Subgenre: Sports, Contemporary
Liz and Gavin's story is continued in the novella Holiday Games!
Changing the Game
Book Two in the Play-by-Play Series
Most people play by the rules. Gavin and Liz aren't most people...
Win at any cost. That's always been the mantra of sports agent Liz Darnell. When she carries things too far and risks losing her number-one client, baseball pro Gavin Riley, Liz realizes that she'll have to work extra innings to win him back. It might not be too much of a stretch. She's had a thing for this player's moves since she first laid eyes on him, and by the looks of it, he wants her just as bad.
Gavin's more than ready—especially when Liz is offering herself as part of the bargain. And as much of her as Gavin wants. For added thrills, he decides to throw a little curve ball Liz's way to see just how far she's truly willing to go to keep him as a client. But when love unexpectedly enters the playing field, neither Liz nor Gavin are ready for the biggest game-changer of them all.
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I love to cook. I don't always have time to cook, what with deadlines and all, but I do love to cook. Two of my favorite things to eat are seafood and pasta.
If you've read my books, you'll notice my characters are usually eating. Hey, I like to eat. My characters should eat too, right? There's usually always a kitchen or cooking scene in my books somewhere, or maybe a restaurant scene. I dig food.
One of the things I came up with while writing Changing the Game was that Gavin is a cook. Not just a cook, but a great cook. I found this recipe for Pan Seared Salmon Pasta with Spinach, and not only did I want to fix it, I wanted Gavin to fix it for Liz. So he did. Step by step. Liz loved it. In fact, it gave a lightbulb moment and an idea Gavin wasn't too fond of. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens.
In the meantime, here's the recipe. If you make this dish, let me know what you think!
Pan-Seared Salmon Pasta with Spinach
(adapted from the Paupered Chef)
Note: The Paupered Chef site has nice step by step photos of the prep and cooking process for this dish. Really awesome!
8 oz salmon fillet - The size depends on how many you're feeding. If this is a romantic meal for two, about 8 oz will do.
Fresh spinach (not the frozen boxed stuff)
1 cup heavy cream
Small handful of parsley
3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 pound of pasta (or more if you're cooking for more people…you be the judge.)
Zest of one lemon
Salt and Pepper to taste
Again, this recipe serves 2, but can be adapted for more
Fill a large pot with water and turn it on high for the pasta so you'll be ready to cook the pasta. This meal cooks fast and you don't want to sit around and wait for the pasta to cook. Add salt. If the water boils before you're ready to put in the pasta, turn the heat down.
Melt the butter in a pan set on medium-high. Once the butter has completely melted, foams, and begins to turn a little brown, take the fish and place it in the pan flesh side down.
Sauté the fish for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the skin has nice coloring. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the middle has lost much of its redness. Don't worry about cooking it until completely done, since the fish will be placed into the sauce later in the recipe and will finish cooking if need be. You're developing a nice crust in this stage. When ready, remove the fish and place it on a cutting board.
Remove the zest from one lemon. You can use a grate or microplane to do this. Vegetable peelers work, too--make sure to use only the yellow skin and not the bitter white layer beneath it. Finely chop a handful of parsley.
Place a little more butter in the same pan as you cooked the fish, and throw in the spinach. It will seem like a ton of spinach, but it will dramatically shrink in a few minutes.
Once the spinach has condensed by half, throw in the lemon zest. Now is a good time to check the pot of boiling water, as the rest of the recipe will be done in 10 minutes. If ready, throw in the pasta.
Once the spinach looks wilted, pour the heavy cream into the pan and let it reduce for a few minutes, depending on how far along your pasta is.
Meanwhile, remove the skin from the back of the salmon (if the salmon you bought has skin on the back). It is easy to remove once it has been cooked. You can use a fork or a knife, but it's pretty easy to do it with your fingers. Be sure to get all the skin off.
Flake the fish into bite sized chunks.
Place the salmon back into the pan, then toss in a handful of parsley.
Drain the cooked pasta, and dump it into the pan. Toss it with a pair of tongs and serve right away.
I like this recipe with warm bread and a side salad. Delicious!
» Changing the Game is a finalist in Bookseller's Best Awards Erotic Romance category. (posted May 2012)
"A strong plot, complex characters, sexy athletes, and non-stop passion make this book a must read."
— Maria Munoz , Fresh Fiction
Read the entire review.
