“C’mon, babe, he’s a Garrison. One of Miami’s most eligible bachelors according to the Internet.”
He dipped his head to indicate his pocket. “Is he?”
Despite Adam’s plan to pay for Lauryn’s makeover, Lauryn had used her own money for the clothes, makeup and hairdresser believing it would give her the freedom to back out of the marriage right up until the last minute if she wanted. All she had liquid was the first monthly marriage payment.
“What’ll it take to shut you up? Five thousand?”
“Babe, I wasn’t born yesterday. Give me a hundred grand.”
“I don’t have a hundred thousand dollars!”
“Your husband does.”
“Our accounts are separate. I can’t touch Adam’s money.”
“Then I’m talking to the papers.” He turned as if to walk away.
Lauryn grabbed his arm. She couldn’t let him go, couldn’t let him destroy Adam’s plans. “Tommy, I’m not lying. I don’t have that kind of money and I can’t get it.”
“Then how much you got?”
If she low-balled him he’d walk. But it galled her to have to reward his evil streak. “Twenty-five thousand.”
“Not good enough.” He tried to shake her free, but she dug her nails deeper into his biceps.
She couldn’t believe this was happening. “I can get my hands on forty thousand dollars. That’s it. I swear it.”
His eyes narrowed as he appraised her, and he must have seen the truth on her face. “Let’s take a walk to your bank. But remember, babe, one peep out of you and I go to the press.”
“Lauryn, you okay?” Adam called out as Lauryn passed his open office door.
“Yes,” she replied quickly—too quickly—and kept walking.
But she couldn’t. Not yet. Not until she fixed this disaster. She dumped her purse in her desk drawer and pressed cold fingers to her temples.
“You were gone longer than usual,” Adam said behind her, startling her into whipping around and lowering her hands.
“I…had a…headache and I took a walk on the beach to get rid of it.” She was lying. Sort of. Tommy was a headache and she had taken a walk to get rid of him. But she hated twisting the truth.
“You’re pale.” With concern in his eyes Adam crossed the room, cupped her shoulders and examined her face. “Need to go home?”
She needed to wash off the stench of Tommy and to come up with a plan. How could she get copies of the documentation she needed? She didn’t even know the name of the attorney her father had used back then. Susan would know, but her mother would be gone six more days. Was there a way to call her onboard the ship? But even if she did get a name most offices, public and private, would be closed for the holidays until Monday.
Lauryn’s chest tightened. She could lose Adam over this. And she wasn’t ready to let him go yet. Who was she kidding? She’d never be ready to end this marriage.
“Hold me. Just hold me.” She wound her arms around his waist and pressed her cheek to his shoulder over the steady thump of his heart.
Adam shifted. She heard the click of her office door closing, and then his arms banded around her. His lips brushed her hair.
She lifted her head, chasing his mouth until her lips covered his. His hands tightened on her waist, but he didn’t push her away. His mouth opened over hers, his tongue seeking and stroking hers. Lauryn kissed him back with every ounce of love she had in her, and for a moment he almost made her forget the disaster her life had become, the disaster she could make of his.
She shaped him with her hands, memorizing the curve of his skull, the sharp angles of his jaw and the breadth of his shoulders. Her palms flattened over the muscles of his back, his waist, his tight behind. Adam sucked in a sharp breath.
She drew back and looked into his eyes, the eyes of the man she loved. The man she would lose if she couldn’t make this right. “If we don’t stop we’re going to violate part of the employee handbook.”
His nostrils flared and his eyes flashed. Streaks of arousal darkened his cheekbones. “Who are they going to complain to? I’m the boss. Where’s your purse?”
“My desk drawer. Why?”
“Because I’m too old to carry condoms in my wallet.”
“I don’t have any, either.”
“Give me your bag.”
Alarm shot through her. Her copy of the bank withdrawal slip was in her purse. “Why?”
“I put a condom compact in there last week.”
She’d never heard of a condom compact, but it didn’t take a genius IQ to figure out what one was. “I’ll get it.”
While she retrieved her bag and searched inside, Adam locked the office door.
Her fingers closed around a metal square she hadn’t noticed before today, but then she rarely had to go into her purse. Adam paid for everything and her keys, lipstick and cell phone went in an outside pocket. The brushed gold lid had her initials engraved on it. LLG. Lauryn Lowes Garrison.
Her heart hitched. How long would she bear that name?
She pushed the button and the top opened to reveal a cellophane packet. “What will they think of next?”
“Come here, wife.” He took her purse and the compact, dropping the first back into the drawer and the second on the desktop. “Remind me to buy a sofa for your office.”
And then he yanked her close and kissed her. Lauryn soaked up his barely leashed desire and reveled in his hurried caresses. His heat, his scent, his taste, she stored them all away in her memory bank. Just in case.
