She's fallen for him - hook, line, and sinker. Grace knows exactly how dangerous her feelings for Jonathan Huntington are, but her love for him nevertheless grows stronger each day she spends near him. Is he really as indifferent as he seems? Does Jonathan only see her as a willing plaything? When Grace tries to force him into showing his true colors, it leads to disaster ... If you love E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" and Silvia Day's "Crossfire" series, then COLOURS OF LOVE will thrill your desire for sensual romance. Even as a little girl, Kathryn Taylor wanted to write. She published her first story at age 11. After a few detours in life, she found her own happily ever after. Her first novel, UNBOUND: COLOURS OF LOVE was a success with readers and critics alike. She has continued the series with UNCOVERED and UNLEASHED. Two more novels, SEDUCED and SURRENDERED are slated for publication in 2017.
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About the Book
About the Author
She’s fallen for him — hook, line, and sinker. Grace knows exactly how dangerous her feelings for Jonathan Huntington are, but her love for him nevertheless grows stronger each day she spends near him. Is he really as indifferent as he seems? Does Jonathan only see her as a willing plaything? When Grace tries to force him into showing his true colours, it leads to disaster …
Uncovered is the second part of the Colours of Love series
Colours of Love
Kathryn Taylor has been a writer since childhood—publishing her first story when she was eleven years old. From then on, she knew that she wanted to be a professional author one day. After a few career detours and a happy ending in her personal life, her dream has finally come true: UNBOUND — COLOURS OF LOVE is her first novel.
»be« by BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT
Digital original edition
»be« by Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG
Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany
Written by Kathryn Taylor
Translated by Iona Italia
Edited by Sonya Diehn
Cover design: Jeannine Schmelzer and Sandra Taufer, Munich, featuring images from © shutterstock: fuyu liu
E-book production: Urban SatzKonzept, Düsseldorf
For B.,without whom this storywould never have been possible.
Cold rain is running down my face, but I can hardly feel it. I’m completely focused on the man standing right in front of me.
He ran after me through the rain, shirtless and barefoot, and he’s just as wet as I am. We’re standing under a streetlamp and his black hair is gleaming in the light. His upper body is naked, so I can see his rib cage rising and falling as the raindrops stream over his skin without stopping. I want to put my hand out and touch him, but I don’t dare.
“I don’t want you to go, Grace.” His deep voice sounds tense and there’s something in his blue eyes that I’ve never seen there before. A spark, the intensity of which almost frightens me. “Stay.”
Tears well up in my eyes because those are exactly the words I’ve been waiting to hear. But I’m still afraid. “I can’t, Jonathan.” Shaking my head sadly, I look back at the white villa with the wrought iron fence we’re standing in front of. The club. It’s very exclusive and somehow exciting. I can picture the people inside in my mind, the things that had just happened there. We had sex — unbelievably hot sex, which I’ll never forget. But I also came up against my own limits, that’s for sure. Because we weren’t alone there, I was supposed to share him, and I couldn’t. I don’t want the kind of no-strings-attached affair that Jonathan expects. I simply can’t pretend to not have feelings for him. “You were right all along. I can’t play by your rules.” A shudder runs through me as we go on looking at each other. I don’t want to leave him; the mere thought of it tears me apart. But what kind of a future would I have with that man, when my heart is overflowing with love for him — and he recoils from any kind of real closeness? When I’m interchangeable to him, easy to replace? As much as it hurts me, I’ll have to leave. Go back to America. I’ll have to leave Jonathan, and try to forget.
He stands there for a long moment, with his hands curled into fists, and I can see the muscles of his jaw working.
“Then we’ll have to change the rules,” he says, taking a step toward me, coming even closer than before. “Then we’ll play by your rules.”
“What?” I stare at him, stunned. I must have heard wrong. He can’t have said that. “But …” My voice is so thin and trembling that I have to clear my throat before I can go on speaking. “But I want us to have a relationship, Jonathan. A real one. Just me and you. And you said you weren’t prepared to do that.”
He breathes out heavily. “But I’m definitely not prepared to let you go.” He takes hold of my upper arm and, for a moment, I think he might be about to shake me. But his hands just clutch my arm in an iron grip, holding me still. “You’ve got to stay, Grace. Please.”
