Excerpt for New Year's Eve Desire by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

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“So, your Christmas was a bust?”

I take a long, deep sigh. “It was. And yours?”

Selina mutters something dark. “Smashed to bits.”

I hunker down against the wall, one eye on the departure board. “I’ll be home soon.”

“Wait, you’re coming back to San Francisco? Talia, shit, it was that bad that you’ve cut short your one vacation of the year?”

“It went a little something like this,” I sip my black coffee as I adjust my carry-on bag that I was using as a make shift cushion. The departure lounge was busy and I hadn’t been able to find a seat. “Dad’s new girlfriend caught my dad with his hands all over the housekeeper.”

“Urgh, he is such a pig.” Selina gasps. “Sorry, no offence.”

“Oh none taken.” I laugh. “He is a pig...I just can’t believe I fell for his ‘oh sweetheart, I have changed, and I promise to make it the best Christmas ever’ speech.”

“I’m really sorry Talia.”

I eye the board, my flight still not boarding. “Where are you? And what happened?”

“It a very long story, but basically Jeff and I broke up.”

“Selina, shit...I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be, it was red lining, both of us were trying to make something out of nothing, I can’t believe I just...”

“Selina?” I hear her fight the rising sobs. “Hey, listen to me, when I get back, you and I, we’re going to have a do over of Christmas okay?” I see the screen change and my gate number appears. I get to my feet, tossing my empty cup into the near trash can and reach for my bag.



Three days after Christmas, Selina and I are still on the couch watching movies. “We should have planned this all along.” She sighs.

I grab the half eaten bowl of popcorn. “Yeah, we should have.”

She faces me, looking chirpier than when I’d come home and found her sobbing in the living room, clutching one of her ex’s shirt. I’d pried it out of her hands, stuffed it into the closet when she hadn’t been looking and directed her towards her bed.

“Has your dad called?” She fast forwards a commercial break.

“He has. But I let it go to voicemail.” I adjust the blanket over my knees, before reaching for my phone that’s beside our Christmas tree to order the pizza we’d promised ourselves for lunch. “I just can’t deal with it.” I absently adjust one of the colourful lights that’s fallen off a branch.

“What about your mom?”

“She’s in London, with her new husband...this isn’t her problem anymore.”

Selina looks over at me, her almond shaped eyes warm and kind. “It’s not yours either.”

I’m just about to dial when I notice a text message from my boss. “Great.”

“What?”

“Someone’s called in sick for a new year’s eve party.”

“Bit early isn’t it, they could get better?”

“Andrea says it’s a broken leg and if I can cover.”

Selina groans. “So, you’re going to have to work on new year’s eve?”

I scroll through the text. “Shit...it’s $150 for the shift.”

“That’s a good chunk of change.” She smiles sadly.

“Want to see if I can get you in?”

“I can’t waitress and I’m useless in the kitchen.”

I laugh as I start to text Andrea back. “It’s mostly serving drinks to richer than God moguls and making sure they have tiny portions of food in their mouths.”

“I think I’ll stay home.”

I put my cell down. “I’ll pass then, we should stick together.”

Selina lifts my phone, handing it back to me. “You should take it. It’s good money, and besides, we did our Christmas dinner yesterday, why not delay new year’s by a day?”



When new year’s eve arrives, I end up having to watch Selina and Jeff fight, then make up in the space of the living room. When I hear the shouts gradually lessen, then Selina’s bedroom door being slammed shut...not followed by the front door opening and closing; I make my deductions...which get nosily confirmed by them hitting the bed about a minute later.

I slip out of the apartment near six PM, making my way to the address that Andrea had texted a few days ago along with strict uniform instructions. Black skirt, must be knee length, white shirt and formal black tie and waistcoat. Mid heel, no higher and hair must be pulled back. Make up light, neutral, nothing over the top.

Taking the service elevator some thirty floors to the penthouse level where I’m escorted by security to a make shift station where my bag and cell are swept for anything malicious by suited security officers. I’m only allowed into the property, once I’ve gone through airport style security, which I realise the guests will also have to do when they arrive at eight thirty. I fiddle with my hair that keeps on coming loose; normally Selina would have braided it into an elegant style, but my best friend was thoroughly occupied...and showed no signs of exiting her bedroom this side of the new year.

I find a bathroom, noting the sparkling marble vanity which was the only opulence in the beautifully elegant space. I fiddle with my hair, tying it into a low bun and putting the wispy bits back behind my ears.

I find the kitchen, get my orders from Andrea. “You are a life saver Talia,” She smiles warmly at me. “Thank you so much.” I try and fight the catch in my chest that hints at a bruising loneliness. Since September my dad had dangled the perfect Christmas carrot in front of me. And I’d bit it. I’d saved what I could to cover the air fare to Colorado, only to have to dig into my savings to switch my return ticket home as it had been more than the original fare. “Hey Talia!” I face the voice.

“Reece,” I turn to my friend, getting onto my tip toes to kiss tall blonde guy warmly on the cheeks. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”

“Aren’t I just?” He grins. “Hey, sorry your Christmas was a bust. Selina said something about family issues?”

“Yeah, something like that.” We get ushered by Andrea towards the giant stack of white tapers, a couple of lighters and other shaped candles. Reece grabs the box, and I trail him through the stunning apartment, using good sense to light and place the candles in the glass holders that I was carrying.

“I got back from New York yesterday as the weather was getting worse and I have that exam in a few days.”

I light a couple of candles, carefully arranging them against the beautiful garlands that had been draped over the mantle of a substantial fireplace. “Good idea Reece, hey, maybe when it’s done, you, me and Selina...and probably Jeff, can celebrate?”

He groans. “Jeff is back on the scene?”

“Yes. Looks like it.” I grab a couple of pillar candles, popping them carefully into the glass holders on a side table near the huge L shaped couch that sits atop a pristinely tiled floor. “God, this house is gorgeous.” I take a knee so that I can light the candles.

