“Madelyn? Madelyn Lake? Yo, Madelyn!”
A strong hand closed around her arm, pulling her to a stop. With her heart thundering in her ears, she swung to face—
A handsome boy frowned at her. “Didn’t you hear me calling your name? Because I swear, I think I did it like fifty times.”
Her breath shuddered out. “I—” Forgot. She was still getting used to that name, but she wasn’t supposed to say that to anyone. Another secret to keep.
“You left your English book in class. I was just bringing it to you.”
She saw that he was gripping her textbook in his right hand. His left still curled around her arm, and his touch felt funny. Like it made her skin too sensitive. Too hot. Too…something. Hurriedly, she jerked away from him.
His brows immediately shot up. “Jeez. Get over yourself already. I’m not chasing you down to ask for a date.”
Of course, not. Her heart needed to stop its crazy thundering, but when he’d grabbed her…
Fear. Would she ever get over the fear?
Her gaze darted around. She wasn’t trapped in some hell. Or, maybe she was. All about perspective, right? She stood in a bustling school hallway. Everyone wore the same preppy uniform. Her pleated skirt scratched a little over the tops of her thighs, and she could swear she felt everyone watching them.
“I’m doing a good deed,” he growled. “Despite what you may have heard, I can do one. Occasionally.” He extended the book toward her.
She reached out for it. Her fingers touched his and that crazy too hot, too sensitive, too…something feeling darted over her again. Her hand snatched back—with the book—as if she’d been burned.
Giving a disgusted shake of his head, the boy turned away.
“I haven’t heard anything about you.” The words rushed from her. “I don’t even know your name.” How could she? This was only her second day. Sure, yes, she’d met plenty of people, but their names were all blurs to her. This boy? With the thick, dark hair that fell rakishly over his forehead and his intense dark brown eyes…no, she didn’t remember him. Tall, with shoulders that were already plenty wide. He stared at her with a kind of knowing confidence, and she was—
And I’m scared. But she was always scared. Her mother said the trick was to act as if she wasn’t.
Her chin darted into the air. Do not act scared. She’d be the opposite of scared.
“I’m Smith Sanders.” His head tilted to the right. He had loosened the blue tie that all the boys were supposed to wear. Loosened the tie. Turned up the collar on his white dress shirt. He flashed her a wide smile. “And now you know my name.”
That smile was…gorgeous. Charming. Scary. Dang it, she had to stop being afraid! She backed up a step. “I do.”
His gaze fell to the floor. Noted the distance she’d put between them. When he looked back up, there was curiosity in his gaze.
Oh, no. She didn’t want anyone to be curious about her. She was supposed to be flying under the radar at this swanky school. The last thing she wanted was attention.
“I lied to you.”
“What?” Caught completely off guard, she gaped at Smith.
“I do want to ask you for a date.”
This wasn’t happening. She’d never, ever been asked out before.
“The book gave me a chance to talk to you.” A shrug of those oddly powerful shoulders. “A buddy of mine is having a party this Friday. Want to come with me? You can learn lots of names there.”
An immediate shake of her head. No. She didn’t do parties. Wasn’t allowed to do them. “I-I need to go.” Clutching the English book to her chest like it was some kind of shield, she whirled away.
“I don’t bite.”
Oh, no. He had not just said that, had he? She looked back. “I certainly hope not.”
His lips twitched at her response. “You will hear stories about me.”
A bell rang. Time for class. She couldn’t be late. She couldn’t attract attention. Couldn’t do anything that would get her noticed.
But this boy is noticing me.
“Only believe some of those stories, Madelyn Lake.”
Her heart slammed into her chest. “Wh-which ones should I believe?”
But the headmaster appeared behind Smith. Dr. Griggs slapped a hand around Smith’s shoulder. “Mr. Sanders,” Dr. Griggs growled. “We need to talk in my office, immediately.”
Smith winked at her. “Only the good ones,” he told her. “Just those…” He turned toward the headmaster with an innocent smile. “Would you believe that snake slithered out of biology class on its own?”