My heart starts beating faster. I can’t remember Jonathan ever asking me for something — at least, not like this. He can be unbelievably arrogant, because he’s used to having people follow his orders. But now, he’s actually asking me for something — he’s ready to make compromises. Maybe I won’t have to leave him after all. I feel such tremendous relief at the thought that my tears begin to mingle with the raindrops on my cheeks, as I go on looking at him, losing myself in his unbelievably blue eyes.
He lets go of my shoulders and we turn around with a start when we hear the voices, coming from both sides almost simultaneously. The voice behind me, the one we heard first, belongs to Steven, Jonathan’s chauffeur. The tall, blonde man has gotten out of the limousine parked at the curb and is looking at us questioningly. He’s clearly uncomfortable at the sight of his boss standing semi-naked and barefoot in the rain on the sidewalk in ritzy Primrose Hill, staring at me. But he doesn’t say a word — he obviously doesn’t want to intrude, because someone else is approaching from the other side.
Jonathan’s Japanese business associate, Yuuto Nagako, has followed us out of the club and is approaching with quick steps. Unlike Jonathan, he’s dressed — he was still dressed back there, too, because he didn’t get there till later than us. His face is a serious mask, and strangely impassive, but that means nothing — he always looks like that.
“Why are you standing here in the rain?” he says in his cool, flawless English, which right now I find just as creepy as the man himself. “Come back inside.”
It actually sounds kind of sweet; as if he’s worried that we might catch a chill, even though there’s no real danger of that right now, in early June. But I know better because I can see that glint in the eyes, which I’ve found sinister, right from the beginning.
He’s almost as tall as Jonathan, but he’s older — I find it hard to guess exactly how old — and he was definitely one of the main reasons I couldn’t stand it in the club any longer. I wish he hadn’t followed us because I want to be alone with Jonathan. And Jonathan seems to feel the same way, because he has a hostile expression on his face when he turns to look at the Japanese man.
“We’re not going back in,” I explain in a firm voice. I’d love to just run straight across to Steven, get into the car, and drive off.
Yuuto looks at Jonathan annoyed. He clearly can’t believe his ears. But Jonathan nods.
Yuuto says something in Japanese, which I can’t understand, his face still impassive. He sounds angry. Unlike me, Jonathan speaks Yuuto’s native language fluently. He answers him in a tone of voice that doesn’t sound particularly friendly.
“Come on,” he says to me, turning abruptly toward the limousine. Happy to get away from the Japanese man, I’m about to follow him, but I can’t. Suddenly, Yuuto is right there, he’s grabbed my arm, and is holding me still.
“But we haven’t yet had a chance to get to know each other better.” He attempts a smile, but fails.
“The fun was only just starting.”
I shake my head. I’m not going back into the club under any circumstances, especially not with him. I’m disgusted by the mere thought of doing the same things I just did with Jonathan with that creepy Japanese guy.
“No. Not for me it wasn’t,” I say. I try to free myself from his grip, but he keeps hold of me. Now he’s definitely not smiling anymore.
“What’s going on here, Jonathan?” His face is contorted, his voice even more aggressive than before. “She agreed. She came with you.”
“Let her go,” Jonathan says. The note of warning in his voice is impossible to ignore. “She came here with me, and she’s leaving with me.”
But Yuuto doesn’t intend to let me go. He says something else in his native language — it doesn’t seem to be something nice, because Jonathan’s already cold gaze now turns positively icy.
“That’s none of your business,” he barks at the Japanese man. “And now let her go.”
Once more, Yuuto doesn’t respond. In fact, his grip grows even firmer and he pulls me closer toward him. From up close, his face looks more haggard and his wrinkles are deeper. He must be older than I thought, in his late rather than early forties. And his gaze is still piercing. Cold. Angry.
“She’s confusing you, Jonathan. If I’d known she would cause trouble, I wouldn’t have insisted you bring her.” His words are addressed to Jonathan, but he’s looking at me.
“She’s not here because of you,” Jonathan replies. A muscle in his cheek is twitching.
Yuuto laughs, but he doesn’t sound happy. “But she would never have gotten close to you without me, don’t forget that. She wouldn’t be here at all.”
