Kept by Him, p.1Red Garnier
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About the Author
Monica Davenport’s little problem with intimacy was growing too big to ignore. Relationship to relationship, she’d helplessly watched the affection every man had ever had for her crumble, then die, each time she physically turned them away.
She was the darling of Chicago, rivaled only in popularity by Daniel Lexington himself, and at twenty-eight, she was the proud president of Davenport’s, one of the top luxury cashmere retail chains in the United States. She was an icon of poise and fashion and yet … the press hadn’t dubbed her the Ice Maiden for no reason.
She could smile for the cameras, but the truth was, happiness had left her a long time ago.
The day she realized she would never allow herself to love another human being.
Sighing, she excused herself from the group of couples she’d been talking to and wound her way through the crowded hotel ballroom, her eyes scanning the figures of dark-clad men in search of the one she had been watching all evening.
The place looked splendid tonight. Soaring marble columns rose to the vaulted ceiling, and the entire ballroom was dripping in flowers. Fountains sprouted chocolate and champagne while ice sculptures of nude Venuses gracefully adorned every corner. Hors d’oeuvres circulated on sparkling silver trays for the lavish patrons and the room was full of subdued laughter as live classical music wafted in the background.
Like all the other ladies, Monica had dressed in white, a requisite for every female attending the yearly Black and White Ball. A large pearl bracelet adorned one of her wrists, and she wore the earrings to match, nine millimeters in size and as lustrous as the day they’d been pulled out of their shells. Her slender body was encased in a high-end designer dress of crepe lace in a soft ivory color—not quite white, but close—which had always complemented her eyes, for it magnified their blueness and contrasted nicely with her long ebony hair, which she’d held back in an elegant little bun.
She’d become quite an expert at playing the part she’d been born to play, and the cool smile that accompanied her to these events felt like another accessory she must wear. Rarely did anyone get to see the real Monica. Rarely did she allow her to show.
As she crossed the long expanse of the ballroom, she suddenly spotted him near the terrace doors, in a group consisting entirely of men. Her heart almost stopped.
His back was to her now, broad and strong, and a kernel of nervousness unfurled within her. Ask him, a little voice whispered.
“Here,” Peyton Lane said as she passed her a full goblet of wine. “It helps when you have one of these.”
Peyton Lane worked at the firm who’d taken Davenport’s into the New York Stock Exchange years ago. The curvy brunette was also known as the woman who’d snatched—and tamed—the city’s most incorrigible playboy, Luke Preston. The man was so taken with his lady, in fact, that Peyton now wore an engagement ring—a white, blinding diamond the size of a quarter. “Thanks, Peyton,” Monica said, graciously accepting the goblet as Peyton playfully lifted her own drink in a mock toast.
Taking a sip, Monica found her eyes sliding back to the figure across the room, and she realized, judging by the awed, avaricious faces of the two ladies standing to Peyton’s right, that they were looking at him as well.
He stood next to the famed Luke, whose romance with Peyton had caused quite a stir when everyone realized the infamous rake was no longer available. That same romance had now crowned the man beside him as the true reigning billionaire bachelor in all of Chicago.
He was, after all, the Prince of the Windy City.
Daniel Lexington had always been the favorite of the press, and there was no doubt to Monica as to why.
With his hand thrust into his left pocket, at six foot three, and with his hair a sexy dirty blond with sun-lightened streaks, he was the perfect embodiment of a Viking in a tuxedo.
He wore the sable suit as though it had been made exactly to his dimensions, the dark material clinging perfectly to fit his narrow hips and his lean, long legs. Coupled with his perfectly symmetrical face and a set of shoulders that could bear anything, the man radiated a universe of success and confidence, his entire being giving out a silent message of wondrously channeled power.
“They say he just says the word, and God obeys,” one of the nearby women whispered.
The group laughed, and Monica smiled and kept her eyes on him, a strange pride and protectiveness sweeping over her.
Great bloodlines, a fantastic centerfold face, a good heart, and a very, very arrogant presence, Daniel Lexington carried himself as if he owned you and the planet he was standing on.
He was, despite his awe-inspiring reputation, one of the few people in the world to whom Monica felt close, which only made her realize how alienated she was from true closeness because she only saw Daniel a couple of times a month, when they occasionally shared lunch.
Her eyes remained fixed on him, and her stomach warmed with every step that brought her closer to him. He now stood with two elderly men, as Luke Preston made his way toward his fiancée.
Daniel did not miss a beat in the conversation. Monica had never seen a man so comfortable in his own flesh. His green eyes were usually warm, sometimes even a little hot, and Monica never failed to feel their heat when he looked or smiled at her. Reflecting on it now, she realized if she had one secret she needed to entrust to someone in her life—anyone—she would entrust it to him. Friend. Almost … family. Once, she might have even dreamed he could be more.
Before her parents died … before she saw how obsession, infatuation, and love could warp you. Consume you.
