Enveloped in hot steam, I closed my eyes and let the water pour down over my body. Before this week, I thought I’d known what showering was. I now understood how wrong I’d been. Technically, a weak spray out of an old showerhead into a chipped tub next to a plastic curtain that had seen better days was a shower. But, oh my, the enclosed glass, the steam, the multiple showerheads plus side jets, the water pressure. Hot damn, it made a girl want to weep with joy.
I’d miss the showers, that much was true. Come Sunday when this week was over and my coach turned back into a pumpkin, of all the luxuries I thought I’d miss the showers most of all. But I knew I’d get over it. I’d get back into my day-to-day, the memory of pampering like that of a good vacation—it made you smile, but you didn’t expect every day to be that good.
But how was I going to do that with Declan? I didn’t have any tricks up my sleeve to help me get over him.
He rocked my world. The man had me playing naughty secretary for him. And loving it. He made me feel so good it was like the pleasure took over entirely. My body said, “It’s OK, we’ll take it from here,” and my brain nodded and left the building.
All the worries and anxieties that flooded me in other, more lucid moments suddenly disappeared when were together, just the two of us. Should I be doing this? Why did I like this? Nothing else mattered once he touched me. I felt it all so intensely, so intimately. Logically, I knew that had to be due to my inexperience. This couldn’t possibly mean as much to him. These were the kinds of games he played all the time with women far more skilled than me. I should be holding back, if not physically than at least emotionally, to protect and guard my sanity when this all ended. It was already Wednesday afternoon. We didn’t even have a full four more days together.
But I couldn’t get enough of him. It felt like a live current shot through me, as if a switch had been flipped on inside and I couldn’t turn it off. As the water beat down from above, I could feel the sensitivity of my nipples, raw from his pinching and twisting. With the memory, they grew taut and needy once again, insatiable. I brought a finger down to my sex, slipping between my folds, still swollen and tender.
I’d never felt more satisfied than when I’d knelt down between his legs and sucked him off while he’d done his business call. Closing my eyes, I remembered how it had felt to listen to him, so commanding and powerful, making demands and orders. He was so strong, so dominant in every fiber of his being. I loved taking him in my mouth, down my throat deep, sucking and licking and making him so hard. It gave me a thrill of pleasure to see his reaction, his mouth slightly parted, his eyes so dark and hot as he looked down at me sucking his cock. I nearly orgasmed myself when he shot come down my throat, my clit swollen and throbbing as he fisted my hair and forced me to take all of him. I didn’t want to miss a drop.
Opening my eyes, I brought my palms to the tiles of the shower wall. I had to get a grip. I needed be more careful. All signs pointed to my falling for this man. Again. The last time around, my infatuation had known no bounds. It was like that from the moment I met him, like the volume on everything else got turned down real low. Colors elsewhere got less vivid. He, alone, stood out in my world as real.
After he’d stomped all over my teenage heart and fed it to the pigs for breakfast, it had taken me forever to even force myself out on a date with someone else. It was one thing if you did the leaving; you got a whole new scene change and cast of characters with which to recreate yourself. But what about the one who was left behind? I still had to live every day with not only the memories, but also the reminders. I’d head into the barn and see him standing there, looking up with that slow, burning gaze. The small cabin where he’d slept that summer still stood on our property, haunting me in the moonlight.
It would be so much harder this time around, having had this week with him. I should turn and leave while I still could. But just like before, Declan was the flame and I was a moth. I knew I’d technically entered into this agreement for the money, and at the time I’d let myself use that as an excuse. Now, I couldn’t even pretend. I was doing this because I couldn’t stand not to. I had to be with him, as much as I possibly could, for as long as I could manage.
I couldn’t let my heart get broken again. Something told me it might already be too late.
I stepped out of the shower into fluff and warmth, huge towels and heated floors. My body heaved a full sigh at the deliciousness. Tonight Declan was taking me to dinner and a Broadway show. It all felt unreal. Did it to him? I couldn’t get a clear read on it. Sometimes it felt like he was seeing New York City through the same lens as me, like we were both in on it together, checking out the big city carnival, but our hearts both belonged back under the wide Montana sky. Other times, I didn’t know. There was still so much I didn’t know about him, not just about his life now but about his childhood, how he’d grown up, his family.
It was a good thing I was in a hotel, not his penthouse, or I might have been tempted to start snooping, rummaging through his drawers to see what I could find. That never ended well. Knowing my luck, I’d probably find a whole stack of photos of him with gorgeous, sophisticated, sexy women. He’d probably look far more satisfied and happy than he ever had with me.
