At just twenty-eight years old, Arya Rey has become queen of the tech world. While she is highly respected as a philanthropist and fearless businesswoman, no one would suspect that beneath her controlled exterior simmers a private passion. A desire never spoken of in Boston's elite social circles. A need for submission, for satisfaction, for the kind of exquisite pleasure that can only be provided by one man . . . her billionaire ex-lover Maxwell Dane.
It's been five years since Max and Arya last met. Five years that they've longed for the feel of each other's skin. Max always takes what he wants, and he wants Arya back. But it's more than the memory of her broken heart that makes her resist. During their time apart, Arya has collected secrets of her own. She can give Max her body, but can she give him the truth?
Release date: November 1, 2016
Publisher: Forever Yours
Print pages: 370
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Look at me, baby. I want to watch you as you come.”
Opening my eyes, I stared into unending depths of green. The love gazing back at me brought tears to my eyes.
He used his thumbs to wipe away the drops and leaned down to kiss me. “You are mine, Arya, never forget that.”
My body clenched around him as he slid into me. He moved with agonizing slowness, denying me the orgasm he’d been building up for hours. I lifted my hips, trying to urge him to move a little bit faster. Frustrated, I jerked on my arm restraints and struggled to free myself.
“Please,” I begged, “I need to touch you. Release my wrists.” The force of his thrusts increased and my body responded with tiny spasms.
Oh yes, right there.
“Not yet, not until your core ripples around me, squeezing every drop from me.”
His hand moved between our bodies, toward my swollen, aching nub. He rubbed back and forth as his pace quickened.
That’s it, oh God, almost there.
The burning need inside my body increased to an unbearable level. My hips rose up and down to match every thrust. The convulsions started.
Yes, at last.
“Arya, can you hear me?”
“Arya, wake up.”
Where am I?
Sweat ran down my body as my heart pounded out of control, and my body ached for an orgasm that seemed unattainable. I jerked my arms, expecting restraints, but found nothing. I relaxed back onto the bed.
Only a dream.
“Are you listening? Wake up! They’re talking about us on the news.” Milla’s excited voice blared into my bedroom.
I rolled over, taking a quick peek at the clock. Four thirty a.m. Wasn’t it against the girl code to wake someone up too early? Why couldn’t Milla let me sleep a little bit longer?
“Did you hear me? We’re big news.”
“Go away, I don’t care,” I moaned. “I have ninety more minutes until the alarm goes off. Why are you in my penthouse anyway? Don’t you live across the hall?” Maybe if Milla left, I could fall back asleep and finish my orgasm.
“Scoot over and listen to the report. There should be more info right after the commercials.”
Nix the extra sleep idea.
“Fine,” I grumbled and shifted over, making room for my oh-so-bossy and chipper best friend.
She grabbed the remote from the bedside table and turned on the broadcast. I squinted as the blaring light from the giant TV lit up the room. Why did I put a sixty-inch plasma in my bedroom? The damn thing was too bright. As my eyes adjusted, I took in Milla’s appearance. She still wore the plum Valentino suit from last night, but her hair was wet and slicked back into a bun.
“Did you even sleep? When I left, you and Carmen were busy downing shots with the rest of the team. Don’t tell me you just got home.”
Please have a hangover.
“Okay, I won’t. After the party, I went back to Carmen’s and spent the night working out last-minute details of the merger. I came home as soon as the statement went out.”
Totally unfair. Even during graduate school at MIT, she drank like a sailor and still woke up at the crack of dawn for classes.
“I’m so happy that the three of us are back together. I missed her.”
“You and me both. Having our resident dominant around will keep us in line.”
“Isn’t that the truth?”
We had been known as the three musketeers while at MIT, but I’d pushed her away when my life had fallen apart.
She was living in New York now, and returned to Boston only for the merger. I sighed. I should have reestablished the friendship we’d lost five years ago. She deserved better than my distancing myself from her because of her brother.
Wait. Did Milla say something about a statement?
“What statement?” I pinned Milla with a confused glare.
“Shush, the commercial’s over. Listen.”
“Breaking business news.
