Denied, p.17
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       Denied, p.17

         Part #2 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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  ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck!’

  ‘Don’t drop me!’ My body is quivering, my head shaking from side to side.

  ‘Never.’

  ‘Oh . . .’ I breathe, the twinges showing no sign of receding as I relax into him. My world is a haze of distorted sounds and blurred images as I fight my way through the intensity of my orgasm. I can’t feel my limbs, only Miller biting lightly on my cheek and his erection pulsing within me. Vivid images are flashing through my mind, each one of Miller and me, some past, some very much present, and some of our future together. I’ve found my someone – a damaged someone, a someone who displays his emotions in the most unusual fashion and conducts himself in a way to mostly repel affection. But he’s my damaged someone. I understand him. I know how to ease him, handle him, and most importantly, I know how to love him. Despite his lifelong mission to reject the potential of feeling and caring, he’s let me fight my way past his harsh, cold exterior – helped me do it, to a certain extent – and I’ve allowed him to have the same effect on me. How I’m feeling right now, safe, cherished, loved, was worth every modicum of heartache we’ve both endured to this point. He accepts me and my history. We’re worlds apart but utterly perfect for each other. He’s beautiful from afar, and he’s equally beautiful up close. And beneath that external beauty, he’s even more beautiful. It goes deep, and the deeper I look, that beauty only strengthens. I’m the only person who sees it, and that’s because I’m the only person who Miller has allowed to see it. Just me. He’s mine. All of him. Every beautiful piece.

  Miller’s teeth sinking into my shoulder and his pulsing length still buried within me brings me back down to earth, where I’m staring at the ceiling and my fingers are numb and set in place from my fierce grip of the wall’s gripper things. I’m exhausted but energised, weak at the knees but strong within. ‘I watched you once,’ I whisper. I’m not sure why I’m compelled to tell him this.

  He sucks my flesh into his mouth and pecks his bite mark lightly before sweeping my hair into his fist and turning my face into him. ‘I know you did.’

  He doesn’t ask what I mean or where I watched him. He knows. ‘How?’

  ‘My skin tingled.’

  My smile is one of confusion as I search his eyes, looking for anything more than those three confounding words. I see sincerity, total belief in his statement. ‘Your skin tingled?’

  ‘Yes, like subtle fireworks exploding under my skin.’ His face remains straight.

  ‘Fireworks?’

  His lips meet my forehead and his hips retreat, his semi-arousal slipping free. My knickers and shorts also slip back into place, leaving me resentful and bitter for my loss. I’m gently turned in his arms, my hair arranged neatly down one side and my arms draped over his naked shoulders. He’s damp and warm, and his skin is glistening under the harsh artificial light of the studio. My affronted body and lack of Miller inside me is forgotten when my eyes and mind are met by the hard planes of his torso – tight nipples, smooth skin and chiselled muscles. It’s truly a sight to behold.

  I watch him scan the wall behind me before edging me a fraction to the left, and then that masterpiece of a physique moves in and barricades me against the coolness behind me, every inch of his semi-nakedness coating my gym-clad body. His forefinger rests under my chin and directs my face up to his. ‘Up here.’ He smiles and kisses my cheek tenderly. ‘Share with me your tell.’

  ‘My tell?’ The confusion in my voice isn’t concealable. I have no idea what he’s talking about. ‘I’m not sure I know what you mean.’

  He gives me a dimple smile, cute and almost shy. ‘When you’re near, even out of touching distance, my skin lights up. Like fireworks. Every inch of my flesh tingles deliciously. That’s my tell.’ His palm cups my cheek, his thumb ghosting over the surface of my lips. ‘That’s how I know you’re close by. I don’t need to be able to see you. I feel you, and when we physically touch’ – he blinks lazily and pulls a long, steadying breath – ‘those fireworks explode. They make me dizzy. They’re beautiful, bright, and consuming.’ Leaning in, he kisses the tip of my nose. ‘They represent you.’

