Denied, p.10
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       Denied, p.10
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         Part #2 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas

  I sigh, letting my backside fall to the chair, and pour some milk over my cornflakes as Nan loads my tea with too much sugar. ‘It’s complicated, Nan.’

  ‘Oh . . .’ Her rounded rump hits the chair next to me, her old navy eyes way too curious. ‘I can deal with complicated. In fact, I bet I have the answer.’

  I smile fondly and rest my hand over hers. ‘This is for me to fix.’

  ‘I get the impression that Gregory doesn’t like Miller,’ she says cautiously.

  ‘You’ve got the right impression, but can we leave it there?’

  Her thin lips purse slightly, annoyed that I won’t confide in her. I’m not exposing her to the hideousness of my complications, so she’ll just have to be annoyed and accept the lie that Miller has fed her. I can’t risk sending her into that horrific dark place again. ‘I might be able to help,’ she persists, squeezing my hand.

  ‘I’m a big girl, Nan.’ I raise my eyebrows, making hers fall into a scowl.

  ‘I suppose you are,’ she relents, still scowling, ‘but remember one thing, Olivia.’

  ‘What?’

  ‘Life’s too short to hang around waiting for answers that can only be found by getting off your skinny arse and finding them.’ She gets up and viciously plunges her wrinkled hands into the dishwater, then proceeds to dump dish after dish onto the drainer heavy-handedly.

  It’s a quiet afternoon at the bistro – until Miller Hart walks through the door. He immediately holds everyone’s attention in the place. And the bastard knows it.

  ‘Are you free to leave?’ he asks politely, but I expect there is only one correct answer to this question, and behind his impassive façade, he’s just daring me to give the wrong one.

  ‘Uh . . .’ I can’t form words. Del hands me my satchel and denim jacket with a wary nod, but it takes Miller to physically collect me from behind the counter to get my feet moving. He takes my nape gently and starts guiding me from the bistro, massaging my neck as he does, leaving me with no option but to keep up with his punishing pace. The black Mercedes is parked on double-yellow lines, and it’s only when he opens the door to guide me to the seat that I speak up.

  ‘What are you doing?’ I ask, looking up at him.

  My question doesn’t make him falter in his attempts to put me in his car. ‘You promised me dinner. Get in the car.’

  ‘That was before you just humiliated me.’ I twist out of his grip and step back. I definitely notice the semblance of a scowl at my rejection, but Miller’s smidgen of emotion isn’t the only thing that has my attention.

  He leans down, quite a way, so his eyes are level with mine. They are soft and reassuring. They have me. ‘Why do you keep denying me?’

  I rip my stare from his gaze before I can lose myself in it, and walk away from him, my stride quick but completely pointless, too. I’m going nowhere.

  He’s behind me, his expensive shoes pacing evenly. ‘I don’t like repeating myself.’ He catches me and turns me in his arms. Then he straightens me out and places my hair neatly over my shoulders before stepping back. ‘I’ll make an exception this time. Why do you keep denying me?’

  His audacity sets my emotions in gear. My lips start trembling, my eyes welling. The anger is restoking, too, the hurt magnifying, the confusion tripling. ‘Because . . .’ I close my eyes briefly, feeling my strength slipping away, despite his arrogance. ‘Everything.’ I know William is right. I shouldn’t be getting myself caught up in Miller’s web of pleasure. I might not like William’s interference, and he might not have a right to enforce his demands, but I can’t deny that he knows what he’s talking about. Everything I now know has been confirmed by William. I should listen to him. He’s wise and familiar with this world.

  Miller’s luscious lips purse and his eyes drop, prompting that soft curl to fall forward, but I don’t remind him of his rule of looking at someone when they are speaking to you. ‘You don’t desire me?’ he asks quietly.

  My face bunches in confusion. What kind of question is that at a time like this? ‘Of course I do.’ I realise my error immediately when his eyes lift and drown me in . . . desire. My own desire is reflecting back at me through the never-ending depths of his blue eyes.

  ‘And I you,’ he whispers. ‘More than my body desires water to survive or my lungs air to breathe.’

  I fight for breath. ‘I’m also frightened of you,’ I confess.

  ‘And I you.’

  ‘I don’t trust you.’

  That statement makes him falter slightly, but he quickly pulls it back. ‘I trust you with my life.’ His hand lifts, his thumb stroking over my eyebrow. The skin-on-skin contact puts me in my comfort zone and the sparks fire off within. ‘I trust you to help me.’ His finger drifts down my cheek, my jaw, until he’s stroking my bottom lip. My eyes close on a quiet hitch of breath. ‘Let me taste you.’

  My nod of agreement is automatic. I can feel bursts of life within.

  ‘Thank you,’ he murmurs quietly, his breath feathering against my cheek before his lips come down on my mouth softly. He’s gentle, almost cautious, as he caresses my tongue with his, slowly breaking me down. ‘Hold me.’

  ‘If I do that, I’m yours again.’ I force myself to step away from him, leaving him still bent with eyes searching mine.

