Jack Wolfe glanced at his watch as the chauffeur-driven car pulled up outside the Wolfe Apartments on Grosvenor Place.
Five past three in the morning. Terrific. Only eight hours late.
He rubbed grit-filled eyes as he dragged his stiff body out of the car.
His contact lenses were practically bonded to his eyeballs, and he hadn’t slept a wink on the plane. Normally he’d never take a commercial flight but, thanks to an engine problem with the Wolfe jet at JFK, he’d had to fit his six-foot-three-inch frame into a bed built for a skinny ten-year-old.
He checked his phone as he walked into the building and sent a half-hearted nod to the guy on the desk. He’d had no reply from Beatrice, but at least he’d managed to text her from JFK before he’d found another flight and postpone the dinner he’d had scheduled for last night. So she wouldn’t be waiting in his apartment.
He stepped into the private lift that would whisk him to his penthouse on the top floor of the building and frowned at the floor indicator. Weird he wasn’t more devastated about being forced to postpone tonight’s dinner date. Perhaps it was time he addressed why it had taken him so long to fit seducing his fiancée into his schedule.
He liked Beatrice, a lot. And, as soon as he’d begun dating her, he’d marked her out as a perfect candidate for his wife. As tall and beautiful as a supermodel, she had a slightly kooky and admirably non-confrontational temperament which meant they had never had a disagreement. She didn’t have a paying job, which meant there would be no conflicts of interest when it came to time management in their marriage—he was, after all, a workaholic.
And best of all, because of her father’s position and her aristocratic lineage, she had the class and the social connections he needed to finally break down the last of the barriers still closed to him in the City of London and, more importantly, on Smyth-Brown’s board—smoothing the way for the takeover he had been planning for years. So he could finally destroy the man who had destroyed his mother’s life.
There was just one problem in his arrangement with Beatrice, though.
Sex. Or, rather, the lack of it.
She’d been hesitant to become intimate at first but he’d been patient, especially after she’d accepted his proposal. There was no rush and there was a fragility about her which reminded him rather unfortunately of his mother.
There wasn’t much of a spark between them. But that hadn’t bothered him either. He was an experienced guy with a highly charged libido. He’d lost his virginity at fifteen to a woman twice his age—and he’d had a ton of practice since at satisfying women.
The only problem was, after building towards the moment when he would finally make Beatrice his, he really hadn’t been anticipating last night’s dinner as much as he’d expected—in fact, it had almost begun to seem like a chore. He’d never dated any woman for longer than a few months, so he had been planning to suggest that they conduct discreet affairs once their sexual relationship petered out. But he really hadn’t expected to feel quite so jaded before their sex life had even started.
His brow lowered further as the private lift glided to a stop on the fourteenth floor of the building. The bell pinged and the lift doors swished open. Thrusting his fingers through his hair, he stepped into the apartment’s palatial lobby area and dumped his luggage next to the hall table.
He was being ridiculous. Seducing his fiancée wouldn’t be a chore, it would be a pleasure, a pleasure which was long overdue. He was simply exhausted right now, and frustrated at the prospect of having to delay their first night together for another couple of days at least. He’d never had to be this patient before. Apparently there was such a thing as too much anticipation.
The ambient lighting gave the strikingly modern hall furniture a blue gleam, but he resisted the urge to request the main lighting be switched on. His eyeballs were so damn sore now, they felt like a couple of peeled grapes. No wonder he wasn’t in the mood to jump Beatrice or anyone else.
Dragging off his tie and shoving it into his pocket, he headed into the open-plan living area. Floor-to-ceiling windows looked out onto Wellington Arch and the faltering stream of traffic making its way around Hyde Park Corner and up Piccadilly, the dawn creeping up to illuminate Green Park.
Calm settled over him, as it always did when he had a chance to survey how far he’d come from the frightened feral kid he’d once been. He adored this view because it was a million miles away from where he’d started in a squalid, one-bedroom council flat on the other side of London, ducking to avoid his stepfather’s fists.
Rubbing his eyes, he walked deftly through the shadows towards his bedroom suite. He entered the bathroom from the hallway and finally managed to claw out his sticky lenses. He was all but blind without them and, after taking a shower in the dull light afforded by the bathroom mirror, he took the door into the bedroom.
Darkness was his friend, always had been, because he had once had to hide in the shadows.
Not any more.
The heady scent hit him as he closed the door to the steamy bathroom. Something spicy and seductive. Had Beatrice come into the bedroom before getting his message his flight had been delayed until tomorrow? When she’d never been in his bedroom before.
But it didn’t smell like Beatrice. She had an expensive vanilla scent. This scent was far more arousing. Fresh and earthy—it smelled like ripe apples and wildflowers on a summer day. A wave of heat pounded south and made him smile. Even if he was so shattered he was having scent hallucinations, the instant erection proved he wasn’t becoming a eunuch.
His groin continued to throb as he found the huge king-size bed in the darkness and dropped the towel from around his hips.
He climbed between the sheets, his exhaustion still playing tricks with his sense of smell. He closed his eyes, enjoying the deliciously erotic scent and the satisfying warmth in his crotch as his bones melted into the mattress. His mind plummeted into sleep and he found himself in a summer orchard, the ripe red apples heavy on the flowering fruit trees, the scent of earth and sunshine intensifying.
