Authors: Carmen Falcone
“Sebastian.” His name flew out of her mouth like a secret that she kept for too long.
“Gracelynn,” he said. Gracelynn! It was so like Sebastian to use the name he knew she hated. That was probably the only thing he remembered about her. During their short months together, he hadn’t bothered to get to know her. Instead, his domineering ways had spiraled out of control after they had lost their baby boy James, and they had drifted apart. Coping with the loss had been brutal enough. She hadn’t needed Sebastian’s controlling ways to remind her of Aidan, the family member who had tormented her, and thank goodness would never get a chance of doing it again.
“What a small world. You two know each other?” Luna said, although it took a couple of seconds for Grace to register her friend’s voice and presence next to them.
. Luna upped her brow, and although she slapped on a smile, Grace knew her friend would drill her at the first opportunity. After all, how could anyone have known the legendary Sebastian Zwane and never share that little nugget of information with her BFF of the past year?
“Intimately.” He answered as if only the two of them were there, his voice borderline erotic.
The tiny hairs on the back of Grace’s neck stood on end, and she cleared her throat. “Luna, could you please check on the crab cakes?”
“Of course.” Luna sauntered into the house.
“Please, have a seat.” Grace gestured to the table. “I’m sure Bianca is running late. Would you like me to call her and tell her you’ve arrived?” She stepped into full caterer mode.
“No.” He didn’t move an inch.
No. The bastard watched her, his gaze swinging from her eyes down her mouth, to her breasts. The man didn’t have a shameful bone in his body.
Although, what a body it was—again, her attention drifted to how well he filled that suit, his shoulders broad, his chest wide, legs long. When they had been together, he’d bought his suits from sales racks of department stores. Based on the few articles she’d allowed herself to read on him, Italian leather shoes and designer labels crowded his closet now. A closet so big someone could probably set up a tent and camp inside.
There was a lusty spark in his jaded eyes… telling her no matter what she had on, he had seen her naked. Her nipples hardened against the confines of her satin bra. Bad nipples, bad nipples! She crossed her arms over her chest, and then uncrossed them. How would that look? Lord. One minute in his company and her confidence dissolved like crumbs of apple pie in the Mississippi river.
He pulled the chair across from his. “Sit.”
She frowned. “Sebastian, c’mon, I’m working. That wouldn’t be appropriate.”
He pursed his full lips. “Since when do we worry about being appropriate?” His eyes still held the same defiance, and there wasn’t a bone in his body that didn’t ooze assurance and strength.
Luna showed up carrying a tray with crab cakes. “Something for you to take the edge off your appetite while you wait for Bianca?”
He accepted one of the crab cakes and brought it to his luscious, indecent mouth. Grace had to yank her gaze from those delicious parted lips, as a wave of heat swirled around her.
You know where those lips have been.
“Bianca isn’t coming,” he said, with nonchalance.
“Oh.” Luna darted a confused look at Grace, who remained standing, stiff as a statue.
Bianca not coming… Grace twisted her hands together, and was about to wonder why, when it hit her. Bianca had asked her to come prepare an intimate dinner at her house. Bianca had bumped into her website by chance. Or was it?
Grace shifted her focus to Sebastian, who sent her a wink. A wink! It dawned at her at last…. “This was your idea? Bianca isn’t coming?” The words left her mouth as she rationalized.
“What’s going on?” Luna asked.
Sebastian flashed Luna a toe-curling smile. “Grace and I have some catching up to do. Turns out she is my guest for tonight. I was trying to surprise her. Would you mind bringing us some wine?”
Some wine wouldn’t even begin to cover it. She needed an intravenous tequila I.V. to cope with spending time alone with Sebastian. “Luna… I… I’ll explain later. I need a word with Sebastian.” She darted a glance to her friend, which she hoped translated her urgency.
Luna gave her a slow nod, and said, “Wine it is, then.”
Grace’s shoulders sagged, and she plopped down on the chair across from him. Why had he come up with this charade? It only meant one thing—her hope to save her business was futile. There was no possibility of Bianca saving her business—and if Grace had to depend on her ex, she was out of luck. She had been on her own ever since she had left him, even though she had finished culinary school at the time and didn’t have a penny to her name. She tasted bile in the back of her throat. Her marriage to him had been all about control. A control she was no longer a hostage of.
“Perk up, Grace. I hate to see my wife so sad.”
“You know?” Her throat went dry. She’d always expected him to find her and question her about their marital status. How ironic that she had been the one who’d left him, who’d opted out, who’d had the courage to realize they’d made a huge mistake… and then couldn’t bring herself to file the divorce papers.
That’s just bureaucracy.
He leaned forward.
“I signed the papers and gave them to you. Why didn’t you ever turn them in?” Sebastian pulled his chair next to hers, and reached to touch her jaw. The feel of his fingers on her flesh made her stomach flutter. His gaze locked on hers, and she shifted in the chair, wishing there was a way she could flee.
She moved her head to the side and sighed, the relief of straying from his touch wrestling against the longing for it. Which was worse? “It was around the same time Nana was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I was overwhelmed. Plus… I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was divorcing so soon.” She had been scared to prove her parents right. They had shoved their flower-power lifestyle down her throat, and never bothered to hear her opinion. Hell, they had been wrong about so much, they couldn’t have been right about her marriage too.
There’s no guarantee the marriage will work just because you’re pregnant. That man is just trying to do what society says is the right thing. You don’t even know him.
Their plea rang in her ears.
He shook his head. “Unless you’ve been using a life size mannequin of me, she knows that by now.”
