As we drove back from dinner that night, my nerves prickled to the surface again, but for an entirely new reason. Chloe was smart—smarter than I was, if I was being honest with myself—and she’d watched me carefully all night, studying. Now, as we neared the hotel, she might have been sitting quietly in the passenger seat at my side, but there was no way she was merely taking in the passing scenery. If I knew her as well as I thought I did, she was planning, silently plotting how to take me down.
Which was why I had a plan myself.
We made the last turn and arrived back at the Del. The crisp white buildings were lit from every angle and practically glowed against the dark sky. I patted the small bottle in my pocket and looked down at my watch, realizing this was either the smartest thing I’d ever done or the stupidest. We’d find out soon enough.
I pulled to a stop at the curb, reached for my bottle of water, and practically vaulted from my seat, desperate for air that didn’t smell like Chloe’s perfume, and for just a moment of space to gather my thoughts. I washed the Plan down with a giant gulp of water. I had about ten minutes before I should probably be upstairs.
Drawing in a much-needed breath, I handed the keys to the attendant and rounded the car, smiling as I took Chloe’s hand.
The hum of voices and gentle tinkling of music greeted us as we stepped into the lobby and crossed to the elevator. I couldn’t help but think back on the last time Chloe and I were here together: of f**king her on the huge king-sized bed until she’d screamed my name, of holding her hands behind her back as I bent her over the balcony railing, the crashing waves and rustling palms the only sounds masking the noises she made.
I followed her into the elevator and like some sort of homing device, my eyes dropped straight to her ass. She knew it, too, because there was a much more deliberate swivel to her hips, an intentional shake with each step. I felt myself begin to harden and realized that if this plan went to shit, I was screwed. Literally.
Get your head in the game, Ben, I told myself, reaching to press the button to our floor. It wouldn’t be that hard, I reasoned: keep your distance, eyes above her shoulders at all times, and for God’s sake, no arguing about anything.
“Everything okay over there, Ryan?” my lady-adversary said, leaning against the wall opposite me. She crossed her arms over her chest and her br**sts pressed together. Danger. I quickly averted my gaze.
“Absolutely.” I had this. I was a genius.
“You look mighty proud about something. Fire someone today? Kick a puppy?”
Oh, I see you, Mills. I see you. I kept my eyes fixed on the mirrored doors opposite me and answered, “Just thinking back on the card Sofia made for us. She must have made it with that cute little art set we bought her for her fourth birthday. But I just realized her handwriting reminded me a lot of yours.”
A small, knowing smile pulled at her mouth and she nodded, glancing up at the display as the floors ticked past.
Almost like a weight had been placed on my shoulders, drowsiness began to seep into my limbs and back; my arms felt dense with a heavy wave of fatigue. I smiled wider.
The elevator stopped on our floor and I watched as she stepped out and made her way down the hall. She waited while I opened the door to our room and then headed straight for the bathroom.
“What are you doing?” I asked. What had I expected? For her to strap me down, throw me against a wall, and force me to have sex with her? And why did that sound so damn appealing?
“Just getting ready for bed,” she said over her shoulder, and closed the door behind her.
I stood for a moment before moving to open the balcony, feeling the first yawn creeping up. Dinner had gone better than expected. Well, that was a bit of a stretch. Bull made a fifteen-minute meandering “toast” about family, relating several stories about some questionably harassing interactions he had with one of my high school girlfriends before soliloquizing at length about how beautiful Chloe is. My mother sent me seven more text messages I still hadn’t read. Judith and Mary ended up sitting on Will’s lap, grinning widely at me, and Henry made a circuit of the room after dessert, making a handful of secret bets with wedding guests.
Still, the police hadn’t been called and nobody had found themselves in need of emergency assistance, so it was as close to a success as this group would get for our first night out. At least the chaos had taken my mind off Chloe and the shoes she’d previously only worn during sex, and the dress that seemed to show everything but in fact showed nothing—which was infinitely sexier.
I never would have expected to be avoiding sex the week of our wedding. But I’d had plenty of time to think about it while folding what seemed like a million wedding programs, and decided that for the first time in our relationship I wanted to savor her: her laugh and her words and the mere reality of her company. I wanted to be able to watch her without thinking about the next time I’d have her na**d and up against a wall. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t also about wanting to piss her off a little and I knew her well enough to know that withholding sex would . . . I blinked over to the bathroom door. Where the f**k was she? As my lids grew heavier and Chloe took longer doing who-knows-what in the bathroom, I wasn’t sure I’d have the physical strength to fight her off if it came to that tonight.
Taking a seat in the living room, I picked up a magazine, feeling myself grow more and more tired with every minute. I looked up at the sound of a door opening and nearly fell over. Chloe leaned against the wall, hair loose and falling in wild waves along her shoulders and down the length of her back. Her lips were glossy and pink, and I could imagine that color smeared down my chest and along the skin of my cock. She wore what was easily the sexiest and most complicated lingerie I’d ever seen. The black demi-cups barely covered her breasts; the rest consisted of a series of black satin ribbons crossing strategically over her torso and down between her legs. It took me two attempts to finally speak.
“Was someone in there with you?” I slurred.
Her brows came together and she shook her head. “What?”
“Because . . . I have no idea how you got that thing on by yourself.” My voice sounded thick and slow. “Hell, I have no idea how I’d even get it off.” I held up my hands and they felt heavy and numb. I wouldn’t even be able to rip paper tonight.
“That sounds like a challenge,” she said with a pleased smile. My eyes moved over every inch of her body and I seemed unable to pull them away. She was f**king beautiful. Her legs were long—so long—and her feet were still strapped in the same blue shoes she’d been wearing at dinner.
She took a step toward me, and then another. “Do you remember the last time we were here?” she asked.
