Authors: Krista Ritchie,Becca Ritchie
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Adult
Connor suddenly tosses the directions on the counter.
I freeze. “You read those for two seconds. I swear to God, if you skimmed, I will dropkick you in shark-infested waters.”
“I think you’d fair better if you swore to me and not the air.” He unscrews the top off the powdered bleach, his lips beginning to rise.
I hate that smile. But I love that smile. I growl, fed-up with my brain’s indecision about a man I love to hate. I hesitate to steal the bleach from him, but he’s already mixing the powder with the developer in a plastic bowl.
Instead, I reach out for the instructions, but Connor beats me, snatching the tiny packet and pocketing them in his navy-blue gym pants, shirtless. I refuse to even acknowledge the six—no
abs in front of me that are both desirable and detestable. It’s not fair that someone as intelligent as Connor Cobalt is also this fit. It’s all purposeful. He works hard to achieve his appearance, to be as put-together outside as he is inside.
“I read the directions,” he says, holding my gaze. “They’re straightforward. They’re simple, Rose. There’s absolutely no way I can do this incorrectly.”
I trust him.
More than anyone in this world, I trust Connor. But… “You’re not a hairdresser, Richard. Unless I missed the part where Faust taught all the boys how to perm each other.” This would be less stressful if I could march into a salon and have a professional treat my hair with delicate, experienced hands. Instead I had to condition my hair for the past three days, in fear that this home-remedy would damage hair that I’ve spent years nurturing like a fucking toddler.
Connor reads my boiling, anxious expression. “How many times have you gone to the salon without paparazzi waiting outside?”
I glare. “I could’ve had a stylist come to the house.”
“And how many times has a stylist tipped off the media?”
They tipped off my wardrobe for a Charity event to
…and described my sock bun. One of the four also took pictures without my knowledge. I can’t trust just anyone, and I’ve yet to find a stylist honorable enough to bring into our current situation with
When so many people morph into paparazzi with their own cellphones, capturing an exclusive photo is incredibly hard. It’s why Andrea covets them. It’s why I have to swallow my fear and do this the old-fashioned, hazardous way—all to ensure that Walter Aimes will snap his photo and
will have a beautiful headline about my ugly hair color.
Jane and Moffy are worth more than your hair,
I keep repeating the mantra. I accept the situation—that this is about to happen—as soon as he puts on plastic gloves.
“Don’t get it on my hands or skin,” I remind him, gripping the edge of the counter and facing the sink. The toxic smell is already curdling my stomach, knowing it’ll be in my hair and on my scalp soon. It’s why I’ve tasked him with the laborious part of this process.
He steps behind me, much taller since I’m without heels. “I’m well aware of your preferences,” he says, plastic bowl in hand. “My name is at the top of it beside the number one.”
I watch him through the mirror, my eyes like pools of fire. “You wish.”
“I don’t wish things that are already true,” he says with a bigger grin. I suppose my retort was weak in comparison, falling into his conceited aura too easily. I blame the bleach and his closeness, his chest almost right up against my back.
One more step and I’ll feel his pelvis against me. His toned arms always seem larger and more sculpted without a shirt: perfect with a suit on, not too bulky, and perfect with a suit off, not too lean. There is too much perfect behind me—it’s infuriating.
“Take a step back,” I command.
He tilts his head, just slightly and raises a brow. “Excuse me?”
“One. Step,” I force.
“No,” he says definitively, denying me this.
“I can’t think clearly when you’re this close,” I admit. I end up stepping towards the sink counter, my legs and waist pressed up against it.
“You don’t have to think at all right now. Close your eyes.”
I stubbornly keep my eyes open, glaring in the mirror at him. Off my punctured stare, his desire swims in his deep blues, sexual longing that he often shows me. Without breaking my gaze, he bites off one of his gloves and then slaps my ass. The breath knocks out of me, a pleasured shudder vibrating my stiff limbs. He slips his hand beneath my panties, his large palm soothing the sting.
This time, I willingly close my eyes, letting him take control of me. Some of my anxieties start to dissipate, even as he applies the cold bleach mixture to sections of my hair. He keeps his other hand beneath the button-down I wear and beneath my panties. I like how he clutches my ass, but still, I white-knuckle the counter’s edge.
