At any turn, p.22
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       At Any Turn, p.22

         Part #2 of Gaming the System series by Brenna Aubrey
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  She didn’t move and hadn’t awoken. Normally she wasn’t the lightest of sleepers, but I suspected she slept even more deeply tonight because of the alcohol. Despite this, I could tell she was aroused. For one thing, she grew wetter under my attention and for another, she started emitting long, low moans in her sleep. She was loud, and the sound sent streaks of lightning straight down to my cock, which was more than eager to answer that call.

  I listened carefully, sucking and licking her to her orgasm. When she came, she arched her back, letting out a loud shout.

  “Adam,” she called in a hoarse voice. I smiled in satisfaction. So the lover she dreamed about was me. Thank God. And if I had anything to do with it—and I would—that would not change.

  I wiped my face on the sheet and settled my hips between her thighs. She curled her long legs around me, running her hands down my chest and abdomen. “What the hell was that?” she murmured as I slowly entered her.

  “That was a sleepgasm. You’re welcome,” I said, sealing my mouth over hers. For all that our previous time had been a hot, violent collision of our wills, this time was sweet, slow, languorous. She moved under me, her hips meeting me in a perfect rhythm. Her body was heaven under mine and I craved the feel of her naked breasts against my chest. But I tried not to think of what I couldn’t have and thought about what I did have. This exquisite woman in my arms, beneath me, for the last few hours of the dying evening.

  I closed my eyes and felt, tasted, smelled and heard only her. For those long minutes in each other’s arms, she became my world, my anchor, my safe harbor. And then I was coming, and it was sweet and slow, just like our lovemaking. And I never wanted to see the end.

  Chapter Sixteen

  I woke up that morning to an economy-sized headache and an empty bed. With a sinking feeling, I felt around for Emilia, but she’d gone. Sometime earlier, she must have slipped out and done the walk of shame back to her own room. I rubbed my forehead and thought about that for a moment, my eyes closed, remembering the feel of her beneath me. It felt surreal—as if it had all happened in a dream. However, after throwing a glance through the open doorway to the rest of the suite, I spied her neglected little fairy wings still lying on the floor.

  She’d been here. We’d been together. It hadn’t been a dream. But it might as well have been. I wanted her again and she was gone. And it wasn’t just a physical want. I wanted to wake her with a kiss, whisper to her, hold her, chat about the goings-on at the convention, laugh about the mishaps, mock people’s ridiculous behavior at the employee party. Instead I was left to fall from the bliss of a night of fantastic sex, of the tender lovemaking afterward, into loneliness again. I’d hoped, before I’d fallen back asleep, that our night together would be the beginning of something big, of change, of reconciliation.

  Instead she was gone without even saying good-bye. My fist clenched in frustration as I glanced at the clock. It was still early, but today was the day we packed everything up, loaded the trucks and headed back to OC by bus.

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  I got dressed, packed up my stuff and went down to the area where we were gathering to grab a continental breakfast before hitting the road home. I’d opted to ride on one of the employee buses instead of flying—likely because I was feeling masochistic.

  Between organizing the dismantling of exhibits and other items of business, I kept my eyes peeled for her. I caught glimpses of her a few times. It was hard to miss that startling pink-and-purple-streaked white hair, even at a distance.

  I didn’t have a chance to see her again until we were on the bus. She sat a few rows back from me, across the aisle. I couldn’t take my eyes off her, her own eyes shaded behind impossibly huge, dark sunglasses. I’d bummed some medication off the concierge for my headache, so I wondered if she was still suffering from her hangover. She seemed to be avoiding my gaze, however, with her face pointed down and then a pillow shoved between her and the window, as if she meant to go to sleep during the four-hour ride to Orange County.

  I sat in the front next to Jordan and the group of interns had apparently staked out the seats just behind us. I wasn’t happy about that and wished that Emilia had sat there instead. We needed to talk and maybe the bus wasn’t the best place for us to do it, but as time went on, I was getting more and more desperate to resolve the lingering issues between us.

