On my knees, p.11
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       On My Knees, p.11

         Part #2 of Stark International Trilogy series by J. Kenner
 
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That makes sense. Evelyn Dodge, Damien’s friend and former agent, has been around Hollywood forever. And nobody knows how to spin a story better than Evelyn.

  “Anything else you need me for?” I ask.

  “No. I think that’s all for now. ”

  “Okay. Then I’ll see you tomorrow. ” I head toward the door.

  “Actually, there is one more thing. ”

  I pause and look back over my shoulder.

  “You should give Nikki a call. I know she’s been wanting to reschedule your photography date. Maybe you two could find a time for that lesson with Wyatt. ”

  I nod. “Sounds good. ” And then, because I understand that this isn’t about business anymore, but about friendship, I add, “Thanks. ”

  As soon as the door shuts behind me, Rachel squeals and runs around the desk. “Jackson told me. That’s so great. ”

  “I know,” I say, succumbing to her hug. “Speaking of the men in our lives, what’s going on with you and Trent?”

  She presses her lips together, then hurries back behind the desk to catch a call. “A lady never kisses and tells,” she quips, then hits the button on her headset. “Mr. Stark’s office,” she says as she winks at me.

  I laugh, but I don’t stay. I know Rachel won’t hold it against me; I want to go see Jackson. Page 42

  Since I have energy to burn, I take the stairs, stopping at my cubicle on twenty-seven to grab up my notes. Then I hurry down the last flight, my heels clattering on the concrete stairs, and slam, breathless, through the stairwell door.

  I lean against the wall as I catch my breath. The stairs exit only a few yards from Jackson’s office area, and I have an excellent view of him through the glass walls. He’s sitting on a stool in front of the very same drafting table on which he’d fucked me so thoroughly. And though his head is bent, I can see enough of his face to catch his expression and it is both intent and rapturous.

  He’s in his element, and that simple realization makes me so giddy that I have half a mind to race back upstairs and wrap Damien in a hug.

  I manage to restrain myself. Instead, I take a single step toward Jackson.

  Despite his intense concentration, the moment I move, he inclines his head, as if sensing my presence. He doesn’t look up, though, and so I continue on.

  “I’m back,” he says as I reach his doorway, still without looking in my direction.

  My smile blooms wide. “Yes, you are. ”

  He pushes away from the desk, the stool rolling easily on the concrete floor. As he does, I rush to him, practically flying into his open arms. I drop my notes on his desk then straddle him, and he spins us in the chair. When it stops, my back is pressed against the table, and I’m more than a little light-headed. But whether that’s from dizziness or from being in Jackson’s arms, I don’t know.

  “You’re back. ” My whisper echoes his earlier words, and I press my hand gently to his crotch. “And I know just what you want to do now. ”

  His brow lifts. “Is that so?”

  “Mm-hmm. ” I bend forward so that my lips brush his ear as I murmur, very low and very seductively, “You want to work. ”

  My other hand is on his back for balance, and the vibrations from his laughter roll through me. “Sweetheart, you do know how to turn a man on. ”

  “You don’t know the half of it. Did you see the folder I tossed on your desk?” I lean back so that I can see him, then thrust out my tits and slowly bite my lower lip in my best imitation of an X-rated movie star. “Building notes and specs,” I say huskily. “It’s like porn for architects. ”

  His expression doesn’t change, but I see the mirth in his eyes.

  I reach back and grab the folder, then wave it slowly through the air. “Come on, baby. You know you want it. ”

  “Oh, I want it all right. ” With one quick gesture, he wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me close, leaving me gasping. “But forget the porn,” he says. “What I want is you. This project. This moment. And thank god I’ve got everything I want right here in front of me. ”

  My heart flutters in my chest. “Me, too,” I say as he pulls me down for a long, slow kiss. And though I mean the words with all my heart, I can’t help but fear what tomorrow might bring.

  That’s okay, though. Because he’s right; this moment is perfect.

  And right now, that is enough.

  thirteen

  I’m kicked back in Jackson’s Porsche, eyes closed, jamming to the latest release from Dominion Gate, a Finnish heavy metal band that Jackson says he wants to hear live when they tour in a couple of weeks. They’re not bad, especially when they’re turned up so loud that you’re forced to move with the music because it’s reached inside your body and grabbed hold of all your major organs.