No … she had closed that off years ago. But Daniel continued to be the one presence in her life she kept helplessly coming back to. And he was perfectly alone tonight. He was never alone at this sort of event.
But then, neither was she.
This was as good a chance as any.
“Hey, you,” Monica said softly, sliding her hand into the crook of his arm.
Daniel didn’t turn from the conversation, but he instantly stretched his arm and drew her to his side, the motion sending a bolt of longing to her gut. Nobody ever touched her like this. Daniel was so comfortable with her. He’d been a great brother to Chloe, and Monica had always watched them with longing, wishing someone would shower her with affection like that.
“Monica, do you know Herbert Jameson, a good friend of my father’s?” Daniel said.
“A pleasure,” Monica said, not releasing Daniel to shake his hand. “You regularly contribute to the Chicago Gazette, don’t you?” she asked him.
“Not if I can help it.” The old man winked.
Monica laughed, and when Daniel was approached by another elderly man intent on discussing Daniel’s expansion plans for the year, Monica tightened her hold on him.
“Daniel,” she whispered, grateful that he instantly ducked his head and placed his ear almost at her lips. “Please don’t leave without letting me talk to you.”
He turned to whisper back into her ear, and his warm breath and low timbre caused a strange tightening in h
His eyes twinkled as he drew back and surveyed her reaction, and Monica felt incredibly relieved. They were both accustomed to the presence of reporters, accepted their obsession with all attractive public figures with mild indifference, but sometimes, you just wanted to get away from it all. “Please, let’s,” she said.
It took them a couple of minutes to excuse themselves separately, and then they met at the back exit door. Daniel led her down the steps and across the service parking lot, where one striking black car gleamed luxuriantly among the shabby white service trucks scattered all around.
“What happened to Grandpa?” he asked as he opened the passenger door.
She rolled her eyes heavenward when she realized he was referring to Roland, the man she’d been dating for the past year, who was more … mature. “Thanks, Danny. Really. What about your nieces?”
He laughed, the rich, achingly familiar sound bringing a smile to her lips.
“Nice wheels,” she complimented as Daniel joined her in the driver’s seat, her eyes openly admiring the red leather interior of the shiny black million-dollar car. Not everyone could afford a Bugatti Veyron, much less dare to drive it around town. But then … he was a Lexington. The fact that the license plate said BUG 3 only meant he also had a BUG 1 and BUG 2 parked somewhere, too.
“You all buckled up?” he asked, kicking into the street with a little spin in the back wheels. Men.
“No, but if you get too feisty behind the wheel, there’s always the eject button,” she said as she leaned forward to unfasten her heels. She would never, ever, do this with anyone else. But she’d grown up with Daniel. He’d seen her in far, far worse ways than anyone else she knew.
“Good one.” His grin flashed briefly, truly arresting against his sun-bronzed skin. “Where to, princess?” Seemingly as eager as Monica to get out of his costume, he pulled off his bow tie and then briskly unbuttoned the top two buttons of his white shirt.
“Just drive,” she said, sighing as she leaned back.
“Bad life. I’m on a break from Roland. You?”
He rewarded her with an even wider smile.
“What?” she demanded.
“He’s a good businessman, Monica, but definitely not the man for you. I’m glad you finally got rid of him.”
“He broke up with me,” she said.
“You’re joking. Jesus, why would anyone break up with you?” He quirked his eyebrow questioningly, looking genuinely shocked.
“Because I suck in the bedroom.”
He fell silent, his profile unreadable as he stared out at the road. “That’s not possible,” he finally said, his voice soft.
“I do. I suck and not in a good way.” She smirked, then fell quiet when she remembered her most recent frustrating attempts to make love. “I can’t seem to let loose.”
“What holds you back?”
She was so grateful to talk to someone so openly that she squeezed his hand quickly on the shift gear and then drew away. “You know what,” she said quietly, turning to look out the window.
A strange contentment spread through her. Her friendship with Daniel was a source of unlimited comfort throughout the years, and just being alone with him, as they rarely were, gave her peace and tranquility.
She couldn’t think of a person with whom she was more relaxed or unguarded. She’d never seen judgment or disapproval in his eyes, except perhaps the times she put on her mask of aloofness in a crowd, when she could see he didn’t like her stepping behind it, which would immediately then close him off to her.
But this never happened when they were alone.
“Perhaps you’re not attracted to the men you date … have you wondered about that? They’re too old for you, princess.”
His voice calling her princess began to stir her strangely. “They’re safe. Young men are too … sexual.”
He burst out laughing—a full, masculine laugh—and the warmth in that sound made her follow in infectious laughter.
“Look, I don’t enjoy sex like you!” she said, sobering. “You want a good time with a woman, someone who’s not demanding and only wants sex? I want the opposite. Someone I can go to dinner with or converse with and bounce ideas about Davenport’s with, but who won’t expect to sleep with me more than once a month.”
