That One Regret First 3 Chapters
It was pouring with rain, and every part of her was soaked. Cars passed by too fast, kicking up spray from puddles so she had to jump out of the way, and of course that’s when the only free cab in New York City turned around the corner.
And a tall, suited guy – with an umbrella, damn him – stepped forward and held out his hand.
“Shit on a brick,” Grace muttered, because now that she was looking properly there was clearly a line. And she’d inadvertently skipped the whole thing.
Suit guy turned around, his brow raised. Then his eyes dipped, taking in her soaking clothes and her bedraggled hair. It had been almost twenty-four-hours since she’d left Paris, where the sun had been shining on the River Seine, regret filling her heart at leaving her favorite city in springtime and now here she was, stranded in a New York deluge.
“Did you say something?” the guy asked. He touched his bearded jaw with his free hand, his brows dipping as he looked at her.
“I swear I heard you say shit on a brick.” His lips twitched. Damn, he was handsome, if you liked that sort of thing. Dark hair, perfectly clipped. Warm blue eyes. And lips that could do things to you.
If you wanted them to. Which she didn’t. Not least because she’d sworn off men for life.
“I said that’s the trick,” she lied. “To getting a cab, I mean.”
The yellow car pulled up at the curbside, causing a ruckus because three other people started running toward it.
“Are you trying to get a cab?” he asked.
“Nope, just enjoying the lovely New York weather.” She blinked off the droplets of rain that clung to her eyelids.
Suit guy laughed. “Take it. It’s yours.”
“I can’t. You have first dibs,” she pointed out. And so did all the others waiting in line. Who were staring at her with daggers in their eyes.
His lips twitched again. They really were good lips. The kind you could kiss, if you liked that sort of thing. Which she didn’t because she’d sworn off men.
Suit guy leaned forward to open the backdoor, and she was already beating herself up for not taking him up on his offer.
“Get in,” he said. “Before somebody steals it.”
Alarm bells rang in her head. Sure, he was pretty, if you were into older guys, but she still wasn’t getting into a cab with him. She’d watched way too many Netflix documentaries to be taken in by a good-looking face.
“It’s fine.” She stepped back, waving her hand. “I can wait.”
He rolled his eyes. “Get in.”
Handsome and bossy. Which would be kind of dynamite if she wasn’t standing in the middle of a rainstorm, shivering because she was stupid enough not to unpack her jacket from her suitcase.
“I don’t know you,” she told him, and his lips twitched again. Rivulets of water were running down her neck. “We’re not sharing a cab.”
“I’ll share it with you,” the next man in line shouted at suit guy. “I don’t care if you’re a mass murderer.”
Suit guy lifted a brow at her. He wasn’t smiling anymore. He looked kind of pissed, actually, which was the effect she seemed to have on most guys nowadays.
“I wasn’t planning on getting in with you,” he said, and Grace immediately blushed. Somebody pushed past her and took a lunge for the cab, but suit guy blocked them admirably.
“Can you get in, please?” he asked. His voice was low, like he’d already had enough.
“Okay.” Grace nodded, finally resigned to breaking the standoff. “Thank you.”
He reached for her case and slid it into the cab, then reached for her hand to help her follow it. His hand was warm, dry, strong. He made sure she was inside then slammed the door shut, leaving her alone on the back seat.
“Where to?” the driver asked, turning around to look at her. When he saw how wet she was, he grimaced.
She brushed her wet hair from her face and tried to put as little of her wet behind on the chair as she could. “The Solar Hotel. Do you know it?” She should be there now, warm and dry. Would have been if she hadn’t left Ella’s birthday gift in Paris and had to make a quick stop to buy a replacement.
“I know it.” He nodded, pulling away from the sidewalk and from her knight with a shining umbrella, who was already looking for a second cab.
She stared at him through the droplet covered window, a pang of regret pulling at her chest. Maybe she should have offered to share with him. Maybe she should have flirted with him.
Maybe – if she was Ella and didn’t give a damn – she could have invited him to her hotel room. But she wasn’t Ella, and she did give a damn.
And you’ve sworn off men for good, remember?
The driver switched the radio on and she leaned her head back on the rest before remembering how wet she was and pulled it away again.
She was home. Well, in her home country at least. After almost four years away.
And the weather felt way too much like a bad omen.
* * *
Walking into the hotel bar later that evening, she took a deep breath and looked around for her friends. She was overdressed, that much was clear. She was wearing a dress she’d bought in Paris last year – black and clingy with one of those plunging necklines that only work if you’re not that endowed (thanks genetics). It had seemed the right choice when she pulled it out of her soaking suitcase.
The clothes inside had been dry, thank goodness. Mostly thanks to the fact that she’d put everything into vacuum bags. She had a limited luggage allowance and an entire closet to bring back to the States, so she had to be resourceful.