  ‘I’ve made reservations for dinner.’ He straightens up. ‘Will you do me the honour of joining me?’

  I’m a mess of conflicting thoughts, struggling to figure out if Miller is my destiny. But as his palm gingerly slides around my back and his heated touch burns through the material of my T-shirt, I think of something. ‘Where were you last night?’

  I don’t imagine the slight stiffness on his palm against me and the edge of guilt in those eyes. ‘Come to dinner with me.’

  He did. He broke into my house. That’s . . . creepy! I feel violated. ‘You undressed me?’ I can’t believe I didn’t wake. ‘I wasn’t dreaming, was I?’

  ‘I hope so. And when you’re not dreaming of me, I hope you’re constantly thinking of me.’

  ‘I’m thinking you have a problem!’

  ‘I did,’ he replies quickly, deadly serious. ‘My world was fading into blackness again and the only thing that can keep it light keeps running away!’

  I flinch at the genuine irritation in his voice. ‘I have questions.’

  He nods mildly and takes a deep breath, gathering some calm. ‘I’m ready to answer anything you’d like to ask me.’

  My relief is immense, but so is my dread. I’m not sure I want to hear his answers. ‘Over dinner,’ I assert. We need to be on neutral ground. No bed in sight. ‘Just dinner.’ This will be done my way. I may have laid my cards before, but they can still be turned back over. Actually, they absolutely can’t, but Miller doesn’t need to know that.

  ‘Just dinner,’ he agrees, but I can tell it’s a reluctant agreement.

  ‘You don’t get to taste me or touch me.’ I don’t know why I’m saying such a stupid thing. I’m desperate for the comfort he offers me.

  The dash of annoyance that passes over his perfect face makes me all the more determined. He can turn on his arrogant, gentlemanly charm and have me just as quick as the soft, attentive lover. ‘Now you’re just being silly.’

  I shake my head. ‘I won’t come if you’re planning on winning me over by worshipping me.’ It’ll be game over. I’m still taken by him, even with my growing wariness and knowledge.

  ‘Fine. As you wish,’ he mutters.

  I nod and gather myself. ‘Where should I meet you?’

  ‘Meet me?’ His forehead furrows.

  ‘I’ll meet you at the restaurant.’ Miller picking me up is too familiar, and I can’t allow Nan to think all is well when it isn’t.

  That declaration gains me a flash of irritation, but he contains it coolly. Delving back into solace with Miller is dangerous, but I fear I have no other choice and not just because he doesn’t appear to be giving me one. He’s back in my life, and I really want him to be
. I need his comfort, his thing, his words. I need it all. Nothing has ever made me feel so protected but at the same time so utterly vulnerable. And nothing has made me feel so strong, yet so incredibly weak. There has to be a middle ground.

  ‘Fine.’ He exhales a mixture of frustration and annoyance. ‘When did you become so difficult?’

  ‘The second you touched me,’ I reply quietly, finding the sass that has become paramount since I fell into the curious world of Miller Hart. I won’t survive without it. I won’t survive him without it.

  His palm lifts slowly and cups my cheek, stroking slow circles. ‘The second I looked at you, I saw light through my constant darkness.’ He moves in, his mouth getting closer, my eyes focused only there. ‘I saw bright, hopeful light reflecting back at me through those beautiful sapphire eyes.’ He doesn’t kiss me; he just keeps our mouths close, his breath spreading across my face, enhancing the sense of warmth coursing through me. My eyes close. ‘I’ll respect your request for this evening. But remember, you are my possession, Olivia. You’re my habit, and I’m not going down without a fight.’ He releases me, leaving me breathless, dizzy and feeling abandoned. I open my lids to face torturous beauty. ‘And I won’t lose no matter who takes me on. Even you.’

  ‘Where shall I meet you?’ I breathe, not caring to challenge him on his confident claim. I’ve seen him in action, fists flying, and I’ve also felt him in action . . . worshipping action. All challengers are doomed. Including me.

  ‘Seven o’clock here.’ He takes a pen from his inside pocket and scribbles an address on an old receipt from his wallet before handing it to me. ‘I’ll be waiting.’

  I nod as he starts to back away, smoothing down his suit before sliding his hands into his pockets. Our eyes lock. I see hope there. I see confidence. I see fear. And I see caution. But I’m not sure if that caution is for him or for me. Probably both.

  Miller breaks the eye connection, then turns away from me and strolls off to his car.

  My palms hit my cheeks and rub some life back into them. I feel hot, my mind a jumbled mess of contradicting thoughts, worries . . . fear. I’m frightened of him, but he makes me feel unbelievably safe. I’m worried about him, but I’m worried about me, too. I can’t even fathom my thought process, which is jumping from surrendering to fighting harder against him. Nothing is making sense.

  I’m in a world of my own, trying to figure out too much, when I find my palm stroking my nape. The hairs are dancing wildly under my touch, tingling, making my skin buzz.

  ‘This is exactly what I was afraid of.’ The velvet voice pulls my body around slowly, warily, and my heart sprints up to my throat.

