Ignite (Wicked Liaison Collection Book 4), page 1
Copyright © 2018 by Rose Harper, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations within critical reviews and otherwise as permitted by copyright law.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination.
Any resemblance to real life is purely coincidental. All characters in this story are 18 or older.
Copyright © 2018, Rose Harper Publishing. All rights reserved. www.authorroseharper.wixsite.com/books/
Edited by Mitzi Pummer Carroll
Mitzi Carroll: Editor
Proofread by Marisa Nichols
Marisa Nichols: Proofreader
Cover Art by Mae’s Wicked Grafix
Mae’s Wicked Grafix
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CAN’T WAIT FOR ROSE HARPER’S NEXT BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wicked Liaison Collection Book Four
As I watch her retreat, the emotions roaring through me threaten to claw their way to the surface. Anger, frustration, then in the aftermath, comes pain and defeat.
I can’t fathom why I feel like this. I should be happy she’s disregarding what’s growing between us as nothing more than an obsession of sex with each other. It should exhilarate me to know she’s not falling for me; that I have it completely wrong inside my head.
But, it doesn’t. It feels like my heart is sluggishly beating inside my chest; that with each painful thud, it nearly encompasses me in a state of disillusionment.
Natalie has completely mind-fucked me beyond all compare. I have no idea if up is down and down is up at this point. I’ve only had one person, in all my years, to toss me to the side as if I didn’t matter, and that’s Jennifer.
She stole from me, led me to believe that her love for me was real, then ran off into the sunset with half my clientele. She is the reason I find it hard to trust any female. Especially, if they’re looking at me like they want more than a quick fuck.
I learned my lesson the hard way, and I don’t ever want to be there again. But, with the emotions rolling through me right now, I clearly know this pain riddling me cannot be compared to that time so long ago.
No, not by a long shot.
Now it feels as if everything has been pulled out from under me and I can barely catch my breath. My entire body is aching from the loss of her touch, from the warmth of her gaze as her eyes travel greedily all over my body. It’s aching from the thought of losing her.
It feels as if the world is disintegrating around me and there’s nothing I can do about putting it back to rights.
She makes it sound as if our passion didn’t mean anything to her. As if, she can get that connection we have together from any person she comes across, which I know is bullshit. I’ve never felt the type of physical connection I have with her with anyone else.
It’s infuriating, confusing, and the biggest thing about it is—I know she’s lying through her teeth, she just refuses to admit it.
I saw pain in her eyes when I pulled her closer to me. I saw defeat cripple her tiny body; so much so, it was easy to spot her trying to rebuild the icy wall around her heart that she let crumble previously.
The reason I caught that so easily is because Natalie is the same as me. I had to erect a new wall around my heart after the shit Jennifer did threatened to break me. It was because of Thane and my inner strength that I let it slip into my past.
Just watching her withdraw into herself nearly slayed me, because I’ve been there before. I know how it feels to have your hopes and dreams crushed. To have what you think is a bright future, but it turns out to be a dark bottomless pit of despair.
But, I refuse to open myself enough to be hurt again. I like Natalie. She’s funny, smart, sexy, and one heck of a hell cat in the sack. But, I don’t think I can bear it if I let myself fall prey to a womans guile again. Especially if that woman is Natalie.
Taking my eyes from her, I turn my attention toward the night. The darkness of the sky looks so soothing. I hear the light waves crash against the white sand of the beach, seeing the moonlight casting its reflection off the water. It’s as if it’s trying to lull me into a state of tranquility; as if it knows I’m nothing but a mess on the inside. That with just the mere smell of the warm salt water as it permeates through the air can make everything better.
Pretty much, it’s a falsehood I’m not too keen on falling for at this moment. I know everything is wrong, and there’s nothing I can do to make it better. At least, nothing I can physically or emotionally do to make it better.
Stepping up to the railing, I grip it so tightly my knuckles begin to turn an unhealthy shade of white. It just enrages me that she’s causing me to second guess myself. It infuriates me that I feel anything where I’m supposed to feel nothing.
Why did she have to take things so far? Everything is perfectly fine with the way we have it. I’m comfortable, she’s comfortable, and the sex is out of this world. What’s more to want from a situation than that?
Fury begins slithering through my veins faster, making me even more unhinged as the absence of laughter and cheerfulness extend around me. For the first time in so long I actually feel alone.
Tonight, I had every intention of just being with her. To let whatever happens happen. Instead, I let my mind wander away with me and say things I don’t—can never possibly—mean. It’s a slip I kick myself in the ass for now.