Her feet felt rooted to the spot as she watched Smith Sanders leave.
She realized that while she might not be able to remember her own name, she would never forget his.
“I was asked out today,” she blurted the words as soon as she got home. The big, cold, massive house that was their new home.
New house. New life. Everything will be different.
This was the third new home in three years. But this was supposed to be the last move. No one would ever know them here.
Her mother turned toward her. “No.”
“I didn’t say yes.” But I wanted to. “I just…” Her words trailed away because she didn’t know what to say.
Her mother rushed toward her. Her hands flew out and clamped around Madelyn’s shoulders. “You can’t.”
“I…” A click as she swallowed. “I wasn’t going with him.”
“You have to stay close. School and home. That’s it. I don’t—” Her breath expelled. “We can’t start again. This is it. We’re safe. You have to stay—”
“Below the radar,” Madelyn finished. “I know.” Why did her chest feel so heavy?
“Tell the boy you aren’t interested.” Her mother’s hands dug into her skin. “Tell him he’s not your type. Tell him whatever it is that girls say these days. You can’t be like the others, baby. You know it. It’s too dangerous.”
Dangerous…for the boy. For anyone who got too close to Madelyn. Because of what had happened before. Madelyn blinked away the tears that wanted to fill her eyes. “I’m not going to let anyone close, don’t worry.”
Her mother’s lower lip trembled. “Sweetheart…”
She pulled away. “I didn’t like him anyway. Not my type.” She stepped around her mother. “There are stories about him. I’m sure he was just playing with me, anyway, not really interested in who I am at all. He probably just asked because I’m the new girl.” One foot in front of the other, just keep moving and put one foot in front of the other.
She put her left foot in front of the right. Headed forward.
Her steps froze. “Sorry. I keep forgetting that name.” This time, she had an official new name. First name and last name.
“You can’t forget anything. If you slip up…”
She looked back at her mother.
“He’ll come for you,” her mother whispered. “You have to stay hidden.”
Right. She knew the rules. Stay hidden. Don’t act scared. And…
Don’t get close to anyone. Madelyn swallowed over the lump that kept trying to rise in her throat. “I’ll make sure Smith gets the message. I’m not interested in him. Not now. Not ever.”
Smith’s smile flashed in her mind.
“Not ever,” Madelyn whispered as she reached for the gleaming banister that would take her upstairs to her new bedroom.
New bedroom. New life.
Same old terror.
The elevator doors opened, and Madelyn Lake found herself staring straight at a ghost from her past. A very handsome, very dangerous ghost. One who flashed her a devilish smile.
“Going down?” Smith Sanders inquired with a slow lift of one wicked brow.
Her chin lifted. She’d known he was in the building. Mixing it up with the rich and famous who’d been partying on the floor below hers. But that party should have ended an hour ago. It was nearing two a.m., and even the party boys had to stop at some point. And the man had no business being on this floor. Her floor. She’d been working late on an authentication project that had to get finished, and she had not—
“Still think you’re too good to talk to me, hmm?” Smith held a hand out to stop the elevator doors from closing. “How many times do I have to tell you, Maddie, I don’t bite?”
Her shoulders straightened. “I never thought I was too good for anything.” She didn’t get on the elevator. “Why are you up here? This is a private floor.”
A lazy shrug of shoulders that had grown even more powerful over the years. “Must have hit the wrong button. My mistake. Meant go to down to the lobby after the party ended, but I wound up here, with you.”
The party. Right. Smith had been partying it up with his boss and best friend, Aiden Warner. Aiden had been celebrating another major acquisition—she was pretty sure Aiden owned half the world at this point—and she’d been invited to the festivities. More of a courtesy invitation than anything else, Madelyn was sure. She’d popped in a moment, seen Smith, and…
Gone running back up to my office.
“I’m sure you’re ready to get home,” Smith continued in the rough and rumbly voice that made her think of things she shouldn’t. “Come on in the elevator, and I’ll see you safely down to the parking garage. Consider it yet another of my endless good deeds.”
