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Bound by him, p.5
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       Bound by Him, p.5

           Red Garnier
 
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  “That’s exactly my point; I don’t want you thinking that we’re back together, because we aren’t. We’re just old lovers having an affair. Old lovers who may be interested in pursuing something more in the future. But this will take time. Time and diligence from you. In the meantime, you have your apartment, and I have mine, and only on special occasions might we . . . mix.”

  And you’re going to have to fight for me if you ever want me back.

  “In other words,” she finished, when he continued merely staring, “we’re no longer roommates, Andrew. If you want to see me, you’re going to have to pull out all the stops and ask me out like all my others admirers.”

  The last was a stretch, but competition was never bad to begin with.

  “So you will make it challenging then?” he said, sounding neither pleased nor displeased. Curious, maybe. Intrigued.

  “What can I say, I like it hard,” she said, smirking.

  “And I like finding myself in tight spaces.”

  His words, and their sexual meaning, made her laugh. “This is just an affair, Andrew. All right? I don’t trust you anymore,” she said.

  But she wondered who she was really trying to convince here.

  The bedsheet wrapped tightly around her, she grabbed her dress from the floor and headed straight toward the bathroom.

  He watched her the entire time, and the amusement in his voice wasn’t lost on her. “Delude yourself all you want, darling. But you trust no one else but me.”

  She tried passing him on her way to the bath, but he blocked the door with a powerful bare arm clamped to the other side. The one he’d apparently been doing bicep curls with for three years—all day long.

  “Do I get a kiss from my sweet lover?” He rolled the words on his tongue, and her body temperature rose a degree.

  “When she brushes her teeth, you might.”

  “Oh, there’s no might about it.”

  With that, he dropped his arm to let her pass and she slid inside, closed the door, and locked herself behind it until she calmed herself down.

  He just drove her too batty. Mad. Hot out of her ever-loving mind.

  She didn’t even know how she was going to be able to successfully play hard to get with him, but she had no other choice after the way he’d acted for three years. As if she meant nothing. As if what they had together had meant nothing.

  Angry in remembrance, she prettied herself with extra diligence, wanting to be sure he would want her badly when he saw her. And of course he would not have her today. Not today and not until he began proving his devotion to her again.

  When she finally emerged decently pretty and feeling a bit ridiculous in a sparkly evening dress at this hour, she found Andrew partly dressed and knotting up his tie. She wanted to melt, he looked so beautiful. In fact, she’d always been turned on like crazy in the mornings when she watched him get dressed after a glorious night together. That’s what this man did to her. Crazy things. Melting things.

  He spotted her and his smile appeared, slow as ice melting. “Good morning, lover.”

  Okay. Was he mocking her?

  His eyes certainly seemed a little mocking as he sauntered over, in those dark slacks and crisp buttoned shirt, looking not only beautiful but illegal.

  He seized her hand and steepled her fingers with his. As he laced his long fingers through hers, their tattoos became aligned, and the heat of his palm seeped into hers.

  Her heart ached.

  He’d always done this . . . always in the morning, in bed, smiling.

  The memory was almost too much to bear, severely making fun of her most recent proposal of this—whatever this catastrophe was called—being an affair of old lovers only.

  “Good morning,” was all she could say, barely managing through the ball of need gathering inside her chest.

  Glinting black eyes watched her with pure male humor. “I wish I didn’t have such a hectic day ahead, otherwise, I’d like to spend it with my . . . lover.” His voice was low and provocative, peppered with amusement. And even then, the silky timbre made her remember all of his intimate words of last night, and she could feel an instant surge of warm liquid pooling between her thighs.

  “That’s all right, I actually have a packed day myself,” she purred sweetly, returning his charm with a little bit of hers. “Tonight’s another gala. This one’s in the aid of abused children, and I’m one of the organizers. I also have a board meeting at Donahue’s.”

