Because You Are Mine Part III: Because You Haunt Me

BOOK: Because You Are Mine Part III: Because You Haunt Me
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PART THREE
BECAUSE YOU YOU HAUNT ME

Beth Kery

Because You Haunt Me
Copyright © 2012 by Beth Kery

The right of Beth Kery to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Cover Image © Anton Violin/Shutterstock

Published by arrangement with InterMix Books, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

First published in this Ebook edition by Headline Publishing Group in 2012

Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library

eISBN 978 1 4722 0060 0

HEADLINE PUBLISHING GROUP

An Hachette UK Company

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

www.headline.co.uk

www.hachette.co.uk

Beth Kery lives in Chicago where she juggles the demands of her career, her love of the city and the arts and a busy family life. Her writing today reflects her passion for all of the above. She is the bestselling author of over thirty books and novellas. She also writes under the pen name Bethany Kane. You can read more about Beth, her books and upcoming projects at
www.bethkery.com
or follow her on Twitter @bethkery.

By Beth Kery

Wicked Burn

Daring Time

Sweet Restraint

Paradise Rules

Release

Explosive

One Night of Passion series writing as Bethany Kane

Addicted To You

Bound To You (e-novella)

Captured By You (e-novella)

Exposed To You

What are the mysteries of attraction? They’re about to be explored as international bestselling author Beth Kery’s
Because You Are Mine
continues, drawing two lovers closer and closer . . .

Because You Are Mine
, Part Three

Because You Haunt Me

Knowing just how innocent Francesca is, Ian finds himself struggling with whether or not to pursue her. But he has to have her. Because when it comes to this particular obsession, desire trumps all caution.

Unnerved by her own longings, Francesca avoids Ian until he confronts her with a tantalising proposition: a purely physical relationship – her reward, alluring, forbidden pleasure. It may be a mistake, but her need for Ian can’t be denied. Suddenly she’s swept away to Paris, overwhelmed by the beauty of the city, by the irresistible man at her side, Francesca abandons all reservations, and finally opens herself up to the man who has haunted her fantasies.

Don’t miss
Because You Must Learn
(Because You Are Mine, Part 4), available 21 August 2012

Chapter Five

Two days later, Ian watched out the window of his limo as Jacob Suarez turned down a street lined with attractive brick townhomes. An associate had informed him that David Feinstein had inherited the residence from his deceased parents, Julia and Sylvester, but that David could likely have afforded the affluent Wicker Park residence on his own. Feinstein’s art gallery was doing very well. Apparently Francesca’s roommate possessed excellent taste and good business sense along with a refined, quiet, thorough manner that appealed to many wealthy art connoisseurs.

Ian had also been admittedly relieved to learn that David—or “Davie,” as Francesca called him—was gay.
Not that her housemates’ sexual preferences mattered much
, Ian thought, as Jacob came to a halt. He’d proved firsthand the other night that Francesca’s housemates weren’t touching anything they shouldn’t.

He’d learned firsthand that he
had
been touching things he shouldn’t, he added to himself, with the result that he was wearing a frown by the time his driver opened the car door for him.

The image of Francesca’s shattered expression as she’d left his bedroom the other night burned his consciousness for the thousandth time. He’d watched, fuming silently, as she’d fled the penthouse, wanting to stop her but knowing by the fixed, stubborn expression on her beautiful face that she wouldn’t listen to him at that moment. He’d been furious at her for putting them in this situation, and furious at himself for seeing only what had been convenient for him to see.

Yes, he’d understood she was innocent, but not to
that
degree. He’d known it was best just to let her go. For good.

Yet here he stood.

He rapped at the dark green painted wood door with a strange sense of resigned determination. From where did this strange obsession come? Did it have to do with the fact that Francesca had caught him unaware in her painting years ago? Her possession of him had been fleeting, but alarmingly concise.

He wanted to both punish her and possess her in turn for her innocent infraction.

He understood from Mrs. Hanson that Francesca hadn’t been to the penthouse to paint. Her avoidance of his residence made him angry—irrationally so, but logic didn’t seem to be quieting the emotion. Ian still hadn’t decided, as he knocked again on the door, if he was here to apologize and assure Francesca that she would never again be bothered by his attentions, or if he wanted to convince her at all costs to let him touch her again.

The friction of his uncustomary ambivalence had him so wound up and frustrated, even Lin, who was usually a soothing balm to his occasional bad moods, was steering clear of him like a category-five hurricane.

The front door swung open and a brown-haired man of medium height, who looked younger than his twenty-eight years, regarded him somberly. He must have recently come from his gallery, because he was dressed for work in a dark gray suit.

“I’m here for Francesca,” Ian stated.

Davie glanced into the interior of the house anxiously, but then nodded once and stepped back, granting Ian entrance. He led him into a tastefully decorated living room.

