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The lovers secret, p.6
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       The Lover's Secret, p.6

           J. C. Reed
 
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  He leaned forward, his expression hard and unreadable. “Are you saying you won’t make a promise out of fear that something might happen to us? Between us?”

  “Yeah, something like that.” I let out a slow breath. A cold chill washed over me as I thought back to my parents. Unconsciously, I pulled my legs up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them while my thoughts about the past slowly shaped into words. “My father made a promise to my mother. I still remember how much he loved her.” I paused for effect. “But in spite of his deep love and his vows, when my sister died, none of that was enough. He still left her. He killed himself, betraying his own vows, his promises, and breaking my mother’s heart. Even to this day, she hasn’t recovered from that blow.”

  I looked up and realized that Jett was staring at me, hanging on my every word, but that wasn’t the only thing I saw before my eyes. The picture flickering before me was that of my parents fighting over me, because I had let my sister sneak out, on the very night when she met her tragic fate. Her boyfriend, Danny, had sold her like a prostitute.

  “My father didn’t love my mom enough not to leave her behind, nor did he find it in his heart to forgive me,” I whispered, unable to stop a tear running down my cheek. “That was enough proof to me that love and life are unpredictable, just like a storm. So…” I looked up to meet Jett’s beautiful, green gaze. “I don’t want you talking about risks, Jett—or trust, for that matter. Life is unpredictable, and the circumstances of today might not be the circumstances of tomorrow.”

  He touched my hand gently, but not imposing. “This is different, Brooke. What we have is different.”

  I shook my head, pressing my lips into a tight line. The difference didn’t matter; it didn’t matter how different what he thought we had was. In the end, there would only be one outcome, one finale. It could end well or badly—a simple conclusion with absolutely no guarantee.

  “I want a choice, Jett. An option,” I whispered. ”I want to be able to leave if you betray me or lie to me again. I can’t promise you that I’ll stay. What I can promise, though, is that when we fight, I’ll listen to your reasons, and then make up my mind. But I won’t give up my choice to leave.”

  “That’s not good enough,” he said, his jaw clenching.

  “I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do.”

  “It’s still not good enough. I need you to stay so I can protect you.” He placed his hands on my womb. I gazed up at him, my whole body tensing. Something shifted in him, and I realized that I had taken it all wrong. It wasn’t just about our separation; it was a matter of life and death. He was concerned because of the things that had happened back in Italy and New York. I closed my eyes to escape the memories that flooded my mind: being abducted and locked up, a young woman’s brutal rape, and the knowledge that I’d be next. That was my life before now.

  “Now that you’re carrying my child, I have a right to make the decisions, and I say you’ll never leave my side again,” he said, as though reading my mind. “I don’t want anything bad happening to you or our baby.”

  I sighed, blinking back the tears. He knew too much about me, and that in turn made it impossible for me to escape my memories when I was around him. It was hard to believe that he’d delete that email, but no one else, not even Jett, had access to my account. Still, he had the means to log into my account by using his connections. He was asking me to trust him, yet he’d done something so untrustworthy already.

  “Look, I understand that you’re worried,” I said, “but—”

  “No buts.” He shook his head, his eyes never leaving mine as he interrupted me. “I don’t think you understand, Brooke. I’d kill for you and our kid. Being without you for so long, living with that fear of not seeing you again, taught me that nothing’s more important.”

  “Don’t say that.”

  “But it’s true.”

  I bit my lip hard and turned away to escape the stubborn air wafting from him. Still, even without looking at him, I could feel his determination. My head began to throb. I didn’t want to think about anything. I didn’t want to remember. If only I could press a button that would erase parts of my memory, I would. It wasn’t just the pictures flooding my mind that scared me; it was also the feelings of despair and hopelessness stemming from the knowledge that there was no escape in sight, burning bright inside my heart. In my dreams, the ropes that held me bound still cut into my skin. I had tried, but stopping the pain from haunting me seemed impossible.