Her two friends and their boyfriends were in the corner booth. Ella stood and waved and Grace bit down a smile at the sash that fell over her jeans-and-dress top combo.
Birthday Bish was written in silver over the satin pink sash.
That was so Ella.
“You made it!” Ella pushed herself out of the booth and ran across the bar area, meeting Grace halfway there. Ella hugged her close, smelling of the Hugo Boss fragrance she’d always worn during college, then stepped back and held Grace at arm's length.
“Look at you! All French and chic.”
“Hardly.” Grace smiled. “You should have seen me an hour ago. I was a drowned rat.” Ella led her back to the table as Grace regaled her with the story of the cab stand off with the suit guy.
“You should have brought him back with you,” Ella said as the cocktail server came to take another order. “I wouldn’t have minded if you were late for my party.”
“Come on.” Lucy, who’d roomed with them in freshman year, rolled her eyes as soon as Ella had filled her in. “When have you ever seen Grace have casual sex?”
Grace rolled her eyes. It had been four years since graduation. She’d moved to France shortly after, yet somehow their conversations still got back to her love life.
“Maybe now’s her time to sow some wild oats,” Ella said. “After Pascal.”
Lucy grimaced. “I heard about you and him,” she said to Grace. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s old history.” Grace opened her purse and pulled out a small gift wrapped box. “This is for you,” she said to Ella, pleased to change the subject. “Happy Birthday.”
As she put her purse down on the seat beside her, she felt her skin prickle. Her Great Aunt Gina always said that meant a goose was walking over your grave.
Yeah, well, the goose could get out of there. Her neck was itching now.
“Hot guy at nine o’clock,” Ella whispered.
“That’s not nine o’clock. It’s six o’clock, dufus.” Lucy sighed. “And he’s looking at Grace.”
“Of course he’s looking at Grace. Every man in the room is. Have you seen her dress?” Ella said.
Grace looked to her right – Ella’s six o’clock – and the blush in her skin deepened.
Because it was him. Suit guy. Standing in the hotel bar, looking even hotter than he had in the rain.
“How old do you think he is?” Lucy asked. “Thirty something? Forty?” She shook her head. “Forty’s too old, right?”
Grace’s eyes connected with his. She waited for him to look away, but he didn’t. She could feel her pulse throb in her neck.
“Forty’s fine,” Ella said. “I think. What’s the equation again?”
“Half his age and add seven,” Lucy said. “So if he’s forty, you need to be twenty-seven.”
“What’s two years too young? It’s fine,” Ella said loudly. Grace grimaced, hoping he hadn’t heard.
Luckily, her friends were distracted by the server carrying their tray of drinks over and their conversation paused. The three women took their cocktails, and the two guys took their drinks.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s sixty or sixteen,” Grace said, taking a welcome sip of her cocktail. “I’m not interested. Remember?”
She glanced up at him again. Their gazes clashed, and he smiled before looking back down at his phone.
He’d taken his jacket and tie off and rolled his sleeves up. He was leaning on the bar, a half-drunk whiskey in front of him. She wondered what brand it was, mostly because growing up, whiskey had been her life.
The barman said something to him and Suit laughed.
He had crinkle lines around his eyes. How could wrinkles be attractive? And yet they were, if you were into that kind of thing.
“Of course you’re interested. You can’t stop looking at him,” Ella said. “And no wonder, he’s gorgeous.”
“I wish he’d look at me,” Lucy complained and her boyfriend chuckled.
“You’re attached. And anyway he’s probably married,” Grace pointed out. What guy that age and with a body like that wouldn’t be? “And I’m definitely not into that kind of thing.”
“I can’t see a ring,” Lucy said, craning her head to look.
Could she stop already? This was getting embarrassing. “That means nothing. A lot of guys don’t wear them.”
“Then we should ask him,” Ella suggested, giving Grace a grin.
“Don’t you dare.” Grace widened her eyes in horror.
“Did she say dare?” Ella asked Lucy.
“I think she did,” Lucy confirmed, her eyes sparkling.
Ugh, not this. As freshman, Dare used to be their favorite game. There was one rule – if you got dared you had to do it.
“I didn’t mean it like that.” She was backtracking now. They were way too old for this game.
“A dare’s a dare,” Ella said. “Now come on, you’re single and maybe he is too. I dare you to flirt with him. Ask him if he’s married.”
“She won’t do it,” Lucy said.
“If she doesn’t, I’ll go ask him.” Ella looked like she meant it, too. She grinned at Grace. “Come on, it’s my birthday. Give us some entertainment.”
Taking a long sip from her cocktail glass, Grace let out a sigh. There was no way she wanted Ella to ask him about his marital status. She knew her friend too well. She’d embarrass Grace then pull her over.
And no. That wasn’t happening.
She put her glass on the table. “I’ll talk to him for five minutes,” she said. “And then you two have to promise to shut up about him and any other guys for the rest of the night.”
