Promised, p.30
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       Promised, p.30

         Part #1 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
 

  ‘I can’t move,’ I breathe, going limp.

  ‘Yes, for me, you can move.’ He doesn’t leave me be, instead becoming more impatient, so I heave my exhausted body up and turn to him, letting him lift me and position my thighs on either side of his lap. His head cocks to the side a little as he runs his eyes down my torso, his hands skating slowly up and down my sides. ‘I’ve been desperate to touch you all night.’

  ‘You could’ve felt me.’

  ‘No.’ He shakes his head. ‘You misunderstand.’

  ‘How?’ I don’t pass up this opportunity to touch his hair, twisting a lock between my fingers.

  ‘Touch you, not feel you.’ He looks up at me and I frown, not quite fathoming the difference. ‘Feeling you gives me untold pleasure, Livy.’ Dipping, he kisses the centre of my chest. ‘But touching you, touching your soul. That’s beyond the realms of pleasure.’ His eyes make a slow blink as he returns them to mine, and it’s in this moment that I realise he doesn’t do it on purpose. His slow movements are part of this man disguised as a gentleman. This is him. ‘It’s like something powerful happens,’ he whispers. ‘And the pleasure of making love to you is just a little bonus.’

  ‘I’m still frightened,’ I admit. Even more so with every hopeful word he says to me.

  ‘I’m a little terrified of you, too.’ He brings his hand between our chests and rubs feathery circles around my nipple.

  Dropping my eyes, I watch his movements. ‘I’m not scared of you. I’m scared of what you can do to me.’

  ‘I can make you feel like no other, like you have me,’ he murmurs. ‘Take you to pleasure-filled places beyond your imagination, places that you have taken me.’ Dipping his head, he takes my breast between his teeth and grazes the tip of my nipple, encouraging my head to fall back and my lungs to drain of air. ‘That’s what I can do to you, Olivia Taylor. And it’s what you do for me.’

  ‘You already have.’ My voice is unrecognisable, fuelled with lust, bursting with desire.

  He’s suddenly moving, carrying me forward and placing me on my back, his body covering me completely and my arms settling over his shoulders. I’m looking up at him, my eyes spoilt for places to settle – his wet hair falling onto his face, his stubble darkening his jaw, but it’s the pull of his glistening eyes that captures mine. Whenever he catches my attention with that gaze, I’m hypnotised . . . helpless. I’m his.

  ‘You look good in my bed,’ he declares quietly. ‘Messy, but good.’

  ‘I look a mess?’ I ask, injured, thinking he should’ve let me take the shower I wanted.

  ‘No, you misunderstand.’ He frowns, clearly frustrated by my misinterpretation of his words, but I heard all too well what he just said. ‘My bed looks messy. You look gorgeous.’

  My lips start twitching as I realise his issue. I bet he sleeps deathly still, the covers folded neatly at his waist, whereas I’m a fidget in my sleep, and I know this because of the state of my own bed in the mornings – a bit like Miller’s bed is right now. ‘Would you like me to make your bed?’ I ask seriously, hoping the answer is no because, quite frankly, the thought scares me. I’ve seen the precision of the fancy cushions and the silk runner across the centre. I expect he keeps a ruler in the drawer of his bedside cabinet to measure the exact distance from the headboard to the sheets and from the pillows to the runner.

  He knows I’m teasing, despite my success in keeping a straight face and even voice. His thoughtful look confirms it. ‘As you wish.’ He kisses my startled face and pushes his naked body from the bed, standing to the side and removing the condom before taking his perfection to the bathroom to dispose of it.

