Dial M for Monster

Monsters in Hollywood, Book 1

Lila Dubois

Prologue

The city was full of life. From high above he could see it, smell it. He wanted that life, ached with the desire for it. From up here the wind tasted of salt, of the sea. He narrowed his eyes, peering through the haze of light that blanketed the city to see the dark sea beyond.

He fanned his wings, letting the salt-flavored breeze ruffle the jagged edges.

Beside him two other pairs of wings spread, great arches of dark and light against the indigo sky.

“Will they help us?” his companion asked.

He did not have answers, only hopes, ones he was tired of voicing. Without aid their people would be forced to war or will themselves into death. This city, the possibilities it held, the humans who thrived here, were one of their last hopes.

“Let’s fly,” was his reply.

One by one they leapt from the rooftop, wings snapping like sails of the finest ship as they soared above the sprawling city of light and dreams.

Chapter 1

Good morning,” the dapper young man at the reception desk chirped.

“Good morning, Kurt.” Lena held out her arm. Kurt slapped a stack of mail into her hand, took her nearly empty paper coffee cup and replaced it with a full mug of piping hot mocha. Lena never even slowed down.

Bumping open her office door with a hip, Lena skirted her glass desk and settled into her chair. Within an hour she’d gone through her mail, checked the industry blogs and compiled a media book for their last project, an indie film that had done well at Tribeca.

It was barely eight a.m.

Sipping the dregs of her mocha, Lena cleared off her desk and picked up a notebook. She had an eight thirty meeting with the whole office. Swiveling in her chair, Lena examined the blown up and framed cover of The Hollywood Reporter that hung on the wall.

In the photo, Lena and her four best friends, each wearing a bright jewel-toned color, stared out at the camera. Lena stood in the center wearing royal blue and holding a sign that said “Calypso Productions”. The title beneath the picture read, “Hollywood’s New Elite”. In smaller script it said, “Five friends, each with a talent of their own, open a production house reminiscent of old Hollywood’s powerhouse studios”.

Smiling, Lena rose to her feet, brushing her fingers against the frame of the poster before heading out of the office into the conference room. “What’s next?”

“New client,” Jane said, checking her agenda.

“I thought we agreed we weren’t taking on new clients,” Akta griped. Feet on the table, she leaned back, testing the bounds of her ergonomic executive chair.

“Some of us don’t have cushy savings to fall back on and need the extra work,” Margo snarked. Akta stuck her tongue out at Margo.

Lena, their default leader, though some of the other A-types in the room might have disputed that leadership, reined the group in by tapping her pen against the high gloss conference table.

Their weekly meetings were both enjoyable and frustrating. Going into business with her four best friends from college had been a risky decision, but it paid off. They were following their dream, making and producing original and innovative movies and TV shows. However, the years of familiarity meant that behind closed doors their maturity level with one another had a tendency to deteriorate.

Lena tapped her pen again. “We’re always open to new projects, and these gentlemen got through Kurt, so they must be good.”

Kurt, their receptionist, stuck his head around the door and frowned at them. “I’m not bringing these guys in until you look professional. Cali, adjust your boobs. Akta, fluff your hair. Trust me, these guys are worth it.”

He pulled the conference room door closed. Lena, eyebrows arched, looked at Jane, who sat across the table from her. With a shrug Jane pulled out a tube of lip gloss and applied it blind. Akta reached over and snatched a thick script from Mercedes, aka Cali.

Flipping the script shut, Akta tossed it onto the table where it landed with a meaty thud. “What is that? War and Peace?”

“It’s The Octopus.” When the others stared blankly at her, Cali added, “Frank Norris?”

“Sorry, Cali, no idea,” Akta said cheerfully.

“Illiterate plebeians.”

“You’re such a charmer.”

Cali leaned forward in her chair, reached into her fitted, corset-style pinstriped top and repositioned her boobs. Akta leaned forward in the same manner and scrubbed her fingers through her hair before flipping it up. Once Cali had cleavage enough to kill a man and Akta’s soft cloud of dark hair floated around her head and shoulders, Lena hit the intercom button in the console on the conference table.

“Kurt, show them in, please.”

Around the table the women straightened in their chairs, the easy mannerisms of years of friendship melting away to reveal glass-sharp businesswomen.

The conference room door opened. Kurt stepped inside, holding the door wide for their prospective clients. One by one, three divinely gorgeous men walked in.

Lena kept a cool, professional smile, even as her blood hummed.

The men took seats across the table from the women, and Kurt poured them each a glass of water, giving Lena a chance to inspect them.

The first was your classic California surfer god. His tan was pure Mother Nature, not fake and bake, and his highlights appeared to be from the same source. Gold with pure white streaks, his hair curled and waved around his face. It was surfer length—just below his ears, but not long enough for sci-fi geek. His tight green T-shirt showed strong shoulders and delectable biceps.

