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What you need, p.18
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       What You Need, p.18

         Part #1 of Need You series by Lorelei James
 

  Luckily, my brother Walker got wind of it and got it stopped before the bulldozer moved in. Times like that I’m grateful the Lund name carries so much sway in this town.”

  “But you still ended up with a warehouse. Was that out of gratitude or something?”

  He shook his head. “We’ve owned that section since the early days. Lund Logging was the first business my ancestors started. From there we moved into flour mills. Each generation has added to the company. Or we’ve reduced the sections that don’t work to increase profitability. Two warehouses we owned had been abandoned for the past thirty years.” He tilted his head. “Sorry. You look ready to fall asleep. This is probably all old news to you anyway.”

  “The basic info is common knowledge. But I’ve always wondered what it was like for the descendants of a hugely successful company. There’s got to be pressure to at least maintain the status quo.”

  “Or, worse, not to drive the company into the ground. My grandfather had a taste of that during the grain wars, when Common Grounds paid premium price to our grain producers for them not to sell to us. Then the public blamed the food shortage on us. Meanwhile, CG stealthily moved in and took our market share. CG did that to another small manufacturing company too, so in the end we both ended up selling to CG. It forced us to change and adapt. Which we did, but CG is still our biggest competitor.” He smirked. “In some areas. In other areas they can’t touch us, because they’ve been focused on one market for so long.”

  The traffic thinned as we headed north.

  “Did you always know that you’d be involved in the company on some level?”

  That question seemed to make him uncomfortable. But he answered before I could retract it. “Yes. Did I know in what area I’d have enough expertise or the desire to learn more to ensure a worthwhile contribution? Not at first. See, my dad doesn’t have one of the company titles. He handles all the corporate accounts as well as the smaller supplier accounts. He’s the go-to guy because he’s tactful and efficient. He’s a helluva salesman, but he never comes across as one. He’s charm personified. I’ve never been like that. Even as a kid I was serious and studious.” He sent me a sheepish smile. “Big surprise I was predictable and boring, huh?”

  “I don’t equate those behaviors with boring, Brady. I haven’t been at LI a year, but I can see why people become career employees, which we both know is rare in this day and age. Part of that loyalty is because employees can see the Lund name is still prominent across all departments—and not just as figureheads. You and your family members are there day in, day out. If the owners are invested in the company’s future, doesn’t it make sense the employees would be invested too?”

  “I guess.”

  “I’ve spent my life working in shitty conditions for shitty wages. Where the job I had could’ve been done by anyone, so there was no such thing as job security. Advancement meant moving up from working the graveyard shift. I wasn’t kidding when I told you I love working at LI.” Then I felt like a total tool. He probably thought I wanted something from him.

  We were quiet for a long time after that.

  Since it was dark out and I had no idea where we were going, I closed my eyes and tried to sleep.

  A hand on my thigh startled me.

  “We’re almost there.”

  “Where?”

  He turned off the main road onto a service road. The headlights flashed on billboards bragging about cabin rentals and year-round fishing excursions. We were in a heavily wooded area with no streetlights and no sign of civilization.

  “Seriously, Brady. I’m a little freaked out by all this . . .” Nothingness. “What are we doing here?”

  “Going to a cabin in the woods.” He turned onto a paved road that wound through the trees. We reached a big gate that was surrounded by a huge fence. He rolled down the window and punched a code into the machine and the gate opened. He watched in the rearview mirror until it closed behind us. Then he looked at me. “What?”

  “I knew you were too good to be true. Smart, gorgeous, sexy and single . . . I should’ve known better.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “You’re a serial killer, aren’t you? Picking me up and no one knows where I’ve gone. I haven’t been able to get cell service and now you’re driving into some secret compound with a security system surrounded by an electric fence.”

  He laughed. “You’re funny.”

  But I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was about to launch into the other oddities when we came around a corner and a glass-and-brick mansion rose up before us like a modern-day castle. Lights shone through the windows and we headed toward a curved portico that covered the front door. Not a speck of snow was on the driveway or the stone steps. “Holy shit.”

  “Welcome to the Lund family’s weekend getaway cabin in the Minnesota North Woods,” he said dryly.

  “Cabin? It’s gigantic.”

  “Not really. Only about ten thousand square feet.”

  Only about ten thousand square feet. Now I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.

