Spotting Vincent's car pull to the side of curb, I checked to make sure nobody I recognized was around. Once I confirmed that none of my coworkers would suspect Vincent was taking me to his place, I hopped into the passenger seat.
His peacock blue shirt showcased his trim torso and his tailored black pants matched his expensive shoes. The effect was striking, and for a moment it felt surreal that a guy like this was picking me up from work.
"Hey." I smiled at him.
He shifted the car to 'park' and leaned over, kissing me as if starved for the taste of my lips. His raw hunger for me was intoxicating. Hesitant at first, I easily succumbed to the sensation, running my hands through his long blonde locks and reciprocating. I enjoyed the soft feel of his mouth and his surprisingly fresh masculine scent.
Once our lips broke contact, he spoke. "Hello, Kristen."
Hello to you too. "Sorry to give you such short notice."
He placed his hand on my bare knee, the warmth from his skin a welcome sensation. "Anytime you need anything, don't be afraid to tell me. I can be accommodating."
"Thank you." I considered for a moment if I should tell him about my ex-boyfriend showing up at my apartment, but I didn't want to freak him out. People typically didn't unload their baggage onto someone else when they've only been on one date. I hadn't told anyone about my ex's dark side before, not even Riley. But then again, I hadn't had to. "So how was your day?"
"Went from good to great." He grinned as his hand began lightly brushing my leg below my skirt. "How about yours?"
His sharp eyes studied my features carefully. "You seem kind of tense. Is everything all right?"
I hesitated. "I got a promotion today, thanks to you."
"Congratulations. You deserved it," he said. "And I'm not just saying that because I like you. You're a rare talent."
I blushed. "And you're quite the seducer. You sure know how to flatter a girl."
"Not flattery. Honesty. And I'll take that first part as a sign of affection."
The sound of my stomach grumbling betrayed my hunger and Vincent must've heard it. "What do you feel like eating tonight?" he asked. "I'm planning on cooking for us."
"No preference," I answered. "You don't have to go through all that trouble though, I was just thinking we'd go to a restaurant or get take out."
He shook his head. "I'm taking you to the best restaurant in the city—my kitchen. Tonight's an opportunity to impress you with my culinary skills."
"Expert surfing instructor, now a master chef." Also, billionaire and sex god, but I figured those were already obvious. "How many surprises do you have?"
Those sinful lips forming a smile made me feel a sudden ache between my legs. "Oh the things I'll show you, Kristen."
Just as my thoughts began to turn naughty, a mental shopping list interrupted them. "I almost forgot, I need to pick up some medicine for Riley. Do you think we could get that first?"
"Of course. We'll stop by the grocery store," he said, pulling away from the curb to join the flock of cars in traffic.
If picking me up from work was surreal, grocery shopping was an illusion. I was cautious at first that someone might see us, but caution turned to laughter as we roamed the aisles for items. Two weeks ago I was rebuffing Vincent's advances, and now we were picking out food to cook for dinner like an established couple. It was a domestic experience that felt bizarre but natural. I hadn't been looking for anything serious or Mr. Right or even much of anything, and there I was with someone who felt like all those things. I hadn't expected Vincent to be this way but then again he'd been constantly surprising me.
By the time we left, I felt a lot better than when he had picked me up from work. With half a dozen bags loaded into his trunk, he drove while I played the role of navigator, directing him to my apartment.
When we neared my place, all humor and playfulness evaporated from my system, replaced by the anxiety from earlier. He turned to me and smiled as he stopped the car in front of my apartment building, putting the emergency lights on. "I can park. I'm curious to see your place."
"It won't take long, I'll just be a minute," I said, hopping out. I didn't want to risk him running into my ex, if he was still around. Things would go from bad to disastrous. "Keep the car running."
He seemed a little confused but then nodded. "I'll be waiting."
As I scaled the wooden steps of my building's stairwell, I couldn't help checking over my shoulder every few steps or being wary of dark corners. I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached my door without incidence. When I entered the apartment I found Riley in a robe on the sofa watching television, a box of tissues next to her.
"Brought you some stuff," I said, handing her the orange juice and Dayquil.
"Thanks, you're the best." Her voice was nasally and she blew into a tissue to clear her nose.