The second was archetypal indie British rock guy. Chestnut hair was styled to frame his face in a close-cut cap. Next to the surfer his physique was slender, but by no means skinny. He was sporting layers: T-shirt, button-down and jacket, all stylish.

The last one to enter took a seat in the center, between the other two. While Lena admired the first two for their distinct beauty and style, it was an academic admiration, but this one—he spoke to her.

Caramel skin, a gift of birth, fitted over high cheekbones and a square jaw. His deep-set eyes were dark brown, with straight black brows above. His hair was black and high gloss, draping over one eye. His white-on-white embroidered button-down was shabby chic, with a purposefully wrinkled look. The color set off his skin.

Lena forced a breath in and out, pulling her attention away from him as Kurt poured the last of the water and skirted out the way. As he pulled the door closed, Kurt sent them all a significant glance. There was a brief pause, then Lena saw the intercom light blink on. She flipped it off, imagining Kurt’s cursing at having been denied eavesdropping rights, and smiled at their prospective clients. She had to force herself to include all three in the smile, rather than just the eye candy.

“Gentlemen, welcome to Calypso Productions. I’m Lena, creative director and one of the producers.”

Lena glanced at Jane, who picked up the cue. “I’m Jane, our writer.”

“Hello, gentlemen, my name is Margo, and I’m the other producer and manager of Calypso.”

“Mercedes, I direct.”

“And last but never least, I’m Akta, art director, and actor.”

Lena waited for a reaction to Akta’s introduction. Of the five of them, Akta was the only one with immediate recognition. Her starring role in an award-winning indie production had landed her on the acting map. Her decision to shun blockbuster roles in favor of continuing to work on more artistic pieces had raised a few eyebrows in Hollywood, but gained her, and Calypso, a lot of respect.

Usually clients were the most excited to meet her. They enjoyed the idea of having a built-in actress at the production company.

These three paid Akta no more attention than they had any of the others. Akta blinked twice in surprise, though her smile never faltered. There was an awkward moment of silence before the gentlemen introduced themselves.

“I’m Michael,” said the surfer.

“Henry,” added the indie rocker.

Dark-and-Dangerous looked right at Lena as he introduced himself. “My name is Luke.”

The room fell into a second awkward silence, but Lena hardly noticed. Gaze locked with Luke’s, it was like tunnel vision, the rest of the world blurry and out of focus. There was no arrogant L.A. smirk or hard-ass barracuda New York grin on his face. His beautifully full lips were unsmiling, but not unhappy. The intensity of his gaze didn’t feel threatening, but he still seemed dangerous in the way only a truly beautiful man can be.

“So, what can we help you with?” Margo demanded. Lena had let the silence stretch too long, and Margo jumped into the void with her less than gentle question.

Luke broke the eye contact with Lena, turning his focus to Margo. “We are looking for a company to help us tell a story.” His voice was low and rich, with the slightest touch of an accent.

“How would you like to tell this story?” Jane asked.

“That’s what we need you to tell us. We have a story, but we don’t know which…”

“Medium?” Akta offered.

“Yes, what medium,” he smiled at Akta, “would be best.”

“Then can you tell us something about your story?” Margo asked, a hint of annoyance working its way into her voice.

“Certainly,” Henry added. Because of her first impression of him, Lena expected him to speak with a British accent, but, besides precise pronunciation, his voice was unremarkable. “We want you to tell our story.”

Jane barely repressed a moan, Cali reached for the abandoned script and Margo slumped in her chair.

Lena sighed but kept her smile. She was already chalking this up as a lost cause. Almost everyone in the world thought their story was interesting enough to be a movie, and 99% of them were wrong. There were places, companies, who would make any script that came across the table if the client were paying them to do it. Calypso was not that kind of company. They created and produced stories beyond the ordinary.

These boys probably had some heartwarming story of lifelong friendship they thought would make a great movie or TV series. Maybe it would, but Calypso wouldn’t produce it.

“Well, gentlemen, as much as we would like to help you, we don’t produce stories for payment.”

“That’s not what we want. We don’t have any money,” Henry replied.

“Fantastic, just what we needed,” Jane murmured.

Lena let her smile slip to a serious expression. They all had work to do, and this was just wasting time. How had these guys managed to get past Kurt? Usually he turned people like this away. She looked them over again and answered her own question, making a mental note to remind Kurt he needed to pre-screen everyone, even the hot ones.

Placing her elbows on the table, Lena leaned in. “I’m sorry to say that, while your story is undoubtedly very interesting, we have stringent standards regarding what we produce. If you are looking for a company who will make a movie to your specifications, we can suggest several other production houses.”

The gentlemen looked at each other. Luke leaned forward, mirroring Lena’s posture. He smiled tentatively, and the hint of vulnerability was incredibly appealing.

“I think we’ve done a poor job of explaining everything. Is there a…uh…less intimidating forum in which I might be able to talk to you?” Luke waved his hand to indicate the setting.

