12/29/2007

Chapter 99

Jon tried desperately to get his synapses firing again, but it was difficult when all brain power was let loose below the belt. Tessa had always been a knockout. In fact, her seemingly endless collection of boots and tight pants left him with more than one sleepless night, but this…

Copper shimmered from the thinnest of straps and bloomed out in a slim panel of gathered material that seemed to have been created for her body. It curved around her breast and left a whole lot more skin showing than he would have liked, but his currently bloodless head didn’t have a lot of say in things. Nor could he deny the innate power that had been infused within her as she smiled at him, knowing that she was killing him slowly.

She shifted and turned for him and his breath halted as her milky white skin glowed. From the natural sway of her unencumbered breast that looked as if it would flip out of its perfectly nestled cup to the silky shimmer of her shoulders in the same unearthly hue, it all begged for his touch.

The rest of the material hugged every curve as it skimmed down her flat tummy and dropped away from the gentle flare of her hips. The copper fell into a straight column of liquid darks and lights as she walked toward him.

It was then that he noticed the steep slit as a perfect thigh pierced the molten material and followed the trail down a shapely knee and calf, ending in four inch stilettos that matched the dress in every way.

His eyes traveled back up the staggering length of her and his eyes, body and blood heated at the plunging neckline that enhanced her perfectly shaped breasts just as she turned, showing off her back that was equally awe inspiring. The copper crisscrossed in a dizzying latticework of iridescent skin and stunningly elegant design. It dropped low on her back, hugging the heart shaped ass he couldn’t tear his eyes from.

“Sweet Fuck,” Jon said with a hoarse groan.

Tessa’s head swiveled as she looked over her shoulder. “Daria said it would kill you.”

Jon swallowed with a bit more difficulty than he’d like to admit and glanced at the woman standing next to Tessa. “I’ll take a standing appointment for every New Year’s Eve as long as you’re working for the spa.”

Le gave a demure smile. “Thank you, sir.” She bowed her head slightly. “Good-bye Tessa Donovan. Thank you for a most inspiring day. My job is worth all the work when I see a man such as Mr. Bon Jovi’s reaction to the end product. Enjoy your party.”

Tessa rushed after Le as she showed her to the door and Jon took a minute to recover. Part of him wanted his old Tessa. He didn’t want to share this goddess with the red carpet and a roomful of people he barely knew. He wanted to lock her in here and find out just how those ties opened along her back, or just how easy it would be to untuck her breasts from their gilded perch.

He closed his eyes as her slim hand rested on his shoulder, her nails curling through his hair at the base of his neck. “I’m not sure you should be touching me right now,” he said roughly.

Tessa slid her hand down his shoulder and curled around his waist and pressed herself along his back. “And why is that?”

Sucking back a groan at the press of her breasts on his back he forced himself to go very still. “You’re too lovely to touch.”

She scooted around him and laid a hand on his chest. “I’ll never be too anything for that to happen, let alone the lovely part." She held up a hand when he started to protest. Her hand smoothed over his t-shirt, "You make me feel lovely. You make me want to do all this ridiculous ritualistic stuff to make you proud.”

“None of that stuff matters to me, but believe me it's going to be all eyes on you tonight. I'll be second fiddle on the red carpet.”

She laughed, “Sweet talker.” She lifted her finger to his bottom lip and traced it. “I’m completely touchable. In fact, everything Le did to me today makes me even more touchable.”

She lifted his hand, uncurling his tightly fisted fingers and placed them on her shoulder. “She did something called polishing. I think she described it as scrubbing every last dry skin cell off of me. Whatever she did, it made me feel softer than I’ve ever felt.”

Jon closed his eyes as the supple glossiness of her skin made his entire body come to instant and complete alert. She drew his hand down to meet her fingers as she laced them together then coasted them both up the front of the dress.

“Daria said the dress was a perfect fit,” she brushed his knuckles along the tips of her breasts. “It feels like I’m wearing nothing," She smiled and let her voice drop lower, "At all.”