“Should be.” Reece heads for the huge table that’s been specially brought in for the dinner. “It belongs to a thirty something billionaire.”

I rise, watching to make sure the wick is lit, before settling my gaze on the twilight vista that shows me Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. The water is beautifully still and I note that on the terrace, there are some empty vases that could use some candles. With Reece handling those, I aim for the bathroom again, keen to secure my hair, which had come loose again.



As I exit, I hear an inelegant thud and then someone moaning softly. Whipping myself around the door frame, I see a suited man nursing his right eye. “Oh my God!” I whimper. “Are you okay?”

He presses a finger to the sight of impact, visually checking that there isn’t any blood. “I think I am...” He checks again, and then so do I. I collide with his utterly hauntingly green eyes that seem almost supernatural so sharp are their hue. I have to look up, and up, to connect with his handsome face, those lips which are turning into a wry smile. “I’m okay. No permanent damage.”

I release the death grip on the door. “I’m really sorry, I was just fixing my hair, I didn’t know the door-”

He raises one hand. “I’m fine,” He digs out his cell, which is ringing. “I’m guessing you’re with the catering team?”

My heart sinks. “I am. I’ll go and get my things.”

He answers the call. “Just a second darling.” He covers the mouthpiece with his hand. “You’re not fired, far from it, just...just go, I’m fine, but if you don’t mind, can you grab me some ice?”

“Do you want a drink?”

“No,” He laughs, gesturing to the slight swell forming above his eyes. “For this shiner, some ice to lower the swelling.”

Keeping my eyes down, I hustle into the busy main kitchen. The scent of cooking food is wonderful and numerous chefs in pristine white move around the space with focused precision. There isn’t long until the main course are served and the starters are already being prepped. I aim for the huge ice bucket that has a dozen or so Champagne bottles sitting in it. I grab a few ice cubes, locate a linen napkin, but switch it out when I find a small, clean plastic bag on the counter top.

I make my way to the office I’d seen the suited man disappear into, the door open and I hear his gentle conversation. “I can’t believe you’re not going to make it.” I hear him say as I linger by the door. I watch him as he stands facing that incredible view. In that suit, which has to be tailored as it fits him so well, he looks utterly handsome. He has dark hair, and those eyes were deep, vibrant pools of emerald...I tap the ice bag against my neck to cool myself, before lightly patting the door and getting his attention. He welcomes me with a beckon of hand, continuing his conversation. “Darling, you just stay where you are, if it’s not safe to travel, then don’t.” He accepts the ice pack, immediately pressing it against his temple. I aim for the door, but he cups the mouth piece, “Can you hang back for a sec?”

“Sure.”

He smiles warmly when I comply, hovering by the doorway. “Okay, darling, I better go, speak to you tomorrow. Give my love to the kids.” He hangs up, dropping the cell to the desk. “My sister.” He explains. “She’s stuck in Aspen due to the weather. We were supposed to spend tomorrow together.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Is that the ice?” I head towards him, handing him the make shift ice pack, handing it over. “Thanks”

“I’m really sorry.”

“It was an accident, don’t worry.” He tentatively places it against his temple. I’d already noted the slight swell to his brow, but luckily the blow hadn’t broken the skin.

“I better get back.”

He wakes up his PC. “I need your help with something.”

“My help?”

“Yes. Could you come here a moment?” Tentatively, I aim for the side of the desk. He’s working the mouse, clicking something. I hear a printer whir remotely somewhere in the room.

“Could you take that picture and give it to security please?” I locate the sound of the printer, which is on a recessed shelf and grab it. “This guy is not to be admitted to the party.”

I stare at the colour image. “Oh my God.”

“What is it?”

“You want...” I swallow back the horror. “You want to keep this guy...”

“Away from the party, yes.” He must realise that I’ve gone horrible pale. “Why...do you know him?”

I shake my head. “It’s my dad.”



“Close the door.” His voice was ice. Cold, and so distant, that I trembled as I adhered to his request. “You’re Daniel Garrington’s daughter?”

I nod, still holding the print out, starting at the colour candid of my dad, presumably downloaded from his company website.

“You should leave.” There it goes, the final blow to my self esteem. “Give that to security on your way out.”

I nod, seeing stars as my tears threaten to tip into existence. “What did he do?” I whisper.

“He just cost me millions of dollars in a deal that went sour.”

The penny suddenly drops. “This is your party...you’re him...” I exhale roughly. “You’re Matthew Stone.” The door suddenly knocks and without warning, someone enters. I take my cue, noting it’s someone from security and as I rush past them, I stuff the sheet into their hands.



“Hey!” Reece catches me as I steam past the open plan living room. “What’s wrong?”

“My dad, that’s what...” I hiss.

Reece clamps me by the arm. “Talia, what the hell has happened?”

I drag him with me to the spare room we’d been allocated to store our bags and coats in. I find my belongings, not bothering to put my coat on, simply draping it over my arm so that I could leave.

“Talia,” Reece follows me to the front door, both of us dodging a lighting crew who are coming to do the final decoration preparations to the huge Christmas tree in the living room. “Talia stop!” He gets me to a halt by the elevator, the door just closing as some catering staff clear it, so I stick my hand between the metal, getting it to stay open. Reece’s attention is taken by Andrea who is calling for him and I take that moment of his distraction, hit ground and watch as the doors finally close.



Grateful when I find the apartment dark and quiet, I dump my bag in my room before making my way to the small kitchen. I find a note on the fridge door from Selina. She’s gone to Jeff’s apartment and with a new year message and promise to call tomorrow, I slam the door shut after grabbing an ice cool water. The shock of the coincidence has me shaking. In the dark, I put myself against the countertop, desperately trying to figure out the mess, but I don’t get a chance. Someone thuds heavily on the door and thinking it’s Selina who left without her keys, I open it.

Big mistake.

