Denied, p.11
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       Denied, p.11
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         Part #2 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas

  ‘I don’t know. He gave me an address for a restaurant.’

  ‘Let me see.’

  Losing a bit of patience, I fish through my satchel and pull the receipt out, thrusting it across the back seat without looking at William. ‘There.’

  It’s taken from my grasp, and I hear him hum thoughtfully. ‘Nice place. I’ll take you.’

  ‘Oh no!’ I laugh, swinging disbelieving eyes his way. ‘I’ll get myself there.’ I don’t want William interfering. Enough people are already, even if they’re unaware of the whole horrid story. And their determined efforts to stop me from seeing Miller only spells out how much more resistance I’ll be facing should they know.

  ‘I’ll simply drop you off.’

  ‘It’s not necessary.’

  ‘Either you accept my ride, or you don’t go.’ He’s deadly serious.

  ‘Why are you doing this?’ I ask, but then his reasons are too clear. ‘Is this an attempt to ease your guilt?’

  ‘What?’ He’s all defensive, spiking my curiosity and my annoyance.

  ‘Gracie. You failed her, so you’re trying to redeem yourself by helping me?’

  ‘That’s nonsense!’ he laughs, looking away from me.

  It’s not nonsense at all. It’s perfect sense.

  ‘I don’t need your help, William. I am not my mother!’

  His handsome face slowly turns back to mine. All previous amusement has disappeared as if it was never there. He looks grave. ‘Then why were you at his club?’

  My mouth snaps shut momentarily. ‘I . . .’

  His grey eyebrows lift slightly, his question and look making me retreat in my seat. I open my mouth to speak, but nothing materialises, prompting William to come closer. ‘Punishing him, were you?’

  I’m immobilised by realisation, crippled by the cold, hard truth. ‘I’m not . . .’ I can’t finish.

  William slowly pulls back and settles his eyes on my hand, where I’m fiddling with my ring. ‘You are more like your mother than you realise, Olivia.’ He gently clasps my hand and takes over the twirling of my ring. ‘Don’t mistake that as a bad thing. She was a beautiful, passionate woman with an addictive spirit.’

  A lump the size of London has jumped into my throat, and I turn away from him to gaze out the window so he doesn’t see my tears. I don’t want to be like her. Selfish. Reckless. Naive. I want to be none of those things.

  The ring on my finger is silently twirled by William while I have my tears. He says no more, and neither do I.

  Much to my relief, Nan isn’t home. She’s left a pot of stew, along with a note to let me know that she’s gone out with George. After finding my new phone, I tag on a message to hers saying I’ve gone out with Sylvie, leaving my new number for her. Then I spend an hour slowly getting myself ready, but more time is spent mentally preparing, rather than making myself look presentable.

  At six thirty, I wander down the garden path to the Lexus awaiting me. The driver opens the door; I slip in quietly and immediately feel his grey eyes on me.

  ‘You look lovely,’ William says genuinely, and I look over to find him taking in my short black dress, one of only three evening dresses I have.

  ‘Thank—’ I’m interrupted by the unfamiliar sound of a phone chime, but William doesn’t go to retrieve his mobile and after it rings for a few moments, I realise it’s coming from my purse. I rummage through, locate my new iPhone on a frown, and glance down at the screen. Then I look to William.

  ‘Just checking.’ He smiles, his hand appearing and cutting the call from his own phone.

  ‘Haven’t you got better things to do than ferry me around?’ I ask, slipping my phone back into my bag.

  ‘I have plenty to do, and doing my best to stop you from free-falling into his world is one of the most important.’

  ‘You’re a hypocrite,’ I accuse, fairly or not; I don’t care any more. ‘Your world, his world. It’s more or less the same damn thing. How can you claim to know him so well?’

  ‘Our worlds collide every now and then,’ he answers swiftly, and devoid of feeling.

  ‘Collide?’ I question, a little confused and also cautious with the use of the word collide in that statement. Collide hints at crashing. He didn’t use meet or pass.

