Page 19

The diamonds look so stunning on her that for a moment I forget they serve a purpose other than to adorn her throat. They seem to mark her. Scream at me, yours yours yours.

“Looks like I don’t have a ride anymore,” she tells me.

Damned if I don’t like that pout. “No worries, you’ll be coming with me,” I say.

“Mel! We have your car keys!” a man calls in our direction, keys jangling in the air. He walks them over and I can see he’s the shit-faced blond dude who’s been eye-fucking her since I got here. He glares at me in silence. I level him an even blacker look. Keep glaring, ass**le, I’m gonna be the one f**king her tonight.

Melanie’s dark-haired friend taps his elbow. “Riley, why don’t you guys take Mel’s car? She and her date can come with Kyle and me,” she interjects. She gives me a warning look as though I should be concerned about this for some reason. Not intimidated, I nod my agreement.

As soon as we’re in the backseat of the car, the girl speaks. “That’s some bling you got there, Melanie.”

“I know.” Grinning happily, Melanie pokes her thumb in my direction.

“He gave that necklace to you?” The friend sounds shocked.

“Yes! And his name is Greyson, Pandora.”

“Well! Greyson, will you be paying for the prescription glasses I’ll need after the retinal damage I’ll receive from all that bling?” she asks.

“Send me the bill,” I easily respond.

“What’s next? Are you going to tie her up and pick out safe words or what?”

I smile. “No. There’s no word on earth that will make anyone safe from me.”

“Haha. I’m glad your boyfriend is enjoying himself,” Pandora tells Melanie, pronouncing the word “boyfriend” like one would pronounce the word “excrement.” She returns her attention to me. “We’re very protective of our Mel. She believed in Santa much, much longer than the rest of us. So tell us about yourself. You’re like some Gatsby guy, with lots of money, but a very mysterious past. Kyle and I Googled you but couldn’t find much. What are your intentions with our girl?”

“Pandora!” Melanie kicks the back of Pandora’s seat. “Ignore my friend, Greyson,” she tells me.

But the friend doesn’t feel like ignoring me. She keeps peering past her shoulder at me. “Are you glad Melanie didn’t catch the bouquet?”

“Why would he be?” Mel counters.

“Dude, judging by that bling, the man has no intention of marrying. Just f**king.”

“Pandora!”

I laugh; I find it highly entertaining how protective this girl is. There’s no doubt in my mind some f**king loser made her like this.

She shifts in the front passenger seat so she can fully face me. “Do you have a wife?” she persists.

“What?”

“Are you married? Are you g*y? What’s wrong with you?”

Well, let’s see now. Currently, she’s what’s wrong here. I could stare her down easy, but why stare at this Bitter Betty when I have princess beside me?

“Pandora, you’re totally ruining my evening!” Melanie kicks the back of her seat again then shifts over to face me. She looks delicious, all in red. I feel like the Big Bad Wolf, staring hungrily at those kiss-me lips and those highly dangerous, innocent green eyes. “Is she right? Are you playing with me?” she asks me curiously.

I don’t know what it is about her, but the way she looks at me makes my c**k start thickening. It’s my natural response to her. I can probably help it as much as I could help killing for her last night, which is not at all. No matter how much in control, you can’t command your instincts. Sometimes they command you.

I’ve only ever killed for one other person in my life.

The difference is, I felt no remorse last night. I wouldn’t change what I did for Melanie last night. I’d do it all over again, kill the first three just as fast, torture the fourth one just as slow. Hell, even slower if I could’ve prolonged it. In fact now, the reminder of her soft, helpless cries under the hood twist a knife of fury in my chest.

One hand curling around her waist, I drag her closer to me and whisper in her ear, “I’m not playing with you.”

Christ.

I’m being serious here.

As serious as I’ve been about anything in my life.

“Be honest,” she whispers back.

“I’m not playing with you,” I repeat.

We’re being watched from the front of the car, so f**k that. In one move, I pull her over to sit on my thigh and lower my head to her. She smells so f**king sweet and juicy I want to bury my nose and find the source of her scent. I rub my nose along the back of her ear, turned on by her nearness, her shape, her smell, her.