  “Ahh,” he said in answer, then he eased back and reached for his sable jacket. He studied her through thick, spiky black lashes as he rammed his arms into the sleeves. “You impress me, Whitney. You really do, darling.” He adjusted his collar, and it was all she could do not to fix it for him. “Jerry’s downstairs. He can take you anywhere.”

  “Thank you, I’ll walk. It’s not far and I enjoy it. And don’t . . . call me darling, please. It’s an affair, remember? You need to earn it, Andrew.”

  “I paid in advance, Whitney,” he retorted. She shook her head with a slight scowl, then leaned up to kiss him good-bye, purposely avoiding his mouth and heading for his hard jaw instead.

  Andrew was quicker. He swerved his head to catch the kiss with his lips, and almost would have managed it if Whitney hadn’t jerked back.

  Anger flared in his eyes. “Let’s do that properly now.”

  Seizing a fistful of loose auburn hair, he pinned her head in place and swept down to crush her lips with his. She didn’t even know what happened, but she hadn’t planned to open her mouth—and yet it opened somehow because suddenly his heat spilled into her. She shuddered. And suddenly his tongue was plundering her. Pillaging her. She mewed softly and he responded with a groan that seemed to reverberate inside his body, and that raw sound of need almost thrust her over the edge. His mouth moved more firmly than ever, not hesitating to allow his teeth to also play. He was more dominating, and his merciless kiss shot her arousal through the roof.

  He used to be so careful with her, but now she could taste his hard resolve in his kiss. Resolve to have her, tame her, and she pushed back just as hard, resisting his domination, letting him know she wasn’t a wallflower anymore, she wasn’t going to be taking shit from anyone anymore.

  He left her quaking, her lips raw, her knees weak, but she fought like crazy not to let him notice.

  When he eased back to look at his handiwork—Whitney could feel her eyes were heavy, her lips swollen—his voice was deep and dusty, his eyes hot. “Have a nice day, darling.” He stroked his thumb along her jaw.

  Shaking with lingering desire, she scowled at the endearment and his insistent use of it, then she went to grab her clutch purse and wallet. “Good-bye, John, thanks for the orgasm.” She slipped back into her heels, and left, his laughter trailing behind.

  Oh, but she wasn’t even a good bluffer.

  He knew his effect.

  What he did to her.

  He’d looked so damn satisfied after the kiss.

  Whitney just couldn’t believe that twenty-four hours ago, she’d awoken with an ache in her chest, wondering where he was, what he was doing, and who he was with. This ache burrowed deeply within her; it remained when she laughed, when she cried, when she breathed, and when she ate. It had become a permanent part of her, like a limb. And Andrew Fairchild had put it there.

  But now, this morning, she’d woken up lying naked in his apartment, in his bed, with her body sore from his loving and his beautiful physical form standing only a few feet away—damp and draped in a towel and looking as delicious as ever.

  How easy it would be, to slip back into the role she had made for herself next to him. To get rid of this godforsaken ache.

  She wanted him to be the man she’d always believed him to be. Her savior, her hero, the man who completed her.

  But where had he been all this time?

  The question hammered at her—mocked her as she showered and changed in her apartment, then headed to her office, dressed in a sharp
navy-blue Carolina Herrera business suit. Absently, she gazed down at her right wrist and stroked the dark ink: ANDREW.

  She’d felt like his bride the day they had this ink put on their skins.

  She’d moved in with him nearly two years before, and she had never, ever, imagined that she could be so happy. Joy had overflowed her being, and thanks to this man’s love, the broken little girl Whitney had been had once again found herself singing in the shower, going out with friends, smiling like a dope to herself whenever she thought of him—which was practically all day.

  She should’ve known it wouldn’t last.

  One night, Andrew took her out to dinner, acting so mysterious Whitney almost wondered if he was going to propose. Instead, he told her he needed to leave for a while, and though her insides knotted and her throat closed and her eyes stung, she wanted to be the kind of woman who deserved him. Strong, like he was. So she’d nodded in understanding and kept her fears of being alone to herself.