  He parked and shut the car off. When he didn’t move, I teased him. “Are you waiting for the butler to come out and direct the houseboy on which bedroom suite to put our luggage in?”

  “No butler, but the caretakers, Bill and Mary, opened up the house, turned the heat up and stocked the refrigerator for us.”

  This time I knew he wasn’t joking.

  Brady got out of the car and opened the back end. He shouldered both bags while I stood there like a dumbass. “I can carry my own bag.”

  “I know. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to.”

  At the enormous double doors, at least ten feet high and probably hand carved by artisans, Brady punched in another code and a green light flashed.

  He opened the door and stood aside so I could enter first.

  I paused for a minute inside the entryway. I’d expected marble, crystal and gilded fixtures, but this place was decorated casually. Wood floors, warm tones on the walls. Plaid and corduroy-covered furniture. I’d wandered halfway down the hallway when I realized Brady wasn’t directly behind me. I saw him leaning against the newel post, watching me with hooded eyes. I walked back and shoved my hands in my coat pockets. “Sorry to just take off like that.”

  “No worries.” He erased the distance between us. “I’ll take your coat.”

  “Thanks.”

  He helped me take it off and then his arms circled me. He placed a soft kiss on the side of my neck.

  It occurred to me we were alone in a way we hadn’t been before.

  “Please don’t tense up. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted this to be a fun weekend for both of us. No pressure.”

  “So we’re not sharing a bed?”

  “No.”

  Disappointment rolled through me.

  “Don’t take that as I don’t want you.” He pressed his groin into my backside. “Just now I had an entire fantasy going about pinning you to the floor and fucking you until you can’t walk. But we talked about this not only being about sex.”

  My horny side argued that so far it hadn’t been about sex at all.

  “I also knew that if I didn’t leave the city, I would’ve been in the office working.” His breath teased my ear. “This is one of my favorite places and I haven’t been here in ages. I wanted to share this with you.”

  His earnestness caught me off guard, because I didn’t expect it.

  “Okay. Show me this monster house. And feel free to give me all the details you can remember, because I love hearing history.” I had little history in my own life—most I tried to forget—so I wanted to believe in happy family vibes like generations of Lunds coming here for holidays and summer vacations.

  Brady took my hand and started the tour. “A lot of cabins in Minnesota are by lakes. But since the Lund mansion is right on Lake Minnetonka, my grandfather wanted their cabin to be secluded in the woods.”

  The deep cadence
of his voice soothed me as much as the comforting presence of his palm pressed against the small of my back.

  *

  Brady

  We’d ended up in the kitchen after the tour. I hoped that Mary had left some prepared meals in the fridge. If not, Lennox and I might starve.

  As Lennox sat down, I pulled out two bottles of beer from the fridge and handed her one.

  “So what’s the plan for tonight?”

  “What makes you think I’ve got a plan?”

  “Because you’re you.” Lennox’s gaze dropped to the bandage on my forearm. “Any problems with the tattoo?”

  “It itches like crazy.”

  “Part of the healing process. Wait until the skin starts to peel. That’s pretty gross.”

  Awkward silence lingered after that.

  In a burst of inspiration, I said, “Truth or dare.”

  Lennox considered me a moment before she said, “Truth.”

  “When was your last relationship?”

  “Four years ago.”

  “Why’d it end?”

  “He wanted to get married and I kept saying no. So he slept with a coworker, to make me jealous or to make me see how perfect we were together. But all it did was make me mad. That’s when I left Omaha and applied for school here.” She swigged from her beer and said, “Truth or dare.”

  “Truth.”

  “The last person you had sex with.”

  “Tiffany somebody.”

  “A one-nighter with no last names, huh?”

  “It was after my buddy’s wedding. She was the bride’s cousin. She didn’t bother to learn my last name either. I think at one point when we were going at it she even called me Brody.”

  She laughed. “Ouch. I once had a guy call me Linux.”

  “Like the operating system?”

  “Yeah. I didn’t correct him because I was impressed he knew what Linux was.” She shook her head. “There was a time when my criteria for a hook-up was dumb and pretty.”

  “How ironic—I had the same criteria at one time too.”

  “When did that change for you?”

  “Who says it’s changed?” I shot back.

  “Ooh. Is my skin red after that burn?”

  “No. Jesus. I didn’t mean you. I meant that in general terms.”

  “Did you ever sleep with that Persia chick?”

