More than need you, p.17
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       More Than Need You, p.17

         Part #2 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black
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  on her finger giving an edge to the pleasure of her stroke. Her thumb swipes over the head, circles the crest, teases the hell out of me with the slow pace until my back is arching, my breathing is uneven, and my balls hang heavy with need. Now she’s looking into my eyes as she drags her fingertips up and down my shaft, urging me on. The band of her engagement ring slides over my most sensitive spots. She’s here with me—in body, in spirit, in heart.

  How can I give her any less than my all?

  Another few strokes later, the pooling pleasure builds to a crescendo that, just like the song, becomes a climax. The singer cries out in what sounds like pleasured pain. I do the same, basking in the thick swirl of ecstasy.

  Then the song ends. So does my glow.

  I open my eyes. Blink. Sadness crashes in.

  I’m alone in my bedroom with half a bottle of super-expensive swill, sheets that need a change, and a ring that might never be on Britta’s finger.

  No. Fuck no.

  This is pathetic.

  What am I doing?

  I don’t know. Tears sting my eyes. I try to drown them in more booze.

  But I can’t torture myself like this again. Somehow, someway, I’m going to turn our relationship around. I’m going to show that woman what it would be like to live with me. I’m going to prove I love her. And the next orgasm I have will be with Britta Stone when I’ve got her between the sheets of our bed and I’m making love to her for the first time for the rest of our lives.

  CHAPTER NINE

  I spend most of Sunday with Maxon. Early in the morning, we head out to the Stowe estate. George and Vivienne have clearly already done as we instructed and hired someone to clean up the house and grounds. The photographer took the basic pictures of the estate on Wednesday morning. We uploaded them twenty-four hours later. Two days from now, the potential buyer will come to see the place. If he loves it, we may not need the video and aerial footage. Things are moving fast with this listing.

  And slower than hell with Britta. Logically, it’s only been nine days since I crashed her engagement party. God, it feels as if it’s been nine fucking years. I can’t take this shit dragging out any more.

  Is she back from her weekend getaway yet? Where did she and Makaio go? What did they do? Did she tell him that we kissed? When he touched her, did she experience even a tenth of the passion we shared?

  As we’re leaving the listing, I turn my back on the full-frontal ocean views that make this massive estate a whopping thirty million dollars. Yeah, it’s beautiful. Under normal circumstances, I would linger, dip my toe in one of the step-down infinity pools, take advantage of the game room, home theater, or billiards table. Or shower in one of the eight spa-like bathrooms. Instead, I’m tied into knots.

  I don’t think Maxon is in a better head space when I see him head to his car with a grimace.

  “What’s wrong?” I’m happy to dwell on a problem other than my own.

  He blows out a breath. “I think we need a full-time caretaker here. I don’t know where we’re going to get one.”

  I can’t disagree. It’s a huge property, over ten thousand square feet. It’s the kind of place you can leave for a week or so. Much longer than that, and some part or another needs attention. “You’re right. The Stowes will have a hard time taking care of this from Vermont. We’ll have to get creative and find someone.”

  My brother nods absently. I have some ideas percolating, but I’ll keep thinking until something makes sense.

  “So…you ready for tonight?” I ask. “Need help?”

  “Thanks. I’m good. Everything is a go. I picked up the ring. I signed the papers late on Friday. I’ve got all the props in place. I called Gus to double-check that he’s ready. Tonight just has to get here. You’ll bring Keeley by at seven?”

  I nod. “You got it.”

  “Great. Now what are you going to do about Britta?”

  I ponder what to tell my brother, then decide if anyone is going to understand my choice, it will be him. “I’ve tried being nice and understanding and patient.”

  “You have. For the most part, I’ve been surprised at your restraint.”

  “You mean in between the constant warnings for me not to ‘harass’ her at the office?”

  Maxon chuckles. “Except that. So the gloves are off now?”

  “Oh, yeah.” I debate the wisdom of strong-arming Britta. I don’t want to reinforce all her worst opinions of me. I definitely don’t want her to hate me. But I also can’t keep trying the soft-shoe approach. It didn’t work yesterday. Why would it work tomorrow?

  “You have a plan?”

  “I do.” After my miserable self-humiliation last night, I paced my lanai, listened to the ocean crashing in the distance, and took a pen to paper. My options are limited, so I’m taking the best of the crappy bunch. “If you’re going to be a bystander, you’ll need a seat belt and a shield.”

  My brother laughs like he’s relishing what’s coming. “I know you wanted to do this ‘right,’ but if you’re worried about taking the ruthless route, have you considered that Britta might be looking, even subconsciously, for some sign that you’re willing to fight for her? Something more than words.”