“It’s official. MDC won the bidding war for the security technology think tank ArMil Innovations. An undisclosed sum was negotiated, with all parties remaining tight-lipped about exact figures, but analysts estimate it to be in the area of $150 billion. Our sources say negotiations were settled late last night with a celebration following.
“Many of you may recall the buzz surrounding Arya Rey when she hacked MI6’s security database after a direct challenge from the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service at the Def Con Conference in Las Vegas. The brainchild she created as a result of the competition, ArMil Innovations, became the highest-valued security technology development company in the world.
“Thirty minutes ago, a joint statement was released by Milla Castra, cofounder of ArMil Innovations, and Carmen Dane, technology CEO of MDC International, through MDC representative Grant Mills.
“‘We are proud to announce the joining of ArMil Innovations with MDC International. Together, our companies will harness our unique talents to develop new, innovative, and affordable technologies for all your security needs.’”
I turned my attention back to Milla. “You have been a busy girl this morning. What happened to taking a few days off to unwind and bask in our success? I think this decision requires a poll. I vote for relax. I’m going back to bed.” I laid back down and pulled the covers over my head. “Make sure you switch off the television, and close the door when you leave.”
Milla ignored my less than subtle hint. “Before we take our well-earned vacation, we need to meet with the new team Carmen assembled.” She paused. “Ari, are you sure you’re going to be okay with this? It isn’t too late to delay the merger, at least until you’ve had a little more time to adjust. I’m worried about you.”
Milla’s now somber voice caught me by surprise. I tugged the covers off my head and peered at her. We might not share any blood, but she loved me, and without question, she would fight any of my demons for me.
“I’ll be fine, Mil. It’s been five years. I survived the darkest days of my life and came out on top. I’m not twenty-three anymore. I can handle it. Besides, he’s in charge of the whole organization. He won’t bother with us.” If only I believed the BS flowing from my mouth.
Ever since Lex Duncan, my other best friend and adviser, suggested selling the business aspect of our company to allow me more time to focus on research, I worried about running into Maxwell Aaron Dane. With our high valuation, Milla, as CFO, only gave the top investment firms the opportunity to bid. But I never expected the highest offer to come from MDC, the conglomerate owned by Carmen and Max’s family.
Rejecting any consideration of the proposition due to personal issues with MDC’s CEO was not only selfish but also insane. In the end, Milla and I chose the most advantageous course for the future of the company, including the retention of all developmental controls for upcoming and current projects. Now, even if I wished to back out, it was too late. Moreover, I’d spent too much time rebuilding myself to fall again. One day, if Max and I happened to run into each other, I would wish him well and move on.
Great. Now I was lying to myself, too.
“Maybe you’re right,” Milla agreed. “Carmen is the head of all technology development for MDC. She’s not going to let her big brother take over any aspect of the companies she oversees without a fight. Besides, she’s aware of your history with Max. She’s the one who hid you from him when you left South Africa. She won’t let him interfere.”
Why did Milla’s words seem like a bad omen to me?
I stretched and glanced at the clock. Well, now that going back to bed was off the menu, better hit the treadmill. “Want to join me in the gym? It’s too cold for a run outside.” I pushed off the mattress and headed for my bathroom.
“No.” Milla yawned. “I think I’ll catch an hour or so of sleep before we have to meet at corporate. Lex wants us to arrive thirty minutes early in case there are a few surprises. He’s always trying to protect his adopted baby sister.”
I leaned my head out of the bathroom. “He loves me, but you, on the other hand…” I hummed aloud. “You could put us all out of our misery and jump him already. That way all the sexual tension between you two will end.”
Lex and Milla had had an ongoing thing for each other since Milla was in high school, but neither possessed the balls to act upon their feelings. I loved teasing them about it.
“On that note, I’m out of here. Sleep is calling my name.”
Milla jumped off the bed and left me to my morning routine before I headed to the gym.
I started my run around five a.m., giving me a few hours before my nine o’clock meeting at corporate. I gazed out toward the beautiful view of Boston’s midtown, while Pink blared her “girl power” songs in the background.
I am one lucky lady.