Jon leaned in, forgetting that she was all made up, but Tessa drew back and he went for her neck instead. Her scent was pears, as always, but there was a hint of something else…something spicy and exotic. The sleek line of her hair tickled his nose as he drew her in. Lost in her touch and her scent, he let his fingers linger along her back.

The tips of his fingers slid along the checkerboard of sinfully soft skin at her lower back and up into the cool cap of hair that sifted so perfectly around his hand, teasing his wrists. “You make me insane,” he murmured against her throat and sipped from her again.

She shivered once then both hands flattened against his chest. “We are never going to leave this hotel if you don’t stop that.”

He pulled back, smiling wide. “No way, we need to get out there and show people exactly how gorgeous my…” he hated to use the word girlfriend, but that’s pretty much what she was. The undeniable other half of himself just seemed so pale in comparison when you left the definition as girlfriend. "Other half," he finished with only a moment's hesitation.

He leaned in and kissed her every so lightly on the mouth. “I’ll be right back.” He gathered his suit and hung it on the door, unzipping the garment bag to let the steam ease out the wrinkles that had come with the drive. Needing the few minutes to get himself back together he lingered a little longer in the shower than he normally would.

He wasn’t worried about how Tessa would act in the public eye, but he was a little worried about how she would react to the public. Unforgiving and cruel were the paparazzi’s motto. He just hoped her first real foray into the world of celebrity didn’t turn her off.

~

Twenty minutes later Jon led her to the elevator with a sleek black jacket shielding her amazing body from the elements. It didn’t stop the onlookers from lingering on her ethereal skin and elegant neck as they made their way to the private car he had waiting for them.

He’d given his regular driver the night off after he’d dropped off Tessa. Henry was a family man when he wasn’t playing stoic bodyguard/driver. The man taking care of them tonight already knew their destination so the privacy guard screen stayed up through the drive.

He tucked her into the curve of his body, but the closer they got to their destination, the quieter she got. He tried not to say anything, knowing this was going to be difficult for her. Even in the best of circumstances it was tough to make that first step on paparazzi row. He’d contemplated taking her out into the city first, to dinner, to a show, a premier, but in the end it just seemed like it was just best to get it over with.

Maybe he was testing the waters. It was a shitty thought, but seriously he just wasn’t sure what he was getting into when it came to the public. He’d been pigeon holed as the perfect family man for so long that he wasn’t sure how the public would react with a new woman on his arm.

Her foot started to wiggle as they rounded the corner and got into the lineup of cars that were doing their dropoffs. He laid his hand on her knee. “Relax,” he said quietly.

She didn’t look at him, just out the window. “Easy for you to say.”

“It’s one aspect of my life that I find a necessary evil. I don’t need the constant barrage of paparazzi in my life, but there are certain times where I need to make an appearance.”

“I know,” she said quietly.

Jon turned in his seat to meet her gaze. “I’m used to doing these things on my own if it’s not for you.”

“I’ll get used to it,” she said absently.

Knowing it was silly to take anything from that, he relaxed back against the seat. He hadn’t even been aware he was holding in a few nerves of his own. He’d grown so used to Dorothea’s company line, as it were, that it was his spotlight, not hers. She’d been content, even adamant about staying in the background. He had to drag her to any and all functions, and she wasn’t shy about letting him know she was only doing it out of obligation.

Their turn came, and the door swung open. Jon stepped out first, then held his hand out for her. “Ready?”

12/08/2007

Chapter 98

Tessa twisted the watch on her wrist and swore. She had fifteen minutes to get down to her appointment. She patted her purse and found the keycard for the room on the table at the door and her schedule of spa services. She could say one thing for the staff at the Mandarin, they sure were efficient.

She left the rest of her things and read through her designated stops as she headed to the elevator. She reached for the down button and missed when she saw the six things listed for her.

Pitta Pacifier which included a slew of herbs and oils she didn’t even understand, but the word ‘pitta’ instantly left a smile. PITA came to mind immediately. She wondered if he did it on purpose, or it was just a coincidence.