  But as the day of his departure came closer, her nightmares worsened, and Andrew seemed quiet and withdrawn. Whitney caught him watching her during the day with such pained intensity, she throbbed with pain, too.

  “Will you come back soon?” she kept asking him, dreading his absence.

  “As soon as I can,” he always promised, but he never told her how long it would be, only that it would be longer than he wanted. “Will you wait for me, Whitney?” he asked, and for a man who commanded the world, the uncertainty in his eyes every time he asked made her inner turmoil magnify.

  “Andrew, I’d wait for you forever,” she told him every single time.

  “Would you promise that to me?”

  “I do. Yes. I will.”

  But he had a better idea, and the next day, a week before he left, they were at the tattoo parlor and both emerged with brand new tattoos.

  “Ouch, that hurt, Andrew,” Whitney complained, her wrists burning hot.

  He laughed, his dark head thrown back, his teeth flashing white against his tan. “Love hurts, darling.”

  They both smiled as they interlocked their fingers, and their sore wrists came into contact; the marks were identical, blood-reddened and swollen, only carrying different names.

  That night, the look in his eyes as he made love to her, the way he spoke with such conviction as he joined his body to hers, made her truly believe that she would always belong to him. He felt so hard and hot inside her. So permanent.

  He’d been desperate to get close to her, biting her, grinding her, squeezing her, licking her. His eyes heavy-lidded and dark. His ragged breaths in her ear. “We’re bound now, Whitney. I’m yours and you’re mine . . .”

  “Andrew . . .” She remembered sobbing from the passion. From the pain of his imminent departure.

  “Be mine, Whitney. Promise me forever.”

  She clenched his hands tighter, nodding her head as fast as possible. “I’ll promise you more . . .”

  He framed her cheeks within his palms, fiercely squeezing her. “Until the day I die, I vow to love you. Honor you. Protect you. Provide and care for you. I’ll be faithful to you. There will never be anyone for me but you . . .”

  Whitney had repeated those words to him in breathless abandon. They’d been worth more than a wedding vow to her, and yet they’d obviously meant shit to Andrew.

  Was she going to sell herself short to a man who would abandon her?

  No.

  She was done with playing the victim.

  She’d been stuck in an awful past that had not been of her choosing.

  Her parents had been loving, but a pleasure trip to Las Vegas and the awful hotel fire had taken them from her. Under the new guardianship of her uncle Harry, her fairy-tale life had come crashing down on her. She’d had no one but her friends back then, and she’d been too ashamed to tell them what her father’s brother did to her when he stole into her bedroom at night. For years, she’d felt dirty, unworthy. She’d been a spirited young girl, and suddenly she’d been broken.

  It had taken long, too long, to realize she wasn’t to blame.

  Not, even, for being the person holding the knife that killed Uncle Harry.

  She hadn’t chosen any of what happened—she had been a victim, as the therapist had told her many, many times. She’d learned to accept that there were some things you couldn’t control, and it had lessened her fear of being physically hurt again.

  But there was no denying the power Andrew Fairchild had over her.

  He was her life—her first thought in the morning, her last thought at night.

  She’d lost him for years, but every day, he’d been the reason she’d pushed through, held on, tried to be strong.

  She’d been faithful to him, obediently waiting. But what had he been doing all this time?

  A man like him wouldn’t be celibate for so long. Even with her name on his wrists, he’d probably slept with a dozen other women. It infuriated her, and suddenly she knew she wasn’t going to let him claim her so easily again.

  She couldn’t be so easy, sell herself so cheaply to him. She’d dedicated herself to championing women, arranging for motivational talks that would encourage them to take control and say no to anyone who was being unjust and hurting them.

  She’d been in therapy for three years, talking about her self-worth, her emotions, trying to stop feeling like a guilty party as well as a victim. But what kind of woman waited so long for a man, and then let him back in as if what he’d done hadn’t hurt without even demanding a decent explanation?

