Promised, p.9Part #1 of One Night series by Jodi Ellen Malpas
‘Livy, it’s polite to look at someone when you’re speaking to them.’ He clasps my chin and pulls, making me face him. ‘I apologise.’
‘It’s done now.’
‘Nothing about the next twenty-four hours is going to be difficult, Livy.’ His hand slides across my cheek tenderly, pushing me to nuzzle into it. ‘I know being with you will be the easiest thing that I’ve ever done.’
It might very well be easy, but I can’t see the aftermath being easy. No, I foresee a mountain of hurt on my part and easiness on his. I’m not myself around him. The sensible woman I’ve moulded myself into has gone from one extreme to the other. Nan’s at that window, Miller’s hand is stroking my cheek sweetly, and I can’t even muster up the energy to stop him.
‘The windows are tinted,’ he whispers, slowly moving forward and resting his soft lips on mine.
That may be so; however, he’s not my boss, and my cute nan knows that very well. But I’ll deal with the interrogation when I get home tomorrow. I’m suddenly not so concerned. I’ve been distracted from my sensible self again.
‘Are you ready?’ He asks the question again, but this time I just nod against him. I’m not ready to be heartbroken at all.
The drive back to Miller’s apartment is quiet. The only sound in the air surrounding us is Gary Jules singing about a mad world. I don’t know much about Miller, but I’ve figured out that he must come from good stock. His speech is refined, his clothing of the highest quality, and he lives in Belgravia. He pulls up outside the building and is out of the car and on my side without delay, opening my door and ushering me out.
‘Have it cleaned,’ he orders, detaching his car key from the key ring and handing it to the green-suited valet.
‘Sir.’ The valet tips his hat, then climbs into Miller’s car, immediately pressing a button that brings him closer to the wheel.
‘Walk.’ He takes my bag and settles his hand on the base of my neck again as he guides me through the giant glass revolving door and into a mirror-invested lobby. Everywhere I look, we’re there, me being guided, looking petite and apprehensive, and him pushing me onward, looking tall and powerful.
We bypass the rows of mirrored elevators, heading for the stairwell. ‘Are the lifts broken?’ I ask as I’m steered through the doors and pushed up the stairs.
‘Because I’m not lazy.’ He cuts me off, leaving no room for further questioning, and continues to hold my nape as we take the stairs.
He might not be lazy, but he’s seriously crazy. Four flights of stairs in and my calf muscles are burning again. I’m struggling to keep up. I battle on for one more flight, and I’m just about to call for a break when he turns and picks me up, obviously aware of my breathlessness. My arms around his neck feel right, as comforting as they did before, as he continues with me draped across his arms like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Our faces are close, his smell manly, and he keeps his eyes set firmly forward until we’re outside his shiny black front door.
Miller drops me to my feet, hands me my bag and takes hold of my nape, using his free hand to get the door open, but as the view inside his apartment hits me, I suddenly want to run away. I see the art, the wall where he restrained me, and the couch where he sat me. The images are all vivid, and so are my feelings of helplessness. If I cross this threshold, I’ll be at Miller Hart’s mercy and I don’t even think my long-lost sass will assist me . . . if I manage to find it.
‘I’m not sure I—’ I start backing away from the door, uncertainty abruptly plaguing me, sensibility worming its way into my confused brain. But the fiery determination in his clear eyes is telling me that I’m going nowhere and so does the increased grip of his hand on my nape.
‘Livy, I’m not going to jump you as soon as I get you inside.’ His hand shifts down to my upper arm but he doesn’t restrain me now. ‘Calm down.’
I’m trying to, but my heart won’t let up and neither will the shakes. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘Don’t be.’ He steps away from me, giving me access to the entrance of his apartment. ‘I’d like you to go inside, but only if you want to spend the night with me,’ he says slowly, pulling my gaze to his. ‘And I want you to turn and leave if you’re not sure because I can’t do this unless I know you’re one hundred per cent with me.’ His face is straight but I detect an element of pleading behind the impassive blue gaze of his eyes.
‘I just don’t understand why you want me,’ I admit, feeling insecure and vulnerable.
I know what I look like; I’m reminded every time someone stares at me or comments on my unique eyes, but I also know that I have very little to offer a man, apart from something pleasant to look at. My mother’s beauty was her downfall, and I never want it to be mine. I’m at risk of losing my self-respect, just like she did. I’ve made it so there’s nothing to know. Who would want to give any attention to a girl who offers no intrigue or interest beyond her looks? I know exactly who: men who want nothing more than a pretty woman in their bed, which is exactly why I deprive myself of the potential of being loved. Not lusted after, but loved. I never want to be my mother, yet here I am, tinkering too close for comfort on the edge of debasement.
I can tell that he’s thinking hard about how to answer my question, like he knows it’ll influence my decision to stay or leave. I’m willing him to make his next words count. ‘I’ve told you, Livy.’ He gestures me inside. ‘You fascinate me.’