  My lips part, my hold moving to the back of his head. I spend a few silent moments absorbing his gaze and his body pressed hard to mine. I also absorb his words. There’s nothing confounding about that statement. I know just what he’s talking about now, except my tell is a little different.

  ‘I have fireworks, too.’ I kiss the pad of his finger, and his side-to-side drag across my bottom lip stops as he regards me quietly. ‘Except mine implode.’

  ‘That sounds dangerous,’ he murmurs, dropping his gaze to my mouth. I disregard William’s caution of rising neck hair, certain my mind was working overtime, probably because of my messed-up mind and loss of Miller. Or it could be part of my tell.

  ‘It is dangerous,’ I confess.

  ‘How?’

  ‘Because every time I look at you, feel you, or even sense you, those fireworks shoot straight for my heart.’ I feel emotion grip me from every direction as I watch his eyes drag up my face until they’re locked with mine. ‘I fall in love with you a little bit more each time that happens.’

  He slowly nods his acknowledgement. It’s almost undetectable. ‘We’re going to see and touch each other a lot,’ he murmurs. ‘You’re going to be incredibly in love with me.’

  ‘Already am.’ I close my eyes when his thumb moves and his lips replace it. And I fall that little bit more. Our mouths move gingerly together, purposely slow, our wild abandon of a few moments ago being replaced with cautious motions and complete aching tenderness. He’s speaking with this kiss. He’s acknowledging his understanding. He feels that way, too, except he calls it fascination.

  ‘To my bones?’ he asks into my mouth, making me smile.

  ‘Deeper than that.’

  ‘And I’ll pray for that continued love every day.’

  ‘It’s a given.’

  ‘Nothing in this world is a given, Olivia.’

  ‘That’s not true,’ I argue, detaching myself from his mouth, my contentment of a few moments ago vanishing. I’m under his close scrutiny as I form my next words in my mind. I’m not sure what other way I can say it. ‘Why won’t you accept it?’

  ‘It’s hard to accept something that shouldn’t be.’ His palm works its way to the back of my head and nestles into my hair. ‘I’m not worthy of your love.’

  ‘Yes, you are.’ I can feel heated anger rising into my cheeks, replacing my post-orgasm flush.

  ‘We’ll agree to disagree.’

  ‘No, we won’t.’ My body reacts to his blindness, my hands shifting to his chest and shoving him gently back. ‘I want you to accept it. Not just tell me you do to keep me happy, but really accept it.’

  ‘Okay.’ He doesn’t hesitate to agree, but there’s no conviction.

  My shoulders sag, defeated, all of the dazzling hope that’s shone since our reunion dulling too fast. ‘What’s made you so negative?’

  ‘Reality.’ His tone is flat and lifeless, and my mouth snaps shut. I have no counter for that – no words or sense of encouragement. At least not off the cuff. Given a few moments, I’ll think of something and I’ll make sure it’s valid and logical. But my sprinting mind is interrupted in mid-construction when the door to the studio swings open.

  Both of our heads snap to the side, and my hackles instantly rise.

  ‘Time’s up.’ Cassie’s silken voice riles me further, her perfect figure laden in Lycra not helping in the least bit. Her eyes are full of resentment, with a little alarm mixed in for good measure. She’s shocked to see me and that pleases me too much.

  ‘We’re just leaving,’ Miller retorts curtly, taking my nape and leading me to collect his phone before directing me to the door.

  I watch with narrowed eyes as she struts across the room and shamelessly reaches down to touch her toes, stretching before sliding down into the splits on a conniving smirk. The diamond cross that always graces her lovely nec
k skims the floor. ‘Pilates,’ she purrs. ‘Does wonders for flexibility. Isn’t that right, Miller?’

  I look up at him with wide eyes, hoping I’m not interpreting those words correctly. He doesn’t humour me with confirmation or even a reassuring look. ‘Rein it in, Cassie,’ he spits, opening the door and gently pushing me through.

  ‘Have a great day!’ she sings on a laugh.

