Read One to Hold Online

Authors: Tia Louise

One to Hold

 

 

 

One to Hold

By Tia Louise

 

 

 

Copyright

 

If you are reading this book and did not purchase it or win it from an author-sponsored giveaway, this book has been pirated. Please delete it from your device, and support the author(s) by purchasing a legal copy from one of its many distributors.

 

 

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

One to Hold

Copyright © Tia Louise, 2013

 

Printed in the United States of America.

 

 

 

Cover design by Regina Wamba of
MaeIDesign.com

Stock:
Thinkstock.com

 

 

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, photocopying, mechanical, or otherwise—without prior permission of the publisher and author.

 

 

 

For the real-life hero who inspired this story.

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1 – A One-Week Stand

Chapter 2 – Not Available in Any Way

Chapter 3 – The Additional Option

Chapter 4 – Special Forces

Chapter 5 – Little Boxes

Chapter 6 – All Sorts of Options

Chapter 7 – What I’d Give You

Chapter 8 – Something Truly Major

Chapter 9 – The End of the Week

Chapter 10 – Cut the Ties

Chapter 11 – Portfolio Diversity

Chapter 12 – A List of Names

Chapter 13 – Never Again

Chapter 14 – Off the Record

Chapter 15 – The Humiliating Truth

Chapter 16 – The Road to Anywhere

Chapter 17 – Finally Over

Chapter 18 – Sharing Everything

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Chapter 1 – A One-Week Stand

 

In the cool darkness of the semi-crowded bar, I could allow the last year to dissolve into a hazy fog, a far-off memory. Each low thump of bass that disappeared into the dull roar of voices beat it further down. With a little more alcohol, it could even become a dream—something that never occurred in real life. Something that could be brushed aside like a phantom, not a true form. Not a reality that burned shame, low and deep in my stomach.

Bars had become a thing of my past, along with flirtatious passes from unfamiliar men, but sitting alone in this hotel club, hundreds of miles from home, I felt wonderfully liberated. I could be anyone. Any anonymous woman having a drink before bed. I could pretend to be free.

My eyes traveled to the dance-floor where younger women in shiny slip dresses and chunky stilettos twisted and swayed, their smooth blonde or red hair matching their movements. They squeal-laughed when songs they liked came on, and the lines around their eyes disappeared as soon as their cheeks relaxed. They could dance all night and still make it to work tomorrow, eyes sparkling.

A bitter laugh slid from my throat as I stared back into the amber drink I’d ordered. The thought of dancing all night made me tired.

The bartender didn’t notice me. I’d stood for almost five minutes trying to get his attention to order this drink, and it was gross. “Seven and seven” was all I could remember from the days when I used to order drinks for myself. It was a popular combination then, but I never liked the flavor. Refreshing citrus dragged down by a heavy undertone of bitter syrup. I took a long pull from the tiny red straw and winced.

I should’ve gone back to the room with Elaine. My best friend since childhood said what I needed was a trip to the desert. She’d booked us a week at the Cactus Flower Spa in Scottsdale, where we could get massages, sit in steam rooms, soak in mud, and let our tensions melt away with hot-wax pedicures. She said it would break me out of my “funk,” as she called it.

I didn’t have anything else to do this week.

It was with those sunny thoughts in my head that I saw him. At first I thought it was an accident, my eyes flickering across the square-shaped bar at the same time as his. Blue eyes, strikingly blue because of the way they stood out beneath his dark brow, coupled with collar-length, thick dark hair. He had a beard. I didn’t like beards—not even close-trimmed ones like his. He was huge. I could see his muscles from where I sat. His chest strained against the tight, black shirt he wore, and his biceps stretched the sleeves. I preferred smaller men, long and lean model-types.

But he didn’t look away. And like a deer caught in headlights, I couldn’t either. My breath stilled as my eyes stayed on his, as I waited for him to release me. He would release me. I knew he would. I simply had to wait.

Men in bars were after those baby-faced innocents on the dance floor, not me. They wanted energetic young ones with their tight bodies, high-pitched breasts, and even tighter vaginas. Those were the girls men wanted to fuck. They would scream and moan all night and tell them they were the best ever, the king. I wasn’t looking for a king. Still, in the next moment, when the mountain of sex holding my gaze stood and began his slow glide in my direction, all I could think was
maybe

I watched as he passed the patrons facing each other, talking and laughing. Some were more animated than others, waving their arms and putting their drinks in peril. They all shone in the yellow lights hidden above, in the recesses of the wooden shelves that held dozens of upside-down glasses in all shapes and sizes. Liquor bottles were arranged on the top shelf. For some reason, though, the lights didn’t seem to reach him. Or me. We were in our own secret, shadowy place.

