tagRomanceA Matter Of Trust

A Matter Of Trust


Colby Colson's cascading raven curls tumbled freely to her bared shoulders in a slightly tangled disarray as her always intense hazel brown eyes scanned her reflection with carefully, critical scrutiny, steadily searching for flawless in her appearance, as she had already decided that tonight, she simply could not settle for anything less than pure perfection. Tonight...a tired, almost agonizingly anxious sigh escaped her...she needed tonight to be glorious down to the very last detail, she had so much riding on Justin's reaction to what she wanted to say to him once he was finally back in her arms after too many weeks away in England, working endless hours as he prepared to open his first European based Precise.

Precise, Colby knew, had and always would be a major priority for Justin...it was, as he often liked to call it, his lifework...the empire he had built from a single, somewhat floundering restaurant his mother had left to him when she passed away, just weeks after she and Justin together celebrated his twenty first birthday.

As Nora Morgan's only earthly possession, Precise had served as the only gift she had to give to her son and as a final promise to his mother, Justin faithfully swore to her that he would make her dream and his come true.

"It started with her, but I had the same vision as she did, only she never had the real chance to make her dreams come true." Justin had shared his thoughts with during a blessed, rare moment when all his guards were briefly lowered. "She did all she could to make a good, happy life for me and even though she will never see it now, I am doing everything I can to keep her vision alive."

It had touched Colby deeply, to hear him say such a thing...to see genuine emotions in his eyes...it wasn't a common occurrence, he tended to keep most everyone at bay and it was only by chance, or perhaps fate, that Colby had managed to connect with him on any level, and at times, she was almost certain Justin resented himself for needing her and wanting her as intensely as he did.

Once, after a particularly passionate bout of lovemaking, he had confessed to her that she was almost like a drug to him...he couldn't resist her...couldn't make himself stay away and even at the most inconvenient moments, her image lingered on his mind, beckoning him to return to her even when he told himself it was best to stay away. To remove himself fully, from her life...she deserved more than he had the ability or the means or even the willingness to give her, or any other woman, as it was his firm and steady belief that no relationship in his life could be long lasting in any sense; it was his belief that any woman in her right mind would, eventually, find herself longing for more than just wild sex and as much as it pained Colby to hold back her thoughts, she had, for nearly two years, managed to refrain from pointing out to Justin that their relationship was based on far more than just intensely magical sex, even if he didn't care to admit as much.

It certainly had not been what he was looking for...she wasn't something she had ever expected to find when he breezed into a small but fairly well established art gallery in an effort to find work he could display in his soon to open third New York location for Precise. He liked, if it was possible, to give up and coming talents a chance to showcase their skill, as long as it fit into the elegant but comfortable décor he always strived for...he settled for nothing but the best when it came to his restaurants, those who knew him understood as much, just as they understood he had a deep appreciation for beauty and there was no denying, for him, at the very least, that Colby Colson was just that, and then some.

He spotted her almost the instant he came in, standing on the far side of the room, looking somewhat lost in her thoughts as she stared up at a stunningly crafted ocean scene so skillfully painted one almost felt as if they were standing on a beach...but the painting itself was just an afterthought for Justin, who paused inside the door to look at the young woman who seemed oblivious to the world that surrounded her.

From the distance, he could see she wasn't tall, no more than five two or three, but she had a classically full figure with heavy breast, a tapered waist and long legs that incased in faded jeans while the red sweater she wore accented her ivory skin as somewhat untamed hair fell to her shoulders in a shimmering cascade.

Her hair, he decided, was the most unusual shade he had ever seen...it was an odd but successful marriage of brown and red that came together to create a rosewood like shade that perfectly framed her face as she turned to look at him, having clearly sensed that someone was staring at her intently and when she did turn, he saw for the first time that her features fit together in flawless summation.

"The painting is for sale, Justin, not the young woman."

At the familiar and only half teasing voice, Justin smiled and turned to find Wendy Ann Lewis, the gallery owner, and a longtime friend standing behind him, her green eyes serious as her flaming red hair tumbled down her back.