Knowing Jon, it was probably on purpose. She continued to read as it described how this treatment was perfect for busy minds and the cooling, calming elements would sate the over-active mind.

The man knew her way too well.

The next part explained all the other things that her body would go through.

“What the hell?” she murmured to herself. She flipped the page as each paragraph went on to explain just how many ways they would glaze, buff and polish her. Do I need this much help?

She stepped back into the gilded elevator and pushed the correct floor button and skimmed through descriptions that probably took longer to read than it did to do. Sweet Christ, what the hell was skin brushing?

Tranquil soft blues and muted light met her as the doors opened. A young woman of Asian descent met her at the desk. “Welcome,” she said in a soft, cultured voice.

Tessa gave her a tight smile. “I have an appointment,” she began.

“Yes, Miss Donovan, I will be taking care of you.”

Her eyebrow rose. How the hell did they know her name?

“Mr. Bon Jovi took care of all your appointments and gave us a description.” Her serene face softened and her light brown eyes sparkled. “Your man loves you deeply. Let us show him just how rewarding a spa treatment can be for him as well as you.”

Her fingers relaxed their grip on her purse as nerves began to even out. The glint of teasing in the woman’s eyes was exactly what she needed. It was as if the woman knew that. “I’m in your capable hands…” she let her words trail off.

“My name is Le and we are going to enjoy the afternoon together.” She held an arm open in welcome. “We pride ourselves on bringing elegance and harmony together. But I think we will work mostly on harmony for you.”

“Hopeless case on the elegance, huh?” Tessa laughed.

“Quite the opposite,” she said with a smile. “Poise and elegance come naturally to you; it’s the inner harmony that we shall find today.” Le’s eyes met hers and the serenity that seemed to flow out of her put her at ease. “I see that harmony is important to you as well.”

”With a man like Jon in my life, what do you think?”

A twinkle surfaced. “I think you are very lucky.” She quickly schooled her features. “But a man like this will also be draining. You must learn how to shore up your strengths to find happiness.”

“If a day’s spa treatment gives me that, then sign me up.”

They both laughed as Le led her to a soft room, full of more tranquil colors and an underlying scent of jasmine. “I only have one request,” Tessa said.

“Yes?”

“Can I keep my scent among the ones you use?”

Le stepped closer and sniffed lightly. “Ahh, pears. It’s a good scent, strong and very much you. I agree. There will be other scents and oils that will enhance your signature fragrance, but I will keep the soft and fresh scent as your base.”

Tessa smiled and followed her down a corridor. Le opened a door and motioned to the robe in soft cotton and the terry slippers. “I’ll be right back.”

Forcing her fingers and her shoulders to relax she stripped and shrugged the robe on. Cotton wasn’t even close to what it was. A sort of micro fiber material that felt like cashmere hugged her body leaving her breathless. She hung up her clothes in the small closet that was like a high brow locker.

A discreet knock signaled Le’s return. “Miss Donovan?”

Tessa opened the door. “Since you and your people are going to have their hands all over me, I think Tessa is appropriate.”

“Well Miss Tessa, we’re going to start with a steam to open your pores and begin the path to harmony.”

Trying not to laugh out loud, Tessa followed her. It was hard to equate all the soft harmony with her rather stressed self, but she was willing to give it a go. Twenty minutes later she was thoroughly won over.

The steam room was diffused with soft light bouncing off the amber shells that made up the structure. It had taken awhile to get over the naked thing, but she had stretched out on a bench and finally got into the spirit of things.

From steaming she moved onto the massage and the deep tissue rub that went from hair to foot. She had to admit, the head massage was as close to nirvana as she’d ever experienced.

The facial, was a bit daunting, as was the goop, and polish that made up the rest of her experience. The body buff left her more aware of her own body than she’d ever been before. The oils left her feeling tingly and nearly buzzy with oversensitivity.

“The oils we used will make you a little more aware.”

“You think?”

Le laughed, “It’s nothing you should worry about. When we talked about your Jon and your evening, I knew this was the right thing. Every touch will accentuate the harmony between you.”