She trembles, and my muscles pull taut in response.

What are you doing to me, my sweet, lovely number five?

I reach out with my thumbs and force her eyelids to close so she won’t see me. So she won’t stare right at me with those f**king green eyes that scream save and keep and do me, and I whisper in a voice roughened with lust, “When I’m not with you, I think about the next time every inch of you will belong to me. I play games and I play them hard and I play them dirty, but if you’re a game, princess, then you’re the first f**king game that’s ever played back with me.”

She opens her eyes. Those f**king DO me, LOVE me eyes.

Her friend Pandora is quiet now, and the car crackles with Melanie’s pull to me, and mine to her.

Hell, I’ve played nice with the friends for a while now, but I don’t do nice for long. It’s just not in me.

I rap the roof of the car. “Drop us off here.”

“Here? It’s the middle of nowhere.”

“I insist.”

With a dramatic sigh, he pulls over at the curb next to an empty lot across from a dark apartment building complex. I help Melanie out, then I grab the roof of the car with my good arm and lean in to tell Pandora, “Happy her friends are genuinely concerned for her. I’m not perfect, but on my word, no one will hurt her when she’s with me.”

She shoots me a quiet glare and her friends drive off.

“She hates men, don’t worry about her.” Apparently trying to soothe me, Melanie grins up at me and brushes a hand over the flat of my shirt.

I take her wrist in my hand, the move instinctive, to keep people at a distance. “Cheerful is the last of my worries. You hungry?” I squeeze her wrist and notice how sleek and small it is in the circle of my fingers, then I realize she’s the only thing I allow myself to touch without a glove. And she feels good. Real. Warm. How can something so f**king vulnerable have a pull so strong on me? I want to run my hand beneath the jacket and touch all of her, her collar, up her throat and upward, so I can cup that sweet, vibrant face in my hand and squeeze it and kiss the shit out of it. My voice roughens when I whisper, “Don’t eat that lip, I’ll take you somewhere.”

She lets go of that lip as I slowly release her wrist, then we stay there, staring at each other with hardly any city lights around. The diamonds glitter on her neck like her eyes shine in her face. She wraps her arms around herself and I keep my eyes on her as I text Derek, and we walk down the block toward the corner, my gaze glued to her profile. I’m not good at conversation with women—I f**k them, pay them, get rid of them. I want to talk to her and at the same time, I know I should be running from her.

I laugh softly because I never knew I could be so awkward in any situation, and I cover her in my suit jacket. It’s not cold, but that dress makes me want to devour her. Derek picks us up in a silver SUV then drops us off at one of those twenty-four-hour restaurants that have bad breakfasts, bad lunches, and bad dinners, but it seems to be the only choice to hit up nearby.

I lead Melanie to a booth in the back, one where our backs are covered and I can see the door and every entry. She eases out of my coat and sets it aside, opposite where I sit.

We sit close.

But not close enough.

While we view our menus, I can’t resist myself. I lower my hand under the table, to her thigh. She stares at her menu, but I can see her breath quicken when I start to rub my finger higher into her thigh.

“What do you like to eat?” I ask her, watching her bite her lip again.

“I like what’s bad for me. Doesn’t everyone? A little alcohol. A lot of chocolate and nuts. But I force-feed myself a ton of vegetables to counteract the bad stuff with good. One positive and a negative . . . kind of thing.” Her eyes meet mine, and they’re dancing playfully. “And you?”

I want to feast on nothing but your mouth, your tits, your pu**y, and that f**king lip you’re torturing with your teeth, teeth I want to feel rasping along my cock.

“I’m a fan of international foods. Anything. Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese, I like different tastes. I enjoy being . . . surprised when it comes to my palate. I like spices.”

“Do you come into the city for work?”

“Sometimes.”

“What do you do for work?” The genuine interest in her eyes makes me feel like a f**king douche bag.

“Security.” I slap my menu shut. “In my father’s company.”

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