Harleigh House Ch. 01bycharlottesometimes©
Rose had been working at his house for three weeks before she ever saw him.
She'd gotten warnings from his estate manage, Lynnette, about how to conduct herself. "Ryan's very laid-back," Lynnette said, disapproval ringing from her tone. "It's up to you to behave professionally."
She had already long since gleaned that Lynnette wanted the Harleighs to behave in a much more upper-crust manner than they—well, than Ryan—generally did. At least Ryan's wife, Jillian, with whom Lynnette spent her days in endless consultations about the cleaning solutions with which their submerged basketball court's floor ought to be treated and which lampshades best complemented the faux finish in the second guest suite—at least Jillian had the sense to consult the best interior designers and spend more on what she wore in the course of any given day than Rose spent on rent in a year. On the other hand, Ryan's only lifestyle acknowledgement of the obscene wealth his engineering firm had made him was the Maybach Landaulet he drove. It was, Rose thought as she walked past it in the garage each morning, quite the spectacular acknowledgement.
The "house" was Ryan's other concession to his wealth. The newly-built 40,000 square foot property was home to a lodge-sized great room, three parlors, sixteen bedrooms, a submerged bowling alley, hockey rink, and basketball court, full, his darkrooms, her hobby rooms, and as many bathrooms as the whole apartment building Rose lived in.
For Rose, working at Ryan and Jillian Harleigh's house was an exercise in facial muscle management; a typical day was a roller coaster between class rage and firmly squelched eye rolling. On the day that Rose first saw Ryan, the reigning crisis was Jillian's shower steamer; she was in a tizzy because her old one had created steam in "like, twenty seconds" and the new one took three endless minutes. "I have sinus issues!" she told Lynnette, waving her Cozumel-tanned and gym-toned arms. "I thought you were going to take care of this!"
"I've told the builder this is completely unacceptable," Lynnette said soothingly. "I'm sending Rose up with the instruction manual to see if there's something that can be adjusted. One of the builders will meet her up there."
"Thank God," Jillian blew out an exasperated breath.
"While I have you here, let's clarify some of the landscaping procedures we talked about," Lynnette segued smoothly, nodding at Rose to head upstairs with said manual.
So what else could she, a graduate student in the social sciences on summer vacation—what could Rose Telfair do but go upstairs and try to fumble her way through improving the functioning of a commercial-grade steam producer?
She was sitting on the floor of the shower, the manual open in front of her, intent on understanding the automatic water-feeding mechanism, when Ryan Harleigh walked in. She took him in an instant, his muscular frame, his air of unfazeability, his sharp green gaze.
"Oh, thank God you're here," she said, assuming he must be one of the contractors, sent up to deal with this latest "rich girl" problem that had been shunted off on her. "I have no idea how this shower works."
"What's the issue?" he said easily, lowering himself down beside Rose.
She sighed. "Jillian's not happy with how quickly it produces steam."
He raised a brow. "Jillian's not happy, huh? What a surprise." That he was aware of Jillian's attitude didn't surprise Rose—Jillian had gotten on the bad side of most of the people working there—but that he was so cavalier about it distinguished him.
He picked up the manual, glanced at the model for a moment, and then got on his knees to pull the cover off the steamer in the shower wall.
"You... you're sure you can put that back together, right?" Rose was nervous as she watched him pull tubes out and examine them before tossing them carelessly aside.
He looked at her, surprised, and then seemed to have a realization as a smile flitted around his mouth. "What do you think the missus will do to me if I can't?" he drawled.
Rose smiled thinly. "Well, she fired one of the housekeepers last week for failing to disinfect her feet after she came in from sweeping the patio, so..."
Rose shrugged. "She's used to everything being easy," she explained what she'd gleaned through inference in her first days on the job, "so she invents problems and adversaries to have something to think about."
His eyes narrowed, and skimmed over her black hair, her flat stomach and flashy curves appraisingly, and Rose was suddenly very, very aware of her own body, of her breasts, of his physicality, his maleness. "Who are you?" he asked abruptly. "And how did you figure out—"
"Ryan!" They heard Jillian's voice from the foyer balcony.
He stood up slowly as she walked in.