“Sister, we don’t need any help there.”

Le smiled a secret smile that made her nervous. “Most assuredly, Tessa, everyone needs a little help there.” She handed her a tin. “Use this tonight. When you told me about your dress, I knew this would be my gift to you.”

Tessa opened it and the shimmery power tightened all her relaxed muscles in anticipation. It would make her skin glow even more than it did now. She was going to kill Jon.

“Now, the last thing I’m going to do is your make-up.”

Surprised, she looked up. “I didn’t know that was part of the package.”

“It’s not, but it is my specialty.” She led her to a chair off in a small room. “The spa doesn’t offer these services, but it’s a special night and I want to.”

Tessa hopped into the chair. “Hey, I’m game. I trust you at this point.”

Le’s light eyes warmed with pleasure. “We will make every woman envy you tonight.”

Laughing, she tucked her purse under the table. “I don’t think envy has any place with harmony, Le.”

Her pink glossed lips peeled back in a smile that had nothing to do with serenity. “Harmony’s over, girlfriend. I’m going to make that man eat his tongue.”

“Oh yeah,” Tessa said and swung the chair around to the mirror.

Le turned her back around. “Surprise.”

She sighed. “Alright, alright. All the other surprises were pretty damn wonderful. We only have half an hour, so do what you can.”

She was quiet as she softly penciled, brushed, stroked and patted with the series of pots and arsenal of cosmetics. Would she knock Jon’s socks off tonight? She’d chosen the strappy dress and…hell, she needed help with that. “When do you get off tonight, Le?”

“You are my last client. We are closing early for the holiday.”

“I hate to impose, but do you think you could help me with my dress? I was going to have my best friend help me, but then Jon sprung this Spa thing on me.”

Le’s eyes sparkled. “I would love to.”

She mentally told herself to write a letter to her superiors. This woman knew exactly what to do to keep her calm and was going above and beyond in service. Just maybe she would make it through her evening. God help her on that damn red carpet.

Finally Le stood back and gave a firm nod. “Perfect.” She spun the chair with a satisfied smirk. “What do you think?”

“Holy-“ Tessa stared at herself in the mirror. Her last regular treatment had been hair, and even that had shocked her, but together? Jesus. Her hair was cut back into her new style, though this salon boasted a better interpretation. The bob was nearly severe, as the fall of her hair had been blown and polished until it the sheen of silk could do nothing but fall exactly where Colleen had put it. A bare inch below her chin it framed her face.

Whatever magic that was in Le’s capable hands showed. Her eyes shimmered with dark browns, coppery highlights and smudgy eye-liner. Her lashes even looked longer as she’d tipped them with the same shimmering powder she’d tucked into her purse.

Her lips were a few shades darker than her natural state. Le handed her a lipstick. “Here you go, this is all you should need.”

“Can I take you home with me?”

Le laughed. “You look amazing, but I had excellent bones to work with.” She unsnapped the small cape she’d put on. “Let’s go get that dress on.”

They chit chatted in the elevator about the party she was going to. Even Le couldn’t believe the fact that her first time on Jon’s arm was going to be at Elton John’s party. “You know, my sister works for the salon that he goes into when he’s here in New York.”

Tessa leaned in. “He really is a Diva, right?”

Le looked down. “We are not permitted to talk of customers.”

She winced. God, she looked like a gossipy little tart. “I’m sorry, Le.”

Le laughed, “More like a Prima Donna.”

She giggled with her and they chattered their way to the room. When she kept going toward the end of the floor Le’s eyes got very wide. “I have to tell you, I secretly love this room.”

“No secret for me darlin’. I love this room!” She unlocked the room and pushed the door open. Full dark had come while she’d wiled her day away in the spa. The skyline was even more beautiful with the lights of the harbor and the city vying for attention.

Her cell phone buzzed on the table. Snatching it up she smiled at the name, Frank, on the face. “Hey,” she said softly.

“Hey babe,” his voice was a little tinny.

“Where are you?”

Lincoln Tunnel. I’ll be there in about twenty minutes.”

