Home > The Kiss Thief(6)

The Kiss Thief(6)
Author: L.J. Shen

Where my parents lived in Little Italy, you could find Catholic churches galore, quaint restaurants, and busy parks overflowing with kids and students. Wolfe Keaton, however, resided on the clinical and prestigious Burling Street. His was a stark white, hulking mansion, which, even among other huge houses, looked comically big. By its size, I guessed that it had required the demolition of the properties next to it. Running over others to get his way seemed to be a pattern.

Manicured lawns and elaborative medieval-styled windows greeted me, ivy and ferns crawling through the colossal structure like a woman’s possessive fingers over a man’s body.

Wolfe Keaton might have been a senator, but his money did not come from politics.

After we rolled past the entrance, two servants opened the trunk and pulled out my numerous suitcases. A woman who looked like an older and scrawnier version of Clara appeared at the door in a stern, all-black dress and pinned silver do.

She raised her chin, scanning me with a sneer.

“Miss Rossi?”

I got out of the car, hugging my bag to my chest. The jerk wasn’t even present to welcome me.

She strolled toward me, her spine ramrod straight and her hands linked behind her back as she tossed an open palm in my direction.

“I’m Ms. Sterling.”

I stared at her hand without taking it. She was helping Wolfe Keaton with kidnapping and forcing me into marriage. The fact that I wasn’t clubbing her with my Louboutin bag stretched my extent of civility.

“Let me show you to your wing.”

“My wing?” I followed her on autopilot, telling myself—no, promising myself—that this was all temporary. I just needed to gather my wits and formulate a plan. This was the twenty-first century. I would be next to a cell phone and a laptop and a police station soon enough, and this nightmare would be over before it could even begin.

And then what? You’ll defy your father and risk death?

“Yes, dear, wing. I was pleasantly surprised by how old-fashioned Mr. Keaton was in regards to his new bride. No sharing a bed before marriage.” A ghost of a smile passed her lips. She was obviously a fan of the idea. That made the two of us. I’d rather scratch my own eyeballs out than share a bed with the devil.

The marbled white landing presented two separate stairways leading left and right. The portrait-adorned mint-green walls of former presidents, high, elaborate ceilings, fireplaces, and lavish courtyards peeking through the tall windows all blurred together.

I gasped when we passed by open double doors with a constructed Steinway piano surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and what looked like thousands of books. The entire room was accented in cream and black.

“You seem young.”

“That’s an observation, not a question…your point?” I said unkindly.

“I was under the impression he liked his female companion older.”

“Perhaps he should start by liking his female companion willing.”

Jesus. I actually said that. I slapped a hand over my mouth.

“Senator Keaton never had an issue attracting women. Quite the contrary,” Ms. Sterling blabbed as we made our way to the eastern side of the house. “Too many women and too much variety made him jaded. I was beginning to worry.” She shook her head, a reminiscing smile on her thin lips.

So on top of everything else, he was a playboy. I cringed. Angelo, for all his life experience and ruthless upbringing, was a true gentleman. Not a virginal one—I knew—but not a skirt chaser, either.

“Then, perhaps, I should be the one worried now since I’m expected to share a bed with him,” I bit out. I’d apparently checked my manners at the door, along with my freedom.

When we got to my room, I didn’t stop to appreciate the canopy four-poster bed, rich velvet purple curtains, vast walk-in closet, large vanity, or even the carved oak desk and leather chair overlooking the garden. It was pushed against the window, and I had no doubt the view was mesmerizing. But I didn’t care for the best view in Chicago. I wanted to be back in my childhood home, dreaming of my wedding to Angelo.

“Make yourself comfortable. Mr. Keaton had to fly out to Springfield. He’s on his way home now.” She smoothed the hem of her dress. So he was a US senator. And I didn’t have to ask—I knew he had purchased a private jet prior to his political gig. I knew the Members’ Representational Allowance by heart because my father talked about rules often. He said that in order to break them, you had to know them by heart, too. Father had paid off a lot of political figures in his lifetime.

For some reason, his having a private jet made me even more bitter. Going to work alone left a carbon footprint that would require planting a medium-sized forest to rectify. What kind of world did he want to leave for his children and grandchildren when, at a moment’s notice, he was on a jet headed to Springfield or DC?