I don’t know whether that’s the right answer but I slowly walk into his apartment, and I definitely hear a quiet, relieved exhale of breath from behind me. I circle the round table in his entrance hall, placing my bag on the white marble as I pass, before coming to a stop, not knowing whether to sit myself on the couch or go into the kitchen. There’s an air of awkwardness surrounding us and despite his words in the car, it’s difficult.
He walks ahead of me and shrugs off his suit jacket, laying it neatly over the back of a chair before making his way to the drinks cabinet. ‘Would you like a drink?’ he asks, pouring some dark liquid into a tumbler.
‘No.’ I shake my head, even though he’s not facing me.
‘No, thank you.’
‘Sit down, Livy,’ he orders, turning and gesturing towards the couch.
I follow his pointed hand and take my reluctant body to the large cream-coloured leather couch while he leans against the cabinet, slowly sipping his drink. No matter what he does with those lips, whether it’s speaking or simply taking a sip of a drink, it’s distracting. They move so slowly, almost sensuously . . . deliberately.
I’m desperately concentrating on regulating my thundering heartbeat but I lose the battle completely when he moves towards me and sits on the coffee table in front of me, his elbows braced on his knees, his drink suspended in front of his lips, his eyes simmering with all sorts of promises. ‘I need to ask you something,’ he says quietly.
‘What?’ I blurt the word quickly, worriedly.
His glass lifts slowly but those eyes stay on mine. ‘Are you a virgin?’ he asks before tipping the tumbler to his lips.
‘No!’ I recoil, mortified that he’s taken my reluctance as an indication of that. But in truth, I wish I was.
‘Why are you so offended by my question?’
‘I’m twenty-four years old.’ I shift uncomfortably in my seated position, diverting my eyes away from his inquisitive stare. I can feel my face heating, and I want to grab one of his fancy silk cushions to cover it.
‘When was the last time you had sex, Livy?’
I’m dying on the spot. What does it matter when I last slept with someone? Running seems like the best option for me but my reason for escaping has changed.
‘Livy,’ he prompts, placing his drink down, the chink of glass on glass making me jump slightly. ‘Will you please look at me when I’m speaking to you?’
His sternness irritates me, and that’s the only reason
‘I simply asked you a question.’ His surprise at my sudden spunk is clear. ‘It’s usually polite to answer a question when you’re asked one.’
‘No, it’s down to my discretion whether I answer any questions that I’m asked, and I don’t see what relevance your question has.’
‘My question has plenty of relevance, Livy, as will your answer.’
‘And what’s that?’
He looks down at his glass and swivels it on the table for a few moments before slowly returning his eyes to mine. They cut straight through me. ‘It will determine whether I fuck you hard immediately, or break you in first.’
I gasp, my eyes widening at his obnoxiousness, not that he’s affected by my shock or reaction to his crass words. He simply takes his tumbler and has another slow sip of the dark liquid, keeping his unrevealing eyes on me.
‘I don’t like repeating myself, but I’ll make an exception,’ he states. ‘When was the last time you had sex?’
My tongue is knotted in my mouth as I remain under his watchful eyes. I don’t want to tell him. I don’t want him to think that I’m even more pathetic than he must think already.
‘I’ll take your reluctance to answer as an indication that it’s been a while.’ He cocks his head and that lock of hair falls onto his forehead, momentarily distracting me from my humiliation. ‘Well?’
‘Seven years,’ I whisper. ‘Happy?’
‘Yes.’ His response is swift and genuine, yet the stunned eyes are evident. ‘I have no idea how that’s possible, but it pleases me immensely.’ He grabs my chin and lifts. ‘And I’m talking to you, Livy, so look at me.’ I follow through on his instruction until our eye contact is restored. ‘I guess that means I’ll be breaking you in.’
I don’t gasp this time but my blood instantly heats, sending my pulse rate through the roof, replacing embarrassment with want. I want him more than I know I should.
Meeting his intoxicating stare with my own driven gaze, I send instructions to the muscles in my arms to lift and feel him, but before I can engage them, my phone starts squealing from my bag.
‘You should answer it.’ He sits back, giving me space to leave the intimacy of his closeness. ‘Let her know that you’re still alive.’ There’s no amusement on his face, but I hear it in his tone.
I stand quickly, keen to reassure my inquisitive grandmother that all is well. I don’t look at the screen before I answer, but I should’ve. ‘Hi!’ I greet, way too chirpy, given my circumstances.
‘Livy?’ The voice on the end of the line prompts me to pull my phone from my ear and look at the screen, even though I know damn well who it is.
I sigh, picturing Nan frantically dialling Gregory to inform him of the events earlier this evening. ‘Hi.’
‘That man. Who is he?’
‘My boss.’ I squeeze my eyes shut, hoping he buys it, but he scoffs disbelievingly, which quickly tells me I’ve failed to fool him.
‘Livy, give me a break! Who is he?’
I’m stuttering all over my words, frantically searching my mind for some rubbish to feed him. ‘Just . . . he’s . . . it doesn’t matter!’ I snap, starting to pace. Gregory won’t be happy, not after our conversations about Miller Hart.