“Shouldn’t you have a date?” she blurted. “Someone else to see home?”
That smile of his stretched. His dark eyes gleamed. “I’m flying solo tonight.”
Her gaze darted to the hand that still pressed to the side of the elevator door. Long, tanned fingers. Strong. That was the thing about Smith. He always seemed strong. Powerful. Like he was a caged beast waiting to leap out and attack.
“The building is pretty much deserted,” he continued. “You really shouldn’t be here so late by yourself.”
“There’s a security guard downstairs. Actually, I think there are two security guards.”
“But no one up here with you.”
Because she wasn’t supposed to be working, but she’d really wanted to finish her project and slipping out of the party had seemed like such a fine idea since making small talk was something she never excelled at doing. “You’re here.”
“So I am.” His gaze swept over her. “Gorgeous dress, by the way.”
She wore a black dress made of lace, one with two-inch-wide straps that slid over her shoulders, then dipped toward her cleavage. The feather-light material slid down her body, hugging her hips, and ending just below her knees. Black heels completed the look. No jewelry. Her hair was loose around her shoulders, mostly because she’d been running late earlier and hadn’t taken the time to put it in a twist or something more sophisticated.
As he studied her, Madelyn’s own gaze dipped down his body. The suit looked like it must have cost a fortune. It fit his body perfectly. Sculpted to Smith’s shoulders and broad chest. He wore a crisp, white shirt, and a thin black tie. His hair was just as thick as it had been when he’d been in high school, but now it was swept back from his high forehead.
Handsome. Dangerous. But all grown up.
A true blast from her past.
“So, not to rush you, but are you planning to stand there staring at me all night?” Smith asked her.
Madelyn felt heat stain her cheeks. “Certainly not.” Get on the elevator. This was hardly some life-altering event. It was a ride that would last moments, nothing more. Then they’d go their separate ways. As they always did.
Because their paths had crossed over the years. Mostly because she did a whole lot of business with Aiden Warner, and Smith was the guy’s right hand. He’d been hired by Aiden after Smith had spent years doing some rather covert work for the military. During those years, Smith had vanished from everyone’s radar.
Then he’d reappeared. Taunting grin in place. Secrets in his eyes. And seemingly inseparable from Aiden. And since Aiden had supplied the initial financing for her business, she and Smith now saw each other at least three or four times a year. Each time their paths crossed, she was always polite to him. Excruciatingly so.
In return, he was generally mocking to her. But Smith tended to be mocking with everyone, so it wasn’t as if Madelyn received special treatment from him.
“I’m in charge of security,” he murmured as she crept into the elevator. “Just wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t make sure you got down to the parking garage safely. You never know when someone dangerous might be lurking around.”
Madelyn stared pointedly at him. “You don’t say.”
A sharp bark of laughter burst from him. “Still think I’m the bad guy, do you? That hurts.” Smith removed his hand from the elevator door and put it over his heart. “Right here. Just feels like a knife plunging into my heart.”
“Don’t you need to have a heart in order for it to hurt?” The response just shot from her. Not her normal, cautious self at all. She didn’t say things like that and— “I’m sorry.”
More laughter came from him.
But then her apology seemed to register. His eyes—a deep, intense brown—widened. “Aw, Maddie, are you worried you hurt my feelings?”
She had been worried. For a fleeting moment. Ever so fleeting. Then she’d realized he probably didn’t care at all what she thought of him. “Madelyn. No one calls me Maddie.”
She leaned around him to push the button on the control panel. The button that would get them from the twentieth floor of the Miami high-rise down to the parking garage. Then she’d escape. Madelyn thought he’d do the proper thing and scoot back so she could easily access the panel.
But she’d forgotten Smith was hardly ever proper.
He didn’t move back. Instead, she wound up practically having to wrap her arm around him as she twisted to punch the button.
He inhaled. “Is that jasmine? Switched body lotions, have you? I think you used to prefer a vanilla scent.”
Her head jerked up, and she gaped at him. “How would you know that?”
“Got a good nose.” He tapped the bridge of his nose and winked.