Lena looked around. Five powerful, gorgeous women, a boardroom with a view of the L.A. County Museum of Art through the window at their backs, and white floral arrangements worth over two hundred dollars a pop might be a bit intimidating.

Lena’s eyes met Luke’s and the tunnel vision returned. “How about dinner tonight?” she heard herself say.

Luke smiled, and Lena sighed in pleasure.

* * * *

“What are you thinking?” Jane’s voice came at her in surround sound from the speakers in Lena’s luxury SUV.

“I’m thinking that my going to dinner with Luke got us out of that meeting. I asked Margo to talk to Kurt about being more discriminating.”

“It was almost worth it just to look at them—the blond was gorgeous.”

Jane was, of course, cracked in the head, as the blond was nothing compared to Luke’s dark, beauty.

“But,” Jane continued, “I don’t think you offered dinner out of the goodness of your heart.”

“Will you feel any better if I tell you I have every intention of seducing Luke?”

“Why?”

“Why not? He’s gorgeous, articulate and interesting.”

“That’s what I thought. As long as you’re being honest with yourself.”

“It’s been too long, I think I might be a virgin again.”

“Three months does not make you a born-again virgin.” Jane’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

“Don’t be bitter, Jane darling. The only one keeping you from having wall-banging sex is yourself.”

“I have standards.”

“You have issues.”

“You’re a tramp,” Jane snarked, more affection than disdain in her voice.

Smiling, Lena turned into her building’s driveway, tapping the door opener. “I’m going into the garage. I’m going to lose you.”

“All right, be careful, have fun and call me with details.”

“Have your own sex and you won’t need to live vicariously.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Lena pulled in and parked in her assigned space. Slinging her slightly battered Chanel handbag over one shoulder, Lena climbed out and raced for the elevators. She was running a bit later than she’d wanted.

It was six now, and they were dining at eight. She had two hours to clean both her apartment and herself. Letting herself in, Lena cast a critical eye over her apartment. She paid a small fortune every month for her two bedroom, two bath apartment in Miracle Mile. Luckily she spent very little time here, so there wasn’t much mess to clean up. A few moments in the kitchen shoving boxes of cereal and granola bars into cabinets and wine glasses into the dishwasher, had that room presentable. Next was the living room, which was liberally scattered with shoes.

Still wearing her purse, Lena gathered up armfuls of shoes and headed for the bedroom. As she returned heels to their shoeboxes, Lena thought about Luke.

Despite her teasing with Jane, Lena didn’t really plan to seduce him. She was pragmatic enough to know that sleeping with a man she’d met for less than an hour was dangerous. There was no denying her physical attraction to him, but that really wasn’t enough to risk sex with him. That didn’t mean she couldn’t enjoy his company for the evening. A night out with a gorgeous man was a reward in and of itself. Besides that, though she’d never admit it, Luke’s brief moment of vulnerability she’d glimpsed had touched Lena. Though Luke and his friends looked like Hollywood players, Lena suspected they were novices, and probably woefully out of their depths. The least she could do was impart some advice, maybe steer him toward writing a book rather than trying to make a movie.

She kept out a pair of strappy black heels and pulled down an empire waist cocktail gown in midnight blue. Lena grinned ruefully at her choice of attire. The outfit screamed seduction. While she didn’t plan on seducing him, she wasn’t ruling out the possibility.

They were having dinner at Lawry’s in Beverly Hills, a safe choice for wining and dining. As it was a Wednesday night, it had only required minimal pull to get the reservation.

Laying out the dress and shoes, she then jumped into the shower.

Business. The dinner should be just business.

But it never hurt to mix a bit of business with pleasure.

Chapter 2

Luke checked his reflection in a broken mirror propped against the wall of the warehouse. He smoothed his shirt until it lay flat against his stomach and then fastened the single button of the dark navy suit jacket. Luke compared himself to a picture he’d torn out of a magazine. In the photo a slender man wore a lavender shirt under a navy suit with black boots. Luke had opted to leave only the top button of the shirt undone, rather than the top three as the picture did. He hadn’t been able to find black ankle boots like in the photo, so had settled for a pair of black dress shoes.

“Looks good.” Henry stood behind him, gaze moving between the picture and Luke.

“Were you able to find any information on the restaurant?” Luke asked as he fussed with his collar.

“It’s a steak house.”

“That’s cow meat, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well,” Luke tugged the jacket down into place, “that should be all right. What time is it?”

“Six thirty.”

“I should go.”

“Do you have money for the cab?”

Luke pulled out the worn white envelope he used as a wallet. He carefully counted out the unfamiliar money. “Three hundred dollars. Do you think that’s enough?”

“I looked up the address of the restaurant—it will be at least fifty dollars for the cab.”

“What were the prices for the cow meat?”

“Not listed.”

Bitter experience had taught Luke that this was a bad sign. Giving up on his reflection, Luke turned to Michael, who was seated on the floor of the abandoned warehouse they called home, flipping through a variety of magazines and newspapers.