  Not you, Whitney.

  Hanging on to that thought, she entered the three-story building of Donahue’s, the biggest family-owned hardware business chain in the United States. And when she said family, it actually meant just her alone.

  The specialized individuals currently in charge had been running Donahue’s for over a decade, since her parents died. But while Whitney preferred to dedicate her own time mostly to her charity work, she’d recently taken over a seat on the board and kept a small office on the third floor of the main store, where she could oversee the workings of the company from up close, and handle the planning of all the benefits she and Chloe frequently organized.

  “Good morning, Felicia, how’s your mother doing?” she asked her personal assistant, who straightened from behind her desk and immediately followed her into her office.

  “She’s out of the hospital today, thank God,” Felicia said, heading over the minibar to toil with the coffeemaker.

  “Good. I’ve heard those nose jobs can be a bitch. And you might consider making that coffee extra strong today. I had that kind of night.”

  “Bad, huh?” Fel asked as she pulled out a coffee cup and spoon.

  Her cheeks felt aflame all of a sudden. “It was actually a good kind of bad. Just busy.” Andrew moving inside her, telling her, “Welcome me the fuck home . . .”

  Shoving the disturbingly arousing memory aside, she slipped behind her desk and booted up her computer. She spotted a white envelope with her name on it lying across the keyboard.

  She opened it without a second thought, and a picture of her uncle Harry dropped into her palm. He was much younger than she remembered him, but still, the sight of his odious face acted like a punch in the gut. She was about to tear it apart on impulse when the bold letters on the note caught her eye.

  They read:

  5 Million Cash

  Midnight Sunday at Navy Pier

  OR THE WORLD WILL KNOW

  Her stomach disintegrated.

  Fear, real, gut-churning fear, gripped all her organs into rocklike immobility.

  “Who brought this?” When she finally managed to move, she lifted the empty envelope in the air to Felicia’s startled gaze. She was sure that the blood had drained from her face.

  Felicia walked over with a steaming cup of coffee, alarmed. Of course she’d never seen Whitney like this. “I saw it there when I came in this morning, I don’t know who put it there. Are you all right, W
hitney?”

  “No, I’m not, Fel. Do you mean to tell me people can come into my office without anybody knowing about it?” When Felicia only spread her arms out helplessly, Whitney narrowed her eyes. “Bring me the head of security. Now.”

  As Felicia scrambled to summon him, Whitney stared in disbelief at the note, and suddenly she was sixteen and helpless all over again.

  The bile tasted thick and bitter in her throat as she slowly folded the note into her purse. She could not, for the life of her, allow her chief of security to see the blackmail note. She couldn’t allow anyone to see the blackmail note. But she sure as hell could demand to know who had entered her office without her permission.

  Sunday at midnight . . .

  She had three days to find out who set this envelope on her desk.

  Three days to decide whether she would pay the ransom.

  And most importantly, three days to decide whether or not she was going to tell Andrew.

  The last suddenly seemed the worst option of all.

  She loathed to have to admit to him that at this very moment, when she desperately wanted to show him how independent she’d become, that she still needed him.

  *****

  She had him all jacked up.

  All. Jacked. Up.

  Whitney was in every freaking corner of his head as he took charge of his office this morning, which didn’t help him wrap his brain around the fact that three years had flown by, and although his companies had kept going forward, he’d been stuck in the past. It had been supremely taxing, not to mention mentally exhausting, to check the status of eight multimillion-dollar corporations, and one huge billion-dollar oil and energy company.

  Andrew had spent the entire morning checking the paperwork of only the first week after his departure, and it would take up to a year to fully catch up. But he also needed to make time to visit his father, so he left the AFM International headquarters at midafternoon with the aim of seeing his father, and then getting back home. Early. If possible. To her. His loins heated up at the thought of seeing her. He was going to take that sassy little redhead in his arms and make her realize that he was never, and never would be, an affair to her . . .

 
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