"Do you have the flu? Should I take you the doctor?" I put the back of my hand up to her forehead to check her temperature.
"Nah, I think it's only a cold. I just need to keep blowing my nose every few minutes."
"Glad to hear it's not serious."
She looked at my shoes which I hadn't taken off like I normally would when I entered the apartment. "You going somewhere?"
I suddenly felt guilty for bailing on her. "Riley, I'm going to stay at Vincent's tonight."
Her eyes grew wide. "Oh, congratulations! I'm glad to see you're finally coming out of your dating shell."
"About that . . . I need to tell you something." I waited until she gave me her undivided attention. "Don't open the door for anyone. Especially if it's the guy who came by earlier. Whatever you do, don't let him inside."
Her brows furrowed. "Who is he? Should I be worried?"
"He was someone I dated before I moved here. Don't worry, he only cares about me; he won't do anything to you. I'll tell you more about it some other time. But keep your mace handy just in case."
"Whoa, whoa." Her hands made shoving motions in front of her face. "You can't just say 'keep your mace handy' and dash out. What's going on? Do we need to call the cops?"
I shook my head. "We can't call the police. It's complicated." As reluctant as I was divulging details that had haunted me for the past two years, I briefly told her about Marty and how he hurt me. How he was the reason I moved from Boston to NYC in the first place. I didn't have the time or desire to elaborate on sordid details, but she deserved some sort of explanation.
She looked at me with concern as if I was the sick one. When I didn't explain further, she sighed and said, "Okay, Kristen. You can tell me the rest later. I'll keep an eye out."
"Thanks for understanding, Riley."
"When are you coming back?"
"Maybe tomorrow. I'll bring you some more goodies."
She sniffled. "All right, stay safe."
I went to my room and quickly changed out of my work clothes into a comfy pair of jeans and a light blouse. I packed an extra set of clothes and my toothbrush into a night bag.
When I finished packing, I waved to Riley and left the apartment, returning to Vincent's Camry.
"Is your roommate all right?" He sounded as concerned about Riley as I was. "I can drive her to the hospital."
"I appreciate the thought, but she just needs sleep and vitamin C."
"You're not sick are you?"
"I don't think so."
Before I could react his lips were on mine again, this time parting my lips with his tongue. He probed my mouth with slow licks of his tongue against my own. Caught up in the heated embrace, I momentarily forgot my concerns.
"Good," he said after our mini makeout session ended. "I'd hate to miss work because I couldn't stop myself from kissing you."
The engine started and we headed toward his place. It was only a few blocks away but with the rush hour traffic in Manhattan it would take us twenty minutes.
We stopped at a red light. I glanced out the window and saw someone on the sidewalk with brown hair and rimless glasses. The hairs on my neck stiffened. It looked like him, but wasn't. Fidgeting in my seat, my hand began rubbing my pinky again.
"Something wrong? You look nervous." Vincent's voice startled me.
I shook my head. "I guess I'm just looking forward to seeing your place."
He grinned. "That makes the two of us."
We pulled into his underground garage complex that resembled ones built for malls. It was filled with exotic cars. With my minimal knowledge on the topic, I was only able to identify a half dozen Lamborghinis and Corvettes but I was still impressed by the eye-catching designs of the ones I couldn't name. After a few loops to the lower levels, we found an empty spot and parked.
Still in awe, I asked, "How many people live in your building? There are a lot of expensive cars here."
He smiled. "Just a few tenants. Most of these are mine."
"Oh." Realizing he could've picked me up in any of these much nicer, much more expensive cars, I had a greater appreciation for his being discreet about our involvement. The Camry was far less luxurious than the Lamborghini.
We stepped into an elevator and Vincent inserted a key into the control panel. The trip to his floor was both faster and quieter than I anticipated. I'd expected a hallway leading to his front door, but when the elevator opened I saw a grand piano and a pair of sand-colored plush sofas around a glass coffee table on dark hardwood flooring illuminated by elegant accent lighting—we were already in his living room. We were on the south side of the building, but the spacious layout enabled sight across the apartment to the north side windows where I could see the Chrysler building as well as the rest of Manhattan. One step out the elevator and I realized the entire building floor was his apartment.