  When my phone rings, I don’t actually hear it—because how could I?—and it’s a wonder I even feel it vibrate, considering the way the car is shaking from the bass. But I’d taken it out to check the wiki on the band, and I’ve been holding it in my lap, and when my palm vibrates more than the rest of me, I realize that I’ve got a call.

  I glance at the phone, see that it’s Cass, and gesture for Jackson to dial back the music.

  He does, but he punctuates the action with a grin and a mouthed wimp.

  I roll my eyes and hit the speaker.

  “Fucking awesome,” she says, skipping preliminaries like “hello” or “how’s it going?”

  “I’ll assume that means you got my message?” I’d texted her before we left the office about Jackson’s glorious reinstatement.

  “Not only did I get it, I have performed a ritual sacrifice to the gods. ”

  “How very energetic of you. ”

  “Naturally, the gods have showered their wisdom upon us and revealed their grand celebratory plan to me. ”

  “Um. ”

  I catch Jackson’s eye. I can’t tell if he’s amused or if he fears that my best friend is a crazy person. “I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing,” I admit. Page 43

  I can practically hear her rolling her eyes. “Where are you?”

  I’ve been so overwhelmed by the decibel level inside the car that I hadn’t been paying attention to our surroundings. I glance outside. “We’re on the 10. Not to the 405 yet. Why?”

  “Because we’re going to celebrate. Or haven’t you been listening?”

  I laugh. “We’re going home. Tomorrow’s a full work day. Plus, I’m starving. ”

  “That is such bullshit,” she says. “You can have sex anytime. Westerfield’s in thirty. No excuses. ”

  Now I’m having no trouble reading Jackson. Definitely amused. But as for whether he wants to go get sweaty on a dance floor, I can’t say. And since he’s keeping his eyes on the road, he’s not really helping.

  “Cass. Seriously, I don’t know. ”

  “Bullshit. You’re coming. There’s a limited window of opportunity for celebrating something like this. I mean, unless Damien kicks him off again, how many times do we get to have a reinstatement party?”

  “She has a point,” Jackson says.

  “See?” Cass says. “Am I on speaker?”

  “No. You’re just loud. ”

  “Double bullshit. At any rate, Zee even said she was coming. ”

  “Really?” Despite having met Cass at a party, Zee never seems to want to go out. So I know this is kind of huge.

  “Really,” Cass confirms. “So you have to come. It’s like a rule or something. ”

  I glance at Jackson, who lifts a shoulder. “If it’s a rule …”

  I shake my head, because I can’t argue with both of them. “Can we at least run home and change?”

  “Are you wearing clothes?”

  “Shockingly, I did go to work dressed today. ”

  “Then no. What you’re wearing will do. ”

  “Cassidy!”

  “I’m serious! We ha
ven’t gone out dancing together in forever, and I am not running the risk that you’ll back out. Which is why I’m hanging up now, and warning you not to be late. I don’t want to have to stand in line, and you know they won’t let me skip to the front of the line without you. ”

  She hangs up without waiting for me to respond, and I know her well enough not to be surprised.

  “Apparently we’re going to Westerfield’s,” I say to Jackson.

  “If the celebration gods have ordained it, I don’t know how we can avoid it. ”

  “True. ”

  “You can bump her to the front of the line?” He exits the freeway and heads toward West Hollywood. “I didn’t realize you were such a party girl. ”

  “Not anymore,” I say. More accurately, not ever. Party girls flitter and bounce, flirting and dancing with a number of guys before letting the evening take them wherever it leads.

  But that was never me. I never flittered or bounced. On the contrary, I approached clubbing like a goddamn military maneuver. Get in, get the guy, get off, go home. No attachments, and no surrendering the power.

  At least not until I met Jackson.

  He’s the only man to whom I’ve ever willingly given up control. The only man with whom I’ve wanted to surrender. And though that revelation had terrified me at first, now I hold it tight around me, and it is as comforting as a warm blanket. Because he knows me. He understands me. And I do not doubt that he will protect me.

  He glides to a stop at a red light and turns his full attention on me. “Not anymore?” he repeats, his voice low and even.