“Do you have any money?”

Without looking, Michael pulled an envelope, similar to the one Luke held, from his pocket and held it out. Luke took two hundred dollars from the envelope and passed it back to Michael.

Henry came up beside them as Michael folded his newspaper and looked up.

“Are you ready?” Henry asked.

“I am,” Luke assured the other two. They all realized that the meeting this morning had been a disaster. They needed Calypso Productions if their plan was going to work. Luke tried not to think how much was riding on this meal. The three of them were in this together, but he felt responsible for the success of the whole venture, as he was the one who’d dragged the other two out into the world with nothing more than a vague understanding of the humans, and a dream.

“What are you going to do if she wants to have sex?” Michael posed the question on all of their minds.

“Do you think she does?” Luke asked.

Henry shrugged and Michael fished around for a copy of Maxim. “She asked you on a date—that usually means sex.”

Luke’s stomach knotted with anxiety. “I’ve never had sex with a human woman before. What do I do?”

“Don’t look at me. I’ve never had sex with a human either, though she shouldn’t be that different from a succubus—they’re all cut from the same cloth,” Henry added.

“Yeah, but there’s thousands of years of evolution in between.” Luke looked anxiously to Michael, who was ripping sex-tip articles out of magazines.

“Here.” Michael shoved a handful of articles at Luke. “Read these on the way.” The top article was titled “Make Friends with the Little Man in the Boat”.

“Thanks, Michael.” Folding the papers, Luke stuffed them into his pocket, nodded to Henry, and headed out the door. He had a half-hour walk before he reached a road with a payphone where a cab could pick him up. One of the problems with squatting in an abandoned warehouse in the Port of L.A. was the lack of easy transportation. He kept the pace light, having discovered that human bodies sweat and it was not considered attractive. After all of his careful work obtaining this outfit, the last thing he wanted to do was ruin it.

The crunch of papers in his pocket as he walked brought Luke’s mind around to the possibility of what could happen tonight. Lena. He tested the name out, liking the way it rolled over his tongue.

Thinking back on the meeting, Luke admitted he liked everything about Lena. Her hair was a pretty brown. It had been pushed back behind her shoulders, so the sides framed her face. Soft lips, tinted pink, a straight nose and sky blue eyes completed her face. There was something about the set of her mouth, as if she were constantly flirting with a smile.

He’d had only a brief glimpse of her body when she rose at the end of the meeting. She was slender, a long cool line from shoulder to hip. The dark-colored skirt and fitted off-the-shoulder sweater set off her pale, creamy skin and exposed delicate collarbones. He mentally stripped away the clothes, imagining her soft white flesh exposed and vulnerable, waiting for him. Luke closed his eyes for a moment as desire danced through his bloodstream. It had been too long since he touched a female, and touching Lena would be more than touching just any female. She would be his first human.

Ducking through a hole in the fence, Luke started down the access road to the payphone.

An hour later Luke slipped into a booth across from Lena. It was eight fifteen, and he was late. “Lena, I’m sorry, there was traffic.”

“That’s no problem, I’m glad you were able to make it.” Lena raised a glass of pale gold liquid to her lips. She’d smiled when he sat down, but the smile did not reach her eyes. If he had to guess, Luke would say she was mad.

The waiter popped up next to his elbow, and Luke ordered tequila on the rocks. The waiter moved away, and Luke turned to see Lena’s raised eyebrows.

“Tequila?” she asked.

Luke had no idea what was wrong with ordering tequila. The other places he’d eaten had been fine with that.

“Is tequila a…poor choice?” Flustered and anxious, Luke nervously smoothed the front of his shirt. His bangs had fallen into his eye, so Luke scooped them to the side, hoping his hair still looked like the picture he’d modeled it after.

His anxious fussing seemed to amuse Lena, and she smiled, though it was a soft thing, without malice. “Tequila is a fine choice. So where were you coming from that you got stuck in traffic?”

“Uh, near the port.”

“The Port of L.A.? That is quite a drive. I’m sorry, if you’d told me I could have picked someplace closer to you.”

“Oh no, this is fine. I’ve never been here, and I like trying new restaurants.”

“Me too. I’m such a foodie. Where have you tried lately?”

Luke looked around the maroon and brown interior of Lawry’s, each table set with linen and silver. No place he’d tried was anything like this. Most restaurant ventures started and ended with recommendations from cabbies.

“Well, uh, nothing quite this fancy, but there was this taco place, in the valley…”

“Hugo’s?”

“Oh, uh, yeah.”

“I love Hugo’s. What combination did you try?”

Luke stared at Lena, wondering if she were laughing at him, but her interest and excitement seemed genuine. It was hard to imagine the brunette beauty, who looked edible in dark blue, hair loose in soft waves over her shoulders, standing outside the small taco hut, munching on a burrito as juice dripped down her chin.