Ella and Lucy exchanged glances. “You’re on.”
Grace stood and took a deep breath. This was going to be fine. She was used to talking to sophisticated men. It had been her job for the last few years, after all. Talking about French wine to cultured merchants, explaining the grape and the vintage, persuading them to buy crates to sell.
“Your ass looks amazing in that dress,” Ella whispered. “He’ll never know what’s hit him.”
Ugh. Here went nothing. “After this, you guys owe me another drink,” she told them.
Grace walked over to the bar, aware again of how overdressed she was. Her light brown hair was curled in waves over her shoulders, and she shook it, hoping it could cover her too-obvious cleavage, too.
“Can I have a glass of water, please?” she asked the bartender.
“Still or sparkling?”
She could feel Suit watching her. Her skin was tingling again, like she’d touched an electric fence and the pulses were washing through her body. Dammit, she needed to get this over with.
When the bartender brought her glass over, she turned to look at Suit, standing three feet away from her. “You’re the cab guy, right?” she asked him.
He lifted a brow. “I thought I recognized you. You’re the water rat.”
Well, that wasn’t exactly the compliment she was hoping for. Still, it was accurate.
She lifted a brow, because this needed to be done. “Listen, can I ask you for a favor?” she said, aware that Ella and Lucy were still watching her.
“You want me to call you another cab?” he asked.
She laughed. Damn, she liked him. “No. I need you to talk to me for five minutes.”
He glanced over her shoulder, his brows scrunching. “Why? Is somebody bothering you?”
Oh. He thought she was trying to avoid a guy. “Not like that. My friends…” She sighed. “They’re being a pain. I just need to talk with you to shut them up.”
He glanced over her shoulder again, presumably to where Ella and Lucy were sitting, because she heard them giggle.
“Actually, forget it. It’s stupid and juvenile.” She took her glass, ready to walk away and internally scream. “Have a good evening.”
“Wait.” He reached for her arm, his fingers brushing her skin. She felt herself flush. “I can talk to you,” he murmured. “What is it, a bet?”
“Something like that,” she admitted, feeling stupid.
He took a sip of his whiskey, eyeing her carefully. “What kind of bet?”
“They want me to flirt with you.”
“And you don’t want to?” he asked, looking interested.
“I don’t know. I…” She looked at his left hand. “You’re not married, are you?”
“Let me buy you a drink,” he suggested.
“I have some water.” She pointed at her glass. She was pacing her alcohol intake – she had to be up early to meet her parents for breakfast in the morning. They were in New York for a completely different reason – her dad had booked Broadway tickets for her mom’s birthday treat. And since they were in the city, they’d give her a ride back to their small hometown.
Where she’d be starting work next week.
“I can recommend the whiskey,” he said, glancing at his own glass.
“What label is it?”
“G. Scott Carter. The international blend.”
Her heart did a little leap. That was her parents’ whiskey. Or at least it was made at the distillery they owned.
The place she’d be working at a week from Monday.
“I hear it’s good,” she murmured.
“It’s the best. Can I buy you one?”
She nodded. Okay. One would be fine.
When the barman brought it over, Suit lifted his glass and clinked it to hers. “To bets and whiskey.”
“Bets and whiskey.” And steel-blue eyes I could get lost in if I let myself.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Ella.” She had no idea why she lied. Maybe to protect herself. You couldn’t be too careful in the big city. And maybe she was still a little tetchy about her best friend forcing her to do this. “How about you?”
He took another sip of his drink. “People call me Irish.”
She smiled. “You don’t look Irish.”
“Nor does Bono.”
“What part of Ireland is your family from?”
She laughed. Then took a sip of whiskey and it made her feel like she was home. Sure, she loved the French wine she’d been working with for the past few years, but whiskey was in her blood.
“My father was half Irish,” he said. “Which I guess makes me a quarter. Apparently enough for my team mates never to let me forget it.”
“Team mates?” she asked him.
“College football. That’s where I got the nickname and it stuck.”
Oh, he was a football player. “Do you still play?” she asked. Her uncle used to be in the NFL. She could definitely have a conversation about football.
“No. Gave up after graduation. I wasn’t that good.” He shrugged.
“So, what do you do now?”
“I’m an agent,” he said. “Sports management. How about you?”
She shifted her feet. “I’m between jobs. Just finished working at a vineyard in France. About to start working at a new place in my home town.” She took another sip of the whiskey. “This is my first day in the US in almost four years.”
“You picked a good day to come back,” he joked.
“Right? Nobody told me about the biblical floods.”
He laughed. Damn, he was attractive. She found herself moving a little closer to him. His gaze dipped to her lips, and she liked that a little too much.
“How long are you in the city for?” he asked her.
“Just for tonight. You?” For the first time, she was sad about that. Sad about going home tomorrow.