"And just because I am curious, do we know who the young woman is?" He did not bother to hide his interest, he had known Wendy too long for that and she sighed as she nodded, looking far less than pleased, which Justin thought odd.

"Her name is Colby Colson and she painted that piece she is standing in front of, as well as several others displayed throughout the gallery."

"So she is an artist?"

"A twenty three year old artist who has been in New York for less than six months and is, I might add, what you might call fresh from the farm and totally innocent." There seemed to be a warning in her words that again made Justin grin.

"Can I ask for more information." He lifted one shoulder. "Is she married? Single? I like what I can see of her work from here, so is there any chance she would be pleased to see it displayed in my latest restaurant?" Business was still on his mind, but so was the girl herself, as Wendy well knew.

"I can assure you, having her work displayed in such a high profile location would be a thrill for her, and as for the other questions..."


"She is single, Justin, but she is not like your other women."

"Because she is so young."

"Because she is so young and sweet and innocent and she has suffered a hell of a lot of hurt as it is." Wendy lowered her voice. "Just before she moved her, she lost her mother, in a bank robbery and two years before that, her father died in a boating accident, so the very last thing I want is for her to find herself involved with a man who could cause her hurt, even if he doesn't meant to." Which she knew Justin could do...he could break Colby's heart, and feel bad about it, but it would not change the fact that Colby would be the one in tears, while Justin moved on to the next conquest, as he was so famed for doing.

A ten year long friendship made it possible for Wendy to have a better than merely fair understanding of how Justin handled his affairs...she even knew why he never allowed what passed for his relationships to last for an extended time, and to an extent, she understood his fears, but she still felt a soft spot for Colby that compelled her strongly to once again caution Justin to be careful.

There was more she wanted to say, more she wanted to make Justin understand, if he could, but before the effort could be made a call sounded for her over the intercom system, so she left Justin with a final warning glance and the moment Wendy disappeared into her office, Justin moved across the room to stand beside Colby, who had gone back to looking up at her painting with the most intent expression Justin had ever seen.

For a moment, she seemed unaware that he was near, as she studied the piece until Justin lightly cleared his throat and she looked at him, allowing him to see that her eyes were a stunning hazel brown flaked with golden hints...wide and fringed by thick, dark lashes that were impossibly long, her eyes were just as glorious as her hair and he smiled as she looked up at him and he waved a hand at the painting.

"I hear the artist is very talented." His voice was gentle and warm, totally disarming and what Wendy, and a host of other women would have called dangerously charming.

"Is that what you hear?" When she spoke in a soft, whispery like tone, he could easily detect a faint, southern accent that only added to her allure, much to his surprise.

"Oh, yes. I am certainly interested in seeing more."

The light blush that stained her cheeks told him she had picked up on the double meaning to his words and he felt an odd stirring, as he had been almost certain women in the current day and age no longer blushed for any reason.

"Justin Morgan." He extended his hand that she shook and he held to for a moment, as their eyes locked and she seemed startled somehow.

"Colby Colson."

"I am afraid I already knew that. I asked Wendy a few questions."

"Why?" She seemed genuinely perplexed and it amused him as they stood there.

"Because I am about to open a restaurant, and I am looking to fill it with some artwork, and your painting..." His eyes took in the ocean scene. "I do believe you have what I am trying to find, Miss Colson, and I am hoping you will agree to have dinner with me this evening, so we can discuss my purchasing your work, as well as the possibility of my commissioning you to do some additional pieces for my future ventures." He really was impressed with her talent just as he was drawn to her wide eyed and innocent beauty as she smiled, clearly caught a bit off guard as he looked at her, feeling certain he had never seen anyone as stunning.

"That...wow...that would be wonderful." The thrill she felt was evident, he had offered her an amazing opportunity and she knew it as she stood there, trying to place why his name was so familiar and then, it hit her and she nearly gasped out loud. "Justin Morgan...you mean you want to display my work in Precise?" He had to be kidding...his restaurants were famous, if she understood correctly...for her work to be displayed there would be a major career maker and Justin couldn't help but smile again, sincerely, as he found her sweetly youthful reactions truly charming and infectious.