My success seemed surreal at times. Not many twenty-eight-year-olds get to say they went for a run in the home gym of their penthouse on the fifty-fifth floor of Boston’s Millennium Tower. I had gone from a physically and emotionally exhausted and financially strained PhD graduate to one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the world in less than five years.
“See world, women are tech wizards, too.” I fist-pumped into the empty room and caught myself before I fell off the treadmill.
I gave all the credit to Lex and Milla. They supported me when I needed them the most and encouraged me to make my vision a reality. I guessed I owed Max, too. If he hadn’t broken me, I wouldn’t have achieved any of the things I had accomplished to date.
A few years ago, I would have given up my whole life to please him, putting aside my dreams to fit into his world. I handed him complete control only for him throw it back in my face.
I had buried that side of myself. No man would gain that level of trust again.
I tapped the button to run faster. I wanted to sort through my thoughts before the meeting. If only exercise made life easier.
Milla insisted I needed to get laid. Maybe she was right, but I wasn’t sure if my equipment worked without BOB, my battery-operated boyfriend. My dreams highlighted my nonexistent sex life, and almost orgasming didn’t count.
Oh hell, there I went again, back to thinking about Max. Well, I couldn’t help it, since he was the sole experience I’d ever had.
Over the years, I went out with a few guys, but none of them gave me what I wanted or needed.
My lack of interest wasn’t their fault; I picked men I could dominate, not the other way around. They were the polar opposite of Max. Once or twice, I contemplated starting a sexual relationship, but I’d ended things before we reached first base. One kiss and I lost interest.
“Arya, get off the treadmill. I’ve been calling you for the past fifteen minutes,” Milla shouted from the doorway of the gym.
How long had I been running? I glimpsed at the wall clock. Seven fifteen a.m. Shit. I jumped off the machine and lowered the stereo. “My bad. I left my phone on the bench and with the music so loud I couldn’t hear it.”
“Don’t worry about it. Get moving. There isn’t much time.”
Man, she was already dressed. Did she even go to sleep?
“What’s going on? We aren’t due in the office until later in the morning.”
“Lex called. He had to reschedule the meeting to eight o’clock. The MDC teams know we’re all leaving town tonight, and they want to meet earlier in case extra time is needed to discuss the final logistics.”
“There is no way I’ll reach the office by eight o’clock. I haven’t even showered yet. With the weather and traffic, I won’t make it until at least eight thirty. You head over there and let Lex know I’m running late.”
“I don’t think so. Remember, he likes to shoot the messenger. I’m not in the mood to deal with his Irish temper.”
This thing with those two was now getting on my nerves.
“Fine. Tell him that I’m stuck on a call or something. I’ll get there as soon as possible. If he gives you shit, remind him that not everyone has a corporate copter on standby to pick them up for work.”
“So speaks the girl with a brand new Maybach and a private jet.”
I shot Milla the bird, snagged a water from the cooler, and chugged.
“Mmm,” I hummed, as the chilled water slid down my throat and cooled my overheated body from the inside.
“So sad, after making a billion-dollar deal, girl gets lazy and starts running late,” Milla remarked with a smirk. “Wait, you’re always running late.”
I rolled my eyes, rushed past her, and charged straight for my shower. I hoped I’d be only a few minutes late.
An hour and a half later, James, my driver, pulled onto the driveway leading to ArMil’s headquarters. I took my last sip of coffee and collected my papers, stuffing them into my briefcase. The forty-five minutes it took to arrive at the office were occupied fielding numerous calls from reporters, former college friends trying to cash in on ArMil’s success, and Kerry, my amazing, but seriously grumpy assistant.
“Ms. Rey, we’re almost there. Which entrance should I use?” asked James.
I rolled my eyes at his “Ms. Rey.” Even after spending the last four-plus years as my driver/bodyguard/therapist, he refused to call me Arya. He was more than an employee. He was family, my surrogate father in all aspects of the term. That is, if dads came in the form of scary, former Russian assassin types. He would protect me from past demons and any new ones creeping up to spook me.
Nope, not going there right now.