“Same.” His lip curled. “I’m flying back to Europe tomorrow.”
“Where in Europe are you flying to?” she asked.
“London. I have a business there. I spend most of my time on that side of the Atlantic.”
“I love London. I used to go there a lot for the weekend, just jump on the Eurostar.” She loved how the train from Paris to London went in a dark tunnel under the water between the two countries. Liked even more how fast the trip was.
“What did you do there?” he asked her.
“Mostly visited galleries.” She smiled at the memory. “I love art. And the food. I know a lot of people say it’s bad, but some of my favorite restaurants are in London.”
“Shame you’re not in Paris anymore,” he murmured.
She wished she was.
“It’s been five minutes,” he told her.
“Your bet. I think you’ve won it.”
Did he want her to go? She’d barely drunk her whiskey. She looked over her shoulder at her friends. Ella lifted a brow at her and Grace rolled her eyes, bringing her gaze back to Irish.
“Oh. Okay.” She tried to hide the disappointment in her voice.
“You want to tease them?” he asked her.
“Like this.” He trailed his finger along her cheek, tucking her hair behind her ear. A shiver snaked down her spine, making her thighs tingle.
Oh God, this man.
“We could do that,” she whispered.
He leaned forward until his face was close to hers. “How old are you?”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
“How old are you?” she asked him.
“Too old. Way too old.”
“Age is just a number,” she whispered.
A smile ghosted across his lips. “That’s what a dirty old man would say.”
“There’s nothing dirty about you.”
His eyes narrowed. “You’re wrong. I’m very dirty.”
Her breath caught in her throat. He was too handsome, too easy to talk to. Just one touch from this man and she felt like she was on fire.
“Show me,” she whispered.
“Show you what?”
“How dirty you are.”
This wasn’t like her. She wasn’t sure who it was like, but for the first time in weeks she was having fun.
He blinked. “You’re pretty, Ella. Really pretty. But you don’t want this. Believe me, you want a guy your own age.”
She’d had a guy her own age, but he’d hurt her. Maybe she wanted somebody to erase all that pain.
Just for one night.
“Don’t you want to kiss me?” she asked him.
“I’ve been thinking about nothing else.” His voice was low.
“Then why don’t you?” she asked him.
“I’m trying to figure that one out myself,” he said, and the thickness of his voice sent another shiver down her spine. She didn’t have to look down to know that her nipples were hard against the fabric of her dress.
“Stop thinking and do it,” she told him. “And then I’ll walk away, I promise.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he murmured. But he curled his hand around her neck, his fingers feathering her hair, and her breath caught in her throat. His eyes were intense, dark. She slid her hands along his chest, touching him for the first time.
Instead of just being touched.
His chest was warm and hard. Either he worked out or he was wearing armor under there. She ran her tongue along her bottom lip and slid her hands around his neck.
“Kiss me, Irish,” she whispered.
And he did.
This shouldn’t be happening.
But it was, and her soft lips were driving him wild, her arms wrapped around his neck as her perfect body molded against his.
And yeah, certain parts of his body approved without reservation. Especially those that hadn’t seen any action since his divorce last year. Ignoring the warning note sounding in his mind, he slid his hand down her back, his fingers lingering at the base of her spine.
Ella gasped into his mouth.
So she was sensitive. He stored that information away and kissed her harder, desperately trying to ignore the fact that he was too old and too jaded for her.
She didn’t seem to care, though. Her fingers caressed the skin at the edge of his hairline, sending a pulse of need through him. It has been way too long, and he was too on edge and this needed to stop.
Not least because they were in a bar.
Reluctantly, he kissed her softly, then pulled back. Her eyes were trained on his, dark and sparkling. She let out a long breath and he could feel her breasts brush against his chest.
“Let me take you to dinner,” he murmured, because he didn’t just want to kiss her. He wanted to talk to her. Watch her eat. Hear more about France and wine and whatever else she had to talk about.
“I can’t,” she said, looking torn. “It’s my friend’s birthday.”
“Tomorrow then?” He was supposed to fly back to London tomorrow night. But he could change his ticket. Flying back on Sunday would be fine. She was worth it.
“I leave tomorrow morning.” She sounded sad about that. Her face was flushed, and the color looked good on her.
So that was that. Probably a good thing. When he woke up in the morning, maybe he’d think it was a lucky escape from making a fool out of himself. And making a fool of her, too. She was far too pretty and far too young to deal with his grumpy ass, anyway. She should go back to her friends, have a good time.
And he’d head up to his room and sleep, like he should be doing right now.
“I guess we’ll always have New York.”
“And Paris.” She lifted a brow.
He was surprised she got the reference. Did twenty-somethings watch Casablanca? Grabbing his glass, he took a sip of whiskey, looking at her over the rim of his glass.
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”
She grinned. “Did you know Lauren Bacall was twenty-five years younger than Humphrey Bogart?”
