Authors: Cate Masters
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Crime Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense, #A 1 Night Stand Story
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Tonight You Belong to Me
Copyright © 2012 by Cate Masters
Cover art by Fantasia Frog Designs
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Published by Decadent Publishing Company, LLC
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Also by Cate Masters
A Hard Day’s Knight
A 1Night Stand Story
Dead to Rights
Tonight You Belong to Me
A 1Night Stand Story
To Gary, always
Nervous as a virgin in a prison rodeo, Jillian Jones tugged down her form-fitting silk sheath as she stepped into the Castillo Resort lounge. She had enough problems without her dress riding up. She’d already had her heart chewed up and spit out by that two-timing Casanova, Danny O’Malley. Why she’d agreed to do one last favor for Karenna before hightailing it out of Sin City, she couldn’t say. Yet something in her heart told her she wouldn’t regret tonight. Maybe it would change her life.
Yeah, and I’ll marry a good ole boy
. No chance. If she’d wanted a redneck, she’d have stayed in Nashville and contented herself with singing honky-tonk in a second-rate bar. No, she wanted better. Deserved better.
A familiar voice, sweet as honey and intoxicating as whiskey, sounded through the speakers as if singing to her alone. The baritone wound through her head, down her spine, pooling in heat that shivered along her nerve endings. Melting the last of her bravado that took all day to store up.
! Damn the man. He’d never worked Thursdays before. Now he’d ruin it all with his sexy smolder.
No way in hell would she let him, even if she had to squirt seltzer from head to toe and extinguish his fire. The image of him dripping wet only ratcheted up the sexiness factor, the extra oomph she always said would be their ticket to the top. Now she knew better—her name didn’t appear on the ticket, only his.
. Shards of ice filled Jilly’s veins, remembering the two of them onstage, and off.
Squaring her shoulders, she strolled to the bar and perched on a stool. Careful to avoid the piano spotlighted in the corner, she scanned the room. As a leaving-Vegas-forever gift, Karenna promised her the night of her life with a 1Night Stand hookup, and had said to look for a knock-her-socks-off gorgeous guy wearing a charcoal blazer and red carnation. Her 1Night Stand date. Though she could never see herself with anyone else but Danny. Maybe a one-night stand was exactly what she needed to sear off the brand he’d imprinted on her heart.
She’d given him her virginity on a platter, and he’d promised her the moon. So much for saving herself for the right man. Oh, he could send her over the moon, all right—his touch lit a fire in her only he could quench. From now on, people would have to prove themselves worthy before she gave them anything. No more letting the tail wag the dog.
The bartender leaned his hands on the counter. “What can I get you?”
A new life
? No, she’d concoct that herself. As she twisted the edge of her handbag, her belly twisted, too. “Ginger ale. No wait, make that white wine. No, sorry. Sex on the Beach.” In hopes of what this night might hold. Revenge.
Where in hell was her date? No one in the room wore a gray jacket or any sort of flower.
She blocked the sad tune he played on the baby grand, pouring his heartbreak out in song. She tried not to think of his fingers sliding across the ivories. Those talented hands tickled her ivories, too. Every moment, it grew more of a challenge not to glance over.
Strains of a new song stole her breath. Tears burned her eyes. “Now that’s low.”
“Pardon?” The bartender set her drink on a napkin and shoved it toward her.
She held up a twenty. “I’m pathetic. A failure.” For still letting him get to her. She raised her glass in a cheer. “He’s playing
Tonight You Belong to Me
“Is he?” The bartender slapped her change atop the glossy black counter.
Scooping it up, she doled out two ones for his tip. “It was our song.” The bastard must have spotted her. Performing the song would be his way of having the last word. Well, no way. Downing her liquid courage, she set the glass on the bar, tottered on shaky legs to the piano and plunked a penny in the tip jar.
When he looked up at her, slow and easy, she wanted to melt.
Ebony bangs fell across his forehead, making his eyes look bluer than the skies over the desert. Full of longing, sorrow and smoldering heat all at once. “Penny for your thoughts?” he asked.
Her throat tightened, choking back a teary sigh. Same as the night they first met, down to the song and the bad line. But not his outfit. She glared at his wide shoulders, draped in a charcoal jacket, set off by a red carnation.
Her cheeks burned hotter than blue blazes. “You set this up?” Oh, she’d unleash hell on Karenna tomorrow, and tell her a thing or two. So much for friendship. But what did she expect in this town?
He stilled, as if debating another lie. “Yes.”
“I’m out of here.” Her mama didn’t raise a fool. At least, not one who’d let herself be fooled twice.
In two shakes of a lamb’s tail, he stood a hair’s breadth away, a rush of warmth sending his heat slamming into her, the air filled with his musky cologne and his need. Their bodies knew how to communicate too well, moving in tandem like some primal dance that always ended up with their clothes tangled up on the floor and their naked limbs tangled on the carpet. Or the table. Or the car. No easy feat in their cheap compact car, either. Somehow it only made their lovemaking sweeter, that was the hell of it.
His fingers circled her wrist. “Please, Jilly. One night. That’s all I’m asking.”
Her heart lurched. “Guess that’s all you’re good for these days.” At least he’d turned honest. Too bad, too late.
