Grounded (Up in the Air, #3)(2)

I barely got a glance at the vaguely familiar room before he was closing the door and crushing me against it, kissing me like his life depended on it. The kiss had none of his finesse, and not an ounce of his restraint. It was a rough, bruising kiss, and I reveled in it. I would have kissed him back, but it wasn’t that kind of kiss. All that I could do was submit, my mouth softening for him—my whole body softening.

He pulled back abruptly.

I moaned a protest.

He wrapped one hand around my throat, squeezing just enough to make me gasp, the other hand going to my mouth. He pressed just one finger over my lips. “I have to go. But I need to have you. Promise me you’ll come to my office at eleven.”

I met his beautiful eyes, searching them. His face and voice were raw with need. And fear.

“I told you I’d be there,” I said to him, not sure what he needed from me, or how to take that awful look from his eyes.

“Promise me,” he said softly, his voice close enough to a plea to make my chest hurt.

“I promise,” I said softly.

He just nodded, his face painfully solemn. He tugged me after him, and I followed him to the elevator.

He pushed the button, pulling me into his chest as he waited for the car. It wasn’t a coincidence that he pressed my cheek over his heart. Right over the place where he’d tattooed my name in crimson.

He didn’t kiss me again. In fact, he barely looked at me. His professional mask was in place as the elevator closed on my last glimpse of him.

I walked back to the dining room on heavy feet.

We finished breakfast quickly, all of us ready for a nap.

Stephan and Javier were staying on the floor below my bedroom with James, lined up with that perfect view of Central Park. I walked them to their door, giving Stephan a perfunctory kiss goodnight before heading up to the room I shared with James. I could hear their amazed and excited exclamations even as I walked away, and I smiled fondly. That was the greatest benefit of wealth, I thought. To make others happy.

I made my way to our lonely bedroom.

I stood frozen in the doorway to our room for long moments, feeling so odd being there without James. It felt so empty and strange.

I did the minimum amount to get ready for bed, crawling into bed only after I had carefully set an alarm. I would only be getting a short nap, but it would be worth it to see James in a few hours.

I woke up groggy and disoriented but as the fog cleared from my brain and I realized whose bed I was in, and who I would be seeing in just one hour, the fog cleared completely, and I rushed into the shower, nervous and excited.

My phone beeped a text at me right as I was re-entering the bedroom, and I went to read it, still wrapped in a towel.

[page]James: Wear a skirt.

It was an innocent enough request, from anyone but James perhaps, but from him, my breath caught in breathless anticipation. I hadn’t known just what we would be able to do at his office, so I had been braced for just an innocent lunch, though of course I had been hoping for more. My mood soared as I got ready, excitement pulsing through me. He had plans for me; I just knew it.

I tried not to be intimidated by my new wardrobe as I browsed through it for a skirt. The labels were things I never could have afforded on my own though, so it was hard for me not to dwell on the fact that I was letting James spend a fortune on me. I had been counting my pennies for so long that I couldn’t help but think it was all a bit of a waste. Half of his colossal closet was now filled with extravagant designer women’s clothing. There was no way that he hadn’t spent tens of thousands of dollars on it all.

I knew it was silly, but somehow the clothing intimidated me even more than all of the diamond jewelry that he seemed to need to lavish on me. Yes, it was silly, but the fact was that I knew enough about clothes to have a clue what those labels were worth, whereas my knowledge on the price of jewelry was beyond negligible.

The clothing was all paired together into outfits. I would have been more grateful for that convenience if I hadn’t known that it had to be the work of Jackie. I wasn’t exactly a fan.

I quickly picked out a comfortable looking azure blue, silk dress. I tried not to even look at the label, but it didn’t work, since the Armani Collezioni tag practically jumped out at me.

I donned my bra and panties, pulled the decadently soft fabric over my head, and fell instantly in love.

It was beyond comfortable, and actually looked great to boot. It hugged my curves in the most flattering way, without being the slightest bit tight. And unlike most of the clothing I usually tried on, it was made for my height, the proportions just right, not too short in either my torso or legs. Apparently there was something to spending a fortune on clothing. Of course, most of the clothes I’d owned previously never cost more than twenty dollars, tops…

There was an entire section of the closet devoted entirely to shoes and I went there next. My mouth curved and my heart warmed as I saw what James had done there.

There were nothing but wedges and running shoes. Of all the things he’d purchased for me in this monstrosity of a closet, I thought that this was the sweetest. I’d made the barest mention to him once that the only shoes I liked were wedges and running shoes, and it was apparent that he had been listening.

All of the women’s shoes were peeking out of boxes, and all of the boxes were marked with yellow tags sporting numbers in big red letters. My brow furrowed. The tags on all of the clothing had the same thing. I reached back with a sigh, carefully trying to rip off the tag at my back without causing damage to the lovely dress.

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