by Elle Kennedy
Noelle frowned. Durand was one of the clients they hadn’t been able to get much intelligence on. All they’d managed to find was that he owned a major pharmaceutical company and was somewhat of a recluse. He rarely left his country estate, which might have seemed suspicious if not for the fact that the other five wild cards on their list were equally reclusive.
“Feel like crashing a party?” Jim arched his dark eyebrows at her.
“Why not?” she said with a shrug. “I’ll make some calls and see if I can get us in the proper way. Otherwise we’ll have to be creative.”
She tossed her long braid over her shoulder and headed for the door, only to stop when Jim said her name.
“What?” Irritable, she glanced over at him.
His eyes locked with hers.
And then he said, “Wanna fuck?”
A genuine laugh flew out, but it died in her throat when she saw the look on his face.
Noelle’s mouth fell open. “You’re serious.”
With a tired breath, he dragged a hand over his close-cropped hair before crossing his arms over his broad chest. “I figure it might benefit both of us if we just get it out of our systems.”
Noelle wasn’t speechless often, but at the moment, she couldn’t think of a solitary thing to say.
Her gaze stayed glued to Jim’s, while her brain sped through every implication, ran through every detail in order to determine whether this was a test. A trap. A joke.
Nothing about his expression or body language corroborated her suspicions. He just stood there watching her, waiting for a response. Cold and emotionless, like a damn robot.
Her gaze lowered to his groin. To the bulge beneath his pants, the proof of his arousal. Clearly he was as defeated by the physical attraction between them as she was, and that only made her angrier.
Gritting her teeth, she got up into his personal space and stared into his veiled blue eyes. “I don’t want this,” she snapped.
Only her hands were already fisted in the front of his shirt, pulling the material from his pants.
“Neither do I.” His voice was equally tense.
Her jaw tightened.
So did his.
“This won’t change how I feel about you,” he muttered.
“Never,” she muttered back.
There was a beat of silence. For a moment she thought he’d back down. Walk away, end the insanity.
For a moment she nearly walked away. Ended the insanity.
But then their eyes collided again.
And the knot of awareness sizzling between them detonated the air and unleashed a firestorm.
Noelle gasped as she suddenly found herself up against the dresser. Jim thrust his thigh between her legs and ground against her, so violently the dresser shook and smacked the wall, and the decorative candles sitting on the chest of drawers clattered to the hardwood. The glass candleholders shattered, sharp pieces littering the floor beneath their feet, but Noelle paid them no attention.
She yanked his shirt over his head, leaving his chest bare to her touch, his skin prey to her fingernails as she gouged them into his sinewy back. He jerked from the assault, growling with pain, and then his mouth came crashing down on her neck and sharp teeth sank into her flesh.
Noelle flinched from the sting, but she didn’t slap his head away. She simply raked her nails down his back, so hard she knew she’d drawn blood.
“Fucking hell,” Jim rasped, his voice tinged with anger and thick with passion.
His mouth closed in on hers, but she wrenched her head to the side at the last second, denying him her lips.
The rejection didn’t faze him. He simply kissed her everywhere but on her mouth. Her jaw, her earlobes, the column of her throat. Those wicked lips devoured every available inch of skin, and when he’d run out of exposed places, he stripped off her clothes and hauled her naked body into his arms.
Noelle swore when he unceremoniously dumped her on the bed, but the curse turned into a greedy moan when the wet heat of his mouth surrounded her nipple. He sucked hard, the pressure so intense that her hips shot off the bed.
“This. Changes. Nothing.” He squeezed out the words even as he feasted on her breasts, his breath warming her already feverish skin.
“Nothing,” she retorted in angry, breathless agreement.
He pushed her breasts together and flicked his tongue over her nipples, alternating between each one, licking and sucking and tormenting her with his lips.
God, she didn’t want to feel any pleasure. She didn’t want to bring him pleasure, yet she couldn’t stop herself from unzipping his pants. From shoving her hand inside his boxer-briefs and wrapping her fist around his shaft. His cock was massive, as long and thick as she remembered, and harder than steel.
She gave it a lazy stroke, and the groan that escaped his lips was like a knife to the chest. When she pumped him faster and saw the fiery lust in his eyes, she fought a wave of self-loathing.
“I hate you,” she whispered.
Jim snaked his hand between her legs. “Hate me all you want, baby.”
Then he pushed one long finger inside her sopping wet channel and she moaned so loudly that everyone in a five-mile radius must have heard her.
Jim let out a dark, satisfied laugh. “You like that?”
“Go to hell,” she spat out. “Just go to hell and fuck me already.”
He shoved his pants and boxers down his trim hips, using only one hand because his other one was busy cupping her breast, squeezing to the point of pain.
Noelle lay there on her back, her heart pounding, her gaze eating up Jim’s magnificent chest and washboard abs. And his cock. He was hung like a stallion, so big and hard that her mouth watered and her core clenched with anticipation.
She spread her legs wider, her lips forming a smirk when she saw the flare of heat in his eyes.
“You like that?” she mocked.