She jerked her hand—and her whole body—back a good foot. “Yes, if you must know, I do use jasmine body lotion.” His scent was all around her. Warm and masculine and the man was taking up entirely too much space. He always did that. Seemed to dominate whatever space he occupied.
Her gaze lit on the gleaming floor numbers as the elevator descended. Nineteen, eighteen…
“Are you ever going to tell me?” Smith wondered.
From the corner of her eye, she saw him prop one shoulder against the wall of the elevator. “Tell you what?”
“What I did to piss you off?”
Sixteen, fifteen. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m not angry with you for any reason.”
“Really? You just hate me for shits and giggles? Interesting.”
Twelve, eleven. “I don’t hate you at all.”
“No? You could have fooled—”
The elevator jolted. She stumbled, but Smith’s hands immediately grabbed Madelyn and steadied her. “Thank you,” she replied automatically, a bit breathless as—
Darkness. The elevator plunged into complete and total darkness. And it stopped. She could feel the sudden stillness around her. Thick, complete darkness, and stillness.
No, no, no, no. This could not be happening.
Her breath stuttered out.
“Why did we stop?” A grating whisper.
“Probably just some glitch. Don’t worry. I’m sure it will start again any moment.” His hands remained wrapped around her shoulders.
Normally, she didn’t like being touched. Went out of her way to avoid it, in fact. But this wasn’t a normal situation, and his slightly rough, callused fingers pressingly lightly against her bare skin didn’t make her afraid. They reassured her. She wasn’t alone in this darkness.
Not like before.
“The elevator’s lights are all out, but I’m going to let you go and take out my phone. We can use the flashlight on it to look around.” A pause. “I’m telling you that I’m letting go because you seem scared.”
Completely and utterly terrified. But she replied, “I have no idea what you mean.”
He let her go.
She immediately grabbed for him. Her nails dug into the fabric of his suit coat.
“Maddie. I’m right here. Not like I can leave you. We’re trapped in this thing together.” Mild. So calm.
She still didn’t let him go.
A light flashed on. The light poured from the small circle near the top of his phone and shot up toward his face. The illumination both concealed and revealed, making the normally handsome lines of his face appear more sinister. Dangerous.
He smiled and even his smile seemed to hold a dark edge. “See? Right here.”
Her breath panted in and out. She hated her reaction. Usually, she was only in an elevator for a few moments. There was plenty of light. She didn’t mind the small space for such a limited amount of time. Okay, fine, she still minded, but she’d learned to deal, just as she’d learned to deal with so many things in her life.
But it was the darkness making her terror grow. The thickness that seemed to be all around her.
“You’re okay. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Oddly soft and tender words from Smith when she’d never thought of him as a tender guy. Quite the opposite. Smith did have a reputation for being…well, an asshole.
And he probably thinks I’m having a breakdown on him just because the elevator stopped for a bit. She snatched her hands back. “Of course, nothing is going to happen.” Her chin rose. “Just a glitch. I, um, heard something similar happened last week.” She’d even seen the elevator repairman in the lobby. And she’d been grateful at the time, thinking…So glad I wasn’t trapped.
Smith stepped away from her. His light aimed at the control panel. She saw him hit the button to open the doors.
Then he pressed the button that had a little image of a phone on it. “The call button will alert the maintenance staff,” Smith told her in his calm and controlled voice. “They’ll get help up here fast.”
When he hit the button, it didn’t light up. Didn’t seem to do anything. “Are you sure it’s working?” Madelyn inched closer to him.
“Do you want me to lie or tell the truth?”
She inched even closer. She also pulled her own phone out of her tiny black bag, and her shaking fingers turned on the flashlight option. “Truth, please.”
“I have no fucking clue.”
He hit another button. A red one this time. The alarm button?
“Can’t hurt to try, though, am I right?” Smith drawled.
Her light swung around the elevator. Then up to the ceiling. “Is there a hatch we can crawl out of?” Didn’t that happen in movies? People crawled through the hatches in top of the elevators. Or they pried open the doors or—
“Yeah, how about we try not to do dangerous things and instead call for help? Seem cool to you?”