  I looked away, suddenly feeling guilty about last night, though not completely sure why. Last night hadn’t just been about needing her near me, needing to have sex with her—or anyone—after a dry spell. It had been more—I’d wanted control over her again. I’d wanted to take over and dominate. That’s where the aggression had come from. I’d needed to know—needed her to know—needed the world to know that she was mine.

  Be there for her. Be her friend. Heath’s words struck me then, condemning me further. Had I been there for her last night? Or had she been there for me? I couldn’t completely condemn myself. She’d been a more-than-willing participant. Had she not been the one who’d ripped my shirt off? And then laid herself down, open to me, submissive? She’d wanted me to step in and take over. And I’d been glad to oblige.

  The interns behind us were whispering amongst themselves a lot—and giggling. Four hours of that was going to get old really fast. I wished I could get up and sit with Emilia, but there were no available seats around her. I glanced around to make sure she wasn’t sitting near Dick and was happy to see he wasn’t even on this bus.

  Emilia was sandwiched in pretty tightly and she appeared to be sleeping already. I kept my eyes fixed on her, hoping that it was just a matter of time—a short time—before we had this sorted out. I’d arrange for her to come back to my place by that evening. I was optimistic, I knew, but after the night we’d had together—and due, in big part, to my stubborn determination—I knew we would be getting back together soon. And I’d finally get to the bottom of what was going on with her.

  “So, uh…that was some interesting dancing last night,” Jordan said to me with a significant look.

  “Didn’t know I had it in me, did you?”

  “Not sure the type of dancing you did back in your suite later on was terribly advisable, however. ”

  I turned and looked out the window, uncertain whether I was pissed that he knew (which meant that a lot of others probably knew, too), or comforted by the fact that he had my back. Jordan always had my back, but for some reason he had never been thrilled about my relationship with Emilia.

  “Dude, I’m not here to nag. Believe me, I’m too dysfunctional myself to offer advice but…it seemed like you just were picking yourself up off the floor after she squashed your nuts the last time. ”

  “Thanks for the concern. But I’m a grown-up. I can handle my own shit. ”

  Jordan nodded. “Sure. Sure. I was just thinking about all the other shit going on. The company. The lawsuit. ”

  I looked back, about to reply, when someone tapped on my shoulder. “Adam,” said one of the interns behind me—the one with way too much blond hair for just one woman’s head. She flicked her voluminous mane over her shoulder and flashed a whole lot of white teeth in a wide smile. “Sorry to interrupt, but April and I have a bet and we need you to settle it for us. ”

  I glanced at Jordan, who had also turned around to inspect the bank of women who occupied the seats behind us. I remembered Emilia’s words in the elevator the night before, about how the interns talked about me. I also remembered the death glares she had shot them during their little interlude with the sunscreen before paintball. I swear, she looked like she would cut a bitch. I watched them warily. “How may I help?”

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  “Well…” She shot a wicked glance at her friend, the pretty girl with black hair and blue eyes who reminded me of Snow White. “April says you’re taken and I was pretty sure that you were single. So which is it?”

  My mouth opened. Wow. They really weren’t subtle, were they?

/>   “Ah,” I looked at Emilia. I thought she’d fallen asleep, but her head perked up. I couldn’t see her eyes but I knew she was watching us. I didn’t hold her gaze long. But how to answer that? Emilia and I were broken up, after all. All that had gone on between us the night before hadn’t changed that, at least not yet. She’d even said as much herself: Tonight I’m yours. So in spite of the warning bells at the back of my head, I decided to milk it a little.

  “I am currently unattached. ” Emilia didn’t move. Didn’t turn her head away.

  Blonde Intern threw up her arms in victory. “I win!” she said, while her friend sat back, not looking upset at all about losing her “bet. ”

  “I’m sure you ladies have more interesting things to talk about than my personal life. ” Like hair products, maybe, or shopping sprees with daddy’s credit card.

  The blonde’s smile grew hungry. She almost licked her lips. “None that I can think of. ”

  Jordan snorted next to me and I shot him a look.