"Ryan." She put her hands on her hips as she saw what he was doing. "How many times do I have to ask you to let professionals fix our appliances?"
He laughed at Jillian openly, something Rose could never have imagined anyone doing before that moment, and with that sight came the shock of revelation.
He's Ryan Harleigh and he owns this lot.
Presently, Ryan Harleigh was looking at his wife mockingly. "Maybe if you ask enough times, all my engineering degrees will stop existing."
She made a face at him. And then turned to Rose for support. "I swear to God, Rose, the first time I met him, we were at a party at Reynard du Plein's and he—at the du Plein's!—took apart the light fixtures because the bulbs kept flickering. It's some kind of disease."
Rose, who had not the first idea of who or what Reynard du Plein was, saw the genuine irritation in Jillian's eyes, shrugged her shoulders in what she hoped passed for tacit agreement. She shot Ryan a look of apology at the same time. Ryan noticed, and he narrowed his eyes at her.
"I'll fix the steamer for you," Ryan told Jillian calmly. "And she—Rose, right?—will help. Get the manual, will you?"
Jillian rolled her eyes and stormed off. Rose did as he requested, and hoped he hadn't dragged her onto the wrong side of her summer job. She needed this job if she was going to make enough money to fund her research in Strasbourg, which, aside from getting some reading done in the evenings, was her whole goal for the summer.
But that fear dissipated quickly when Rose saw him flex his broad shoulders and squeeze his eyes shut as his wife walked out of the room. "'Welcome home, Ryan,'" he muttered. "'How was your trip?'"
"How was your trip?" He'd just come back from a business trip to Paris, Rose knew.
He looked at her, now. "C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron," he said acerbically. "Which means—"
"The blacksmith is created through—actually smithing." Rose was quiet a moment, just looking at him as he studied the parts in his hands intently.
"Exactly," he muttered. "The trip was good. I'm—getting back to basics."
He turned back to the open steamer in front of him, obviously not intending to say any more, as Rose settled back into the corner, manual open in her hands, and watched his hands move over the machine.
Even then, she was imagining those hands on her body.
She watched him whenever she could over the next two weeks, and there were moments when she believed he, twelve years older than her, a thousand times more successful, and the very definition of "out of her league"—was watching her, too.
He was, and couldn't help himself. But he was discreet enough that Rose was the only one who could have noticed, intent as she was on his every movement. He would linger just a little too long in a doorway, or walk needlessly close to her as he passed by.
She was fascinated by him, by his easy way with the various crews at work on finishing the house he was trying to live in, the calm way he commanded respect, his habit of pitching in with the day laborers. He was a man who had more respect for hard work than money, and because of that, all of the workers seemed to genuinely respect him.
She had a crush. She knew it, and knew it was hopeless. Rose felt ridiculous as she took extra care on her eyeliner each morning on the off-chance he might be working from home, or get home before she left for the day. But knowing it was hopeless didn't stop her from lying awake at night, getting hot for him—didn't stop her from dressing with him in mind—from weaving elaborate fantasies about him as she worked, fantasies about his mouth on her body, his body inside her.
One morning, he was leaving through the garage as she was coming in. He stopped short when he saw her. "Rose." He cleared his throat. "How are you this morning?"
"Fine. I'm—fine." The two of them stood there, not moving, alone in the space around them for the first time since he'd fixed the steamer. She was transfixed. He was struggling not to be, and she tore his gaze from his mouth, his throat, to see him fingering his wedding ring idly. His mouth twisted and he tore his gaze away. "Right. Well—watch out for my wife this morning. She's in a bit of a mood."
"More troubles with the staff?" Jillian's fights with housekeeping were legendary.
"No, no. With me this time." He scowled. "I'm not dragging you into this. I just—be kind to her, this morning. And tread lightly."
"OK." Rose paused. "Are you—OK?"
He didn't look at her, just lowered himself into his car. "Have a good day," he said, in a tone meant to dismiss her.
He stared at her in his rearview mirror as he pulled out of the garage. Her breasts did obscene things to that blouse, he thought, and squeezed his eyes shut, trying to will away the image.
But it, and others—her thighs, her shoulders, her eyes—persisted. It got worse at night.