The remark makes me angry. When I arrived at the airport and Jonathan met me — by chance — Yuuto was there, yes. And his interest in me had aroused Jonathan’s curiosity, that much is true. But Jonathan told me that what happened afterwards had nothing to do with the Japanese man — and I believe him. So Yuuto’s got some nerve if he thinks that my relationship with Jonathan revolves around him. I try to wrench myself free of the Japanese man’s grip again, but I can’t. This sense of powerlessness again makes the tears rush to my eyes. I am really distressed. “You’re hurting me.”
“Don’t get any ideas,” Yuuto barks, grabbing me so hard now that I cry out. “You were only allowed to get close to Jonathan because I wanted you to. But you’re nothing special, even if you think you are right now — you’re just one of many. He’ll have forgotten you again tomorrow, no matter what kind of a scene you make now. He’ll have a new slut who won’t expect him to …”
He doesn’t get any further, because Jonathan tears his hand from my arm. He pulls me behind him, swings out with his clenched fist, and punches the Japanese man hard in the face.
Yuuto stumbles backward. The attack took him completely by surprise. The expression on his face is hard to interpret. He touches his lip, where Jonathan’s punch hit him. His bottom lip is split and blood is dripping onto his white shirt. When he sees that, his eyes narrow.
“You hit me? Because of that little slag?”
“Leave her alone now,” Jonathan barks. His face is contorted with rage — I’ve never seen him like this before. He turns around and reaches for my hand, about to walk with me to the car, but Yuuto suddenly lunges at him from behind, hitting him in the ribs so hard that he doubles over, panting.
“Do you think I’m just going to let you humiliate me like that?” Yuuto’s face is white. His bloody lip and the bloodstains on his shirt make him look really scary, like something out of a horror movie. He hits out again, punching Jonathan in the ribs once more.
“Stop!” I shout, pulling on the Japanese man’s arm, because I’m suddenly afraid for Jonathan. And it works, because Yuuto leaves him alone and turns his attention back to me. Good, I think. But when I see the expression on his face I change my mind. No, it’s not good. Not good at all. This guy is completely out of his mind.
He hisses something nasty in Japanese and, before I can react, the back of his hand hits my cheek. He hits me so hard my head is thrown to one side and for a moment I see stars. The pain is so acute and so sudden that it takes my breath away and tears rush to my eyes.
Yuuto takes another swing at me, but this time Jonathan is faster than him. He blocks the Japanese’s guy arm and pushes him away from me, and then lunges at him. They both fall to the ground, struggling fiercely and hitting each other.
Steven comes to join us. He rushes over from the car, but then he just stands there helplessly, staring at the two men as they fight. They’re moving so fast and changing positions so abruptly that it looks impossible to separate them. Besides, Steven’s hesitant — he clearly feels he shouldn’t interfere.
Suddenly, I hear hurried steps and when I turn around I see people coming out of the club. Two of the uniformed attendants who work there are running hurriedly through the entranceway toward us, followed by the blonde woman from reception.
“What’s going on?” she shouts agitatedly as she reaches us. She doesn’t seem as cool and unapproachable as she did when she let us in. In fact, she seems utterly furious. “Go on then, separate them,” she instructs the men with her.
Unlike Steven, the club attendants intervene without hesitation and after a short time they really do manage to pull Jonathan and Yuuto apart. Grudgingly at first, the two of them leave each other alone and manage to calm down. They’re both breathing heavily and visibly fired up.
If I had to decide who won that fight, then I’d definitely say that Jonathan did. There’s a swelling over his right cheekbone, his lower lip is bleeding slightly, and there’s obviously something wrong with his ribs, but he looks great compared to the Japanese man, whose nose is bleeding heavily and who can hardly stay upright. He’s swaying and the blonde woman has to help support him so he doesn’t fall over again.
With a gesture of annoyance, Jonathan frees himself from the other uniformed attendants and Steven, who’ve been holding him. He’s shaky on his legs, too. He leans forward, placing a hand on his ribs, his face contorted with pain. I go over to him, concerned, and support him so he can straighten up again. When he sees that it’s me, he lets me help him.