He tried not to smile at her sudden change in direction, from Casablanca to Bogey’s love life. “No, I didn’t.”
“They met when she was nineteen and he was forty-five.” She shrugged.
“I guess he was a dirty old man, too.”
She grinned again. Her lips were swollen from their kiss, and he liked that too much. “I guess that’s how she preferred them. They got married and stayed married until he died.”
“You seem to know a lot about them,” he said, and she nodded.
“I’m an old movie buff. If they made it in the nineteen thirties or forties, I’m there.”
Yeah, he could see that. Like those old golden age movies, there was a timeless glamor to her. He wondered if she did that on purpose or if her style was just innate.
“You should go back to your friends now,” he said, his voice low. “I think we convinced them.” Because if she didn’t…
She blinked, as though she’d forgotten about them. “Oh. Yeah. I guess.”
“It’s your friend’s birthday,” he reminded her, because he needed her to leave. He was already regretting kissing her. Regretting stopping more. If he walked away now, it would be fine. A funny little memory to think about when he next took the train to Paris and stepped out into the springtime sun. A girl who’d always stay pretty and young in his imagination, as he got old and cynical.
Who was he kidding? He was already cynical.
“Oh. You’re right. I should.” She looked almost reluctant. She touched her bottom lip with her fingertips, as though she were thinking the same thing he was.
That he wanted to kiss her one last time.
And then she turned to look over her shoulder and let out a little ‘oh.’
“Everything okay?” he asked her, because she was looking back at him with a frown on her face.
“My friends have left.” She sounded confused.
He glanced over her shoulder, seeing that she was right. The booth they’d been sitting at was empty. The server must have taken their glasses away and wiped the table clean. It was as though they’d never been there.
“Oh hey, your friend asked me to give you this,” the server said, holding out a phone and a small purse. “She said to check your phone.”
She was still frowning as she took them from the server, sliding her finger on the screen and reading whatever came up. Then she tapped furiously on the screen the way only somebody her age could. He smiled, because his thumbs were so damn big he could never text that fast.
“Where did they go?” he asked her.
“She didn’t say. Just some club.” She shook her head.
“Want me to get you a cab so you can join them?”
She looked up from her phone and her eyes caught his. They were both smiling at each other again, because that’s what he did. He was her cab-caller.
“It’s okay. I think I’ll just finish my drink and crash. I have to be up early, anyway.”
“Have you eaten?” he asked.
“At least let me buy you dinner. And then you can crash.”
Her lips curled. “Okay. But only if you let me pay for it.”
As if. He’d cut his dick off before he let her pay, but they could argue about that later. “Come on,” he said, holding out his hand. “I know this great place right around the corner.”
* * *
Two hours later, he was kissing her as he kicked his hotel room door shut, and she clung onto him like he was the only rock in a storm.
“We shouldn’t be doing this,” he murmured against her mouth. It didn’t stop him from kissing her again, his lips trailing down her neck.
“I know.” She tugged at his hair until his lips were on hers again, their tongues tangling as he pushed her against the wall of his hotel room, his body like a rock against hers.
They parted, breathless, and his dark eyes caught hers. She could see her face reflected in his dilated pupils. She looked ravaged, her hair a mess, her lips swollen.
“Tell me to stop.” His voice was graveled.
“Do you want to?” she asked, her brow lifting.
Her lips curled. “Good, nor do I.”
He chuckled, and she pulled at his tie, his head lowering to hers.
“But I need you to know I don’t usually do this sort of thing,” she whispered against his mouth.
Irish lifted a brow. “Neither do I.”
“Sure.” She rolled her eyes. He was too good at this. Too smooth and practiced. He had to do this all the time.
Grace didn’t, though. But maybe she should have. She’d spent way too much time with guys who pretended not to be assholes. This one had no pretense. He made her feel good.
And she needed this. She deserved it. She really did.
They’d spend the last two hours laughing and flirting, their chairs getting closer and closer together as they ate the best French food she’d encountered outside of her favorite country.
He’d even chosen her favorite wine. And yes, it had loosened her inhibitions, but they’d only drank two glasses each. Enough to make her feel good, but not enough to make her choices seem suspect.
She was here because she wanted this. Wanted him. And she wasn’t ashamed about that.
“Unzip my dress,” she whispered.
And he did, his fingers deft as he reached behind her, finding the zipper without breaking their gaze. She felt the warmth of his hand against her skin, the smooth slide of her zip as he unfastened her.
And when it fell open, he pushed it down until she was in nothing but her bra and panties.
Her lip quirked. “And you know how to make a woman feel good.”
Irish winked at her. “It’s my specialty.”
And it was stupid, but it felt like more than just a one-night stand. There was this draw to him she couldn’t ignore.
“These are beautiful too,” he whispered, his lips reaching the swell of her breasts. He expertly unfastened her bra, then feathered his fingers lower, down her back, until he found the base of her spine and lit her nerve endings on fire as he caressed her.