"What makes this book a 'keeper' for me is that underlying all the romance, sex, tension and baseball are two people who have spent their lives being strong and independent, but finally realize that mistakes can be overcome, reaching out isn’t a weakness, and being honest and open can bring good things like love.
— Marisa-O’Neill , Heart to Heart - the BN Romance Blog
Read the entire review.
"... A superb smash hit! .... Jaci Burton does raw, passionate romance like no other! ... Changing The Game is an extraordinary novel – a definite home run!!"
— Miranda, Joyfully Reviewed
Read the entire review.
Start Reading Chapter One
Gavin Riley knew Elizabeth Darnell had been avoiding him for the past several months. And he knew why.
She was afraid he was going to fire her just like his brother Mick had.
Oh, sure, Mick played in the NFL and Gavin played major league baseball, so in a lot of ways they were similar. And since Mick was Gavin's big brother, many people thought Gavin followed Mick's lead, especially in business matters. After all, Mick had hired Elizabeth first, and Gavin had followed suit.
But people assumed wrong. Gavin made his own decisions about business and didn't do everything his brother did. Even if Liz had messed with Mick's personal life, had hurt Mick's girlfriend and her son, and had done just about everything humanly possible to piss his brother off. She might have apologized and set things right with Mick, Tara, and Tara's son, Nathan, but it had been a case of too little, too late.
There were things a sports agent did that were valuable to an athlete's career. But screwing with an athlete's love life could be the kiss of death for an agent.
Liz had never once touched Gavin's love life. In fact, Liz threw women at him like a pimp. Beautiful women. Actresses, models, the kind of women that made Gavin look good. Gavin had no complaints. In fact, Liz had done the same thing for Mick until Mick had fallen in love with Tara Lincoln and put an end to Liz coupling Mick with the latest and greatest starlet on the cover of whatever magazine would get him the most exposure. But Liz had tried to get Tara and her son out of Mick's life, which had resulted in Liz getting fired.
And that's why she'd been avoiding Gavin, no doubt afraid Gavin had sided with Mick and was ready to do the same, which Gavin found pretty damned amusing. Elizabeth watched over her clients like a hawk, and for her to go to complete radio silence was like giving up and letting the vultures swoop in and take over her prime real estate.
Not that Gavin was the best player around, but she'd sat on him since she signed him, not letting any other agents get within talking—or signing—distance.
Maybe it had something to do with that night Mick had fired her.
Mick had walked out of the locker room, leaving Elizabeth alone with Gavin.
Liz had come up to him looking all teary-eyed and vulnerable, two things that were totally uncharacteristic of her.
Then she'd kissed him. And walked away.
Not that he'd thought about that kiss over the past months.
Except after that she'd disappeared, hadn't called him, emailed him, seen him or stalked him in any way—also uncharacteristic of her. So had it been the kiss that had sent her into hiding or the fear if he saw her he'd fire her?
Did she really think he couldn't hunt her down if he wanted to cut ties with her?
It was time for her to come out and face the music.
She couldn't avoid him forever, especially not at this sports banquet where she had several clients, him included, though she'd been doing her best to steer clear of him.
He'd laid low most of the night, letting her flit around and focus on a few of his baseball peers. He always enjoyed watching her work a room full of hotshot jocks. Elizabeth commanded attention. It didn't matter whether a room was filled with the hottest females around—a guy would have to be either limp-dicked or dead not to notice her. Hair the color of his favorite red sports car, incredible blue eyes, creamy soft skin, and legs a man could only hope to have wrapped around him someday. And she showed it all off with practiced precision. She was a walking sex bomb with a wicked brain. A lethal combination.
Gavin would be lying if he didn't admit to being tempted by Liz. But he never mixed business with pleasure, and he took his opportunities elsewhere. Liz had been a great agent, had locked him up tight with the Saint Louis Rivers Major League Baseball team right out of college, and she'd worked her ass off to make him rich, get him product endorsements, and keep him in his position at first base. He never wanted to do anything to change that.
Besides, he doubted Elizabeth was his type.
Gavin was pretty damned particular about the women he chose. And ballbusting women like Elizabeth? Definitely not his type.
But they needed to get a few things straight, and she could only avoid him for so long.
The banquet was winding down, and most everyone was leaving. Liz was with Radell James and his wife, walking toward the main ballroom doors. Gavin shot out a side door and hung back, unobserved, while she said her good-byes.
