Promised, p.8
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       Promised, p.8

         Part #1 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
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  wondering whether this is a good idea.’

  My head snaps up, panicked that he might withdraw his offer. ‘No, I want to do this.’ I don’t know what I’m saying but it doesn’t stop me from babbling on some more. ‘I want twenty-four hours with you.’ I step into his chest and look up to his eyes – the ones I’m going to lose myself in very soon, if I haven’t already. ‘I need this.’

  ‘Why do you need it, Livy?’

  ‘I need it to show myself that I’ve been doing things wrong for too long.’ I brave a kiss and reach up on my tiptoes to push my lips to his, hoping I’ll remind him of what it felt like last time, hoping he experienced the surge of energy, too. Before I can even think to engage my tongue, I’m wrapped in his arms and being pulled up to his chest, our mouths fused, our bodies bonded, my heart falling further. His lips on mine and his hard body coating me feels . . . right.

  ‘Are you sure?’ He removes me from his embrace, holding me at arm’s length and hunkering down to ensure he’s got my eyes and my attention. ‘I’ve made clear how it’ll be, Livy. If you can deal with that, then for the next twenty-four hours, it’s just us – my body and your body doing incredible things.’

  I nod my head convincingly, even though I’m not at all sure. I can see doubt lingering on his stunning face, which pushes me to force a smile, worried that he might pull out on our deal. I might not know what I’m doing, but I certainly don’t know what I’ll do if he walks away from me now.

  ‘Okay,’ he says, sliding his hand around my nape and pulling me into him. ‘I’ll take you home.’ He starts to guide me from the square, his palm secured firmly on my neck as he pushes me onward. I glance up to him, just to check he’s there – to check that I’m not dreaming.

  He’s there, and he’s gazing down at me, assessing me, probably analysing my mental state. Should I ask him his conclusion because I haven’t the foggiest? All I know is that he’s mine for the next twenty-four hours, and I am his. I just hope that I don’t find myself in further desolation once my time is up. I’m ignoring the voice in my head, currently screaming at me to stop this right now. I know how this’ll turn out, and it’s likely to be messy.

  But I just can’t refuse him. Or myself.

  Chapter 6

  ‘I’ll wait here for you.’ He pulls up outside my house and takes his phone from his pocket, waving it at me. ‘I have a few calls to make.’

  He’s going to wait? And he’s going to wait outside my house? No, no he can’t. Bloody hell, Nan’s probably sniffed him out already. I look up to the bay window at the front of our house, watching for twitching curtains. ‘I can get a cab to your place,’ I try, making a mental list of things I need to do once I get inside – shower, shave . . . everywhere, moisturise, spritz, make-up . . . tell the fattest lie I ever will.

  ‘No.’ He dismisses my offer without even looking at me. ‘I’ll wait. Go get your things.’

  I wince, letting myself out of his car and walking slowly, cautiously, up the path to my house, like Nan might hear me if I go any faster. I insert my key slowly. I turn it slowly. I push the door open slowly. I lift my foot slowly, ready to step inside, clenching my teeth when the door creaks.

  Damn.

  Nan’s standing three feet away, her arms folded, her foot tapping the patterned carpet. ‘Who’s that man?’ she asks, her grey eyebrows raising. ‘And why are you behaving like a cat burglar, hmmm?’

  ‘He’s my boss.’ I blurt the words fast, and so begins the fattest lie I’ll ever tell. ‘I’m working tonight. He’s brought me home to change.’

  I definitely see a wave of disappointment travel across her age-worn face. ‘Oh, well . . .’ She turns, losing interest in the man outside immediately. ‘I won’t bother with supper then.’

  ‘Okay.’ I take the stairs two at a time and burst into the bathroom, cranking the shower on and stripping down at lightning speed. Then I dive in before it’s warmed up. ‘Oh shit!’ I pin myself to the side, goose pimples invading me, my body shivering uncontrollably. ‘Shit, shit shit! Warm up!’ My hand hovers under the spray, and I’m frantically egging the hot water on. ‘Come on, come on.’

  After far too long, it’s just warm enough to bear, and I step under, making super-fast work of washing my hair, soaping everywhere and shaving . . . everywhere. By the time I’ve sprinted across the landing in my towel and made it into the safety of my room, I’m out of breath. Under normal circumstances, it usually takes me ten minutes flat to throw some clothes on, give my face a quick brush over with some powder, and rough dry my hair. But now I care; now I want to look nice. And I haven’t got bloody time to do it.