  I should’ve kept my mouth shut. My bedmaking efforts will never come up to scratch. Shifting to the edge of his bed, I stand and stare blankly at the mess of sheets, wondering where to start. The pillows. I should start with the pillows. Grabbing one of the four plump rectangles, I arrange it neatly, then set another by its side before placing the remaining two on top of each, running my palms over the surfaces to smooth the cotton. Happy with the result, I take two corners of the quilt and fling my arms skyward, flapping the sheet into a perfect square that floats gently down to the bed. I’m pleased with myself, it looks tidy, but I know it’s not tidy enough, so I set on a journey around the bed, pulling at corners and ironing out the crinkles with my palms. Then I open the lid of the giant chest and begin placing the cushions, trying my hardest to remember the exact positioning from when I was last here. When I’m satisfied with my display, I slide the silk throw across the centre and tweak the edges into place.

  I smile triumphantly and stand back, admiring my handiwork. He can’t possibly turn his nose up at that. It looks spectacular.

  ‘Happy with yourself?’

  I swing my naked body around and find Miller, arms folded, leaning up against the door frame of the bathroom. ‘I think I’ve done a good job.’

  He casts his eyes over the bed and pushes himself away from the frame, walking over slowly and thinking hard. He doesn’t think it’s a good job at all. He wants to start all over again, and the juvenile side of me is willing him to do just that, just so I have ammo to poke fun at him.

  ‘You’re dying to pull it all off and start again, aren’t you?’ I ask, mirroring his folded arms and close studying of his bed.

  He shrugs nonchalantly, blatantly feigning acceptance. ‘It’ll do.’

  I smile. ‘It’s perfect.’

  He sighs and walks off, leaving me to admire his bed. ‘Livy, that is far from perfect.’ He disappears into his wardrobe and I follow behind, discovering Miller pulling some black boxers up his thighs.

  It’s hard to form words when confronted with such a sight. ‘Why the need to have everything just so?’ I ask, watching as his fluid movements falter at my question.

  He doesn’t look at me, only continues arranging the waistband of his boxers around his hips. ‘I appreciate my possessions.’ His answer is reluctant and curt and clearly not going to be elaborated on. ‘Breakfast?’

  ‘I have no clothes,’ I remind him.

  He takes a leisurely jaunt down my nakedness with sparkling eyes. ‘You’re fine as you are.’

  ‘I’m naked.’

  His face is completely impassive. ‘Yes; as I said, fine.’ He proceeds to pull on some black shorts and a grey T-shirt, and something in this moment makes me wonder if Miller Hart has ever stepped out in anything less than a three-piece suit.

  ‘I’d feel more comfortable if I had some cover,’ I argue quietly, annoyed with myself for sounding so unsure and timid.

  He straightens his T-shirt and regards me closely, making me shift and feel even more uncomfortable, now that he’s clothed. ‘As you wish,’ he grumbles, and I waste no time seeking out something to throw on.

  Flicking through the rails of shirts, I lose a bit of patience at the constant stream of dress shirts and pull down a blue one by the sleeve in exasperation.

  ‘Livy, what are you doing?’ He chokes the words out as I feed my arms through the sleeves.

  ‘Covering myself,’ I reply, my actions slowing as I register the look of pure horror on his face.

  He seems to release a calming breath, and then he’s on his way over to me and quickly removing the shirt from my body. ‘Not in a five-hundred-pound shirt.’

  I’m naked again and watching as he rehangs the shirt and starts brushing down the front, huffing his annoyance when the minuscule crease that I’ve created doesn’t disappear. I can’t laugh. He’s too aggravated, and it’s quite alarming.

  After a good few moments of Miller faffing with the shirt and me watching on in shock, he yanks it down, screws it up and tosses it in a wash basket. ‘Needs washing,’ he mutters, stomping over to a drawer and pulling it open. He lifts out a pile of black T-shirts and sets the stack on the cabinet in the centre of the room before taking each shirt individually and starting another pile to the side. When he reaches the last, he shakes it out and hands it to me, then goes ab
out lowering the newly rotated pile of T-shirts back into the drawer.