She’d have to tell him about Tommy and when she did Adam would probably hate her. He’d asked her if she had any more skeletons in her closet and she’d said no. He’d never believe she’d honestly thought her past a nonissue. How naive of her.
But she wanted to get through Thanksgiving dinner at his mother’s first and maybe even his mother’s birthday party, which Adam was hosting at the club. And then she’d tell Adam the whole sordid truth and pray he understood. Pray he wouldn’t hold her youthful indiscretions against her. Pray he wouldn’t throw her out.
Adam’s mouth traced the cords of her neck while his hands found the zip of her dress. She tore at the buttons of his shirt, his belt, his pants. He had them both nak*d in seconds. His hot flesh burned her palms, her lips, her tongue. She couldn’t get enough of him. She dropped to her knees and took him into her mouth.
“Lauryn,” he groaned and speared his fingers her hair. Far too soon he tugged her to her feet and kissed her hard. “I love what you do to me, but right now I need to be inside you.”
He backed her toward her wooden two-drawer lateral file cabinet, lifted her onto the cool surface and stepped between her legs. With movements as frantic as hers, his hands shaped her br**sts, tweaked her n**ples, found her center.
Conscious of employees on the other side of the door, Lauryn shoved a knuckle into her mouth to stifle a cry. She curled the fingers of her other hand around him and stroked his erection. Adam’s muffled groan vibrated against her breast, increasing the heavy desire boiling like lava in her center.
He straightened, hooked his hands beneath her knees and pulled her toward him. As soon as she’d rolled on the condom she guided him home and gasped as he filled her. Again and again, he thrust hard and fast.
His hands on her breast and where their bodies joined rushed her toward completion. Too soon. Too soon. Wait. She wanted to make it last, to savor the rising heat and the building tension, but cli**x broke over her like a bursting levy, and she couldn’t hold back the waves of ecstasy roaring through her.
His mouth swallowed her cries, and then he fed them back to her as his own orgasm shuddered through him. His head fell to her shoulder. The sound of their labored breathing filled the room and his back heaved beneath her hands.
Her eyes stung. She pulled him closer until not even a piece of paper could slip between their sweat-dampened torsos.
A sense of loss welled within her. She couldn’t give this up. Couldn’t lose him.
And she’d be damned if she’d let Tommy Saunders ruin this for her without a fight.
“I want more money.”
Lauryn nearly dropped the bedroom phone. She turned and saw Adam just yards away in the bathroom shaving in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner with his family.
“I don’t have more,” she whispered.
“Don’t mess with me, Lauryn. I’m looking at your digs right now. If you don’t believe me look out the back window. The place is worth millions.”
She walked to the window, looked out at the canal and spotted a small fishing boat with Tommy at the helm. A wave of dizziness reminded her to inhale. “I can’t get more.”
“Then give me that rock on your finger. Tell moneybags you lost it. He’ll buy you another one. Hell, the ring’s probably insured. He won’t even miss the dough.”
She glanced at her engagement and wedding rings and curled her fingers into a fist. She may have come into the rings in an unorthodox manner, but she wasn’t giving them up. She checked the bathroom and found Adam scraping away the last of the white foam. “I can’t do that.”
“Then this canary is gonna sing.”
“Don’t. Please. Give me a few days. A week.” By next Tuesday her mother would be home and Lauryn could fly to California and get the paperwork she needed. She wasn’t about to give Tommy more money. Because she realized now he’d just keep coming back.
“You say something, sweetheart?” Adam said from the other side of the bedroom.
“Don’t call again,” she said into the phone and hung up. “It was someone wanting a donation.”
Another twisted version of the truth.
There’s a price for every lie you tell. Before you open your mouth, be sure you’re prepared to pay it.
She faced Adam. He strolled toward her with his chest bare above his trousers, his face smooth and his eyes searching hers. She couldn’t believe how much she loved him. She’d never felt anything even remotely close to this for Tommy.
“Ready for another meal with the Garrisons?”
She didn’t think she could eat again until the Tommy issue was resolved. “Can’t wait.”
The blood drained from Lauryn’ head with dizzying swiftness. He had no idea how right he was.
“You’ve survived two Sunday dinners. You can handle today.” Adam pulled her into his arms and nuzzled a kiss below her ear. “Next year we’ll have everybody over here.”
She prayed there would be a next year, but at the rate she was going that seemed unlikely.
The ring of his cell phone jarred Adam out of a deep sleep Friday morning.
He forced open a leaded eyelid and looked at the clock. Eight. He’d only been home two hours and the sheets had barely had time to cool after he’d made love to Lauryn. She stirred beside him. He kissed her temple. “Go back to sleep. I got it.”