Authors: Nessa Connor
By Nessa Connor
Bonus Book – Cursed
Copyright 2016 by Nessa Connor
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, redistributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in any database, without prior permission from the author.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. All characters are 18+ and all situations are consensual.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Sammi Jo searched the gathering crowd for anyone she might recognize. The ballroom swarmed with men and women looking their best in their finest suits and dresses. The walls had been draped with branches, leaves, and ferns—also, eagles, raccoons, and other animals native to Virginia to show what would be lost if the preserve became development land.
No one stood out to her as she concluded her search and approached the bar. She sported a neon blue wrist band, spending over two hundred dollars to get into the banquet to rub elbows with the movers and shakers in the community.
All she wanted was a small glass of wine to settle in.
A few years ago, she would’ve been skirting the corners of the room or avoiding conversations and ducking party goers with shyness. For a time there, she’d been such a shut in. But times changed and not one iota of nervousness emerged as she waited in line for her drink.
The crowd ahead thinned with only one woman with a killer body and glittering jewels adorning her dress standing between her and her wine. Sammi wasn’t nervous, but she wondered now if she fit in. These were mostly wealthy donors who wanted to contribute to protecting the Redrock Nature Preserve.
Had they ever stepped foot on the nature preserve, ever? Or even seen it from the backseat of a limo? Something told Sammi they hadn’t. They only showed themselves for the spectacle of it, which was fine, as long as they put up their money.
She spotted a newcomer at the other end of the bar. A curvy blond that could’ve been a model clung to him, practically falling into his arms. She paled as she gazed intently at the sexiest man she’d ever seen.
It truly had been a long time. Some of his boyish features were still there, just as she remembered them; his wavy light hair, his pale green eyes, but he’d really…
. He wore a stunning grey suit that fit his muscular frame perfectly, a frame that towered over most of the crowd. His skin radiated a dark tan, telling Sammi that he probably got more sun in a week than Sammi got all year.
She’d not seen him in a decade. A rush hit her then and she flinched, but didn’t turn away. Her heart jackhammered and she thought it’d jump out of her chest and escape, running down the bar.
“Excuse me, miss?”
Sammi jumped. The bartender, dressed formally yet still wearing a shadow beard, questioned her.
“Sorry, I’ll have a Zinfandel.”
Jag hadn’t spotted her yet. Good.
The bartender nodded. Gripping her sides, she slowly turned away from him. She needed to think about what to do next. Sure, she thought about Jag often, wondering what he was up to in his billion-dollar life, a part of her wishing she’d been able to go with him, but fantasies like that drifted out of her mind as quickly as they appeared.
Jag had taken a different path, enjoying a different life far away as possible from her own. Sammi dealt with boring numbers in her dad’s CPA business, getting paid a livable wage. Meanwhile, Jag ran one of the biggest sporting companies in the world, Jagged Edge, and hung out with the rich and famous. She’d followed his meteoric rise in extreme sports competitions; whitewater rafting in Montana, rock climbing in Oregon, skydiving around the globe.
After getting her drink, Sammi slipped two dollars to the bartender because she’d been stunned earlier and held him up. She wandered away from the bar, her feet slowly taking her over to the side buffet tables where they offered appetizers as waiters zigzagged around the crowd with hors d’oeuvres.
Sammi convinced herself not to say hello to avoid certain embarrassment. They hadn’t talked in years, and the blond on his arm looked interesting, far more exciting than she’d ever be. Sammi worried that Jag might’ve actually forgotten her while living it up as a billionaire.
Grabbing what she guessed was a bruschetta and pork sandwich, she spun around and popped it in her mouth. She didn’t care what it was. It looked and tasted delicious.
Sammi’s jaw would’ve dropped, but thankfully she kept it closed as she chewed the last bite. She wiped the crumbs from her lips, none there, but worried anyway and gulped as she looked up at Jag.
He flashed a gleaming white smile that had her blood heating. No doubt about it, this was one handsome man. Sammi would sometimes spot him in magazines, those creepy paparazzi types, hiking without a shirt or climbing mountains without a shirt or running down the street without a shirt…Jag liked to do a lot of things without a shirt.
“Jag,” she finally said. “It’s good to see you.”
Jag opened his arms, his huge wingspan opening up to take her in. But when she didn’t move, he took her in a tight embrace, squeezing her as heat pulsed between her thighs. Once he let go, she focused, trying to snap out of her daze.
“It’s been so long,” she said, trying to keep her voice normal. She noticed a sultry pitch to it.
Better stop that. There’s no way you’re going to reel in a billionaire, especially since he knew you when you were frumpy and dorky.
“I was hoping I would see you while I was in town. I just got in tonight, but I was going to ask my father about you and your folks. I wanted to catch up.”
Catch up? With her? Warmth flowed as she remembered the good times they had. Of course, Jag wouldn’t be an asshole. Money changed most people but money would never change Jag. She thought how silly she’d been earlier to think so.
Jag beamed at her and she returned an uneasy smile, but slowly her lips curled and her eyes danced, drawing him in.
“Your company is doing so well. I never thought I’d see you again. I mean, I never thought I’d see you again outside of a magazine or a blog.”
“I’ve been avoiding coming home. Because of…reasons. It’s not important.” Jag waved the thought away. He peered behind him, probably looking for the beautiful blond.