Luke tentatively relayed his menu choices, and Lena offered him a few suggestions. The conversation continued, and quickly focused on hole-in-the-wall cheap food. Luke’s puzzlement was soon replaced by delight as Lena revealed that she was just as willing to eat at the cheap places as the expensive ones. The few other people he’d met who worked in movies, or “the industry” as they all called it, had only talked about whom they’d seen at the latest posh restaurants.

They covered Mexican and pizza, Chinese and Korean barbeque. Without thinking, Luke admitted that he’d never had three a.m. delivery of Thai food, as no Thai place would deliver to them. Lena blinked and sat back in her chair, apparently baffled by the idea of a locale outside Thai delivery. Luke held his breath, wondering if she would press him for details about where he lived, but Lena finally muttered, “Well, I guess you are in South Bay,” and the moment passed.

Their salads arrived, and Luke carefully stabbed a forkful and brought it to his mouth. There was some shredded red thing amid the candied nuts and tangy cheese that tasted foul, but he kept chewing. Lena was carefully pushing the red stuff off to the side.

When she noticed he was watching, she smiled ruefully.

“I know, I know, I’m a complete philistine, but I hate beets.”

Luke looked down at his own bowl and started pushing his off to the side. Beets. He made a mental note to avoid those in the future. “I don’t like them either, but I didn’t know if it would be appropriate to remove them.”

“I promise not to tell on you, if you don’t tell on me. It’ll be our secret.” Lena smiled again, and this time there was something else in the smile, something a bit naughty, as if the word “secret” implied things he couldn’t even guess at.

They made it through salads and the start of entrees before the conversation turned to business matters.

“So, Luke, can you tell me a little bit about what you’re looking for?”

Laying his knife on the side of his plate Luke looked up, taking several deep bracing breaths. This was it, his chance to make right what he’d done wrong this morning.

“We have a story to tell, and we think the best way to do it is through movies or a TV show.”

“Why do you think that?”

“We want to change public opinion about…something, and movies and media seem to have the most influence over how hum…um, people think about things.”

“What does this have to do with you and your friends?” Lena asked.

“We want to change the public’s opinion about us, about the three of us.”

“Ah, the three of you are…together.”

“Yes, we’re together.” They’d left everything they knew behind to enter the human world.

Lena sat back in her chair and laughed a little. Luke was struck by the feeling that he’d just done something wrong.

“Lena?”

“Sorry, I guess my radar must be off. So tell me more about Michael and Henry. How did you get together?”

“We were raised together, like brothers.”

“Ah, that certainly makes the relationship more complicated. How did your families handle it?”

How did she know their fathers were angry with them? Luke narrowed his eyes, looking at her with his second sight—vision that could reveal what was beneath the surface. There was a band of gold intelligence around her forehead, pulsing blue strength of spirit over her heart, but she was undeniably human.

If she was human, where was she getting these odd questions? Luke reviewed his conversation with her, and in a snap, realized what he’d said. He may not have a good understanding of humans, but there were some things you picked up after living in L.A.

“Wait, wait, I’m not gay.”

Lena slumped in her seat, looking relieved. “Oh thank god, I thought my gaydar was on the fritz, thought I should know better. The good looking ones are never batting for my team.”

He didn’t really know what she was talking about, but Luke hurried on. “I’m not gay, and neither are Michael or Henry. We’re just friends.”

Lena cocked her head to the side. “If the story you want to tell isn’t about your three-way relationship, what is it about?”

Luke certainly wasn’t going to tell her here, in fact, the plan was to avoid telling her the full truth for as long as possible. “It’s about us, about what we are.”

“And what are you?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Lena reached across the table and grabbed his wrist, two fingers settling on the soft inside. “You have a pulse, so you aren’t A.I. Enhanced military super solider?”

“No.” Luke was distracted by her fingers on his wrist. They were soft, with white and pink nails, her skin delectably pale against the dark tint of his human flesh.

She started to pull her hand away, but Luke wrapped his fingers around hers, holding her in place. They both looked at their tangled hands, and in an instant, the atmosphere at the table changed.

Luke imagined how they would look pressed against one another. The dichotomy of skin tones on the grand scale of their full naked bodies. Lena’s fingers curled into his, stroking the hollow of his palm, and Luke swallowed. Please let that be the opening strains of human mating rituals.

“I think I know a way to solve our problem.” Lena’s voice was butter smooth and velvet soft. He raised his gaze from their locked hands to her face. Blue eyes peeked at him under dark lashes.

“We have a problem?”

“I think we do. You want me to agree to make a movie about what you are, but won’t tell me precisely what that might be.” Lena slid her fingers from his, then reached up and ran her index finger from the tip of his eyebrow, down over his cheekbone, to the corner of his mouth. “So it looks like I’ll have to find out all on my own.” She sat back and signaled the waiter for the check.

Chapter 3

Undress me.”

The only light was mixed with pale whites and blues that filtered in from the street. Luke stood just inside the doorway, jacket dangling from his fingertips.