Her attention flew back to him.
He had his phone pressed to his ear. “This is Smith.” His voice was more grim than calm as he spoke to whoever was on the other end of the line. “I’m stuck in the elevator at the Bringam building, and I’m gonna need someone to get me out.” His gaze locked on her. “No, I’m not alone. Madelyn Lake is with me. Um, yes. That Madelyn.”
She nibbled on her lower lip.
“Tell them to haul ass, would you? Because I don’t think the lady is enjoying her current situation. Not at all.” He ended the call. But kept the flashlight on. He pointed it at the wall, and she realized that—whoops, her phone had been shining right into his eyes.
Hurriedly, Madelyn lowered her phone’s light.
“That was Aiden. He’s on the case. We’ll be out before you know it.”
Before you know it wasn’t exactly a quantifiable time. “He’ll get maintenance to the building.” That would take some time, though because, surely, the maintenance staff was at home now. Had to be at this crazy hour. And if maintenance couldn’t fix the problem, then Aiden would need to get an elevator repairman in and, oh, God, the repairman might not arrive for hours. Hours.
“Try taking a deep breath. A long, slow, deep breath,” Smith advised.
Madelyn became aware of the heaving sound of her own breaths. Dammit.
“Don’t like closed spaces, huh? Never knew that about you.” He turned off the light.
“No! Turn it back on!” An immediate cry from her as her hand instinctively lifted, and she shone her light back on his face again.
His eyes squinted against the illumination. “Not sure how long we’ll be here. Thought maybe we’d conserve the battery on the phones. How about I keep mine on for a while, and you turn yours off? We can alternate. That good for you?”
Oh, no. “You think we’re going to be here for a…long time.”
“Do you want me to lie or tell the truth?”
Her heart raced far too fast in her chest. “That’s the second time you’ve asked me that question. Do you lie to people a great deal?”
“Sometimes lies can make things better. If it makes you feel better, I can tell you that we’ll be rescued very, very quickly.”
That’s the lie.
“But I think you already realized how long it will take to get a repair going. And even if firefighters rush to the scene and beat down the doors, it will take some time to get out.” Her light still hit him. “So I’m not sure my lie would make you feel better. Not when you’ve figured out the truth yourself.”
No, his lie wouldn’t help. “Turn on your light,” she muttered. “I’ll turn off my phone.” Because they did need to conserve the battery and a glance down at her phone’s screen showed she only had twenty-five percent power remaining as it was. “Aiden will probably call you with updates.” It made sense to keep Smith’s phone on and ready.
He tapped his phone screen. His light illuminated more of the elevator, and Smith bent to put the phone in the corner, positioning it so the light would shine upward.
With fingers that trembled, she turned her phone off. Put it in her purse. Tried for some deep breaths.
“Want to tell me about it?” Smith asked.
“About what?” Was she inching closer to him in the dark? She was, but surely that was only because he stood beside the light.
He lifted a hand. “We have air blowing in. You feel that?”
Yes, thankfully, she did.
“No lights, but the air conditioning is still working, so that’s a plus for us.” His tone was still all mild and easy. “We’re safe. Help is on the way. And we’ve got light. More pluses.”
“But you’re terrified, and that fear isn’t just because you’re trapped with me, is it?” A little more careful. “I certainly hope you know that I would never hurt you.”
Her head snapped up. She’d been staring down at the light, and now she looked at him. “I—of course, I’m not scared of you.”
“Well, there’s no ‘of course’ about it. You’ve been avoiding me since we were sixteen years old. Thought maybe you’d grow out of it, but…nope. Even as adults, you run when you see me coming.” His powerful arms crossed over his chest. “Guess all the stories about me got to you, huh?”
“I never listened to stories.” Not back then. Not now. “I ran from you because…”
She stopped talking.
Soft laughter. “We can pass the time by standing in silence. Or we could try talking. Nestled together in this dark elevator like we are—seems like the perfect opportunity to share some secrets.”
