More than want you, p.16
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       More Than Want You, p.16
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         Part #1 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black

  you’re with me.”

  She holds up her left hand, wiggling the finger beside her pinky. “Until someone puts a ring on this, I am. And I know that someone will never be you, so…I am free. Choose your battles, Maxon. You’re not winning this one. If you want me to wear this button-up Betty garb, I suggest you focus on that fight.”

  Before I can reply, Jennifer emerges with a rolling rack filled with garments zipped up into dark, protective bags. The shelf at the bottom between the wheels holds something like thirty pairs of shoes. “I meant to ask your shoe size. Most of my samples are a six or seven.”

  Keeley puts on a smile. “I’m usually a six and a half.”

  Jennifer lights up. “Perfect. Then most of these should fit. Let’s get started.”

  After she unzips all the bags and hangs the clothes meticulously on the rack, I see the caliber of the garments she’s brought and I smile. Tailored. Designer. Impeccable. The muted colors aren’t typical. Yeah, there are navys and grays, but I see pale peach and a powerful orange. A soft green suit with a leopard print trim at the pockets and cuffs catches my eye. I spot a really sexy dress in black with cream-colored cut-outs at cleavage and waist, giving the illusion of skin that’s actually covered. A pretty salmon-colored skirt snags my gaze next. On the hanger, it’s been paired with a silky white blouse and a taupe cardigan sporting just a hint of texture. This is a visual feast, and imagining how it will all look on Keeley is making my aching cock press into my zipper again.

  I point to a classic pinstripe suit that looks designed to hug the body. The one deviation from tradition is that the lapels drape softly to ruffle down the torso. “Let’s start there. What goes beneath?”

  “It’s actually designed to be worn alone. You can pair it with a shell but it’s not necessary.”

  “So…cleavage?”

  Jennifer nods. “Quite a bit.”

  “Perfect.”

  “Do you want my opinion?” Keeley asks me.

  I try to keep it diplomatic. She warned me to pick my battles. I intend to win the war. “I want to see how everything looks, then we’ll compare notes afterward.”

  “Fine,” she huffs.

  Jennifer hustles her into the dressing room with several boxes of shoes and some lacy stuff that will no doubt make my heart race dangling from her palms. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”

  I hear the ladies talking. Fabric rustles. The ever-helpful associate darts out from the little room to dash for her jewelry case. After a cock of her head, she reaches for several pieces, then hustles back to the dressing room. Another two long minutes pass before the door opens.

  Keeley emerges looking a tad less than comfortable and confident in that pinstripe suit. I don’t know why. She should be thrilled. It hugs every curve, exaggerating the flare of her hips and the slender shape of her calves. Her feet look almost Cinderella dainty in the sexy black wedges with straps wrapped around her ankles a time or ten. I almost see the swells of her breasts. The chunky silver locket high on her throat is a distraction, but I’m sure if I look hard enough I’m going to see tits. Only I don’t. It’s classy yet sexy. Jennifer has even wound Keeley’s pink hair into a French twist behind her head.

  Overall, she looks stunning. I always preferred babes in bikinis or tight dresses, but now I see exactly what Griff responds to by lusting after women in suits. Oh, my god, the thought of stripping away her power and getting her under me, hearing her cry out my name while I’m—

  “Do you like it?” Jennifer butts into my thoughts.

  “Yeah. Everything. Just like that. What else do you have?”

  “Let me show you.”

  She proceeds to change Keeley into the pale green suit. It’s classic but reminds me of springtime. It’s paired with a black shell that highlights the animal print trim. She’s even found matching cheetah shoes that should seem hookerish, but with such an elegant ensemble, it’s perfect. Delicate jewelry. A thin headband to hold Keeley’s hair away from her face. Feminine and prim with a hint of vixen.

  I want to dirty her up bad. “Yes. Love all that. Next?”

  By the time we’re done, we’ve chosen four suits, three dresses, ten pairs of shoes, four purses, and a handful of accessories. I can’t help but notice the seven bras and matching panties she’s sliding into a soft pink box all wrapped in tissue paper. I wish to fuck Keeley had modeled those for me. I’m hard just imagining what she’ll look like in those transparent confections of silk.

  I pay Jennifer handsomely for everything she selected and assure her that I’ll call if I need anything else. Keeley is quiet and looking a little shell-shocked as I loop the packages over my wrist and drape all the hanging bags over that same shoulder. With my free hand, I take hers as we leave.

  “You okay?” I ask.

  She takes a few minutes to answer. “It’s…realer now. We’re really going to do this.” She looks up at me with concern. “Maxon, I’m not very good at deceit.”

  I can picture that. Keeley is so open and kind. She would help puppies and old people across the street. She’d stand between a bulldozer and a historic building. She would hate lying to anyone.

  “That’s a crappy trait in business”—I squeeze her hand—“but I like you that way. Just remember, you’re doing this to help me repair my relationship with my brother.”

  “I am. But you’re not.”