  That startled me. I hadn’t seen her in years. “Where’d you hear her name?”

  “She introduced herself to me at Flurry last weekend.”

  I tipped my bottle up and drank. “What stunning life insight did she share with you?” And why didn’t you mention it before tonight?

  “Just that I was a ho-bag who was not good enough for you. That you’d bang me and move on like you’d done with everyone else. And she had your parents’ approval to be the future Mrs. Lund so she’s waiting for you to get your fill of skanks before you settle down with a real classy woman like her.”

  I laughed. “No, I never slept with her. She’ll be waiting a long time for that marriage proposal.”

  “Well, I didn’t want her to continue to pine away for you, so I told her you were lousy in bed anyway and she shouldn’t waste her time.”

  “Seriously?”

  She smirked. “You tell me. Did I tell her that?”

  “No. But I’ll bet your sweet ass that you got the best of her.”

  “Ding ding ding. Give the man a prize.” She lifted her bottle and I touched it with mine. “Your turn.”

  “Truth or dare.”

  “Dare.”

  I figured she wouldn’t be able to resist the dare for long. I patted the counter. “You sit up here and let me stand between your legs for the rest of the game.”

  “Easy peasy.” She hopped up on the counter and widened her knees, making room for me.

  I stepped in and ran my hand up her thigh. “You want to keep going?”

  “Of course, since it’s my turn. Truth or dare.”

  “Truth.”

  Lennox’s gaze encompassed my face. “Tell me, in explicit detail, what would’ve happened between us if I’d gone home with you last night.”

  “I would’ve tried to keep my hands off you.”

  “Boring.”

  I leaned closer and placed my lips near her ear. “But I would’ve failed miserably.” I inhaled the scent of her—warm skin and citrus. I wasn’t sure if it was her lotion or her shampoo; I just knew it hit me like a damn drug.

  She shuddered and made a low moan.

  I continued to nuzzle her fragrant flesh. “And if I would’ve touched you, I would’ve failed both of us. Because as crazy as I am to have you naked and wild beneath me, I’d have put the brakes on, believing I needed to savor you rather than gorge on you. So our first time as lovers would’ve been . . . nice. Because I’m a considerate lover, Lennox.” I brushed my lips over the shell of her ear. “I’d make sure you came at least once before I got inside you. And we would’ve been face-to-face in my big bed, me making love to you slowly, learning what you liked, whispering how good you felt, asking if what I was doing to you was okay.” I buried my face in the curve of her neck. “Does that sound okay to you? Does that sound . . . nice?”

  Lennox didn’t respond.

  “When I got home, I was glad you’d taken a cab and weren’t there, waiting for me to seduce you properly.”

  “Brady.”

  I rubbed my mouth up and down the section of her throat next to her voice box. “So in the past twenty-four hours, I’ve had time to reflect. And know what I’ve come up with?”

  “What?”

  Then we were eye to eye, almost mouth to mouth. “Not a damn thing. When I fuck you, it won’t be some lame-ass preplanned seduction. It’ll happen in the heat of the moment. When I can’t wait another second to know what it’s like to be buried inside you.”

  She swallowed hard.

  “Until then, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of building us up to that point.”

  “So I don’t get a say in this?” She reached down and palmed my erection. “What if I said take me right here, right now on the kitchen counter? That’d be spontaneous.”

  “Would it? Or are you just goading me?”

  “I’m goading you, definitely.” She smirked and kept stroking me. “And you seem to like it.”

  “That part of me likes it and wishes you’d never stop. But thankfully my brain isn’t in my boxers.” I removed her hand and clamped my hands on her ass, pulling her closer. “My turn. Truth or dare.”

  “Dare.”

  “I dare you to give sexual control to me.”

  Lennox blinked. “What?”

  “You always call the shots when it comes to sex, don’t you?”

  “Of course.”

  I leaned forward and pressed my mouth below the hollow of her throat. “By letting that go, you can prove that you’re spontaneous and not stuck in that rut of always having to be in control. Trust me to take care of you and give you what you need. On my time frame.” I followed the ridge of her collarbone with my tongue. “I dare you, dancing queen.”

  “Does that mean no messing around at all?”

  Christ, I loved the pouty way she said that, as if I was taking away her favorite treat. “That’ll be up to me to decide, won’t it?”

  She moaned when my lips grazed the upper swell of her breast.

 
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