  As soon as the door slams behind us, I fight my way from Miller’s hold and swing to face him, my hair whipping my face. ‘What’s she doing here?’

  ‘She has the studio from eight to ten.’

  I bristle. ‘Have you slept with her?’

  ‘No.’ His answer is swift and decisive. ‘Never.’

  ‘Then what’s her bendy arse harping on about?’

  ‘Bendy arse?’ One corner of his mouth tips in concealed humour. It doesn’t improve my mood.

  ‘I know she’s a hooker, Miller. I saw her at a function with some old, fat, rich man.’

  Any signs of amusement slip away from his face in an instant. ‘I see,’ he says simply, like it’s of no importance.

  ‘You see?’

  ‘What else would you like me to say? She’s an escort.’

  My sass shrivels. I don’t know what I want him to say. ‘I need to get to work.’ I pivot, making for the ladies’ changing rooms, feeling hot wetness trickling down my thighs. Damn it!

  ‘Olivia.’

  I ignore him and push my way through the door. The possessiveness coursing through my fire-filled veins is a little shocking, my returning sass transforming into . . . something else. I’ve not quite identified it yet, but it’s dangerous. I know that much. My backside plummets to a slatted bench and my head falls into my hands. She’s going nowhere. She’s bold and obviously harbours a hatred for me. Can I handle that?

  ‘Hey.’ Warm palms skate up my thighs and I peek through my parted fingers to find Miller kneeling in front of me. A brief scan of the changing room quickly tells me that we’re not alone. There are two towel-clad women at the other end, watching with interest, but neither seem concerned by their lack of clothing.

  ‘Miller, what are you doing?’ I return my eyes to his crouched form, seeing an expressionless face but sympathy in his eyes.

  ‘I’m doing what a man does when he sees the woman he adores in pieces.’

  Adores? Not fascinated? Even now, when I’m struggling to locate any sense, that simple word thrills me. ‘I don’t like her.’

  ‘Neither do I sometimes.’

  ‘Just sometimes?’

  ‘She’s misunderstood.’

  ‘I don’t think I’m misunderstanding her. She doesn’t like me.’

  ‘That’s because I like you. Very much so.’

  Fascinated. Adores. Like. ‘Does she want you?’

  ‘She wants to make things difficult.’

  ‘Why?’

  He sighs, low and drawn out, and clamps his palms on either side of my cheeks, getting nose to nose with me. ‘She can’t see past what she knows.’

  She can’t see past sex and glamour? I shake my head, a little confused but more frustrated. So she expects Miller to follow the same theory? ‘I want to run away,’ I whisper, my legs twitching already, eager to carry me from the stark truth of Miller and his history. Everything everywhere is a constant reminder. I’m not sure if I can get past it. ‘With you,’ I clarify when a wave of trepidation floats across his face. ‘Will any of these people let us be?’

  ‘Sweet girl, I’m prepared to annihilate anything that blocks my path to freedom.’ He leans in and kisses my forehead – an act so tender but bursting with reassurance. Or supposed to be. Uncertainty was pouring from his eyes before his lids closed and concealed it. ‘I beg you, don’t let the demeaning words of others interfere.’

  ‘It’s hard.’ I let him press his lips over every part of my face until he’s pulling away. He’s got the uncertainty under control. Now his blues are beseeching. He thinks I’ll allow these people – Cassie and whoever else there is, because I know there will be more – to scare me away. They won’t. Nothing will. ‘I love you.’

  He smiles and pulls me to my feet. ‘I accept your love.’

  ‘You’re just saying that.’

  ‘Will I ever win this argument?’ he asks, his hairline pulling back from the sudden height of his eyebrows.

  I consider his question for a moment. ‘No,’ I state, short and exact, because he can’t. I’ll never really know if he truly accepts it. His words will never convince me.

  ‘Get showered and changed.’ He clasps my shoulders and turns me away from him. ‘We’ll be late.’