The man from the club gives Steven a nod and then goes back to his colleague and the woman, who are both looking after Yuuto.
The Japanese man looks pretty bad: the entire lower half of his face is now covered in blood. But although he’s obviously quite injured, it seems to be the humiliation that gets to him the most. His cold eyes are looking at us, full of pure hatred.
“You’ll regret this, Huntington,” he says, in a voice trembling with rage. “You’ll pay for this.”
“Go ahead and send me a bill,” Jonathan replies, breathing heavily, but full of scorn.
“On behalf of the club, I have to ask you to refrain from visiting us again for the time being,” the blonde explains to Jonathan, in a voice which now sounds completely cool once more. “We will come to a decision on whether or not to continue your membership later.”
“You can take me off your books,” Jonathan says. I stare at him in surprise. He’s leaving the club? Because of me? Or is he just angry because they threatened to throw him out, and he doesn’t want to give them the opportunity?
The woman is visibly annoyed by his response, but she nods briefly. Then she turns around and, with Yuuto between them, the men follow her back to the wrought iron gate. It’s still open, but closes directly behind them. No a one looks back.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t want this,” I stammer, still deeply confused by what just happened. Jonathan, leaning heavily against my shoulder, shakes his head. “It wasn’t your fault.” He examines me. “Are you OK?”
I nod, although my cheek is stinging like hell. But it’s nothing compared to what he’s got to deal with.
I can still see the images of the fight in my head, and I suddenly realise just how much this explosion of violence shocked me. And it wasn’t just Yuuto’s behaviour that shocked me, it was Jonathan’s too. I’ve never seen him like that before, so out of control. My feelings are awhirl. It scared me, yes, but I’m also really happy that he defended me so fiercely. “Can you walk?,” I ask, and when he nods, we walk carefully back to the limousine. Steven’s there too, he supports Jonathan from the other side, and together we help him into the car.
“Is there a first aid kit in the car?,” I ask.
Steven nods and goes to the trunk. I sit at the back with Jonathan and take the first aid kit he hands me a moment later. Jonathan is leaning his head back and has his eyes closed. But when I carefully dab at his lower lip with a disinfectant-soaked cloth he sits up with a start and looks at me.
I’m about to say something but Steven, who’s gotten into the front, lowers the glass partition between the driver’s cab and the interior of the limo and is the first one to speak.
“Where to, Sir?”
“Home,” Jonathan says shortly, letting me dab at his lips again while the long car starts up and merges into the traffic.
His lip wound is small, nothing compared to Yuuto’s, but the spot is slightly swollen nevertheless, as is Jonathan’s cheek where Yuuto’s fist struck him. Any higher and he would have an impressive black eye now. I fetch ice from the car’s little minibar — riding in a fancy car like this one can come in handy sometimes. I place a few ice cubes in a handkerchief and give it to him, so that he can ice the injured places.
“Thanks.” He touches my reddened cheek with his free hand.
“That bloody animal. Does it hurt a lot?”
I shake my head silently, because his unusually tender gesture has just made me completely forgotten the pain I was feeling a moment ago. Besides, I don’t want him to worry. He’s got enough to worry about on his own.
Jonathan lets his hand fall and leans his head back against the cushions while I go on examining him. When I carefully feel the red patch on his rib cage, he cringes and groans.
“He really got you there.” I’m familiar with this kind of thing. My sister and I used to go riding a lot, on our grandparents’ farm in downstate Illinois — and we fell off a lot, too, until we got the hang of it. I spent half my childhood bruised somewhere or other, so I know how much it must be hurting him now — and how little we can do about it, except wait for it to get better. Unless one of his ribs is broken, I think, alarmed. “Perhaps you should get a doctor to look at that.”
“No, it’s not that bad. And I’m definitely not showing up at any hospital like this,” he tells me, pointing down at himself. I suddenly remember that he’s only wearing pants, nothing else.
“OK,” I concede. It probably wouldn’t be such a good idea if he turned up at the ER half-dressed and with his face mashed up. He’s too well known for that.
I sigh deeply. “Well, at least you weren’t snapped by a paparazzo this time.” I remember what happened after the last photos of him and me appeared in an English tabloid. I’d hate to imagine what might go down if the press got wind of the fact that Jonathan was in a fight, right out on the street, in the ritzy neighbourhood of Primrose Hill. This would give the media a feeding frenzy.