His hand slid up her arm. “If I can’t convince you to come back to me after tonight, I’ll never bother you again. I swear.”
She swallowed hard, harder than the day she’d had to swallow her pride when the manager hired him to play the lounge but not her. Then she had to work as assistant to a two-bit magician, who made a joke of copping a feel as he ‘secured’ her for the sawing trick. Nothing magical about it.
Tears threatened again, and she steeled herself. Damn if she’d cry in front of him. “I thought tonight would be different.” Instead, it brought to mind every performance with the white rabbit that pissed all over her. Every freaking time.
He bent to eye level and smoothed her hair. “It will be, Jilly.”
How could he say it with such tenderness? Before that awful night, she’d have believed him. But now, no matter how deep his honeyed words reached into her soul, she couldn’t.
“Not if I’m with you.” Her life made as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. And she was in deep water, sinking fast.
Seeing the hurt on Jilly’s face renewed his resolve to make it right again between them. He couldn’t stand for her to be so sad. But the only thing that might cheer her would be a lynch mob, coming for him, noose in hand.
As soon as she’d entered the room, he’d glanced up and couldn’t look away. She stood in the entryway, tawny hair piled atop her head with a few wisps trailing her graceful neck, big green eyes searching the room. Thinking of unzipping that sexy indigo dress and letting it fall to the floor, his pulse surged, and collected south of his belt with building pressure. He’d missed all the ways she used to relieve that ache. Hell, he’d missed her in ways that surprised him every minute. Their three years together held nothing but bliss. She’d pampered him, catered to him, both in and out of bed. Shit, he hadn’t known how happy he’d been—how fucking lucky to have her—until she’d walked out. Every day, he grew more desperate to get her back.
He grabbed her hands and nodded to the DJ booth. Lyle nodded back and flipped the canned music. Perfect. The slow song he’d asked for, Clapton’s
. Every time he sang it to her, she slipped into his arms. With any luck, she would again.
“Come on. Dance with me.” It might be the only way she’d let him hold her again.
Her heels dug into the floor. “Aren’t you working?”
“No. I’ve been waiting for you.” She’d laugh if he said he’d waited all his life, but now he knew the truth of it. He could never love anyone the way he loved her.
“Right. Nice setup.”
Even quirked in a scowl, the soft pink sheen on her lips made him yearn to taste its cotton candy sweetness.
“Tonight you belong to me.” His chest tightened when he pulled her against him, and she looked up at him like he was a snake coiling to strike.
“But who do you belong to?”
If she meant to torture him by moving her body like foreplay across his, she sure knew how to make him want to beg for more. He swayed with her across the dance floor. “Jilly, I know you think you know what happened, but you’re wrong.”
She squirmed in his embrace, but not enough to break it. “My cow died last night, so I don’t need your bull.”
“You never let me explain.” He could never convince her that what she saw was the real setup, intended to break them up. He’d bet money on it.
If I had any money
Her eyes searched his. “If you can still lie to me, knowing what I know, how can I ever trust you?”
“Forget everything. Let’s start over.” Even as he said it, his hopes dwindled.
Why in the name of everything that’s sacred would she
? According to her, he wasn’t worth the gunpowder it would take to blow him away. Or some such nonsense. Sometimes he had difficulty following her Southernisms, but the meaning came through clear enough that night. Each day proved to be a worse hell without her. He might buy her the gunpowder if she wouldn’t take him back.
Hope sank when she lifted her chin defiantly. “Fine. One night. And don’t get your hopes up either.”
“I won’t.” But his irrepressible grin kept widening, and his hopes soared.
“I mean it. After tonight, I’ll be rid of you for good. So quit grinning before you sprain your smile muscles. It’s not like we’re going to an Elvis chapel.” She wore a slight pout—coupled with a hint of disappointment?
“Right, absolutely.” How he wished now that he’d followed through one of the times they’d dared each other to marry. As if it were a game. “If you say so.”
“I do.” From her wince, she gave herself a mental forehead slap.
“But you just said you don’t.” His hands teased her, swiveling her hips against his.
“Stop right now.” But she hooked her arms around his neck, her curves fitting against him as if made for his body.
His hands trembled with the effort of restraining them from wandering down the delicious curve of her ass, outlined so well in her dress. He scraped his cheek against hers. A light scent, cherries and vanilla, filled his senses, driving him wild imagining tasting every inch of her.
“All right, baby. You say when.” His whisper fluttered the wisp of hair at her ear. He let his tongue explore its outer rim. Her skin felt so smooth and soft, he lost himself in the ridged whorl, leading deeper. He needed to go way deeper. Inside her. To feel her pulse race, her breaths grow more and more shallow with excitement. To hear her moan his name, teasing him to fuck her. Just thinking of the sweet release of entering her warmth, his cock thickened, hardened. Mouth trailing her neck, he heaved a ragged breath, tightening his embrace in a silent plea. The breathy sound she made ignited his blood.
“Baby.” Her fingers threaded his hair, taut with wordless urging.
His hands roamed, greedy for all of her, from the small of her back to the tight mound of her ass, to her smooth outer thigh. The smallest thread of rationale reminded him of the people around them, or he’d take her down right there.