  A cheeky tap of my bottom sends me on my way, but the uncertainty that I found in Miller’s eyes seems to have rooted itself deep within me. If he can’t ease my trepidation, then no one can.

  Chapter Fourteen

  We’re a few streets away from the bistro, caught up in a traffic jam. I can feel him studying me, so I cast a sideways glance on a tiny smirk. He leans over and kisses me sweetly. ‘Your hair’s a little wild.’

  I frown while he makes a haphazard job of tucking it behind my ears. Then I smile. ‘I didn’t have any conditioner.’ Reaching forward, I smooth my hand through Miller’s perfect dark waves. ‘I should have asked to borrow yours.’

  He freezes mid-arranging of my hair and flicks amused eyes to mine. My smile widens. ‘You’re perfect.’ He untucks my hair. ‘This is perfect. Never cut it off.’

  ‘I won’t.’

  ‘Good.’

  ‘I’ll jump out here. You can slip up that side street and avoid the traffic.’

  ‘No, I’m in no rush.’ He brushes me off and proceeds to join the other horn-happy drivers, smacking his palm into the centre of the wheel.

  ‘That’ll get you nowhere,’ I laugh. ‘And, anyway, I am in a rush. I can’t be late.’ I peck his lips and jump out of his Mercedes.

  ‘Olivia!’ he shouts after me.

  I turn and bend to get him in my line of sight. ‘It’s a couple of streets away. I’ll be there in two minutes.’ I smile at his scowling face and shut the door, hurrying to the pavement.

  I lose myself amid the sea of people, all scurrying to their places of work. It’s familiar to me, comforting, but the strange sensation I’m feeling as I scamper like an ant with my fellow Londoners isn’t. I reach up to my shoulder and brush away a tingle, shivering when it immediately jumps back onto my skin. Something tells me to look behind me so I do, but I only note a mass of bobbing bodies following the flow of foot traffic. My Converse speed up without any prompt from my brain, and I start overtaking people, uneasy but with no explanation. As I round a corner, I look back again, a familiar chill resonating through me, the hairs on my nape rising.

  ‘Oh!’

  ‘Watch where you’re going!’

  I stagger, taking the man’s briefcase with me, the expensive leather getting tangled between my clumsy legs. ‘I’m sorry!’ I yelp, catching the side of the brick wall to steady myself.

  ‘You’ve scuffed my case, you stupid woman!’ He snatches up his property and brushes it down, grumbling and huffing his aggravation.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ I repeat, straightening myself out, bracing myself for a further verbal bashing.

  ‘Fucking imbecile,’ he grunts, stomping off into the crowd, leaving me being sidestepped by more impatient pedestrians.

  My eyes dart everywhere, scanning faces coming towards me and the backs marching away from me, my internal alarm screaming. Reaching up, I run my palm over my nape, smoothing down the hairs. I feel a stupid sense of relief when they remain flush with my skin once I remove my hand. But my stomach is turning, anxiety gripping me. I’m circling on the spot, unease lingering deep and fretfulness plaguing me.

  I turn and hurry across the road to Del’s, constantly looking over my shoulder.

  The bistro is the last place on earth I want to be right now. I feel nauseous, and my dread at facing my colleagues is only amplified when three
sets of cautious eyes monitor my walk from the door to the kitchen. I feel judged. I am being judged. They all think I’m daft, but they haven’t experienced Miller when he’s not armoured up in one of his fine three-piece suits. They have drawn their conclusions on the little information they know, and I’m past the point of feeling the need to justify my relationship with London’s most notorious ex-escort, to Sylvie, Del, Gregory, or anyone for that matter. It’s exhausting enough trying to justify it to Miller, and he’s the only one who really matters. God help me and my ears if any one of these people were to discover Miller’s history. To them, he is simply an uptight arsehole who’s played me. And it’ll stay that way.

  ‘Morning.’ Sylvie’s tone is lacking its usual chirpiness, her hands redundant on the filter handle of the coffee machine.

 
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