Matthew Stone barges his way into my apartment. He sweeps in, sending me back against the wall. I gather myself together. “Hey, hey! Get out!” We end up in the living room, lit only by a lamp that I’d put on before I’d aimed for the kitchen. “You need to leave.”

“Did you think that your little act would garner some sort of insider secret? Something your father could exploit and screw me over again?” His presence spooks me. It’s sharp, frightening and he seems bigger and broader...probably because he’s in a much smaller dwelling than his mansion in the sky.

“It was just a horrible coincidence! I didn’t know that the party was for you, I never know, I just turn up and...”

“And...and what?” He steps towards me. “Maybe you thought you’d hurt me, and get some sort of strange added bonus...”

“What...” I go cold. “I didn’t know you were there! I hit you by accident!” The very notion that I could or would hurt someone deliberately makes an awful cold sweep across my senses. “You really need to leave, what my dad did...I didn’t do it.”

“But you knew enough...you know my name.”

I want to crawl into bed, never to rise again, instead, I slump into a near seat. “I don’t have the best relationship with my dad...but I hear things...and just the other day...I heard him mention your name.” I get swamped by the memories of what added to the ruin of my Christmas...his behaviour had spiralled out of control and I’d heard him mention Matthew by name in a God awful speech where he likened his business deal to something from ancient Rome and the gladiatorial arena.

“He reneged on a deal.”

“And it cost you...” I swallow the lump in my throat, unable to fathom such a vast sum of money.

“I just lost a quarter of my business in one night.”

I stand, trying to force the shake out of my knees. “Then...” I take a quick breath. “You have had a lucky escape.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“My dad, he’s not a good guy and for you to only lose that much...well, Mr Stone, you might have just gotten a lucky break.” I watch him turn on his heel, fury making his hands into fists as he thunders out of the front door. And not a second later, I hear the sounds of fireworks, cheers from the street below and my own phone chiming midnight.

The new year was here.



I take a long walk the next morning, the city still and quiet. My new year’s festivities were in the toilet. I’d quietly put the pieces together after falling into bed not long after Matthew left...my father had screwed Matthew’s company over for a last minute bid and thrown Matthew out of the race. From my online searching, Matthew had already leveraged hundreds of millions of his own capital to finance the project, which would have been a collection of skyscrapers in numerous cities across the world. What my dad did was to take out Matthew and join up directly with the builders and essentially cut out the middle man; a middle man who’d sunk a fortune into pre planning.

I dig out my cell. A text from my mom. It’s a picture of her and new husband on the banks of the Thames, ringing in the new year in a crowd of thousands. I send back a sentiment, hoping the cheery nature of it would make her think that everything is okay.

As I approach home, I note that there is a large blacked out SUV parked adjacent to my doorway. With my senses on high alert, I scoot a little more quickly, grabbing my keys.

“Miss Garrington?” I hit a light jog, grateful when I see someone exiting my building, meaning I can slide in without having to use my key. “Miss Garrington!” I just about make it when the person clamps their arm on my shoulder. It’s the security officer from Matthew’s party. “Mr Stone would like to speak with you.”



“The one thing that I cannot get out my mind is the look in your eyes when you said I was better off.” Matthew Stone, despite the holiday and what should be a casually dressed day, is pacing before me in a suit. I had taken a good look around when I’d first arrived; it’s like the party never happened. The apartment is immaculately clean, even the giant Christmas tree was gone. “That’s what I can’t get out of my mind.” He’d said.

I keep my spine straight from my seat on the couch, watching him as he paces. He’s shed the jacket, rolled the white shirt to mid way up his arms and loosened the top button of his collar. I look back to where the security officer stands by a near wall.

“I can’t help you.” I offer, aching to get the hell out of here.

He faces me. “I’m not looking for help. I’m looking for answers.”

“I don’t have any.”

He laughs. It’s a dark, throaty sound that makes the hairs on my arms stand. “And because I knew you would say that, I did my own investigations.” He lifts a file from the breakfast counter, tossing it into my lap as he walks back towards me. I catch it, thumbing through it in abject horror.

“You...you investigated me...?”

“I confirmed it with Andrea, you really had no idea who you were working for...that and the look in your eyes means you don’t actually know what your dear old dad is up to.”

“I told you that already.”

He takes a seat opposite me. “You’re going to help me get it back.”

“You mean get even.”

Again, that dark laugh. “You catch on quick.”

“You need to when you’re a Garrington.”

Something unsaid passes between the men and I hear footsteps. I look back, realising that the security officer has left the space.

“Your money is gone.” I close the file, putting it to the table. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you. I’m not even speaking-”

“And there it is...” He crosses his leg, placing one ankle at his knee. His large watch catches the spectacular light coming through the floor to ceiling windows. “I want to make him feel like I feel.”

“And how the hell do you intend on doing that?”

“By making your life miserable.”

My heart suddenly starts to patter roughly against my chest. “You...you don’t have that power...”

“I just got your pal Reece kicked out of college, real shame he didn’t keep up the payments on his loans especially since he’s so close to finishing.”

I’m on my feet before I know it. “You...you didn’t...”

He climbs to full height. “He doesn’t even know it yet, one word that you will work for me...and I’ll revoke my request with the Dean.”

“Done. Done. Whatever you want! Just please, don’t do that to Reece!”

“So you agree, to working for me?” Matthew Stone approaches me, the dark look in his eyes intimidating and cold.

“Yes. Yes...I will work for you, however you want.”

“Good.” He climbs to full height. “You’re going to pretend to be my girlfriend.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” His eyes go very dark. “I want you to go home, pack up your belongings, and you’re going to move in here. With me. Today.”



When I call Reece on the pretence of wishing him a happy new year the minute I get home, he seems oblivious to any drama. “You’re okay?”

“I am.”

“God, I’m really sorry you got kicked off the job.” He yawns.

“It’s okay, just one of those things.”

