Authors: Carmen Falcone
A harsh thump, and the piercing sound of a bottle slamming against the stone floor echoed in his ears. Her hands froze on him like two pieces of granite. It took him a second longer to inhale and withdraw himself from her. He let his arms fall off her and when he disentangled from her, a cold draft swirled around him.
Clearing her throat, she got off the table and recomposed, smoothing her hands over her apron and dress.
Luna, the lady who had opened the door for him, stood a few feet from them, with dark eyes widened and jaw dropped. Red wine splashed on the stone ground. “I’m sorry. I was bringing that wine and you caught me off guard.”
“I’m sorry, Luna. I’ll explain it later.” Grace twisted her hands together, her voice wavering.
Luna chuckled. “Oh honey, no explanations needed. I’ll leave you two… alone.”
A lovely shade of pink spread across Grace’s cheeks. “I’ll clean up everything.”
“I’ll get my stuff from inside and find my way out.”
Grace tucked a few strands of loose hair behind her ear. “Thanks, Luna. Talk to you later.”
“Yes, there will be talking alright.” Luna winked at her, and sauntered into the kitchen again.
Grace turned to him and rubbed her temples. “Oh my lord.”
He stepped toward her. “Relax.”
She took a step back, hands perched at her waist. “Relax? Okay, if you want to be in charge, you got it. You’re right. I need cash if I’m going to stay afloat. Pay my overdue bills and I’ll be happy to sign the papers.”
Assessing her was a sure way to steal the air from his lungs. With her lips swollen and rosy, her bedroom eyes gleaming, she could have stepped right out of bed. His bed. His fingers tingled with the need to touch her, and he curled them into a ball. They were not done yet. “I will. And you’ve convinced me to help you with your business too.”
She blinked. “Come again?”
“I have to be back in L.A. for an important meeting on Monday. I’ll clear out my schedule the next few days, though, and go over your issues and help you. I’ll set you up with a meeting with Ross Stevens, for starters,” he said. Name-dropping wasn’t his thing, but he just knew the marketing guru would tip the scale in his favor.
Her eyes widened. “
He smile inside.
“Is there another one?”
She shuffled her weight from one foot to another. “Wait… why would you do that?”
Here it goes
. “Because during the next few days, my luscious ex-wife to be, you will allow us a proper farewell from the only part that worked in our marriage.” He erased the distance between them, and outlined her jaw. She trembled under his touch, which cemented his resolve. They had parted too soon. Too early for the fire burning high between them to extinguish.
She crossed her arms over her chest. “You wanna screw me?”
“I almost did, over the table. That’s obvious, I’d say.”
She shook her head. “You were blowing off some steam. It wasn’t planned or anything. We can’t, I can’t… ” She covered her mouth. “It’s crazy. Indecent.”
The light blush claiming her cheeks almost made him kiss her. Again. “No need to react like a Southern belle, Grace. Some people throw parties when they get divorced. I say we should enjoy a very private one, before we part ways,” he said, struggling to finish, “forever.”
“You aren’t going to help me if I don’t sleep with you?”
He smiled. “I didn’t exactly say that. Let’s just say I need some… incentive.”
She chewed on her bottom lip. “That’s not right.”
What wasn’t right, he thought, had been the way she’d cut through his heart. The way she’d blamed him after her miscarriage, when he hadn’t done anything wrong. How she’d packed up and left as if his feelings didn’t matter. He hadn’t mattered. The words stuck in his throat. “I won’t make you do anything you aren’t comfortable with. I’m just being honest. The way you kissed me… you can honestly say you don’t want to finalize the
of our physical connection before we dissolve our marriage once and for all?”
“I…” She licked her lips. Her baby blues darkened to an intense cobalt. “Let me think about it.”
“Call me in the morning.” He reached for his wallet and retrieved a business card. Was it wrong, to ask for sex in demand for professional guidance? No. He had given her everything once… he couldn’t do it again.
“Did you call him?” Luna tossed her pink bag on one chair and plopped down on the other one next to it.
Grace stared at her friend. Sucking in her breath, she glanced at the phone sitting on her desk. “Not yet.” Ever since she had stepped into her home office two hours ago, after tossing and turning all night, she had been playing with the idea. Why? Why would she call him?
“I can’t just have sex with him after so long. And for the wrong reasons,” Grace thought out loud. She toyed with the heavy glass spoon that lay on the top of some folders.
Luna’s chuckle cut through the tension. “Seriously? If Chocolate Channing Tatum asked me, I wouldn’t think twice. And judging by the way he was all over you before I walked in on you two last night, you wouldn’t either.”
“Whatever, Luna. You never date.”
“I have my reasons.” Luna shrugged. Reasons she never shared with her, but Grace gave her time and hoped one day she would. After all, wasn’t this strange? Luna was gorgeous… smooth olive skin, long wavy hair, awesome body. But, her infectious laugh and sense of humor could really get a guy’s attention. Could. If she let them come near her. “Trust me though, a man that sexy certainly would make me rethink them.”
“Fine. So he’s hot.” Grace shrugged. “But he’s controlling and I would never want us to think it’s more than sex.”
“Apparently, neither does he. Otherwise he wouldn’t have created this Mickey Mouse bargain.”
Grace glanced through her tiny office, her gaze darting from the pale pink walls to the shelves filled with cooking books. A few dusty family pictures and the one award she won for a cooking contest as a teenager packed the tiny area over the small white armoire, piled with bills.
“I’m scared of… getting attached again. I can’t do that.”
I wouldn’t survive.
She had mistrusted Aidan, and ended up tied to a radiator, crying, in a dark room. Somehow Sebastian had seemed different, and perhaps he had been.
Not for long.
