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Bound by him, p.6
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       Bound by Him, p.6

           Red Garnier
 
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  As he rode the private elevator up to his father’s penthouse, he could still see Whitney as she’d been this morning, all flashing eyes and defiance.

  She made him about as hot as an exploding sun.

  The entire day he’d felt wired like he had a dozen Red Bulls in his system and pure adrenaline rushing through his veins. The thoughts of her that flashed in abrupt spurts across his mind made him harder than granite. He’d never thought it possible that she could both enchant and defy him at the same time, but she did. Oh, she did. And now he simmered with the need to make her accept him once more.

  Welcomed by the familiar smell of his father’s pipe and his old butler, Andrew greeted the butler and then found his father exactly where he’d suspected he would.

  Seated at his usual burgundy wingback chair, with a leather tome on his lap and a half-drunk whiskey glass on the table beside him, was a seventy-eight-year-old embodiment of rectitude.

  “Father,” Andrew said, from the door.

  Andrew Fairchild, Sr., known to his friends as “Drew,” looked up slowly at the voice, and suddenly Andrew realized his father looked . . . old. Older. Aged.

  A sudden shaft of regret for not being with him these past few years sliced right through his heart.

  “Father, how are you?” He crossed the sunlit room that was lined floor to ceiling in bookshelves, then leaned down and took his weathered hand in both of his, pleased when his father’s leathery face lit up at the sight of him.

  “Son, look at you.” His father pulled off his reading glasses and surveyed him with open admiration, setting them on the side table and giving Andrew’s jaw a weak pat. “I should have known this would only make you stronger. You look ready to take on the world!”

  “I am, Dad. I am.” He pulled up a chair, closer to him, and smiled affectionately. “Things going well around here?”

  “They are now, my boy.” His father’s smile was a mile wide. “Whitney and I counted the days. I think she, too, counted the hours.” He laughed joyfully, then coughed, and grabbed his whiskey glass, slowly sipping. “How did you find her?”

  An image of Whitney flashed in his mind, and the testosterone shot up in his veins once more. Pride filled his chest, up to the shoulders, at the mere thought of her. Whitney. Soft and yielding in bed . . . sassy and challenging out of it.

  And suddenly he loathed every instant that he’d been locked away, unable to watch her blossom. Unable to watch the girl he loved become a woman.

  “I found her . . . grown and changed . . .”

  And completely exhilarating.

  So independent now. Whitney was wholly different than when he’d left. They both were. He wasn’t the sappy preppy man she’d fallen in love with. He had aged. On the inside. And yet they still fit like perfect puzzle pieces, even when they’d been apart for so long. She still complemented him. Challenged and excited him. And she still, still needed him like he needed her. Instinctively, he knew this. And there was a dark, pained chamber in his heart that yearned to be able to open up and talk to her about where he’d been. He’d never had to hide a part of himself from her. There had been nothing to hide.

  But now . . . he felt not only like he was cheating her of his complete honesty, but that he was cheating himself of her love and support—something he desperately craved.

  “You should tell her, Andy. A smart girl like Whitney will only love you all the more.”

  Unnerved that his father could read his thoughts so well, he laughed bleakly and rubbed the back of his neck, feeling damn restless. “I can’t be sure of how she’ll take it,” he said.

  “Son, I understand that you didn’t want her suffering while you left, and I agree that it would’ve been a living hell for her. Three years wondering how you were coping . . .” His eyes darkened with worry, then he shook his head. “But you’ve made it back now, and she’s a different woman than the wounded young girl you left. She deserves to know where you were. And what you did for her, son. You’re my boy and you deserve to be appreciated for that. And Whitney? She’s made a woman of herself and that makes me as proud as if she were my own daughter. Of course I’ve always felt that way, because she’s yours.”

  Mine . . .

  The thought drugged him, but it was closely followed by warring emotions pulling him north and south. He wanted to protect her, while at the same time, wanted nothing more than to be completely open with her.

  He remained quiet, and his father reached out and patted his back. “Give her the truth. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to put the past to bed.”