  “Keeley said action was more important to a woman. So Britta’s going to get it.” And I appreciate the validation.

  “Have you told Keeley what you’re planning?”

  “No. And my self-preservation instinct is strong enough not to. But my gut tells me the best way past Britta’s defenses isn’t going under or around them, like I’ve been trying. I have to go straight through, mowing them down and plowing ahead.” I’m desperate to reclaim the territory I once foolishly abandoned, leaving it vulnerable for the enemy to storm.

  Everyone is in for a shock tomorrow.

  If I fail, at least I’ll know I tried every way I can think of to be with the woman I love and our son.

  “I hope it works out for you,” my brother says into my thoughts.

  Me, too. But I can’t fixate on the moment I’ll confront Britta without losing my mind. “We have to get you through today first.”

  My brother nods nervously. “By tonight, I’ll either be engaged or ready to jump off a bridge.”

  “I’m betting on the former, but I’ll be there for you either way.”

  He smiles, then shoots me a sideways glance. “Thanks. It’s good to have you back.”

  “Yeah.” I’m not one for mushy moments, but I didn’t tell the people in my life what they meant to me before. I can’t let this opportunity pass me by without saying something now. “It’s good to have you back, too. I’ll cross my fingers that when you go to bed tonight, you’ll be the happiest bastard on the planet.”

  “I’m hoping the same for you soon. I may not want you hashing out your relationship with Britta in the office, but I totally want you to get your girl. If you need any help in the devious department…”

  I laugh. “When have I ever needed help there?”

  He smiles back because he knows the answer is never. “I can’t wait to see what happens next.”

  “Me, too.”

  Monday seems to take a century to roll around, but it’s finally here. After a very interesting evening with Keeley and Maxon, I don’t expect to see my brother in the office before noon—at the earliest. When Rob comes in a few minutes before eight, I send him on an errand to put a FOR SALE sign in the yard of a new four-million-dollar listing and to meet the photographer scheduled to take the pictures. If Rob is going to create the flyer, he can work with the cameraman to get exactly the shots he wants. Best of all, he’ll be out of the office when Britta walks in the door.

  I’m watching the hands fucking crawl around the clock when she finally comes in, briefcase slung over one shoulder, wearing a dress that more than covers everything…but still should be illegal. It’s a soft gray knit. The deep V-neck shows a surprising amount of cleavage. It has a wide sash at her small waist and clings to her hips before ending just abo
ve the knee. Her shoes are a matching gray patent, sedate yet somehow sexy. She’s dragged her hair into an elegant twist my fingers are already itching to unravel. She’s eschewed all jewelry except dangling pearls at her ears and that fucking engagement ring she won’t be wearing for long. She didn’t apply much makeup today. The only thing I notice is that her eyes look wide and exotic. And she’s accentuated her bee-stung lips with a deep red color.

  It’s like waving a crimson cape in a bull’s face.

  Come hell or high water, I’m going to have this woman under me, in love with me, and bound to me for life. I’d love to bypass the bullshit and strip her down, tell her I’ve given her my heart as I’m seizing her body. But she shoots me a challenging glare the second she walks in.

  “Morning.”

  That’s all she says as she heads for her desk. Something about her has changed. I can’t put my finger on it. My eyes narrow as I watch her, but whatever is different is too subtle for me to detect.

  “Morning,” I drawl.

  Doesn’t she remember that the cold shoulder only fires up my blood?

  As she walks past me, I get a glance at the back of her dress—or rather the lack of it. Other than a thin strap dangling between her shoulder blades, there’s nothing to cover her. The shoulders swoop down to a vee that gathers at the waist. The wide sash trails into a bow that swishes across her luscious ass, which the gray knit lovingly cups.

  I’ll bet you a hundred bucks she’s not wearing panties.

  I start to sweat as I approach her.

  Shit. I’ve got to keep my head screwed on straight. Temptation fucks with my brain, and no one has ever gotten to me faster than Britta.

  “How was your weekend?” I ask.

  “Fine. Where’s Maxon?”

  “With Keeley. They’re engaged as of last night. Do you need something?”

  For a moment, her expression slips and she looks happy for my brother. Then she remembers she’s talking to me. “Not from you. Rob late?”

  Oh, she’s challenging me. The trembling girl I shocked at her engagement party is long gone. In front of me is a woman who looks ready to give as good as I’m going to give her. It’s making me hard as hell.

  “Busy. It’s just us in the office.”