She looked good tonight in one of her usual business suits. Black, which seemed to be one of her favorite colors, and tailored to within an inch of its life. The skirt hung just above her knee, and those shoes she wore played up her toned calves, too. She walked through the front doors of the hotel and outside with Radell and his wife.
Gavin stepped outside unnoticed while Liz talked with Radell. Gavin stood in the background and watched until Radell and Teesha's taxi arrived.
After they left, Liz leaned against the brick wall and closed her eyes. She looked tired. Or defeated. Her guard was down.
Time for Gavin to make his move. He stepped in front of her.
"You've been avoiding me, Elizabeth."
Her eyelids shot open, and her eyes widened with shock. She started to push off the wall, but he pinned her there by placing his hand on the wall by her shoulder. There was a planter on the other side, so she had nowhere to go.
"Gavin. What are you doing here?"
"It's the sports banquet. You knew I was here. In fact, I'd say you danced around tables doing your best to not run into me tonight."
She blinked. Her sweetly painted mouth worked, but nothing came out for a few seconds. He didn't think he'd ever seen her at a loss for words before. Her gaze darted side to side like a cornered animal looking for escape.
Finally she relaxed and the old Elizabeth was back, her game face on. She tipped her finger down the lapel of his jacket.
"I wasn't avoiding you, sugar. I picked up a new client, so I had to babysit him a bit and introduce him to all the right media people. Then there was Radell, and we had a few things to discuss that were important. I'm so sorry we haven't had a chance to catch up. Did you need me for something?"
"Yeah. We need to talk."
In an instant, the warmth fled. Her expression narrowed. "About what?"
"You and me."
Something flashed in her eyes, something hot he’d never seen before.
Or maybe never noticed before. As soon as it was there, it was gone.
Maybe he’d just imagined it. But Gavin didn’t imagine things, and what he’d seen caused a tightening in his balls. It was like the kiss that night, throwing him for a loop and making him second guess everything he thought about her. He’d always maintained his distance from Liz because they had a professional relationship. Besides, she didn’t pay much attention to him other than in a professional capacity. She never fawned over him in the same way she did with a lot of her other clients. He figured she didn’t have a personal interest in him, which suited him just fine since he had no problem finding women, and women had no problem finding him.
But what he’d just seen in her eyes had been . . . interesting.
“You and me? What about you and me?” she asked.
“You finished with all your client stuff?”
“Let’s go somewhere and . . .” He skimmed his gaze down her body, lingering where her silk blouse lay against her breasts. He dragged his gaze back to her face, searching for a reaction.
She swallowed, and the muscles of her throat moved with the effort.
Elizabeth was nervous. Gavin didn’t think he’d ever seen her nervous before.
This was perfect.
“Yeah.” He pushed off the wall and signaled for the valet, gave him his ticket, and grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, bringing her with him to the curb while he waited for the valet to bring his car.
Fortunately, the sports banquet was in the city where the Saint Louis Rivers spent spring training. Damned convenient and no travel biting into his schedule. He traveled enough during the season, and having to add one more event where he had to hop on a plane would have been a drag.
He tipped the valet when he brought the car. He and Elizabeth got in, and he zipped onto the highway.
“Where are we going?”
She arched a brow. “You have a house? Why not one of the hotels?”
“I stay in enough hotels during the season. I want a place to myself during spring training.”
They drove in silence. Gavin made the turn north toward the beach.
“A a house on the beach?”
“Yeah. It’s remote and I can run in the mornings.”
She half turned in her seat. “Dammit, Gavin. Are you going to fire me? Because if you are, I’d rather you just do it right away. Don’t drag me out here to your house, then expect me to take a cab back to the hotel.”
Gavin fought back a laugh. “We’ll talk when we get inside.”
“Shit,” she whispered, then folded her arms in front of her and propped her head against the window for the remainder of the drive.
He turned off the highway and took the beachfront road, pulling into the garage. Elizabeth let herself out of the car and followed him inside, looking like a prisoner on her way to an execution.
He flipped the lights on and opened the sliding door leading out to the back porch.
He shrugged. “It’ll do for now. Want a beer or some wine?”
“Why? Trying to soften the blow?”
He slipped his hands into the pockets of his slacks. Ignoring her question, he asked again, “Wine, beer, something else?”
She inhaled and let out an audible sigh. “Glass of wine would be nice, I guess.”
He opened a bottle of wine, poured a glass for her, then grabbed a beer from the fridge.
“Let’s go outside.”