  “Don’t worry. Westerfield’s was never like Avalon for me,” I say, referring to the techno-centric dance club where I trolled for men before Jackson claimed me. “You know I don’t need that anymore. ”

  His right hand has been resting on the gearshift, but now he lifts it off and takes mine, twining our fingers. “I know. ” His words are soft, but firm, and I know they’re true. He understands what I used to need.

  More important, he understands why I don’t need it anymore. “I love you,” I say, my chest feeling full with the words.

  I see the emotion in his face—a softness in his eyes coupled by an even deeper heat. He has not yet said these words back to me, and though my chest tightens a bit as the seconds go by—as he lifts our hands and kisses my fingers—I do not doubt that he feels them.

  But, dammit, I still want to hear them.

  “Jackson—” I cut myself off.

  “What?”

  “I can get into the club because it’s a Stark property. A perk of being Damien’s assistant. ”

  From the way he looks at me, I can tell he knows that wasn’t what I’d originally intended to say. But he doesn’t press me, and I’m grateful. I know he loves me—I do. And when he does say the words, they will be all the sweeter if they come without my prompting. Page 44

  “Stark-owned, huh? Does that mean you’re comped at the bar?”

  My chest feels a thousand times lighter, because whatever storm was threatening to build has dissipated, and I feel only the sweet warmth of sun between us. “Not just me,” I say. “My entire party. ”

  “In that case, this will be a celebration. Let’s go partake of my brother’s alcohol. ”

  Traffic is uncommonly light, and we maneuver the surface streets easily. Before I know it, we’re on Sunset, idling in a line of cars waiting for the valet. As I’d expected, there’s a crowd waiting to get in, even on a Thursday. This is a Stark property, after all, and like all things Damien, it’s done right, making Westerfield’s one of the city’s most popular nightspots.

  “Just pass the line,” I say. “We’ll park in the back in the owner’s slot. ” I’m looking ahead, pointing toward the turn into the driveway, and so I see Cass in line behind the velvet rope too late. I frown, but figure that’s okay. We’ll park, go through the building, and usher her in through the front.

  The driveway leads to a small, gated parking area in the back. I give Jackson the code to punch in, and once the gate lifts, I point him toward the owner’s slot, then take my Stark International parking pass out of my purse and hang it from Jackson’s rearview mirror. As far as job perks go, that pass is one of the most useful. Parking in Los Angeles is a nightmare, but Stark owns enough property around the city to ease the pain.

  “This will be staying here overnight,” I tell Jackson. “But don’t worry. The security on the lot is first rate. ”

  “Are we camping out?”

  “No,” I say, grabbing his collar and pulling him toward me for the kind of long, slow kiss that makes my toes tingle. “But I intend to get you very, very drunk. ” I hold up my phone. “I’ll text the office to send a car when we’re ready to go. Okay?”

  “So long as you’re getting me drunk in order to have your wicked way with me, I have no objections at all. ”

  “Then we’re all good. ” I grin, delighted, and reach for the handle to open my door.

  “Wait. ”

  I pause and look back at him, expecting him to say something else. But all he does is reach out for the chain around my neck. He pulls out the vibrator and lets it hang outside my shirt.

  “Jackson! What if someone realizes what it is?”

  “It’s a bold statement. It says you like sex. You do like sex, don’t you?” His voice has dropped, and so has his hand. It’s cupping my breast now, and I feel my heart flutter beneath his touch and my nipple harden simply from the feel of him.

  “And since I’m the only one who gets to enjoy the pleasure of touching you, all it does is make people realize that I am a very lucky man. ”

  I swallow, but I don’t protest again. Even when we’re not in bed, this thing between us—control and submission—is like a game. And I always play to win.

  We enter through the rear service area. The kitchen and storerooms are back here, along with lockers for the employees. The area is relatively quiet and definitely not crowded, and going from this back area to the main floor of the club is like being thrust into Fantasia.

  The music is loud, the dance floor crowded. The guests at the bar are stacked three thick, and the bartenders are moving with a controlled, exuberant efficiency. They’re all excellent at what they do; to survive a night at Westerfield’s, they have to be.