There came, as there always comes, an evening—a moment—when everything seemingly changes all at once, even if it's really the culmination of weeks of pressure being suddenly released.
Jillian was away for a few days at their summer house up the coast, and Lynnette left early to negotiate with some restoration experts about Jillian's mother's antique chaises, and Rose was stuck waiting to do payroll and hand out checks for all the contractors. When the last of them left, she gave into her temptation. She didn't think about it, or name it. She only knew she wanted to see him. Whole days had gone by without her hearing his voice, or seeing him more than peripherally, and it was eating her up.
She went to his office and lightly knocked on the half-ajar door
"I'm about to head out for the day," she told him, savoring the sight of him, an open textbook in his hands, his feet propped up on his computer tower, "and I was wondering if you needed anything...?"
She honestly didn't mean the question to be suggestive, and blushed as he swung his feet to the floor and said teasingly, "You shouldn't say thing like that to a man if you don't mean them, Rose." He set the book down and let his eyes drink in the sight of her. "Come in and sit down a minute and talk to me about why someone like you is doing this job."
So she told him—about her parents and sisters, about her undergraduate degree and current graduate work, about her reasons for taking this job in the 'burbs and her summer sublet in the city.
"A good neighborhood to be young and single," he said easily. "I lived there myself when I was your age." That would have been a decade back, they were both thinking. Not so long, Rose considered, but Ryan was thinking, A lifetime ago.
"How long have you and Jillian been married?" Rose asked bravely.
"Six years." He met her eyes and smiled, though it looked a little forced, to Rose—though she told herself fiercely to stop seeing only what she wanted to see. "It'll be seven in September."
"I noticed there's a nursery in the floor plan... are you guys thinking about having kids?"
His eyes shadowed. "Jillian can't have children," he said shortly. "But she's... we're thinking about adopting."
"Oh, well.... that's—that's good. More people should—"
He put her out of her misery by getting to his feet and coming around the desk. "How'd you get that bruise?" he asked, indicating her right arm.
"You know those giraffe statues? The ones that used to be in your living room. At the old house."
He grinned. "Those giraffes and I go way back."
"Well, Jillian wanted them in the third guest suite—so I was moving them up, and I bumped one on my arm, that's all." His eyes seemed fixed on that bruise. "I bruise easily, don't worry. And with all the heavy things that need moving around here—"
"We'll get you some liniment," he said briskly. "And from now on, get one of the men to lift for you—"
"I don't need a man--"
His brows shot up. "Don't you?" he asked, and the question hung in the air. Both of them lived, for a moment, in the meaning of those words—she, with confusion about his intentions—he, with the need to make up his mind about them—both of them sensing that, once he had, there would be no uncrossing the line.
In the next instant, hesitation gone, he lowered his mouth—first to her arm, to the bruise, to kiss it very, very gently. She never thought about pulling away. She was trembling, which she must have felt as he firmly grabbed her hands and lowered his lips to hers.
There, he was only gentle for a moment. It quickly became fierce—rapacious—and wet. When he let go of her hands, it was to grab her hips and pull her against him. When he let go of her hands, they went straight to his neck, to his hair, to pull him down into her.
He lifted his mouth, and his breathing was heavier. "Rose," he said quietly, "I... want... you. Now."
It was a moment straight from one of her fantasies. It was also a moment of reckoning, a moment when he made it clear that he intended to fuck her, right there, that night, and in which he dredged up his old sense of honor and gave her an opportunity to refuse. She looked up at him, her eyes clear, his gleaming down at hers.
She didn't refuse, of course. Her heart was racing, every sensitive point of her body—nipples, clit—throbbing... her brain felt like it was on fire. For him. And she had never felt anything like it.
"How much?" she asked impishly.
He grabbed one of her hands in his and pulled it between their bodies onto his cock, already hardening. "This much," he said, answering need with like need. He pulled her back into a kiss with a low moan, this time sliding a leg between hers, a leg which, as his kiss grew more passionate, she quickly clamped her legs around, riding his thigh, grinding it against her wet, aching pussy.