The house had a great back porch, though he supposed out here it was called a veranda or balcony or something. Hell, he didn’t know what it was called, only that it overlooked the ocean and he liked sitting out here at night to listen to the waves crash against the beach.
There was a long cushioned swing for two and a couple of chairs. Liz sat in a chair, and Gavin took the other one.
She took the glass he offered and tipped it to her lips, taking several deep swallows of wine. “Is there a particular reason you dragged me out here to your beach haven instead of telling me what you needed to at the hotel?”
Yeah. He wanted to set her off balance. Liz was always in control. Besides, he didn’t want her to stalk off or find an excuse to leave.
And . . . hell, he really didn’t know why he’d brought her here, other than he wanted to know why he hadn’t seen her in months. She was on his tail constantly, until the thing happened with his brother. Since then she’d all but fallen off the face of the earth.
“You usually call me twice a week, and I see you at least once a month.”
She shrugged. “You were busy with the end of your season. I was busy, too. Then there were the holidays.”
“You always make it a point to be wherever I am so we can have dinner. And when was the last time you missed the holidays with my family?”
She snorted. “Your brother fired me. His fiancée hates me. I hardly think it would have been appropriate to spend the holidays with your family.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered to my mother. She loves you and thinks of you as family. Personal is different from business.”
“Not to me it isn’t. And I’m sure it isn’t to Mick and Tara, either. I wouldn’t have wanted to interfere in your family celebrations. I know I’m not welcome there anymore.”
She looked away but not before he saw the hurt in her eyes.
This was a new side to her. Gavin looked closer, suspected she was full of shit since he knew she had no feelings. She was just bitter about losing Mick as a client.
“You could have arranged to see me outside of family gatherings.”
She studied her nails. “My schedule has been kind of full.”
“Bullshit. You went into hiding after Mick fired you.”
Her head shot up. “I don’t hide. Losing Mick was a giant financial hit. I had to scramble to sign clients to lessen the burden.”
Gavin laughed. “You’ve made a ton of money off Mick, me, and the other guys. I don’t think you’re hurting.”
“Fine.” She set her wineglass down and stood, moving toward the railing to stare out over the ocean. “You can believe whatever you want to since you’ve already made up your mind. And if you’re going to fire me, then get it over with so I can get out of here.”
Gavin stood and came over to her. “You think I brought you here to fire you?”
She faced him. “Didn’t you?”
He was struck by the vulnerability on her face. He’d never seen it before. Elizabeth always had a hard edge to her, a confidence she wore that made her stand out like a star. Right now it wasn’t there. She was vulnerable, hurt and afraid.
Maybe it wasn’t an act after all. He’d been convinced she wasn’t capable of actual emotions.
It would appear she was capable of hurting, and he didn’t know what the hell to do about that.
Moonlight danced across her hair, making her look like a goddess lit by silver fire. For the second time that night Gavin realized that Elizabeth was a beautiful, desirable woman. He’d always thought of her as a vicious shark, which was a great place to file her in his head because she was the business side of his life. Oh, sure, she was always great to look at, and he had to admit he’d admired her body more than a few times, but he’d never thought of her as someone who had . . . feelings or emotions.
But as the light played with her eyes, he thought he saw tears welling up in them. And something else lit up her eyes when she looked at him, something he’d seen in many women’s eyes before.
Desire. Need. Hunger.
Couldn’t be. Liz was cold. He’d seen her drive a three-hundred-pound lineman into the ground with her sharp tongue, take a cold-hearted team owner by the tie and squeeze millions from him without so much as blinking. Liz was ruthless and had no soul. She would cut your heart out before she ever showed you she was vulnerable.
He’d seen what she had done to Tara and her son, Nathan, and hadn’t once thought about how it would affect them. She’d wanted to cut them out of Mick’s life. Emotion and how they felt hadn’t entered the picture. They were an inconvenience and needed to be removed.
Whatever act she was putting on for him now was just that—an act, a way to gain his sympathy or distract him so he wouldn’t toss her out on her ass. Losing clients was bad for business. And Liz was all about business, all the time. As far as he knew, she didn’t have a personal life. She ate, breathed, and slept business twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
So yeah, Elizabeth vulnerable? That was a freakin’ laugh. Those tears were manufactured, and he wasn’t buying it. And the idea of her wanting him? No way. She’d usually been straightforward with him, so he didn’t understand what game she was trying to play.
“Liz, what are you doing?”