“I told her we were separating, but with her disease… she has good days and bad days. Most of the time, she doesn’t remember much.” Grace pushed out the words trapped in her throat. “I’m her only grandkid. No one has ever divorced in our family. I didn’t want to add to her stress after being diagnosed.”
He gave her a once over, and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Interesting.”
Interesting? Couldn’t he just say sorry for her grandmother? Her heart twisted. “It’s sad really, but what does that have to do with you being here?” she asked, and braced herself for the answer.
Sebastian gripped the stem of the wine glass tighter than was strictly necessary. Hot strands of libido stirred inside of him. They’d been at it ever since he’d seen her photo. Grace King. Now he was taking care of the problem. Privately, like he’d promised his lawyer. Calling his business partner Bianca to arrange the private dinner at her residence had been the easy bit. Turning up and having Grace sit in front of him…that was less easy. “I’m here because I want you to sign the divorce papers. I know your business is going belly up, so I’m willing to give you some money.”
She snapped her fingers. “Just like that?”
“I want to be a free man.” Free from her. The pull he felt toward her was like a weighty stone tied to his feet as he drowned. Without that last tie to her, he would be able to reach out and float on the surface. And never, ever sink again.
How easy it would be to sink though… Her black dress under her apron outlined her figure, still slim by any means, but a bit fuller than he remembered. Her breasts pointed out, high and perky. He shifted in his seat, willing away the sting narrowing his stomach. Her hair, several shades of blond, was all the way up in a bun, and he wondered if it was still long, down her back to her shoulder blades, like it used to be. He’d always enjoyed running his fingers through it to bring her closer. Or pulling it, while he had her in the middle of the bed, on all fours. The image stole the air from his lungs. When he lifted a glass of water to his lips, he found her looking his way. “What will it take for you to sign the papers you so desperately wanted me to sign two years ago?” he said, holding the glass close to his lips.
She worried her bottom lip. “I-I need your expertise as a financial person.”
He waved it off. The idea was laughable. He, help Grace? After all she had put him through? “Catering is not my field.”
“Making money is. And I need to know what I’ve been doing wrong.”
He bit back a smile. “The opportunity to point out what you’ve done wrong is tempting.”
She upped an eyebrow. “Business-wise,” she retorted, with a steady voice.
The glossy despair in her eyes, though, told him a different story. If she’d had a knack for business, she wouldn’t be in the position she was in. And money would be temporary relief, but what about later on?
Since when do I care?
He didn’t. “Of course,” he said. “That said, I live in Los Angeles now. Clearing my schedule to go through all your
would take a few days. I’m ready to give you cash. If you’ll sign the papers, I’ll call my lawyer and speed up the process and we can move on straight away. That’s what I want. I won’t try and be coy.” He lifted a piece of bread to his mouth and chewed on it hard, then swallowed; the rich dough pulling through the suppressed emotions bundled in his throat.
“You’re the opposite of coy.” She shifted in her seat, crossing and uncrossing her legs.
He followed the soft bob of her throat, and realized her attention was focused on his lips. Did she remember? How the two of them tangled the sheets, their glistening bodies draped over each other? Light and dark.
He curled his fingers into a hard fist, fighting the desire to reach out and fondle her. Why was he fighting it? Why couldn’t they, one last time—
“Unless, of course, you care to make me an offer I can’t refuse.” The words left his mouth before he had enough time to think them through.
“I doubt you want any of my skills bad enough to change your mind.” She surged to her feet.
He pushed his chair back and stood up. Erasing the distance between them, he tipped up her chin. The intensity in her baby blues drilled into him, and a powerful libido stirred his groin. His pants tightened, and he ran a finger over her heart-shaped face. “You’d be wrong, Gracelynn. There’s a skill of yours I most definitely want,” he struggled to say, his voice dropping an octave.
If he knew what was better for him, he wouldn’t kiss her. His gaze dropped to her lips, and she licked the corner of her mouth, the tip of her pink tongue slipping out. His heart skipped a beat, and before he could change his mind, he snatched her in his arms and covered her lips with his.
She moaned, and he grazed his teeth over her upper lip. His entire body throbbed with need. He delved his tongue inside her wet, sweet mouth. His erection grew harder, and he clenched his hands around her waist, pulling her to him. She lifted her palms to his shoulders, and a shiver ran through him. He raised her shapely leg, which she hooked around his hips. That perfect mold slammed open a gate to what could happen. Hell, what was about to happen… There was no way he wouldn’t delve into her again. There was no way he wouldn’t taste her, and have her squirm under his touch. The impulsive resolve set a trail of electric currents shooting up his arm, and short-circuiting his entire system.
He intensified the kiss, and she responded passionately, stroking her tongue over his. Aroused and careless, he caressed her neck and fondled her delicious breasts. He traced the shape of her breast over her apron, imprinted in his memory just as much as on the flimsy fabric.
He scooped her off the floor in one fluid move, and besides a gasp of surprise, she went along. Positioning her on the table, he spread her legs apart and caressed the delectable sweep of her thighs. The sound of dishes and glasses falling to the floor didn’t faze him. They turned into white noise compared to the wild, unrestricted drumming of his heart. He’d missed Grace, more than he would ever care to admit. He cupped her sex, already warm and moist even through the fabric.
More. He wanted more. Maybe swimming again in that well of desire was the only way he’d learn how to protect himself and learn to survive it. Walking away from the chance of making her his one last time… was no longer an option.
Determined, he outlined the cotton of her underwear, using his index finger to trace along the hem. Hhhmm… She squirmed against him, arching her body toward him.
All his nerve endings were about to burst. He reached for his belt, knowing if he wasn’t inside her soon enough, he, too, would—