It didn’t seem fair that I was such an open book. There were no secrets to me. And, deep down, I craved opening up to him, making myself vulnerable in every way. With Declan, it wasn’t a matter of thought, it was instinct, simply how I responded to him. With other men, I had no problem being the ice princess. With Declan, all he had to do was stroke me with a piece of ice and I melted into a begging, pleading, quivering mess. God, I hoped he’d do that again.
Everything about him pulled me to him like a magnet. I guessed it was true, the old cliché: opposites attract. Back in high school I’d been a light-hearted, carefree kid. Who had I gone for? The dark, tortured ranch hand with the checkered past. Never mind that everyone thought I should stay the cheerleader to Bruce’s quarterback.
Funny thing about Bruce, now he was divorced, broke and back in town. He’d texted me a few times over the summer. It was pretty easy to ignore his messages.
I was getting good at dismissing texts. I’d gotten one earlier that day while I’d been walking around Times Square. It didn’t seem possible that my old life—my real life—could find me right in the middle of all that chaos. But somehow Lymon Culpepper, the Toad Man, had managed it. Right as I’d been eating an ice cream cone and watching a Peruvian pan pipe band, I’d gotten his text:
You have to give me an answer
It felt like a cold hand had come up from behind and gripped me around the neck. I’d shuddered. I didn’t want to think about it. I still had some time before the clock struck midnight. And who knew, this whole crazy Cinderella story might work out. If Cinderella agreed to a week of sex in exchange for money. Less of a feel-good family favorite story, that. But, anyway, no time to dwell on the details, instead I texted back:
In a few days
I wanted this man off my back, out of my life. Another text from him popped up, ugly as sin:
You don’t have any other options
I could cry, I knew that. I could sit right down on a bench and bawl my eyes out. It might feel good to do it. Lord knows, I’d cried plenty over the past year. Or two. But I just plain refused to accept the Toad Man’s ultimatum as my reality. He didn’t get to tell me what I had to do. So, instead, I’d put the phone back in my purse and put the message right out of my head.
Before me in the master suite, the humungous bed had an orchid and fine chocolates displayed on a golden pillow. A small note explained that it was courtesy of the late-afternoon turn-down service. When once-a-day maid service simply wouldn’t do.
I saw Declan had laid out a black dress for me, draped across a satin settee at the base of the bed. Next to the throw pillows, I noted with a smile, in a soft brocade, varying shades of taupe and ivory. The hotel Declan owned in
Billings had a sleek, modern feel, but this place positively dripped with old world style. I could picture a classic film star like Grace Kelly seated there in a long silk gown. She’d be smoking a cigarette back before anyone knew they were bad for you, probably from an elegant holder made from endangered elephant tusks.
“I’m so bored,” Grace would exhale, lounging on the couch.
But I wasn’t. I knew this was very likely my one and only trip to New York City, and I meant to enjoy myself.
Glass half full or empty, it was my choice. I could dwell on it all ending on Sunday. Or I could put on the gorgeous dress before me, pair it with stilettos and head out into the night. When you put it like that, the choice became simple.
“Mmm.” Declan nuzzled my hair, his arm wrapped around me in the back of the limo. “You smell good.”
Laughing, I leaned into him as the car delivered us from restaurant to theater. “What did the waiter call those orangey chocolate things again?”
He put on an affected accent. “Saffron-orange truffles enrobed with chocolate ganache.”
“Enrobed. That’s my favorite part.” I loved it, almost as much as the way Declan’s chest rumbled when he talked.
“You couldn’t charge $20 for chocolate orange balls.”
“That doesn’t sound right at all.” I smiled as he caressed my shoulder and breathed into me once again. “Wait, they weren’t really $20, were they?”
“Don’t worry about it.” He didn’t answer my question.
“Well, I hope they weren’t. But I have to admit, that might have been the best meal I’ve ever had.”
“Glad you liked it.”
The elaborate centerpiece in the middle of the restaurant with giant lit glass vases exploding with white roses and calla lilies, the 30 foot-high ceilings, the 15 different wait staff tending to our needs from sweeping crumbs off the linen tablecloth to refreshing our water glasses after every sip. It wasn’t just that I’d never seen anything like it. I’d never even imagined anything like it. The fresh flowers dotted along the appetizer plate, something called an amuse-bouche between courses. Courses. Every male patron wore a jacket, every woman looked ready to step into a photo shoot.
“I don’t know what I like better,” I mused. “All the glam of the restaurant. Or all the crazy of Times Square.”
“That’s the fun of New York,” Declan agreed. “You don’t have to choose. You’ve got it all.”