  “Let’s talk about this another time,” I whispered, shivering in my dress. “Please.”

  I wrapped a blanket around myself, got up, and walked to the bay windows.

  Jett followed me and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me against him in silence. There was something calming about the snowflakes falling from the sky—an assurance that life would go on, no matter what happened; an assurance that I wasn’t so different from others. Somewhere, somehow, someone had suffered just like me, and they had survived. A survivor is living proof that with each day, each year, memories weaken and gradually become a distant fragment of the past. I needed that hope.

  “For what it’s worth, I’ll never let you go,” he whispered in my ear, “even if you can’t give me the promise I want.”

  I smiled bitterly. The heart is a castle of glass. Sometimes we’re tempted to invite someone in, not to see them stumbling upon our deepest secrets, but to see if they care enough not to break it. Maybe one day I’d give him the key, but not before I saw if he cared enough about me.

  Looking at Jett reminded me how much I adored every part of his body and mind. We were so much alike in character and spirit, and yet we weren’t. The tiny crinkles around his eyes showed how much he loved to laugh. The soft line on his forehead hinted at his tendency to worry even when he tried not to show it. Just like me, he tried to hide his emotions, but there were signs that gave him away.

  Unlike me, however, he didn’t deny the obvious when confronted with his demons. Unlike me, he didn’t run when things turned out to be more complicated than anticipated. Everything he did and said served a purpose, which was why I had to find out if he had logged into my account and deleted that email or, worse yet, contacted the legal firm. I figured it was time to get my answers; if I didn’t, the questions would haunt me forever.

  I eyed the door, then the dress I was wearing. I still looked like a stripper, but this was my chance, probably the only one I would have today. I had to hurry. There was no time to change.

  “Is it bad that I want you again?” I asked and turned to take in Jett’s expression.

  He let out a deep, throaty laugh. “I thought you’d never ask.”

  His lips found mine, and as he kissed me deeply, the walls around me slowly began to crumble. I was his. Promise or not, he had claimed me. Now I just had to find out if he was my gloomy doom or my bright joy, because I had no intention of accepting anything gray in between.

  I pushed him back. “You had your fun. It’s my turn now.” I escaped his grip and began to walk to our bedroom, beckoning to him to follow me.

  And Jett did, helpless to my swaying hips, his eyes sparkling with naughty thoughts. Soon, the door closed behind him, and we were alone. I switched on the bedside lamps. His clothes were draped on the back of a chair, along with his belt.

  If my plan was to work, I had to be convincing and conniving. I grabbed the belt, then turned around, new confidence spilling over inside me.

  “Lie down.” My voice was self-assured and commanding, leaving no room for disagreement. When he didn’t comply, I pushed him down onto the bed.

  He looked up, surprised, and his lips curled into a wicked smile as he eyed the belt in my hand. “Are you planning on playing badass?”

  “You have no idea.” My smile matched his as I pulled his hands over his head and bound them to the bedpost. Loose enough for him to wriggle around. Tight enough so he couldn’t leave.

  If Jett thought it was too tight, he didn’t l
et me know.

  Thank God, the penthouse beds had bedposts; otherwise, I would have been forced to bind him to the chair and make love on the hard floor. The idea of what I was about to do brought a giggle to my lips, but Jett didn’t notice. His gaze was completely held hostage by my short dress—or more precisely, what was under it. I rewarded him for his compliance by gliding my body along his, letting my breasts rub against his hardness, just the way he loved it. I had to do whatever it took to arouse him and make him surrender to my will.

  My fingers grabbed his slacks and pulled them down his hips. A moan escaped his lips as his erection jerked out, its size both fascinating and terrifying, its slick crown velvety and ready to unlock the most primitive of feelings inside me. He looked so impressive and beautiful, I could barely breathe as my fingers ran down his swollen shaft, marveling at his hardness.