Nestled? Uh, the word he should have used was trapped. Madelyn gaped at him. “You have got to be kidding.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Was there something else you were planning to do? Maybe pace around in tiny circles? Curl up on the floor and sleep? Am I keeping you from some super engaging activity?”
“Didn’t think so,” he murmured. “Talking will make you feel better. It will help distract you from the absolute terror that you are feeling right now.”
“What makes you think I feel absolute terror?” She did. Absolute. The ghosts from her past were grabbing her and trying to haul her under. Madelyn felt like she was drowning when she wasn’t even near the water. Help me. Help! A frantic scream that she couldn’t voice. Not now. But she had screamed like that, a long time ago. Over and over again.
He stepped toward her. A big, powerful shadow. His hand reached out, and his fingers curled around her fist. “This. This is one sign.” He stroked her clenched fist. “Did you even realize that you’d clenched your hands into fists? And your spine is so stiff and straight. Tension is pouring off you, and, though I do normally think your voice is all sultry and sexy—”
“Your words sound brittle. And you’re still breathing far too quickly. You’re either absolutely terrified of the dark and small spaces or it’s me. You’re terrified of me.”
He turned her hand over. Feathered his fingertips over her wrist. “Glad to know.” A pause. “Your pulse is racing like crazy. Baby, what made you fear the dark?”
I can’t tell you. “I’m not your baby.”
“Alas, you are right.” He did not let her go. “Despite the fantasies I’ve had.”
What? No, impossible. There was no way in this world that Smith Sanders had ever fantasized about her. “That’s not funny.”
“Good. It wasn’t supposed to be a joke.” He hadn’t let her go. His fingers were doing a weird stroking thing over her wrist. Maybe the strokes were supposed to calm her down. They didn’t.
They did make her feel…
Warm. Sensitive. Aware.
“You starred in my high school fantasies, then when you sashayed back into my adult life, well, guess those memories came storming back.”
“I didn’t sashay anywhere.”
“No? My mistake. Pretty sure I remember you sashaying into Aiden’s office, wearing a blue pencil skirt, heels that made me hard, and the sexiest white blouse I’d seen in my life. Fucking gorgeous.”
She had zero idea what she’d worn to the meeting he referenced. How on earth could he remember?
“Your breathing is getting easier. More relaxed,” he noted. “See, when we talk and share our secrets, you can relax more. You stop thinking about where you are, and you just think about who you’re with.”
He was deliberately distracting her. Realization dawned. “You’re helping me.”
“Well, if you faint on me in the elevator, then I won’t have anyone to talk with, will I?”
She tried to figure him out. “So you were lying?” He hadn’t actually fantasized about her. She’d known that, though. Someone like Smith would never have fantasies about her.
“I asked you if you wanted a lie or the truth. Thought you went with truth, so that’s what I’ve been giving you.”
Her mind just wasn’t processing properly. “You want me.”
“Have for years. Yep.” No hesitation in that reply. And…
He stroked her wrist once more.
Her heartbeat kicked up.
“Don’t get scared again,” he soothed. “You’re safe.”
But the acceleration of her pulse that he’d felt beneath his fingers hadn’t come because she was scared. It had come because… “I’ve had fantasies about you, too.”
“Madelyn Lake. I am shocked.”
Heat poured into her cheeks. Luckily, he wouldn’t be able to see that heat and—
“And utterly delighted.” He bent toward her. “The untouchable Maddie has fantasies? About moi? Do tell me more.”
His head was close to hers. So very close. His lips were inches away. She had fantasized about him. Maybe because he was just something else that she couldn’t have.
“Or maybe…” Smith’s already deep voice rumbled even more. “You want to show me? Because it’s just us here. No one else to see. No one else who ever has to know just what you did with the bad guy in the dark.”
Her breath shuddered out. Her heart was back to racing, and the tension that had always been between them seemed to thicken the air. All she had to do was press up on her toes. Pull his head down a little bit more. She could kiss him so easily.
Dangerous. Don’t do it. You’re not supposed to get close to anyone.