His hands stroked lightly over her whole body, possessing some innate quality which made him confident he was welcome and would please her. He never seemed to have any doubts about her pleasure. And consequently, she followed his lead. When he backed her against the wide ledge along the wall-length window, she complained only when his mouth lifted from hers. By then, he was kissing his way down her body... biting his way down her torso, licking the sensitive skin above her belly button as he impatiently pushed her blouse to the sides. When he, on his knees in front of her, reached the waist of her skirt, he paused.
"I've imagined you—this—so many times," Ryan said, "I just want to take a moment...." He savored his anticipation, lowering his face onto Rose's skirt and breathing deeply the muted scent of her pitched arousal.
Then, without looking up at her again, he raised the hem of her skirt very, very slowly, revealing her pale thighs an inch at a time, raising it until the whole of it was bunched around her waist and he had an uninterrupted view of her underwear, which was trimmed with lace and covered in tiny umbrellas.
He smiled against the crotch of them. "You need these," he danced his fingers softly over the umbrellas, "because it's very, very wet down here."
She groaned at the double entendre, but it quickly turned into another moan as he laughed softly and said, "Forgive me," and then shoved her underwear to the side and thrust his tongue into the heat.
"I—forgive you," she managed, and was rewarded with a chuckled against her sensitive clit.
His tongue was long and strong and playful. It danced tantalizing circles around her clit that left her gasping and grasping at his hair, and then he pressed it hard in her center, barely entering her, working her hard and leaving her clutching the window ledge and bucking into his chin.
"Ryan. Ryan." His name was a mantra.
"Tell me what you're feeling, honey. Tell me what you want."
"I'm—oh, God, mmm, I—I—oh, God... it hurts." He lifted his mouth immediately, his eyes flashing fear that he'd inadvertently hurt her, but she clutched his hair and pulled him back to her. "I want—more."
He heaved out his breath, suddenly seeming like a relieved teenage boy, and reached up and used his thumbs to pull her lips apart around her clit, exposing its greediness. "You want to come?" he asked, his lips around it.
He didn't seem like a boy, now.
"Yes, please." She struggled to prevent her desperation from reaching her tone—but he heard it, and answered it.
He sucked her clit hard into his mouth and she screamed—and shattered, bucking against him wildly as though trying to struggle free when that was the last thing she wanted. She wanted his tongue, his mouth, his body, his passion. Again and again.
He tongued her softly as she came down, and then, licking his lips to clean her from them, to swallow her taste, he stood up and kissed her. "All you had to do was ask," he whispered, and her cunt clenched hard, and she kept trembling.
As Rose recovered, Ryan reached for his belt, unbuckled it, and then pulled down his jeans and boxers to reveal a thick, heavy cock dripping a bit of precum. She wanted to reach down and touch herself, just looking at it. She met his eyes uncertainly as he, his eyes fixed on her face, slowly lowered himself onto the chair behind him, rested his arms on its arms.
She was damp with perspiration and her own come, her skirt around her waist, her long brown hair tumbling around her, her blouse unbuttoned, her panties failing to shield her, open to his gaze on the window ledge.
"What do you want?" she whispered, and he almost moaned at the question alone. It had been so long since anyone had asked it; Jillian thought she already knew the answers, and anyway, she imposed so many rules about where he could touch her, and how, and when, that he'd long since given up thinking, in bed with his wife, about what he really wanted.
And he had never cheated on his wife before, despite—everything. But Rose, with her perfect skin, her intelligent eyes and her fine humor, her huge, beautiful breasts that had been driving him mad—she'd quickly become an obsession, and changed all his rules.
He wanted her to suck him, and fuck him, and dig her nails into his back and moan for him, plead for him, work to please him, fall apart for him, and thank him for pleasing her. It was primitive, and Ryan couldn't have articulated it, and wouldn't have even if he could have. He was too private a man, too wary to expose his need.
So he didn't tell her any of that.
She was watching him now, mesmerized, as his hand lowered to his cock and began to stroke it before her transfixed gaze. She licked her lips nervously. "What I want," he said evenly, "is for you to follow your instincts and do with this," he pulled on his long, straining cock for emphasis, "exactly what you want." And he meant it as he said it.
She let out a shuddering breath and, on shaky legs, got to her feet, readjusting her skirt and pulling off her panties and discarding them. She walked between his knees and stood there for a moment, watching him pull on his cock, licking those lips again and again.