Published 2016 by Book Boutiques.
Copyright © 2016, Sami Lee.
All rights reserved.
As a rule, Alice Wilkie didn’t participate in fix-ups. Just because she was on the other side of thirty and once again unattached did not mean she was looking for a serious relationship. She’d been there, thank you, and come out of it feeling raw and battle weary. She had an extensive DVD library and no one to hog the remote. Right now, she didn’t need a man.
Unfortunately, the more Alice made this declaration to her well-meaning neighbor Yolanda Kaminski, the less the elderly lady seemed to believe her. Mrs. K was always trying to set Alice up with the “nice young men” she met through her network of friends—all retired ladies keen to offload their single or divorced sons onto any woman who’d take them.
Alice looked at the man sitting beside her at the bar of Maxine’s, a popular place in Broadbeach. He saw her glance and wiggled his eyebrows at her. Alice forced a smile that hurt her cheeks. Ron Akron. Why had she relented to Yolanda’s prodding? She’d let a little old lady set her up with one of her friend’s sons, a used-car salesman no less, one with a pronounced paunch and an even more pronounced bald spot. One who should have come wearing a warning sign: boring, self-inflated pain in the ass ahead. Proceed with caution. Subject may get grabby when intoxicated.
She’d thought it couldn’t do any harm just to meet with the guy. Even though she wasn’t in the mood for anything serious, a bit of casual male companionship wouldn’t go amiss, not to mention the occasional bout of life-affirming sex. She knew none of that was going to happen if she refused to be open-minded about meeting new men.
The idea of having life-affirming sex with Ron made her cringe, so Alice wasn’t so sure being open-minded had a lot going for it.
“Yeah, so I said to the guy, ‘I can’t do a deal for any less than forty-five thousand’. This is a Peugeot we’re talking about. Beautiful midnight blue, only two years old. Driven by a boring old coot who never pushed it past sixty—you know what I mean?” Ron laughed, making the scent of scotch waft over Alice’s face in an unpleasant wave. “Did he take me for some kind of chump? My ass, Steelers were going to do him a deal for thirty-nine ninety-nine.”
“The imported car dealer down the road. I told you that already, Alison.”
Alice figured he must have mentioned it during one of the many diatribes in which she’d drifted off to compose a mental shopping list. Milk, bread, peanut butter. A big inflatable mallet to hit Yolanda over the head with.
Alice pushed out a sigh. Okay, cancel the mallet. Yolanda was sixty-eight and way too sweet to inflict even pretend violence upon. “It’s Alice,” she halfheartedly corrected him.
“Right, right.” Ron nodded, his attention no longer on her. He swiveled on his barstool and caught the bartender’s eye. Then he swirled the ice in his nearly empty glass and held up two fingers.
He hadn’t even asked her if she wanted another chardonnay but apparently she was getting one. Alice knew she had already wasted enough time with this guy and certainly that Ron could do without another double scotch on the rocks. Yet she bit down on her impatience to leave, wanting to make sure she had enough justification for Yolanda as to why Betty’s lovely son wasn’t her type.
Alice suppressed a sigh. She supposed there could be worse ways to spend her Friday night than drinking wine in the pleasant ambience of one of trendiest wine bars on the Gold Coast. The girl in the corner playing acoustic versions of modern hits wasn’t half-bad. Might as well let Ron buy her another drink before she headed home to her lonely apartment.
Besides, she could always throw the fresh drink in Ron’s face if things got any grimmer. “Forty-five thousand dollars seems a lot to pay for a car,” she remarked as their order arrived.
Apparently her comment came under the definition of sacrilegious in Ron’s little universe. “For a mint-condition Peugeot 307 sport model, double overhead cam, variable valve camshaft and gloss paint? That baby goes from zero to one hundred in ten seconds. Any guy who is gonna skimp on the vehicle that is gonna be his ride has lost his balls. You know what I mean?”
Alice had no earthly idea. “So you’re saying a man’s ride is somehow indicative of his manliness?”
Pleased with her understanding of the situation, Ron winked at her. “Exactly. I mean, I’m sure you check out a guy’s ride before you,” his smile widened into smarmy territory as he reached across from his barstool and put his hand on Alice’s knee, “ride. If you know what I mean.”
Alice glanced down at his hand. He had surprisingly nimble fingers for such a beefy guy. Even as she stared, they slithered uninvited beneath the hem of her all-purpose little black dress, inching dangerously close to the lacy tops of her thigh-high stockings. She’d donned the sexy lingerie two hours ago with the utmost optimism. She should have known better.
“My apartment has a great view of the beach. Feel like taking a drive?”
Oh good grief. This had gone far enough. Alice set her wine on the bar before she gave in to the temptation to toss it in Ron’s face after all. He might deserve it but she’d never done anything that radical in her life. Maybe she simply wasn’t the drink-tossing type. “Itching to show me your double overhead cam, Ron?”
“Oh yeah. Definitely.” His fingers advanced, traveling far beyond appropriate. He gave her an oily grin. “So you’re into it?”
“Forget it, mate. Cars don’t impress her.”
The voice came from behind her and at the sound of it Alice turned and came face-to-face with a trendy purple-and-black-striped business shirt and purple silk tie. A black suit jacket hung casually unbuttoned from an impressively wide pair of shoulders.