"Have you been to Precise?" He suspected the answer, so he was not surprised when she shook her head shyly. "I believe we will have to change that tonight." His eyes smiled into hers and she blushed again as he asked her where he could pick her up at and almost as if in a shock, Colby gave him the address to the small apartment she rented and Justin announced that he would pick her up at seven sharp...and then with a final smile, he turned and walked away while she stood for moment, feeling as if she were flying and falling all at once, unable to believe the unexpected encounter that had just taken place.

To have someone like Justin Morgan interested in her work was astounding...to think that he was actually interested in her, as a woman, was more than she could wrap her mind around as she vividly recalled how standing next to him had made her feel oddly safe yet very aware of the reality that he was the most handsome man she had never seen.

Well over six feet, he was powerfully built with strapping shoulders and a hard chest that his perfectly tailored suit accented while his indigo eyes danced with laughter...the wildly raging autumn winds had left his silver blond hair slightly disarrayed in a sexy, just out of bed style that she had ached to touch the entire time he spoke.

His features were oddly rugged, his jaw stubbornly defined...but the boyish dimples that appeared each time he smiled took off some of the edge, yet there was no denying his masculine beauty. His seeming physical perfection. Just recalling his image made her feel light headed...warm all over...she was overwhelmed and she knew it showed when she looked up to find Wendy standing next to her, looking worried, which seemed out of character, until Wendy announced that they needed to have a serious conversation about Justin Morgan.

Leading the younger woman into her private, somewhat cluttered office, Wendy set down on the edge of her coffee table while Colby settled herself on an old, over stuffed sofa, sensing something ill at ease in her friend as Wendy sighed and shook her head.

"Justin Morgan." Wendy said his name simply. "I know he is beyond handsome and it is no small secrete that he is far more sexy than any one man has a right to be and the fact is, he is a decent guy who happens to be kind and generous and very delightful."

"But..." Colby prompted gently as she set there, chewing at her lip, feeling nervous and not liking it in the least.

"But there are a few things you needed to know."

"Such as?"

"Such as, I can tell he is very serious about your work and there is no doubt in my mind that very soon you will find several of your creations displayed in one of the most popular and prestigious restaurants in this city."

"Which is a wonderful thing."

"I agree. And I am thrilled for you. For what this will mean for you."

"So the warning you are about to give me regarding Justin is not professional but a bit more personal,"

Wendy nodded slowly. "I have known him for ten years, and I adore him."

"Were you to..." She felt her face grow hot and Wendy smiled.

"Never. Not that Justin isn't tempting, but we are friends. I like him and I know he can have a hard time being friends with women after he has been involved with them sexual and I have to tell you, sweetheart, that Justin's relationships, such as they are, never go beyond more than sex and they never last long."

"So you are saying he is a typical playboy." The disappointment she felt flared bright in her eyes and Wendy looked a perplexed, before shaking her head.

"Typical is one word that I would never use to describe Justin."

"But you said he never stays with one woman long, that he is only in it for sex and after a brief time, he moves on..." She spread her hands. "Sounds typical." Yet she desperately, desperately hated thinking about Justin in that light, when he had seemed so kind, and after a moment, sitting there, Wendy made up her mind to lay the truth out, sensing that Colby needed to hear it to help her better understand what made Justin tick.

"Justin's mother raised him on her own, after his father ran out when Justin was only five and as a result, they were close." Wendy began slowly. "It was his mother that founded a restaurant and she tried to make a go of it, but it was hard for her, being a single parent with little money, so after she died, Justin spent fifteen years building Precise into what it is today, so the man is driven and he works hard."

She paused for a moment, battling back the pain she always felt when she thought about Justin's life. "When Justin was sixteen years old, he and a friend went to a party and the fact is they both drank heavily, but when it was time to leave, Justin and the friend decided that Justin was the most sober of the two."