But they were alone. In the dark. As he’d just said, no one else ever had to know.
“I want to kiss you,” he growled. “If you don’t want me close, tell me to get the hell back. You’re a dream I’ve had for a long time, but I know how to keep my control. Especially with you.”
She could barely make out his words over the crazy drumming of her heart. What Madelyn knew—she wasn’t afraid. Memories from the past weren’t swamping her. Smith had thrown her a life preserver. He’d pulled her up, and now she was shockingly, vividly, in the present with him. Her own personal temptation. Right there.
No one else ever has to know.
He let go of her wrist. Swore and took a step back. “I’ll stay on one side of the elevator, and you can stay on the other.”
She spun away from him. Found herself just staring at the darkness of the wall. What would one kiss hurt? He was keeping her past at bay. And she…Confession. “I’ve wanted you for years, Smith.” Easier to say when she wasn’t looking at him. “I’ve always been curious…” Her voice had gone husky. Wait, how had he described it before? Sultry. She’d never felt sultry or even particularly sexy, until now. “Always been curious about how you’d taste.”
Silence from behind her. Thick and heavy. She wet her lips and felt his hand curl around her shoulder. Madelyn thought he’d turn her toward him, but he didn’t. He eased closer to her, so close that she could feel him pressed along the back of her body. His strong chest. His powerful muscles. His…
Smith was aroused.
Only fair, because so was she.
The elevator had been terrifying and gut-wrenching to her moments before. But now, with Smith, with the soft light spilling from his phone, it almost seemed…
Safe. Like they were hidden from the world. Like what happened here would be secret. Just for the two of them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to exchange one horrific memory for something different? Something good?
His left hand curled around her waist. The weight was warm, reassuring, sensual. Not scary at all. Nothing about Smith seemed scary.
His right hand eased over her right shoulder. Slid down and his fingers curled over her chest, his hand just above the quick rise and fall of her breasts. If he moved his fingers just a little bit, he could slide under the lace. It would be easy to dip those fingers of his past the fabric of her dress and under the black bra she wore.
Her nipples were tight, aching peaks, and she wanted him to touch them. She wanted to let go of the control she’d held so tightly for years.
No one has to know.
It was almost as if…as if this moment wasn’t real. A dream. A fantasy. Something else. A moment forgotten in the dark.
His breath whispered over her ear, and a shiver skated down her body when he rasped, “I’ve wondered what you would taste like for years, Madelyn.”
Her left hand rose, and her fingers curled around his. Not to push his hand away, but to press it closer, harder against her. Her head turned just a little, angling back toward him. “Wonder no more,” she whispered. Her lips fluttered against his. Soft. Light. Tentative.
A growl built in his throat. The sound was animalistic, primitive, and a primal part of her—a part Madelyn had never known even existed inside of herself—responded. She could feel her panties getting wet. From barely a kiss. His hands seemed to brand her body where he touched her, and her mouth opened more because she desperately did want to taste him. Every single bit of him.
The hand on her hip grabbed her dress. He began to pull up the fabric. She could feel the fabric sliding up her bare legs. Air seemed to whisper over her skin, but she didn’t care. He was behind her. Her head had angled toward him. His mouth had teased her with a light kiss when she needed more. “More.” A stark cry that broke from her, when she wasn’t even sure what that more really was.
“All you had to do was ask,” he replied. Then he yanked up her dress even more.
And his fingers moved from her hip. They went right between her thighs.
She had to be terrified. Poor little Madelyn. All grown up, but still with the fears that had haunted her since childhood.
She’d be in the elevator. The last to leave. That was always Madelyn. She wouldn’t have stayed at the party. At the first chance, she would have snuck out and rushed up to work. Time would have gotten away from her.
He’d watched from across the street as she turned off the lights. Headed out of her office.
She was trapped. Utterly terrified. Was the dark closing in on her? Was fear making her sweat and shake?
He would let her out soon. But only after he was sure the fear had consumed her.
Madelyn didn’t get to hide from him any longer. No, after all of this time…
I’ve found you.