Shit! Twenty minutes? She looked at her watch and swore, then dug it out of her jeans. “You’re early.”

“Thought I’d help you with your zippers.”

“No way, I’m coiffed to the nth power. No way are you touching me until we get to the party.”

“Awww c’mon.”

“You can do whatever you want to me after the red carpet.”

“Anything?” his voice warmed.

“Anything.”

His voice started to crackle. “Okay I’m going to lose my signal, I’ll see you in a bit. Lov-“ and he was gone.

“Love you too,” she said to the dead phone.

“Okay we gotta hurry.”

“Well, let’s see the dress.”

Fifteen minutes later she was poured into the dress and Le was armed with her fluffy brush again. She sprinkled a liberal dose of her dust down the front of her.

“Do you think I need this much?”

Le smirked, and her eyes widened at the knock on the door. “He’s here now?”

“Looks like it’s your lucky day, Le, you get to meet Jon.” And she grinned as the serene, unruffled woman started fluttering and mumbling in Japanese. She knew exactly how she felt.

The door opened and Jon hung up his travel bag in the closet. “Hey babe, I hope you’re done wit-“ he came to a dead stop when he got a look at her.

“Jon this is, Le. She’s my miracle worker.”

Le vibrated next to her as her head bowed low. “Nice to meet you Mr. Bon Jovi.”

“Wha?” Jon blinked, looked at Le then back at Tessa, then back at Le. “Um…Hi.”

Tessa’s grin broadened.

11/25/2007

Chapter 97

She woke to the butterfly soft press of lips next to her belly button. She smiled. “Saying good morning to my ladybug?”

She felt the soft puff of air before she heard his laugh. “Why yes, I am.” He crawled up the bed and dropped a quick kiss on her lips, “Ready for the star treatment today?”

She winced. “I really don’t need a Spa-“

He cut her off by squeezing her lips together. “The least I can do is make you feel like a million bucks for half the day. It’s going to be a long night of dancing and schmoozing.”

She gave him the raspberries and tugged his hand away. “I don’t think I should leave Nic alone all day.”

“Honey, treat yourself for one day. You’ve been working like crazy for weeks before Christmas and now after-“

“I know, but that’s my job,” she interrupted.

“And if you keep it up, you’re going to burn out. Just take the day and relax.”

“Pot, kettle,” she muttered. He only snorted and settled her against him. With a reluctant sigh she let herself rest her cheek on his chest. Scoring her fingernails lightly through his hair and down around the rigid muscles of his pec she kissed the center.

“Besides, the Red Carpet is calling our name tonight. Even I’m getting a hair cut.”

She propped her chin on her hands. “Oh really?”

He winced and pushed his hair out of his face. “I’m feeling the need for change soon.”

She leaned up and nipped his chin, enjoying the rasp of beard along her lips. “Oh yeah? Am I hitting the social scene with my blonde hunk tonight?”

He rolled them until she was underneath him. “We’ll see.”

She laughed and wriggled out from underneath him. “I need to grab a shower.”

“Nah, don’t bother, they’re going to dunk you.”

She shoved him off and let out a little shriek when he snatched her off her feet and flat on her back again. “They do not need me to come in there reeking of sex.”

He dug his bristly jaw into her neck until giggles bubbled up. “I want you to have fun today. Let them pamper you, okay?”

“Okay, okay.” She smoothed a twisted lock of flyaway blonde hair away from his face. His eyes were earnest and even a touch worried. “I promise. I’ll let the crazy people in the overpriced salon take me apart and put me back together.”

“Thank you.”

She rolled her eyes, “I still think it’s excessive.”

“The thing about making a woman feel good is…it’s never excessive.”

“Well hell,” all the fight and the teasing melted away. “Do you work at being amazing? Or is it just a natural gift?”

He winked, “It’s a gift.”

And just like that, he could make her laugh. “Get off me.”

“C’mon that was so good I deserve at least a kiss.”

“Is that right?”

“Oh yeah,” he said, his clear blue eyes twinkling.