  “Lawsuit bait,” he muttered under his breath and I nodded, agreeing with him.

  I turned back around and adjusted my sunglasses, squinting out the windshield. We hadn’t even left Nevada, yet. Three more hours of this. I pulled out my laptop and fired it up, starting to work on my new, secret pet project. Jordan couldn’t peek at my work, thanks to the privacy filter, but the chicks behind me were really starting to bug me with the whispering and giggling. So I grabbed my shit and moved to the back of the bus where there were two empty seats and I could spread out.

  As I passed them, I shot the girls a stern glare lest they get any ideas and try to follow me back. And minutes later, I was happily buried in my own little world of code.

  I loved coding. I could lose myself in it the way an artist got caught up in creating his visual depiction of the world around him, the way a musician was swept away by the creation of music during jam sessions. Coding was a jam session to me. I could rattle out a string of code and relish the challenge as I tweaked and fine-tuned and problem-solved until I got it just right. It was like a giant puzzle that I created and solved at the same time.

  It was an hour later, while I was checking for bugs before I moved to the next subroutine, that I noticed someone coming down the aisle toward me. I looked up, hoping it wasn’t an overeager intern.

  It was Emilia, headed to the bathroom just behind me and she didn’t even glance my way. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed that I’d moved. I glanced around me. There was no one in the seat across from me or in front of me—one of the reasons I’d moved here—and the person diagonally across from me, a Dragon Epoch developer, was draped over his backpack, fast asleep. I set the open laptop on the seat across from me and waited for her to come out of the bathroom.

  When the door opened again and she moved by in the aisle, my hand snaked out and grabbed her wrist, tugging her down beside me.

  “What?” she said, but I put a finger up to my lips to silence her and pointed at Tony—the dude snoozing over his backpack—one of my hardest working devs who, I think, was getting the first bit of shut-eye in at least twenty-four hours.

  Emilia glanced at him and turned back to me.

  “What are you doing back here?” she whispered. “I thought you had plenty up there to amuse you. ”

  I studied her. Interesting. She was clearly jealous and not even bothering to disguise it. That was a good sign.

  “I want to talk to you about tonight. ”

  Her eyes grew wary. “What about tonight?” she asked.

  “I’d like for you to come over. We need to talk. ”

  Emilia blew out a long sigh and glanced away. I let go of her wrist and laid my arm gently across her shoulder so I could rub her back.

  “You have a headache?”

  “Yes,” she said. She frowned, preoccupied.

  “You want some aspirin? I’ve got another packet somewhere. I think in my laptop case. ” I bent and pulled it out for her, grabbing my bottle of water.

  She took the packet from me, shooting me a guarded look while she popped the pills in her mouth and knocked back a swallow of water. “Adam, about last night—”

  “Don’t say it,” I said, holding up a hand to cut her off.

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  “We should talk about that, too,” she whispered.

  “We will. We’ll figure out where we go from here. ”

  She chewed on her lip. “What if we aren’t going anywhere?”

  I stared at her, but didn’t say a word.

  She began to squirm. “It doesn’t have to mean anything besides the fact that we were both horny and drunk. What’s wrong with a good meaningless fuck once in a while?”

  “A meaningless fuck?”

  She shrugged. “Yeah. ”

  “Yeah, you aren’t bullshitting me with that line. It wasn’t meaningless. ”

  I waited. She fidgeted, then cleared her throat and said, “You know that old saying, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?”

  I lifted my finger and traced it along her jaw, down the soft skin of her neck where the darkening bite marks I’d left were still showing. I studied them. There were more than half a dozen of them. Some of them very dark. I remembered how it had felt, sinking my teeth into her pliant, giving flesh, hearing her whimper of pain. The taste of her. I was hard in an instant, leaning in to get a whiff of her scent.

  She shuddered when my lips touched her ear, but she didn’t pull away.

  “I don’t think what happened between us can stay in Vegas. Do you?”