“Have a seat. I’ll see if Francesca’s home,” Davie said.

Ian nodded and unbuttoned his jacket before he sat. He distractedly picked up a catalog from the cushion next to him, listening all the while to the sounds in the large townhome, not hearing footfalls on the stairs. The pages of the catalog had been folded back, as if someone had recently been studying the contents. It was a listing of paintings that would be going up for sale at a local auction house.

Davie reentered the living room a minute later. Ian glanced up and set aside the catalog.

“She says she’s busy,” Davie said, looking vaguely uncomfortable with his messenger errand.

Ian nodded slowly. It’d been what he’d expected.

“Will you please do me the favor of telling her that I’ll wait until she isn’t busy?”

Davie’s Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. He left the room again without replying and returned a minute later, still with no Francesca. He gave an apologetic grimace. Ian smiled and stood.

“It’s not your fault,” he assured. He held out his hand. “I’m Ian Noble, by the way. We’ve never been properly introduced.”

“David Feinstein,” Davie said, shaking his hand.

“Would you sit with me for a bit while I wait?” Ian asked.

Davie looked a little nonplussed by the hint that Ian was, indeed, staying, but was too polite to argue. He sat in a chair across from the coffee table.

“I can understand why she’s upset with me,” Ian said, crossing his legs and once again picking up the catalog.

“She’s not upset.”

Ian glanced up at Davie’s words.

“She’s furious. And hurt. I’ve never seen her so hurt.”

He paused, waiting for the sting that resulted from Davie’s honesty to fade. For several seconds, neither of them spoke.

“I treated her in a manner I shouldn’t have,” Ian admitted finally.

“Then you should be ashamed,” Davie said, anger ringing in his quiet voice. Ian recalled that he’d said something similar to Davie and Francesca’s other two roommates at the tattoo parlor.

“I am,” Ian said, listening carefully. He closed his eyes briefly in regret at what he heard. He thought of Francesca’s freshness the other night, her sweetness. The memory of her pussy had been somehow lodged in his brain like a tenacious virus, only growing more vivid as he tried to rid himself of it: the silky, rose-gold hair between lithesome white thighs; creamy, plump labia; the slickest, tightest little slit he’d ever touched. He recalled spanking her and how he’d loved it . . . how
she
had. “Unfortunately,” he continued, addressing Davie, “my shame wasn’t sufficient to keep me away. I’m beginning to think no amount of it would.”

Davie looked startled. He cleared his throat and stood.

“Maybe I’ll just go and see how Francesca is coming along on that . . . project she’s working on.”

“Don’t bother. She’s not here anymore,” Ian murmured.

Davie did a double take and paused next to his chair. “What do you mean?”

“She snuck out the back door about twenty seconds ago, if I’m not mistaken,” he said, idly flipping the pages of the catalog. He took advantage of Davie’s apparent shock to hold it up.

“Yours?” Ian asked.

Davie nodded.

“I see what you must have been looking at. When did Francesca paint it?”

Davie blinked and seemed to come to himself. “About two years ago. I sold it at Feinstein last year. I was glad to see it come back on the market at this estate sale auction. I’d like to get it back, sell it for a price that’s worthy of the piece, and give the extra profit back to Francesca.” He frowned. “She’s had to sell a lot of her paintings over the years for practically nothing. I hate to think of what she must have let a couple of them go for before I met her. Francesca was living hand to mouth for years before we became friends. I may not have been able to sell her work for the price I think it’s worth, seeing as she’s still a relative unknown, but at least I gave her more than the price of a bag of groceries.” He nodded at the catalog. “If I can get ahold of this particular piece, I’m convinced I can sell it for an excellent price. Francesca is starting to make a name for herself in art circles. I’m sure the award she won from you, and the subsequent recognition, has helped.”

Ian stood and buttoned his jacket. “I’m certain your support of her work has as well. You’ve been a good friend to her. Would you give me your card? There’s something I’d like to speak to you about, but I’m running late for a meeting.”

Davie looked distinctively undecided, then reached into his pocket with the air of a man who would have to confess something major to a loved one later.

“Thank you,” Ian said, accepting the card.

“Francesca is a wonderful person. I think . . . I think it’d be best if you stayed away from her.”

He narrowly studied Davie’s anxious yet determined expression for several seconds. Davie looked away uncomfortably. Francesca’s friend saw a lot more with those gentle eyes than he must typically reveal to his well-heeled clients. Bitterness rose in him at his own lack of decency by contrast.

“You’re undoubtedly right,” Ian said as he began to move toward the door, unable to keep the note of resignation out of his tone. “And if I were a better man, I’d follow that advice.”

* * *

This is what things had come to: She was working like a thief in the night. The painting had called her back, despite the untenable circumstances surrounding it.