She slid her hands under his arms, letting her fingertips coast over the muscles of his back and up to his shoulders. She lifted her mouth, stroking her tongue over the little curl that happened to his lips when he teased her. “A kiss huh,” she breathed.

Instead of answering her, he fastened his mouth to hers and they fell into a sweet, long and lingering kiss. She started out in control but found herself falling all over again, enjoying him just for the sake of it, loving him for all those little, yet infinitely important reasons.

He rolled his hips against her and groaned against her mouth. “What time’s the appointment?”

“Nine-thirty.”

He glanced at the clock and groaned.

“Hey you made the appointment, buddy.”

He rolled off her. “Go take that shower before I forget myself again.”

She sat up, pushing her hair out of her eyes. She leaned over him, letting the silky soft skin of her breast linger on his hair roughened chest. “Wouldn’t want that, would we?”

“That’s it!” He tucked his shoulder down and lifted her over his shoulder.

“Jon! Put me down!”

“You are a danger to society woman. How is any man supposed to resist you?”

She let her arms dangle down and she slapped his oh so perfectly sculpted butt. “Give it a try, Caveman.”

~

Twenty minutes later she still smelled like sex, but it least it was slightly masked by soap and shampoo. She didn’t bother doing any more than blow drying her hair and brushing her teeth. A little gloss and she was good enough to make her way into one of the high brow spa’s in the city.

She didn’t bother arguing, just took Henry for the morning and promised Jon she’d be ready for him by seven. She had to admit that it was a little daunting to think about surrendering her body to a bunch of licensed cosmetologists for a day, but she was determined to enjoy herself. This was a once in a lifetime kind of deal, and he’d surprised her when he’d booked them into the Mandarin Oriental in the city.

She’d heard plenty of rumors that he was a Four Seasons kind of guy. But as the driver got closer to the city, she began to realize why he went for a locale that people wouldn’t expect from him. The streets were crawling with people. Some headed for the Times Square experience and some for the legion of parties that New York City would host on this night.

They turned off the main street and off on a side street. Her eyebrow rose as they passed buildings that all looked the same. The city was an ever changing surprise for her, but her breath caught as the Mercedes pulled up to a round-about and a park rose out of the center. It was decked out in all its Christmas finery still, and the fountains had been dialed back to a slow trickle. Glass and steel rose from the ground and just kept going.

“I thought we were going to the Mandarin?”

“It’s part of the Time Warner Center, Miss,” Henry said with his usual coolness.

Trying not to feel stupid she sat up straighter and tried not to gawk at the unbelievable structure. They pulled around the circle and finally stopped before a wall of windows with the Mandarin Oriental Flag waving in the brisk December wind. It’s well known golden fan on the Chinese red background was the only clue to the hotel’s whereabouts.

Henry pulled up and a doorman opened her car door. Suddenly her jeans and sweater felt awfully gauche in response to the Time Warner Center’s chic building. Henry gathered her things without a word and held out a garment bag and travel case to the doorman who passed it off smoothly to a bellhop.

She turned, but Henry was already climbing back into the car and barely tipped his hat at her. Straightening her shoulders she followed the red coat of the bellhop to the wall of elevators. They took an express elevator that bore the Mandarin fan yet again and she watched the lights flick until the car stopped with a quiet rocking, ping on the thirty-fifth floor.

Marble and soft lights met her as she walked into the lobby. The bellhop motioned for her to walk ahead as he quietly led her to the black marble desk. Her boots clicked on another circular pattern of more marble in a swirl of jade green and white. A huge oriental rug in muted reds and roses was cut only by the most amazing abstract glass sculpture she’d ever seen up close. It was lit from the inside and gave the feeling of elegance through the fluted length of swan-like necks.

She breathed a little more easily when she saw another couple checking in, decked out in clothing similar to hers. Though she was fairly certain the woman’s sweater set was probably Saks to her Macy’s but it was still a sweater.

The woman at the desk smiled at her then the bellhop. “Hello, may I help you?”