"Impressive," I said, slack-jawed.
"Glad you like it," he said smoothly, leading us deeper into the living room.
I set my bag on the floor and took a seat on his couch as he carried the grocery bags into the kitchen. He returned with a glass of white wine wearing slippers instead of his black loafers.
"Should I take off my shoes?" I asked, not seeing the pile of shoes I was accustomed to seeing when entering my apartment. Instead, there were a bunch of modern abstract statues on display, making this place seem more like a showroom than a personal living area.
He eyed my flats. "You can just put them next to the couch, make yourself comfortable."
In the middle of taking my shoes off my stomach growled again, which was his cue to begin washing vegetables in the kitchen.
"What are we eating?" I hollered. We'd picked up a lot of things, some serious and some just for fun, like a box of Teddy Grahams. It was probably more than we needed and I wasn't sure what he planned to cook for dinner and what he planned to save in the freezer.
"It's a surprise."
"Do you need any help?" Not that I was a great cook myself, but I could at least cut vegetables.
"There's not too much prep work. It'll just be a few minutes. Feel free to look around and make yourself at home. "
Looking around was exactly what I wanted to do. "Are you sure you don't want to give me a tour? I might see something embarrassing." I cringed at the thought of Vincent seeing my bedroom. He'd find papers littering my desk and undergarments hanging on chairs and strewn across the floor. It wasn't that I was messy; I just had my own organization system.
"Oh I don't know. Underwear, stuffed animals, porn, sex toys."
He was silent for a moment. "Just don't look too hard then."
I couldn't tell whether that was a joke or not but decided I didn't want to ask. As I went from room to room, I noticed everything was neatly arranged and clean, far from your typical bachelor pad. I wondered if he had a maid keep his apartment tidy or if he did it himself. Knowing him, it was another line on his already impressive résumé—accomplished housekeeper. I took a moment to muse the fantasy of him being a manservant.
When I found his office, I spotted documents on his desk that were thoroughly highlighted and marked with detailed notes. Curious, I sifted through them and recognized they were the ones I gave him during our first meeting. I put a lot of work into those documents. He must have thoroughly studied them before deciding to choose my company as his wealth management firm and making me his point-of-contact.
At the beginning of my self-guided tour, I couldn't help making comparisons between Vincent's living style and Marty's. They were both neat and meticulous. But towards the end I found some movie posters of martial arts films from the 80s. That cheesiness was decidedly not like my ex.
By the time I circled back to the living room, fascination with Vincent preoccupied my mind. Besides the posters and getting to see his wardrobe of suits, I was disappointed not to find many more personal items. It seemed as if he had moved in recently. He did mention traveling multiple times per week, so maybe he kept the family pictures somewhere else.
He had an elaborate kitchen though, fit for a top chef. I was pulled toward the food by the wonderful smell.
"Have a seat in the dining room. I'll bring the dishes out," he said untying his apron and hanging it on a nearby rack. He was still in his work clothes, but traded black loafers for sandals.
When I took a seat at the table, there were already two glasses of white wine set out with the tableware.
"Something fresh and light." He entered with two plates in hand.
I smelled the mouthwatering scent before I saw it. Linguine al dente with shrimp scampi. The presentation was immaculate. "My favorite seafood dish. How did you know?"
"It's my favorite as well. I guess our tastes match."
"Maybe with food. But I think we differ on the decor." I gestured to the Bruce Lee poster sitting in the corner.
"It's an old keepsake." He smiled and handed me my plate of shrimp and noodles. "Try this. Tell me if I got it right."
I took a bite then had to take another one. "Wow this is delicious. Where did you learn to cook so well?"
"When I was right out of college I surfed a lot with a few of my buddies. We had seasonal jobs and worked just enough to support our lifestyle. To save money, we'd buy food for the group and I ended up being the one to cook most of the time; the others weren't very good at it." He laughed.
"I can see why they wanted you to cook." I scarfed down another bite. "That wasn't too long ago if I'm not mistaken. So what's it like to go from that kind of lifestyle to this in only a few years?" I gestured to the lavish apartment.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride. Perfect for a thrill-seeker like myself. Now, instead of being responsible for cooking for a group of guys, I'm responsible for thousands of employees. The stakes are different but fundamentally it's the same."