‘It’s the coffee-hater, isn’t it?’ His tone is accusing, spiking my irritation.
‘Maybe,’ I retort. ‘Maybe not.’ Why I’ve added that is a mystery. Of course it’s the coffee-hater. Who else would it be?
I’m so busy trying to fob off my friend I don’t notice the coffee-hater looming behind me until his chin is on my shoulder, his breath heavy in my ear. I gasp as I turn around and, stupidly or not, I hang up on Gregory.
Miller’s brow is a knot of confusion. ‘That was a man.’
‘It’s rude to eavesdrop.’ I stab at the reject button of my phone when it starts ringing again.
‘That may be so.’ He holds his drink up, one finger detached from the glass and pointing at me. ‘But like I said, that was a man. Who is he?’
‘That’s none of your business,’ I say, fidgeting and diverting my eyes from his accusing blues.
‘If I’m taking you to my bed, then it is my business, Livy,’ he points out. ‘Will you please look at me when I’m speaking to you?’
I don’t. I keep my eyes on the floor, silently wondering why I don’t just tell him who it was. It’s not who he thinks it is, so what does it matter? I’ve got nothing to hide but his demand for the information is unearthing a childish rebelliousness in me. Or it could be my sass. I don’t need to find it because it seems to come out to play willingly around this man, which is undoubtedly a good job.
‘Livy.’ He hunkers down and captures my eyes, his brow raised in authority. ‘If there’s an obstruction then I’ll happily eliminate it.’
‘He’s a friend.’
‘What did he want?’
‘To know where I am.’
‘Because my grandmother has obviously told him that you were at the house and he has put two and two together and come up with Miller.’ My mortification is growing by the second.
‘He knows about me?’ he asks, those dark brows showing no sign of lowering.
‘Yes, he knows about you.’ This is getting stupid. ‘Can I use your bathroom?’ I ask, wanting to escape and gather myself.
‘You may.’ His glass extends from his body and points toward a corridor leading off the lounge. ‘Third door on the right.’
I don’t waste time absorbing his questioning look. I follow his pointed glass, turning my phone off when it rings again, and let myself into the third door on the right, immediately collapsing against the back. But my exasperation is interrupted as I take in the colossal space in front of me. It’s not a bathroom. It’s a bedroom.
I straighten up and scan the space, noting the obscene leather-framed bed, the gigantic chandelier suspended from the ceiling, and the floor-to-ceiling windows, with the most amazing view across the city. I shouldn’t be so stunned. I knew his place was palatial, but this is something else. I see two doors across the room, and deciding that one should be a bathroom, I make my way across the squidgy cream carpet and open the first one I come to, forcing my eyes to avoid the huge bed. It’s not a bathroom, but it is a wardrobe, if such a vast space could be classed as a wardrobe. The square room has floor-to-ceiling mahogany cupboards and shelves circling the three walls with a freestanding cabinet in the centre and a couch backing onto it. The surface of the cabinet displays dozens of small jewellery boxes, all open and exhibiting an array of cufflinks, watches and tie pins. I get the feeling that if I moved one of those boxes, he’d know. I quickly shut the door and hurry to the next one, pushing my way into the most ridiculously regal bathroom I’ve ever seen. I gasp, my eyes bugging. A giant claw-foot tub sits proudly by the massive window, with intricate gold taps and steps leading up to it, and the shower walls are adorned in a mosaic of cream and gold tiles. I try to take it all in. I can’t. It’s too much. It’s like a show home. After washing my hands, I wipe up carefully and straighten the towels, not wanting to leave anything out of place.
As I exit his bedroom I freeze, coming face to face with Miller. He’s frowning again. ‘Snooping?’ he asks.
‘No! I was using the bathroom.’
‘That’s not the bathroom; that’s my bedroom.’
I look down the corridor, counting two doors before the one I’m standing outside of. ‘You said third door on my right.’
‘Yes, and that would be the next door.’ He points to the next door, and I look, completely confused.
‘No.’ I turn and point in the other direction. ‘One, two, three.’ I indicate the door behind me. ‘Third door on my right.’
‘The first door is a cupboard.’
I can feel that irritation rising again. ‘It’
‘Okay.’ He shrugs his perfect shoulders and slowly blinks those perfect eyes, before taking his perfection in its entirety and strolling down the corridor. ‘This way,’ he calls over his shoulder.
Irritation flares. Who does he think he is? My Converse start a moody march down the corridor in pursuit of him, but when I arrive in the lounge, he’s not there. I gaze around to the various doorways, leading to God only knows where, but he’s nowhere to be seen. All of these unfamiliar emotions are driving me insane.
Irritation, confusion . . . desire, want, lust.
I stomp across to the hallway, yank my bag from the table and head for the door.
‘Where are you going?’ His smooth tone tickles my skin and I turn to see him with a refilled glass.
‘I’m leaving. This was a stupid idea.’
He walks forward, a little surprised. ‘You made a silly mistake by taking the wrong door and that’s a cause to leave?’
Promised by Jodi Ellen Malpas / Romance & Love have rating 5.4 out of 5 / Based on43 votes