She had to give the woman props for the lack of a sneer. Her face held and utter calm that spoke of rigid training. Tessa rested her hands on the cool marble and smiled back. “Tessa Donovan, checking in,” she said a little more breathlessly than she would have liked.

The woman nodded, and the barest flicker of surprise flashed through her dark eyes before she tapped a few keys on her silent keyboard. “Yes, I see a reservation here for the Spa for a half day and then a room?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Very good then,” she turned to the bellhop. “George, she’ll be in the Hudson River room.”

He nodded and went back to the elegant elevator. She followed him, noticing that the bellhop was given the key, not her. Totally unaccustomed to people doing things for her, she felt out of place and nervy.

“It’s a lovely room, Miss.”

She smiled as he finally engaged in a bit of small talk. “I wouldn’t expect any less from a place like this.”

“It’s got a view that will take your breath,” he said with a smile.

“And the Spa?”

“First rate,” he smiled warmly. “Once a year we get a really good discount and I sent my wife here for the full treatment. She said she felt like a queen by the end.”

“Queen, huh?”

He smiled hugely, “And I got treated like a King for giving it to her.”

She laughed, “I just bet.”

The stopped on her floor and walked to the end of the hallway and Tessa had to stop her own eyeroll. Just her luck. Even with Jon’s millions she still ended up with one of those rooms that were at the very edge of nowhere.

George opened the door and hung her garment bag. She suddenly felt very small and very insignificant as the New York City skyline opened up from their corner room and the fleet of buildings closed in on her. “Holy Hanna!”

George laughed and folded his gloved hands. “I told you.”

She made a slow spin and took in the wide, king sized bed with its headboard of mirrors bounced back the view all around the room. Chinese lanterns flanked the bed and the room smelled fresh and held the bite of the white orchid that climbed along a basket near the window.

She caught George’s expectant, yet patient look and gave herself a mental kick. She dug into her purse and found a twenty. She paused. Was that enough? She took another twenty out and folded it into his hand. “Thank you, George.”

He smiled and didn’t even look at the money. “Have a nice stay, Miss Donovan and a Happy New Year.”

She forced herself to meet his eyes and not stare out the window until he was gone. “You too.”

When the door shut behind her, she went right to the window and caught the glint of harbor lights from the Hudson River and the ant-sized people that crawled the streets. “Jesus, Tessa what have you gotten yourself into?”






11/17/2007

Chapter 96

Jon settled himself in one of the small, French settees that littered the dressing area. He kept a bland expression to his face as Maryanne brought over espresso and biscotti. Ever the hostess, she turned on her charm where and when it suited her.

“Is she alright in there?”

Jon only let an eyebrow rise in answer. He watched as her eyes drifted to the door, then back to him. “How’ve you been Maryanne?”

She smiled pleasantly, her dark eyes shrewd and just the slightest bit calculating. “How long have you two been an item? I haven’t even heard a murmur that you were dating.”

“A few weeks.”

A slow smile spread across her perfect face. “C’mon Jon, you have to have more details than that.”

“She’s coming with me to the New Year’s party at Elton’s.”

She crossed one, long elegant arm over the other, accentuating her perfectly cupped breasts as she cocked a hip. A few months ago the quiet grace would have left him itchy to muss her up. It had been one of those little things Maryanne did to distract him and make him crazy, but now it just left him indifferent.

The door opened and his breath caught again. She stood in the doorway with her copper hair mussed and her hands behind her neck. She peered through her hair and blew a lock out of her eyes. “Can I get some help here?”

Jon didn’t react in time, too focused on the form hugging column of dusky grey that turned her skin to porcelain blush. Maryanne rushed over and zipped and snapped her, running her hands down the dress, shifting it so it settled perfectly at her hips.

Tessa looked small and fragile next to the statuesque Maryanne and when her arms rested at her sides, he had eyes for no one but her. “You blow me away,” he said softly.

She tucked her hair behind her ear and grinned. “And you liked the black.”

“I stand corrected.”