"Do you still keep in touch with those guys?"
"We try to get the group together at least once a year. Everyone's busy these days, not just myself. A few of them even have kids." He laughed and shook his head as if remembering something ridiculous. "If you knew them back then, you would think they were destined for life-long bachelorhood."
The obvious inquiry was on my mind. I didn't want to ruin an already wonderful evening, but I knew it would bother me if I didn't ask. "And how about you?"
He paused for a moment which made me almost regret asking the question. "Being a bachelor has its benefits. I travel a lot and do a lot of thrill-seeking activities. Being unattached makes it easy to do those things. But I'm thinking it might be more enjoyable to do things with someone you care about."
"How about you? The life of a single-female wealth manager, meeting rich, handsome clients seems appealing."
"I haven't really given much thought to settling down. I hadn't really even given much thought to dating in the past few years. Been mainly focused on my career."
"Are you saying I'm special?"
"Don't get a big head, Mr. Iron Chef," I teased. "You're persistent. I'll give you that."
"That's not the only thing that's big right now," he said, his hand settling on my thigh and rubbing slow, suggestive circles with his thumb.
Unsure if I was ready for things to progress further, I tried to change the topic. "What are we having for dessert?" I asked, more as a joke than a serious question. The exquisite dinner he prepared was more than satisfying, and his domestic skills scored major points in my book.
He didn't answer, but smiled and went to the kitchen. I waited a beat, not sure whether I was supposed to follow or remain seated. When he came back he had in his hand a red cloth napkin. "I want you to taste it. But you're going to need to put this on first."
"A napkin? Messy desserts don't sound like your style."
His smiled widened. "Try again, beautiful."
I examined the napkin again, noting that it was folded twice over into a narrow band suitable for wrapping and tying. "Umm . . . a magic trick?"
"I think I must've missed a part of our conversation."
"You're going to put on this blindfold and I'm going to feed you the dessert."
"Why do you want me to put on a blindfold?" I'd never done this before and I was a little anxious.
His grin was both mischievous and seductive. "It'll help you isolate the sensations in your mouth."
"Can't I try it without the blindfold first?"
"If you want to taste my dessert, you're going to have to follow my rules. Trust me. Just like you did in Cape Town."
"You haven't been planning this have you?"
"From the moment you pinched my nipple, a lot of things have gone through my mind. This could have been one of them." I could hear the amusement in his voice and wondered what other ideas he entertained that day. "I noticed you've been tense since you left work. I want you to forget about the stress."
He moved my chair—with me in it—from the dining table and placed it in the open area nearby. He came up from behind me and brought the blindfold in front of my face, preparing to place it over my eyes. My pulse quickened at the thought of having my eyesight taken from me. The last time I trusted him, I ended up holding a poisonous bug. "You're not going to put a spider in my mouth are you? Because if so, I can't continue with this," I asked, half-serious.
"Don't be silly. If anything, you'll be begging me to continue." The dark warning sent a shiver of arousal through me.
He put the blindfold on and tied it firmly behind my head. It was tight enough not to shift around but loose enough to be comfortable. I tried reaching out to touch him to ensure he was still there; he took my hands and gently placed them on my thighs. "Hands in your lap, until I say otherwise."
In complete darkness, I felt uncomfortably vulnerable. I'd never done anything like this with anyone before. Was I ready to trust him this much? I sensed him leave the room for a moment to go to the kitchen. All I could do was wait for what he would do next.
Then his footsteps returned and stopped in front of me. "Open your mouth."
Here it comes, I thought. I tentatively obeyed, unsure what was coming. What was he going to feed me? The sound of a metal clink made me think of a belt buckle. Surely not . . .
I wasn't sure if I should have; I probably should've asked him what he was going to put in my mouth. Instead, my lips stretched wider, compelled by the authority in his voice.
"Be careful with your teeth. I don't want you biting me."
What? Before I could protest, something slowly entered my mouth and sat heavily on my tongue. It tasted sinfully sweet and creamy.
Without needing be told, my lips instinctively wrapped around it and tightened, suckling the decadent chocolate from his finger.