The outfit belonged on a billboard advertising high-end menswear. She looked up and saw eyes as blue and clear as swimming pools looking down at her. The face belonged on a billboard too, what with the strong jaw, straight nose and soft lips. And he smelled good. The subtle hint of some classy aftershave clung to his clothes, tickling Alice’s olfactory senses and making her forget all about the cloying scent Ron had splashed on.
It took Alice a few seconds to find her voice. “Excuse me—do I know you?”
Mr. Handsome placed a hand to his chest as though fending off a fatal blow. “How soon she forgets.” He moved forward, inching into the space between her and Ron. The wine bar was crowded with the after-work drinks crowd, forcing the guy to stand pretty close—so close Alice felt the body heat radiating from him. His eyes flickered in Ron’s direction before refocusing immediately on Alice’s face with a gaze like twin blue lasers. “What’s this? You’re dating again already?”
“Yeah, she is,” Ron piped up, giving Alice’s knee a possessive squeeze. “She’s dating me.”
“You’ve found another victim so soon?” Blue Eyes tilted his lips at her. “I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. You never did like to waste time.”
Alice swiveled on her barstool so she was fully facing the stranger who seemed to think they knew each other. The action had the dual effect of wresting her knee from Ron’s unwanted grip. “I think there’s been some mistake.”
“You bet there has been,” Ron declared bluntly. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing here, mate, but the lady and I are having a private discussion.”
“About cars, I heard. You might as well give it up, mate. The only thing the lady knows about cars is how to wreck the paintwork. But hey,” he held up his hands in a suit yourself gesture, “you want to risk yours, I guess that’s none of my business. I was just trying to help out.”
The man moved on, leaving Alice to blink in continued confusion. He found an empty spot at the horseshoe-shaped bar right behind Ron, where he ordered an imported beer.
Alice was still trying to figure out what had happened when Ron turned on his stool, putting his back to Alice so he could face the other man. “What did you mean by that? About your paintwork?”
“Just that she took a crowbar to the hood of my Alfa,” Mr. Purple Silk Tie replied. “Made a real mess of it too. I don’t even want to tell you what she did to the upholstery.”
“An Alfa, huh?” Ron said, warming to the topic. “I’m guessing…the GT coupe.”
“The Spider. Carmine red, it was. Beautiful.” He referred to Alice with a nod of his head. “At least it was until she got ahold of it. All because she found a list of women’s numbers on my mobile phone. Possessive one, she is. But then you must have figured that if you met through the service.”
Alice could just make out what they were saying above the chatter of other patrons but hearing and understanding where two different things. Putting her foot on the rung of the barstool, she levered herself out of the seat to gain some height. Craning her neck, she tried to see around Ron’s shoulder. “Excuse me, there seems to be a misunder—”
“The service?” Ron asked.
“Jeez, I’m sorry. I didn’t even introduce myself.” He stuck out his hand, as amiable as can be. “I’m Damien De Luca.”
“Ron Akron,” Ron replied absently. “What service?”
“Subs for Doms Dot Com. They set you up with her when you registered, right?”
“No!” Ron spluttered.
“No?” Damien’s brows arched. “Hmm. She was pretty active on there back when we knew each other.”
Alice’s heel slipped on the chair rung, causing her to fall back into the seat with a plop. She shook her head, trying to clear it. Either this guy had mistaken her for someone else or he was certifiable.
Ron whirled on Alice. “You’re not into…you know, stuff like that, are you?”
She’d never even heard of subsfordoms.com. Alice opened her mouth to say so, when she caught the expression on the mysterious Damien De Luca’s face, which she could just see around Ron’s bulk. Mirth, as if he was having a hard time holding back a laugh. She read his amusement loud and clear before he swiped his Heineken off the bar and took a gulp straight from the bottle. This was no case of mistaken identity. He was messing with her date on purpose.
The nerve! And why on earth?
Anger at the presumptuous stranger morphed back into impatience with Ron. “I said my name is Alice.”
At her tone, Ron reared back, swaying on the barstool in his eagerness to put distance between them. What a difference the possibility of her being a whip-wielding Dominatrix had made. There was genuine alarm in his eyes. “Okay, don’t get aggro. My Mercedes isn’t even mine—it’s leased.”
“Leased?” He’d thought he could impress her into bed with a leased Mercedes? How very charming. She looked at him askance. “Where’s your sense of commitment, Ron?”
“Whoa. I never said anything about being the commitment type.”
Alice fancied she could see the man breaking out in hives right before her eyes. Pressing her advantage, she placed a hand on his leg, inching her fingernails up his thigh. Ron flinched. Seemed he didn’t like being physically harassed any more than she had. Alice smothered a grin. Let’s see how you like it, buddy. The beautiful stranger might have started this line of discussion but she could certainly use it to suit her own ends.
“But I expect a certain level of devotion from all my boys, Ron,” she purred. “You’ll get used to the collar, and pain makes pleasure that much more intense.”
“Collar?” Ron’s face started to turn as purple as Damien’s silk tie. “Are you out of your mind?”
“Just because a woman knows her needs and demands they be met, is that insanity?” She dug her fingernails a little harder into Ron’s fleshy thigh and lowered her voice. “Have you ever worn a cock ring, Ron?”
Ron’s response was to leap off his barstool and back away from her as though he’d just discovered she had rabies. “No! That’s just sick!”
Alice let out a put-upon sigh. “If you can’t fall into line with what I want, I don’t see this relationship going anywhere.”
“We don’t have a relationship. I bought you a drink, that’s all.” Ron jabbed a finger at her. “You. Stay away from my car. And you,” his pointed finger swung to Damien, “you can have her.”