“Yeah,” I hear him moving, presumably out of bed. “Andrea said there was too many staff to guests or something. But it didn’t matter anyway, the guy, the one hosting the party, he called it off about ten minutes after you left.”

“He did?” I put myself on the couch.

“Yeah, he came through like a hurricane and shut it down.” I hear him speak to someone. “I better go, I need to get my ass into study mode.”



Three bags later, with my room cleared and tidy, I struggle at the countertop where I’m trying to leave a note for Selina. But she beats me to it, spooking me when my cell rings.

“You’re never going to believe this!” I hold the phone as best as I can, wondering how I tell my friend what’s happened. I eye the security officer from Matthew’s apartment who had introduced himself as Jake, as he returns from putting the cases into the SUV. “Jeff proposed!”

“Oh my God.” I slump onto the stool at the breakfast bar.

“He’s taking me to Vermont for a long weekend, I hope that’s okay.”

“Selina, of course that’s okay.” I lie, my heart aching. “I’m happy for you. You must have worked things out.”

“We did. We just realised why we were flat lining, it’s because we just don’t spend enough time together, he’s even talking about moving in together. Yes, I know it’s all back to front, upside down, but it feels right.”

“Then,” I ache to end the call. “Go for it.”

“Thanks so much Talia!” She giggles. “I’ll be home soon!”



I arrive at Matthew’s penthouse near three PM. Hungry, cranky and everything in between, I’m told by Jake to set myself up in the guest bedroom.

I slump down to the bed. Once he leaves, I take stock of the space. I’d expected something like a prison cell, but this room, with its spectacular view of the water takes my breath away. I push through a door in the room, finding a bathroom, complete with soaking tub and again those stunning views of the water that it’s hard not to allow myself to fall in love with it.

“Like it?”

I jump in surprise at the nearness of Matthew. He looms by the door in a tuxedo, the bow tie undone.

“What...why are you dressed like that?”

“Hello to you too.” His lips lift in a half smile. “You need to get ready, we’ve got a party to get to.”

My head starts to swim. He looks utterly handsome and I’ve clearly lost my mind. “I don’t have anything to wear.”

He puts his hands into the pockets of his trousers, offering me that smile again. “Check the walk in, there is plenty there.”

I leave the bathroom, stunned to locate the walk in on the opposite side of the room with Matthew who is following me through the space. “Oh my God...”I step in, the lights automatically illuminating with a soft, alluring glow that brightens to reveal one rack with numerous dresses. I check out the dresses, all figure hugging, mostly in black...and “Holy shit.” More than my month’s salary. “I’m not wearing these.”

“You are.” He nods to my current attire. “Ripped jeans, Nikes and a vintage tee won’t cut it. And that blonde mop of yours needs a hairbrush.”

I shake my head, really fighting the upset. “I’ve changed my mind.”

“Too late sweetheart,” He fiddles with his bow tie in the mirror, expertly swivelling the fabric until it’s a neat bow. “You’re mine.”



I take a seat on the chair in the walk in, staring at the racks of clothing. I also locate the boxes of heels, and when I bring one to my lap, I’m stunned to find that they are in my size. I eye the spectacular nude heel in awe before stuffing it back into the box. The price alone was nearly the same as my ill fated shift just last night...

When I sequester myself in the bathroom, I hold onto the marble vanity with shaking hands; and that’s when I see the lines of beauty products positioned neatly on the vanity. “Oh God, this cannot be happening...”

I go back to the walk in, rooting through my cases for anything, anything else to wear. Frustrated when I come up empty, I take a peek in the wardrobe again, plucking a stunning black lace gown that has a nude sheath under it. It’s floor length, my size and with its full sleeves, it makes me feel less conspicuous.

I take a quick shower, loosen my hair which has been tied up for so long that it has actually curled. I hit it with an enormous amount of hair spray, put make up on, having to do my lips twice because my hands are shaking...which could be the craziness or the fact that I haven’t eaten since God knows when.

In the act of trying to find shoes to wear, I’m keenly aware that someone has stepped into the space. I look up, finding Matthew appraising me for the door way. “Stand up.” I do as he asks, smoothing down the gown as I go. “Turn.” I nervously tuck my hair behind my ears as I comply. His blatant, hungry stare sends a lazy ripple of awareness through my system. I shouldn’t be enjoying this...but some deep, dark, twisted part of me...is. He steps towards me. “You’re wearing underwear?”

“What?”

“Underwear?” His eyes trace the dress from breasts to my thighs.

“Just panties...”

“Take them off.”

“What?”

“They show through the lace.”

“I’m not-”

He moves towards me before taking a knee, reaching under and skimming his hands up my thighs. I get such a shock that I freeze in place, my hands scrambling for the nearest wall for support. His fingers work lightly, too lightly...like he’s enjoying this as he finds the band. Hooking his fingers, he slowly brings them down my hips. “Step out of them.” He commands. I shift, watching as he assesses the full coverage panties with an amused smile. “I’ll get you some lingerie.” He tosses them into the bin near the vanity.

We arrive at the Fairbanks hotel just after seven PM. We’d driven in near silence from his penthouse. He’d spent most of his time on his cell, engrossed in whatever he was reading, texting or doing, because I’d given up trying and watched the world go by. No panties was a new thing to me...and I didn’t like it. He, and I hated myself for it, was making me wet. Put aside the crazy ‘I’m going to ruin your father plan’...he was downright gorgeous...and twisted...and what the hell was I thinking?!

The penny dropped like a meteor hitting the Earth when I realised why we were at the Fairbanks. I’d taken one look at the auction list, found that my father’s company had something listed for the charity event and I knew that he would be here.

Matthew takes my arm, steering me towards a table marked reserved. “You will remain quiet, civilised and by my side the entire night. Whatever I say, you simply nod and agree.”

“My dad is here. That’s why we’re here. You’re hoping to unsettle him by showing up with me.”