Arousal, like the sweetest champagne, bubbled through Lena. After leaving the restaurant she’d driven them back to her place, the short drive made in rich silence. Dinner had confirmed Lena’s impression that Luke was a Hollywood novice. The hints of vulnerability and sweet confusion were incredibly attractive after years of dealing with super alpha-man attitudes.

He moved into the living room, steps slow and deliberate, and Lena hoped his hands would be the same way on her body. Knowing this was likely nothing more than a one night stand, Lena intended to enjoy it.

“You want me to undress you?” His voice held a low note, like the growl of a wolf, that both tantalized and frightened her.

“Yesss.” The “s” dragged out into a long hiss as he cupped her neck and jaw in one large hand.

“I’ve been thinking about you, naked,” he whispered, lips brushing her cheekbone.

“Did you like what you saw?” she asked, voice thin and reedy as she tipped her head back, extending the line of her throat.

“Oh yes.”

“Then undress me.”

“In time. I want to…” Luke skirted his lips along her cheek, grazing the corner of her mouth, but not kissing her. “…savor this.”

Lena shuddered and melted into him, leaning into his body. One arm came around her back, his other hand trailing up and down her side, petting the fabric of her dress.

“Yes, yes, me too. But it’s been so long, I don’t know if I can hold out,” Lena admitted. She needed to have him hot and hard inside her, pulsing through her.

“How long?” he asked.

“Months,” she confessed.

“Longer for me, and,” he held her away from his body, “I’ve never been with someone like you.”

“Like me?”

“Yes, so you must tell me what you want.”

Lena didn’t know what he meant by “someone like you” but she had no problem telling him what she thought and wanted. She’d long ago stopped depending on guys to care if she had a good time, and learned to be the aggressor in bed. That way she had at least some hope of getting an orgasm.

“I can do that, but you have to do the same—tell me what you want, what you like.”

“What I want,” he pressed an open lip kiss to her cheek, then dragged his lips across her cheek to kiss the corner of her mouth, his tongue coming out to lick at the seam of her lips, “is to please you.”

Mystery solved. Luke had to be a figment of her imagination, because no man she’d ever met had put her pleasure above his own. His tender, thoughtful words, combined with the delicate, erotic attention of his lips and tongue, did more to spike her arousal than a box full of sex toys.

“Please,” she whispered, and his fingers moved to her back.

He traced the skin along the top of her dress, played up and down the dip of her spine from the nape of her neck to the clasp of her dress. He tugged at the clasp, thumbs sliding between the dress and her skin. After half a minute of fumbling, Lena nearly turned around to let him see what he was doing. There was a brief flare of heat at her back, as if a small patch of her back had been exposed to an open oven, then the dress came undone. Her puzzlement at the sensation of heat disappeared under the feel of his fingers rubbing up and down her spine as he lowered the zipper.

Lena raised her hands to his shirt, indulging herself by rubbing his chest through the silk-cotton blend. He was rock hard and hot to the touch, and this was just his chest. One by one Lena undid his buttons, her own dress defying gravity to stay up as his roaming hands pushed it apart in their quest to stroke every inch of her back.

She tugged the shirt loose from his pants and pushed it open. She was pressed too tightly to him for her to see anything, so she explored his chest with her fingers, nearly whimpering when she felt the hard ridges of his stomach.

Luke’s lips played up and down the column of her throat, then flicked her earring with his tongue. Lena slid her hands up his chest, over his shoulders and up his throat, to cup his cheeks. She pulled him away from her neck, held him still and kissed him.

Luke stiffened against her, then kissed her back, tongue moving over hers, their mouths opening and closing against one another as the kiss continued. He breathed in her breath, and each of Lena’s inhalations was flavored with the smell of Luke: spice, earth and man.

Sliding her hands from his cheeks to shoulders, Lena urged Luke back, until his legs hit the seat of one of her overlarge armchairs. Luke let go of her to feel the air behind him, and Lena took advantage of his movement to push him down onto the chair. Luke let out a small puff of air as he landed, head tilted up to look at Lena, who, holding the front of her dress in place with one hand, took a step back.

She watched him watch her, and when she lowered the dress, sliding it inch by inch down her body, Luke’s white-knuckled reaction made her feel like a goddess. She stepped out of her dress, now wearing nothing more than strappy black heels and black hip-hugging underwear.

Luke leaned forward, cupping the back of her left calf and lifting her leg. Lena maintained her balance as Luke set her heel down on the arm of the chair and kissed his way from ankle to knee. He freed her foot from its shoe with one hand as the other braced her at the knee, his lips lingering up and down her shin.

Lena nearly collapsed when he pressed kisses to the top of her foot, but his hand tightened at her knee, steadying her before setting down one foot, and lifting the other to take its place. This leg received not only kisses, but a long, warm swipe from his tongue.

“Luke,” she whispered, thoroughly seduced by his careful attention. Sex had never made her feel so powerful, so beautiful, as these brief moments of foreplay with him.