Ron made a departure that could only be described as panicked. Once he was gone, as smoothly as though things had turned out exactly as he’d intended them to, Damien De Luca took the seat Ron had vacated. He turned so he was facing Alice. Their knees almost touched. He openly assessed her with those sparkling, audacious eyes. “Did you hear that? Ron says I can have you. So how about I buy you a drink?”
Stunned by all that had just occurred, Alice gestured distractedly at the wineglass on the bar beside her. “Ron already took care of that.”
“Uh-huh. Looked to me like he was about ready to collect something in return for his generosity.”
“So you stepped in and saved me?”
He gave her a self-satisfied smile. “Helping out ladies in distress is a hobby of mine.”
“I see. Did it ever occur to you that Ron and I might have been having a great time?”
With simple surety, he replied, “No.”
He repeated, “No. You looked miserable.”
He accompanied his next words with a smile that would have convinced a virgin to strip off her knickers in three seconds flat. “Gorgeous but miserable. That guy wasn’t right for you.”
“Oh really?” Alice asked, steadfastly ignoring the way her heart picked up pace at that smile and the effortless gorgeous compliment. It had rolled off his tongue with a practiced ease she’d have to be moronic not to be leery of. “And I suppose you think you’re a better candidate?”
He lifted a shoulder, a gesture meant to suggest the answer was obvious. Maybe he had a point, considering that the proximity of his knees to hers was enough to have heat traveling up Alice’s thighs to settle in the V between them.
She really had been alone too long.
Alice studied him in more detail, unable to do anything other than drink him in the way she would any truly spectacular view. He had nice shoulders beneath that quality suit jacket. His hair was so light brown it was almost blonde. Dirty blonde, it would be called if he were a woman—and he definitely wasn’t that. He gave off manly pheromones as noticeably as Ron had given off the scent of bad cologne. A testosterone-fueled wolf in a businessman’s clothing. The kind of man all except the most sexually confident women knew to steer clear of.
Alice was not a sexually confident woman.
“I at least would have stuck around long enough to discuss the finer points of your particular…” He paused and smiled that smile again. “Tastes. You never know, we might have reached a compromise.”
“Oh, I’m not sure your average Dominatrix is a great fan of compromise.”
He chuckled. “It’s funny you chose that role for yourself.”
“You were the one who brought up sadomasochism.”
“But I never said which one of us was supposed to be the sub and which the Dom. You were the one who introduced cock rings to the conversation. Are you a closet Dominatrix, Alice?”
A flush rose to Alice’s cheeks. “Not that it’s any of your business, but no.”
Damien smiled knowingly. “Didn’t think so.”
“Oh really?” Alice hated it when people made assumptions about her. What did this guy think—she didn’t have the moxie to pull off leather and whips? She could rock a pair of thigh-high boots as well as the next girl…if she owned a pair, that was. “Because it’s so very ridiculous, isn’t it? The idea that a man might let a woman take control once in a while. Tell me, are all men so frightened of any and all displays of female power?”
Damien assessed her with shrewdly narrowed eyes. Alice’s cheeks burned hotter when she realized how fervently the words had erupted from her lips. She’d inadvertently given away too much. She’d let some guy in a bar see some of her personal anguish and regret.
And Damien De Luca was not the type to let an insight like that slip by unnoticed.
“So who was it, Alice? Who took away your power?”
“No one.” Alice took a gulp of her wine. Apparently it loosened her tongue because she added, “I gave it away willingly.”
He angled his head. “How so?”
“I got married,” she drawled. “Became the perfect wife, just like everyone expected me to. The thing is, I didn’t realize it wasn’t what I wanted until it was too late.”
Alice stared into her wine, trying to ignore the hot imprint of Damien’s gaze as it traced her profile. But she was ultra-aware of his presence, the heat emanating from his body and the laden interest in his assessment.
Interest. In her. It had been such a long time since a good-looking man even glanced her way that Alice couldn’t tamp down the leap of excitement, nor control the ebullient inflation of her feminine ego. Despite her suspicion he was the dangerous, egotistical type, a dyed-in-the-wool player, his attention was immensely flattering.
Arousing. Not much had aroused her in a long, long time.
“Should I get my hopes up because you’re speaking about your marriage in the past tense?”
“Your hopes.” Alice forced herself to meet his gaze, determined not to shy away even though the eye contact made her thighs clench. “Come on.”
He shrugged at her disbelieving tone. “You’re a smart woman, Alice. You have to know there’s a reason I got rid of your friend Ron—other than pure altruism, of course.”
Alice stared at him until his focused concentration unsettled her so much she had to turn away after all. She glanced around the busy wine bar, seeing table after table of women—girls, really—talking in groups, their scantily clad bodies telegraphing their availability. They outnumbered the men in the bar three to one.
“I don’t get it,” she murmured. “Why me?”
“There’s something about you,” Damien said simply. “I like what I see.”
His bald explanation was more seductive than a flowery line could ever be. Alice’s blood stirred, heating her in places that hadn’t been heated in quite some time.
Jeez, Alice. You’re so easy. She straightened her spine, forcing a brusque tone so she wouldn’t give away that his words had thrilled her just a little. Maybe a lot. “Right, well let’s go then, shall we? Back to your place for a look at the etchings.”
“I wasn’t going to suggest anything like that.” Damien smiled.
