When Emily Wayborn goes home to visit her mom while on hiatus from her hit TV show, she receives a voicemail from her former best friend, Amber. Though the two were once notorious party girls, they haven’t spoken in years. Although the message might sound benign to anyone else, Amber uses a safe word that Emily recognizes, a word they always used to get out of sticky situations during their wild days. And what’s more chilling than the voicemail: it turns out that Amber has gone missing.
Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that lead her to the enigmatic billionaire Reeve Sallis, a hotelier known for his shady dealings and play boy reputation. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must seduce Reeve to learn his secrets and discover the whereabouts of her friend. But as she finds herself more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve for more than just his connection to Amber, despite her growing fear that he may be the enemy. When she’s forced to choose where her loyalty lies, how will she decide between saving Amber and saving her heart?
“I hope you’re nice and relaxed, Emily. Because we need to have a chat.”
Apprehension fluttered in my belly. Chatting was definitely not the direction I wanted to go in from here. Whatever he had to say, I couldn’t possibly listen. I was too agitated.
But without him spelling it out, I knew that was the terms of this arrangement. He’d touch me—in his way. And I’d listen, whether I wanted to or not.
So I propped myself up again and gave him as much of my attention as I could.
“It’s interesting,” he said, his thumbs doing that amazing thing on the bottom of my foot, “how people respond to you when they believe you’ve gotten away with murder.”
My stomach dropped. No speech that started with murder had a happy ending.
“Most people are frightened of you,” he said as his hand stroked up my shin. “They pull their business. They stop attending your events. They certainly won’t let themselves be seen with you. It’s not really anything to fret over, losing those connections. You don’t want cowards in your court. Good riddance to them.”
“I’m not a coward,” I managed to say defensively. Though I wasn’t sure why I was defending myself. Or why I was anxious that he might mean good riddance to me when that was probably exactly what I should be wishing he meant.
He glanced up at me, amusement in his features. “No, you’re not. You’re not scared. Or you’re not scared enough.”
I barely fought the shiver that begged to stutter through my body. It was a menacing statement, and I wanted to deny it as well. Tell him that I was definitely scared enough. But what the hell did that mean, anyway? Considering how turned on I was despite everything I’d learned about him, still turned on despite the foreboding in his tone, well, maybe he had a point. I really wasn’t scared enough.
The amusement transformed to what looked more like awe. Then his attention fell back to my leg and I couldn’t see his face well enough to read him. But after he pushed my ankle back so that my knee bent, his touch changed. A single finger traced the line of my inner thigh. Softly. Sweetly. Just as he got to where I so wanted him to go, he abruptly stopped. One second passed. Two.
Then he resumed the firm pressure from before, reclaiming his restraint. For now.
I could wait.
His speech continued, his voice firm, icy. “There are other people, too. Those that respect you. They aren’t necessarily your friends, because they’re also scared—probably even more so than those who keep their distance. They continue their financial support of your endeavors. They invite you to their parties. Their children’s weddings. They look out for you. Because, you see, they’re afraid that if they don’t…well.”
My heart hammered in my ears. Suddenly I was feeling vulnerable in a way that had nothing to do with my nudity and all to do with the frailty of my size compared to the strength of his.
As if to prove that point, Reeve increased the pressure of his kneading, digging his fingers into the flesh of my thigh with a bite that sang and stung. “It’s a very intense form of power, actually. Much like having money. I’m sure you’ve gotten a taste of that with the recent success of your show. Imagine that but multiplied by a billion.”
“Mm hmm,” I said, a response that served as an answer though it was mostly an involuntary reaction to his hands. He’d reached the top of my limb again. Like before, the tips of his fingers brushed against my folds.
Goddammit, I was wet. And trembling. And overwrought with anticipation. This time, would he let his touch wander farther up? In?
His hands left me. He pushed my leg down, pulled the sheet back over my leg and pinned me with narrowed eyes. “It’s also not unlike the power of being a very attractive person. Another privilege that you understand.” He scanned the length of my body, the sheet still a barrier between us, and let out an audible breath. “I imagine you must understand it very well indeed.”
It was an accusation. The grit in his voice and the weight of his stare said so. Fucker. Whatever hopes I’d had for this whole scene of his, it was clear now that his intent was not friendly. Punishing, more like. I still wasn’t sure for what exactly. For being in his pool. For using my beauty to draw his interest. For coming onto him without his permission. I’d thought his humiliating body search had been all the reprimand I was getting. Guess I’d been wrong.
My eyes fell. However, a glance at his crotch gave me the slightest smidgeon of satisfaction. He was unmistakably hard. He might be punishing me, but he was punishing himself too.