  My lips retraced every mark I’d put on her. I wanted to make more. I wanted to cover her with my mark of ownership. It was a primal, caveman sort of feeling. I didn’t own Emilia, of course, but that possessive, ferocious need to be with her, to keep her safe, was a palpable force. I needed to mark my territory.

  “Adam,” she pressed her hand against my chest. “Don’t start this here. ”

  I moved my mouth up to her ear. “When we get back—come home with me. ”

  She hesitated. “I don’t—”

  I tried to force the frustration from every muscle that tensed inside of me. She was acting like she was a scared deer and I was a hungry wolf. Maybe that wasn’t too far from the truth. “Just for the day, then. ”

  She looked at me for a long time and quietly nodded. I whipped out my tablet, opening up the latest app. We spent the rest of the bus ride playing Angry Birds Star Wars.

  Chapter Seventeen

  When the bus dropped us off at the complex, I made sure to grab her bag and stuff it in my trunk before she could change her mind about going with me. Heath had attended the Con as a player and had ridden back on the player-sponsored bus. Rumor had it that our game friend Katya had made it down from Canada to attend, too, and Heath had spent his time with her. I wasn’t ready to give up the secret to anyone besides Heath and Emilia that FallenOne was actually the CEO of Draco, so despite the fact that I would have liked to have met her in person, I kept my distance.

  Now Emilia was talking to Heath at his Jeep and I leaned up against my car door watching them from behind my sunglasses. I could hear the tension in Heath’s tone as he fought to keep his voice from rising. I wondered what they could be arguing about.

  “Whoa, nice car!” said Blondie the intern, who, it appeared, had snuck up on me. I never did get her name and I wasn’t much interested, either. I kept my eyes on Heath and Emilia to make sure she didn’t just hop in his car with him and take off without her stuff. She seemed to want to, but Heath was telling her to go with me. Attaboy.

  “Thanks,” I muttered. Now go away.

  “Think I could—maybe—get a ride sometime?”

  I glanced at her from behind my sunglasses. She had a hand on her hip, her back arched so that her chest poked out. I let myself look. They were nice tits, after all. I opened my mouth to answer her when I heard the Jeep’s door slam. Emilia was storming
toward me and Heath sat behind the wheel of his car, shaking his head and watching her with a stern look on his face.

  Well, this was going to be awkward.

  “Umm. I gotta go,” I said to the blonde, hoping she’d take the hint and walk off. She didn’t. Emilia came up to the car, tossed the intern a glance out of the corner of her eyes and then turned to me.

  “I need my bag. Where did you put it?”

  The blonde’s eyebrows shot up and she gave Emilia the once-over. These two had to work together fairly regularly, so I didn’t want to make this awkward for Emilia. “I heard you need a ride home,” I said. Then I turned to the blonde. “Excuse us. I only have room for one passenger. ”

  The woman’s jaw dropped and I clamped my hand around Emilia’s elbow, making it appear as casual as I could as I guided her toward the passenger seat. Blondie folded her arms across her chest, spun and stalked off. “Great, now Cari’s pissed at me,” Emilia muttered as she got in the seat.

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  “Do you care?”

  She shrugged. “Not really. Not like I’m going to be working there much longer. ”

  I fired up the car, thinking about that with a sudden tightness in my stomach. I felt like a countdown clock had just started ticking. A clock that suddenly made me fear that if I didn’t find out what was wrong with her—with us—and fix it before she left Draco, then I risked not seeing her again. Ever.

  The drive to my house was short and quiet. She didn’t comment on the fact that I hadn’t been completely truthful about driving her home. I would drive her home, so it wasn’t a lie. I just wouldn’t do it right away.

  It was midafternoon and I was stiff from the bus ride. I suggested we go for a swim in the pool. I figured it would take the pressure off and help break the ice a little. I also thought some wine with dinner would be appropriate, too. I’d already texted Chef while I was still on the bus, to have something nice ready for us for dinner.

  Emilia had left a handful of items she had forgotten in a drawer when she’d moved out—including a bathing suit. Her sexy black-and-white bikini, which was my favorite. I’d done deliciously naughty things to her while she’d worn that bikini.

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