  “I’ll think about it, Dad.”

  Was it the right call to tell her?

  When I close my eyes, it’s all dark, and all I want is to see your eyes again . . .

  She’d been smiling in the morning, saucily telling him they were old lovers having an affair. It had amused him, at first, but now he was also considering taking the opening she was giving him, to court her once more. To forget their rocky start, woo her back, win her. As if they didn’t have a past.

  She’d never even have to know if he went that route . . .

  An hour later, back at his Fairchild apartment, he mentally went through his options as he poured himself some scotch and then waited in the living room, reviewing files he’d brought from work, not really seeing them. Minutes passed as he waited for her, and then hours.

  When it was past nine p.m., he realized she was probably not planning to acknowledge his existence, or even give him a courtesy heads-up about where she was. She did say he was only an affair, didn’t she?

  And it had stopped being amusing two fucking hours ago.

  His chest a roiling hot mess, he searched for the patience that had run thin for three long years, then soon discovered that her old cell phone number was no longer in service—so she’d changed that, too?—and he ended up calling Daniel Lexington, who had to call Chloe, who let him know that Whitney was, indeed, at the benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel.

  Andrew tamped down his irritation. So. She’d gone on without him. Stalking to the bedroom, he showered and changed into a dark suit and white shirt open at the top, and rather than wear the tie, he shoved it into his jacket pocket with the intent of using it only if it was required.

  He was no longer accustomed to suits.

  They made him feel enclosed and his body trapped. He didn’t like it.

  He didn’t like Whitney ignoring him, either.

  No. He was not a damned affair. After everything they’d gone through, after everything he’d done for her, was he to be downgraded to being ignored now?

  His mood was especially volatile when he arrived at the benefit. Approximately five hundred guests mingled throughout the ballroom, far more than there had been yesterday. There were also flowers. Music. A dance floor. Andrew had never been one for crowds, and he especially didn’t feel like chitchat today. He wanted a bath, a bed, and Whitney.

  But his lady was nowhere to be found.

  As he blended into the room, his eyes snagged on a flash of red hair, and fixed on it. There was Whitney. Entertaining a crowd of men by the wine fountain. Her gaze slid across the entrance, as though she’d been expecting him to arrive any minute now, and he noticed—oh, yes, he definitely noticed—when she saw him. Her back stiffened, and her eyes flared with a little excitement, a little fear, and more than a little lust.

  His heart kicked in response, and his systems leapt into overdrive. He wanted her like he’d never, in his life, desired anything. Every single day, since the first time he’d seen her, he wanted her more and more. He knew she felt the same for him, wanted him with every inch of that luscious body of hers. The air rippled between them as their gazes held, but now he noticed that her reaction to him, her need of him, frustrated her, for her beautiful forehead puckered into a little frown when she saw him.

  Because you’re wild about me and you know it, Whitney Donahue . . .

  He gave her a slow, disarming smile, knowing that she
would expect him to approach her. But he didn’t.

  He kept his distance, indulging her, but his eyes were trained on her every move. He was not crowding her, not threatening her. He was, in fact, letting her strut her stuff and do her thing, but his eyes caressed her. His eyes said, I’m here, and no matter what stunt you try to pull, I’m still not going anywhere.

  Taking a glass of Chardonnay from the tray of a passing waiter, Andrew wound through the crowd and enjoyed his drink while Whitney continued to ignore him. An air of rebelliousness enveloped her as she mingled, seemingly hell-bent on talking to all of the men in attendance, flaunting herself in a sexy little number that made his cock as hard as titanium.

  She was exquisite, in a short sequined silver dress that graduated to gold at the hem of her dress. Stunning couldn’t begin to cover the way she looked. Her legs, lean and curved and in silver heels, stretched endlessly. She wore her hair loose—something that had always driven Andrew wild with lust—and every time she tossed it over her shoulders, she seemed to glance at him, as though delighting in the way she was torturing his raring, overheated libido. She was baiting him. Punishing him for leaving her, for hurting her. Maybe even pushing him to a breaking point.

  It was working.