Didn’t matter if his tactics were a lot smoother than Aidan’s.
“Until last night, I had no idea you had been married. Time to spill. Stop dodging the issue like I’m a low-life reporter from a tabloid magazine and not your friend.”
“We randomly met in a coffee shop. He was working his butt off back then. We had a lot of sex, and decided to get married on a whim. After all was said and done, I realized sex wasn’t enough.” She managed to sound casual.
Left out a bit, didn’t you? Pregnancy, miscarriage?
Tears prickled the corner of her eyes, but she blinked them back. If she told Luna about her miscarriage, she would have to open a messy can of worms. She’d done therapy for too long. She would never go back there. Ever.
“So sex alone isn’t going to change your mind and make you want to get back with him?”
“No. It can’t.”
“Then just go with it for the next couple days. Take the cash, take the pleasure, move on. It’s not like you’ve been getting any,” Luna chortled.
“I don’t know if I can separate the attraction from… the other stuff.”
“If you could, would you?”
Warmth filled her cheeks. Wouldn’t it be nice to get him out of her system? To abandon herself in his arms, recklessly, and give in to the suffocating pull? She brought her hands to her neck, and realized her pulse was going bonkers. Not even the distance had dampened the effect he had on her. Not even time.
What if… She lifted the business card, caressing the thick paper between her fingers. Maybe straightforward sex would help demystify her past. She would move on, knowing for a fact she had risen to the challenge instead of hiding like a coward. Besides, sex hadn’t been enough to hold them together then, why would it be now? “Okay. I’ll make the call.”
How bad could it be? She wouldn’t get things twisted this time. The man lived in LA., for God’s sake! She grabbed the cordless phone and dialed the number. “Privacy, please.” She winked at Luna, her hand covering the speaker.
Luna gave her an eye roll and reluctantly left, closing the door behind her.
Sebastian picked up after the third ring. Luna clenched the phone and panic poured over her. A cold sweat slicked her forehead.
I totally should have rehearsed this.
“Hello.” His voice was like melted caramel. Delicious and addictive. Something she could ever have enough of—even if it was bad for her.
Which is why you kept away.
“Sebastian, I’ve been thinking about your… hhhmmm… proposal.”
She could swear she heard an intake of breath from the other side of the line.
“Go on,” he said, his voice commanding.
“Good.” He paused and she heard papers turning. “I’ve secured a meeting with Ross Stevens this afternoon. Four o’ clock.”
“If I had said no, would you have canceled that meeting?”
“I’m not that much of a jerk, Grace.” There was a light tone in his voice, which had the opposite effect on her. She shuffled in her chair so much that it swiveled against her consent. Her whole acceptance to having sex with him for a few days was based on the fact that, yes, he was a jerk. A jerk that was great in bed and would ensure she kept her business. The business was the only thing she had left.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing.” She crossed and uncrossed her legs. “I mean…” She cleared her throat. “Listen, Sebastian. I haven’t been with anyone since we separated and last night was spontaneous and all…” What if it was super sterile or awkward? She touched her stomach, afraid she was going to part with her lunch. “I just don’t want it to be weird.”
His chuckle reverberated through her. “I promise you, it won’t be weird.”
“Okay,” she said. Although… since when did she believe his promises?
Sebastian arrived at the meeting, walking into conference room at the same trendy hotel he was staying in. The Breitling on his wrist confirmed he was five minutes early. Anxiety roared inside him like the engine of a Lamborghini.
In four days’ time, he would jet to L.A. and return to the life he enjoyed. He had new offices opening soon, and believed babysitting a new venture was the only way to make it grow. Even in his marriage, he had wanted to make sure every ‘t’ was dotted, every ‘i’ crossed, just to ensure they were making the most of the amazing opportunity life had offered them. But Grace had pegged his wanting to be present as controlling and overbearing.
That didn’t matter now. He would enjoy the days with her, get her out of his system once and for all, have her sign the divorce papers, and celebrate. With memories of Grace’s naked body no longer tormenting him, he would succeed and rejoice. In a matter of days, Grace would be a distant memory.
Although… the vulnerability in her voice when she called him earlier tightened his chest. Was it sick to be filled with male pride after knowing she hadn’t slept with anyone after him? A smile curved his lips, but he clamped them hard.
Remember who the real Grace is
. When he’d asked Grace about his mother’s ring, called her after she decided to leave his rented condo, she had told him she’d taken it to a pawnshop, as she was desperate for money to start a life without him.
He’d thought that after her gypsy life with her irresponsible parents, she would crave the security of marriage and the possibility of a family. Their marriage wasn’t exactly planned out years in advance, but once he’d made the decision to go through with it, there had been no turning back for him. He’d loved her. Wanted her. Trusted her. She was having his baby. What more was there to discuss? She’d wanted different things. Things he didn’t understand, things perhaps even she didn’t understand. She certainly never communicated them in a way he could understand. Heated arguments ensued, and the last one had taken place right before she’d started bleeding and lost their baby. How could he have asked her to stay afterward? He’d tried. He’d damn tried.
“Sebastian.” Ross smiled as he entered the room and stretched out his hand.
“Thanks for making it on such a short notice, Ross.” He shook the hand of the catering world’s biggest rock star and indicated the seat beside him.
“No problem. I had to shuffle some things around, but couldn’t say no to you. You said it’s an up-and-coming catering company?”
“Yeah. Great potential. I took the owner under my wing, and wanted you to assist her.”
They entered the conference room he had rented for the afternoon. Looking through the glass doors, Sebastian recognized her hair approaching, and his heart stopped—only to resume amplified, pounding its way out of his skin a microsecond later. Grace walked past their room, holding her cell phone to her ear. Maybe she was lost?