After This Night (Seductive Nights #2)(11)

by Lauren Blakely

He drew a sharp breath, and she could tell he was getting close. “You do, Julia. You do.”

“I can almost taste you right now,” she said in a hot whisper, wanting to bring him there.

“You should be able to any second now,” he said, breathing out hard, and groaning loudly.

She grinned widely, thrilled that she’d gotten him off like this. “You taste so f**king good,” she said.

He sighed deeply, the sound of a contented man. She loved that she’d found a way to satisfy him even from this kind of distance. “Your turn,” he said in that deep, sexy voice that sent sparks through her.

She shook her head even though he couldn’t see her. “I need to get back to work. It’s getting busy.”

“Next time then. Because I want to hear you let go,” he said, and a hot wave rolled through her as she pictured their nights on the phone, and how he drew out her cries of pleasure. “I love how you let go when you touch yourself.”

“Why would I do anything else?”

“I want you to let go with me.”

“I do, Clay. I’ve never held back.”

“I don’t mean sex. I mean other ways. I want you to be as free with me in other ways as you are when you’re naked.”

“I want that too. I swear I do,” she said, and she was sure her neediness was coming through loud and clear. But she needed him to know. “I miss you.”

“Yeah?” he asked, sounding doubtful.

“So much. I wish you were here with me.”

He sighed heavily. “I wish I could be,” he said, but it didn’t sound as if he were wishing he could be there right now so he could touch her. More like he was wishing he would allow himself to be close to her again. Because in spite of all their late-night chats, and all the things they shared, there was a distance between them more palpable than the miles. She’d been getting to know him better, and yet, she had never felt farther away from him than she did now. “I have to go,” he said, and now it was possible to feel even more distant.

When their call ended, she knew it couldn’t go on much longer like this; this in-between state was wonderful and thoroughly unsatisfying at the same time.


Before the wedding she played another poker game. She was on some kind of streak the last few weeks, and she won most nights. “I only have $10,000 left,” she said to Charlie at the end of the cash out. She couldn’t hide the smile that curved her lips.

“You can count. But I also gave you a deadline and you have two more weeks to clear it.”

“May isn’t over yet,” she said through gritted teeth.

“You could always ask your sister. I did a little research on her business. Seems she sold it for a pretty penny. Or perhaps you could just transfer your debt to the peppy Fashion Hound,” he said, narrowing his eyes as he crisply punctuated the name of McKenna’s fashion blog, making it clear he knew everything about the people she cared about. “I could find all sorts of ways for her to work for me. She has a nice dog, too.”

Julia snapped, lunging for Charlie’s throat in the restaurant. “Leave my sister and her dog out of this.”

He cackled, grabbing her hands and flicking them off his skin. “I won’t have to involve anyone if you do your job, Red.”

She was tempted to ask McKenna for a loan, but she’d gotten this far on her own. She’d managed to keep her sister and Kim and everyone she loved out of Charlie’s crosshairs. You don’t run the first twenty-five miles of a marathon to send reinforcements in to finish the last mile. Even if that last mile feels like five hundred.

“I will do my job if it’s the last damn thing I do,” she said, and some days it felt like it would be. Like she’d be under his thumb until the day she died.

* * *


Gayle rested her hands on Julia’s shoulders, admiring her work in the mirror. “Want to see the back?”

“Hell yeah,” Julia said, and Gayle swiveled her around and held up a silver hand mirror for her to use to see the French twist.

“I love it,” she said, carefully touching the tendrils that fell on her neck.

“You do?”

“Of course! I love everything you do.”

“Don’t mess it up on the drive to the Presidio,” Gayle said, wagging a finger playfully in admonishment, though she surely meant the directive too. Hairstyles were to be taken seriously.

“It’s fifteen minutes away! What do you think I’m going to do? Hang my head out the limo window like a dog?”

“If you do that please make sure everyone knows I was not responsible for the mess. I only want credit for the good hair days,” Gayle said.

“Thank you for coming in early for me on a Saturday to do this, when you’re not even working,” Julia said, gesturing to the empty salon. The front door was locked.

“Anything for you. Now I’ll walk you out. And by the way, I want an update on your guy.”

Her guy. Was Clay her guy? She didn’t know what he was, except a sexy voice on the end of the phone. She’d gotten to know more about him in this last month from their easy chatter and conversations, and everything she learned made her long for him more. They never talked about a relationship. Never brought up seeing each other. Actual contact was off the table; they were only phone buddies.

But she didn’t have time to fashion an answer to Gayle’s question because when she opened the door to Fillmore Street, Skunk was pacing on the sidewalk like a big bored lion, walking back and forth in a zoo.

The hair on the back of her neck prickled in worry. Of all the days for Charlie to harass her. The bastard. A sister’s wedding day should be a sacred one. A day even Charlie could respect.

Gayle didn’t notice him at first while she locked up. Then she turned around, and Skunk spoke to the hairdresser.

“I was hoping I could get a haircut,” he said gesturing to the salon with its pretty feminine windows decorated with silhouettes of women. This was clearly a salon catering mostly to the fairer sex, though Julia had seen a few men inside from time to time. They didn’t look like Skunk, though. They weren’t big beefy men with faces like slabs of meat, and ankle holsters holding guns. The men who walked through these doors were metrosexuals. Her eyes darted to his feet, and she saw the barest outline of his weapon. He never left home without it.