  I grab Jackson’s hand and tug him across the dance floor toward the front door, adding in a few moves as we make progress in that direction. Right before we get to the front seating area, he pulls me close, spins me, then dips me, just like in an old Ginger Rogers movie.

  I laugh, even more so when the couple beside us starts applauding.

  “Don’t say I never took you dancing,” he quips as we move counter to the flow of traffic toward the front door. Right now, it really just serves as an entrance, since it’s early enough that no one is leaving yet. Which explains why the crowd waiting in line starts to buzz happily when Jackson and I step outside—two people leaving means two more spaces in the club.

  I shatter their dreams, though, when I bend down and explain to the bouncer that we need to get someone halfway down the line inside the club.

  To be honest, it would be easier to go in through the VIP entrance. But I forgot to tell Cass to go there, and now she’d have to walk all the way around the building to get to it.

  There is a general grumble when we wave her up from the middle of the line, and she’s allowed in past the dozens of people waiting ahead of her. Page 45

  Honestly, if they’d had tomatoes, they probably would have thrown them.

  “Okay, the waiting part sucked, but getting to pass everyone else up? That really never gets old. ”

  “Great to see you, too,” I say, then give her a hug.

  Unlike me, dressed for work in nothing more interesting than a suit skirt and linen shirt, Cass looks amazing. Her hair is midnight black with a single streak of blue tonight. She wears tight jeans and a sle
eveless shirt that shows off not only her ample cleavage, but the exotic bird tattooed on her shoulder, its colorful tail feathers trailing down her arm. All in all, she looks seriously hot, as confirmed by the interested looks of both men and women as we move farther into the club.

  I lead the way around the dance floor toward the VIP room. Less crowded. A more easily accessible bar. A win-win as far as I’m concerned.

  I’m flashing my Stark ID to the girl at the door when I realize that we’re shy one person. “Where’s Zee?”

  Cass cups a hand to her ear and frowns. I motion for her to hurry up and go inside the VIP room so that we can hear.

  “I asked you where Zee was,” I say as the door shuts behind Jackson. The noise level is slightly more reasonable, but this area also has a dance floor, so it’s still loud. Just not the kind of loud that qualifies as a sonic incident.

  Cass makes a face. “I need a drink. They’re on Damien, right?”

  “I’ll get them,” Jackson says. He points to the one free table in the room. “You two go sit. ”

  As Cass rushes to stake our claim, I kiss his cheek. “Thanks. ”

  “She okay?”

  I glance back at my bff. She looks like she’s got her shit together, but Cass is good at putting on a happy face. “I guess I’ll find out. Vodka martinis for both of us,” I say, handing him my employee ID. “Extra olives. ”

  “Yes, ma’am. ”

  I watch him go, because I can’t bear to miss the sight of his ass in those jeans. Then I sigh when the crowd swallows him and turn back to find Cass.

  “Okay. ” I slide into the seat opposite her. “What happened?”

  “She just said no. She said she was going to come, and then she just said no. That we should stay in. ”

  “Did she say why? I mean, you told her you wanted to go out with us to celebrate, right? You told her it was your idea?”

  “Every wretched bit of that,” Cass says. “And she just looked at me like I was an idiot. And then—get this—she turns all sniffly and says, ‘Well, if you don’t want to stay with me. ’”

  “Oh, gag me,” I say, and Cass nods vigorously.

  “I know, right? I mean, I’m not imagining this? This is a very bad sign, right?”

  “She’s being manipulative,” I say, despite my usual rule to not criticize anyone my friends are dating. Because, hey, as far as Zee is concerned, the word bitch is very loudly blaring in my head.

  “I have to end it,” Cass says. “God, I can’t believe this spiraled down so fast. ”

  “Better than dragging it out, though, right?”

  She lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know. I wish I hadn’t met her in the first place. I thought—I mean, we clicked at first, you know? That first time we met at Jackson’s documentary she seemed so cool and funny and totally into me. And I felt so comfortable around her, like I haven’t with any girl since Siobhan,” she adds, referring to the longtime girlfriend who broke up with her—and broke her heart—a few months ago.

  “Maybe that was the problem? Maybe you were seeing what you wanted to see, instead of what was really there?”

 
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