Authors: Merry Farmer
“And I’ll let you do your writing.” He met and held her eyes for a few delicious seconds before reaching for the manuscript on the top of his pile. “Let me know if you need some help when you get to the juicy bits.”
Jo laughed…and her unmentionables tingled. She adjusted her laptop on her knees and scanned over the last words she’d written. It didn’t help that she
close to one of the juicy bits. Her hero and heroine were about to find themselves alone, dripping with desire, and unable to control themselves. She felt her cheeks go pink and stole a peek at the delightful Mr. Paul. He was sipping his coffee, but his eyes snuck up to meet hers. He smiled as though it was a game. Jo snapped back to her work, wondering if she should change the description of her hero to be a tall, elegant man with blue-green eyes that crinkled when he smiled.
He was too delicious to resist. She clicked to open another document. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she recorded every aspect of her handsome stranger’s appearance and personality with the paintbrush of prose. Mr. Paul leafed through his script. His tempting spark was replaced by a serious frown of concentration that was almost as seductive as his smile. Jo stopped typing and lost herself in studying her companion.
The rain picked up outside, drumming against the windows. Dozens of wet New Yorkers scrambled in and out of the shop. Mr. Paul caught her staring. He closed his script, marking his place with one long finger.
“You’ve reached the naughty part, haven’t you?” He flashed back to majestic charm.
“Maybe I have.” She played coy and typed a sentence about the rich cadence of his chocolate voice.
“Care to read it aloud?”
Jo swallowed, way, way more turned on than she had a right to be. But the man had asked her to read her work aloud. No self-respecting author in her right mind would fail to feel the compliment there. Giddy with confidence, she glanced up at him from under her lashes, like her heroine would. “I’m afraid, Mr. Paul, that you’ll have to go to your local book store like anyone else to read one of my love scenes.”
“Call me Ben.”
A shiver pulsed through her. She bit her lip, arching a brow in challenge, refusing to back down.
He blinked. “You’re not joking, are you?”
“You really are a writer.”
Jo burst into giggles, breaking character. “Yes, I am. Are you really a director?”
His lips twitched with the same mysterious joke from before he’d sat down. “You’ve really never heard of me? Benjamin Paul?”
She shrugged. “You’ve never heard of me.”
“I don’t read romance novels.”
“Well maybe you should.” She rested one elbow on the arm of the chair and gave him her best coquettish smile. “Men could learn a lot from romance novels, you know.”
“Oh, really?” He leaned back, settling into his chair with hip movements that set Jo’s blood on fire. “Do tell.”
“You could learn what really turns a woman on.”
“Is that so?” He purred each word.
“You could learn about gallantry and seduction.”
good at seduction.”
His interjected comment sent another tremor slithering through Jo, landing hard in the most inconvenient places.
“I bet you are.” Her smile warmed and her pulse pounded. “But do you know what a woman is thinking when she’s in bed with you? Do you know what her deepest expectations and fantasies are? What finally pushes her over the edge and makes her c—” She pulled back from the edge of too far, biting her lower lip. She hadn’t had this much fun or been this turned on by a conversation with a stranger in…
He stared at her, eyes dancing with white-hot mischief, as if he was reading her thoughts to glean the answers to her question. She needed to fan herself.
“Alright, what’s your name?” He leaned forward to reach into his messenger bag, seduction replaced by purpose.
“It’s Josephine Burkhart.”
“Josephine Burkhart,” he repeated, making her name sound like pillow talk. If that wasn’t toying with her she didn’t know what was.
He drew his smartphone out of his bag and tapped it. With a scintillating arch of his eyebrow, he tapped the screen several more times. His wicked expression dropped to genuine surprise. “Well look at that. Josephine Burkhart.” He slid his finger across the screen. “You’ve written twelve books!”
“Fourteen,” Jo corrected him with a triumphant shrug. “One is coming out in two months and I’ve just turned another in to my editor. Not to mention the one I’m working on right now.”
“I’m impressed,” he admitted.
He tapped the phone’s screen a few more times. It was fascinating to watch him slip out of his initial persona. He was still gorgeous and charming, but the wolf had been tucked away in favor of the man. Normal Benjamin Paul was somehow even more of a turn-on than rakish Mr. Paul. Jo’s heart did a whole new kind a flip in her chest, one that left her far more unsteady than she wanted to be.
“I suppose every day brings its own surprise.” He lowered his phone to focus on her. Just like that, the sexy beast was back.
“Did you think I was lying?” The warm buzzing in Jo’s stomach took on a more sinister hum.
“No,” he answered, unconvincing. “But we artists like to exaggerate our accomplishments.”
He handed her his phone over the top of her laptop. On display was a list of links in a web browser for Benjamin Paul. The cluster at the top was a series of articles about his recent theater award. Not any old award either. He’d recently won Broadway’s most prestigious award for directing.