  ‘Underwear,’ I prompt myself, hurrying over to my drawers and yanking the top one open, instantly grimacing at the piles of cotton knickers and bras. I must have something – anything other than cotton, please!

  After five minutes of assessing each and every piece of underwear I own, I find that I am, in fact, a cotton girl, with no lace, satin, or leather in sight. I knew that, but maybe I thought a sexy pair of something might magic their way into my drawer to save me from underwear humiliation. I was wrong, but with little else to do, I pull on my white cotton knickers and matching boring bra before blasting my hair, brushing some powder across my face and pinching my cheeks.

  And now I’m staring at my satchel and wondering what I need to pack. I have no lingerie or stilettos, or anything remotely sexy. What was I thinking? What was he thinking? I drop my backside on the edge of the bed and my head in my hands, my heavy hair falling forward and forming a waterfall to my knees. I should stay here and hope he gets fed up with waiting and leaves, because all of a sudden, this doesn’t seem like such a good idea. In fact, it’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever had, and happy with that conclusion I crawl under the covers of my bed and hide my face in a pillow.

  He’s rich, he’s stunning, he’s refined, if a bit stand-offish, and he wants me for twenty-four hours? He needs his head tested. These thoughts plague my mind as I hide from the world, until I reach a perfectly solid conclusion; he must have arm candy throwing themselves at his feet daily – hell, I’ve seen one already – and they must all be dripping in diamonds, designer handbags and shoes that cost more than my monthly wage, so maybe he wants to try something a little different, something like me – an average waitress, who buggers up coffee and throws trays of expensive champagne everywhere. I push my face further into the pillow and groan. ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid woman.’

  ‘No you’re not.’

  I bolt upright and see him sitting in the armchair in the corner of my room, legs crossed at the ankles, his elbow resting on the arm, his chin in his palm. ‘What the hell?’ I jump up and run to my bedroom door, swinging it open to check for old ears pushed up against the wood. Nothing, but I don’t feel any better. Nan must have let him in. ‘How did you get up here?’ I slam the door and flinch when it reverberates through the house.

  He doesn’t. He’s perfectly collected, not in the least bit affected by my flustered state. ‘Your grandmother should take security a little more seriously.’ He rubs his index finger slowly across his stubbled chin, his eyes taking a leisurely jaunt down my body.

  It’s only now I realise that I’m standing in my underwear, and my arms instinctively cross over my chest, attempting in vain to conceal my modesty from his roving eye. I’m horrified, even more so when his lips tip at the edge and his eyes sparkle as they land on mine.

  ‘You’d better lose your bashfulness, Livy.’ He stands, casually strolling over to me, sliding his hands in his grey trouser pockets. His chest meets mine, and he looks down at me, not touching with his hands, but touching with absolutely everything else. ‘Then again, I quite like your shyness.’

  I’m shaking – physically shaking, and no amount of pep talking is halting it. I want to appear confident, nonchalant and carefree, but I don’t know where to start. Decent underwear might be a good place.

  He bends down, getting his face in the line of my dropped si
ght, and pulls my falling hair from my shoulders, holding it from my face. Lifting my gaze, only very slightly, I quickly find his. ‘My twenty-four hours don’t start until I get you in my bed.’

  I feel my brow completely furrow. ‘You’re really going to time it?’ I ask, wondering if he’ll produce a stopwatch.

  ‘Well.’ One of his hands drops my hair, and he looks down at his expensive watch. ‘It’s six-thirty now. By the time I get you uptown in rush hour, it’ll be approximately seven-thirty. I have a charity ball tomorrow evening around seven-thirty, so I’ve timed this just perfectly.’

  Yes, he has timed it perfectly. So when the clock strikes seven-thirty, do I get tossed out on my arse? Do I turn into a pumpkin? I feel jilted already and we haven’t even started, so what am I going to feel like come seven-thirty tomorrow evening? Like shit, that’s what – rejected, unworthy, depressed and abandoned. I open my mouth to call a stop on the whole diabolical arrangement, but then I hear the sound of old footsteps clumping up the stairs.

  ‘Oh shit, my nan’s coming!’ My palms meet his suit-covered chest and push into him, guiding him back towards a built-in cupboard. I’m panicking, but I’m still appreciating the solidness beneath my flat palms. It makes my steps falter and my heart jump wildly. I glance up at him.