She let out a gasp as his lips closed around her nipple. “Are you going to get undressed too?”
He released her nipple, and she immediately missed the teasing warmth of his mouth.
“I wasn’t planning on wearing a suit for this, but whatever floats your boat.”
She grinned again. Damn, he made this easy. She cupped his face, and he smiled back at her. This man needed to stop looking so gorgeous.
She watched as he unfastened his shirt, trying not to stare at the broadness of his shoulders and the perfect definition of his chest. There was a sprinkling of hair across his muscles and she traced the line of them with her fingers, stopping at his nipple, teasing it until he was the one looking hot and bothered.
His pants came next, revealing black shorts and thick muscles that made her mouth water. And then he was lifting her, carrying her to the bed, both of them almost naked.
But not quite.
Before she could point that out, he was kissing her, and she’d wrapped her hands around his neck because she couldn’t get enough of him. He made her feel good. Wanted. Real.
After so much heartbreak, this was what she needed.
His mouth trailed down her chest, kissing her nipples until she was arching her back with pleasure. Then he slid further down the bed, his fingers strong against her thighs. He parted them and slid her panties down.
And now she was naked and his face was about two inches from there.
“Shut up. I should have shaved.”
And ugh, now she was embarrassed.
He looked up at her, his gaze penetrating hers. “Don’t change a thing. You’re perfect.” And as if to drive the point home, he dipped his head and pressed his lips against her in a barely there kiss.
And then he did it again. Harder and longer this time. A long sweep of his tongue made her toes curl and her eyes roll up. She was right about him. This man knew what he was doing. Damn, he even looked like he was enjoying it.
God knew she was.
Her head fell back as he continued his onslaught, her whole body tensing and releasing, pleasure warming through her. Then he slid a finger inside of her and sucked at the same time.
Nobody had done that to her before. Why hadn’t they? Because it felt like she was riding on a wave high above the bed. Then he curled his fingers, and it was explosive. Like dynamite exploding in her body.
“Irish!” she cried out. He didn’t respond, just kept teasing her with his tongue and fingers until she was on the edge, her breath short, her body flushed, and still he continued his onslaught.
“I’m going to…” she told him, because her ex used to hate her coming on his face. But Irish didn’t move. Didn’t stop.
He just. Kept. Licking.
Pleasure exploded inside of her, making her back arch and her mouth fall open with a long, aching cry. Her legs clamped around his face, but he didn’t try to fight it. Just kept licking and touching her until she came down from the edge.
His lips glistened with her when he finally lifted his head. His eyes were dark. As needy as hers.
“You okay?” he rasped.
“More than okay,” she told him, breathless. “Now get inside of me.”
“What?” She frowned.
“I don’t have a condom. I wasn’t kidding about not doing this often.”
“There’s some in my purse.” Irish rolled over and grabbed it, removing the foil packet with a question on his face.
“There was a vending machine in the restroom,” she told him. “I wasn’t assuming. I just like to be prepared.”
He kissed the tip of her nose. “Like a sexy girl scout.”
“Whatever. Put it on. I need you.”
He winked as he ripped the foil and rolled the condom on. And then he was kissing her again, and she could taste herself on him and it tasted good.
Like he was hers. Even just for one night.
She ran her hand down his back, her fingers digging into his ass. He groaned and caught her eye. “Are you sure this is okay?”
She liked that he asked. That he wanted her consent. “I want you,” she told him. “I want this.”
She wasn’t lying. Her body was still pulsing with need for him. And when she felt the tip of him against her, right where she needed him, it felt like a tiny piece of heaven had fallen into a hotel room in New York City.
He kissed her again, tangling his fingers in her hair, and she kissed him back desperately. Her body opened up to him, welcoming him home as he slid inside, and he let out a low oath, his words making her shiver.
Almost immediately, she could feel the heat warming her again. The build up, the buzz, the pleasure. With every stroke of him it was getting stronger. He kissed her softly but made love to her hard, and the combination was intoxicating. A man who knew what he was doing, who knew exactly how to drive her to oblivion.
“J'adore te baiser,” he murmured against her lips, sliding his hand down her thigh to lift it higher, allowing him to go deeper.
Oh, she liked that. So much. The dirty French and the dirty fucking. She dug her nails into his ass. “Harder,” she whispered. “Please.”
He did as he was asked, lifting her other leg, rolling back on his haunches, fucking her until she tightened around him. Her breath was ragged as she called out his name, pleasure making her scrape her nails down his thighs.
He pushed one more time then groaned, his body stilling as he surged inside of her. He leaned forward, capturing her mouth with his, kissing her like she was the air he needed.
She moved her hands up, stroking his hair softly. He pulled back and gave her a lopsided grin.