  She stiffens but gives no other indication she’s troubled by that fact. “Fine. I have things to do.”

  “In a minute. How’s Jamie this morning? How did he do with Makaio’s sister?” Logically, I know why Britta didn’t ask me to spend the weekend with him…but it pisses me off nonetheless.

  Some of the starch leaves her shoulders, and her voice softens. “He’s fine. He’s happy.”

  “Good.” I nod. I’d like to hold him. I miss my little man more than I thought possible. But he’s part of what I’m fighting for. “Thanks.” I glance at the clock. “Look, it’s not quite eight thirty, so business hours haven’t started yet. We need to talk. I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m speaking to you right now not as your boss but as your lover.”

  “Ex,” she insists, the starch back in her spine.

  “Not for long.”

  She raises a cool blond brow at me. “You wish. Sign the papers. Glad we’ve had this chat. I’ve got nothing else to say.”

  She digs into her briefcase, completely ignoring me. File folders come out, which she spreads across her desk in order of priority. I know how she organizes.

  When she withdraws her laptop and hooks it up again, I step up behind her and grab her wrists. “You may not have anything else on your mind, but I’ve got plenty. Let’s sit down face to face and talk.”

  “Not happening.” She wrenches out of my grip and sashays to the back of the room, hips swaying, to make her tea.

  Are you fucking kidding me? Did her getaway with Makaio make her feel so badass female that she’s actively inciting me to verbal combat?

  “That’s not an option, angel.”

  She leans her backside against the coffee bar and dips her teabag into her steaming water. Absently, she scoops up a sugar packet on her right. Her expression says she could give two shits what I have to say. “You’re going to force me to listen?”

  I grit my teeth. I feel my blood boil. God, I want to fuck the sass out of her.

  “You’re going to want to hear this.” I saunter toward her to lean my fists on the counter on either side of her hips, caging her against me. “We’re going to make a deal, you and I.”

  Her eyes widen a fraction before she quickly blanks her expression. “I don’t have to make any deal with you, Griff.”

  I can’t stop looking at her goddamn mouth. I’m so close, if I inhaled just right, leaned in a little bit, I’d be kissing her. I’m so distracted by the thought I almost forget to speak. Thankfully, my head up north kicks in.

  “If you ever want me to sign those papers so Makaio can adopt Jamie, you do.”

  Her lips tighten, and she pushes against me. I give her—and myself—a little breathing space. She shoulders her way past me and heads toward her desk again. “Determined to make my life hell to the bitter end, huh?”

  “Determined to take the worst possible slant on what I have to say before I’ve even said it?”

  Britta reaches into her briefcase again and pulls out her stack of bridal magazines, all lovingly tape-flagged over the past week and a half. I want to rip them all up. No, that’s pointless. I want her to stop planning her life with another man.

  “Of course. You hounding me hardly says you’re totally in the mood to be agreeable.”

  “I thought cynical was my department.”

  She casts me a sidelong glance. Yes, she’s always been sexy as hell to me—soft, feminine, heartfelt, corruptible. All the things I’m not. But this Britta with sharp edges is setting off all my predatory instincts.

  Stalk, capture, claim.

  “You made sure I’m pretty damn good at it, too.” She slaps her palms down on top of the magazines and sighs like it’s already been a long day and she’s exhausted. “What do you want, Griff? Besides the opportunity to be a pain in my ass.”

  Now that I look at her, she doesn’t appear well rested. I see dark circles under her light makeup. What the hell did Makaio do to her this weekend?

  I clench my fists, certain I don’t want to know.

  Determined to press on, I grab Rob’s chair and roll it across the floor to her desk. When I sink into it, I gesture to her. “Sit. Let’s talk.”

  She shakes her head. “Just spit it out.”

  “All right.” I cross my arms over my chest. “You and Jamie are moving in with me until your wedding day.”

  Britta blinks at me in shock before she scoffs her way into an all-out laugh. “You have finally lost your mind. Why would you think for an instant I’d do that?”

  Once I threaten her, I can’t take it back. It will change the tone of our relationship. Despite my ruthless rah-rah cheer, I’m hesitant to make this ugly if I don’t have to. “It would be so much better for us all if you simply agreed. I’m trying to be nice here.”

  She stills and looks at me like I’ve lost all my faculties. “I have a house. I have a fiancé who will object. I have my sanity to keep. So unless you’ve got some way to compel me to move in with you, the answer is an absolute no.”

  With a sigh, I rise and march to my office. I don’t look back, but I hear her tsking and settling in at her desk. Does she think I’ve given up?

  After rifling through my briefcase, I find what I’m looking
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