  ‘Feel good?’ he asks, sliding his palms around my back and circling my waist. I hold my breath, then I hear the creaking again. It snaps me right out of my lustful state.

  ‘You need to hide.’

  He snorts his disgust and moves his grip to my wrists, detaching me from his chest. ‘I’m not hiding anywhere.’

  ‘Miller, please, she’ll have heart failure if she catches you in here.’ I feel beyond stupid for making him do this, but I can’t let my grandmother barge into my room and see him. I know she’ll go into seizure, and I know it’ll be in shock, but it won’t be shock of the ordinary kind. No, Nan will pass out for a few seconds, then she’ll throw a bloody party. I release a frustrated, suppressed yell, forgetting all embarrassment with regards to my lack of attire, and give him pleading eyes. ‘She’ll get excited,’ I explain. ‘She prays to the Lord Almighty every day for my self-discovery.’ I’m running out of time. I can hear floorboards creaking as she gets closer to the door of my room. ‘Please.’ My naked shoulders sag, defeated. I can barely do this to myself, let alone to my elderly grandmother. It would be cruel to build her hopes up with a complete non-starter. ‘I won’t ask for anything else, just please don’t let her see you.’

  His lips form a straight line and his head drops forward a little, the wayward lock of dark hair falling onto his brow, and without a word, he releases me and moves across my room, but he doesn’t step into the cupboard; he goes behind my floor-length curtains. I can’t see him, so I don’t argue.

  ‘Olivia Taylor!’

  I swing around and find Nan in the doorway, her eyes roaming all over my room, like she knows I’m hiding something. ‘What’s up?’ I ask, silently scolding myself for my poor choice of words. What’s up? I would never say that, and her suspicious face notes this, too.

  Her eyes narrow, making me feel even more conspicuous. ‘That man—’

  ‘What man?’ I need to shut up and let her spit it out, not intercept her and make her even more suspicious.

  ‘That man in the car outside,’ she continues, resting her hand on the doorknob. ‘Your boss.’

  I must visibly relax because she runs her navy eyes over my semi-naked form, knowing plastered all over her face. She still thinks he’s out there, which is just perfect. ‘What about him?’ I pull my skinny jeans from my drawer and hop in, shimmying them up my legs and fastening the fly before snatching a white over-sized T-shirt from the back of my dressing table chair.

  ‘He’s gone.’

  I freeze with my T-shirt halfway over my head, one arm fed through a sleeve and my hair caught in the neck. ‘Where?’ I ask, no other words springing to mind.

  ‘I don’t know, but one second he’s there, and I know because I could see the top of his head through the slightly open window, then I turn to tell George that he has one of those fancy Mercedes things, and when I look back . . . poof, he’s gone. But that swanky car is still there’ – her foot starts tapping – ‘and parked illegally, I might add.’

  I’m immobilised by guilt. She’s like Miss bloody Marple. ‘He’s probably nipped to the shop,’ I say, untangling myself from my T-shirt and pulling it down my body. I make quick work of shoving my feet in my hot-pink Converse. Christ, I’ve got to get him out yet, and with Ironside on the case, it’s looking like a job and a half.

  ‘The shop?’ She laughs. ‘The nearest is a mile away. He’d drive.’

  I fight to prevent an irritated screech escaping. ‘What does it matter where he’s gone?’ I ask, then dive right in with the building of my greatest lie. ‘Oh, and I’m staying at Sylvie’s tonight. She’s a work friend.’

  My shoulders rise in anticipation for her gasp of shock, but it doesn’t come, and that has me turning to see if she’s still in my room. She is, and she’s grinning. ‘Really?’ she asks, her eyes twinkling in delight as she runs them down my static form. ‘You’re not dressed for work.’

  ‘I’ll change when I get there.’ My voice is high and squeaky as I busy myself, collecting toiletries and packing what I’ll need for twenty-four hours with Miller Hart, which isn’t a lot, I expect. ‘The event I’m working at tonight doesn’t finish until midnight, and Sylvie lives close by so I may as well just crash there.’ I’m a fool and completely wasting my breath. It’s only now, when I’m zipping up my bag and chucking it onto my shoulder, that I remember he’s in my room. What must he be thinking? I won’t blame him if he walks out this very instant. This performance by my nan has nothing to do with her disapproving of a man in my life. She just doesn’t like the fact that she doesn’t know about it, that’s all. And she isn’t going to know, not officially, anyway. The silence spreading between us is a mutual understanding of that. Gregory has told her I’m taken by someone, and she can’t bear that I’ve not confided in her. It would be hard enough spilling if I were to get involved with a regular guy, under regular circumstances, but Miller? And with our twenty-four hour agreement? No, it goes against everything I know, and I’m ashamed of myself because of it. While Nan has been begging me to sow my wild oats, I don’t think she quite meant as wild as my mother.

