So sleeping with the enemy isn’t a problem . . . but wanting to sleep with the enemy is.
That’s something I’m not prepared for at all. Over the last few days his self-possession, quiet intelligence, and savagery have been wearing on my defenses. Like the effect of waves against a cliff, the erosion isn’t immediately devastating but it’s noticeable.
He reaches over and touches my leg, his eyes still on the window. His fingers move up and down, his caress al- most casual . . . almost. But there’s a soft rhythm to his movement as his fingers rise a little higher, pushing my hem up ever so slightly, then sliding down again to my knee. It’s not demanding or insistent. Just confident. Confident in what he’s allowed and what boundaries he’s able to push.
Being touched by this man, this man who represents so many things that I hate . . . it should be awful.
His hand goes a little higher. He’s touching my inner thigh now, just barely, but still, I shudder. e in- voluntary reaction makes me blush and I quickly look away.
No, this isn’t supposed to be happening at all.
When the cab drops us off at his Upper East Side building, he greets the doorman with a word and leads me to the rear of the lobby, his hand on the small of my back.
“Cool digs,” I say as he pulls me onto the elevator. When I turn, I more fully take in the lush entry area, its crown molding, its expensive furniture, its little touches of decadence.
“It could be worse,” he admits, sticking his key into the slot that will allow us to get to his penthouse. The doors close and he turns to me. “Do you like elevators, Bell?” He steps forward, into my space. Instinctively I step back, but that only serves to bring me up against the wall. His lips touch mine so gently it’s practically a caress, nearly innocent.
I feel his hands move up to my waist as his mouth quietly, softly moves down to my chin, my neck . . .
“The doors could open at any moment,” I say. I try to add a little laugh, but the sound comes out as a staccato breath.
“Yes,” he says, “they could.”
He leans into me, and his body is different than I thought it would be—harder, stronger.
He doesn’t know who I really am; he can’t.
His hands are on my hips, and the hem of my dress inches up as his grip becomes firmer, more demanding.
I’m going to destroy him. I’ll bring down his entire family.
His lips rise to my ear, his tongue finding my most sensitive spots there.
This is a sacrifice—it’s supposed to be a sacrifice . . .
.. . but that’s not what it feels like.
I close my eyes just as the elevator slows to a stop. He pulls away, but only a little. “Welcome to my home.”
Slowly I open my eyes again and step into his penthouse. The art pieces on the wall are originals, mostly by artists I don’t know . . . except for the charcoal nude rendered by Degas.
This man owns a Degas.
I don’t comment on it. Instead I just continue down the hall past the kitchen, the home office, into what serves as a living room.
One wall is lined with books, the other with windows. In the corner is a small bar, stocked with expensive bottles that look as decorative as they do sinful.
“You have a view of Central Park.” I step up to the wall of glass and stare down at the dimly lit landscape. I can feel his eyes on me . . . It’s almost like he’s touching me.
This man is my enemy.
“iIf I lived your life I would go to all the fancy par- ties,” I say lightly. “I bet you get invited to all sorts of red-carpet affairs. I bet you could be in a tux every night of the week if you wanted to be.”
“No man wants to be in a tux every night.” He pauses, leans back on his heels. “I’d like to guess your name now.”
“Oh?” I flash him a bright, playful smile. “You think you can?”
“Yes,” he says quietly. “I think I can, Bellona.”
My breath catches. I feel a knot in my stomach. Of course, it’s not my birth name—he doesn’t know that. But it isn’t information I’ve given him either. “How did you know?”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow . . . in the morning.” He comes to my side, reaches up, pushes my hair behind my shoulders. “Tonight I want to know if you’re like your namesake. Are you a goddess of war?”
“I’m not a goddess,” I say quietly.
“And yet I bet you’d hold your own on a battle- field.” His fingers slide down my neck. I expect him to lean in for a kiss again, but he doesn’t. Instead he just lets his fingers go to the scooped neckline of my dress, tracing it lightly, watching me. When his fingers move lower, over my dress, over the curve of my breast, I look away.
“No, no, warrior,” he whispers, taking his other hand and turning my face back to him. “Keep your eyes on me. I want you to see me seeing you. I want you to look into my eyes when I touch you.”
Part of me wants to say no. I hadn’t planned for this level of intimacy. I don’t know how to handle it.
But this is the path I’ve chosen. It’s a path that can lead me to my revenge. And without revenge I have nothing. My whole life will be nothing.
His fingers continue to caress, running up and down my breasts. I feel my nipples harden. The fabric of my dress is thick enough to conceal them and yet as he looks down at me I’m sure he knows. It’s in his smile, in the mischievous glint in his eyes.
His hands move lower, over my stomach, lower to the hem of my dress, then just below it, forcing his hand between my legs as I lean my back against the window, suddenly needing support. e glass is so clean it looks like I’m leaning against air itself, as if I’m on the verge of falling.
Maybe I am.
Slowly he raises his hand, raising my dress again as he does. e feeling of his palm against the inside of my leg makes me squirm, but as instructed I keep my eyes on his, watching him watching me.
“Do you know what I’m going to do next, Bellona?” I nod.
“You’re going to move your hand up . . . to my thong.”
“And when I touch your thong, will it be wet?”
My heart is beating at an uncomfortable pace. “Yes,” I whisper.
His hand goes up, touches my panties, moving back and forth. It’s such a thin strip of fabric, no protection at all, really.
“Ah,” he says with a smile, “an honest woman.”
The irony should make me laugh.
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