  Chapter Nine

  I’m not sure whether I should be relieved or worried by what I find. William is leaning against his Lexus, arms crossed, ankles crossed. He doesn’t look happy, his typically sparkling grey eyes fractious and his soft features cut with annoyance.

  ‘You’re following me?’ My question spills on a guilty gasp – the guilt for my weakness where Miller’s concerned, the gasp for my shock at finding William here.

  ‘I’ve been trying to call you.’ He pushes his body away from the car and strolls over casually until his hulking frame is towering over me. ‘Where’s the phone I bought you?’

  ‘I haven’t charged it.’ I divert my eyes downward, for what reason I don’t know. He might be right about Miller, but I’m not answerable to him. London’s most notorious male escort may have resided in a dark place, but I’m making it light. He wants to change for me. I have to make my own decisions. I’m the master of my own destiny.

  ‘Then you will,’ he orders. ‘Tell me why you were at his club.’

  I look up, shocked. ‘You have been following me!’

  ‘I told you before. I make it my business to know what happens in this world. When I heard of an incident at Ice involving Miller Hart and a pretty little blonde, it didn’t take long to figure out who the pretty little blonde was.’ He cups my jaw and lifts my chin. ‘Walk away.’

  I shake my head, my eyes beginning to well with tears. ‘I’ve tried. I’ve tried dozens of times and I can’t.’

  ‘Try harder, Olivia. You’re falling into his darkness and there’s no getting out once you land. You have no idea what you’re truly getting into.’

  ‘I love him,’ I sob, admitting aloud for the first time that I’m still in love with the confounding man, who is even more of a mystery now than he ever was before some of his secrets were revealed. I can’t fall into his darkness if I’m keeping it light. ‘It’s painful love.’

  He winces at my confession, and I know it’s because he identifies with how that feels. ‘The pain will subside, Olivia.’

  ‘Has it for you?’ I ask.

  ‘I don’t . . .’ He frowns and drops my chin from his hold. I’ve surprised him with my question.

  I don’t give him a chance to pull himself together. ‘You’re crippled by agony every day. You let your Gracie go.’

  ‘I had no—’

  ‘No,’ I cut him off, and he doesn’t chastise me for it. The formidable William Anderson snaps his stubbled jaw shut without a word. ‘Don’t tell me it gets easier.’

  His smart-suited shoulders sag and I sidestep him, making my way to the Tube, my words spoken to William strengthening my reasons to take Miller on. Years after walking away from Gracie, William Anderson is still in agony. He hasn’t got over her, and he doesn’t look like he ever will. If William Anderson has felt like I do right now for all these years, then I think I’d rather take death.

  ‘Get in the car,’ William calls from the inside as it slows alongside me.

  ‘No, thank you.’

  ‘Damn you, Olivia!’ he yells, halting my determined march. ‘Don’t make me manhandle you.’

  I’m stunned into silence and stillness by his threat, the coolness of this well-respected, well-contained man heated to the boiling point. ‘You’re just going to nag me,’ I splutter, not knowing what else to say.

  He actually rolls his eyes, stunning me further. ‘I’m not your father.’

  ‘Then stop acting like it,’ I spit, that word enhancing the absence of a male confidant in my life. I haven’t needed one for twenty-four years. But then again, I’ve not encountered a Miller Hart during that time. Until now.

  ‘Would you kindly get in and allow me to drive you home?’

  ‘Are you going to chew my ear off?’

  He refrains from laughing, leaning over and opening the door. ‘I’ve done some questionable things in my time, Olivia, but I’m not guilty of chewing any ears.’

  I narrow my eyes suspiciously until he gives me an expectant look. I’ve no doubt William would manhandle me, so to save a public spectacle, I cautiously slide into the Lexus and shut the door gently.

  ‘Thank you,’ he says, relaxing back in his seat. The driver pulls away and I rest my bag on my lap, fiddling with the buckles for something to do other than wait for him to speak. ‘Will nothing I say convince you that he’s a bad idea?’

  I sigh, exasperated, and flop back against my seat. ‘You said you weren’t going to chew my ear.’

  ‘No, I said I never had before. There’s a first time for everything.’

  ‘Cute,’ I mutter. ‘I’m meeting him for dinner this evening.’

  ‘Why?’

  ‘To talk.’

  ‘About what?’

  ‘I think you know.’

  ‘What happened in that hotel?’

  ‘Nothing.’ I grind the words through my tight jaw. I was delusional to ever think he would let that go. I’m not telling him, despite the fact that I suspect he knows all too well. And, anyway, I’d never be able to utter the words. Thinking them is hard enough.

  ‘Nothing,’ he muses. ‘So you looked like a frightened kitten because nothing happened?’

  ‘Yes,’ I spit, despising that he clearly has his suspicions. I’m not confirming them.

  ‘Of course,’ he sighs. ‘What’s worrying is th
at you’re going back for more.’

  ‘More what?’

  ‘More of Miller Hart.’

  I have to fight to stop myself from screaming, ‘That wasn’t Miller Hart!’

  ‘Where are you meeting?’ he continues after observing me closely for a few moments.

 
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