Alice’s cheeks tingled with heat once again and she focused her attention on gulping down the last of her wine. She tensed when Damien leaned toward her, coming out of his seat enough that he could slide his cheek softly against hers. He put one hand on the back of her chair to brace his weight, effectively closing her in. Yet rather than feeling trapped, Alice felt warm, sheltered.
The other hand, he rested on her thigh. Beneath his touch, her flesh ignited. Her skin prickled with awareness when Damien brushed his lips ever so lightly over her earlobe.
His voice was filled with husky amusement and suggestive promise. “Because I don’t etch. However, I am open to discussing anything else of mine you might want to see.”
Heat spiraled inside her, expanding like a phoenix that rose, wings stretching, from the ashes of her once healthy sexual appetite. Flames flickered to life, fanned by the weight of Damien’s hand resting on her thigh. On top of the dress, not under it like Ron, yet it seemed so, so much more intimate. He stroked her lightly, enough to make the slinky fabric shift against the skin left bare above the tops of her stockings.
Alice knew the instant he encountered the garters by the way his hand froze. The slight hitch in his breath was a dead giveaway as well. She might have been out of practice but at thirty-four years of age she wasn’t naïve. She was aware of the effect sexy lingerie could have on the average man.
Not that Damien De Luca brought the word average to mind.
He pulled back far enough so he could see into her eyes. “Well, well, Alice. You’re not as proper or nice as you appear to be.”
Alice struggled to catch her breath. She fought even harder to sound cavalier in the face of his flirtatious tone and the hot imprint of his hand where it still rested on her thigh. “And how nice did you think I was?”
“Too nice. The kind of nice that made you sit through twenty-five minutes of excruciating conversation with a drunk used-car salesman because you were too polite to tell him to rack off.”
“I was just about to do it when you intervened.”
“Twenty minutes too late. He was beneath you. I knew it from the second I saw you with him from across the room.”
He’d watched her from across the room? For a whole twenty-five minutes? The knowledge should have creeped her out but somehow it didn’t. Was it because he was sinfully handsome? Shallow, Alice. Very shallow.
At last Damien moved away, resting once more against the back of his stool and giving Alice some much-needed space. He lifted his beer and took a long pull, finishing off the remains of the bottle. Alice gazed at the sensuous undulation of his throat muscles. Sensuous. Dear lord, she was horny if she thought a man swilling beer was sexy.
He rested his empty bottle on the bar and pinned her with his blue-eyed stare. “I’d like to be more forward with you, Alice.”
Alice sputtered a laugh. “You haven’t been doing that already?”
“No way. I’ve been holding back.” That roguish grin curved his lips and Alice nearly melted. She didn’t even want to imagine how Damien De Luca would behave if he wasn’t holding back.
That was a lie. She did want to, was already imagining it in fact. He was the take-charge type. If they were alone he’d have her pinned to the wall by now, his mouth on hers, his hands… Her breathing quickened as she pictured all the places she’d be willing to let him put his hands. Basically everywhere. And his tongue—his impossibly arrogant, clever tongue. She wanted that everywhere too.
Her nether regions throbbed, a hard pulse of base lust. She was hot for him. A complete stranger who’d barely touched her and she was fired up like a race car that had been held back in the pit too long.
She wanted to burn rubber. So. Bad.
Alice started when he grasped her barstool and moved it forward, bringing her closer to him. In the process, one of his knees nudged between her thighs, effectively parting them. Alice held her breath when Damien’s hand skimmed along her silk stocking, moving up and up her leg, under her dress, until his fingers brushed the bare flesh of her inner thigh.
Her heart started a rhythm that had cardiac arrest written all over it. Wet heat pooled in Alice’s panties, panties Damien was going to touch if he kept moving his hand higher and higher…
“What are you doing?” She wished her question sounded more like an objection and less like a wistful moan.
“I’m just touching you.” His voice was blasé while his hand was being downright impertinent. The disparity increased the whirling confusion that existed where Alice’s common sense used to be. “Why so tense?”
“Are you being intentionally obtuse or are… Oh God!” Alice flinched, her whole body jerking when Damien’s fingertip tickled the satin of her panties. His behavior was shocking, unseemly, indecent. She ought to leap off the barstool right now and slap him across his impudent, smiling face.
Alice was quite sure she would have done it too if her synapses were in any kind of working order. She knew she was supposed to upbraid him but her knees were too weak. The fevered excitement coursing through her system made her hot and cold all at once.
This can’t be happening. It can’t be happening…
“You’re wet,” Damien remarked, once more brushing his fingers over the damp material covering her crotch. “No way did Ron do that.”
God, he was smug. Alice lowered her voice to a hiss. “You made me wet. So?”
“So…I bet I could make you come too.” To back up his statement, Damien added the slightest pressure with his fingers, right against her inflamed clit.
It throbbed in response, sending hot shivers over Alice’s body. Her mouth dried out but when she reached for her wineglass she saw it was empty. When did that happen?
When had her entire world spun out of control?
With a start Alice realized she wasn’t doing anything to stop Damien’s skillful explorations. If anything her legs had melted farther apart, desire and want pervading her body like a hit of some opiate. Her pussy clenched, yearning for his fingers. Would he do that—go that far right here in a public bar?
Suddenly panicked, Alice glanced around at the other patrons, expecting to see shocked expressions, accusing stares. Some people talked in groups, some sat together as couples, all of them only interested in their companions. In the murky light, nobody was paying attention to her. The full skirt of her dress hid Damien’s hand from any prying eyes anyway.