  Leaning against his hard body, I took a deep breath and smiled as his manly scent registered within my mind; nothing in my life had ever smelled so good. I inhaled the scent of his earthy aftershave and him—rich, smooth, edible, so mouthwateringly sexy that I wanted to take a bite of him.

  Soon…but not now.

  Pleasure had to wait, because my little act had little to do with sex. I needed more from him now than an orgasm.

  “You’re so hot that we need ice,” I whispered against his ear. “In fact, let me get some from downstairs. I’ll be back in a minute.

  “We have an ice machine.” He sounded so desperate and eager that I had to stifle another giggle.

  “Are you telling me what to do?” I arched a brow in mock annoyance. “Mr. Mayfield, let me remind you that you’re bound and entirely at my mercy.”

  “Now that sounds scary,” Jett said, still grinning.

  “It is. If I were you, I’d take it seriously.” I stood and threw a sensual glance back at him. “If you behave, you’ll be rewarded with something sexy. Now play nice, and shut up until I get back.”

  His grin widened until dimples appeared. “Yes, ma’am.”

  I closed the door behind me. It had been so much fun to bind him like that, when he was unsuspecting and trusting. The image of leaving Jett waiting the whole night and facing his wrath in the morning was so amusing that I snorted with laughter. I should have done something like this a long time ago.

  I retrieved the phone from my handbag and the keycard from the coffee table, then hurried down to the reception area, where I was sure Jett wouldn’t look for me, even if he somehow managed to untie himself because he couldn’t bear not being in control.

  The night-shift receptionist barely looked up as I passed him. Time to move to the next step in my plan. I hid in the corner and dialed the number I had memorized. As I waited, my heart slammed hard against my ribs, so hard I was sure it was going to give out on me.

  “Damn,” I murmured under my breath when the call went straight to voicemail. Sighing, I tried one more time, still without success.

  Maybe their battery was dead? Or maybe they switched their phone off, because they were sleeping, which was understandable, since it was eleven p.m. Either way, I decided to call them one last time and leave a short message, a request to call me back during office hours. It wasn’t ideal, but I could rest in the knowledge that I had done all I could for the time being.

  Eventually, I returned to the receptionist, an older man. He eyed me in a friendly way as I explained that I had no idea how the ice machine upstairs worked. He just nodded patiently, obviously used to being bombarded with strange requests at night. I waited patiently as he brought me a champagne bucket filled with ice cubes.

  “Anything else I can help you with?” he asked, flashing those unnaturally bright teeth that were typical of New York City employees.

  “No, that will be all. Thank you.” Giving him my best smile, I took the bucket and headed back to the elevators, ready to commence my torture on Jett.

  The elevator doors had almost closed when a hand slid in to stop them. When they opened again, a man stepped inside. He was dressed in an old-fashioned suit, and his hair was combed back. I realized he was the same man I’d seen lurking around the lobby earlier that day, and he was still carrying a newspaper.

  “Good evening, ma’am,” he mumbled, barely looking at me as the doors closed.

  Alarm bells began to ring in my head, and my heart thudded impossibly hard, hammering against my rib cage the way it always did when I found myself alone in a closed space, with someone I didn’t trust.

  “What floor?” I asked, trying not to sound too uneasy.

  “Twelfth, please.” Rather than looking up at me, he nonchalantly unfolded his newspaper and began to read it again.

  I pressed the elevator buttons a few times too many, and stepped back, holding my breath.

  The guy cleared his throat, but his gaze remained glued to the newspaper.

  Please go faster, I urged the lift. I wasn’t sure what made me think that, but there was something about the man that scared me. Maybe it was the way he dressed, austere and old-fashioned. I had no idea.

  It was then that my glance fell on the newspaper. There was nothing special about the article he was reading, something related to sports, but it was the date that caught my attention.

  The newspaper was three days old.

  How odd!

  My pulse doubled in speed and began beating a furious staccato. Naturally, I tried to slow down my heart’s frantic pounding, but my hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

  The lift finally stopped on the twelfth floor with a ding, and without saying another word or glancing back at me, the man left.