Jo laughed. “Trying to prove that you’re not exaggerating?” She handed the phone back.
“Just providing context.”
Their eyes met as he slid his phone into his back pocket. An impromptu pelvic thrust accompanied the movement. Well then. The man knew how to fill out a pair of jeans. The tingling in Jo’s stomach spread through her entire body, certain areas in particular.
“Congratulations on your award,” she said. Her cheeks felt as hot as could be.
“And congratulations to you on your book release,” he answered. “I’ll be sure to line up for a signed copy. And in the meantime, I’ll pick up some of your other books as soon as I can to learn about what women think when they’re about to come.”
Her heart thumped to a stop, then sped up a thousand times over. “Of course you could always ask.”
? Where did a comment like that come from? Had the rain waterlogged her brain?
“Oh, really?” Ben sprawled back in his chair, once again oozing sexuality. His lips and his eyes were the only part of him that still glowed with humor. The rest? Well, the rest of him made her reckless.
“That’s the reason women have to resort to reading romance novels, after all. Men rarely ask what’s going on in their heads. They’re usually too busy thinking of their own. Heads. One in particular.”
Heat infused his look from head to toe. “You’ve been with the wrong men.”
“You’re probably right.” Her eyebrow flickered up. “But I have yet to be convinced that the right men exist outside of the pages of a novel.”
The intensity of his stare set the hairs on the back of her neck on edge. The coffee shop would have to turn the AC on in a minute in spite of it being forty degrees outside. He watched her, perfectly still, like a wolf. She met his gaze with equal intensity. If he thought he could out-smolder her, he had another thing coming. She wrote romance for a living, dammit.
At long last, he took a breath and leaned forward. He surged halfway across the table, forearms coming to rest on his knees. She leaned closer to him.
“I live in this building, upstairs. Would you like to come up and do some research?”
Jo’s heart hammered against her ribs, making her short of breath. She was sure he could see temptation pumping under her skin. He was close enough to smell his cologne. His lips were relaxed, begging to be kissed. His eyes still danced with mischief, utterly focused on her.
. She’d never wanted anyone so hard so fast.
“Isn’t it a little dangerous, picking up strangers in a coffee shop in the middle of the afternoon?” It was a miracle that her voice didn’t crack.
“You’re not a stranger,” he murmured. “I’ve googled you. You’re Josephine Burkhart, Romance Novelist.”
“My friends call me Jo,” she hummed in reply. Dear God, she was actually considering it. She, Jo Burkhart, with her overactive imagination and reclusive ways, easily forgotten and pushed aside, was considering an afternoon delight with an award-winning Broadway director she’d met in a coffee shop.
“Well then, Jo.” He pushed her along with his deep, sultry voice. “Shall we go upstairs?”
Her mind went blank. All she could hear was the pounding of her heart and her shallow breaths. She couldn’t think. Nothing came to her. Nothing but unadulterated lust and the urge to take a chance.
“You know, I think I will.”
As soon as the answer left her lips, Jo’s breath caught in her throat. She hadn’t said she’d have sex with a man she’d just met, had she?
Before the voice of reason could slam on the breaks, she squelched it. A smoking hot, deliciously confident man of obvious style and intelligence wanted to sleep with her. Now. When was that ever going to happen again? It wasn’t. This was it. Now or never. Live a fantasy for one afternoon, or spend the rest of her life wondering what would have happened if she’d said yes. Maybe this would shut up all those people who told her to get out and have fun more often.
Ben’s grin was hot enough to melt the table as he sat back and started gathering his scripts. Jo took a quick breath and closed her laptop, shuffling it into its case. She slipped it into her bag, standing at the same time he did. Ben shrugged into his coat and took an umbrella from the pocket.
“Right this way.” He reached for her hand, the light of what they were about to do already in his eyes, as she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder. Their fingers touched, the feeling electric. His hand was large, with the perfect combination of masculine smoothness and strength. His grip was commanding. He whisked her out through the door, popping open his umbrella with perfect timing, then dashed around the corner of the building to a short, covered walkway.
“Afternoon, Mr. Paul,” the doorman greeted them with a respectful smile.
“Thank you, Roger.”
Ben collapsed his umbrella as they crossed through the lobby. His stride was long and graceful, his fingers twined through hers. Jo’s insides fluttered at the madness she was considering. Not considering,
. They reached the elevator, he punched a button, and the doors slid open. He dropped her hand long enough to reach for a card in his pocket, swishing it across a sensor then pushing a button. The penthouse button.
Good lord. She’d stepped right out of reality and into one of her own books.
Jo’s stomach was left far, far below her feet as the elevator whooshed up. Ben angled his body toward her, inches taller than she was. The twitch of humor in his lips was as familiar as if she had known him for years. He took her hand again, and his fingers played with hers, a prelude of what was to come.