"What happened?" Colby again prompted when Wendy fell silent.

"About a mile from the party, Justin somehow lost control of the car, and it hit a tree and...his friend died on impact after he was thrown from the car, through the windshield, but Justin was trapped inside and the car burst into flames."


"By the time help got there, he was burned badly on the left side and added to that, he had a host of internal injuries and..." She blinked at her tears while Colby allowed herself to cry, feeling her heart shatter as she set there, listing to what sounded like a nightmare. "Justin, the fact that he survived was amazing, he spent a long time in the hospital, but...he had lots of surgeries, but he was left with some bad scarring on his left leg and arm and along the left side of his chest."

"My God. The poor man...I didn't know..." It was information regarding Justin she had never heard before and it made her sad for him as she allowed it all to sink in and Wendy was almost sorry that she had more to tell her.

"He has not always had an easy life, which is something that a lot of people tend to just forget about, but I...Colby, when it comes to Justin, I want you to understand that his past has a great affect on who he is now."

"How so?"

"Well, I mentioned that he was left with scars."


"He is very insecure when it comes to those scars, mainly because a woman he was once seeing, a woman he supposedly cared about, told him the scars turned her off sexually, and as a result she ended their relationship."

"How could she?" The notion outraged Colby. "That is horrible." It was clear proof, to her, at least, that the woman had never really cared about Justin at all, or she would never have allowed scars to effect her feelings and Wendy shared the thought and agreed totally with Colby, though she knew that was not the point of their current conversation.

"After that, Justin flat out refused to allow anyone else close to him."

"Explaining the string of sexual but otherwise meaningless encounters."

Wendy smiled sadly and nodded. "He has walls. He is guarded and it makes me sad if the truth be told, because I feel Justin could have a lot to offer the right woman, but he never will find her, because he won't take the chance."

"I need to keep that in mind, right?"

"That and..." Wendy shifted, feeling ill at ease and a little unsettled. "Look, I guess there is only one way to say what I have to say and that is just lay it all out there, because I really do not want you walking into a situation blind and you..."

"Wendy, just say it."

"Justin is in to BDSM." It was blunt and to the point and Colby shook her head.

"Excuse me."

"I only know because a friend of mine once dated him, and she explained to me that Justin has the rules when it comes to sex."


"For one, he likes to be in total control. At all times. As far as my friend could tell me, its not a turn on for him to hurt the person he is with, but he likes having all the power and along with that, he never allows a woman to see him naked."

"Oh." She nodded, trying to pretended she understood, when she didn't, while, at the same time, wondering why she was so suddenly fascinated by the concept of total sexual submission to a man. "I don't...I don't know what to say..." Her eyes reached Wendy's and she spread her hands again, as if asking her friend to give her an indication as to what she should or should not feel in that moment.

"You don't have to say anything, I just wanted you to understand what to expect if you and Justin should..." It was her turn to spread her hands and Colby sighed.

"I have to admit I am attracted to the man. So far, at least."

"You are excited about having dinner with him tonight?"

"Of course. Career wise. And personally."

"Just be careful and make sure you go into this with your eyes open."

Nodding, Colby forced a smile. "I will." She would try to, at least, or so she told herself a short time later, when she left the gallery, to return to her small apartment where she set out to work on her current projects.

She had been home for less than an hour, when there was a knock on her door and she opened it, to her surprise, to find a delivery man there with several beautifully wrapped boxes in hand and when Colby tried to explain that she had not ordered anything, he smiled and simply said it was a gift from Mr. Morgan.

In a trance, Colby carried the boxes inside, where she set them on the bed, and with her hands trembling, she began to open them.

The first box contained a glorious, shimmering white satin floor length gown with thin shoulder straps and a dipping neck and back line...it was the most perfect thing Colby had ever seen and she stared at it for a long time, before opening the remaining boxes to discover long elbow length white gloves, matching shoes, and the clincher come in the last box, where she found a beautiful pearl choker paired with matching earrings.

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