  “My motives don’t have to be yours, sunshine. Look, my soul is black. I’m perfectly happy with subterfuge and revenge. But you didn’t get into this to hurt anyone, just help. You don’t have to get down on my level. Just…do what you do.”

  Slowly, she nods. “I have to be honest, if the opportunity to bring you guys together presents itself, I’ll probably ditch the whole flirtation thing and just ’fess up.”

  It won’t but I love the fact that she’s not in a hurry to have sex with my brother. It’s up to me to make sure she doesn’t want to have sex with him—or anyone else. I’m not precisely sure why I’m feeling so possessive, but there it is. I’m not dissecting it now.

  “I know,” I murmur as we reach the car. I doubt Griff will ever let her into his soul enough to talk about family rifts, so it’s a nonissue. “I’m okay with you being you.”

  More than okay.

  She lets out a relieved breath as I help her into the car. When I slide in beside her and we speed out of the nearly empty lot, she reaches across and grabs my hand. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think your soul is black. I hope you see that someday.”

  CHAPTER TEN

  By the end of the week, January has rushed into February. I feel my days with Keeley slipping away. In fact, my time with her is almost half gone. She’s the first person I talk to in the morning and the last person I think about before I go to sleep. I want her, yeah. But it’s more. I want to be with her all the time. I look forward to coming home to her at night.

  What will I do when the month is up and she moves out? Maybe I should convince her to stay. That sounds great…but how?

  The worry makes me tense as I shower and get ready for a long day of showing an overseas client who’s flown in some properties around Maui and Oahu. I would rather spend my day with Keeley…but I’ve made other plans for her. Important ones. Now that we’ve managed to have all her clothes altered with the proper nip and tuck to suit her petite frame, today’s endeavors represent the last of our preparations. Keeley has practiced the body language on me so much now I’m perpetually hard. She knows enough about Griff not to step in shit but not so much that she’ll have to feign surprise as they’re talking. I’m so close to implementing my plan. I should be thrilled, excited—ready to bring a bastard down.

  All I can think about is that beating Griff might mean losing Keeley.

  Trying not to ponder that thought too hard, I don my suit and tie, then grab some of the sprouted bread with almond butter that Keeley keeps around for breakfast. Different…but not bad. When she’s gone, I’ll miss the food, too. I’ll miss h
er laughter. I’ll miss the way she loves my lanai.

  I have to stop sounding like a maudlin limpdick and buck the fuck up. Our arrangement is temporary, and I was doing all right on my own. Kinda. Sorta. If I want something more with her after this is over, maybe we can renegotiate.

  After I wolf down my last bite of toast and toss my plate in the sink, I tap on Keeley’s door. “Sunshine?”

  Nothing. It’s a quarter after seven. I’m surprised she’s not up.

  Slowly, I ease her door open. I don’t want to wake her, but I need to let her know about her appointment this morning.

  As my eyes adjust to the shadows in the room, I spot her. My body tenses. My heart starts thumping uncontrollably.

  She’s sprawled across the bed, face down, stark naked. A sheet covers her luscious ass and shapely legs, but it’s thin. In this light, I almost swear I can see through it. Probably wishful thinking, but I want to believe I can discern the outline of her hips, the soft line bisecting her backside, the slight spread of her legs that almost reveals her bare sex beneath.

  I must be fixated on her because I’ve been two and a half excruciating weeks without sex. I could have ended my torture last night with someone else…and I chose not to. What’s wrong with me?

  At midnight, I got a call from Milan, a not-quite friend who wanted benefits. I turned her down flat. We’ve exchanged favors not so infrequently over the last two years. The phone call wasn’t unexpected, really. We’re busy professionals with needs. Neither of us has time for a relationship and we both like dirty sex. I’ve never minded scratching her itch in the past. I just didn’t have any enthusiasm for the concept last night.

  Keeley shifts, absently brushing her pink strands from her face before settling back into slumber. A foot peeks out from beneath the sheet. Her black toenail polish is chipping. I suspect I’m staring at the reason I had no interest in Milan.

  Fuck.

  “Sunshine…” I call in hushed tones so I don’t startle her.

  “Hmm.” She barely manages to crack her eyes open for a moment before they slide shut again.

  Normally, she’s a morning person, but after the long week of exams and the bottle of wine we drank on the lanai last night, I think she’s wiped out. Actually, watching her sleep is kind of cute…up until the point where I want to rip the sheet away from her body and fuck her until she can’t think.

  “Time to get up,” I murmur.

  “Sleeping in.”

  “You’re not. The Ritz spa is expecting you at eight. You’ve got two full days of pampering.”

  She cracks one eye open. “Seriously? Why so early?”

  I tsk at her. “Poor thing. How dreadful all that massage and therapeutic aromatherapy must be. I know manicures and pedicures are a terrible chore, and who the hell wants a relaxing facial or a seaweed body wrap? I’m totally glad I’ll be with some dude in a suit with whom I share a language barrier all day. That sounds like way more fun than being rubbed on and coddled. So glad I don’t have to endure your torture…”

  Keeley grabs the sheet and pulls it up, covering all her goodies before she rolls onto her side and sends me a quelling glare. “I see the early hour hasn’t dimmed your sarcasm.”