  When the door closed behind him, I was able to relax. It wasn’t in my nature to judge other people’s behavior, but the guy was just creepy. I shrugged inwardly. So what if he read an outdated paper? Many people did, didn’t they? It had probably been lying around and he had picked it up, reading out of boredom. Maybe he was an avid reader, eager to devour each word he came across, or maybe he’d been out of town a few days and wanted to catch up. They were all perfectly reasonable and rational explanations. But for some reason, my heart continued to slam hard within me. It was only after I returned to the safety of our penthouse that I could calm down, and my thoughts returned to Jett, who was still bound to our bed, the email long forgotten.

  The next morning, I woke up alone. Soft sunrays streamed through the high bay windows, illuminating the gold and cashew hues of the bedroom. I turned to peer at Jett’s empty side, my fingers touching the soft material of the bed sheets. The silk still smelled of him.

  Of us.

  Of our lovemaking.

  Stroking the smooth surface conjured memories of him touching me, and my whole body began to ache again. I smiled. Only Jett could take me the way he had, and set my world on fire.

  While I loved his enthusiasm when we were together and loved everything about him in general, I wasn’t so keen on his whole early-dawn routine, and he knew it. For the umpteenth time, I wished he’d taken the time to wake me up before taking off, instead of leaving me alone in a huge, empty bed.

  I was vaguely aware of what had happened between us, of that promise he had asked for. It didn’t take me long to realize that my refusal to give it to him might have been the very reason why he had left. Maybe he was trying to piss me off by keeping me waiting, or maybe he intended to punish me by making me think he could sneak out whenever he wanted. He wouldn’t do that, though, would he? Surely he wouldn’t be so conniving. Or maybe he was off somewhere, checking my email.

  “Right,” I murmured to myself as a pang of anger shot through me. I wasn’t going to give him that promise, at least not yet. He had to earn my trust, and if he could be stubborn, so could I, if not more so. I was going to find out the truth soon enough anyway.

  Rubbing my eyes to get rid of the tiredness, I sat up and turned to grab my phone from the nightstand, ready to dial the legal firm, when I noticed it was gone.

  I frowned, immediately forcing my mind into action.


  I had left a message on the Wighton & Harley’s answering machine with a request to call me back in the hope they would bother to get in touch with me. That was the reason why I’d wanted to keep my phone near me in case they tried to reach me. Then there was Sylvie. She had texted me the day before, and I had meant to read her message. I distinctly remembered leaving my phone on the nightstand, right before I joined Jett in the bedroom.

  So, where was my phone?

  Wrapping the sheets to cover my naked body in a makeshift toga, I stood and walked over to rummage through my handbag, near the windows on Jett’s side. When I heard steps in the hall, I stopped in my tracks.

  I knew the footsteps were his, slow and steady, as if he knew where he was going and what he was doing. Just like everything else he did, Jett’s steps were always as if he poured his whole energy into every minute of his life. And now, he was heading toward our closed bedroom door behind which I was standing.

  My stomach lurched. What if Jett had been here the whole time, somewhere in that huge penthouse, and I panicked for no reason? Even if that was the case, I couldn’t afford to let him know it.

  First of all, I didn’t want to appear desperate. That was definitely a no-no.

  Second, I didn’t want him to think I didn’t have a life of my own, which would have been worse than appearing desperate.

  I ran back to the bed, unsure if I should pretend to be still asleep or twist myself into a sexy pose.

  I snorted at the thought: I couldn’t act or pose seductively even if I wanted to. My acting skills sucked. They were even worse than my cooking—an ability that was practically non-existent because I was certainly no culinary genius. All things considered, I decided it was best to try to look as if I had just woken up.

  Yeah, that could work. I’ll stretch my arms over my head, do some head-rolls, and let out a hearty yawn.

  I nodded, pleased with my own plan, and readied myself to slide over from his side to mine…only, too late.

 
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