Men as well as women are allowed to make mistakes at certain points in their life time. No one can ever be perfect one hundred percent of the time. It’s called life for a reason. It kicks you when you’re down, and you must rise above it and prosper if you ever want to make something of yourself.
No matter how hellish the trials may be, you are the only person in charge of your future.
Yes, sometimes there are instances where it gut punches you more than the rest. But, the strong rise above that and accept what’s been thrown at them. They don’t make excuses. They won’t wither in the face of fear, begging to have a graceful end to their torment. No, they take the shit card that’s been dealt to them and press on, which is something I’ve been doing for most of my life.
Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath and gather my wit. Slowly opening them, I take one last glance at the ocean before making my way inside. It kills me to shut her out, but it’s for the best. Because nothing can happen between us. I won’t survive if it does.
Sliding the French door close behind me, I lean back against them with my eyes trained on her. It tugs on my heart strings to see her on the bed in obvious pain from my earlier rebuff. But, what can I do? She practically told me out there she didn’t feel anything for me, and that I was being full of myself.
I can’t lie to her and tell her I want to be with h
“Get your bags ready, Natalie. We are leaving,” I order her.
Without waiting for a response, I make my way toward the dressing area. Hurriedly packing my suitcase as I go, I begin dressing, making sure to keep a watchful eye on her out of the corner of my eyes.
I resist the temptation to go to her when I see her slip out of her robe, her naked skin once more put on display. Instead, I shake my head hard, and walk toward my jacket where my phone is still tucked inside. Retrieving it from my pocket, I toss Chuck a text message and get back to arranging my things.
I don’t care if he’s on another flight or not. I need to get out of here, and get out now. The situation between Natalie and I is too heavy. It already feels like Natalie is drawing me back to her, as if she wants me to make her pain go away. But, I can’t do that. Doing that, entails I lose myself even more than I already have.
I never speak a word to him as we deplane. It doesn’t go by unnoticed that we left Santa Barbara early. He kept telling me over and over while we were at the office earlier this week that it was going to be me and him until Friday night. That we were going to take the time out to be with one another. How is a girl not supposed to get things twisted when the person she’s intimate with says things like that?
Yes, I knew from the beginning he wasn’t going to go any further than sex. But, when he kept spouting that shit, it started confusing me, making me believe that maybe he was ready for things to go further. It turns out, I’m the biggest fool imaginable.
Exiting the plane, I try not to react to the hand he puts on my lower back to steady me as we make our way down the stairs. As we get to the bottom, I release a pent up breath I didn’t realize I’m holding.
With a thud, I see Chuck let my suitcase drop down onto the tarmac. Giving him a fake smile, his eyes soften toward me with something akin to sadness before he lightly pats me on my shoulder in a loving gesture.
It’s hard not to see that by some chance he knows what’s going on, because when Keith holds his hand out to shake it, Chuck rebuffs him and walks off muttering something about jackasses under his breath. It brings a tiny genuine smile to my face to think that Chuck is on my side because Keith’s being a dick.
Quickly taking my phone out of my purse, I power it on to see a voicemail awaiting me. Placing it to my ear, I feel relief when I hear it’s the cab company I called earlier this evening before we left the hotel. I’d rather do anything else than ride with him to my apartment right now—walk, hitchhike—it doesn’t matter.
I need space, he needs space, and I need to get my head back on right before I have to be into work in the morning.
“This way,” his low gravelly voice inserts, trying to shuffle me toward his car and one surly Dalton. More than likely, it’s due to him having to be at the airport at close to three am.
Shaking my head, I dig my heels in and look up at him as his eyebrow furrows in confusion. “No, I’ll find my own way home tonight.” Swallowing the ball of emotion clogging my throat, I choke out. “Thank you for everything.”
It’s like my words cut him to the quick. His eyes instantly soften, and something akin to regret and pain flash through his chocolatey orbs.
I try to keep the tears at bay; to resist letting them fall quietly down my face in front of the man that hurt me so deeply. From the way his eyes gaze into mine, I know he sees the pain I’m in right now. Any fool would be able to. But, there’s nothing he nor I can do about it now. What’s done is done, and the only thing we can do is look to the future.
To some it may sound as if I’m saying goodbye forever, and maybe I should be. But, even though things didn’t work out between him and me, I still need this job. It may hurt more than death to see his smiling face every day, but I refuse to allow our failed attempt of intimacy to cost me a job, that’s just unethical.
“Natalie,” he pleads.
Sighing, I tilt my face up toward his once more. I fight my rebelling mind that’s trying to coax me to press myself into his heat—to search for solace in his arms.
“The name is Ms. Bennett, Sir.” I state near a whisper, fearing my calm is about to break at any moment. “It will do us both well to remember the correct salutation of each other.”