“You bet your ass I am.” He holds out a chair, and I take the hint. There’s water on the table, so I pour myself some, hoping to shift the headache that’s brewing. The ballroom was still festively decorated, lots of twinkly and sparkly lights draped around the walls. It was a beautiful space, and the chandeliers had been dimmed so that the candle-scaping in the middle of each table could add to the warmth. The table was only half full, and I watched as Matthew shook hands with a couple across from us. We’d also been seated near the giant Christmas tree which had a stunning array of pure white lights and matching baubles.

“And just who is your date?” The brunette asks.

“Georgia, you know that I don’t kiss and tell.” Matthew smiles.

“Well,” She accepts a drink from a passing waiter, taking a sip before speaking again. “I’m sure by the end of the night we will know!” The couple laugh, before their attention was taken by someone else showing up at the table.

“This is a bad idea.”

Fire filled eyes laser focused their gaze to mine. “What did I say?”

I sigh hotly. “Stay quiet.”



The festivities get under way and I’m grateful for the deliciously simple starter salad which I polish off with immediate effect. When I ask for a drink, the waiter allocated to our table brings me a selection of wines.

“Oh,” I say. “I’m sorry, I meant a water, I don’t drink.” I can feel Matthew’s eyes upon me.

“I’m so sorry Ma’am.” The young waiter blushes.

“Not a problem.” I smile, knowing just how hard it is to wait on fancy tables filled with even fancier people. “How about a big bottle of water and I won’t bother you again.”

He smiles. “I’ll get that right away.” He turns to leave, but changes his mind. “The main has an alcohol based sauce, would you like me to see if we can substitute it for something else?”

“Yes.” I smile. “That would be great.”

Matthew keeps a smile to his face but I can see the anger in his eyes, especially when his palm squeezes my thigh under the table. I grab his hand, pushing it away. He seems to take the hint as when the lights dim and the auction begins, he doesn’t say or do anything else.

His attention is never on the auction but on table fourteen, where my dad is sitting, casually throwing up his paddle on numerous occasions to bid, then to be outbid, then bid again, before he finally loses out on a luxury holiday that he makes great fuss over missing out on. There’s a woman beside him, laughing and cheering him on. When he plants a kiss on her lips, I realise that it’s not the woman he was with at Christmas just a few short days ago and she looked around her late twenties, much like I was.

Something in the air charges, and I focus in, watching as Matthew zones into the auction. I play catch up, watching the bidding start for what I can only assume is a painting of some countryside location. It’s not that big and it’s in an overly large frame. Before I can figure out what’s got him so tense, it’s up to ten grand in bids already. Rolling my eyes at the whole thing, I sit with my back straight in the chair, praying for the night to be over.

I watch as Matthew raises his paddle. “Fifty thousand.”

A audible gasp, followed by rapturous applause goes through the crowd. I spy through the sea of patrons my dad...his colour lowering when he spots Matthew. Thankfully the giant arrangement in the middle of the table was shielding me from view. I watched my dad drain his glass of something amber before his paddle went up. “One hundred.”

“To confirm.” The auctioneer asks through the PA system. “Mr Garrington, you are bidding one hundred thousand dollars for lot three?”

He pressed his paddle to the sky. “You are correct!” The room laughs as wild applause breaks out and he gestures to the waiter to refill his drink.

“Mr Stone,” The auctioneer gestures a hand toward him, and that’s when the spotlight focuses on him. “The bid is with you sir.”

“Five hundred thousand.”

The room goes silent. I had leafed through the catalogue just moments ago, found the painting and it was nothing but a okay illustration of some coastal region by a semi famous painter from the seventies.

It wasn’t worth half a million dollars.

“Mr Garrington, it’s with you sir!” The room goes into a pin drop silence. I watch my father’s cheeks redden with embarrassment. After a long, tense moment he signals clearly that he will not counter. “Sold to Mr Stone for five hundred thousand dollars!”

The roar of applause, cheers and whistles is deafening. Before I even realise what is happening, Matthew is on his feet, taking me with him and in front of everyone in the room, including my father who was now agog at who was with him, Matthew Stone kisses me.



In the safety of the bathroom, I reapply my lipstick but my hands are shaking so badly that I quit when the lines just will not sit right. I grab a tissue, aiming to run it over the lines but all I get are searing hot memories of the most erotic kiss of my life. His lips, at first, had pressed, then commanded me to open my mouth when his tongue had pressed against them and I’d let him in mostly in surprise. He’d been uncaring of the event around him, around us, choosing to levy all his attention on me. His hand had snaked from my hip to the base of my spine, where he’d pressed, bringing us closer...and that’s when I’d felt him. He was aroused...and I had to wonder was it me...or the fact that he’d won a sick game against my father tonight?

When I emerge from the bathroom, the foyer is busy with people but Jake is there, coming to meet me.

“Do you think I could get back to the penthouse please?”

He shakes his head firmly. “No can do, only when Mr Stone says. He also requests you get back to your seat.”

Hollowed by the events, and in borrowed finery, missing my dignity and underwear, I am guided by Jake back to my seat. Matthew’s is empty and so is most of the table, so I feign interest in the dessert menu. I track Jake, who is by the exit we just came through, and he’s watching me, like I realise he’s probably been doing all night. “Shit.” I reach into my clutch, find a tissue and wedge it into the corner of my eyes.

“There you are.” Matthew returns to his seat. “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

He laughs. “Liar. But for now, shelve it, you can deal with it later.”

“You’re an asshole, do you know that?” I hiss.

He laughs again, before someone comes over to congratulate him on securing the painting and that he’s simply going to re-gift it back to the charity along with his cheque.

And then, to my utter horror, I see my dad and his blonde twenty something heading over. “Oh God...” I whisper, watching as he bumps into people, tables and nearly careens into a waiter laden with a drinks tray. The lights are still low, but people are watching, whispering and talking about his dishevelled appearance.

“Stone!” He barks approaching our table. “Stone!”