“No one’s looking.” Damien’s murmured words confirmed her thoughts. “Relax, Alice.”
Relax? Every nerve ending in her body was on red alert, straining in anticipation. Her nipples ached where they pressed against the lacy cups of her bra. Her breathing had shallowed, become little more than a series of weak pants as Damien stroked his sure finger over her. Alice lost oxygen altogether when he found the edge of her flimsy underwear and slipped his finger beneath it.
The bartender came to collect their empties and Alice froze, her heart in her throat. As cool as can be, as though his fingers weren’t inside her panties, nearly inside her, Damien asked the server for two glasses of water. Then the guy disappeared, showing no sign he’d noticed the flush in her cheeks or the position of Damien’s hand beneath her skirt. Alice let out a slow breath.
Her relief was short-lived. Tension coiled in her belly once more when Damien leaned close and said, “Before he gets back, I’m going to make you come.”
Nothing like a time limit to pile on the sense of urgency. For a moment the fog cleared a little and Alice thought of telling him to stick it, of storming out like she should have five minutes ago. But then Damien gave her swollen clit a good, long stroke. Her thighs began to quiver uncontrollably. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. It had already started and Alice didn’t want to stop.
It had been so long, over a year since she’d known a man’s intimate touch. And she’d never been touched quite like this, with so much confidence and authority. Damien strummed her clit the way a skilled musician did an instrument, making beautiful music vibrate through her frame. She yearned to feel that strong, talented finger thrust hard and deep inside her but in this position he couldn’t go quite that far. The sense of denial was a frustration and a turn-on at once.
The bartender was still filling their water glasses when the inevitable hit her like an electric pulse. Alice had to grip the bar with one hand and cover her mouth with the other. She stifled the moans of release as she came hard against Damien’s circling finger. Wetness spilled into her panties in a rush.
Damien muttered a curse that she barely heard over the pounding of blood in her ears. He gave her clit a parting flick before slowly withdrawing his hand from her underwear. The second the bartender set their water glasses on the bar, Alice grabbed hers and took a thirsty sip from the straw, trying to soothe her parched throat.
Too bad she couldn’t soothe her sense of shame so easily. She stared at the ice swirling in her glass, afraid to look at Damien. What must he think of her? No doubt that she was some desperate divorcée who was so deprived of a man’s touch she came apart at the slightest provocation.
In other words, the truth.
Still without looking at him, Alice gathered her evening bag from where she’d hooked it over the back of the barstool and stood. “Well, that was…” She had no words, something that would have shocked her ex-husband Cal. He always told her she talked everything to death, that it took all the fun out of things. Not so boring now, am I, Cal? Boring people didn’t let strangers finger them in public. She was pretty sure it was against the boring person code.
“Alice.” Damien’s hands on her hips stopped her from escaping as she badly wanted to. “The word you’re looking for is ‘amazing’. That was amazing.”
“Not the word I was thinking of but I suppose it applies,” Alice drawled. “I think I should go.”
“Wait.” His grip tightened. “Are you going to look at me?”
“Oh, I think eye contact is overrated.”
“Alice.” The note of censure in his voice provoked an automatic response in her.
Her acquiescence annoyed her yet Alice couldn’t stop herself from doing as he bid. She met his gaze, expecting to find an expression of triumph on his too-handsome face. Instead she saw reverence, respect, even approval. His blue eyes, which had sparkled with arrogance before, were now warm with a kindness Alice hadn’t expected to see in him.
His voice was soft and rough at the same time. “You’re beautiful.”
With him still seated and her standing in heels, they were perfectly aligned. Before she could think better of it, Alice moved forward and pressed her mouth to his. Immediately he drove a hand into her curls, holding her head still so she couldn’t back away. His tongue nudged at her lips and she found herself capitulating. She parted on a sigh, allowing his tongue to sweep inside her mouth and take possession.
The kiss was breathtaking, somehow more intimate than his making her orgasm had been. Alice was stunned when the desire she’d thought quenched rose within her anew, making her nipples prod at the silky front of her dress.
She was disconcerted and more than a little embarrassed by her reaction to him. As though sensing her instinctive urge to flee, Damien kept a firm grip on her with one hand while his other gently massaged her scalp. The twin touches both prevented her from breaking away and coaxed her to remain.
When the kiss finally ended, Alice was very much aware it was Damien’s decision to stop, not hers. She was breathless and aroused, her thoughts in such a mess that when he spoke his words made no sense at first.
“I have a room at the place across the road.”
Alice blinked, wondering what he was talking about. A room, as in a hotel room, dummy. She tried to muster some outrage that he was inviting her to his room on so short an acquaintance but she couldn’t, not considering what she’d already let him do.
“I can’t leave a bar with a man I don’t even know.” Alice grasped for a reason other than her sense of decency, which had taken a powder the second she let him finger her in public. “It’s dangerous.”
“Perhaps the fact we don’t know each other is what makes it safe.”
For the briefest instant his eyes were crystal clear, revealing a depth Alice hadn’t expected. She’d thought him a player, a hedonistic creature and a man who always got what he wanted. But with his words and the flickering shadow that crossed his expression, Alice saw a person for whom making human connections had proven difficult, even painful.
Welcome to the club.
Alice fought against the tug of empathy that made her heart shift. No way should her heart have anything to do with this, even if she decided to take things further. Perhaps especially if. The fact we don’t know each other is what makes it safe. Maybe the mysterious and sexy Damien De Luca had a point.