She pressed a hand to my chest and easily pushed me farther into the back of the couch before straddling my lap. “You f**ked me on the floor . . .” She leaned forward, kissed my jaw. “And the balcony”—she kissed my neck—“and the bed, and the floor and the bed and the floor.”
“And don’t forget the chair in the corner,” I mumbled, hissing in a breath as she scratched her nails over my stomach, reached for my tie, loose but still hanging from my neck.
“What if I said I wanted to re-create some of that?” she whispered into my ear. “What if I asked you to tie me up with this? Spank me? Fuck me in th—”
She jerked back and looked at me, taking in my slumped posture, the way I could barely keep my eyes open. Hers narrowed.
“What did you do?” she asked, suspicious.
I could only smile—a stupid, drowsy, lopsided grin. “Took out a little insurance policy,” I slurred. “You’re very pretty by the way, and I really do like this . . . thing you’re wearing and would like to request that you wear it for me again . . . someday.”
“What did you do, Ryan?” she repeated, louder, and stood up, hands on her h*ps as she frowned down at me.
“Just only took a tiny little sleeping pill,” I said, yawning as I pulled the small bottle from my pocket, holding it up to show her. “Teensy tiny.”
I had a prescription for these for international travel but had yet to use a single one before this. I was actually amazed how fast they worked, and slightly uneasy over the prospect of having no control over my state of arousal. Especially since Chloe looked like she might castrate me.
“You son of a bitch!” she yelled, pushing on my chest. It was sort of a counterproductive move, however, because I merely slumped over, sinking facedown into one of the cushions. She started to yell about . . . something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. I took comfort knowing someday she’d know I was really doing this for her.
The last thing I saw before my eyes closed was her storming out of the room, shouting something about payback.
He didn’t cave and bang the daylights out of me last night. In fact, he’d gone so far as to drug himself and be taken out of commission. Clearly it was time to up my game.
I’d spent much of dinner last night watching Bennett be adorably mischievous while steering my rascal aunts toward an unsuspecting Will. I’d watched him be jealous and irritated in equal measure when Bull regaled me with stories of the many cars he’d sold and women he’d banged. I’d watched Bennett with adoration as he greeted his family, waited until his mother’s food was in front of her before starting in on his own, thanked each waiter personally, and stood when I stood to go to the bathroom.
Bennett Ryan was a swoony f**king bastard, and tonight—stupid chastity rule or not—I was going to ride him like a horse.
I had a suitcase full of lingerie and outfits that were guaranteed to bring him to his knees. Most of the skimpy, lacy things had been reserved for the honeymoon, but I suspected at this point we wouldn’t have much need for any form of clothing once we hit the private resort in Fiji.
In a way it was nice to have a new mission. Instead of stressing about our families and the chaos we were diving into headlong, I could focus on the fact that Bennett really just needed to f**k me a few times a day. It was a simple goal, really. I couldn’t control the tides or the insanity of our families, but I could definitely control this man’s cock.
Will had named this evening the Final Night of Freedom. Even though it was Thursday and the wedding was Saturday, he declared that the rehearsal on Friday all but sealed Bennett’s fate as a married man, so he and Max had planned a night out for all of us in the Gaslamp Quarter. We were going to hit a few bars, have a few drinks. As Max put it, “Tonight we’re going to get right pissed and pretend Chloe didn’t hand each of us a to-do list five miles long.”
I’d ordered the guys to get ready in our suite and the women—Sara, Hanna, my childhood friend Julia, soon-to-be sister-in-law Mina, and I—were getting ready in Julia’s room. I did this in part to have some girl-time before we all went out together, but also so that Bennett wouldn’t see me until we got to the bar. If he saw what I was going to wear out tonight, he would tie me to the bed with one of my slips and change my clothes for me.
If I’d harbored any suspicion that he would tie me to the bed and f**k me, I’d be happily changing upstairs in the wedding suite alongside him. Alas. I knew Bennett, and I knew how determined he was once he made a decision about something. Tonight needed to be a sneak attack. I had to seduce my fiancé, and in order to do that, I had to play dirty.
Julia and Mina were both working on Hanna’s broken zipper, and I sat on Julia’s bed and carefully crisscrossed the long, strappy heels up my calf. Last night’s shoes had worked pretty well, but obviously not well enough. Tonight I’d put on a tiny black dress, dangly chandelier earrings, and the same shoes I’d worn the night I went out clubbing in San Diego when Bennett and I had been here together for the JT Miller Marketing Conference early in our “relationship”.
I tied the satin strap at the back of my calf and thought back to that night, and how Bennett had looked, almost two years ago now, when I’d walked into the hotel lobby of the W in the early hours of the morning to find him sitting on a couch, waiting for me.
His hair had been a disaster, and I knew without having to ask that he’d been pulling at it, nervously running his hands through it. In hindsight it was obvious we were in love even then, but I remembered how surprised I’d been when he admitted he needed another night with me. I wanted it more than anything, but I never expected him to ask for it so openly.
I’d followed him up to my room and in that bed we’d made love for hours, sharing words about real histories and real desires and real feelings. From there, our relationship climbed to a peak—I’d easily stepped up and covered with Bennett’s client when Bennett suddenly got sick, and when he recovered, we’d decided to be together, a couple, no more hiding.
“Chlo?” Sara asked, ducking to meet my eyes and pulling me out of my thoughts. “You okay?”
I bent and focused on the other shoe, nodding. “Yeah, just remembering what it was like when the BB and I were first together.”
She sat and put an arm around me. “Is it weird to be getting married here?”
“When did you first know you loved him?”
I closed my eyes and leaned into her, humming as I considered the question. “I think I probably felt love for him before I knew I loved him. But, do you remember when we were here for the conference and he got food poisoning?”