Matthew doesn’t bat an eye. He gets to his feet, and for some reason, so do I. “Daniel.” He says smoothly.

“You’re a little shit do you know that!” My dad is slurring his words, and the blonde by his side giggles, hanging onto him in that really un-cool way. She’s got a fancy necklace on that I know to be real diamonds as it’s the exact same one he gave to me this Christmas...but I’d left it at his house when I’d left.

“Daniel, it’s just a little painting.” Matthew stands firm, before making a great show of wrapping his arm around my waist bringing me right against him.

“And you...” My dad focuses to me.

“Dad...”

His laugh is a really hollow, awful sound. “You’re such an ungrateful little bitch do you know that?” The barb hits home hard. “Shacking up with this guy, who is such a sore loser.”

“Dad, I think you should-”

He waves his hands, knocking over one of the vases in the middle of the table, which tips over, sloshing water to the carpeted floor; I grab it and get it upright. “This guy has no guts for business. So what I got the better deal, you just need to man up and deal with it.”

It happens so fast, that I’m almost stunned that my reflexes match Matthew’s as I grab his arm before he can land a punch on my dad’s jaw. “You need to go home dad. Please.”

Something dark crosses his eyes. “And you.” He points. “I’m so fucking glad that you’re not mine, you’re such an ungrateful little bitch.” He sways worryingly, making the reed thin blonde work hard at keeping him upright.

“What...” I murmur.

“You heard me.” He wheezes.

It’s my turn to sway. “What are you saying?”

“Why don’t you ask your cheating whore of a mother.” He sighs with exaggerated force. “I’ve been waiting years to get that off my chest!”

Jake, presumably at Matthew’s gesture, is suddenly there, grabbing my dad by the arm and shoulder and manoeuvring him out of the ballroom. The drama isn’t that contained and hushed voices breakout and rather than looking at Matthew...everyone is looking at me.



Matthew has to hold my hair back as I puke in the alleyway adjacent to the hotel. When there is nothing more to expel, I get his tuxedo jacket around my shoulders and then we aim for the car. Jake hands a water bottle to Matthew, who uncaps it, and offers it to me. I take it, drink some, my throat burning.

“Are you alright?”

“I need to speak with my mom.”

“I can arrange that.”

“Okay.” I sit in a numb shock, hearing the engine start. “Okay.” And I say nothing more until we get back to the penthouse.



The call with my mother isn’t as expected. The minute I repeat what my father says, the line goes dead. When I redial, wondering if it had been a bad connection, it’s her partner that answers. He doesn’t make sense, just something about my mom unable to come to the phone. “Kenneth, I need to speak to my mom.” I hear something, like when the speaker is muffled by a hand, as I can roughly make out my mother’s hysterical tones. My heart falls. And this time, I hang up.

There is a soft knock to my door. I face Matthew. He’s traded his suit for sweats. I’m still in that dress and ache to strip it off me and bin. I’d ripped off the heels when we’d arrived at the penthouse and I think they were by the front door.

“Did you speak to Veronica?”

I’m hurt that he knows my mother’s name, even though I had never mentioned it. “The call connected, we spoke, then...then she hung up and now I can’t get her to speak to me.”

He moves inwards, leaning against the wide chest of drawers opposite the bed, where I am seated. “I’m sorry.”

Something like a laugh slips through my lips. “Are you really?” I toss my cell down. “Surely your little investigation on me would have flagged this up, I bet you enjoyed watching my world crash down.”

“I didn’t know this.”

I press my hands to my eyes, praying the tears hold still, but they don’t. When I finally open my eyes, the room is empty. It shouldn’t but a pit of utter despair and loneliness suddenly rages through me...until I spy Matthew exiting the bathroom, a tissue box in hand.

“I can put you on a flight, to London if you want.” He hands me the box.

“No...I need to speak to her first, I actually don’t think I could even face her...if this...if it’s true.”

He takes a seat on the far edge of the bed. When I finally meet his gaze, I realise that whatever malice, for the moment, has left his features. He’d been a different man at the event...there had been a horrible hardness to him, and now...I shook my head clear, mopping up the tears.

“Why don’t you have something to eat, or drink?”

“I’m okay.”

“You were sick. You should at least have something to drink, water, or a tea? The housekeeper is here.”

I reach for the blanket that I’d put around my shoulders. “I’ll get changed, then maybe grab a tea or something.” I get to my feet, Matthew following suit. “Matthew, did you know?”

“No Talia, I didn’t. I can promise you that.”

“And tonight, it was to...embarrass my father by out bidding him?”

“Seems childish now, but yes...and with you by my side, I’d hope to incense him.”

I nod, my bottom lip trembling as the tears fall. “I feel like I’ve been used.”

Matthew sighs. “You have. By me. And your father.”

“Will you let me leave?”

He’s by the door now, reaching for the handle. “No.”

“Please!”

“No, I mean, you can’t be alone at a time like this...whatever I’d had planned...it was a sick twisted game. You would have got hurt and I was okay with that but now...”

“He hurt me first.”

“And for some inexplicable reason,” He murmurs. “I can’t quite bear it.”



I don’t manage any quality of sleep, having spent some time trying to reorganise my working life through Andrea, who mercifully, through some miracle was still happy to employ me. She books me a catering job for later in the week for a belated festive party at a private residence and I was grateful.

After that, I had tossed and turned until 3AM, it was a heady mix of the truth of my birth and that wild kiss that Matthew had planted on me at the party...before my life had imploded. At six AM, wet from the memories of that kiss and exhaustion, I get up, shower, and sit in the armchair on the terrace, waiting for the sky to fully lighten.

I watch the water, but was unable to take any calm from it. Mopping my tears on the blanket, I hear the terrace door open, Matthew slips through the gap to take the seat beside me.

“You didn’t sleep did you?”

“No.” I sigh. “Look, I think it’s time I went home.”