Jo caught her breath as the elevator door slid open, straight into the foyer of a chic apartment. It was decorated in dark reds and blacks, masculine colors. The art on the walls and the table in the hallway was modern and angular.
“Home, sweet home.” Ben tugged her out of the elevator and through the foyer to a wide open living room.
Jo’s jaw dropped as she took it in. The apartment was all open space. Floor to ceiling windows displayed a spectacular view of the rainy city. A spiral staircase made of black metal led up to a mysterious second floor. Leather furniture and high-tech audiovisual equipment was so precisely arranged that Jo got the feeling every inanimate object in the place was judging her for her beat-up sneakers.
“Don’t let it fool you,” Ben said, the note of honesty in his voice at odds with the purpose of her visit. “I rent, not own.”
“Yeah, but still.” She would have cringed at her comment, the way it cut the mood, if she wasn’t so overwhelmed by opulence.
Ben chuckled, and let go of her hand long enough to shrug out of his coat. He hung it and the soaking umbrella on pegs that were part of a strip of black metal against the wall beside the foyer. It was more art than coatrack.
“Here, let me take that from you,” he hummed, back in the sexy spirit of their earlier banter. He took her bag. The weight leaving her shoulder took her breath with it. She started to remove her coat, but as soon as her bag was hung on a peg, Ben slipped behind her to take it. Like a perfect gentleman. Except for the teasing brush of his lips against her neck.
Deep, exciting shivers zipped down Jo’s spine, settling insistently in her core. She stretched her neck to give him more room to play, but Ben stepped away to hang her coat. Face flushing at her enthusiasm, Jo hid her amateur move by fluffing her hair, hands shaking.
What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? I can’t have random sex with a man I met at a coffee shop. It’s dangerous. It’s crazy. It’s—
Ben stepped back to her and swept her into his arms without a moment of hesitation or warning. One large hand splayed across the small of her back, pressing her close. He lowered his mouth to hers, closing those delicious lips over hers in a kiss that was powerful and possessive. He knew how to tease the line of her lips with his tongue, and when she relaxed with a helpless sigh, his tongue invaded, sliding sensually along hers. He smelled so good that Jo’s mind went blank, her misgivings vanishing. He was warm, the fabric of his shirt like butter covering a muscled back.
Crazy. Stupid. Wildly out of character.
, she argued as his hand lowered to squeeze her backside as he sucked on her bottom lip.
People have one-night stands all the time and no one gets hurt or robbed or murdered. I’m an adult. The barista seemed to like him, and the doorman smiled like he trusted him. And—
Her thoughts stopped short with a squeak of pleasure as he circled his hand low on her backside, fingers reaching right where they would do the most good, jeans or no jeans. Jo gave up arguing and circled her arms around his sides. She dug her fingers into his back, moaning with giddy madness over how good he felt.
He responded with a hum of his own. His lips tensed in a smile as he traded one deep kiss for several shorter, lighter ones, eyes meeting hers between each.
“This is my apartment,” he said, as if taking her on a guided tour. Instead, he shifted his embrace to lift her off her toes and kissed her again. Thoroughly. Passionately. The way a hero would. He kept one hand firmly on her backside while the other held steady at her shoulders.
“It’s nice,” she answered between breathless kisses, already hazing over to the point where she had no idea what she would say or do.
She shifted an arm to thread her fingers through his hair. His kiss traveled across her lips for a moment before his tongue went back to playing with hers. He was absolutely the best kisser she’d ever met in her entire life, and half of her imagination. His shoulders were broad and his arms strong. If Ben was offering to help her with research, then she would throw herself into the part with dedication. All in the line of work, of course.
She leaned into him and lifted her leg against his. Exactly on cue, he caught her thigh and carried it higher, pressing it over his hip. She thanked her lucky, lucky stars she was wearing her tight, “New York City” jeans. His hand stroked her thigh as though she was wearing nothing at all, and she was pretty sure the stiffness that pressed against her wasn’t his cell phone. She clenched a handful of his hair and kissed him harder, throwing herself into the role of fiery heroine.
She felt a ripple of energy pass through Ben’s body at her enthusiasm. He paused for the slightest of seconds, tipping back to look at her. His eyes were narrowed, thoughtful, and his breath came in shallow pants. He’d looked hot when they stepped into the apartment, but as he studied her like he’d clapped eyes on a treasure, he became pure fire.
When he kissed her again, a whole new level of intensity washed through Jo. His hands kneaded her back and thigh. She could feel him, hard against her abdomen. Nothing at all to be ashamed of there! It turned her on so much that she shuddered in his arms.
“Let’s go upstairs and have romance novel sex,” he gasped.
“Oh God, yes!”