When he rounded the final corner and I could see him in full, my breath caught. My eyes traveled quickly from his broad shoulders to his narrow waist, down his grey pants ending in sleek, black loafers. Just as fast, they were back to his face, and he was in front of me. I’d never been confronted with so much male presence focused on me in my life. He had to be six-two and twice my size.

“Can I buy you a drink?” The low vibration of his voice shot a pleasing charge right between my legs, and my cheeks warmed.

Blinking back to my glass, I poked the half-empty contents with the straw. “I have this,” I said, my voice softer and higher in contrast to his.

“But you don’t like it.” A small smile was on his lips. It made him the slightest bit less intimidating.

“How do you know?”

He leaned against the bar in front of me, bringing his face closer to my level, his body almost touching mine. A faint scent of warm cologne swirled around me, tightening my chest.

“You make a face every time you sip it,” he said. “I’ve been watching you since you walked in with your friend earlier.”

My brows drew together. “Why?”

His tongue touched his bottom lip, and my jaw dropped. I quickly closed it, thinking how insane it was the way my body responded to him.

This was not me. I did not fantasize about hooking up with strange men in bars. And a cocky alpha who studied me like I was a frontier landscape he was ready to conquer had never been my type. He probably wanted to tie me up or handcuff me to something. A delicious shiver passed through me at the thought. I put my eyes on my drink.

“Maybe I should introduce myself,” he said, holding out a large palm. I stared at it a moment. “Derek.”

My eyes lifted to his blue ones, which were still holding me in that intense gaze. He had a small nose and a full mouth. A million pornographic images flooded my brain of that nose nudging into my dark spaces, of that mouth kissing areas long-neglected. That beard scratching the insides of my thighs as I moaned and twisted in white sheets, threading my fingers in his silky hair. I cleared the thickness in my throat, feeling heat everywhere in my body.

“Melissa,” I said, placing my noticeably smaller hand in his. His fingers closed over mine, and instead of overwhelming, it felt… right.

“Sweet Melissa,” he said with a little grin. The side of his mouth lifting the way it did made me want to kiss him.

“I’m not so sweet,” I said, taking my hand back.

“Aren’t others supposed to make that judgment?” His eyes never left me as he motioned to the bartender, who immediately came to us. Apparently it wasn’t only the perky blondes who got instant service.

“Two glasses of your best cava,” Derek said, giving the boy a quick glance before turning back to me.

“Cava?” I did love the crisp, Spanish sparkling wine. Why I hadn’t thought to order that instead of my tan cocktail-disaster? “That’s sort of a celebratory drink, isn’t it?”

“So let’s celebrate.”

“Did you get a promotion or something?”

He leaned closer, bringing his eyes to my level. My throat tightened, but I didn’t move away. “I met you,” he said in that low tone I felt in all the right places.

Two slim glasses were placed in front of us, but I wasn’t sure I could lift mine without my hand trembling. Derek picked up both and handed one to me. I took it and carefully sipped, watching as he did the same.

“Are you here on business?” I asked, trying to diffuse the ridiculous amount of sexual tension between us. I considered the possibility I was the only one feeling it.

“Banker’s conference this week,” he said, taking another, longer drink and then setting the glass back on the bar. His muscles fought against the thin fabric restraining them with every movement.

“You’re in banking?” I hated the tremor in my voice. It made me sound like a little girl, when I was striving to be an independent woman. A strong woman who was bigger than her past.

For once, I wanted to forget what happened last year. Let it go and be somebody else. I was out of town, in the desert, in a bar being hit on by a gorgeous stranger. Fate was giving me my chance.

“More like upper management,” he said, not seeming to notice my distraction. “I’m doing a workshop on international trade and finance tomorrow. You?”

“Spa vacation,” I said. “My friend Elaine said it would be a week to change my life. Or at least my outlook.”

A little spark hit his eyes, and I bit my lip. Did I just proposition him? Did I want to? It had been a long time since I’d wanted to be close to anyone in that way. Was I brave enough to let him in?

Internally I shook myself.
Yes
. If that was what I wanted, of course I was. I had always been strong before, and I was still strong. I wouldn’t let that be taken from me, too.

“Elaine is who you’re here with?” he asked.

I nodded, taking another, longer sip. I allowed my mind to release the past and return to better thoughts, like those of him removing that shirt and setting that massive physique free. My desire to see what was under it grew stronger by the minute.

“Will she worry if you’re out late?” he asked looking directly into my eyes.

I barely shook my head No. Elaine wouldn’t mind. She might even throw a party if I got laid. My breathing had become shallow, and all rational thought was quickly taking a backseat to desire.

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