  We two needed to be one. One in desire, one in purpose, one in life.

  I backed against him, moving my butt against his erection. He sucked in a sharp breath. “I should spank that naughty little ass. ”

  A dark feeling clutched at my throat. His words reminded me of the night we’d been together in Vegas, the last night we’d had sex, over five months ago. He’d spanked me then. But it had been out of anger, frustration. I’d broken up with him, hadn’t explained anything to him. Guilt clutched at my throat. He’d hated me for it.

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  Did he still hate me? Deep down? For everything I’d put him through?

  Could we just enjoy each other tonight and shove away the baggage? Could I make it up to him?

  I was determined to try.

  I turned my face to the side so he could hear me. “You can do anything you want. I’m yours. ”

  His voice was a growl against my ear. “Say it again. ”

  “I’m yours, Adam. Always. ”

  His hands tightened on me and before I could check myself I yelped in surprise. He immediately yanked them away from my breasts.

  “Shit, did I hurt you? I’m sorry!”

  I stifled a groan of frustration. “I’m fine. I’m okay. ”

  He reached out and took the edges of my dress in his hands. My heart lurched. He was going to slip it off. I could barely contain my excitement, closing my eyes and tipping my head back. I was ready to lay back and enjoy the feel of his magic hands on me.

  Instead he zipped the dress back up.



  I turned around and looked at him, frowning.

  We held each other’s gaze for a long, tense moment.

  “I’m sorry,” he repeated, backing away.

  “You didn’t hurt me. You just surprised me. I—It must be all the procedures and stuff. I feel very—clinical about my chest. ”

  He nodded, ran a hand through his hair. “I got carried away. It didn’t even occur to me. ” His mouth pursed in thought.

  I approached him and slipped my arms around his waist. “It’s okay. I’m fine. I—I really want to be with you tonight. ”

  He hesitated, watched me. His eyes weren’t mirrors, they were vault doors, shut and locked tight to me. He frowned. “We probably shouldn’t. You aren’t—”

  I wanted to stomp in frustration. “I’m fine. The doctor says it’s fine as long as I’m feeling like it. Everything is fine. Adam, I want to be with you. I want us to make love. I know you want it, too. ”

  He blew out a long breath, the furrows not disappearing from his forehead. He shook his head.

  So I took action. I stroked along his jawline, gently angling his head so I could kiss him. Pushing my tongue into his mouth, I felt his breath quicken, his hands coming up to cradle the small of my back.

  “I know you want it,” I whispered again. “Please. ”

  And then I ran my hand down over his hard stomach and lower, fondling him through his slacks. Yeah, he was still hard. His brain was saying no but his body was saying yes and I was hoping that would be enough to persuade him. He sucked in his breath. I unbuttoned his pants and he put a hand on top of mine as if to stop me.

  But I didn’t stop and he didn’t say no. I unzipped him slowly while I kissed his neck. “Let me…please?” I sank to my knees in front of him and he exhaled sharply when he saw what I was going to do.

  I took him into my mouth, opening for him and taking it in deep while I caressed him with my tongue. He groaned, putting a hand on my head, then the other. He didn’t pull or push me but he slid his hands down to my neck, my shoulders. The lace scarf slipped off my head as I moved back and forth, my heart racing with his every heated gasp and groan.

  “Emilia…” he ground out. “Fuck. ”

  I continued the rhythm I was building, closing my eyes concentrating on sucking and licking in all the right places. He put his hand on the top of my head and gently pulled away.

  Then he bent and picked me up, pressed me against him. My legs went around his hips and we were only separated by the thin layer of my dress as I felt his hardness rubbing against me. My arms locked around his neck and his mouth sealed on mine. He was carrying me to the bedroom. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the taste of his mouth, his tongue. I couldn’t get enough of him. My heartbeat was thready and rushed and I could hardly catch my next breath.

  He stopped us at the edge of the bed, locked together at our mouths and hips. I couldn’t wait another second for us to be together. His hands were on my ass, tight and insistent again. Then he dropped us to the bed.

  And if I’d been expecting it, and had prepared myself, his weight landing on me like that would have been no big deal. Hadn’t I been longing to feel his weight on top of me for months? But instead, it knocked the wind right out of me and I had to gasp to suck in air.