  Andrew watched her laugh over something a man told her with quickly fading amusement and quietly building rage.

  “Fairchild,” a voice said beyond his shoulder.

  He turned to find Graves Buchanan standing behind him, his old friend’s face breaking into a half-smile, which was rare for such a stoic man.

  “Buchanan,” Andrew said, slapping his hard back, genuinely smiling at him. He was here with Daniel’s sister, Chloe, and they looked pretty cozy.

  Tall and slender, Chloe was rendered particularly petite when standing next to the large, dark Graves, and they were so close to each other, Chloe was almost standing on top of Graves’s feet.

  With a sharp pang, Andrew remembered a time when Whitney had been closer to him than a limb . . .

  “Glad to see you’re back, Andy,” Chloe said merrily, hugging him. She was Whitney’s best friend, and without their friendship, Andrew loathed to think he might never have met the green-eyed redhead whose name he was wearing.

  “Glad to be home,” Andrew agreed. He would’ve liked to enjoy talking to them, but he couldn’t help but return his attention to Whitney, his insides growing more tumultuous with every man she talked to.

  “Andrew,” Chloe said softly, lightly touching his jacket sleeve, her eyes wide with concern. “Whitney had a rough time when you left. You should be patient with her if you still want to be together.”

  The worry in Chloe’s gaze made his gut twist in knots. “Are you implying we’re not together anymore?” He glanced back in Whitney’s direction, and the knots in his gut doubled in size. “Is she here with another man?” he asked Chloe.

  “No, of course not! The only man she sees is your father, lunch on Wednesdays. She actually stayed at your place the first two years, but when the letters stopped coming . . .” She trailed off, and her green eyes—like her brother’s—welled with sadness. “She won’t make it easy for you, you hurt her too much, Andy.”

  Though his chest constricted, Andrew nodded his head in understanding, trying to be patient with Whitney, trying to understand what she must be feeling. He did. He really did. It was unfair of him to expect her to love him like before, trust him like before.

  But it hurt.

  Holy God, it hurt so bad. When all he wanted was for her to know he would brave the devil for her. Just tell her what you did, Fairchild, and get it over with. You don’t need to fucking do this all over again.

  Maybe his father was right, and he should tell her.

  How could he woo her as if they shared no past? As if his life didn’t already revolve around her? How was he expected to stand back, and give her the space she needed, when every pore in his body screamed to him that she was his?

  Whitney was stronger now. Different in an amazing way that he was just soaking up like he’d soak up the healing heat of a blazing sun. Yeah, she might be strong enough to know the truth, but honestly, the mere thought of telling her would be like puking his insides out.

  Whitney wouldn’t be satisfied with a meager recounting. He’d have to tell her where he slept, what he ate, how he’d coped. The memory made him angry and frustrated all over again, and the nausea continued building as he watched her laugh with other men. She smiled at them warmly, without restraint. Without anger or accusation.

  He froze in sudden disbelief as she was asked to dance, and suddenly, she was dancing. With some . . . dude. Some motherfucking son of a motherless . . .

  She glanced in Andrew’s direction, her green eyes shining in victory, and then she tossed her hair back and smiled at her new dance partner. Andrew took a sip of his drink. That haughty glare lured him like a red flag to a bull. He gritted his teeth and watched her toss her hair again, then she put her hand on the man’s arm as they finished dancing and headed outside to take some air. Anger whirled inside his stomach as they disappeared through the ballroom’s terrace doors.

  He was trying to be patient, trying to understand her. He knew she was testing his limits, testing the strength of their bond. She felt hurt and wanted attention, and he knew that if he was patient, then Whitney would run out of stupid things to do, and stupid things to say, and in the end, she’d realize Andrew wasn’t going anywhere. He was still here and he was staying here. With her. She’d feel secure again, cherished again. He’d allowed her little game tonight, soothing her hurting pride, wanting her to feel safe. But stand here and watch? Watch her offer to another man what belonged to him?

  He had been through hell, his only consolation had been the sight of her name on his wrists, the thought of finally coming back to her.