  She gazes at me, her old navy eyes thoughtful. ‘I’m glad,’ she says softly. ‘You can’t hide from your mother’s history for ever.’

  I shrink a little, but not wanting to extend this line of conversation, especially with Miller hiding behind the curtains, I just nod my head at her, my silent way of saying yes. She nods in return and slowly backs out of my room, all cool and casual, but I know she’ll be rushing back to the lounge window to see if the man has returned to his swanky car. My bedroom door shuts and Miller appears from behind the curtain. I’ve never been so embarrassed, and the interested look on his face only enhances it, even if it’s nice to see him display a facial expression other than the completely serious one that I’ve become used to.

  ‘Your grandmother is a busybody, yes?’ He’s really amused by her interrogation performance, yet I can also see curiosity lingering on that perfect face.

  Straightening myself out, just for something to do other than feed his amusement and his curiosity, I shrug, feeling smaller than ever. ‘She’s entertaining,’ I flip, my eyes darting across the floor. I want the ground to swallow me whole right now.

  He’s pushed up against me in a second. ‘I felt like a teenager.’

  ‘Did you hide behind a lot of curtains back then?’ I step away to gain some breathing space, but my attempted escape is in complete vain.

  He moves forward. ‘Are you ready, Olivia Taylor?’

  I get the feeling he doesn’t just mean to leave. Am I ready? And for what? ‘Yes,’ I say, decidedly staunch, not quite knowing where the word spoken with such confidence comes from. I stare at h
im, unwilling to be the first to look away. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’ll experience while I’m there, but I know that I want to go . . . with him.

  His lovely lips give an almost undetectable smile, telling me he knows I’m feigning confidence, but I keep my eyes on his, unwavering. He leans down, getting us nose to nose, then blinks slowly, parts his lips slowly, drops his eyes to my mouth slowly, and then he increases my heart rate further by singeing my bare arm with his delicate touch. Nothing extraordinary, but the feeling is beyond extraordinary, like nothing I’ve felt before . . . until I met him.

  He dips his head, coming so close I can’t help closing my eyes. I’m dizzy and exhilarated all at once, feeling his tongue trace my bottom lip.

  ‘If I start, I won’t stop,’ he murmurs, pulling away. ‘I need to get you in my bed.’ He grasps my nape and twists his hand slightly, forcing me to turn away from him and walk forward.

  ‘My nan.’ I barely splutter the words out in my wanton state. ‘She can’t see you.’ I’m led across the landing and down the stairs – me cautious, him hasty.

  ‘I’ll wait in the car.’ He releases me from his grasp and strides to the front door, opening it and shutting it with no regard for my peeking grandmother.

  ‘Nan!’ I shout, panicked, knowing she’ll have her face squished against the glass of the window looking for him. ‘Nan!’ I need to get her away before Miller appears from the recess of the front door. ‘Nan!’

  ‘Bloody hell, girl!’ She appears in the doorway with George in tow, looking at my frozen form with worried eyes. ‘What’s the matter?’

  With a blank mind and blank face, I step forward and kiss her cheek. ‘Nothing. See you tomorrow.’ I don’t hang around. I leave my nan frowning and George muttering something about a strange woman, and run down the pathway to the shiny black Mercedes, diving in and sinking into my seat. ‘Go,’ I press impatiently.

  But he doesn’t. The car remains idle at the kerb, and he remains idle in his seat, showing no sign of rushing away from my house as I’ve demanded. His tall, suited frame is relaxed, one hand draped casually on the wheel as he looks at me, completely serious, his steely blues giving nothing away. What’s he thinking? I break the eye connection, but only because I want to confirm what I already know. I look up to the front window of my house and see the curtains twitching. I sag further in my seat.

  ‘What’s the matter, Livy?’ Miller asks, reaching over to rest his hand on my thigh. ‘Tell me.’

  My eyes are on his big, manly hand, my flesh burning beneath it. ‘You shouldn’t have come in,’ I say quietly. ‘You may have found it amusing, but you’ve just made this even harder.’

 
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