  Adam scrambled to the side as I fought black spots at the edge of my vision, unable to move. “Shit! Emilia…”

  I turned my head and opened my mouth once or twice before I was able to get my breath back. Blinking, I coughed. “I’m fine. I’m okay. ”

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  But he was pale and his forehead was beading with sweat. “I squashed the hell out of you. I’m so sorry. ”

  I extended my hand to grasp his but it was out of my reach. “It’s okay. Everything’s fine. ”

  He reached out and cupped my cheek with a shaky hand. “Fuck. I’m so sorry. What the hell is wrong with me?”

  “Come here. Kiss me,” I said, trying to distract him. He looked like he was about to freak out.

  Instead he rose from the bed and looked down at me. Eyes still wide with concern

  We looked at each other for a long time. And I knew that our moment was over. We weren’t going to make love tonight. I sucked in a shivery breath and blinked back tears, pulling myself to a sitting position.

  Adam knelt in front of me, putting his hands on my waist as if he were checking for broken bones. When he gazed up into my face, he saw the tears that were leaking out. I felt like a miserable failure.

  “Please don’t cry,” he murmured, kissing me.

  “What’s wrong with us?” I asked in a squeaky voice. “We’re broken. ”

  He sucked in a quick breath and shook his head. “No. No… it’s just. I’m worried about you. I don’t want to hurt you again. ”

  “You’re not going to, Adam. I swear that I’m fine. ”

  “When you are healthy… When we get home and you get the scan—”

  I pulled away from him in frustration, scrubbing the back of my hand over my cheeks. I stood and went into the bathroom. He followed me.

  “It’s how I look, isn’t it?”

  His mouth thinned. “No. You are beautiful. ”

  I turned on the faucet and splashed water on my face. “You can be honest with me, you know. I can take it. You don’t have to spare me. ”

  I blotted my face with a soft white towel while he watched me in the mirror. When I turned to go, he stepped in my way, wrapping his hands around my forearms so I wouldn’t move away. “You. Are. Beautiful. A head of hair doesn’t change that one bit. ”

  I sighed and looked into his eyes. “I’m worried about us…”

  He smoothed my cheek and smiled. “Don’t be. I love you more than ever, Emilia. I mean that. ”

  I swallowed a lump in my throat. There was something he wasn’t saying. I
was certain of it. But I didn’t want to fight and I didn’t want to force something from him before he was ready to tell me. Maybe he was just worried about my health. God, I hoped it was something as simple as that. Because the moment that scan came back clean, I was jumping his bones.

  I took in a deep breath and expelled it. “I’m so tired all of a sudden. ”

  He relaxed a little. Relieved, apparently. “Me too. I’m about to keel over into the nearest bed. ”

  I frowned. There were three bedrooms in this huge suite, all of them equally amazing and luxurious. “Please don’t say we need to sleep in separate beds. ”

  He pulled me into a gentle hug. “I’m not going to say that. I want you in my arms tonight. ”

  He wanted me in his arms. Sleeping. Nothing more.

  Project Seduction was dead in the water. Mission failed.

  Chapter Thirty


  I folded her in my arms, held her tightly—like she sometimes asked me to do. I noticed those were the times when she was feeling the most lost, insecure. And I cursed myself for not having gone through with having sex with her tonight. It would have done good things for her self-esteem and body image.

  I’d certainly wanted her, too. But that moment of hurting her had snapped me back into reality, back into all the problems and doubts and worries. There was so much that needed to be covered first. What about birth control? I hadn’t brought condoms with me—though they’d have been easy to get here. But I hadn’t planned that far ahead, had just assumed that things wouldn’t progress that quickly between us. I was still thinking of her as ill, weak, that semi-conscious sick woman in my arms declaring she deserved to die…

  In the silence, I listened. She had long since started that slow, measured breathing of sleep and I kissed her, laying my cheek against hers. I closed my eyes, replaying everything in my mind again—thinking about my colossal fuck-up and how it had only served to hurt her more. As if in that one split second, all the good of the night had been erased.

  But I couldn’t risk hurting her again. Not even the smallest hint of a risk. I fell asleep like that, with me wrapped around her. Like I was her coat of armor, protecting her. And I wished it could be as simple as that. But the truth was that sometimes I was her greatest threat instead of her protection.

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  The next few days in Paris were wonderful. We took a long walk down our street, Avenue George V, with its iconic cafes, exclusive boutiques and stunning cars parked along the curb. I even suffered through a few hours of her shopping on the Champs-Élysées, but since Emilia wasn’t a big shopper, I didn’t have to suffer long.

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