“How does it look?” I ask.
“Like it’s not finished,” he says. “Count backwards from two hundred and maybe it’ll be done by then.” I feel the smirk in his voice.
“I dream of murdering your smile,” I say.
“Your dream clearly hasn’t come true.”
I ignore that annoying comment. “I’d cut it to pieces and sell it to the highest bidder.”
“So you plan to profit off my body?” He steps forward, so close that his erection melds against me.
“You better be concentrating on my hair and not my ass,” I say, too nervous to look at the progress he’s made.
“I’m proficient at multi-tasking,” he reminds me. “It’s relatively easy for me to concentrate on all of you at once.”
I’d say that he’s placating me, but I’m certain he’s skilled enough to accomplish both. “What part of me would you murder?” My cold tone of voice challenges him to answer.
“I wouldn’t murder any part of you,” he says, “and I definitely wouldn’t sell those parts either.” He surprises me. I almost lose my balance, but his hand ascends from my ass to my bare hip, seizing my waist that’s grown just slightly since I had Jane, more shape than I once had.
“Not even my tongue?” I have to annoy him. I annoy myself three times out of six during the day.
“You want me to sell your tongue to another man?” he asks. “So they can have this conversation before me?”
No. I don’t want that. I highly doubt another man would entertain these bizarre,
would you fall on a sword and bathe in cow’s milk
, types of questions that I always throw at Connor. And he always grins, analyzes them, and slings them right back at me.
I feel a glop of cold at my neck, and I stiffen—
“You’re fine,” he assures me quickly. “It’s not on your skin.”
I swallow hard and inhale sharply. More confidence seeps into me, as he holds me tighter around the waist.
“Would you rather make love on goat’s blood or cut off my tongue?” I say the words like I’m one second from wielding a knife and enacting these hypotheticals.
I sense him hardening even more. “I’d fuck you on goat’s blood. I’d never cut off your tongue.”
“Would you share me?” It coils my muscles and stomach, my fingers curling even more around the counter, the idea of me being passed between hands. I only want to be in his clutch, but the concept of being so completely
, in the face of other men, stirs forbidden parts of me.
“I’ve never been good at sharing,” he tells me deeply. “Not accomplishments or titles, and I’d certainly never want to share you.” I can feel him twisting my hair and clipping the strands on top of my head.
I open my eyes now, the cream evenly applied over every lock, nothing reaching beyond my hairline. The twisted mass of developer and hair weighs heavy on my head, but I keep my neck straight, able to support it fine.
“Thirty minutes,” he tells me. “And then I’ll wash your hair.” He removes his grip from my waist and snaps off the sodden glove in the empty plastic bowl. His arms weave around my body to reach the sink, and he cages me here while he washes his hands. I take note of the time on his watch.
He’s still staring at me, like he’s not finished playing with me yet.
I’m not done talking. “What about ménage à trois?” I test him, unblinking and hardly wavering from this question.
I wonder if he’s imagining this twisted picture of another man together with us. After he shuts off the faucet and dries his hands with a towel, he wraps an arm around my waist, pulling my back against his chest so hard that I ache between my legs and barely maintain grasp of the counter’s edge.
I keep my head away from him, avoiding a mess of bleach. Even so, his voice sounds close to my ear. “This man wouldn’t stand a chance in bed with us. I’d never let him near you, not to touch you and never to fuck you.” His fingers make their way up the soft flesh of my thighs, cupping me, his thumb teasing me in circular motions against the lace of my panties.
My chest rises and falls heavily. “What if he takes me from the front?” My voice is layered with ice.
Connor swiftly spins me around now, my back digging into the lip of the counter, his hand lifting one of my legs around his waist, his erection in line with my panties. He pushes against me, the force at break-neck speed in my mind, the force so hard that I could beg aloud to be naked with him.
I don’t though. My mind orients itself quickly enough. I hang onto his muscular biceps, and his lips near my ear as he whispers, “I’d rotate you.” He pushes my ass up, like he wants to fuck me this way, right now, repeatedly. Over and over. “Comme ça.”
