After This Night (Seductive Nights #2)(17)

by Lauren Blakely

“Hey man, can you run a quick check on someone for me?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely for you,” his friend said in his gregarious voice.

Clay gave him the basic details. “Just let me know what kind of business he’s running. Doable?”

“This is easy. I’m in front of my laptop right now, and will run a few quick searches. That is, if my lady friend doesn’t come back and try to distract me.”

Clay smiled briefly. “Have fun with Tess. But take care of me too.”

“You bastard, you owe me so much. I love it when you owe me. I love running down shit for you because it gives me one more thing to add to my totals. There’s only one other person I do this for free for,” Cam said, his voice stretching across the country like a big old Texas-style hug.

“Who’s that?”

“I’m not saying but she’s a lot prettier than you.”

“I should hope so.”

He hung up, and returned to Julia. She looked different than she had before. She’d always been tough, strong, a woman of the world. Now she looked empty, as if she’d shed all her emotions and replaced them with cool blankness. He reached for her, gripping her arms gently but firmly as he kept his eyes fixed on her. “That story is crazy, and I hate what he did to you and I hate that anyone wants to hurt you, and here’s the thing—I won’t let them now. You know that, right? You’re with me, and that means I’m here to help you. You tried to protect me and that was the most adorable, sweetest, sexiest thing anyone has ever done, but you don’t have to because that’s my job. Got that?”

She said nothing, just stared hard at him. She was shutting down, and he was having none of that. Not after she’d finally opened up. “I’m not running,” he said firmly, refusing to let her look away. “I’m here for you. I’m here with you, and I want to help you. That’s what I do. That’s what I want to do for you.”

“Why?” She crossed her arms over her chest.

“Why?” he said, his voice louder. He was going to have to make this abundantly clear. “Because I flew here to see you. Because you are under my skin. Because this f**king bastard left you with a shit ton of problems and if I ever find him I will make sure he pays. And because you have the mafia after you.”

“That doesn’t scare you? Make you want to run?” She shot him a challenging stare, almost as if she were daring him to walk away.

“No,” he said crisply.

There wasn’t a chance in hell that was happening. He straightened his spine, planted his feet wide, making it clear in every way that he was staying. “It makes me want to stay.”

“Why do you want to help me?”

He shook his head in frustration, but deep down he understood why she was behaving like this. She’d admitted something terribly private, and self-preservation was familiar ground for her.

“May I remind you of your toast in there?” He tipped his chin to the reception. Through the glass, the guests were still spinning on the dance floor, the twinkling lights illuminating their steps. Waiters moved nimbly about, passing out appetizers. “Common interests and passion? Ring a bell?” he said, waiting for her to acknowledge what she’d said a mere hour ago. She nodded once. “I feel the same.”

She didn’t answer him, so he reached for her hands, unpeeled them from her chest, and drew them behind her back.

“Now, don’t go cold on me. If you do, I will have to tie your hands the next time I f**k you,” he said, fixing her with an intensely serious look.

Her lips quirked up, as if she were trying hard to hold in a smile. “That’s a promise, gorgeous,” he added.

“But that’s a promise I like,” she whispered, and her words were a straight shot to his groin. They had to have set some kind of record for most hours being near each other without tearing off clothes. He pressed his h*ps against hers, holding her in place, watching her eyes go hazy as she felt him.

“Now listen. I made the phone call you asked me to make. I don’t care right now about what Cam is doing, or finding out, or anything. I care about you, woman. And I haven’t f**ked you in a month, so if I were you I’d be thinking about how you’re going to spend the rest of the reception without any underwear on because it’s about to come off.”

“Is that a promise too?” she asked, and the playfulness he knew and longed for had returned to her voice.

“Yes. Now I’m going to deliver on it.” He grabbed her hand and linked his fingers through hers, guiding her across the lawn, past the reception hall, and to a back door that led down a carpeted hallway. This was the kind of place that had swank bathrooms, and that was what he needed right now. He walked quickly, scanning the area for an opening. When he spotted a bathroom, he knocked once, opened the elegant white door, and locked it quickly behind them.

The bathroom was small with marble floors and a sink that had just enough room for Julia to perch on. He lifted her up onto the edge of the vanity.

She was trembling.

Concern sliced through him. He lifted her chin gently. “You okay?”

She nodded, but didn’t speak.

“Julia, what is it?”

She shook her head, and seemed to swallow back a tear. “I’m sorry, I’m just super emotional today.”

He leaned into her, resting his forehead against hers. “It’s okay to be emotional. Your sister got married, and you shared something intense with me.”

She reached her arms around his waist, her hands gripping the back of his white shirt. She still wore his suit coat and looked unbelievably hot in it. “And I want you to make love to me right now,” she said in a breathless voice, her cheek pressed against his.

“Then I will make love to you,” he said, bringing his hands to her face. He cupped her cheeks, and raised her chin so she met his eyes. “You’re so f**king beautiful,” he said, the words spilling out without control. He had to say it, had to tell her over and over.

“So are you,” she said, and ran her hands down the buttons on his shirt, her fingers reaching his waistband. She unhooked his belt, then in seconds she was unzipping him, reaching a hand into his briefs.

His head fell back when she touched his c**k for the first time in a month. He groaned as her soft, nimble fingers gripped him. She stroked him up and down, and he could almost stay like this because the feel of her hand on him was like a quick dive into a zone of white-hot pleasure. He rocked into her hand, and she gripped him tighter, making a fist that felt so f**king good wrapped around him.