He lowered her leg, and rose, settling his hands on her hips, fingers toying with her underwear. Lena pushed his shirt completely off his shoulders, letting it pool around his elbows, imprisoning his arms. Now that she was barefoot, he was half a head taller than her, and Lena leaned into his naked chest, exploring the feel of her breasts against his hard, hot flesh. His lips tenderly brushed her forehead, but Lena didn’t want tender—she wanted passion.

Fluttering her fingers down the luscious ripples of his abdomen, Lena unbuckled his belt and undid the button of his pants. She left the zipper up and stroked the soft skin of his belly behind his waistband. Luke shivered, pecs twitching, and Lena couldn’t wait to touch that same spot with her tongue.

She explored his cock through the front of his pants before lowering the zipper and pushing both pants and boxers down his hips. Resting her hands on his bare hips, thumbs flirting with the diagonal dent of muscle just above his hipbones, Lena lowered herself to her knees, dropping hot, open-mouthed kisses along his chest as she went. Kneeling before him, she examined his cock, which was more than adequate. Thick and uncircumcised, already fully erect, Luke’s handsome cock lived up to the promise of his beautiful face. Tugging his pants below his knees, Lena planted a hand on his belly and pushed, toppling him back onto the chair and pressing herself against his knees, her nipples abraded by the coarse hair on his legs.

“Lena,” he moaned, as she pulled back his foreskin to lick the head of his cock.

“Don’t forget to tell me what you like,” she whispered, before sliding her lips around him. His hips popped off the chair, fingers digging into the arms, elbows still trapped by his shirt, and though she was the one on her knees, Lena felt powerful.

Usually she sucked a guy as a bargaining tool. If she gave him oral sex she could expect the same in return, and that was one of the only reliable ways she had an orgasm. But, as she worked his thickness between her teeth, lapping at his cock, which was salty with precome, Lena wasn’t thinking about power plays or bargaining. All she thought about were his legs against her breasts, his chest beneath her questing fingers and his cock in her mouth.

“Lena, Lena,” he moaned, voice deepening to a hoarse rumble. With his cock still in her mouth, she looked up, meeting his eyes. As she’d expected, the sight of his cock in her mouth drove Luke higher. She could feel his reaction in the twitching in his cock, but he surprised her when he said, “I can’t contain myself too much longer—is this what you want?”

Lena slipped him out of her mouth, sliding one hand around him and fisting him up and down, keeping him near the edge. “No, I don’t want you to come like this. I want you inside me, hard and hot.”

He jerked in her fist, and for a moment his eyes flashed in the dark, like those of a cat. A great riiiiip rent the silence, and then Luke grabbed her, his torn shirt dangling from his forearms. He drove her down into the carpet, pushing her down with his body, letting her feel every pound of muscle and bone.

He shoved her legs open, his cock brushing over the front of her panties. The tip of his cock pushed at her, forcing the fabric into the drenching wetness between the lips of her sex.

He bumped her clit, and Lena almost came. “God, Luke, please. No, wait, condom.” Cursing herself for almost forgetting protection, Lena used her hands to maneuver him away from her pussy.

“What?” he growled. Fear shot through Lena, dumping adrenaline into her system. There was something almost unworldly about the bass rumble of his voice. She could feel it low in her belly. Luke leaned in, and Lena, without knowing why, whimpered and turned her face away.

Luke, his incredible cheekbones highlighted by the pale light that filtered through the windows, stopped. He held still above her and Lena’s moment of fear passed. She looked at him—his expression was one of puzzlement.

“Condom?”

Lena stretched for a drawer in the side table, pulling it completely out. Under the folder of Variety clippings she kept to reference while watching TV, Lena found a handful of condoms, left from a brief dating stint with a guy who only liked fucking on the floor.

She held up one of the black foil packets. “Condom. Sorry, but we’re not doing this bareback.” She held it out to Luke, who stared at her hand, making no move to take it.

Lena’s arousal was deflating rapidly, so she ripped it open and pushed Luke onto his back with a hand on his shoulder. He had toed off his shoes at some point, so Lena used the opportunity to strip him of his boxers.

Luke watched her from under hooded lids as Lena straddled his thighs and slipped the condom on. His refusal to do it himself, and the pause in foreplay, had dimmed her ardor. Handling his hot cock, rolling the slippery latex over him, watching his back arch and fists clench, brought her arousal back, full force.

Lena stroked his balls, using a firm touch so it wouldn’t tickle. “I thought you were supposed to be undressing me?”

The words were a challenge, a tease, and he took the bait. In the next breath Lena was once more on her back, with Luke looming over her, his fingers slipping down into the front of her panties. Lena planted her heels and arched her hips, pushing herself onto his hand. His finger grazed her clit—her world exploded. The orgasm rocked her, had her hips helplessly rubbing against his hand, the continued stimulation keeping her suspended at the pinnacle of the orgasm.