Maryanne stepped away from Tessa and the glimmer of challenge slowly slid away into a natural smile. She walked back toward Jon and picked up the discarded plate and cup. “You’re a lucky man,” she murmured and walked to the front of the store.

Tessa lifted a hand to his chest as he slid his hands over the beading and sparkles of the dove grey that should’ve made her look washed out. “What was that all about?”

He nuzzled her cheek. “Nothing at all. He licked the scented spot behind her ear and let the silk of her hair brush along his cheek. “I’ve had enough shopping.”

Her hand slid up to his shoulder and into his hair. “Oh man, you just said the magic words.”

“I thought the magic words were, ‘Come for me.’”

Turning things around on him as she always did, she sifted her hands through his hair. “Ahh, but they’re only magic when you’re sliding that thick,” her voice lowered, “Hot cock into me ever so slowly.”

He groaned as the beading dug into his fingertips. She lifted herself on tip-toe. “Don’t hurt the dress darlin’, I’m still not sure which one I’m going to wear.”

His lips hovered over her mouth, enjoying the almost there meeting of lips. He could feel her warmth, taste her breath and knew that if he tilted his mouth just a little bit he could have her. Here in the middle of the room, he could devour her and it would be okay. He didn’t have to hide it anymore. “Any one of them will make me hard all night.”

The tip of her tongue flicked along his bottom lip before she pulled back. “Guess I’ll just pick the one I like best then.”

He grinned, “Need some help getting out of the dress?”

She grabbed him by the shirtfront and dragged him back into the dressing room.

~

Later that night Jon pressed a kiss to Tessa’s shoulder. The same skin that had driven him wild under fluorescent lights was devastating in the muted tones of fire light. She was tucked into his bed, her naked back smooth and inviting.

And even though he’d just loved her a few minutes ago, his body couldn’t seem to catch up with the release. It wanted more. He wanted more. She was quickly becoming his drug of choice even beyond a glass of wine. He trailed his fingertips down her cap of hair to her neck, to the ever distracting line of her back. She moaned into the pillow that she’d stuffed under herself when he’d finally let her come.

He slowly drew the sheet down into the dip of her spine just as it curved out and rounded to her ass. Replacing his fingertips with lips, he followed the bronze sheen her pale skin had become with the flicker of fire. He flicked out the tip of his tongue as he found the soft crease at the top of her thigh.

“Jon,” she whispered as his tongue slid down to her center, teasing her until he felt the shiver and tasted the tremor of her over sensitized flesh. He rolled her, following around her thigh to the top and down to the sweet juice that he could always draw from her.

And just like that first night together, he tasted her with only the fire as their witness. She was just as sweet as that first night. He looked up and his cock went granite hard again as her back arched over the bunched pillow, the tips of her nipples hard and glinting in the flickering light.

He pressed himself down into the bed, to push back the need to drive into her again. The need to take her without the gentleness she deserved. Her fingers twisted into his hair as he pushed her higher, letting his tongue be the aggressor even if it was his cock that longed to be there, between her thighs hot and hard.

Her grip increased as she pulled him up. “Fuck me, Jon.”

His eyes met hers, afraid to think that she might be feeling half the aggression he was. It scared him sometimes. The way he needed her, the way his brain shut off and let his darker instincts take over.

Her fingers lowered and her grip was anything but gentle as she snapped on one of the condoms that littered the bedside table. Her kiss was open mouthed and losing control as she locked her thighs around his waist. “I want you,” she breathed raggedly.

He gripped the sheets with a growl, afraid to touch her as the madness grew to a flashpoint.

“Take me.” Her breath teased his lips and all he could feel was her heat from hip to shoulders. His spine tingled as he angled back and thrust deep. “Harder,” she whispered brokenly.

Her name was a dark surrender as he took everything. Teeth, lips, fingers and firelight were his arsenal and she took every hit. She bled with him as the night filled with their panting moans and sweat slickened flesh.

And when it was over and both of them lay ravaged across the bed he finally calmed. He rested his cheek against the hollow of her belly and her fingers smoothed into his hair and they slept deeply and dreamlessly lost in the tangle of each other.

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