“No, at least there’s that.” Jonathan smiles for the first time since we left the club. My heart skips a beat and restarts at a faster pace, just as it always does when he smiles unexpectedly like that. With his dark, long hair, which is now gleaming wet, and the blue eyes that contrast so strikingly with his olive skin tone, he’s just so breathtakingly attractive that the butterflies in my stomach never let up. Besides, when he smiles you can see the tiny missing corner of his canine tooth, his one little blemish, which I love so much for that very reason. But his smile doesn’t last long this time and his beautiful eyes retain their serious expression.
“Could Yuuto really harm you?” I’ve been longing to ask the question ever since the Japanese man spat out his warning.
“He could and, knowing him, he’ll try. But you don’t need to worry about that. I can defend myself and I can certainly defend my company, if it comes to that.” Jonathan sounds so confident that I feel a little reassured.
I take his hand in mine and hold it tight because I need to feel him close to me. He doesn’t withdraw it; he just goes on looking at me in that intense way of his, making my heart beat faster in a whole new way.
“Why was Yuuto like that?” I’m still troubled by this. “He seemed almost obsessed.”
“I think he is, when it comes to you,” Jonathan replies. “He got it into his head that you should come to the club with us right from the start — from the first time he saw you.”
I remember our meeting at the airport and swallow.
“Do you always do that? Drag women you meet somewhere along to the club with you, I mean.”
“No. Never. That’s the thing.” The corners of his mouth lift. “You’re an exception, Grace. I already told you that.”
I register the compliment happily, but at the same time I’m concerned about Yuuto. “Do you think he would have forced me to go back inside with him if you hadn’t been there?”
Jonathan shakes his head. “I don’t know if he’d have gone that far. He saw you at the club and he probably just couldn’t accept that you belong to me and not to him.”
I stroke the inside edges of his long fingers gently, not daring to look up. His wording takes a little bit of getting used to, but it makes my heart beat faster. He sounds pretty possessive and very different from before: up till now, he’s always insisted that I can’t have him to myself — and that he wouldn’t lay claim to any exclusive rights to a woman either. “If I belong to you — does that mean you belong to me, too?,” I ask quietly.
Jonathan closes his hand around my fingers, which are still stroking his, and I look up abruptly — straight into his blue eyes.
“Isn’t that your condition?,” he asks. “No one else anymore — no club. Just the two of us?”
I nod, breathless, astonished but happy at his change of heart. But he immediately qualifies his statement.
“It’s just an attempt, Grace. I can’t promise anything, but …” He doesn’t finish his sentence.
“But what?,” I ask nervously.
The deep sigh he lets out sounds a bit like a groan. “But right now I don’t actually want to share you either.”
“Good.” I didn’t mean to say it out loud; it just slipped out.
“No, it’s not good at all.” Jonathan lets go of me and runs his hand through his hair — a gesture I know how to interpret now. He always does it when he’s uneasy. “Since you’ve been here, I’ve being doing a lot of things I never normally do, Grace. Things that I’ve never done before. This is all new to me and I don’t know … if I like it.”
He looks at me sceptically, almost unhappily — and suddenly, I feel that I have to be close to him. So I push up the skirt of my dress and straddle his lap. The wet fabric of his pants feels cold against my thighs.
I take hold of his face with both hands and gently kiss his uninjured cheek and the undamaged side of his mouth. A few minutes ago, I still wanted to leave him because I thought I didn’t matter to him — that he was indifferent to me — that, just as Yuuto Nagako said, I was one of many. But now I can stay. Because he doesn’t want to share me. And because he’s doing things with me that he’s never done before. That’s a start, at least.
I smile when I release him, feeling a completely new sensation of happiness spreading out inside me, making me feel reckless. I just can’t help it. “You know, when I think about it, I don’t know if I like all this either,” I say, looking at Jonathan sternly.
He returns my look questioningly, but he doesn’t seem nervous. He’s clearly pretty certain that I’m not about to snub him again. Probably because I’m sitting on his lap, stroking his naked chest with my hands.