Francesca mixed her colors rapidly, using the glow from the small lamp she’d placed on a desk in order to see, desperate to capture the exact hue of the midnight sky before the light changed. The rest of the room was swathed in shadow, allowing her to better see the brooding, glowing buildings against the backdrop of a velvety night sky. She stopped abruptly and glanced back toward the closed door of the studio, waiting tensely, her heart starting to pound in her ears in the eerie silence. Shadows seemed to thicken and form at the back of the room, tricking her eyes. Mrs. Hanson had assured her that she’d be alone in the penthouse tonight. Ian was in London, and Mrs. Hanson was going to be visiting a friend in the suburbs.

Nevertheless, she hadn’t felt alone for a second since she’d stepped off the elevator into Ian’s territory.

Could a place be haunted by a living person? It was as if Ian lingered in the luxurious penthouse, his presence weighing on her mind, on her very skin, making it prickle in awareness as if from an invisible touch.

Stupid
, Francesca chastised herself, putting brush to canvas and making long, energetic strokes. It’d been four nights since she’d stood naked and exposed in Ian’s bedroom. He’d tried to contact her. He’d called her on several occasions, and there had been that embarrassing episode at her house when she’d run out the back door like a fool. She’d been overwhelmed by the idea of seeing him again . . . afraid.

You’re afraid of what will happen if you see him, listen to him. You’re afraid you’ll end up begging him like a fool to finish what he’d started the other night.

Her arm made a slashing motion before the canvas.
Never
. She’d never beg that arrogant asshole.

The hair on her arms stood up, and she glanced over her shoulder again. Hearing and seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she returned her focus to the painting. She shouldn’t have come back here, but she had to finish this piece. She’d never rest if she didn’t, and it wasn’t because Ian had already paid her. Once a painting had gotten in her blood, it gave her no freedom until it was complete.

She told herself to concentrate. The ghost of Ian—her own ghosts—made focusing a trial.

You stood there like an idiot while he whacked you with a paddle; you laid in his lap, stark naked, and let him spank you like a child.

Shame flooded her consciousness. Was she so desperate, following a majority of life spent overweight, to have a man like Ian show desire for her that she was willing to sacrifice her dignity? How else would she have allowed herself to be demeaned that night? How far would she have gone if Ian Noble had said he wanted it?

Her thoughts mortified her. She took out her anguish on the canvas, finally finding the coveted zone of creative concentration she desperately sought. An hour later, she set aside her paint palette and wiped the excess paint off her brush. She rubbed her shoulder to ease the tension from her almost constant sweeping strokes. Her friends were always surprised when she told them how physically taxing painting a large piece could be.

The hair on her nape stood on end and her massaging fingers stilled. She spun around.

He wore a white shirt that coalesced faster out of the shadows than the rest of his dark apparel. He was jacketless, and his sleeves had been rolled back. The gold of his watch glinted from the darkness. She stood there unmoving, feeling as if she were dreaming.

“You paint as if a demon was driving you.”

“You sound as if you know what that’s like,” she replied in a tight voice.

“I think you know I do.”

The image of Ian walking alone through the deserted streets popped into her mind’s eye. She crushed down the wave of compassion and deep feeling the memory always evoked.

She let her hand drop from her aching shoulder and turned toward him. “Mrs. Hanson said you would be in London tonight.”

“I was called back early for an emergency.”

She just stared at him for a moment, speechless, seeing the lights from the skyline reflected in his eyes.

“I see,” she finally said, turning away. “I’ll be going then.”

“How long do you plan to avoid me?”

“As long as you exist?” she countered quickly. Hearing the hint of anger in his voice acted like a lit match to her own fury and confusion. She started to stride past him, her head lowered, but he reached out and wrapped his hand around her upper arm, halting her.

“Let go of me.” Her voice sounded angry, but she was horrified to feel tears burn in her eyes. It was bad enough to see him again, but why did he have to sneak up on her like this, catching her unaware and vulnerable? “Why can’t you just leave me alone?”

“I would if I could, trust me,” he replied, his voice as frigid as a hard winter’s frost. She twisted in order to escape, but he firmed his grip, bringing her next to his body. The next thing she knew her face was pressed to his hard chest and crisp shirt, and his arms surrounded her.


I’m sorry
, Francesca. Truly, I am.”

For a moment, she lost all of her will and leaned into him, giving him her weight, accepting his strength and warmth. Her body shuddered with emotion. She focused on the sensation of his hand stroking her hair. Later, when she analyzed her temporary lapse, she realized that it’d been his tone that’d done it. He’d sounded as barren and as hopeless and as desperate as she felt. He wasn’t the bad guy, she conceded. He hadn’t demeaned her by giving her a glimpse of true desire that night.

She was just furious at him because he didn’t want her. Enough to overlook her inexperience, anyway.

BOOK: Because You Are Mine Part III: Because You Haunt Me
6.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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