“Tell you what, I’ll give you this.” He pulled a slim card from his inside jacket pocket and handed it to her. “You should call a friend you trust and give her my details, tell her where you’ll be. The hotel I’m staying in also has a twenty-four-hour concierge and security cameras. I’m not inviting you to my room so I can chop you into little pieces.”
That was a possibility she certainly should have considered before he brought it up. Very remiss of her not to assume he was a serial killer. She read the silver-on-black printing on the card. She looked up at him in surprise. “You’re a doctor?”
Damien laughed softly. “Of like…medicine.”
“Oh.” Alice blushed now that she realized what a dumb question she’d asked. Dr. Damien De Luca wasn’t the buried-in-dusty-research-books type. She read the card again and registered that his business address was a place in Sydney. An out-of-town address, a hotel room…this obviously wasn’t the beginning of anything long-term.
Which was good. Alice had no desire to get into another relationship right now. But she’d never actually had sex with someone she knew there was no relationship potential with. Casual sex, for the sake of sex and nothing more. She’d thought she wanted it but had never actually had it. What would it be like?
Damien stood, his height dwarfing her. Alice was five feet nine so it took a tall guy to make her feel like that. He bent down and murmured in her ear, “I really enjoyed what we just did but I’d rather get you alone so I could be more…thorough.”
Alice’s knees wobbled. Thorough… Oh God. Damien seemed like a true A type, the kind who had to be the best at everything. Based on her experiences with Cal, which had been satisfying but fairly nondescript, Alice knew instinctively Damien De Luca might be the best lover she’d ever have. If she took the risk and let him be.
Sex for the sake of sex and nothing more, with a walking, talking Ryan Gosling meme with edge. Hey girl, I’m going to rub your feet and feed you chocolate-coated strawberries, then I’m going to fuck you in five different positions and make you come repeatedly until you pass out.
The idea certainly had appeal.
“Think about it, Alice. Room 1208 at the Park Towers. I’ll be waiting.”
Alice stood outside the door to 1208 so long she might well have worn a hole in the hotel-issue beige carpet. She’d thought the decision had been made when she walked across the street to the Park Towers, when she pushed the button for the twelfth floor in the lift. She realized now the real turning point was right here, right now, outside his door.
You can still turn back. Alice closed her eyes in an attempt to center herself, get to the truth of what she really wanted. The lack of visual stimuli intensified all the other sensations rioting inside her. Desire, intensely carnal, pumped through her blood, mixed with a nervous anticipation that produced sweaty palms. It was a potent combination that made her feel slightly seasick.
In the end the desire won—or maybe it was simply a case of being fed up with her own indecisiveness. Alice lifted her hand and knocked on the door.
When it swung back a few seconds later, Damien De Luca stood in the entryway wearing a self-assured smile and no shoes. Alice stared at his bare feet because facing that smile and not melting into the hall carpet seemed impossible. When she figured her staring would begin to seem odd, Alice forced her gaze to travel upward, over his dark trousers, the untucked tails of his striped shirt. He’d shucked his jacket and the ends of his purple tie dangled on either side of his open lapels.
The view of smooth, strong chest and rippled abs revealed by his loosened buttons almost did her in. She was pretty sure she whimpered.
Damien said, her name a question, “Alice?”
Alice replied, an answer to everything, “Yes.”
She stepped over the threshold and wound her arms around his neck, sagging against him. The heat of his bare chest penetrated her clothes and her breasts tingled. Damien—thank goodness—had the presence of mind to push the door shut.
He buried a hand in her hair. His grip was taut, enough to exert control without causing discomfort. He began to lay a trail of kisses over her face, gentle butterfly kisses that belied the tension coiled in his body.
He whispered, “I was afraid you wouldn’t come.”
“I told myself not to…about thirty-eight times.”
“What made you come up?” He kissed the tip of her nose, a strangely affectionate gesture that caused Alice’s heart to trip in a way she didn’t want it to.
“Are you conducting a survey? Trying to improve your game?”
At her arch question he let out a disapproving grunt and gave her a sharp tap on the behind. “Can the sarcasm, Alice. I don’t want to spend all night working to get past your defenses.”
The little smack he’d given her sent sensation radiating outward. Her backside warmed, and at the prospect of all night, everything else did too.
“Okay,” she rasped. “I came up because I really need a man to… I don’t know. Remind me that I’m not dead below the waist.”
Her admission mortified her, as did Damien’s emphatic response. “You’re not. I felt you downstairs, remember? I’ve never known a woman to get so wet, so fast.”
“Oh, I doubt that.” The man probably made women cream their panties just by walking into a room.
“You’re making a habit of doubting me—and yourself.” He brushed his lips across hers, teasing her with an almost kiss. He pulled back enough so their eyes met. “I’m the first since your husband, aren’t I?”
Embarrassed, Alice nodded. “It’s been over a year, so forgive me if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
Damien loosened his grip on her, gave her a little space. “You want me to be gentle with you?”
“God, no.” Alice struggled not to blush again as Damien laughed at her blurted response.
He released her entirely and stepped back, eyeing her as though seeing her for the first time. “You know, I think I really like you.”
Alice shrugged, using humor to pretend she wasn’t warmed by the declaration as she followed him farther into the room. “You’re quite lickable yourself.”
He cocked a brow at her intentional mispronunciation. “Tell you what, I’ll let you lick anything you want…if you take off your dress.”