Warmth enveloped him. The sound of a light breeze through the orchard matched his breathing, deep and even, and impossibly sensual. The ache in his crotch throbbed. A sigh—soft, sweet, hot—rustled through the trees and stroked his chest and shoulder as he lay in the sun.
He stretched, turning into the electrifying caress, wanting, needing, more. His searching hands found silky hair, satin skin. He plunged his fingers into the vibrant mass and pressed his palm over velvet-covered curves, the tart apple freshness surrounding him in a cloud of need.
His arousal hardened and the vague thought shimmered through his mind that this would have been the best wet dream he had ever had… But why was his dream woman clothed? And what was she clothed in, he wondered, as his fingers encountered rigid ribbing. At last he found the plump curve of a breast through soft cotton, the nipple pebbling as he plucked it.
The last of the fatigue melted away, his appetite intensifying, energy sparking through his body like an electrical current as he began exploring sweet-scented flesh with his lips, his tongue, his teeth. He nipped and nibbled, kissed and sucked, locating a soft cheek, a tender earlobe, a graceful neck and a stubborn chin… Gasping breaths feathered his face, urging him on.
His mouth finally landed on full lips to capture shuddering moans as voracious and needy as his. Fingertips, firm and seeking, caressed the taught muscles of his abs, sending the electrical sparks deep into his groin. His hands sunk further into the mass of curls and the delicious apple scent became even richer. He held his angel’s head to take the kiss deeper, the summer sun warming his naked skin, shining off the plump red fruit and through the vivid green canopy overhead.
A wave of possessive hunger flowed through him as the stiff length of his arousal, so hard now he could probably pound nails with it, brushed more velvet. Was that a thigh? A belly? More damn clothing?
The earthy, erotic apple scent, the heady sobs and those caressing fingers ignited a firestorm that finally centred where he needed it the most.
‘Yes.’ He groaned. But then suddenly everything changed.
‘Wait… Stop…’ a groggy voice whispered close to his ear. Then snapped loudly, ‘Get off me.’
The panicked cry sliced through the sensual fog like a missile, hurtling him out of the summer orchard and back into the dark apartment. He yanked himself back in the darkness, letting go of the mass of curls, hideously aware the warm, soft, body of his dream woman had gone rigid and become far too real.
‘What the…?’ He growled, the pain in his groin nothing compared to the sickening, disorienting feeling clutching at his ribs. ‘Are you really here?’
‘Yes, of course I am!’ came the hissed reply. Palms flattened against his chest, probably to push him off, but he was already rolling away, brutally awake now, his head throbbing, the painful erection refusing to subside despite his shattered equilibrium.
A barrage of questions blasted into his muddled brain all at once.
Had he just molested a woman in his sleep? And what the hell was she doing in his bed? In his bedroom? At three in the morning? Because this definitely was not Beatrice.
A dark figure scrambled out of the bed and a switch clicked.
‘Argh!’ He swore viciously, as the sudden glare turned his eyes to fireballs.
He threw his arm over his face, to stop his retinas from being lasered off, and yanked up the sheet to cover the still throbbing erection. But not before he caught a blurry glimpse of wild russet hair and bold, abundant curves trussed up in a red and black outfit worthy of a lusty tavern wench in a gothic novel.
Was that a corset? Turning her cleavage into the eighth wonder of the world?
Horror and guilt gave way to shock and outrage as awareness continued to spit and pop over his skin like wildfire. Whatever she was wearing, it wasn’t doing a damn thing to calm the inferno still raging in his crotch.
‘Dim the lights,’ he demanded of the house’s smart tech system as his mind finally caught up with his cartwheeling emotions and his torched libido.
Was this some kind of a sick prank, or worse, an attempt at blackmail?
‘Who are you?’ he demanded as his temper gathered pace.
Whoever she was, it was not his fault he’d touched her. Kissed her. Caressed her… Good God, begged her to stroke him to orgasm… Shame washed over him and the erection finally began to soften.
He cut off the thought of what he’d almost done. He’d been virtually comatose. And he was the one who was naked. And he’d stopped the minute he’d woken up enough to figure out what was going on.
And this was his bed, in his place.
The lights dipped as requested, the only sound her laboured breathing and his thundering heartbeat as he slowly lowered his arm. He waited for his flaming eyeballs to adjust to the half-light. He couldn’t see her properly, his myopia turning her into a series of fuzzy, indistinct shapes. But somehow, even without being able to make out too many details, he could sense her vibrant, vivid beauty—not classy and fragile like Beatrice’s but raw and real and way too sensual. The earthy, spicy scent tinged with the ripe aroma of a summer orchard still permeated the room. Not a hallucination, then, but the smell of her.
Other memories flashed back to torment him. The feel of her lush curves—satin and silk against his fingertips—the taste of her still lingering on his tongue—heady and sweet and more addictive than a class A drug.
He thrust clumsy fingers through his hair.
‘What the hell are you doing hiding in my bed?’ he demanded when she didn’t speak, letting every ounce of his outrage and frustration vibrate though the words. ‘In the middle of the night…disguised as a Victorian hooker?’
‘I’m not dressed as a hooker. This is a Little Red Riding Hood outfit!’ The inane reply stumbled out of Katie’s mouth, her whole body still vibrating from the shock of Jack Wolfe’s touch. Firm, forceful, electrifying. Her mind still reeled from being catapulted out of heaven and into hell in one second flat.