Stepping away from him, I grab my luggage and begin rolling away from him and this entire twisted little situation we both got ourselves into. It’s time for me, no matter how hard it’s going to be, to put myself to rights.
I need to keep my head in the game and out of his pants. Because, for the past month that’s where I’ve been. Trying to impress him with how fast I catch on to the job. Trying to show him how well our bodies meld together. It was futile on my part to do those things, because I ended up right where I thought I would anyway.
Being just another notch on his bedpost.
It doesn’t matter if Keith never treated me as such until last night. But, he did exactly what I feared all along he would. He just won’t accept that things were growing between us.
I, for one, didn’t think anything ever could because of the disaster Jake left behind. So, clearly, I was also taken off guard when it all came to a head in the bathroom. But, his complete rebuff of it all hurt. As if he repels anything that has the term ‘relationship’ attached to it.
I don’t know the logistics of his and Jennifer’s relationship, but I know she has something to do with this. That she had something to do with breaking this wonderful, handsome man.
Squeezing my eyes shut, his voice threatens to break me as I press forward, my legs carrying me faster out of the terminal and onto the unloading and loading zone.
My eyes flutter open once more and they land on my saving grace in the form of a card being held above the roof of a cab with my name on it.
Perfect timing, because I need to get away from Keith. Just being in his presence is like a knife to my soul. I’m as strong as the next woman, but when you dangle something in front of me that I can’t have, then I’m just like any one of them—I break. I only have so much resistance before it’s gone—along with my sanity.
Smiling briefly, I step toward him and gesture to have my luggage be put into the trunk. As he does, I break for one minute as I take the back door in my hands and turn to look over my shoulder. A tear slips down my cheek as I see Keith trying to push past all the people around him in order to get to me. Since he’s a lot bigger than me, he can’t get through as easily. But, I can see the determination lighting his gaze, and it hurts my insides.
His eyes are trained on mine, and he’s got a crazy look in his. It’s as if he’s fallen off the edge of calm and plunged into the depths of insanity. And with him fighting to get through the crowd, it’s as if he’s figuratively trying to claw his way back up to the surface.
My breath catches on a sob as I slip into the car, my driver being right behind me. Keith breaks free from the crowd and comes out the doors with his suit ruffled and a button missing at the base of his neck just as I shut my door to the cab.
“Natalie,” his voice comes out tight, as if he’s begging me not to run from him.
It’s a hypocritical move. First, he doesn’t want me to fall. Now, he wants me to stay. It’s as if his eyes and unsaid words are begging me to fall back into his arms.
It’s something I can’t do. The Band-Aid has already been ripped off my heart and the blindfold taken from in front of my eyes. I know if I go to him, my blinders will be reapplied, and this entire situation will be swept under the rug. My head and my heart can’t take that.
“I’m sorry,” I mouth, tapping the driver’s seat, and sitting back as he pulls away from the curb.
I’m lost in my thoughts as we pull up to my apartment complex. I’m thinking of Keith and how it’s going to be from now on
As much as I hate it, I’d prefer that kind of indifference as opposed to seeing a look of longing on his face.
At first, it doesn’t register to me that someone is in front of my apartment building, and looks a lot like someone I don’t want to see, until I get out of the car and retrieve my luggage. I’m exhausted and want nothing more than to escape this pitiful excuse of a life I’m living with some sleep. But, when I see her, sitting there wringing her purse straps in her hands with unease, I know I’m not going to be finding sleep anytime soon.
“What are you doing here?” I half-heartedly growl, but it’s clear the exhaustion of this entire day is getting to me.
Angela stands up, fidgeting back and forth. “I, uh … I came to see if we can talk.”
I know I should turn her away; that I should turn her around and kick her ass back to where ever it came from. But, I can’t find the energy in me to do such a thing. I’m tired of acting tough in this situation, and dare I say it, but I can do with at least talking with someone that’s a semblance—or an old semblance—of a friend.
“I will give you five minutes.” I deadpan, rolling my luggage after me.
She gives me a small smile. “Can I help you with that?”
“No,” I shake my head fiercely. I gave her five minutes, that doesn’t mean anything’s going to come out of this.
“Nat … please, you look completely exhausted,” she whispers, stepping closer.
I stare up at her, seeing the worry twist her features as she racks her gaze over me before meeting my eyes once more. I don’t know what comes over me. Some type of insanity or delusion, but with the look she’s giving me, it causes me to breakdown for the first time in so long. Tears begin rolling down my face, their hot paths making themselves known as they drip off my chin. I let all the emotions I’ve been trying to withhold rise to the surface.
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