Home > Release Me (Stark Trilogy #1)(15)

Release Me (Stark Trilogy #1)(15)
Author: J. Kenner

“I’ll be sure to pick up a copy.”

“I’ll have my office send you one. Perhaps then you’ll understand just how persistent I can be.”

“I already understand it. What I don’t get is why you’re so fascinated with who I’m sleeping with. Why exactly does that interest you?” I’m treading on dangerous territory, and I suddenly understand that old adage about flirting with danger.

He climbs a step, putting his body in much closer proximity to mine. “There are a number of things about you that fascinate me.”

Oh my. I move carefully up to the next level. “I’m an open book, Mr. Stark.” I ascend one more step.

“You and I both know that’s not true, Ms. Fairchild. But someday …”

He trails off, and though I know better, I have to ask. “Someday, what?”

“Someday you will be open for me, Ms. Fairchild. In so very many ways.”

I want to respond, but I’ve lost the power of speech. Damien Stark wants me. More than that, he wants to peel back the layers and learn my secrets.

The idea is terrifying, and yet also strangely appealing.

Discomfited, I take another backward step up toward the balcony, then wince. Immediately, Stark is at my side. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Something sharp on the step.”

He looks down at my still-bare feet.

Sheepishly, I hold out the strappy sandals with the three-inch heels.

“Very nice,” he says. “Perhaps you should put them on.”

“Nice?” I repeat. “They aren’t nice. They’re astounding. They cup my foot, show off my pedicure, slim my leg, and lift my ass just enough to make it look damn hot in this dress.”

The corner of his mouth twitches with amusement. “I recall. Truly, they are amazing shoes.”

“They also happen to be my first and only purchase from my frivolous Los Angeles shopping splurge.”

“Well worth the damage to your checking account, I’m sure.”

“Totally. But they are an absolute bitch to walk in. And now that I’ve taken them off I really don’t know if I can get them back on again. No, correction. I don’t know if I can get them on again and actually walk.”

“I see your dilemma. Fortunately, I’ve made a career out of coming up with solutions to such knotty problems.”

“Is that so? Well, please. Enlighten me.”

“You can stay here on the steps. You can go inside barefoot. You can put the shoes back on and suffer.”

“Somehow I expected something better from the great Damien Stark. If that’s all the brainpower it takes to become the head of a corporate empire, I should have jumped all over that a long time ago.”

“Sorry to disappoint.”

“Staying here won’t work,” I say. “For one thing, it’s cold. For another, I want to say goodbye to Evelyn.”

“Mmm.” He nods and frowns. “You’re so right. Clearly I didn’t fully examine the conundrum.”

“That’s what makes it a conundrum,” I say. “As for going barefoot, Elizabeth Fairchild’s daughter does not go barefoot at social events, no matter how much she might want to. I’m pretty sure it’s a genetic trait.”

“Then your choice is clear. You’re going to have to wear the shoes.”

“And suffer? No thank you. I don’t do pain.”

My words are flippant and not entirely true. He stares at me long and hard, and for some reason, Ollie’s parting words come back to me: Be careful. Then his face clears and he’s looking at me with amusement once again. I about melt with relief.

“There is one more option.”

“Ah, see? You were holding out on me.”

“I can pick you up and carry you into the party.”

“Right,” I say. “I’m just going to slip these puppies back on and suffer.” I sit down on the step and slide my feet into the sandals. It’s not pleasant. The shoes aren’t broken in, and my feet are in full protest mode. I enjoyed the walk on the beach, but I should have known that everything comes with a price.

I stand, wince a little, and continue up the stairs. Stark is behind me, and when we reach the balcony he moves to my side and takes my arm. Then he leans in so close I feel his breath on my ear. “Some things are worth the pain. I’m glad you understand that.”

I turn sharply to look at him. “What?”

“I’m simply saying that I’m glad you decided to put the shoes back on.”

“Even though that meant I rejected your offer to throw me over your shoulder caveman-style and cart me around the party?”

“I don’t recall mentioning a caveman carry, though the idea is undeniably intriguing.” He pulls out his iPhone and starts to type something.

“What are you doing?”

“Making a note,” he says.

I laugh and shake my head. “I’ll say this, Mr. Stark. Whatever else you are, you’re always a surprise.” I look him up and down. “I don’t suppose you have a pair of black flip-flops hidden on your person? Because that would be the kind of surprise I could really use.”

“I’m afraid not,” he says. “But in the future I may have to carry a pair just to be safe. I never realized what valuable currency a comfortable pair of shoes can be.”

It occurs to me that I’m in full flirt-mode with Damien Stark. The man who has been hot and cold all night. The man who bleeds power and commands an empire and could snap his fingers and have any woman he wants. Right now, that woman is me.

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