Home > Dirty Little Secret (Forbidden Desires #1)(13)

Dirty Little Secret (Forbidden Desires #1)(13)
Author: Kendall Ryan

The ride to her brownstone was a short and silent one. I scrolled through my emails, checking for anything new, but there was nothing.

I typed out a text to Cooper.

Can’t believe you talked me into this.

His reply came almost instantly.

Have fun, Cooper wrote. You remember what that is, right?

Vaguely, I replied.

She’s easy. You’ll have a good time.

What the fuck does that mean? I typed before deleting it with a snarl. It was none of my business and exactly what he wanted. To yank my chain.

How easy? I finally typed.

I waited, feeling like a caged bear as three little dots danced across my screen. Finally, his response popped up.

I wouldn’t know. Maybe you’ll find out and can tell me . . .

His reply contained a winking face that made me want to punch the motherfucker square in the jaw. I hadn’t done that in years, not in at least a decade. Back then, our most bitter arguments were settled with our fists. Now we settled our differences like men, punishing each other with stony silence or degrading jabs exchanged over cocktails.

I rolled my eyes. If he was trying to goad me into breaking our deal, it wasn’t going to work. I knew the rules, and so did he.

But the realization that he hadn’t touched her . . . Shit. Why did that excite me so much? The idea of being the first of us to touch her, to hear her cry out in pleasure—in pain? I pulled a deep breath into my lungs. The limo rolled to a stop, and I shoved my phone inside my jacket pocket.

It was go time.

Ben opened the car door, and I climbed out just in time to watch a graceful Miss Emma Bell navigate the row of steps down from her ancient little brownstone. She was a woman who could appreciate fine details. I liked that about her already, although we’d barely exchanged six sentences despite our nearly year-long non-affair.

I leaned against the black limo, sizing Emma up. She was in a wine-colored dress that fell to the ground and was tied in a bow behind her neck. It was simple. Elegant. Perfect.

The curves of her hourglass figure made my palms itch. The desire to reach out and touch her, to see if her creamy skin was as soft as it looked, was a sharp pulse of need. One that I quickly tamped down. That would have to wait. We were headed out to support one of my favorite charities, not to slap our private parts together until we both came in a hot, sticky mess.

Damn. Being an adult was a motherfucker sometimes.

I forced out my most respectable tone. “Good evening, Miss Bell. You’re looking well.”

She paused before me, dipping her chin so her eyes were trained on my shoes, her perfect submission frustratingly intriguing.

“You are as well, Mr. Kingsley.”

Finally, that blazing blue gaze came to rest on mine. I couldn’t help but wonder what she saw when she looked at me. Couldn’t help but wonder what she thought about during all those coffee-shop run-ins.

“Gavin is fine,” I said, correcting her, and she nodded. “Shall we go?”

I took her hand, helping her into the waiting limo before sliding in behind her. Once inside, Emma scooted to the far side, leaving a healthy space between us as Ben pulled out into traffic.

“We match,” she murmured.

“Hmm?”

“Your tie.” She gestured toward me.

I nodded. She was observant. “Tell me something interesting about you, Emma. Other than the fact you like tea.”

She smirked like she knew something I didn’t. “Books are my passion.”

“Reading them? Smelling them?” I offered her a small grin. “I’ve heard that’s a thing.”

She returned my smile easily, her eyes crinkling in the corners. In that moment, she looked so young, so vulnerable, that for a second I almost called this whole thing off. Almost.

“All of the above. Someday I’d like to write one too. I have about a dozen half-finished manuscripts sitting on my hard drive that’ll never see the light of day.”

“What do you write about?”

“Love,” she said, then apparently realizing that she’d exposed more of herself than she meant to, her posture straightened.

“See, that’s where we differ,” I said.

“You don’t believe in love?” she asked, her tone skeptical.

“I do, actually. I just believe it to be rare.”

“I agree with you. It’s a rare gem to be savored once you’ve finally found it. I believe that you could spend your entire life looking for it, and never come across it. I find that to be heartbreaking. But if you finally find it, maybe the rarity . . . doesn’t that make it all the better?” She raised her eyebrows.

“And that inspires your writing?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said resolutely. Then she looked down at her delicate hands, the silence growing between us. “I probably sound so stupid, given what you do for a living. It’s not about love at all for you, is it?”

I cleared my throat before responding. I appreciated the level of candor between us, how comfortable she was prodding me. I’d been on many dates with many escorts over the years, and ninety-nine percent of them sat silently on the ride to the event, quietly looking at their phones. In that tiny scrap of a clutch, I wasn’t even confident Emma had brought her phone along.

“Have you ever heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’?”

“Touché.”

I was still kicking myself for revealing that much of myself. Why even tell her I was familiar with love? That wasn’t what we were embarking on, and confusing the issue could only complicate things. This book and this cover were a perfect match nowadays, and that was all she needed to know.

I made a mental note to avoid such discussion in the future.

As the limo slowed to a stop, I couldn’t help but notice the small smile playing on her lips. “We’re here. Are you ready to mingle?”

She nodded. “Let’s do this.”

On the sidewalk in front of the banquet hall, I offered my arm to her, and after she placed her hand on my forearm, we made our way inside.

The room was a wall of bodies, which was good. It meant a lot of donations were going to come in tonight. But it was also bad because it meant we’d be jockeying for position all night as I tried to make my way through the crowd.

Emma’s eyes widened at the scene before us. The line for the bar was at least thirty people deep, and there was barely enough room for us to stand without bumping into someone. They needed a bigger venue next year. It was a good problem to have, though a little bit annoying for this year’s guests.

“Would you like something to drink?”

Her gaze went to the long wait at the bar. “I’m not much of a drinker.”

“Something mild, then? Unless you want tea?” I was rambling, and I never fucking rambled. When she shot me a look, I placed my hand on the small of her back. “I have an idea.”

I signaled an approaching waiter who was delivering cheap champagne on a metal tray, and slipped him a fifty-dollar bill. “Go behind the bar. Make the lady a Shirley Temple with grenadine and a splash of champagne. The good stuff, not this shit you’re serving out here. And I’ll take a glass of the best bourbon you have. No ice.”

Emma glanced at me from the corner of her eye, but didn’t say a thing.

“That okay with you?” I asked as the waiter darted away like my money was burning a hole in his pocket.

“It’s perfect. Very sweet of you.”

“That’s a new one for me.” I laughed.

“No one’s ever called you sweet?”

I thought long and hard about it. “Honestly, no.”

“Maybe I bring out a new side of you.”

She was being cheeky, and I added it to the growing list of things I liked about her.

“Maybe you do,” I agreed.

As we made our way slowly through the crowd toward the front of the ballroom and the stage, Emma’s hand came to rest automatically on my arm again. Another item on the list of things I liked.

My extra donation had insured we’d have seats for tonight’s live auction. The event was standing-room only, aside from a few rows of white folding chairs in front of the stage. It was where the serious bidders sat.

   
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