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Mine to take, p.4

Mine to Take, page 4

 part  #1 of  Mine Series

 

Mine to Take
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  His voice did. Trace told her, “I’m having a top-of-the-line security system installed at your studio. And a damn electrician is going in to check your lights.”

  She rubbed her arms. No matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to shake the chill from her body. Her gaze stared out at the city. It seemed like she could see forever from this vantage.

  “You don’t have to drop your life for me,” she made herself speak when she just wanted to stand in silence. “I’m sure having me here…in your home…it’s going to cramp your style.” She’d read the papers. She knew all about his many, many exploits.

  Trace certainly wasn’t a man living in the past.

  He was too busy seducing in the present.

  That was why she hadn’t told Alex about him. When the detective had asked for a list of lovers in the area, anyone who might be fixated on her, Trace had been the last man to come to her mind.

  He wasn’t fixated on her. He’d been the one to show her to the door.

  “You aren’t cramping my style.”

  She could see her reflection in the glass. She looked lost. Carefully, Skye schooled her features before she turned back to face him. “Won’t the flavor of the week mind?” She’d seen him with some blonde just last week in the variety pages—

  “Fuck it if anyone minds.” He’d braced his legs apart. He stood staring at her. Behind him, a fire blazed. When had he started that fire? “This isn’t about anyone but you and me.”

  He acted as if the last ten years hadn’t happened. But not once, not once, had he tried to contact her. I missed you. She wouldn’t tell him that, though. She’d already broken her pride for him too many times.

  He began walking toward her. His stride was slow, certain. She wanted to back up, but there was no place to go.

  Sucking in a sharp breath, Skye lifted her head and stared into his eyes.

  “Reese called me when he was rushing inside that studio. He’d seen the lights go dark, and he was worried. I was only five minutes away, already coming to see you, and I couldn’t get there fast enough.”

  This wasn’t the first time she’d been in trouble. Back in New York, Skye had thought for certain that she was facing death. The memory of cold rain, of constant pain, flashed through her mind.

  He hadn’t come to me then.

  “Ten years is a long time,” she said. She hated the softness of her voice. Why couldn’t she act as if the past didn’t matter to her? “A lot can change over all those years.”

  “And a lot can stay the same.” His fingers curled under her jaw. “I want you just as much now as I did then. When I saw you in my office, the same need hit me. Lust tore through me the way it always does when I’m near you.”

  Her hands were trembling. She lifted them and put her palms on his chest. Skye wasn’t sure if she wanted to pull him closer or shove him away.

  “Lust was never a problem for us, though, was it?” Skye whispered. His eyes were on her mouth.

  Memories of their past flashed through her mind. She could almost taste him.

  “I was your first.”

  Heat flushed her cheeks.

  “I thought about you over the years…”

  His confession jolted her.

  “I wondered what you were doing…who you were with…”

  His gaze was still on her mouth. Still hot. Her hyperawareness of him pushed the aches and pains from her mind. “You don’t get to wonder about that.” Not when he’d been the one to tell her to hit the curb. He didn’t have that right.

  “There are some things you can’t control.” His head bent toward her. “The way I feel about you is one of those things.”

  She wanted his mouth. She wanted to run from him. “Trace…”

  His lips feathered over hers. Not taking. Not demanding. Soft. Gentle.

  “I can’t have what I want tonight, I know that,” his words were whispered against her lips. “But you came back to me. And you should know…that changes everything. I let you go once. You can’t expect me to do that again.”

  Let her go? She pushed against him now. “You told me to get the hell out of your life.” Skye stumbled as she hurried away from him.

  “I knew what your dreams were. I wasn’t going to stand in your way. You wanted the stage. You wanted to dance.”

  His words froze her.

  She looked back at him.

  “I gave you what you wanted.” A muscle jerked in his jaw. “Isn’t that what I’ve always done? Given you every damn thing that you want.”

  “No. You haven’t.” Because there was one thing she’d wanted desperately but never gotten.

  The faint lines near his eyes tightened. His face was a dangerous mask in the firelight. “What did you want?”

  You. He was the thing she’d wanted most, more than dancing, more than New York, more than getting out of the hell that her life had been when she’d been a teenager.

  But Trace hadn’t given her a choice. He’d taken her choices away.

  “What. Did. You. Want?”

  He was coming toward her again.

  Escape.

  “Where’s my room?” Her gaze flew frantically around the penthouse. “I-I need to lie down.”

  He kept coming. “You can’t sleep. I have to keep you awake. Those were the doctor’s orders. She gave me a whole list of rules for you to follow.”

  “I won’t sleep.” I need space. She spun away from him. Her head was throbbing again. She hurried down the darkened hallway.

  He was right behind her.

  She threw open the first door that she saw.

  Not the guest room.

  This room was masculine. Filled with heavy, cherry wood furniture. A massive bed. She could even see Trace’s suit coat flung on the end of the bed—

  She darted back around and found him in her path. His arms were up, blocking the door.