He didn’t laugh again; instead, his voice became oddly gentle.
“If you’d choose someone you at least have some chemistry with, it wouldn’t be a chore to sleep with them more than once a month, Monica.”
She sighed, fighting the urge that his deep timbre awoke. She wanted to snuggle to that voice, like she had so many years ago. She wanted to wrap that deep, velvet voice around her skin and let its warmth seep into her cold, unfeeling bones, until nobody could ever accuse her of stiffening when they touched her. “It’s not them, Daniel. They’re perfectly attractive men. It’s me.”
“It’s not you. It can’t possibly be you.”
It was, and she needed to fix herself. She couldn’t stand to know there was something wrong with her and keep on ignoring it. She wanted normalcy, to have a partner who was mentally ideal for her. But to do that, she at least needed to occasionally be able to pull off a good bedroom routine.
“Daniel, would you have sex with me?”
A silence fell. His eyebrows shot up in astonishment as he shifted gears and halted at a stoplight. “Is that a rhetorical question or are you actually planning to get in bed with me?”
“It’s … both.”
His stunned silence made her aware of little things. The scent of his understated aftershave, the leather tapestries of his car, how she was surrounded by male scents. The roar of his car engine. She decided right then if he didn’t want to sleep with her, it was no big deal. She would be no worse off than she was right now. So she could definitely start breathing again.
“A lot of my single friends have male friends who occasionally sleep with them,” she explained as casually as possible, while stirring uncomfortably in her seat. “I can think of no one else who I could learn the ropes from and let loose with other than with you.”
When the light turned green, she stole a peek at him when the car didn’t move. All his attention was focused on Monica. He stared directly at her with eyes so beautiful, they shimmered with the lights from outside the window.
Slow as ice melting, he took her hand within his bigger one and drew it over his lap, his lips curling in mischief as he pressed her palm down hard. Hard. “Yes. I’ll be your special friend.”
Monica’s breath tangled in her throat as the unmistakable bulge of his erection filled and practically overflowed her small hand. Had she given him that? When? How?
Her eyes held his green ones in stunned silence, that incredibly sexy smile of his still in place.
She began to shake violently under the combined shock and pleasure of feeling his hardness in her hand, and she feared no amount of brainpower could suppress the tremor that went through her. An empty ache settled between her legs, completely unexpectedly.
A car honked, and Daniel slowly returned her hand to her own lap, then he changed gears and sped ahead, staring at the street, his smile gone. He spoke in a low, raspy voice. “Your place or mine?”
Monica’s heart pounded in nervousness. “I warn you I’m really bad at this. Really bad, Daniel.”
“Yours or mine, Monica?”
His voice sounded even thicker. His eyes glimmered. Her heart was near bursting.
“This would only be for a week or two. Roland and I are supposed to talk and try to work things out when he returns from London,” she rushed. “So, no sleeping over, no complications, and definitely no press. Just friendship and … sex. Also, please, not every day. Just when I … call you.”
The smile in his eyes held a strange new intensity. “Just t
She expelled a breath. “Yours. Yours is closest.”
He changed gears again, and she noticed how the engine went from a low purr to a hard roar. He went to second. Third. Fourth. Back to third. Second. Third. Fourth. The motor hummed, and with it, her excitement grew, a heady mix of anticipation and relief overwhelming her.
She’d tried many times to have sex, never with such anticipation and never, of course, with such an experienced man. Or with someone who inspired such trust in her. She wasn’t sure whether her sudden agitation was due to the fact that she’d always failed and could never quite get to the finish, or due to the fact that she and Daniel had fallen completely silent now, and the silence was the first one between them in years that was full of tension. It crackled like a fire, heating the air between them.
She stifled the urge to fidget with her hair and began to wonder who he’d been dating recently, but then she told herself it didn’t matter. Did it? She wasn’t looking for commitment from him. He’d be the last man standing, she was sure, when all the rest got married. He enjoyed his single status too much, had fun aplenty with his variety and his big-boy toys. And Monica really needed to get to the bottom of her problem.
Roland had gotten angry two weeks ago when Monica had, once again, failed to climax, and her failure to get aroused had caused his own erection to wilt. She’d asked him to please help her achieve orgasm, but he’d seemed to think she was blaming him for her lack of passion, and that had really not been the case.
She didn’t know why she had so much trouble shutting off her mind. While a man would touch her, she would think of Davenport’s, make lists of errands she needed to complete, remember things that happened in her childhood, and she could never really quiet her mind enough to enjoy her body. But there was no denying the enjoyment she derived from the mere sight of Daniel. A simple smile from this man caused … a reaction. There was no way a woman could keep closed off from a man like him. Was there?
Hell, if she couldn’t react to a man with his experience tonight, then she might as well stop even trying and become a working nun.
Kept by Him by Red Garnier / Romance & Love / History & Fiction have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes