I heard the tear of a condom packet and imagined him wrestling a condom onto that beast of a cock. No easy feat, to be sure.

A sharp smack sliced through the silence as his palm made contact with my ass.

Rather than flinch, my instinct was to moan and push back against him. Gone was the meek little librarian. Gavin made me wanton and reckless.

“Lift your ass for me, baby,” he growled.

Oh.

I arched my back, offering myself up to him, knowing his gaze caressed my private areas that were on display for him.

As demanding as he was, his cock was even more impatient, pushing forward and invading my body in a firm thrust. He continued inching forward, and I waited to feel him bottom out.

I gasped. “Jesus, Gavin. That all of it?”

“Just a little more. You’ll get used to it.”

I whimpered softly, my head moving from side to side as I gripped his duvet.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he said through gritted teeth, a hint of amusement in his voice.

It might have been our first time, but apparently, that didn’t mean Gavin was going to take it easy on me. The sex was rough, almost brutal, like he was working out his demons on me, like he had to erase all that vulnerability he’d shown.

Pressing hot kisses between my shoulder blades, Gavin hovered over me, his hips continuing to work their magic.

Though my head was spinning, processing, my body loved his total and complete domination.

“Should have pushed you from my mind after I first saw you. Fuck. You shouldn’t be here, pretty girl. Don’t deserve you.”

I wanted to tell him he was wrong, that he deserved love and admiration, but it was all I could do to hang on, grasping the bed as he pounded into me again and again.

My body clenched around him, and I came with a cry.

Gavin followed—gripping my ass in both palms as he let out a low grunt and emptied himself into the condom, his cock jerking inside me as my muscles continued to spasm.

When it was done, he leaned over me once more and pressed a soft kiss between my shoulder blades. “Stay put.”

Moments later, he was back with a warm cloth, wiping between my legs. The moment was so unexpected and tender. Tears stung my eyes as Gavin helped me to my feet, and we each dressed in silence.

A heaviness hung in the room around us that wasn’t there before, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

I didn’t expect him to pull me into his arms for a cuddle session, necessarily, but he hadn’t even given me the privilege of laying me down on his bed, kissing or holding me while made love. He’d just bent me over the edge of it and had his way with me. But before I had time to fully process that, Gavin led me toward the hall.

“My driver will take you home now.”

I paused, balling my fists at my sides. “That’s it? After everything we shared today?”

“I don’t know what to tell you. This is who I am, Emma.”

“But you took me to see where you grew up, the restaurant . . . the intimacy tonight. I thought things between us were turning into something real.”

Gavin’s reserved demeanor was back, his gaze icy and cold. “This isn’t one of your storybooks. I never promised you a happy ending.”

As we stood beside the front door, I put on my shoes and grabbed my purse. “Cooper never made me feel like this.” I hurled the insult at Gavin with all the force I could muster, hoping since nothing else seemed to matter, the one thing that might would be his own sense of pride.

A flash of jealousy broke through his steely gaze before he blinked, and then it was gone in a flash. “Then maybe you should go and spend more time with him.”

With tears stinging my eyes, I fled, stabbing the button for the elevator.

“Ben will meet you downstairs,” Gavin said just as the elevator doors slid closed.

As if I needed one more reason to stay away from him, his cold and callous behavior tonight had sealed the deal.

Despite what he’d said, he had let me in today—however briefly. And it was magical. What else did I want? A relationship? Marriage? I almost choked on the word. Men like Gavin didn’t tie themselves down to one woman for all of eternity.

He was arrogant, cold, and incredibly frustrating. The way his powerful body moved, the way my skin heated when I was near him, I craved all of it. I wished I didn’t, wished desperately that I was stronger. But Gavin Kingsley had a hold over me unlike any I’d ever experienced.

Which was exactly why I needed to get out now—while I still could.

Ben opened the car door, and I slid inside just as a broken sob slipped from my throat.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Emma

I do love nothing in the world so well as you—is not that strange?

The great William Shakespeare was one of my best friends, and his Much Ado About Nothing was a favorite.

I was curled up on my couch under a blanket, reading, and struggling to keep my brain off the fact that I kept failing at this whole romance thing. Hard. Was it possible that I only attracted men who were all wrong for me?

Gavin had begun to let me in—only to slam the door cruelly on our relationship when it started getting a little too real for him.

Still feeling hurt after our last encounter a few days ago, I’d retreated a bit. After I talked it over with Bethany, she agreed a little space might be a good thing. Since that night, Gavin hadn’t called, hadn’t texted, and I had no idea where his head was at.

My mind swirled with thoughts of not only Gavin, but my last relationship before him.

When I thought back to my time with my ex, my heart hurt. Nathan had always been rough—rough kisses, rough sex—but he’d never been violent. Until he was. Shoved me down the stairs after a stupid argument, then spent the next hour working me over until he was breathless and I was a bloody mess, unable to stand on my own two feet. As soon as he left, I dialed 911, and vowed I’d never get involved with a man like him ever again.

And my greatest fear, more than falling for Gavin, was falling for Gavin and having him turn out just like Nathan.

I was in for the night, licking my wounds and trying to think about anything but the man my heart still yearned for, despite everything. Which was why the knock at my door at nine that night was unexpected.

Setting my book on the cushion beside me, I rose from the couch. Another knock sounded on my door, louder this time.

“Emma!” a man shouted as he pounded firmly again with his fist.

For a moment, I couldn’t place that voice. But when I did, icy chills snaked down my spine.

Nathan.

Frozen in place, I dared a peek through the peephole.

“I know you’re in there, Emma. Let me in. We need to talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about. Go away!” I called back.

“I miss you. Want you back, sweet Emma.”

Not a chance in hell.

I should have never trusted him, never given him my heart in the first place, and there was no way I was ever going down that path again. The entire time we were together was a sham. I’d thought he was mine, but in reality, he was a total player, dating his way through half the city while I stayed home, missing him.

When I finally confronted him, he said a woman couldn’t expect monogamy in this day and age. Yet he’d demanded it from me. Funny how that worked. And then he’d gone from dominating to controlling to downright scary in a matter of months.

The last time, he beat me so badly, I spent a week in the hospital eating my food through a tube. That had been the final straw.

Summoning my strength, I tried my most intimidating voice. “I’ve called the police, Nate. Get out of here and don’t come back.”

He grumbled something unintelligible under his breath, but moments later, I saw his form retreat away from my door and toward the street beyond.

With shaking hands, I grabbed my phone from the counter and then hesitated. My instinct had been to call Gavin, to beg him to come over and stay the night. But as my heart rate slowed, I thought it over. Based on our last interaction and the way things ended when I left his apartment, I didn’t feel quite right calling him. He’d behaved like an ass, and I didn’t want to call him begging him to rescue me.

Instead, I dialed Cooper, silently praying that he’d pick up.

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