He didn’t answer. Just whipped his clothing aside, covered her with his heavy naked body, and drove his cock inside her.
The penetration was deep and unexpected, summoning a wild cry from both their throats.
Son of a bitch. Fuck. Hell. Shit.
She’d hoped it would be different.
Prayed if they ever slept together again, that feeling of completion would have vanished.
But they still fit together so goddamn perfectly and it made her want to scream. It brought the sting of tears to her eyes, the crushing, hopeless realization that she might never be free of this man.
She shut her eyes, hoping that if she didn’t see his face, she might be able to pretend he was someone else, anyone else, but Jim forcibly grabbed her chin and hissed in disapproval.
“Open your eyes, Noelle,” he commanded. “I want you to look at me while I fuck you.”
When she didn’t obey, he curled his fingers around her thick braid and yanked hard. “Look. At. Me.”
Anger jolted through her, but not enough to stop the encounter, and not nearly enough to quell the electric shocks of pleasure crackling in her system. She reluctantly opened her eyes, and a gleam of triumph joined the inferno of need lighting Jim’s gaze.
“Now wrap your legs around my ass,” he said thickly.
Her legs followed his order of their own volition, deepening the contact between them.
Jim drew his hips back, then plunged in again. He set a brutal rhythm. Hard, fast, and deep. So goddamn deep.
And Noelle’s body betrayed her. Her pelvis rose off the mattress to meet each punishing thrust; her fingers dug into his shoulders; her inner muscles bore down on his cock to intensify the friction.
She’d never felt more helpless in her life, and she would have been more furious about it, if Jim’s expression hadn’t revealed that same powerless emotion.
“Why...How is it still
so...” He trailed off with a groan, then snaked his hands under her ass and lifted her up so he could drive his cock even deeper.
His desperation fascinated her. He was coming undone right in front of her. The cords of muscle in his neck popped out from the strain. His warm, male flesh took on a sheen of sweat. The pistoning of his hips grew erratic, frenzied.
The mattress squeaked in protest and the headboard whacked against the wall, but Jim didn’t slow down. Didn’t show mercy. He pummeled into her, over and over again, flesh slapping flesh, his slick chest crushing her breasts.
Noelle couldn’t breathe. She felt the telltale signs of orgasm tingling in her core, but coming felt like another betrayal. If she let this man bring her to climax, that was something she’d never be able to undo. It would be a permanent show of weakness.
“I know you’re close,” he taunted. “I can feel your pussy throbbing around my cock.”
She inhaled deeply, hoping to curb the impending orgasm, but all she succeeded in doing was breathing in his addictive scent, which only sent another jolt of desire straight to her core.
“You don’t get to avoid this, Noelle,” he said hoarsely. “If I come, then you come.”
She clamped her teeth over her lower lip, fighting the rising waves of release, desperately trying to stop that coil of pressure from blowing apart.
“Damn it, come,” Jim ground out.
Then he stole her choice in the matter by shoving his hand to where their bodies were joined and pressing his thumb directly on her clit.
And Noelle exploded.
“That’s it, baby,” he muttered. “There you go.”
A cry flew out of her mouth as the orgasm ripped through her body. Wave after wave of pleasure crashed into her, tingling in her breasts, pounding in her core. Her body shook so hard she had no option but to cling to Jim’s broad shoulders. If she hadn’t been lying down, she would have toppled right over, and she hated him for having this power over her.
Except...well, she had the same power over him, a realization that became evident as she caught her breath and watched him orgasm. His powerful body shuddered from the force of it and the surrender in his eyes was both thrilling and terrifying. He went still, his cock jerking inside her, flooding her channel with hot jets of release. That was when another dose of comprehension dawned on her.
No condom. Damn it. She’d just realized it now, but she wasn’t worried about pregnancy or diseases. One, she was on the pill, and two, she knew without a doubt that Jim was clean as a whistle—and not just because she’d been spying on him for years and had gotten her hands on all his medical reports. Jim Morgan considered himself a man of honor; she knew he’d never keep something as important as a sexually transmitted disease from the woman in his bed.
With a low groan, he withdrew from her core and rolled onto his back. Crooked his arm and rested it on his forehead, almost as if he were trying to shield himself from her view.
Noelle stared up at the ceiling and waited for her heartbeat to regulate. Her thighs were sticky, her sex still throbbing from the mind-shattering orgasm.
It took a while to find her voice, and once she did, it came out as dejected as ever. “Did this get me out of your system?”
He didn’t speak for one long beat, until finally he muttered, “No.” Another pause. “Did it get me out of yours?”
She kept her gaze on the ceiling. “No.”
The mattress shifted as Jim sat up. He didn’t try to touch her. Didn’t try to kiss her. He simply slid off the bed and stood at the foot of it, still naked, still impressively erect.
After a moment, Noelle shifted her head and looked at him.
He looked back, his cheeks hollowing as his stubble-covered jaw went rigid. “Then I guess we’ll just have to try again later.”
The encounter with Jim left Noelle shaken and confused. The second their clothes were back on, she’d retreated to the master bedroom, where she’d remained all day to avoid any further interaction with him.