  As I watch him, completely fascinated, I steel myself to acknowledge something that’s been pretty obvious for quite some time. He’s not just tidy. Miller Hart suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

  ‘Are you going to put it on?’ he asks, still clearly annoyed.

  I don’t say anything; I’m not sure what to, so I pull it over my head and down my body, thinking he lives his life to military precision, and I might have thrown him a curveball with my presence, although he keeps putting me here, so I shouldn’t be too concerned about it.

  ‘Are you okay?’ I enquire nervously, wishing he’d put me back in his bed and resume worshipping me.

  ‘Fine and dandy,’ he mutters, very un-fine and un-dandy -like. ‘I’ll make us breakfast.’

  My hand is clasped abruptly and I’m pulled through the bedroom with purpose. It doesn’t pass my notice that Miller makes a terrible job of pretending to ignore the bed, his jaw ticking a little as he glances out of the corner of his eye to the neat covers and pillows – neat by my standards, anyway.

  ‘Please, sit,’ he instructs when we reach his kitchen, leaving me to lower my naked bum to the cool surface of the chair. ‘What would you like?’

  ‘I’ll have what you’re having,’ I say, thinking I should make this as easy as possible for him.

  ‘I’m having fruit and natural yogurt. Would you like that?’ He opens the fridge and lifts out a stack of plastic containers, all containing various chopped fruits.

  ‘Please,’ I answer on a sigh, praying we’re not heading down that familiar road of shortness and detachment. It feels like it.

  ‘As you wish.’ His tone is clipped as he sets about taking bowls down from the cupboard, spoons from the drawer, and yogurt from the fridge.

  I’m silent as I watch him. Each object he puts in front of me is nudged to get it just so. Orange juice is squeezed, coffee brewed, and he’s sitting opposite me in no time. I’m not touching a thing. I dare not. It’s all been placed with utter precision, and I won’t risk lowering his mood further by moving anything.

  ‘Help yourself.’ He nods at my bowl. I gauge the position of the fruit bowl, so I can reposition it exactly right, and start spooning some fruit into my bowl. Then I replace it carefully. I’ve not even picked up my spoon before he’s leaning over the table and nudging the fruit dish to the left. My fascination with Miller Hart just keeps growing, and while these little traits are quite irritating, they’re really quite endearing, too. It’s becoming quite clear that it is me who’s sending this gentleman into a tailspin – me and my inability to satisfy his compulsion to keep things just the way he likes them. But I’m not going to take it personally. I don’t think there’s anyone on the planet who could get this right.

  The silence is awfully uncomfortable, and I know exactly why. He’s eating, but I can tell that he’s fighting the urge to leave the table and restore his bedcovers to their normal perfect glory. I want to tell him to just go and do it, especially if it means he’ll relax, which means I’ll relax. I don’t get a chance to, though. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and rests his spoon across his bowl.

  ‘Excuse me while I use the bathroom.’ He stands and leaves the room, and my eyes follow his path, wanting to follow and see him in action, but I take the opportunity to study all the items on the table, trying to figure out exactly what it is about their positions that keep him calm. I can’t see it.

  It’s a good five minutes before he returns to the kitchen, visibly more relaxed. I relax, too, and I’m relieved that I’ve finished my breakfast and drunk my juice, so there is absolutely no need for me to move anything . . . except me, and I’m beginning to register an issue with my positioning and movements, too – like in his bed.

  He tucks himself under the table and takes his spoon, loading it with a strawberry and popping it in his mouth. The inevitability of my eyes focusing on his slow chews is something that I can’t help. His mouth hypnotises me as much as his eyes do when they’re glistening at me. And I know they are now, which leaves me in a predicament. Eyes or mouth?

  He decides for me when he speaks. I almost don’t hear him as I’m too rapt by those lips. ‘I have a request,’ he declares. The words, when they finally filter into my distracted mind, pull my eyes up to his. I was right. They’re glistening.

  ‘What kind of request?’ I ask warily.