“I saw you with a girl. Is that a girlfriend, fiancée, wife?”
He laughed. “That’s a stranger. Someone I just met.”
“Oh. She looked quite friendly.”
“Yeah, I told her to go cool off. I don’t appreciate when people hang on me like that.”
“Not even beautiful women?”
He shrugged. Then he held out his arm, waiting for her to hook on. “How about this beautiful woman? Would you like to be my date for the night? I came alone tonight.”
This must be a joke, she guessed. Sammi slowed her breathing to stop from sweating as she cursed herself for not being prepared to see Jag. How she would’ve prepared, she had no idea, but she knew she wasn’t ready to deal with him.
“Good, then that means you’re free.”
Sammi slipped her arm into the crook of his elbow. Immediately he locked her in place and smiled down at her..
She spoke up to be heard over the chattering crowd, “We’re at a function to save a wildlife preserve, not exactly a romantic setting for a date. I mean, look, there are skunks and raccoons on the wall.”
“But there’s also an open bar.” He winked at her as they wound their way through the crowd.
He’d always thought Sammi Jo was beautiful. But she’d never seemed interested. Now all of these years later, she looked even more beautiful to him. And enticing. Gone were the days of being a skinny kid who knew nothing of women. Now Jag wondered if he’d be able to sit through the evening without making a move.
As she leaned closer to him, a drink in hand, her smile opened up. Whenever she drew close, her breasts would prop up and she’d show him a little more cleavage. Not on purpose, he didn’t think, but not like it mattered.
It took his full concentration not to pop a boner right then and there. A boner, not very friendly, now was it? Even younger, he’d always wanted to see her naked, but he chalked that up to boyish curiosity. Now he wondered if he’d been fooling himself the whole time. These were not friendly feelings that washed over him whenever her eyes sparkled or she laughed at his jokes. Pure, unfiltered lust rushed into him.
“I always thought you had the potential to turn into a crazy cat lady…”
Sammi skewered her eyebrows. “I’m totally not the crazy cat lady. I don’t even own any cats.”
“Okay, how many ferrets do you own then?”
She slipped a smirk. When he noticed, he took a step closer. She gulped, took a drink, and ducked her head. “The only pet I own is a dog, thank you very much.”
“I don’t buy it. I should’ve known you would be here, though. We always used to go hiking in Redrock. You would have a camera in one hand, a book in the other…”
“And you’d be running around looking under rocks, running up hills, digging holes.”
“So I should’ve known that you would be here to try and save it.” He paused. Then he crooked his head with a smug grin. “You’re trying to tell me you don’t own any pets besides a dog?”
“If you must know, I volunteer at a local animal shelter. It helps me from being the crazy cat lady. My house is not filled with animals and I get to help out the least fortunate ones.”
“I’m sure they’re lucky to have you.”
“What about you?”
“Me? I can’t really own any pets. I don’t have the time and I’m never home. I’m always out doing things.” Damn, did he just sound like an asshole?
He hoped that Sammi wouldn’t take it the wrong way—that he certainly had no time for pets. Suddenly the differences between them became apparent.
“I guess I just have a ton of free time then?” She retorted, clearly annoyed.
He reached out and took her arm. The touch set him off, and he saw her eyes pool with something—could it be lust as well? But he wasn’t sure, only sure about the connection.
“Hey, I didn’t mean it like that. Just that my job requires me to move around a lot. Although now that you say it, a big German Shepard that I could take to meetings and on business trips, you know…outfit him with a harness, some sports gear; that could be big for the brand.”
“You can start an offshoot of Jagged Edge for animals. Sporty dogs and cats!”
He chortled. “See? This is why I should’ve talked to you earlier, Sammi.”
Sammi clasped her hands and swayed a little. Her head drooped, making Jag wonder why she looked sad all of a sudden.
She was dressed like a classic movie star, and she’d really grown into her curves. Her petite body filled out, and her eyes were still the same big, deep green that reminded him of lush woods. Her auburn hair parted to the side, and with her stunning face cast longingly at him, she resembled Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca.
Her style fit her personality so well, as it fit her movie collection. She loved the classics.
“You left so quickly, and you didn’t say a thing. You didn’t write or call. It was a real jerky thing to do.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” Jag grit his teeth. He wished he could make it up to her.
He wanted to right now. To take her in his arms and carry her out of this place, to wine and dine her and then take her on a romantic vacation—a long one, where they could catch up.
But Jag needed patience, something he knew he sorely lacked.
“I didn’t know how to say it to you. My father gave me the money for the business and I needed to do my best, so I needed to leave here. The opportunity was west.”
He couldn’t look in her eyes now. It stung. “I didn’t know when I’d be back.”
“Don’t worry about it. I just wanted to give you
grief. Couldn’t let you get away with it completely.” She bobbed on her toes and smiled at him again with those cute dimples.
Sammi jerked her head toward the door. Jag noticed a change in her demeanor. He glanced over the top of the crowd to see what did it, but before he spotted anything, she pivoted away.
“I better get looking around though. I want to see how I can help. That’s really why I came here.”
“Sure.” He nodded. He also noticed her attention darting to the corners of the ballroom. What was she afraid of?
Before she left, Jag leveled a look on her. “When you’re done, come find me again. Or I’ll find you. This time I’m not going to leave without saying goodbye.”