  “You have to stay where I can keep an eye on you,” he told her, voice rumbling.

  “Y-you agreed to find the man who is—who is—”

  “Stalking you?” Trace finished. “Because that’s what he’s doing, Skye. He’s focused on you. He started by watching you, then by sneaking into your apartment. Tonight, he took things to the next level. He came for you. He touched you—”

  Her breath rushed out.

  “He’s dangerous. He hurt you tonight, and I won’t let him hurt you again.”

  “I just want to rest.” To stop reliving the past and the pain and everything.

  He took her hand in his. Lead her to the bathroom. “Take off your clothes. You’ll find an extra robe waiting inside.”

  She hesitated.

  “No seduction tonight, I give you my word.”

  She went into the bathroom. A robe was waiting, all right. Silk. Beautiful, emerald green. Skye slipped out of her workout clothes and into the robe. She returned to him a few moments later, almost hating the feel of that silk against her skin. “I guess this got left behind by—”

  “I arranged to have it brought here for you. Just like I’ve ordered my men to bring your clothes here. I want you to feel safe.”

  He’d changed while she was in the bathroom. Ditched his clothes. Now Trace wore only a pair of black pajama pants that clung low on his hips.

  Her gaze darted over him. Wide shoulders. Strong chest. Way more than a six pack.

  Don’t go there, don’t!

  Trace lifted his hand toward her. “Trust me, Skye.”

  She did.

  She put her fingers in his.

  He led her to the bed. Eased her down on the mattress. Then he wrapped his body around hers. “I won’t let you sleep, but I will let you rest. Stop being afraid. Nothing can hurt you here.”

  She wanted to believe that.

  She wanted to, so badly. But there was something she hadn’t told him. She’d tried to tell the police in New York, tried to tell the doctors there, but no one had believed her.

  “I’ll watch you through the night.”


  Her heart stilled at those words. It wasn’t the first time he’d told her that.

  The first night she’d met him, he’d told her the same thing.

  After Parker had—

  Shut it out.

  She slammed the door before the past could hit her.

  But she remembered Trace’s words.

  That long ago night, she’d been so scared. And he’d said…

  I’ll watch you through the night.

  Skye didn’t close her eyes, but her breath came easier as Trace held her in his arms.

  The illusion of safety was a lie. Deep inside, she knew it. Physically, she could trust him—he wouldn’t hurt her. But there were worse things in this world than just physical pain.

  Much, much worse.

  ***

  Alex Griffin tossed his coat over his chair and keyed up his computer.

  Trace Weston. Having that guy in the picture changed fuckin’ everything.

  Trace Weston had plenty of money. Plenty of power.

  And plenty of secrets.

  The man had burst onto the security scene a few years ago, seemingly coming from nowhere.

  His eyes were wrong. Whenever Trace had looked at Skye, the guy’s eyes had changed. There had been need in his stare, lust, anger…

  Possession.

  The fellow looked at Skye Sullivan as if the woman were his, when Skye had sure been singing a different story when he’d questioned her about any relationships she might have in the city.

  “I heard about the attack on Ms. Sullivan,” his partner said as he came toward him. Joe Harris had been a cop for twenty years. He’d seen plenty of hell on the beat during those years. His grizzled face reflected his worry. “Shit, I was sure hoping things wouldn’t get that bad.”

  Because their hands had been tied. The woman’s feelings— her gut instincts—those hadn’t been enough for them to go on. And whoever had been accessing her apartment had slipped in and out without leaving any trace behind.

  Except for the small signs meant to torment Skye.

  Alex stared up at Joe. Light glinted off the top of his partner’s shaved head. “She’s got security now. Weston Securities.”

  Joe whistled. “How much is she paying for that set-up?”

  The woman’s bank account was empty, so she couldn’t be paying anything.

  So maybe I’ve checked a little deeper into Skye’s life than my partner realizes.

  But…

  When Skye Sullivan had talked to him, she’d been afraid. He hated to see fear in a woman’s eyes.

  “I don’t think she is paying him,” Alex muttered as he leaned forward and went back to typing on his keyboard. “Seems she and Trace Weston are old friends.”

  Bullshit. They were ex-lovers. He knew exactly what they’d been.

  “I don’t trust him,” Alex said flatly. Skye had just looked so breakable at the hospital, while Trace had been too eager to get her out of there. And away from me.

  “Be careful with him,” Joe warned him. “That’s not a man you want for an enemy. Hell, if he wanted, Weston could probably have your badge—and mine—with one phone call.”

  Alex wasn’t scared of Trace Weston.

  But he was determined to uncover his secrets.

  Chapter Three

  “Tell me what happened in New York.”

  Skye glanced over at Trace. They were in his kitchen—a giant monstrosity that seemed to swallow them both. His cook—he had a personal chef!—had made them breakfast, and she’d never tasted pancakes so perfectly fluffy in her life.

  Sure, at her peak in New York, she’d been able to afford some of the finer things, but she was sure realizing that Trace had flown way out of her league.