I’m so unbelievably wet.
I grab his wrist to stop his movement. “Now he can snap off my bra,” I combat, able to meet his gaze. “You failed.”
Those two words cause his jaw to tic, so subtly that I almost miss it. Without moving, he says, “I’d possess you in bed, Rose, so much that any other man would leave in
” I believe him. “No satisfaction, no release.” He grazes me with his eyes, my breasts nearly popping a few buttons with my deep breaths. “Balls aching, dick begging—”
Someone knocks at the door. “If you’re playing Scrabble in the bathroom, you two are at a new level of weird,” Loren says.
“Drop me,” I whisper to Connor, smacking his arm.
He doesn’t, not yet. “We’ll be ready to head out in an hour,” he tells Lo.
We’re all going to the nearest rock climbing gym, as a way of celebrating Ryke before he undergoes surgery after Christmas, the holiday already in two weeks. The gym is also where Walter Aimes is supposed to take photos of us, unbeknownst to my sisters and their significant others.
Lo speaks through the wooden door. “Willow is here early to babysit so we’re going now.”
My eyes widen in horror.
My hair. I reach out, subconsciously about to touch my head. Connor rapidly releases my leg and seizes my wrists, right before my palms nearly plant on the goopy, bleachy mess.
My heart is in my throat. “I almost…”
“You didn’t,” he says, his smile dimmed to seriousness. I’ve become more than a tad bit obsessive-compulsive since my pregnancy and Jane’s birth. High-stress situations just puncture little parts of me, and I fixate on things I shouldn’t.
“Open up.” Loren knocks on the door again. “What is that smell?” He pauses. “Is that bleach?” I hate Loren Hale’s nose. I want to murder that too.
Connor mouths to me,
“I’m always calm,” I snap, the statement clearly false. It’s by far the worst retort I’ve used all week.
His lips still curve upward as he walks backwards to the door. “Your acting needs work, darling.”
In seconds, my acting is about to be put to the test again. I’d pray to a higher being to give me strength and success, but I keep hearing Connor’s voice in my head that says:
I’m the only person you should pray to.
His egomania is clouding my judgment and my sanity.
But strangely I’m still glad he’s on my team.
I can’t do this alone.
[ 6 ]
Lo puts his hand on the bathroom door, opening it wider to see all of Rose. “Jesus Christ.” He scrutinizes her hair and the products on the counter. “Are you having a quarter-life crisis?”
“I wanted a change,” Rose snaps in defense. Beneath the white developer and bleach mixture, her hair begins to turn a burnt orange color—some strands even lighter.
“So you thought blondes have more fun?” Lo walks further into the bathroom with me.
“No,” Rose snaps. “I can castrate you equally as a brunette as I can a blonde.” She gives him a wry smile.
He returns one. “Your idea of fun is fucked up.”
Two more people suddenly emerge in the doorway. Lily pants, out of breath, in leggings and a plain black baggy shirt. Daisy is next, in similar workout clothes, only a shorter top that says
wild at heart
and significantly less wheezing.
Lily holds a stitch in her side. “Are you two almost ready? The bodyguards are waiting and getting kinda grumpy.” Before she walks forward, her eyes grow big at Rose’s hair. “Whaaa…”
Daisy puts her hands to her mouth, eyes growing to saucers.
“She’s…” Lily can’t find the words.
Lo helps her. “Lost her mind.”
“She’s blonde,” Lily manages to say, all on her own.
“Wow,” Daisy mutters, still in shock.
Lo pulls Lily into his chest for a hug, and he even kisses her cheek. She’s too concentrated on Rose to even notice, which means this is a larger ordeal for the Calloway sisters than I thought it’d be.
“Hair color is temporary,” I say. “It can always be changed.” I just need this to go smoothly—for the sake of Moffy and Jane.
“But Rose has never dyed her hair before,” Daisy explains what I already know.
“Rose,” Lily starts, “you said you’d skin a cat before you became blonde.”
She rotates, a chill in her eyes. “Maybe I have.” Her voice is flat and cold, but it isn’t her best acting.
“Okay, you’re scaring me,” Lily says. “I never thought this would happen.” Her voice cracks.