Something pulled in her chest as she smiled back at him. Making it feel tight. Making her feel emotional. The man knew what he was doing. Maybe that was why women liked older guys so much.
She knew she did.
“Shit.” Her eyes widened as she looked at the clock beside Irish’s bed early the next morning. “I have to go.”
He rolled over, his eyelids heavy as he reached for her.
“What time is it?” he asked, kissing her brow. Oh, she liked that. Turned out he was a cuddler when he went to sleep. His chest had proved to be a surprisingly comfortable pillow.
“It’s almost seven,” she told him. “I really do need to leave now. I’m so sorry.” She was having breakfast with her parents at nine. They’d arranged to meet in the hotel lobby and then they’d walk to a diner that her mom loved. After that, they’d start the drive home to West Virginia, to the little town she’d grown up in.
She was going home and now she didn’t want to. She wanted to spend all day in bed with this adonis.
But he was leaving, too. And even though they’d done all the dirty things, she felt way too shy to ask if she could see him again.
“Can’t I take you out for breakfast?” he asked. His voice was sleep-heavy and she found it sexy that he could still form words in that state.
“I’m already meeting somebody.” She didn’t want to tell him it was her parents that she was meeting because that made her sound too young. “And then I have to leave town.”
He sat up, the sheet falling down around his waist. There was a bruise on his chest, mouth shaped, and she flushed, realizing she’d put it there.
She’d marked him. Dear Lord.
“I’ll be back in New York in a few weeks,” he told her. “Can we meet up, maybe?”
Her cheeks flushed, mostly because she was pleased he wanted to see her again. “Here?” she asked.
“Yeah. Let me give you my number. If you want to see me again, call me.”
“Of course I want to see you again.” She rolled her eyes, and he smiled.
“Call me tonight,” he said, reading out his number as she tapped it into her phone.
“You could call me,” she pointed out, sending her own number to his phone.
“Then I will. As soon as I’m back in London.” He frowned. “Although, that will be your night time.”
“I don’t care.” She was already looking forward to it. She wanted to talk to him. Wanted to laugh with him. Wanted to hear about his work and his flat in London and anything else he had to say.
“Come here,” he said, reaching for her. His fingers curled into her hair as he gave her one last kiss. It tasted of hello and goodbye, and this could be something good.
It tasted perfect. And for now, it would have to be enough.
“Now go before I decide to tie you up to my bed,” he said.
“Don’t make offers you don’t intend to keep.”
He lifted a brow. “Next time,” he said, and they both grinned like kids again.
“I’m really going now,” she told him, grabbing her underwear and pulling them on.
“Okay.” He rolled out of bed.
“You don’t have to get up. I can see myself out.”
“No, you won’t,” he said gruffly, and she couldn’t help but take one last look at his body. Every part of him was masculine perfection, making her realize her previous love interests had been little more than boys.
Irish was all man. And she liked that too much.
Ignoring her scrutiny, he pulled on his shorts as she pulled on the dress she’d discarded last night. She didn’t bother to make herself look presentable. Her room was on the floor below and it would take her no more than five minutes to get there.
And after that, operation look respectable would begin.
When she was dressed, he walked over to her, kissing her softly one more time. “Thank you,” he said. “For the perfect night.”
Oh, she really liked him. Way, way too much. “Thank you,” she said, meaning it.
“Take care, beautiful,” he said, pulling open his door. Reluctantly, she stepped out of it, giving him one last glance.
“Call me tonight,” he told her.
“You’ll be at the airport,” she pointed out, but smiled anyway.
“I know.” He winked. And she started walking.
* * *
A little over an hour later, Grace stepped into the hotel elevator, pressing the button for the lobby as she looked at her reflection in the mirrored interior.
She’d showered and washed her hair, then dried it carefully, before pulling on a pair of jeans and a shirt that she’d tucked into the waistband. Her lips were still swollen and her eyes were too bright, but hopefully her parents would think it was the after-effect of a night out with her friends, and not the result of a night tangled with a much older man.
The elevator doors pinged. She stepped out, looking around the high-ceilinged lobby to spot her parents. They were behind an oversized fern, and she had to step to the side to see them. Lifting her hand, she went to call out for them, but then she saw him.
Standing with her parents, in a pair of dark tailored pants and another crisp, white shirt. Her mom laughed at something he said and then her dad said something that made Irish smile and it looked as though they knew each other.
Before any of them could catch sight of her, Grace turned on her heel and walked straight back into the still-open elevator. Her heart was hammering as she punched at her floor, turning away as the doors closed her view of the lobby.
How did her parents know Irish? She wracked her brain, trying to think of a connection. Her parents were older than him by at least fifteen years.
Did her dad know him through work? What was it he said he did again? Something to do with being an agent in London?
Her dad never visited London. Scotland, yes. Paris for sure, but London?