As much as it annoyed her, it was impossible to deny that the sex had been explosive. Violent and terrifying and passionate to a degree she hadn’t anticipated. Not only that, but she knew it would happen again. She wasn’t fooling herself into believing it was a onetime deal, but she had every intention of gaining the upper hand next time. Oh no. Next time she wouldn’t lie there gasping and writhing beneath him. She would be in charge.
But first, they needed to investigate Maurice Durand, which meant banishing all thoughts of sex, and perfecting her party face.
She’d put painstaking effort into her appearance. Her black Esteban Cortázar gown was elegant enough to blend in among the corporate folks attending Durand’s event, and the neckline was low enough that it provided plenty of cleavage to keep Jim’s gaze on her breasts. She wanted him hot and needy tonight, so that the next time they came together, he’d be the one lying there in a panting puddle of mindless need.
“You ready?” Jim opened the door without knocking and strode into the bedroom.
She opened her mouth to scold him for his rudeness, but it snapped shut when she noticed his appearance. A designer tuxedo was molded to his muscular frame, the slim fit emphasizing his long legs and broad shoulders. It was all black, from the wool-blend jacket to the crisp shirt beneath it. A silk tie and patent leather dress shoes finished it off, and with his clean-shaven jaw and cropped dark hair, he looked suave as hell and sexier than sin.
It took a second to recover from the sight of him, and his slight smirk confirmed that he knew she’d been checking him out.
Noelle quickly pasted on an indifferent look. “Dolce and Gabbana?”
“You keep a tux in your travel bag just in case?”
He ignored the question. “Are you ready or what?”
“Just one more sec.”
She lifted the bottom of her dress, slipped her bare feet into a pair of sexy Louboutin heels with red-lacquered soles, then strode toward him.
He didn’t compliment her as they left the bedroom together. Didn’t comment on her dress, her fuck-me shoes, her sweeping updo. And not even a single remark about her smoky eye makeup and the uncharacteristic red lipstick she wore.
She would have been insulted, except the hard set of his mouth and the way he painfully avoided looking at her were more telling than any compliment he could give her. Yep, her outfit was definitely having the desired effect.
Her heels clicked on the hardwood floor on the way to the private elevator that led to the garage. In the front parlor, she collected her black satin clutch from the credenza, but didn’t bother with the coat closet. It was too humid out for a coat, which she’d discovered when she’d had a cigarette on her private terrace earlier. Normally she adored summer in Paris, but it was hard to enjoy it when Jim was around. His presence meant she was forever on guard and therefore unable to appreciate even the simplest things like a sultry summer night.
“How many weapons do you have stashed under that dress?” he asked after they stepped into the elevator.
She shrugged. “Enough.”
His lips twitched ever so slightly, but she didn’t know whether it was from irritation or amusement. “Anticipating trouble?”
“Always. But I think this is going to be a pretty tame evening. As long as the real Eloise Lambert doesn’t show up, we’ll be fine.”
“You sure Lambert is taken care of?”
“If Bailey does her job, then yes.”
Noelle had to chuckle as she thought about her phone call with her prized chameleon. Other operatives might question a last-minute assignment that entailed impersonating a federal officer and detaining an innocent French executive for hours on end, but the request hadn’t fazed Bailey in the slightest.
“Did you have to pull your girl off another job?”
Noelle shook her head. “She was already in the city. She’s got some downtime before the next assignment.”
“And she’s capable of keeping Lambert away from the party?”
“Bailey is more than capable. Trust me. Eloise Lambert is about to have a real shitty evening.”
“Let me guess. You don’t feel at all bad about that.”
Exasperation washed over her. “Why should I? Bailey keeps the woman occupied, and we get to use her invite and stroll into the party without any trouble. Which, by the way, we wouldn’t have to do if it weren’t for the target on your back, remember?”
He didn’t look thrilled by the reminder, but he didn’t argue either.
The elevator doors slid open and they entered the spacious garage, where Noelle’s car and driver awaited.
• • •
Maurice Durand’s estate was forty-five minutes outside of the city, a fifty-acre property enclosed by a tall stone fence that ensured privacy. Frédéric drove through the imposing wrought-iron gateway, then continued along a winding driveway bordered on one side by majestic oaks and a cluster of olive trees that must have been transplanted from the south of France, because Noelle had never seen them growing in the north before.
When they reached the end of the driveway, even she had to raise her eyebrows. The main house was spectacular—three stories high with a stone and stucco facade, featuring multiple peaked gables and an arched front entryway with massive French doors and round stone columns.
“Nice digs,” Jim remarked.
The back door opened courtesy of Frédéric, and Noelle slid out of the car with ease, her heels connecting with the paved driveway. Jim stepped out next, his shrewd gaze taking in their surroundings with military precision.
She blinked in surprise when he offered her his arm. After a beat, she tucked her hand in the crook of his arm and allowed him to lead her toward the pillared entrance. They climbed the stone steps, then paused to greet the bulky suit-clad attendant with a clipboard in his hand.