“Wow. Straight to it, huh?”
Amusement twinkled in his eyes. “I could offer you a drink, we could talk some more.”
The implication being that he’d simply be biding his time until she was ready for what she really came here for. Like she was a nervous virgin and he the school rugby captain. Grow up, Alice. “No, I’ve had enough to drink. Let’s do this.”
He chuckled softly. “It’s not a physical exam, you know.”
“I’m sorry if that sounded crass.”
Alice looked around the room. A standard-issue hotel bed—king sized—a flat-screen television turned off. The bathroom was to the left and the view of the Gold Coast skyline, with its glittering skyscrapers imprinted against the black expanse of the Pacific, on the right. A two-seater sofa in chocolate brown was set against the white-painted wall adjacent to the window.
Damien moved toward it and sat with his arm across the sofa back and an expectant look on his face.
“So you really want me to…” Alice gestured to her dress.
Jeez. A little help might have been nice. “I would have thought undressing women was one of your skills. Doctor’s hands and all that.”
“I’m not a surgeon. The mood I’m in, if I take it off I might rip something.”
Curiosity spiked at the hint he’d given her about his job. Alice wanted to know what kind of doctor he was but she quashed the interest. She hadn’t forgotten what he’d said downstairs. Knowing too much about him seemed dangerous.
Stripping in front of him was terrifying.
Alice flicked her gaze toward the bedside lamps that illuminated the room. “Do you think you could—”
“The lights stay on. You don’t want kid gloves, so strip.”
Well, she had specified that whole don’t be gentle thing. Except she hadn’t exactly thought this was what he meant.
Come on, Alice, are you a woman or a little mouse?
With trembling fingers, Alice reached for the zipper at the back of the silky dress and drew it down. The room’s air-conditioning touching her bare skin raised gooseflesh. Closing her eyes tight, she let the garment drop to the ground.
The silence was deafening until Damien noted, his voice amused, “Just because you can’t see me, doesn’t mean I can’t see you.”
“I know that.”
“Stop shying away from me. Open your eyes.”
That authoritarian tone was back in his voice, the one Alice responded to without thinking. The one that made her quiver with anticipation and the finest edge of alarm. She had no idea what he would do if she defied him but right now she didn’t want to find out.
Or maybe you do. Alice recalled that impromptu spank Damien had given her backside a few moments ago and her thighs clenched.
Breathing rapidly, Alice lifted her eyelids to find Damien gazing at her with heat in his eyes. His focus tracked downward, over the swell of her breasts encased in a black balconette bra trimmed in cream lace, down toward the matching panties, over her stomach—
Ack! She’d forgotten about her stomach. Alice reflexively twined her arms around it so he wouldn’t see the flabbiness that had accumulated due to her failure to set a regular gym schedule.
Immediately, Damien reproached her. “Don’t do that. Put your hands behind your back and keep them there.”
His command and the steely thread in it made Alice’s breath hitch. That leap of fear made her comply but when her hands rested at the base of her spine and she could no longer hide herself from Damien, it wasn’t fear that kept them there. Her nipples and clit throbbed with the telltale signs of burning, forceful lust. He was looking at her openly now and her inability—or was it unwillingness?—to hide herself liberated something inside her.
“Gorgeous,” Damien complimented her, his voice rough. He stood and walked toward her, his approaching nearness obliterating the slight chill in the room. There was an unmistakable gleam of approval in his eyes. When he reached up and cupped her breast, her knees buckled.
Damien steadied her with a hand on her waist. With the other he began kneading her flesh, turning it ripe and heavy. Alice swayed into his touch. Instinctively, she reached up, intent on gripping his shoulders.
“No, Alice.” Abandoning her breast, he grasped her arms and put them behind her back once more. With one hand, he held both hers at the base of her spine, applying a little force. Enough to make her feel the stretch in her muscles. Enough to thrust her chest out so her erect nipples grazed his pectorals.
Enough to make Alice whimper in a way she never had before—with a combination of trepidation and excitement.
Damien brushed his lips over her temple, a soothing gesture to nullify her anxiety. “Did you call your friend?”
Alice had to search her mind to work out what he was referring to. When she remembered, her momentary concern subsided. “Yes. She’s my oldest friend from school, the only one I felt I could tell.” She and Emma had covered for each other countless times during their early, single-girl hijinks. Their lives had gone down different paths but they’d never lost touch.
“You told her all about me?”
Alice nodded. “She’s expecting a call later. She’s on night shift…as a police officer.”
At that, Damien laughed. “You really know how to pick a safety buddy. That’s good. I want you to be safe.” Tilting her head back, Damien lightly scraped her throat with his teeth, making Alice wonder if she could ever truly be safe locked in a room with a man like him. “I also want to tie you up.”
Perhaps sensing the way her body stiffened, Damien pulled back so he could see into her eyes. He watched her closely, gauging her reaction. “Only your hands. Does that bother you?”
His grip on her wrists seemed tighter all of a sudden, his words making Alice aware her hands were already in effect bound. She wasn’t exactly objecting to that and her body screamed with hot delight every time her breasts brushed his chest. If he tied her wrists, both his hands would be free to do…whatever they wanted.
Alice wet her lips, hardly believing the answer she gave. “No. I mean I don’t think so. I’ve never had anyone do that.”
“It’s not about pain. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Having control really pushes my buttons. And you, Alice, can’t help but want to please people. I saw that downstairs and I saw how someone could take advantage of that. I don’t want to take advantage, I want to reward you for it. Do you understand?”