It occurred to me that I hadn’t tried to lure her into helping me. In fact, she might not even know I was in trouble. I caught her cold, fragile hand in mine and pulled her back as she made her way to the door.

“Please,” I urged. “I know it sounds crazy, but your boss just bought me from my parents. I need to get out of here.”

She stared at me and blinked.

“Oh, dear, I think I forgot to turn off the oven.” She rushed outside, the door closing behind her.

I ran after her, yanking at the door handle. She locked me in. Shoot!

I paced back and forth, then grabbed the curtain and tore it from its rails. I didn’t know why I did it. I wanted to ruin something in his house the way he ruined me. I flung myself over the bed, a scream tearing at my lungs.

I cried myself to sleep that day. In my dream, I imagined Angelo dropping in for a visit at my parents’, finding out what happened with Wolfe, and then looking for me all over town. In my dream, he drove here, unable to bear the thought of me being with another man, and confronted Wolfe. In my dream, he took me away, somewhere far and tropic. Somewhere safe. This was the part where I knew it was a fantasy—if my father couldn’t stop Wolfe, no man could.

When I stirred awake, the last rays of the sun lazily filtered through the tall, bare windows. My throat felt groggy and dry, and my eyes were so puffy I couldn’t even open them all the way. I would kill for a glass of water, but I would die before asking for one.

The bed was dipped to one side. When I cracked my eyes open, I found out why.

Wolfe was sitting on the edge of the queen-size mattress. He stared at me with his piercing gaze and seemed to burn past skin and bones and hearts, turning them all to ash.

I narrowed my eyes, then opened my mouth to give him a piece of my mind.

“Before you say anything,” he warned, pushing the sleeves of his crisp white shirt up his elbows to expose veiny, muscular, and tan forearms, “I believe an apology is in order.”

“You think an apology is going to fix this?” I snapped acidly, tugging at the blanket to cover more of my body even though I was fully dressed.

He smirked, and I realized he liked our exchanges very much.

“It’d be a nice start. You said I was not being a gentleman, and I beg to differ. I honored your tradition and demanded your hand after kissing you.”


Now I was fully awake, my back pressing against the headboard.

“You want me to apologize to you?”

He smoothed the soft fabric of the pressed linen, taking his time to answer me.

“Shame your parents are set in their wish to keep you an obedient little housewife. You have a natural, fast grip on things.”

“You’re a fool if you think I’m just going to accept you as a husband.” I folded my arms over my chest.

Wolfe considered my words gravely, his fingers traveling near my ankle but not quite touching it. I’d kick him if I didn’t think he’d enjoy my anger even more.

“The notion that you can touch me or what’s mine in any way, other than sucking my cock whenever I’m generous enough to allow it, amuses me. Why don’t we get to know each other over dinner tonight before you make any more declarations you can’t back up? There are some house rules you need to obey.”

Lord, I wanted to hurt him so badly it burned at my fingertips.

“Why? Because I’d rather eat rotten fruit and drink sewer water than have a meal with you,” I snarled.

“Very well.” He produced something from behind his back. A simple white calendar. He reached over and placed it on the nightstand next to me. It was a nice touch, after giving me the watch that felt more like a shackle than a gift.

When he spoke, he looked at the calendar, not me.

“It takes twenty-one days to form a habit. I recommend you make me a pattern of sorts. Because come August twenty-second,” he announced, rising up from the bed, “you will be standing at the altar, promising me the rest of your days. A promise I intend to take seriously. You’re a collected debt, a retaliation, and, quite frankly, pretty decent arm candy. Good night, Miss Rossi.” He turned around and sauntered toward the door, kicking aside the curtain on his way out.

A short hour later, Ms. Sterling arrived with a silver tray containing squashed, rotten-looking fruit, and a glass of water that was freakishly gray. She stared at me with crushing misery that made her already wrinkled face appear even older.

There was an apology in those eyes.

I didn’t accept it or the food.







Those were just some of the words I could no longer allow myself to utter, in public or otherwise, as a senator representing the state of Illinois. Serving my state—my country—was my only real passion. The problem was, my real upbringing was quite different from the one portrayed in the media. In my mind, I cussed. A lot.

And I especially wanted to swear right now when my bride had exasperated me to no end.

Eyes the color of crushed wildflowers and glossy, chestnut tresses so soft they were practically begging for a fist to wrap around them and pull.

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