I hear him take a long, soft inhale, his view, much like mine on the horizon before us. “I think that might be a good idea.”

“Whatever this thing was between us, it was toxic. I’m sorry you lost all that money...but surely...” I gesture to the space around us. “You’re okay at the bank right?”

I hear him laugh softly, which makes me look at him. He looks rested, dressed in a shirt and smart trousers. I assume he’ll be leaving for the office. “I think it was more my pride that took a hit.”

“You couldn’t believe you had fallen for it and you saw red.”

“Yes.” He says. “Something like that.”

“I better pack up my things.”

“The housekeeper can do that for you.”

“No, it’s okay, Lara’s got enough to do.” I shuffle forwards on my seat, aiming to put my socked feet to the floor. “I can manage.”

“Well, why don’t we have breakfast together?”

I look to the rising sun, before looking back at Matthew, at the face that’s hidden in the shadows. “I’d like that.”



Lara prepares a wonderful Continental style breakfast for us. I’m amazed when she pulls freshly baked pastries from the oven, before leaving with a polite smile. Seated at the breakfast bar, I marvel at the light pouring through the space now that the sun has risen.

“I’ll miss this view.” I take a bite of the croissant. “Can I say that...”

“You can say that.” Matthew smiles. And it makes him look so handsome. “What?”

“Nothing.” I take great interest in stirring sugar into my tea.

“What, you were staring...have I got croissant flakes on my face?”

“No,” Although I wish he had, as I would have gladly let my fingers remove it. “No.”

“Talia?”

“It’s just...” I shake my head. “No, it’s nothing. Look, I better get moving.” I grab my dishes, bundle them together, and leave them by the counter. “I’ll get them in a minute.” By the time I turn back, Matthew’s followed me.

“You feel it, don’t you?” His hands press my hips back until my butt meets the black granite counter top.

“Matthew...” My heart jumps into my throat as I feel him close the gap. The soft press of his clothes against me, and then full body contact as he presses up against me. I sigh when I feel the fullness of his arousal.

“Since that kiss, you’re all I can think about.” His fingers press under my chin, bringing our gazes together. “I know you think about it...”

“Matthew...” His cologne is a wild, fresh assortment of citrus notes that makes me shimmer inside. His hands haven’t moved, his eyes, God, those eyes are locked with mine. I feel a warmth rush through me, making my cheeks hot and my body can’t help but tremble. I moan when he presses then grinds his hips in a slow tease against mine. I reach up, putting my arms around his neck, as if to hold on.

“Let me take you to bed Talia.”



The bright sun is trapped in the room, with the sheer curtains against the windows move delicately in the slight breeze from the open terrace door. Matthew closes his master bedroom door over, my heart suddenly flips in my chest when he aims for me, shedding that shirt in a slow, sensual show that makes my toes curl. “Get undressed sweetheart.”

My hands are shaking, but I do the best that I can, stripping down to my underwear. I toss my clothes to the pile that Matthew is making, then I get my breath taken away when he’s just in his Calvin’s. I murmur something but it’s mostly a moan; if he’s tenting the briefs that much now...what the hell can I except when he takes them off?

He saunters towards me. “When you weren’t wearing any panties under that dress, do you know how turned on I was?” His lips press against mine and I feel him hard against me. He’s so aroused and solid that I ache to touch him. Almost as if he’d read my mind, he guides my hand down to his cock. I palm him through the white cotton, loving the shape of him. However we met...the horrible turn my life had took...I just knew I had to be with him...in this moment.

I just wanted to forget.

I ease the briefs off his hips, and suddenly we’re in whirlwind of motion. My bra is hastily unhooked, my panties disappear and we tumble to the bed. Matthew lays right atop of me and I hook my arms around his waist, marvelling at the athleticism of his body, the way my fingers find the muscle of his beautiful physique. “God, I want you.” He presses a long line of kisses against my throat, before reaching for the drawer in the bedside table. Grabbing a condom, he rolls off me, applies it.

He stalls, taking a moment to appraise me, which just makes me blush...and ache to cover myself up...which I do, by scrambling for the throw on the bed.

“No baby...let me see you.” His hand is on my wrist, and I wrench my gaze away from him, suddenly overawed by the moment. “Let me see your beautiful breasts.” At his direction, I straighten from my hunch. He goes to my side, levering me back and before I can take a breath, he fastens his mouth to my nipple.

Sucking with delicate precision, I feel a storm of wetness build in my pussy that makes me heady and weak. I put my hand to the back of his head, urging him to continue. He switches nipple, sucking then squeezing my tit with his big hand. “So fucking gorgeous.”

Matthew climbs atop of me, going missionary and I feel his cock scrape my belly. Then I get his vivid gaze to mine, as he takes his cock into his hand and pushes the fat tip just inside of me. Without meaning to, I dig my nails into his bicep, my lower half seizing. “Baby...” He breathes.

“It’s just been a while...and you’re big.” He grins, kissing me hard and inching his way into me. My breath is nothing more than a hiss of delight as I feel my pussy clench around him, dragging him in deeper, even though my muscles are protesting. I must wince or something, because Matthew goes still.

“You need to be more wet.” He slides out off me, scoots down and before I can register where he’s going, his mouth fastens onto my clit.

I damn near jack knife on the bed. Moaning so hard, that I don’t recognise my own voice as he lavishes stroke after stroke with his tongue. He has to plant a hand on my lower abs to stop me from curling onto my side completely. Then he’s pressing two thick digits inside me, hooking them upwards and scraping my G spot that makes me nearly howl in delight. “There...” I watch as he removes his fingers, putting them into his mouth, and groaning softly. “I think you’re just about ready.”

I heave in a breath as he readjust his position, and this time, he slides right in, right to the hilt. He holds there, his chest crushing mine, before he pumps his hips, slow...ever so slow. My body heats as I feel his incredibly hard cock stir the wetness inside. I feel dizzy from the sensations, grateful to be prone.

“You okay?”