I shook the thought from my mind. “Take me to the main garage. It wouldn’t seem very professional for the cofounder of the company to sneak through the private elevators, just to avoid Carmen’s MDC employees.” Butterflies floated into my stomach. I seized some antacid from my bag and popped it into my mouth.
Why am I anxious all of a sudden?
Perhaps it was the bad omen I sensed when Milla had been talking about Max.
“Everything will be fine, Ms. Rey. Remember you’re one meeting away from a week’s vacation in Monterey.”
I relaxed a bit at the image of unwinding at home with my aunt Elana and eating all her incredible food.
The car stopped by the main lobby entrance in the garage, and an immediate wave of nausea attacked me. I closed my eyes and placed a hand on my stomach.
“I’ll give you a few minutes before I open the door to gather yourself.” The man was perceptive beyond measure.
“Thanks.” I lifted my gaze and caught him watching me through the rearview mirror. “I better straighten myself up and put on my game face.”
“There is nothing to straighten. You look sharp today. Take a moment, and let me know when you are ready.” He opened the door and stepped out of the car.
I opened my compact to check my makeup. Large hazel eyes accented perfectly with the correct shades of shadows stared back at me. My brown hair remained tucked into a loose bun, and my olive skin appeared flawless.
Wow, the hair and makeup lessons Milla drilled into me worked. No one would guess a minimalistic half-Indian computer nerd who loved ponytails, soft linen pants, and cozy sweaters hid under there. With the right hair, makeup, and attitude, Milla had converted me into a tough-as-nails entrepreneur prepped to take over a male-dominated world.
I finished my final check and knocked on the window, telling James I was ready. The second he opened the door, a waiting Kerry handed me a phone.
“Milla has called three times. She says it’s urgent, and you need to get upstairs, ASAP.”
What could she be freaking out about? I was only about thirty minutes late. I peeked at my wristwatch. Oops, make that forty-five.
I grabbed the phone and dialed. “Hey Mil, what’s up? I’m walking into the building.” I rushed through the doors and headed to the elevator Kerry had waiting for me.
“Arya, what’s the point of having a cell phone if you never keep it on?”
“I placed it on silent when I got tired of all the calls from reporters. What’s the big fire?”
“Arya, you need to be prepared. There are a few developments with the merger. I can’t say much more but stay calm. I have to go,” Milla whispered into the phone.
Leave it to Mil to sound cryptic and then hang up.
“What’s going on, Kerry?” I questioned.
“From what I understand, there were more people at the meeting than anticipated. I only saw our crew and Ms. Dane with a few of her colleagues. We expected other new team members, but they hadn’t arrived. However, Ms. Dane did seem quite agitated. I’m not used to seeing her simmering.”
Carmen simmering? She was the most poised woman I’d ever met. Something big was up if both Milla and Carmen were upset.
Lucky for them, the ice queen has arrived to save the day.
I hated the nickname the media had given me, but keeping my emotions out of business had helped me succeed. How else would I have survived the aftermath of South Africa without pretending I didn’t feel anything?
The elevator dinged, and I rushed out. It was too late to worry now. I walked toward the conference room door and stopped. The smell I’d never forget lingered in the air: spiced cologne, crisp linen, and soap. My heart clenched. Five years of separation, and I still recognized his scent.
Oh God, he wouldn’t dare.
Milla and her bad omens. My hand trembled as I clutched the strap of my bag and the other steadied my stomach. Maybe I should turn around and head to my office. I shook the possibility from my head. Never show weakness. I wasn’t the vulnerable woman I used to be.
“Arya, are you okay? Your face is pale. Do you want me to get you anything? Water?”
Kerry’s words snapped me out of my stupor. “I’m fine, Kerry, don’t worry. Let me take a moment before I give up official control of my baby to someone else,” I lied.
I took a deep breath, opened the door, and entered the filled conference room. The tension bombarding me was thick enough to cut. Milla’s worried expression and Lex’s angry one spoke volumes.
I smiled at Carmen and the few members of her team I recognized and moved toward Milla and Lex. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the other end of the table. My skin prickled. His presence overpowered the room.
Get yourself together, girl.
Maybe if I ignored him, I wouldn’t have to acknowledge his existence.