  The boy she’d remembered was long gone.

  She wasn’t sure if she knew the man before her at all.

  “Skye…”

  She gulped some more orange juice. In the bright light of day, she could almost pretend that the nightmare from last night hadn’t actually happened.

  Almost. The ache in her head confirmed that it had been a very scary reality.

  “I was in an accident,” she said carefully. The chef had bustled into the other room. “My car went off the road. I was—I was trapped.” Rain. Fear. Pain.

  “For twelve hours.”

  Those words had her gaze jerking to his. “Y-yes. I was pinned in the car for twelve hours.” The story had been splashed all over the news. The prima ballerina who’d lost everything in a tragic accident.

  Only it hadn’t been an accident. She was sure of that.

  His jaw clenched. “There’s more you aren’t telling me. More than what was in the papers.”

  He hadn’t pushed her last night. He’d held her in his arms, talked softly to her, and made absolutely certain that she stayed awake.

  Now he was back to grilling her.

  “You think the man was stalking you in New York…” Trace began, frowning.

  “I-I believed he was, yes. Someone was getting into my dressing room.” Tell him. Tell him. “And I thought…the night of my accident, I thought I was being followed.”

  Very slowly, he put down his knife. His blue eyes glittered at her. “You’re just telling me this…now?”

  “Back in New York, I told the cops. The doctors. No one believed me.”

  “I believe you.”

  She pushed away her food. “I don’t remember everything about that night. I was driving away from the city. I was—” Thinking about the past. She cleared her throat. “I’d just left a gas station. There was a car…it seemed to follow my every turn…” The fear was easy enough to recall. “The other car’s headlights were in my mirror. Flashing on and off, low beams, then high.” Blinding her.

  His hands gripped the edge of the table.

  “I think the other car hit me.” This was the part she couldn’t remember, not for certain. “The headlights had lit up my whole car. I screamed—and my vehicle flew through the air.” She could only recall bits and pieces after that. Fast images. Pain.

  More screams.

  Skye shook her head. “But the cops said there was no sign that any other vehicle was involved. They thought I must have just lost control on the wet roads.”

  Her appetite was gone. Even the fluffy pancakes couldn’t tempt her then.

  “You should have called me.”

  Anger stirred within her at his words. “The story made the papers, Trace. I might not be part of the mega wealthy set…” She gestured around the kitchen, “like you. But I was a pretty well-known dancer.” She’d made prima ballerina status by the time she was twenty-two. Dancing had been her life. “Maybe…maybe you should have called.” How many times had she lain in that bed, wishing that she would hear from him?

  She rose and eased away from the table. From him. “I have to get back to the studio. It’s opening in two days, and I’ll need to get it cleaned up.” She couldn’t have her new students stepping on broken glass.

  “It’s already done.”

  Skye looked back at him. He’d risen. “The mirror was replaced,” he said, “the glass cleaned away, and you will not be having any more circuit breaker trouble.”

  “You didn’t have to—”

  “I wasn’t family, so they wouldn’t fucking let me in that hospital.”

  Her head shook, an immediate denial because he couldn’t be saying—

  “But I found a way to you.” Trace’s voice was grim and hard. “I had to make sure you were going to be all right.”

  He was lying. He had to be. “You weren’t there. You weren’t in New York.”

  His gaze held hers, and she couldn’t look away as he said, “They had you in ICU. Your doctor was a guy named Mitch Loxley.”

  Like it would be hard for anyone to figure out her doctor’s name. It would be especially easy for Trace and his limitless resources.

  “The window near your bed looked out over the hospital courtyard. The sun came through that window, rising
up fast and hard, and it would hit on your face every morning. I made sure the nurses kept your blinds down because I didn’t want the light to hurt you.”

  Her throat had dried up. A fist seemed to squeeze her heart. “When I opened my eyes, you weren’t there.”

  His thick eyelashes flickered. “I didn’t think you’d want me to be.”

  Her hands were fists. Her nails sank into her palms. “I don’t understand you, Trace.”

  He smiled then, a cold, hard grin. “I know.”

  “What do you want from me?”

  “Everything.”

  She backed away. “I-I have to get to the studio.” She hadn’t counted on this. On him. It was all too fast. Too much.

  “I’ll take you there.”

  “Fine…just…I need to go, now.”

  He came toward her. Always so sure of himself. So certain. “You don’t need to be afraid of me. I’m the one who’ll keep you safe.”

  She didn’t know what he was. “When I went to your office the other day, I thought you might just blow me off.”

  His eyes narrowed at that, and she saw the spark of anger lighten his gaze. “You underestimate yourself…and your value to me.”

  “I don’t understand you,” she whispered once more.

  He bent his head. His lips feathered over hers in the briefest of caresses. “You will.”

  ***

  Two guards went into the dance studio with Skye. Trace insisted on that surveillance. She wanted to get inside, she wanted to get her place ready, then she could do just that. But she would have his men with her every moment.

  Trace sat in the back of his car, his gaze on the building. Maybe he
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