Simply wishing I had the courage to take a leap wasn’t going to change my situation. The only thing that could change the course of my destiny was action.
And as scared as I was, I was more scared not to try . . . more scared of never knowing what the man behind those piercing hazel eyes was like.
Grabbing my phone from the counter, I opened the website that had taunted me all day, hovering my finger over the screen.
With the information I’d already uncovered, I should be afraid. I should run the other way—throw away his business card and erase him from my memory. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I did the one thing I knew I shouldn’t.
I took a deep breath and clicked the Contact Us icon.
“Alyssa? Can you get your ass in here?” Fuck. “Please?”
I smirked at myself, proud that I’d asked nicely this time. She’d given me hell last week, said she was tired of the way I barked orders through the intercom all day.
She was the best executive assistant in the city of Boston, and didn’t hesitate to let me know when I was out of line, which was often. I couldn’t risk her deserting me. So, like it or not, I needed to mind my manners now and again.
“Mr. Kingsley.” Alyssa raised her eyebrows as she entered my office and stopped beside my desk. “You rang?”
I met her gaze and held out a single sheet of paper.
“Our newest client is Troy Drake.” When she simply leveled me with a blank stare, I prompted, “Tech CEO, and cousin to the billionaire entrepreneur Colton Drake?”
She shook her head. “I’m not familiar.”
“Doesn’t matter. My point is that he’s an important client.”
Her light eyes flashed with understanding and she nodded, making her black ponytail swing behind her narrow face. “Of course, sir. I’m happy to pair him with whichever woman he desires.”
“Good.” I released a heavy sigh. Not that I’d expected Alyssa to put up a fight. She might not have been regularly obedient, but she knew when things counted, and this client definitely did.
Troy Drake had already given me a fat deposit, and I wanted him happy. He’d just recently moved to the East Coast, said he didn’t know anyone yet. Plus, he was wealthy beyond belief, with deep pockets and even deeper connections. If we made him a satisfied client, I had a feeling he’d not only stay with us for years to come, but would also refer his colleagues our way.
Not that we were desperate for business—quite the opposite, actually. After five years in business, my brothers and I were now clearing eight figures annually, and the upside was limitless. But being from the wrong side of the tracks and building our wealth from nothing bred a constant hunger for more. We could never allow ourselves to get too comfortable or to lose focus.
As Alyssa stepped away from my desk, I held up my hand, silently asking her to stay put.
“What’s the problem?” she asked, more than a little familiar with my mannerisms by now.
I pinched the bridge of my nose between two fingers and met her narrowed gaze again. “He’s been through the database, and no one struck his fancy.”
Alyssa blinked twice. “No one?”
Our girls were top notch. I should know; I’d sampled a few of them myself. But this guy was young, attractive, and loaded, and he certainly wasn’t desperate for a date. He had come to us because wanted something special. Something discreet. A sure thing.
And I wanted to provide it. It was kind of my thing. I’d never met a client I couldn’t turn into a satisfied customer, and had never met a woman I couldn’t bed. I didn’t want things to change now, not right when I was on the cusp of something great.
“I have an idea,” Alyssa said, grinning like she knew something I didn’t. “I may have someone in mind, actually. There’s a new girl here for an interview with Sonja right now. She could be perfect. Articulate. Demure. Very pretty.”
I nodded. “Perfect. Send her in when they’re through.”
Alyssa paused but nodded all the same. I didn’t often interview the girls myself, but I had a special interest in keeping this client happy. She left, closing the heavy mahogany door behind her, and I turned my attention back to my in-box.
A few seconds later, the door opened again and my younger brother, Cooper, strolled into my office with his hands in his pockets and an easy grin on his face.
“Hey,” he said, either not noticing or not caring that I hadn’t invited him in and was clearly busy.
Annoyed, I glared at him. “What do you want, Cooper?”
He chuckled and slid into the leather chair across from me. “Nice way to greet me, asshole. I just wanted to tell you the corporate quarterly tax payment is going to be slightly higher than we projected. But not to worry, we have the funds to cover it.”
“And why is it going to be higher than anticipated?”
He shrugged. “We’re making more money than expected. It’s a good thing.”
I waited, knowing Cooper was about to crack a joke or tell me about his latest exploit with one of the girls. It was his afternoon ritual, despite the fact that he knew it annoyed me. Though, to be fair, half my annoyance had to do with the fact that Cooper, six years younger than me, still had that playful quality those of us past thirty seemed to lose.
My intercom buzzed again.
“Mr. Kingsley?” Alyssa’s crisp voice blared over the speaker. “A Miss Emma Bell is finished with Sonja. Shall I send her in?”
Who? Oh, right. Probably the potential escort for Mr. Drake.
“Send her in.”
When Cooper shot me a questioning glance, I shook my head. “You can stay. This should just take a minute.”
The door opened, and in walked five and a half feet of luscious curves and a body built for sin balanced precariously on a pair of black stilettos. My cock gave a twitch, eager to say hello.
Finally, I lifted my gaze to her face, and all the breath left my lungs in a whoosh.
It was the girl from the coffee shop.
What the fuck is she doing here?
She was a classic girl-next-door type. A walking wet dream. Someone I had no right to desire, but I wanted all the same.
I could have ended this a long time ago, could have chosen a different coffee shop, could have used that overpriced espresso machine sitting on my kitchen counter, yet I’d done none of those things. And instead of putting her out of my mind, I’d left my business card on a whim, hoping she’d miss my cue or ignore it.
And perversely hoping she wouldn’t.
Now, here she was, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the chest. We’d been building to this moment for too long—something had to give. And damn if it wasn’t sexy the way she’d taken matters into her own hands. It was ballsy, and I couldn’t deny it. I was intrigued.
I glanced at her, looking for recognition in her eyes, but if she knew we’d met before, she certainly didn’t show it. Instead, her hands were clasped patiently in front of her, forcing her cleavage together in a perfect little vee as she stared past me blankly.
Was it just an act, the same way I’d pretended not to notice her every morning at the coffee shop had been? Or was she toying with me?
All my senses were humming, on high alert, and I was more interested in something than I’d been in a long time. Energy buzzed in the air around us, and I took a moment to compose myself.
Chewing on her lower lip, she stopped in front of my desk.
“Miss Bell?” I asked, snapping out her name curtly.
She gave me a tight nod, her eyes not yet daring to meet mine.
“Gavin Kingsley, and this is my younger brother, Cooper.”
Her eyes locked with mine at last, and my gut clenched at the determination blazing in that steely sapphire gaze.
“Sit down.” I hadn’t intended the command to come out so briskly, but it had, and she immediately lowered herself into the seat across from me and beside Cooper. With another surge, my cock swelled again at her willingness to obey my commands.
“What brings you to Forbidden Desires today?” I asked, my voice cool.
She opened her mouth to speak, but when only a soft whimper came out, she cleared her throat to start again.
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