She frowned. “Excuse me?”
“What are you trying to do here?”
She rolled her eyes. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Gavin. You brought me here, remember?”
She drained her glass of wine and held it out to him. “Either get on with the reason why you brought me here or refill my glass. You’re making me crazy.”
Ditto. He grabbed her glass and took it into the kitchen, finishing his beer along the way.
When he came back outside, he found she’d kicked off her shoes and taken off her jacket. Wind whipped strands of her perfect hair loose. They flew in the breeze, wild and untamed.
He’d like to see Liz wild and untamed, but he’d bet she gave orders in bed, too.
He never thought about Elizabeth and sex in the same sentence, preferred to keep the two topics separate.
So why now? Was it the look she’d given him earlier?
Dammit. He didn’t want to think of her that way.
She shivered and rubbed her arms.
“Want your jacket?
“No. I’m just cold by nature.”
He could make a remark about that but decided to let it slide, handed her the wine, and poured himself a whiskey from the bottle he’d brought outside with him. Beer just wasn’t cutting it.
It was time to get down to business and tell her why he’d brought her out here tonight.
“I screwed up with Mick,” she said, staring at the water, not looking at him. “I thought I could control him, that I knew what was best for him. Turns out I had no idea. I wasn’t listening to him when he told me he wanted Tara. I thought it was a fling. But he was in love with her, and I didn’t want him to be in love with her.”
This was new. Liz opening up to him? They talked business, and sometimes had a few drinks and laughs when they were together, but they mostly talked sports. Nothing personal. Ever.
“Why didn’t you want him to be in love with her?”
“Because if he was, things would change.”
“Mick was so easygoing. I could fix him up with an actress or model for promo, and he’d go along with whatever I suggested. His face was on the cover of so many magazines, and his name was everywhere. I made him famous.”
He moved up next to her. “His arm made him famous, Liz.”
Her lips curled in a wistful smile. “That was part of it. You guys don’t understand PR at all. You think all you have to do is what you do out on the field, when it’s so much more than that.” She emptied her glass again, then set it on the table. “Being good at your sport is only a small part of making you into an icon. The gossip magazines, the media, your pictures, and your endorsement deals . . . everything else is what makes you.”
She turned to face him. “You could be the best goddamn first baseman in all of baseball, but if I don’t get you the deals to hawk deodorant or razors or underwear, if the public doesn’t find out who you are, doesn’t see your face eight times a day on commercials and in print media and online during your season? No one’s going to care, Gavin. No one’s going to care that you had a .338 batting average with forty-one home runs, that you won your sixth consecutive Golden Glove, and that you were the National League’s MVP. No one’s going to care. They care because the media tells them to care. And the media cares because I tell the media to care.
“All you guys want to do is play your sports, have your parties with your women, buy your expensive cars, and make sure you look good. You want those endorsement deals so you’re financially secure, but you don’t realize how cutthroat it is out there, how hard it is to get those deals. Because for every one of you, there are forty other guys clamoring for the same spot. That’s what you pay me for. Not just to negotiate your contract, but to get all those deals for you and to put your face on the cover of Sports Illustrated and to make sure you end up in People magazine. That’s what you pay me for. That’s why you need me.”
She pushed off the railing and stumbled into the kitchen.
Hell. He had no idea what that was all about. He knew damn well what she did for him. She was on a roll wasn’t she?
But he liked the feisty Elizabeth much more than vulnerable, sad Elizabeth. He was just going to let this play out and see where she went with it.
Shit. Liz leaned against the counter and took a long swallow of wine, wishing she’d never agreed to come here with Gavin.
Spilling her guts like that had been stupid. She never talked to Gavin like that. Everything with him was always superficial. She told him how great he was, or she set him up for a photo shoot. And she renegotiated his contract and got him the best deal. That was it. That was all they ever discussed.
She always kept her distance from him, usually met him in crowds and at public events where she’d be safe.
And she had a damn good reason for it.
One, she was four years older than him. She didn’t date younger guys. Ever.
Two, she was in love with him and had been for years.
Three, he was totally, utterly, and completely oblivious about it, and she intended to keep it that way.
Oh, sure, she flirted with him, just like she did with all her clients. Surface stuff, nothing but fluff. She never wanted Gavin to think she treated him any differently than she did her other clients. And he was mostly clueless, because he paid very little attention to her except when it came to business, thankfully.
But she did treat him differently, because she felt differently about him. She kept her distance because of how he made her feel.
When it had happened, she couldn’t say. God knows she’d tried to keep it from happening. But there was just something about him. Maybe it was his dark good looks, his mesmerizing green eyes, the way his dark brown hair fell over his brow, or the sexiness of his goatee. Maybe it was his lean body that he honed into shape with daily workouts at the gym and playing noncompetitive sports outside his own sport of baseball. Maybe it was the way he catered to kids on the ball field, always taking the time to sign autographs or stop and talk to them. He was a big jock and worth millions, but he’d never developed a giant-sized ego about it like many of her clients did. He was a genuinely nice guy.
But what she really loved about him was his smile. There was something wickedly devilish about Gavin’s smile. It was a secret, mature kind of smile, the kind of smile that made a woman want to know what he was thinking about.
She’d been curious about his smile when she’d first met him and he’d looked her over in the way a man looks at a woman. But as soon as she’d signed him, that had been the end of it. He’d never looked at her that way again. Oh, she’d seen him cast that smile at other women, and in many ways she’d regretted signing him on as a client, even though she’d given him 100 percent of herself as an agent.
But she’d woefully, wistfully regretted not having him direct that wicked smile at her.
Until tonight. Tonight, outside the hotel, he’d looked at her that way for the first time since he became her client. He’d looked at her like a man looks at a woman he’s interested in having sex with. Her breath caught and for one brief moment she’d wondered . . .
“You hiding in here?”
She jerked around to face Gavin, her fingers clutched tight to the empty glass of wine.
“Refilling my wine glass.”
His gaze shifted. “Glass is empty.”
“So it is.” She lifted the wine bottle. “And so is the bottle.”
Gavin went to the wine cooler and pulled out another bottle, grabbed the opener and yanked the cork out. His warm fingers slid over her chilled ones as he held the glass steady as he refilled it, his gaze never leaving hers.
“Your fingers are still cold.”
There was that look again, that smile he’d given her outside the hotel earlier tonight, the one he’d never let her see before. Her belly tumbled, and oh, God, her nipples hardened. She wondered if Gavin could tell through her flimsy bra and silk blouse.
“Okay.” He held on to her hand, and she tucked her bottom lip between her teeth.
“You’ll have to spend the night.”
She swallowed. “What?”
“I’ve had too much alcohol to get back in the car tonight. I’m not driving. You’ll have to stay here.”
“Oh. Uh . . . I could call a cab.”
He smirked. “You could. But you don’t want to, do you?”
What? What the hell was he talking about? Was he hitting on her?
Oh, no. Oh, hell no.
She went for her bag and dragged out her cell phone. “I’m calling a cab.”
He grasped her wrist and leaned into her. “We’re not done talking, Liz.”
He wasn’t referring to having a conversation. She knew it, and so did he.
“Why now, Gavin? Why, after all these years, are you doing this now?”
“Why do we have to dissect it?”
Her heart pounded so loud she wondered if Gavin could hear it.
He laid her phone to the counter, pulled her fingers away from it.
Call a cab. Go home. Get out of here now before you do something incredibly stupid, Elizabeth.
“I don’t have sex with my clients, Gavin.”
His lips quirked. “You want me to fire you so I can fuck you?”
Her body was going up in flames. Why was he doing this to her?
“Do you want me to fuck you?”
She couldn’t breathe. How was she supposed to answer that?
Lie, you idiot, just like you’ve been lying for the past five years.
He moved to the center island like a predator, caging her between it and him by placing his hands on either side of her hips.
“You’re panting, Liz. Do I scare you?”
He leaned in closer, his hips brushing hers. And then she felt the hard ridge of his cock, and every ounce of common sense fled.
He bent and pressed his lips her neck, his hair brushing her cheek. She inhaled, breathing him in, realizing this was the closest she’d ever been to him. He smelled like fresh soap and everything she’d ever dreamed of. She gripped the granite counter so tight her fingers hurt.
She tried swallowing again, but she’d gone dry. At least her throat had gone dry. Below her waist she was wet, primed and ready for him to slide inside her and give her what she’d fantasized about for the past five years. Her pussy throbbed with anticipation; her breasts hot and swollen. Her clit tingled, and if he rubbed against her just the smallest bit, she could come just thinking about how good it could be between them.
“Gavin,” she squeaked.
“Touch me, Elizabeth,” he murmured, sliding his tongue across her neck. “Put your hands on me, and tell me this is what you want.”