  He leans towards me and speaks on a mere whisper. ‘I have morals, Olivia. Miller Hart does not. It’s caused friction between our worlds. I don’t agree with how he conducts business and I’m not afraid to tell him, despite that lethal temper of his.’

  I recoil, unable to argue with him. I’ve seen how Miller conducts business and I’ve seen that temper. ‘He can change,’ I murmur, knowing I’ve failed to inject any confidence into my tone. William’s sardonic huff of laughter tells me he’s just as doubtful. ‘I’d like you to drop me around the corner,’ I say confidently, knowing that Miller isn’t likely to appreciate me being dropped off by another man, especially William and especially knowing that their worlds collide every now and then. I don’t want tonight to be one of those every now and thens.

  ‘Of course.’

  ‘Thank you.’

  ‘Tell me,’ he begins, ‘how such a stable, sweet young woman could fall in love with a man like Miller Hart.’

  Like Miller Hart? Stable and sweet? I wrack my brain for an answer to that question. And I find nothing, so I utilise Nan’s words. ‘We don’t choose who we fall for.’

  ‘You might be right.’

  ‘I know I’m right,’ I say to myself. I’m living proof.

  ‘And knowing what you know, you still feel the same?’

  ‘I know he hasn’t been with another woman since he met me.’

  ‘He’s had dates, Olivia, and please don’t try to tell me otherwise. Don’t forget, there’s nothing I don’t know.’

  ‘Then you’ll know that he hasn’t slept with any of them,’ I grate, feeling my patience wearing thin.

  ‘And I’d love to know how he avoided it,’ William muses. I don’t reply to that, quietly pleased that he hasn’t challenged my claim. ‘I have a question. Probably the most important question.’

  ‘What’s that?’

  ‘Does he love you?’

  I wilt on the inside at William’s perfectly reasonable enquiry. Nothing less than a yes should be good enough here. William knows it. I know it. I shouldn’t even entertain the idea of exposing my fallen heart to more hurt without that confirmation. ‘He’s fascinated by me.’ I turn to look out the window, feeling young and stupid.

  ‘Does fascinate equal love?’

  ‘I don’t know,’ I murmur, barely audibly, but I know he’s heard me when his palm rests on my knee and squeezes gently.

  ‘Do your talking,’ he says quietly. ‘Then do your thinking.’

  I nod in acceptance and feel strangely comforted by William’s affectionate touch. I’ll talk and I’ll think, but I don’t actually think anything Miller could tell me will lessen or diminish my fascination with London’s most notorious male escort. I want it to, but I’m being real. I’m caught up in his confounding, dark world, and I have no faith that anything can free me from it, not even William, no matter how hard he tries.

  The driver doesn’t drop me off around the corner as agreed. He pulls up right outside the restaurant, and William doesn’t point out his error. I start to voice the mistake, but then I spot Miller standing on the pavement waiting, and the wary look he’s giving the Lexus tells me he knows the car. But he doesn’t know I’m in it.

  ‘Please’ – I turn to William, panicked – ‘ask your driver to pull into the next street.’

  ‘There’s no need.’ He dismisses my concern and exits the car swiftly and confidently and with the utmost superiority. I want to crawl under the seat and hide. I haven’t looked out to see Miller’s reaction to William’s appearance. I don’t need to. I can feel the air freeze around me, and he hasn’t even seen me yet. ‘Hart,’ I hear William say tightly. Then my door is opening and William is looking down at me and extending his hand for
me to take. I want to scream at him for his underhandedness. He’s being threatening and I’ve seen Miller under threat. It’s frightening.

  Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath of confidence, I reject William’s offering and step out, slowly straightening my body until I’m engulfed in the glacial air that has nothing to do with the poor weather conditions. Then I turn and face him. Blue eyes have slightly widened and his shadowed jaw is tense, but he remains quiet as William escorts me to him. Miller, as ever, looks unfathomably stunning in a dark grey three-piece suit, pale blue shirt – tie perfectly knotted – and tan brogues. His eyes, although shocked, are shimmering as I approach, his dark hair a tousled array of waves and his tall body striking. As I near, he flicks William a cold look before returning his eyes to mine and sliding his palm around my nape, tugging me forward. The icy air is still rife, but now it’s mixed with a delicious warmth being injected into me from our joining. Dipping slowly, he gets his face level with mine and gives me a hint of a smile. It reminds me that Miller Hart has the most beautiful beam and it’s been too long since I’ve seen it.

  He blinks slowly, another of his lovely traits, and gently rests his lips on mine. I know William is twitching behind me, but nothing will prevent me from absorbing Miller. Not even me. ‘You put perfection to shame, my gorgeous girl.’ He pecks my lips and pulls back to get my eyes. ‘Thank you for coming.’

  I feel utterly stupid with William playing minder behind me, so I turn and find him watching us closely. ‘You can leave now.’ I feel Miller’s arm snake around my waist and pull me into his chest. He has completely ignored my request of no touching and tasting, and I’ve done nothing to stop him. He’s staking his claim, marking his territory.

  The tall, mature, grey-haired male steps away slowly, not taking his eyes from Miller until he’s at his car. ‘I know morals are something you struggle with, Hart, but I’m asking you nicely to do the right thing now.’ William may be asking nicely, but his tone is drenched in threat.

  ‘Don’t question my morals when it comes to Olivia Taylor, Mr Anderson.’ Miller’s grip on me increases. ‘Never do that.’

  The animosity bouncing between these two powerful men is intoxicating. My head is awash with questions of associations and worlds colliding, and that’s on top of the list I have ready for Miller.

  ‘Do the right thing,’ William says before turning greys onto me. ‘You’ll call me.’ He slides effortlessly into the car without waiting for my agreement and pulls away fast, leaving me on the pavement, tense and bracing myself for a round of questions from Miller.

  It’s a few silent moments before he speaks, and when he does, it’s not at all the reaction I’ve been bracing myself for. ‘Well that was a surprise,’ he muses quietly, making me frown. ‘How did you come to keep company with William Anderson?’

  I’m totally perplexed. ‘He was my mother’s pimp,’ I remind him, holding back on the information that I’ve recently been enlightened on. And I know Miller won’t appreciate the reminder of my encounter with William during my reckless spell, so I omit that, too. ‘And while we’re on the subject,’ I fire, turning in his arms and stepping away from him, ‘how did I come to be keeping company with you?’

  He looks at me a little bemused. ‘You’ve already defaulted on your no touching and tasting rule.’ Stooping down, he lands me with a cheeky peck on my lips. Damn me, I don’t shy away from it. ‘It would be silly to reinstate it now.’ His eyes are sparkling wildly, his face full of unseen victory. Silly because it was a given that I’d fail, or silly because of where I might end up should I give in, which is ultimately in Miller’s bed being worshipped.

  ‘It wouldn’t be silly at all,’ I counter with grit. While Miller-style worshipping is the ultimate escape from my troubles, I need to maintain my strength, no matter how much I want him to indulge me and swallow me up in his mind-blowing world of pleasure. ‘Are we having dinner?’

  ‘Yes.’ He gestures across the road and, when I glance over, I see his car. ‘After you.’

  My brow puckers, but I turn towards the restaurant instead. I don’t get very far.

  ‘Wrong way,’ he says simply, taking my nape and guiding me in the direction of his car with a little twist of his hand on my neck.

  ‘Dinner and a talk,’ I remind him. ‘You agreed to meet me for dinner and a talk.’

  ‘Yes, I agreed to meet you at the restaurant. You never specified that the eating and talking should happen there.’

  I laugh nervously, wondering where he plans on doing the eating and talking. ‘You can’t twist my words.’