  “Nothing dims that,” I assure her with a wink. “Now up with you.” I can’t resist smacking her ass.

  She shrieks and jumps to her feet, clutching the sheet. “Don’t do that. Get out. I’m naked.”

  “Are you?” I act surprised. “I’m not sure I believe you. Maybe you should drop the sheet and prove it.”

  Gritting her teeth at me, Keeley gives me a shove. “Go. If I have to be downstairs soon, I need to rush through my yoga and put myself together.”

  As much as I’d rather stay and bait her, a glance at my watch tells me I have to go. “I’m meeting a client at a chopper hangar by the airport. We’re touring property all day. I don’t know what time I’ll be back. Probably late, if at all.”

  And I hate that so much.

  “Oh.” Her disappointment gives me hope. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she likes spending time with me, too. “Okay.”

  “It’s the banker we checked out that plantation-style house for last weekend. He just flew in from Hong Kong and only has two days to find a place. I have to stay until that’s done.”

  “Sure.” But she doesn’t sound any more thrilled than before. “Just…I guess keep me posted. Let me know whether I should cook for two tonight.”

  “I will.” I risk coming closer. The reality that I won’t see Keeley all day—and maybe all night—isn’t making me a happy camper. “I’d rather be with you. You know that, right?”

  She gives me that stunning crooked smile. “I would hope I have more appeal than a stuffy banker or I need this spa appointment way more than I thought.”

  I smile back. “Have a good day, sunshine.”

  “You, too.”

  She doesn’t back away. As I stare at her, breathing isn’t as easy as usual. Sleep has softened her face even more. She looks like a goddess rising from that white sheet, and knowing she’s not wearing anything else… It’s taking everything I have not to call the banker and tell him to screw himself so I can fuck her.

  Next thing I know, I’m raising my hand and brushing a stray curl from her face. Her cheek is smooth and warm and delicate. On my next pass, I can’t resist dragging my thumb over her bottom lip. I swallow.

  “Maxon?” she breathes.

  “Yeah?” Does she want me half as much as I want her?

  She doesn’t speak. I see the thoughts turning in her head. Tumult shines in her eyes. She’s questioning something—everything?—but doesn’t make a sound.

  “Sunshine, you okay?”

  “Do you ever wonder if you’re making the right choice? I mean, in your situation, you could probably just pick up a phone and call Griff’s office and ask him if he wants to end this feud. It might be a huge relief to have your brother back and—” She sighs in exasperation. “Don’t shake your head. It’s possible.”

  “It’s not. I’m stubborn, I admit. But Griff is a fucking immovable object. Once he’s made up his mind to cut someone or something from his life, it’s absolute.”

  Harlow says he’s changed, but I think she wants to believe that more than it’s actually true. I wish like fuck she was right. Not having my own flesh and blood as a mortal enemy would sure be easier. It would probably make me happier, too. Being friends with him again… Nothing would thrill me more—if it could be like the good old days. But it can’t. I’ve accepted that. Once Keeley knows Griff, she’ll understand, too.

  “But that was three years ago,” she argues.

  “Three minutes. Three hours. Three centuries. Griff’s resolve will be the same. I know you want to believe the best of people, and it’s one of the things about you I find most attractive. But the man has refused to acknowledge his own son. Jamie is a little boy who did nothing to Griff except be born. My brother has chosen to live without the little guy because he thinks the boy’s mother is a liar. If he can handle every single day without caring about his own kid, I’m pretty sure his brother means even less.”

  “But you don’t know that. You could try.” There’s a whine in her voice that surprises me, like she really wants me to see her perspective.

  To help her understand, I’m going to have to admit something so real to her. It’s one reason I don’t like talking about Griff. This fact just slaps me in the face over and over. “I did. If I put myself out for him like that and he pushes me away again, I don’t know if I could take it.”

  “It’s just your pride, Maxon. It will heal.”

  Damn it, will this woman not understand? “It’s my heart! He fucking broke it and he doesn’t give two shits. So now we’re enemies, and that’s it. Will you drop it?” I step back, rake my hand through my hair. “Jesus, has no one ever broken your heart? Is that why you don’t understand?”

  “Yeah. Someone has. I chose to get over it. Repair the damag
e. Forgive and forget. Be happy again.”

  Even delivered in the softest tones, I hear the rebuke in her words. They’re like a blade slicing open my chest and jimmying around my heart, creating utter carnage. I know she doesn’t mean them that way. I’m probably overreacting.

  I can’t seem to stop.

  “Well, you’re a better person than me. We both know that.” In my pocket, my phone buzzes, and I yank it free. Mr. Zhang is waiting at the hangar, and I’m twenty minutes away. “I have to go.”

  I want to touch Keeley again but I don’t. Instead, I turn and leave, pretty sure I’m going to have a miserable fucking day.

 
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