Damn him. Damn, damn, damn. How could she not give him what he asked for? How could she not take what she wanted?
But this would change everything between them. And would undoubtedly cost her Gavin as a client.
Gavin pushed his hips against her, and she melted. She slid her arms up and tangled her fingers into his hair. She pulled on his hair to bring his face up, and the wild need she saw in his eyes matched her own.
His mouth was on hers in seconds, lighting the fire she’d banked for all these years. It exploded when his tongue slid between her teeth.
She’d dreamed of his lips, the taste of him. He tasted like whiskey and the promise of hot sex. He licked her bottom lip, nibbled at it. Her fingers were lost in the soft thickness of his hair, the only thing soft about him as his mouth ravaged hers. She knew there’d be nothing easy about Gavin. He was hardness and pain, and she reveled in it as he drove his tongue inside her mouth and tangled it with hers, sucking her tongue hard until tears sprang into her eyes.
She let out a ragged moan. Gavin grabbed her hips and lifted her onto the counter, settling between her legs, grabbing her butt to draw her heated center against him. He pulled her blouse out of the waistband of her skirt, lifting it over her head in one jerky motion.
He skimmed his hand along her throat and between her breasts. Elizabeth leaned back and watched as he laid his tanned, dark hand across the cup of her bra.
“Sexy, Elizabeth.” He lifted his gaze to hers, then looked back to her bra as he pulled the cup aside, revealing her nipple, which was hard and puckered. “Such a pretty nipple, too.”
She held her breath when he bent and put his lips over her nipple. The second she felt the hot suction, she gasped, her fingers moving into his hair again. She couldn’t believe this was happening. All the hot fantasies she’d stored up of her and Gavin together were coming to life.
She’d never believed her dreams could become reality. She might be a little drunk tonight, and she knew he was, too, and this would probably never happen again so she was committing every moment of it to memory so she’d never forget it. The pull of his lips on the tight bud of her nipple, the sight of his dark head against her pale breast, the scent of him as she inhaled a deep breath, and simply the way she felt—totally consumed by him.
It was her every fantasy to be taken by him. She’d known it was going to be like this.
And she’d never, ever tell him how much it meant to her. She had to keep herself under control, didn’t want him to know how much power he held over her.
Never give a man power over you, or he’ll destroy you.
She lived by those words, and yet right now she was in languorous splendor.
She’d take back control later. Now she gave it up willingly as Gavin dragged the other bra cup aside and lavished attention on her other nipple, using his fingers on the nipple he’d made wet with his mouth. And when he looked up at her, his eyes now filled with a darkness that melted her to the countertop, she waved the white flag in surrender.
He pushed her skirt up over her hips and laid the palm of his hand over her sex, smiling up at her in the way she’d always wanted him to—that secret smile he’d always reserved for other women, never her.
“You’ve got some very sexy underwear, Elizabeth. Do you always dress this way, or did you wear these tonight with the intent to seduce someone?”
She fought to find her voice. “I always dress this way.”
“When was the last time you fucked someone?”
Her eyes narrowed. “None of your business.”
He swept his hand up across her sex, and she gasped. “Answer me.”
Pleasure shot through her as his fingers teased her, then stopped. “When was the last time you fucked a man, Elizabeth?”
She knew better than to give him that kind of control. She’d already given up too much. “When was the last time you fucked a woman, Gavin?”
He swept his fingers along the side of her panties, and she swore if he got anywhere near her clit she’d come. “You want me to lick your pussy, don’t you? You want me to make you come, don’t you?”
Her sex throbbed; her mind awash with the visuals of his head buried between her legs, his soft tongue lashing her pussy until she screamed in orgasm. “Yes. Make me come, Gavin.”
“Then answer me. “
“Why do you need to know?”
He shrugged, his fingers lightly teasing the satin material of her panties. It was a breath, a whisper of touch across her sex. Enough for her to feel it, yet . . . not enough. “I want to know. Tell me. How long has it been?”
He frowned. “Is that the truth?”
“Damn, Liz. Look at me.”
She dragged her gaze to his. He grabbed the tiny wisps of material at her hips and ripped. She gasped; he smiled, then dragged the remnants of her very expensive panties away. Her naked butt hit the granite counter, and she shivered.
He swept his hand under her butt and lifted her, then planted his mouth on her sex.
Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. It was so good. She lifted, watching him as he slid his tongue in a wide arc across her clit, then dragged his tongue down her pussy lips, shoving it inside her.
“Gavin,” she whispered, trembling at the sensations of his tongue rolling along her flesh.
It had been so long since a man had touched her. She didn’t allow it for so many reasons. Sex was so complicated, and often she got so little out of it.
Thoughts fled as she gave up and allowed herself to feel, to experience the magic as he sucked her clit, ran his tongue up and down her pussy, licked her until she fought for every ragged breath.
He grasped her wrists and held her, his fingers digging into her skin, the pain only intensifying the sensations as he took her to the edge of control.
And embarrassingly, she wasn’t going to last. She wanted to because this was the sweetest pleasure she’d ever felt. It was magic, and she was only going to have it once. But the rushing tide of orgasm wouldn’t hold, and she lifted, cried out, and came, her climax a shockwave of sensation that zapped her nerve endings with unbearable pleasure. Gavin tightened his hold on her while he lapped up everything she had to give.
Her muscles quivered, and he helped her sit up, his face wet from her. Her hand shaking, she used her thumb to swipe across his chin. He grabbed her thumb and sucked it, his gaze still dark with unquenched desire. He handed her wineglass to her, and she took a couple long swallows to quench the raw thirst in her throat, but it didn’t quench her thirst for him.
She was afraid it would take a long time for that thirst to be slaked.
He lifted her into his arms and placed her on her feet. All she wore was her skirt and bra, which was off-kilter. He was still completely dressed, his hard cock visible against his dark slacks.
He grabbed her hand. “Come on.”
He led her down the hall, her bare feet padding along the wood floor toward the master bedroom that was all burgundy and cream and wide windows overlooking the ocean. She wished it was daylight so she could see outside, but there were open French doors leading to the terrace, a soft breeze blowing inside, and a lazy fan circling over the . . .
Oh, my God.
A bed that could sleep at least six people.
Now she understood the appeal of this house for Gavin.
It was the bed. Had to be the bed.
She wondered how many people he’d had in that bed at one time.
“You rent this house before?”
“I own this house, Elizabeth.”
Yes, it definitely made sense.
“Plan many orgies?” she asked as she wandered into the room and stopped at the foot of the massive four-poster.
He frowned. “Huh?”
“That bed is not made for one, or two, people to sleep in.”
He continued to give her a confused look, then glanced at the bed and back at her. “Oh. I sprawl. I like a big bed.”
“Gavin, that goes beyond big bed. That’s the kind of bed a polygamist would covet.”
“I don’t have orgies, Elizabeth.” He grabbed a remote off one of the nightstands, pushed a button and the drapes started to close.
“Oh, please, don’t shut all the night out. I like it open and breezy. It’s not like you have peeping neighbors or anything.”
He clicked the button and reopened them.
He tossed the remote to the table. “Undress.”
She put her hands on her hips. “You like giving orders.”
He moved in front of the bed and casually leaned against the footboard. “Don’t make me tell you again.”
She tilted her head back and laughed. “Or, what? You’ll spank me? You want my clothes off, Gavin, get your ass over here and undress me.”
His eyes went dark, and oh, God. There it was. That not quite there smile, the one that screamed secrets.
Except his smile fled, and he stared her down, the heat swirling in his eyes. And then he advanced on her.
For a second, she trembled.
And she never trembled.
Whether it was excitement or raw desire she didn’t know, but he was on her in seconds, her bra ripped and tossed to the ground. He grabbed her skirt, and she felt the strength of his hands at her zipper.
“Wait. Fine, I’ll do it.”
He stopped and stepped back, a smirk on his face as she drew the zipper down and let the skirt fall to the floor.
“Asshole,” she said as she stepped out of it. “That underwear cost a fortune.”
He didn’t apologize, instead raked his gaze over her naked body, and any anger she felt fled in the face of the heated, hungry look on his face.
He unbuttoned his shirt, pulled it off, and tossed it on top of her skirt, then undid the button on his pants and jerked the zipper down. He kicked off his shoes and dropped his pants then his boxer briefs. His erection bobbed up, making her lick her lips and crave the feel of his cock in her hands and mouth.
He was magnificent and everything she could have imagined. Lean, with muscled abs and thick biceps, tan and sexy, and as he jerked her into his arms, she couldn’t think of any place she’d rather be, even though she knew there were a thousand reasons they shouldn’t be doing this.
And a million reasons why she wanted to.
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