“I apologize for the delay. Please continue,” I announced in my most professional voice.
Remember to fake it until you make it.
Lex gestured to the seat next to him. “Arya, we decided to wait for you to begin. Ms. Dane has informed us of a few changes to our original plan. Due to other project commitments she will be stepping aside, and Mr. Dane will be replacing her.”
What? Without a second thought, I glanced at the other end of the table as I sat down. Emerald eyes stared back at me. Damn him and those eyes. My heart pounded as if it would explode out of my chest.
Stay calm, Arya.
Lex moved his hand to my back, trying to give me comfort.
The last time I’d gazed into that face was through tears. I was in South Africa on a service trip to transport technology to female-run communities, and Max was there working through his own private demons, including the murder of his father. Today, at thirty, he looked almost the same, just a bit harder and more enchanting.
“I don’t believe that would be the best course of action given the transition plan we worked with Ms. Dane for the past two months to create. She’s an integral part of our strategy and implementation,” I interjected without my voice quivering.
Max smiled and held my gaze. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Ms. Rey, but Carmen departs for Europe this afternoon. That leaves me as your only option. I’m confident you and your team can get me up to speed in no time.”
I bet the cocky bastard planned this from the beginning. Why would he do this?
I ignored his challenge and turned toward Lex. “Is it possible to place the merger on hold until these new circumstances are ironed out? I want to make sure these surprise changes aren’t a regular occurrence. Besides, I’m not sure Mr. Dane possesses the stamina or the time to understand the nuances of the technical aspect of this transition.” Man, I sounded seriously bitchy.
Lex seemed surprised by my remarks as well. He shook his head, but before he could speak, Max interjected, bringing my attention back to him.
“Ms. Rey, as I’m sure Mr. Duncan, your head legal counsel and adviser, will inform you, there is no placing anything on hold. We signed and executed the contracts yesterday. You’re stuck with me for the long term.” Another smile touched his lips as he scanned my face and quirked a brow. “I promise to be your number one student and study everything you require me to learn.”
My breath hitched. I’d said those exact words during our first night together many years ago.
Damn, he’d backed me into a corner. If I continued arguing, everyone would see my personal issues with him. Fine. If he wanted a crash course, he was getting one.
“Well, Mr. Dane, if we’re to be stuck with you, as you’ve said, then welcome and get ready to catapult into the world of security-technology development. Don’t expect much sleep over the next few weeks.” I smirked.
Before he could respond, I delineated all the transition specifics in as much technical detail as possible.
Five hours after the meeting began, I escaped to my office for a few moments of quiet. I threw my jacket on the sofa, unpinned my bun, letting my hair cascade down, and kicked off my heels as I stepped onto my soft pink silk rug. Walking to the oversized windows with views of the city, I leaned my head against the cold glass. I’d accomplished so much in the past few years, but a few hours in Max’s company turned me back into an unsure and uncertain twenty-three-year-old.
I closed my lids and attempted to hold back tears. Why hadn’t I gone with my first instinct and rejected the offer?
Because you’re a moron.
No matter what Lex or my legal team told me, my gut had screamed there was a catch. No company offered a deal this accommodating. Now here I was, back with the object of all my fantasies and the source of all my pain on a day-to-day basis.
I slid my hand down to my stomach as the agony of loss filled me. I opened my eyes at the sound of the wind picking up and the snow falling in sheets. Desiring a little warmth, I wrapped my arms around myself and rubbed the chill from my shoulders. At least in a few hours I’d be back in California with my aunt.
A knock sounded on my door, and I turned around. My breath hitched when I saw Max leaned against the frame inspecting me.
In five years he’d grown more handsome. Chocolate-brown hair, tanned skin, and piercing green eyes accented his impeccably chiseled face. His lean and honed six-foot-two physique filled out his tailor-made suit to perfection. Tabloid pictures didn’t do him justice. His minimally spiced cologne and his natural crisp scent infused the room, making my knees weak. I bit back a moan as I remember the way he’d smile when I’d sniff his neck every morning after his shower. A time when I held nothing back from anyone.
“Ahh, there’s the Arya I used to know and still cra. . .
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