“Naughty girl.” Luke pulled his hand from her panties and pushed her hips down. Lena sucked in a deep breath and looked at her lover. He was smiling, in a smug, predatory way. “You just found fulfillment, didn’t you?”

“You couldn’t tell?” she asked, raising a brow.

Luke leaned down and kissed her, pushing his tongue firmly between her teeth, fucking her mouth. When he pulled away her lips felt swollen, abused.

“I could tell. Can you reach peak again?”

Lena smiled slightly at his odd word choice, loving how formal it made him seem. In the dark, with the moonlight highlighting his face, creating shadows under his brows and cheekbones, his low accented voice oozing around her, Lena felt like a lush flower in a tropical jungle.

“Yes.” She whispered her reply, stroking his chest.

He smiled in the dark, and slid his hand back into her panties. “Good.”

It was almost too soon, her body too sensitive, but his fingertips played over her clit, and soon she was gasping and moaning beneath him, her nails raking lines over his chest and arms. He kissed her, tasting her moans as she twisted beneath him, his fingers stroking and swirling her engorged clit.

He circled around her clit, the broad tip of his finger avoiding the sensitive peak, so that tightness built low in her belly. When this reached its zenith, when Lena felt like a wind up toy wound as tight as she could go, he changed the movement, touching her clit with a single long, hard stroke.

She bit his lip when she came, not meaning to but unable to stop herself as her body went rigid with pleasure. Luke growled menacingly, and Lena whimpered, mind swirling in a spiral of pleasure and fear and want. She was afraid of how deeply this orgasm affected her, though the minute it started to fade, she craved it again, like a junkie looking for her next fix.

“Luke, Luke, Luke.” His name was a mantra on her lips, a sweet invocation. He slid down her body, pausing at her breasts to suck and bite each nipple. He settled between her legs, his muscle-roped shoulders forcing them wide. He licked her soaked panties, pushing them between the lips of her sex.

“Watch me,” he growled, and Lena looked down the length of her torso to see him bite the fabric over her clit, which was clearly visible as a small bump. His jaws closed, teeth coming together, sliding over her, now pinching her clit before he came away from her with a thin fold of panty between his teeth.

It was too much for Lena, who was almost brought to a third shattering orgasm by the sight of her dark panties between his strong white teeth.

“Now, now, now. Please. I need you in me, now.”

He moved back, pulling the fabric from between the folds of her body. When it wouldn’t stretch any farther, Luke took the crotch of her panties between his hands and ripped them. Wearing the tattered remains of her underwear like a belt, Lena grabbed at Luke’s shoulders, impressed by his control, his thoroughness, but wanting him in her now, now, now!

“Damn it, Luke, now!”

He came down on top of her, pushing her arms up over her head so he could brace himself on his elbows. “Bend your legs, spread them wider.”

Lena obeyed, spreading herself until her body was wide and vulnerable under his.

“Look at me, look at me.”

Lena looked up into his eyes, and for the second time they seemed to flash in the dark. She ran her hands up and down his arms, feeling the dips and hollows of the muscles that corded beneath the skin on his arms and back. She felt the weight of his gaze with the same reality that she felt the weight of his lower body pressing down on her.

His hips flexed, cock sliding against her slick flesh. He bent to kiss her, his hips going still, and when he broke the kiss, he slammed into her. She was wet and ready, his cock digging deep into her welcoming body. Lena could barely breathe for the perfect pleasure of it, the deep beauty of being so truly connected to another being.

He pulled out and thrust again, filling her. The thrusts were deliberate and slow, testing, but on the third he started a rhythm. Lena wrapped her legs up and over his ass so she could feel the muscles flex.

She rose to meet him as he surged into her, filling her completely each time before retreating. They fucked until sweat slicked both their bodies, until Lena wondered how she’d lived without knowing what it was to have him fill her.

He sped up, breaking their shared gaze to bury his face in her neck, licking the salty skin there. He was close, and so was she.

Her belly was tight, constricted as if held by a band, and when he thrust a final time, throwing his head back, that band split, her body catapulting into the orgasm. Luke cried out as his long drawn-out orgasm claimed him, the sound dim and far away as Lena withered in the throes of her own physical bliss.

When the pleasure finally started to fade, Luke slipped out of her and rolled on his side, one hand splayed over her belly, head resting on his other arm. Lena blinked and the ceiling came back into focus. She could feel her heartbeat in her sex and the ghostly impression of his cock deep within her.

With what little energy she could muster, Lena turned her head to look at Luke. His face was serious, eyes hidden by shadows, deep brackets of concern around his mouth.

“Did you enjoy that?”

Lena blinked in confusion. How could he even ask?

She looked him over, from his awesome shoulders, chiseled chest and belly, to his softening cock still imprisoned within the condom. All she could think was—mine.

“Lena? Did you enjoy it?”

Returning her gaze to his face, she let a grin spread across her mouth, and when he answered her with a tentative smile, she pounced on him.

~

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