  ‘I don’t want you to see other men.’ He watches me thoughtfully, clearly trying to gauge my reaction, but I can’t be giving him much to go on as my face is blank, not having quite worked out what reaction to give. ‘I think it’s a reasonable request in light of your performance last night.’

  Now I have a facial expression, and I know it’s a little stunned. ‘You are the reason for my performance last night,’ I retort.

  ‘That may be so, but I’m uncomfortable with the idea of you exposing yourself like that.’

  ‘Exposed in general, or exposed to other men?’

  ‘Both. You didn’t feel the need to expose yourself before you met me, so I can’t see that it would be a difficult request for you to fulfil.’ He takes another mouthful of his fruit, but I’m not compelled to watch him chew this time. No, I’m still stunned and looking into completely unaffected eyes.

  He clearly seems to think it’s perfectly reasonable to make these demands. I don’t even know what to make of it. He’s just worshipped me in his bed, said some pretty touching words, and now he’s all businesslike.

  ‘And the dating nonsense,’ he continues. ‘That won’t be happening again, either.’

  I have to stop myself from laughing. ‘Why are you asking this of me?’ I probe. Is this his way of saying he wants us to be exclusive?

  His shoulders jump up on a shrug. ‘No man will make you feel like I can, so it’s really in your best interest.’

  I’m staggered by his arrogance. He’s right, but I’m not about to fuel his ego. ‘Miller.’ My elbows hit the table and my forehead falls into my palms. ‘Will you please just say exactly what you mean?’ I look up at him, finding slight concern etched on his perfect face.

  ‘I don’t want anyone else tasting you,’ he says unapologetically. ‘It may seem unreasonable, but that’s what I want and I’d like you to agree.’

  ‘And what about you?’ I ask on a whisper. ‘I know about that woman.’

  ‘She’s dealt with.’

  Dealt with? So he had to deal with her? ‘And she accepted that?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Why would it matter if she’s just a business associate?’

  ‘Like I said last night, it doesn’t, but it does to you so I told her about you and let that be the end of it.’

  I scowl across the table at him. ‘I don’t know anything about you.’

  ‘You know about my club.’

  ‘Only because I landed there by accident. I doubt I would’ve found out if I had waited to be told, and I’m certain you wouldn’t have had me there by choice.’

  ‘Wrong.’

  I frown at his one word, assertive counter.

  ‘You were on the guest list, Livy. If I had wanted to keep you away, I would’ve had you removed from it.’

  I snap my mouth shut and cast my mind back to what I can remember before the champagne and tequila took hold. ‘You were watching me all evening, weren’t you?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘I was with Gregory.’

  ‘You were.’

  ‘Did you think that he was my date?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘And you didn’t like it?’

  ‘No.’

  Just like he didn’t like seeing me with Luke. ‘You were jealous,’ I tell him, wondering at what point he figured out that Gregory’s gay. Maybe the dance floor. Or maybe the toilet. He’s been working at Ice, but my friend isn’t obviously camp. He’s a strapping bloke who turns as many women’s heads as he does gay men’s.

  ‘Frighteningly,’ he
confirms.

  I was right and I’m glad, but is he going to give me more than one word? ‘What’s in it for me?’ I ask, knowing damn well what he’s going to say.

  ‘Pleasure.’

  I sag at the table. Pleasure delivered by Miller is the ultimate prize . . . nearly. But what I want is his constant loving, like how he is when he has me in his thing or in his bed. ‘You’re asking me to make myself exclusive to you?’

  ‘Yes.’

  I’m absolutely fine with that, but given the circumstances of this conversation and how it’s come about, I’m not sure this will mean that Miller is exclusively mine. ‘And what about you?’

  ‘Me?’

  ‘Will you stop speaking in monosyllables?’ I snap.

  He leans across the table. ‘I beg your pardon.’

  ‘You can beg all you like,’ I hiss back, fury burning in my
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