Although she wasn’t sure she did, the prospect of reward provided a powerful incentive. Alice nodded. “I think so.”
“Good.” He released her wrists and stepped back. Alice watched with a quivering heart as he slowly slid the purple tie he wore from the collar of his shirt. “Take off that bra.”
It was insane that she was so aroused by the fact he told her to do things, rather than asked. Had she learned nothing from eight years of a marriage where she blindly went along with whatever her husband wanted? Maybe not, but somehow Alice sensed this situation was different. There was a reward in store for her cooperation, her obedience. Ridiculous as it might be to trust Damien, she did trust him on that at least.
Alice reached for the hooks at her back and released them. She let the lacy garment slide down her arms and off, until it dropped to the floor. She didn’t try to hide herself this time. Her insecurity about her stomach and thighs didn’t extend to her breasts, which were full and relatively firm for a woman in her thirties.
Damien smiled as though he agreed. He touched the end of his silk tie to her nipples, so lightly Alice almost didn’t feel it, yet her body reacted as though he’d pinched her.
With measured steps, he moved until he stood behind her then he grabbed her wrists and began binding them with his tie. He wrapped it around her a few times, securing her wrists tight together. “Can you get free?”
Alice wriggled her fingers but she couldn’t find the knot. She tried to move her hands together but there wasn’t enough give in the bindings. “No.”
Alice tried to figure out what he meant for her to say, what he wanted to hear. “No, Damien. I can’t get free.”
He let out a breath that was hot on her shoulder. The stutter in it told her what she’d said notched his arousal higher. Was that what he wanted? For her to admit aloud she couldn’t get away from him? Would he ask her to beg for her freedom for the sole purpose of denying her?
He twined his arms around her and covered her breasts with his hands. The warmth and glorious pressure were heaven and Alice moaned in thanks. He lifted her flesh, squeezing lightly as he brushed his thumbs over the stiff peaks, making them harden further. And he claimed there was nothing special about his hands.
Helplessly, Alice arched into the touch, throwing her head back until it rested on Damien’s wide shoulder. The jut of his erection was a steely imprint against her butt, obvious even through his trousers.
God, it had been so long since she’d felt a man’s arousal hard and insistent against her. Had Cal ever been this hard and hot for her?
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing.” Alice shook off the unwanted reminder of her ex-husband. “Nothing important.”
Her evasion hadn’t fooled Damien. “Him, huh?” he said, somehow knowing. “Do you doubt I can be a better lover than him?”
The idea of Cal being a hard act to follow was so ludicrous Alice would have laughed if she hadn’t been so aroused she could barely breathe. “I don’t doubt it at all.”
Damien took his hands from her breasts. Alice whimpered in disappointment then held her breath as he touched her again, the brush of his fingertips barely a whisper across her nipples. It wasn’t enough. The light contact made her ache for more, a physical yearning that had her body bowing, seeking more of his handling. The more she arched, the farther away he drew, so he was only ever brushing against her with that feather-light caress.
“Damn it, Damien.” Alice wiggled her bottom, rubbing it against Damien’s erection in an attempt to tease him as mercilessly as he was her.
His hands moved quickly to her hips, stilling them. He thrust forward so his cock jabbed against her ass cheek. “Who’s in control here, Alice?”
The feel of his stiff pole against her made Alice’s womb contract with need. She was bound and half-naked, all of which she’d consented to. All of which she wanted. She wouldn’t pretend otherwise now. “You are.”
“That’s right.” He ground against her. “I’ll touch you however I want. Fuck you whenever and however I want. Got it?”
Biting her lip to keep from begging him to do the fucking part now, pretty please, oh God, Alice nodded. “I’ve got it.”
He worked his fingers into the sides of her panties. With efficient movements he drew them down her legs. When they dropped at her ankles, Damien said, “Step out of them.”
She did and Damien kicked them aside, leaving her naked save for her garter belt, stockings and black heels. She was made hotly aware of it when Damien walked around her, surveying her body as though considering his options for what to do with her. Not knowing was both a thrill and a frustration. Alice shifted her feet.
“Don’t be nervous.” Damien used two fingers to lift her chin, compelling her to maintain eye contact with him. “There are rewards, remember?”
He assessed her shrewdly. “But you’re wondering when you’re going to get them.”
Alice shook her head. She was nothing if not a fast learner. “I’ll get them whenever and however you want.”
Damien’s lips curved and a second later he chuckled. “Sweet Alice. You might just be perfect. I’m impatient to make you come too but the longer the wait, the better the payoff.”
Alice stifled the groan of frustration that wanted to escape. “Are you sure?”
“Oh, I’m sure. There’s one more thing I want you to do for me. Will you do anything?”
Anything? That was a big ask. As much as she wanted to please him, to have him please her, Alice couldn’t bring herself to sign over that much power. She was still her own woman after all. When this night was over she’d only have herself again and she couldn’t afford to give that away.
She looked at him, held his gaze and hoped he’d accept her compromise. “Anything within reason.”
He simply looked at her and Alice couldn’t gauge his reaction. She wondered if she’d screwed everything up, this game they were playing. Then he smiled, a soft slant of his lips that was almost affectionate in its indulgence. “Fair enough. Would you like to know what I want?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
Damien leaned forward until his lips grazed her ear. He whispered his desire. “I want you on your knees, looking up at me as you take my cock into your mouth and suck it.”