I nod, only able to confirm that way how okay I am with him inside of me. I widen my legs, and he slips in further. Thinking it can’t get any better, he presses the pads of his fingers against my clit as he ramps up his thrusts. I feel myself sinking deep into the mattress, the linens, loving the cocooning sensations and then he really starts to fuck me.

Hard.

His other hand reaches up, snaking around my breast. I plant both of my palms against his butt, holding on. The warmth that is sizzling through me is incredible, and simply, I had never felt anything like it. I could feel that start of the orgasm. It was slow, a rumbling beat against my nerves and Matthew showed no sign of slowing down until we both vaulted into something we needed.

“Matthew...” I breathed. “Just give it to me...please.”

He moves with utter precision, those hips working, thrusting and fucking. Over and over, in a timeless rhythm that makes my blood heat. I could feel the edgy tightening of my pussy, and then it was happening. I clenched down on his cock as I tipped into my orgasm, putting my mouth to his shoulder, moaning, groaning and everything in between as I started to come.

“Come on baby...” I heard him say. “Come for me.” I did, over and over, twice, then again. I was dazed by the time the sensations had ebbed, but he was still hard, and still pounding away inside of me. I put my hands to the base of his spine, urging him on, and to watch him fall, was an utter joy that had him calling out my name before he collapsed against my breast sated.



I left Matthew’s apartment later that day, easing back into my life with a quiet shock. We hadn’t said goodbye; I’d drifted into a slumber, dimly aware that the he was showering in the adjoining bathroom. I’d felt his hand trail down my bare back, before the sheets met my shoulder and I’d got a kiss at my temple.

Being home was sobering. Whatever problems I had, were still here...Selina and Jeff were cuddled together up on the sofa when I’d arrived, and seeing my best friend, I’d simply just broken down and sobbed in her arms. I’d admired Jeff in that moment; he’d mumbled something about getting some groceries, grabbed his jacket and left.



“Hey girl.” I find Selina at my doorway, two mugs of tea in her hand. “You nearly ready?”

I apply my lipstick, ease my feet into my sensible flats, and smooth down the uniform for tonight’s catering job. “Yes. Thanks for sorting my hair.” I pat the braid affectionately.

She smiles, deposing one mug atop my dresser. “Did I hear you speaking to your mom earlier?”

“No.”

“She still won’t speak to you?”

“She speaks to me, but when I ask her about what my dad says, she just fakes that her husband is calling her.”

“Ouch.” Selina murmurs as she takes a seat on my bed. “So...”

“So...I’m thinking what he said was true.”

“Has your dad been in touch? I mean Daniel...”

“No.”

“Talia...”

“I know what you’re going to say, that I need to figure this out, speak to them...but they are the ones that kept this from me and...”

“Why are you not more upset?”

“I’ve been asking myself that same thing.”

“Could it be- no it’s too horrible to say.”

I shake my head almost laughing. “Whatever it is, it can’t be any uglier than what’s been going through my head.”

She takes a quick breath. “Maybe you’re a little bit relieved he’s not your dad? And that’s why you were happy to go along with Matthew’s mad plan?”

“I didn’t know about my dad not being my dad until I was knee deep in the plan...”

“So...?”

I try and suppress the shudder. “A part of me liked the fact that Matthew Stone wanted to get one up on my dad as he’d screwed me over so many times before that.”

“Oh Talia. I’m just so sorry.” I hear my phone chime; I pat the bed, locating it under a shirt I’d decided not to wear tonight. “Your mom?” Selina said hopefully.

I shake my head. “No, it’s a recruitment agent.”

“Really? You’re going to look for work? I mean steadier work?”

“Not look. Find.” I throw my charger into my bag. “She’s going to help me. I think it’s time I put my degree to good use.”

“I thought you didn’t want anything in HR?”

“I don’t...but I need to make some money.”

“Talia, what’s going on?”

“I want to get a place of my own-”

“But-”

“No, hear me out. You and Jeff are going to get married soon and this is your place.”

“The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind Talia!”

“I know that.” I smile. “But I need my own space, to start a proper life. I’ve enjoyed waitressing but I’ve only been able to live here with you because you cut me so much slack with the rent and stuff.”

“My parents bought this place outright in the seventies...so it...”

“Seemed only fair?” I smile at my wonderful friend. “I will love you forever for that.” Selina looks tearful. “Hey, I’m not moving out tomorrow, I still need to find a job, get enough for a deposit etc etc.”

She smiles. “Good.” She climbs to her feet. “I can breathe a sigh of relief.”

“Yes you can.” I find my jacket.

“Have you spoken to Matthew?”

“No.” I strike my light off, then close my door, both of us aiming for the living room. “Whatever we had, it’s over.”

The elegant dinner for thirty is a lovely, quiet affair at a beautiful mansion on the outskirts of the city. It has a killer view of the water and it shouldn’t...but it makes me miss Matthew. Keen to put some distance between myself and that memory, I grab another drinks tray and circulate in the crowd. The simple act of making sure that the drinks were filled, that the canapés were getting eaten really helped to keep my mind still and quiet. I must have been putting on a good act or my make up was holding, as no one asked me anything, other than to give me direction about what to do next.

“Talia.” Andrea finds me just as they are about to start serving the starters. “We’ve got a few late comers so can you make sure that chef keeps some plates warm.”

“Of course.”

“And we’re running low on Champagne, any chance you can bring a couple of cases up from the cellar?”

“I’ll bring four up, saves time later.”

“That’s my girl.” Andrea smiles, her walkie-talkie bleeping, signalling her attention.



I’ve just put one case near the make shift bar in the foyer and I start to un-box it, the bartender helping me so that we can pop them into the ice bucket. I hear the door bell ring, then again, so I take it upon myself to go and open it as everyone is congregating in the main living space. It had started to rain on my own drive, and the weather was predicted to turn worse, so it wasn’t fair to leave someone on the door step.


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