  Quietly seething, he set his wine aside on a table and strode across the ballroom, then out the terrace doors, his every muscle tense with blood flow. He could hear her voice, talking animatedly to the man in a way Andrew ached for her to speak to him again. The man was touching her shoulder, bending his head as though to listen.

  “. . . which is incredibly funny, once you think about it . . .”

  With soul-consuming jealousy, he grabbed that man’s offending hand and, with a harsh yank, folded his arm behind him at an awkward angle. “Is your name Andrew?” he ground out.

  Whitney gasped, her hands flying to her mouth, and Andrew silenced her with a glare. Both her tattoos—the name Andrew, dark and almost menacing on her milky skin—were perfectly visible with her raised hands, and so he pulled the man’s arm even tighter at his back.

  “Is your name Andrew?” he demanded.

  “N-no.”

  “Then why are you touching her?”

  The man was so stunned, he didn’t answer. Andrew tightened his hold.

  “This woman is a wife to me. This woman is my life. So do me a favor and walk out of here. Don’t touch her, don’t talk to her, don’t even look at her.”

  He abruptly released him and watched the man stumble away, aware of Whitney’s gaze on his profile, her eyes wide in disbelief. He glanced sharply around, his look scathing, his body primed for fighting. “Is revenge all that it’s meant to be? Are you satisfied that I wanted to hurt him?”

  Her eyes watered, and he cursed and grabbed her by the elbow, leading her forcibly down the steps and around the hotel.

  In the car, she sat across from him, trembling, and for long minutes, neither of them spoke.

  Andrew’s ears echoed with the sound of his heartbeat, a sick sense of jealousy clawing at his gut. Whitney’s eyes had for the past few minutes been fixed on his hands, lying flat on the seat at his sides. He knew she wanted them on her. He knew she wanted his mouth. His cock. She’d been taunting him all night, inciting his jealousy, and now Andrew was going to give it to her as hard as she deserved. As hard as she could take it.

  “I’m patient, Whitney. But don’t ever confuse me
for a fool.”

  She met his gaze, her breasts rising and falling fast, her eyes bright with lust and challenge.

  He could kiss her right now until their mouths bled. He could drag her into a corner and pound her until they were both in little pieces. He’d never felt so out of control before, so unstable. He’d always been a calm, rational person. But then he’d met her. He’d lost his heart to her. His lost his life for her. And now he would not, could not, lose her.

  “Did you have fun tonight?” he asked her in a low, hard voice.

  Her chin came up in challenge. “Tons. Did you?”

  “My fun is about to start. Come here.”

  She stiffened, and her eyes flared in an obvious internal struggle. Eventually, she came. She sat tightly on his lap, her small frame tense.

  He cupped her breast and felt the tremor that went through her. “Who does this belong to?” He softened his voice as he brushed her hair back behind her shoulders with one hand, and fondled the swell of one heaving breast with the other.

  She maintained a stubborn silence, but her breathing changed at his touch, becoming more ragged. He weighed her flesh in his hand, cupping her over her dress, gently squeezing her.

  “What was your aim? To enrage me? To taunt me? Make me want to bind you up in my bed and never let you leave it?”

  Her breath caught at that, and she pressed her breast deeper into his hand with a low, throaty moan.

  He gave her the little squeeze she seemed to want, watching her eyes cloud in desire, her glorious eyelashes falling halfway down her eyes. “Mission accomplished, Whitney. I’m enraged. I’m taunted.”

  He stole his hand into the front of her dress to find she wore no bra underneath it. Her flesh filled his palm, and instantly, her nipple beaded. She was aroused. She’d liked to tease him. Torment him. “I’m going to ask you once again. Who does this belong to? Who does this breast, this lovely nipple, respond to?”

  “Y-You.”

  “That’s right,” he softly cooed, then he slid his hand to cup her other breast, the tip hard and erect for his touch already. His voice was getting thicker as a rush of heady blood stormed through his veins, making him struggle for control. “And this, Whitney?” He squeezed her other breast, thumbing the nipple when it protruded in response.

 
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