  ‘I’ve not twisted anything.’ He guides me across the road with ease and places me in his car. ‘We’re having dinner at my apartment.’ The door shuts on me and the locks click into place.

  Now I’m freaking out. Being at Miller’s is a bad, bad idea. I try the door, to no purpose whatsoever. I heard the locks. Then I hear them again and I try the handle once more but get nowhere. He slides in beside me. ‘This is kidnapping!’ I protest. ‘I don’t want to go to your apartment.’

  ‘Why?’ he asks, starting the engine and pulling his seat belt on.

  ‘Because . . . I . . . because . . . it will . . .’

  ‘Be natural for us to make love?’ He slowly turns his eyes to me. Serious eyes.

  The words alone send my pulse into overdrive. I’m feeling hot, lustful and helpless, and that’s a dangerous situation to be in with Miller Hart. ‘Talk,’ I murmur weakly.

  He shifts in his seat and rests his forearm on the wheel. He can see my wanton condition. I’m breathless. ‘I’ve always promised that I’d never make you do anything I know you don’t want to. Haven’t I?’

  I nod.

  He smiles a little and reaches over to rearrange my wild blond hair. ‘Do you know how hard it is to refrain from touching you, especially when I know that you want me to?’

  ‘I want to talk,’ I affirm, finding my very last scrap of strength to utter my demand, leaving me defenceless should he choose to ignore my request.

  ‘And I want to explain, but I’d like to do it in the comfort of my own home.’ He says no more and returns his attention to the road, pulling away from the kerb. There’s no speaking or even any glances across the car to me. The only thing I have to focus on, except my racing mind, are the words of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’ that echo in the enclosed air around us.

  They sink into my mind, making it spin, and then I hear Miller utter two words to himself, so quietly I barely hear. ‘I will.’

  Chapter Ten

  I’m regretting insisting on the no tasting and touching rule. I’m close to collapsing by floor nine as we climb up to his penthouse, and Miller’s knowing look is a clear sign that he can detect my regret. But my hot face and aching calves also remind me of the first question I’d like to ask.

  He unlocks his black shiny door and stands to the side, holding it open for me and revealing the inside of his palatial apartment. The urge to run overwhelms me.

  ‘I’m not allowed to physically restrain you, so I beg you don’t run away from me.’

  I turn my face up to his and find blue eyes full of pleading. He’s being that respectful, loving man, the one I love most of his split personalities. ‘I won’t run,’ I promise, stepping over the threshold and tentatively rounding the table in the entrance hall. The front door shuts behind me and Miller’s fancy shoes click on the marble as he approaches.

  ‘Would you like some wine?’ he asks, removing his jacket and draping it neatly over the back of a chair.

  ‘Water, please.’ I’m dehydrated after my marathon stair climb, and I need a clear head.

  ‘As you wish,’ he says, disappearing into the kitchen and quickly returning with a bottle of spring water and a glass. He walks over to his drinks cabinet, pours two fingers of Scotch, and then turning to face me, he brings the glass to his lips slowly, making me avert my eyes to avoid the pleasurable sight. He knows what those lips do to me, and he’s brandishin
g them unethically. ‘Don’t deprive me of your face, Olivia.’

  ‘Don’t deprive me of your respect,’ I retort calmly.

  He has nothing to say to that, so instead he says, ‘Sit,’ as he makes his way over with my water.

  ‘I thought we were having dinner?’

  He falters midstride. ‘We are.’

  ‘In the lounge?’ I ask, my voice loaded with sarcasm. I know Miller Hart and his obsessive world of perfection, and there is not a chance in hell he would eat off his lap.

  ‘There’s no need—’

  ‘Yes, there is,’ I sigh. ‘I assume we’re eating in the kitchen.’ I take the water being offered and leave Miller to head for the kitchen, coming to an abrupt halt at the doorway on a little gasp.

  ‘You didn’t give me a chance to add the finishing touches,’ he murmurs from behind me. ‘Candles, music.’

  The smell of something delicious permeates the room and the
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