He scooped her all the way into his arms and carried her toward the stairs as she wrapped her legs around his waist. It was slow going. He staggered as he continued to kiss her, bumping into the side of a counter along the way, as if keeping their mouths in contact was more important than things like balance and physics. It took far more concentration than she would have guessed for him to navigate the stairs. She made a mental note of the details if she should ever need them for a book.
There was barely time to register the large bedroom with shaded windows on three sides as he carried her across the black carpet to a huge bed. Once there, he set her on her feet, calves bumping against the side of his bed. With a thrilling hum in the back of his throat, his hands searched up and down her sides, brushing her breasts. He managed to be both urgent and slow simultaneously. He unhooked her belt and made quick work of the fly of her jeans as she reached for the buttons of his shirt.
Ben knew how to undress a woman. That much was abundantly clear as he peeled her shirt over her head, hands blazing trails of desire along her torso and arms, then pushed her jeans down over her hips. No man had ever made the simple act of undressing such an exercise in sensuality for her. His touch was everywhere, igniting her senses, even though his movements were as utilitarian as they came.
She was not about to be outdone. This was research, after all, not a time to sit idly by. When she finished with the buttons of his shirt, she spread her hands across his abdomen—a deliciously well-muscled abdomen at that—and rubbed them up to his chest to play with his nipples. She leaned into him, nipping his shoulders and neck. His surprised hum told her she was doing it right. Of course she was doing it right. She’d written this a dozen times and more.
That burst of confidence fueled her. She pushed his shirt off of his shoulders and along his arms before reaching for his belt. As soon as his jeans were undone she reached in to stroke him. The surprise in his vocal response was so erotic that she answered it like a shameless hussy in badly-written erotica. She stopped stroking and ran her fingernails up his sides as he bent down to kiss her neck. Every movement was perfect. The pressure and heat of his mouth was amazing. He pushed her bra strap down over her shoulder, kissing his way from her neck to the top of her arm. It was a completely superfluous move, since he unclasped her bra and tugged it off a moment later, but it felt incredible. She vocalized her approval as his reward.
Bra forgotten on the floor, his hand circled up to cup her breast, thumb grazing over her nipple. He was good at that too, squeezing enough to warrant a sigh on her part but not hard enough to hurt. She sought out his mouth again, in thanks, and kissed him with deep enthusiasm. He still tasted like coffee and man. No getting around that tried and true descriptor. Her fingers pressed into the flesh of his back before she trailed them down below the sagging waist of his jeans and briefs, between the cleft of his backside, finding a sensitive spot to stroke.
He sucked in a breath, breaking their kiss and leaning back. His eyelids were heavy with desire, but he smiled as though he’d stumbled across a secret. “So this is what fills the pages of those naughty books of yours,” he said, husky and breathless.
She matched his smile and his intensity. “And more.” It was a silly line, not the best she had ever written.
He didn’t seem to mind. His arms were around her again and his hands exploring her overheated skin before she could think of something better. Their mouths met as if the world would explode if they were separated for too long. She pressed her body against his, loving the hard planes of his chest against her breasts and tickle of just enough hair.
He broke away from her, blinking as though he needed to tap out for a second, chest heaving. Jo mewled in protest, not entirely an act. He responded with what could have been a moan or a laugh, then bent to pull off his shoes and shuck his pants.
Jo took advantage of the pause to kick off her jeans and shoes and to lose her panties. The distracting sight of his full, and not inconsiderable, package wiped all other thoughts from her mind. He straightened and she reached for him, sliding her hand along his length, as he caught her arm between them in an embrace. A groan rumbled from his chest as he kissed her, encouraging her exploration by grinding against her palm.
“Do all romance novelists know how to touch like this?” he panted against her ear, kneading her breast.
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had sex with a romance novelist before.”
She felt his smile against her lips, felt his laugh vibrate through her. It touched something within her—deeper than the thrill of the moment. He ground his hips harder, his shaft pressing against her eager hand. It worked for her. She could have played with him all day.
“Just a second.” He broke away from her and rushed around the corner of the bed to a small table. As he opened the drawer and took out a condom, Jo helped herself to yank back the bedcovers and slide between his sheets. Feather-soft, grey cotton sheets that touched her hot skin like a cool breeze.
“Here, let me.” She slithered across the bed to him with her best seductive crawl, and plucked the condom out of his hands as he unwrapped it. He stood tall above her now as she knelt on the bed. Trying to stay in character and not giggle at her ridiculousness—or at the insane level of lust that pulsed through her as she looked up and up and up at him—she flashed a sultry look at him from under her lashes. It was a shame she had to break eye-contact to fit the condom over the head of his penis. His expression of amused delight tensed, and he held his breath as she rolled the condom down, meeting his eyes again, then stroked back up his length to tease the crown. A second too late, she cursed herself for not sucking him first. Too late now. Maybe next time.