As soon as she reached her floor, she ran for her room, as though her parents had somehow worked out where she was. Pulling her room card from her phone case, she could see she had a message from her mom.
Hello darling! We’re in the lobby. And guess who we bumped into? Michael Devlin. I don’t know if you remember him, but he’s Aunt Mia’s son. Anyway, we invited him out to breakfast with us. Hope that’s okay. Love you lots, Mom xx
The phone fell out of her hand, tumbling to the floor as cold blood rushed through her body.
Irish wasn’t a friend of her parents. Or an old work acquaintance they’d bumped into.
He was her cousin. And she’d just spent the night with him.
* * *
“Technically speaking, he’s only your step cousin,” Ella pointed out. They were sitting in a diner in midtown, where Grace had arranged to meet her after that revelation. “I mean, you’re not related by blood, are you?”
“We might as well be. You know what my family is like.” Michael was actually her mom’s brother’s stepson, if you wanted to be correct about it. Which she didn’t. Damn her oversize, complicated family. “His mom and Uncle Cam got married before I was born. Her boys are part of the family.”
“He was hardly a boy when I saw him in the bar,” Ella said dryly. “And he definitely wasn’t acting like family.”
Grace groaned, dropping her face into her hands. If anybody found out about last night, all hell would break loose. She was the apple of her family’s eye. One of only two girls in a family full of testosterone-heavy boys.
A princess in their eyes.
“So what happened once you saw them?” Ella asked. She looked as though she was almost enjoying this, damn her. Not that Grace could blame her.
“I ran back to my room, messaged my mom, and told her I’d slept at yours. That I was completely hungover and I’d find my own way home.” She let out a long breath. “What am I going to do?”
“I still don’t get how you didn’t recognize him,” Ella said. She actually was hungover, and Grace felt bad for dragging her out of bed, but this was a crisis and she didn’t want to go through it alone. Not when it was partly Ella’s fault for making her talk to him.
Grace grimaced. She’d been asking herself the same question all morning. “He left town when I was young. I don’t remember him,” she told her. “And I don’t think he’s been back to visit for over a decade, or if he has, it was when I was in France and I didn’t see him.”
“What about photos? Your family must have photos of him.”
Grace thought about her aunt and uncle’s gorgeous ranch house, bought with Cam’s NFL earnings. “All the pictures are of him as a teenager,” she said. “Not with the beard and the…” She gestured at her body and Ella nodded knowingly.
He wasn’t a man with a body built to make a woman go wild in those old pictures. In most of them, he was in his football gear, helmet on and helmet off. That part of her family lived, breathed, and died for football.
“It was good, wasn’t it?” Ella asked, looking almost human now that she’d swallowed some coffee. “Tell me it was worth it.”
Grace sighed. Because it was good. More than good. And yeah, it had helped put all those bad memories of Paris and Pascal out of her mind. He made her feel wanted. Alive. Like she was worth something.
He made her feel desirable, and it’s been a while since that had happened.
“Yes,” she said. “It was worth it.”
“So what happens now?” Ella asked, gesturing at the server for a refill of her coffee.
Grace sipped at her Americano. She’d already thought this through. She couldn’t leave now. She’d wait until later. Arrive in the middle of the night. That would have two benefits – firstly, it would seem more real that she had to wait until she was sobered up. And second, her mom would be too tired to ask questions. “I’ll rent a car, drive home tonight, and then I’ll get on with the rest of my life.”
“I bet your mom was pissed that you weren’t meeting up with them, wasn’t she?”
“I spoke to her after I’d snuck out of the hotel and right into a cab.” Which, funnily enough, were plentiful today. “I told her I was sick and in no state to join them.” By that point, they’d all been at breakfast – her parents and Irish. So she’d asked the driver to take her to a diner twenty minutes away and messaged Ella to meet her here.
It had taken some persuading to get her mom and dad to leave New York and head home without her but somehow she managed. She was a grown up, after all. She’d lived in a different country since she was twenty-one. Renting a car and driving to West Virginia wasn’t exactly brain surgery.
“And what if he’s there?”
“In Hartson’s Creek?” Grace clarified, then shook her head. “He won’t be. He’s flying to London tonight. He won’t be back soon.”
“He might if he knows you’re there.”
“He’ll never know. He only lived in Hartson’s Creek for a few years before he went off to college. When I asked him about home, he said it was Missouri.” She was pretty sure that avoiding him wouldn’t be a problem. It hadn’t been for the last twenty-five years of her life.
“You’d better hope there are no weddings in your family for the foreseeable future,” Ella said.
Grace rolled her eyes. “Have you met my cousins? Not a single one of them is anywhere close to a relationship, let alone getting married.”
The server refilled her coffee and Ella sipped at it gratefully. “Actually, I have met one of your cousins,” she pointed out. “And he’s hot.”
“Shut up and drink your coffee.”
Ella smirked. “Yes, ma’am.”