“We don’t know a ton, but we do know some. Arcane was sent by someone who knows my grandfather. We don’t know if he actually sent them. We haven’t been able to find that out, but we know there was a middleman, someone who reached out to my grandfather’s networks and who was the one to hire Arcane and his team. My grandfather blames your father for my mother’s desertion. His pride doesn’t let him consider that she stayed away because she loved a lowly middle-class investor, but a genius tech billionaire—that is someone he feels is worth being his adversary.” He tugged me closer, his hand moving to mine, and I felt him spread my fingers wide.
Palm to palm.
I could pull away. I didn’t.
I turned, looking at him through our fingers aligned together.
Pain so stark I felt it cutting off my own legs stared back at me. He was looking at me like I was his lifeline, and I was feeling the string. He was reeling me in, one tug at a time.
He dropped his voice low again, almost a whisper. “I am not a good guy. I have grown up with the threat of my grandfather over my head. He could take me away any second. He could have me killed any moment. And I hated that feeling.” His eyes were growing cold, dead. “So I became worse. You asked me why some people know me but there are no pictures of me on the gossip sites. It’s because of your father. Any image of me that goes up is taken down within seconds. He wrote a program for it. I couldn’t fight my grandfather if everyone knew who I was. My world is in the shadows. Your world, your family’s world, is in the spotlight.”
Another tug. Another inch.
Our fingers entwined.
He was staring at them instead of me. “I wasn’t there when they tried to take you, but I’m here now. I’m not leaving. I won’t let them take you.”
A last tug. The last inch.
His hand left my hand, sliding up my throat, circling, cupping the back of my head. His fingers moved through my hair. He applied pressure, his forehead finding his favorite spot. Our eyes were so close, too close. I was seeing inside of him.
He sighed. “I’ve been playing with him, toying with him thinking I was returning to the family. All I was doing was stalling. I’m of age. He wants me under his control, and I’m running out of time. I was supposed to take my father’s place as shareholder, and my inheritance will come to me in three months. When all that happens, there’s no more hiding. The world will know everything about me, and it’ll be game over. He’ll know I’m not joining him, so he’ll send someone to kill me. It’s a matter of time.”
“Kash,” I whispered. It was because of me, but I couldn’t fix it. Any of it. It was too much above my head. I was out of my league. Kash was way out of my league. “What can I do?”
“Be with me.”
He added, “If just for the night.”
A whisper filled with so much yearning, I felt a pang in my chest. Like I was the one dying, and I answered without thinking. I stood up on tiptoe, lifted my mouth, and we were kissing. Our lips to each other.
The night. One night?
I couldn’t do that. I’d need more. I already needed more.
His lips touched mine, tingles spread through me, warming me. I surged up, getting caught up in him, just him, and he bit out a growl, tightening his hold on me. I was lifted. He was turning. I was put on the counter behind where he’d been, and he shoved my knees open, stepping in. His mouth never left mine. It only opened more, demanded more, commanded more, and I was melting into him. I was hanging on for anything, and he tipped my head, angling his head for a deeper kiss. His tongue slid in.
He caught the sound, answering with a deep groan of his own. His hands shifted down, smoothing down my back, sending sensual sensations in his trail, all the way to my ass. He gripped me there, pulling me in hard to him. And I felt him. He was hard, pressing against me, and we both paused at the feel.
“Bailey,” he growled. “Fuck. You feel so good.”
All those nights he crawled into my bed, tasted me, touched me, kissed me, licked me. He made me come, his fingers sliding inside of me, sometimes his tongue, and I would gasp, then explode, and in the mornings he would be gone. He never let me reciprocate. He had been waiting, and I was half worried he wouldn’t let me this time, let himself, but as he began grinding on me, I knew what he wanted.
I was burning for it. My skin was buzzing, goose bumps all over. My blood was boiling, washing through my body, warming me until I was at a dizzying heat level.
“Now.” I pushed my hips against him, jerking back so I was pushing off from the cupboards.
His hand clamped on my hip, and he caught me, rocking with my motion. I was going hard, desperate, and a guttural sound left his throat as he opened his mouth, moving down my throat. Kissing. More tasting. More licking.
He knew every inch of me, had explored there for hours at times. He knew how my pulse would flutter when he lingered over my carotid or swept down the arch of my throat. How my body would jerk and kick up when he would pause between my breasts. Tonight, though … Tonight he didn’t have the control of those nights. Tonight he was hungry and just as wild as me. His kisses were harder, more primitive. More crazy. His lips closed over my nipple as I kept my hips rubbing against him. He was pushing back, pushing hard into me, his body arched over mine on the counter.
“Fucking hell,” he gasped. “You’re fucking gorgeous.”
This was—He was in me. He was under my skin, and what we were going to do next meant something. There were words I wanted to spill, but I didn’t know if I dared. I didn’t know if I could. We hadn’t gone there. But then he groaned, his eyes black now, and he bent down. His mouth found mine in the gentlest but most soul-consuming kiss I’d ever felt. I opened for him. There was no resistance in me, just hunger.
I whispered against his lips, “I want you.”
Another groan, and he bent over me, his knee settling between my legs. His hand went down my back, shifting so it was under my hip, and he lifted me, carrying me to the bed.
He crawled over me, holding himself above me, and he dipped down, his mouth meeting mine again. I met him halfway. A kiss. A second. A third. We kept kissing, tasting each other.
He moved back, taking his pants off, his boxer briefs next, and he sprang forward.