“I mean, to be honest — you’re a snooty Englishman, you’re eight years older than me, and your income must be about five hundred thousand times higher than mine. Have you any idea what effect that has on my self-esteem?”
“I don’t get the impression that you feel shy in my presence,” he says, grinning.
“And as if that weren’t enough,” I continue, without responding to his remark, “you’re also a damned Earl!”
He laughs. “I’m a viscount, Grace. I won’t be an earl till later — and you know that I could very well do without that, too.” His smile is threatening to disappear so I quickly go on talking because I don’t want him to think about his difficult relationship with his father right now.
“And besides,” I say with mock seriousness, “I was still a virgin when I met you — and now look at me.”
I move a little on his lap. Four weeks ago, I would never have dared to be so sexually provocative. But a hell of a lot has happened since then. “Now, I do a great many things I’d never done before.” I smile sweetly. “So we’re quits — My Lord.”
“You little witch …,” he growls, putting his arms around me and pulling me toward him until my face is right in front of his and I can see the desire flickering in his eyes. Then his lips are on mine and his tongue is demanding entry into my mouth, which I willingly open, intoxicated by his familiar taste. The mere thought that he might have let me leave — and that then I might never have kissed him again — is suddenly so awful that I cling to him and return his kiss with desperation.
I feel his hands on me, stroking my wet dress, growing more demanding. He finds my breasts and encloses them warmly with his hands, stroking the erect nipples, which sends hot bolts of lightning down to my lower body. My breathing gets faster and my pulse is racing. Arousal is flooding me on a completely new scale and I moan into his mouth, wanting more. I simply can’t get enough of this man, and I suppress all thought of possible consequences.
Jonathan is breathing raggedly too. But, when he frees his upper body from the upholstery and tries to bend forward, he suddenly groans and sinks back down.
“Jesus.” He clutches his side with a contorted face.
“I’m sorry, I completely forgot about your ribs.” I’m truly shocked and I immediately feel guilty, but he just smiles wryly.
“Me too — which probably says a lot about how crazy you drive me,” he replies.
When I get down from his lap, he doesn’t stop me. Instead, when I sit back down next to him, he lifts his arm and places it around my shoulders, pulling me toward him. Thrilled, I lean my head against his shoulder, cuddling into him. He’s never allowed this much closeness before. Now I really do believe it: I’ve obviously made it one step further with Jonathan Huntington.
We drive through the London night in silence for a few minutes. I think everything over again, but I keep coming back to the Japanese man.
“What did Yuuto say to you just now, by the way, when he spoke to you in Japanese?,” I ask.
Jonathan smiles. “He said that you’re just like the other women, and I told him that he should stay out of my business. And then he wanted to know what kind of a ploy you used, to make me into your slave, and I told him it was none of his business.”
“And what did he say to me, before he hit me?”
Jonathan’s smile grows a little crooked. “I’d rather not tell you.”
OK, I think. So it was as bad as I thought.
“Why were the people from the club so concerned about him?” I find that odd. “He started the fight. Why did they threaten to throw you out, but not him?”
“Because Yuuto’s been there a lot longer than I have,” Jonathan explains. “He’s one of the founding members of the club.”
This is news to me and it makes me see the Japanese man in a completely new light. He must have very good connections in England, and especially in London, if he can found a club. And in order to make frequent use of it, he must be here on a very regular basis. He’s much more influential than I thought, then. That revives my fear that the fight might have consequences for Jonathan after all, even if he denies it. And then something else occurs to me.
“But what about your things?” He left everything at the club when he followed me. “They can’t just keep them.”
Jonathan laughs. “My things?” The fact that I am worried about that seems to amuse him greatly. “I’ll get them back. You don’t need to worry your head about that.” He leans back against the cushions and sighs deeply. Suddenly I realise how tired and out of it he is. So I don’t ask any more questions, just snuggle up to him as we go on driving through the night — toward a future that is still completely uncertain. But no longer black. Now it’s more like grey, I think happily. Perhaps even light grey. Yes, definitely light grey.
When I wake up the next morning, it takes me a moment to get my bearings. But then I know where I am: in Jonathan’s bedroom in his Knightsbridge townhouse. The curtains haven’t been drawn all the way, so light is coming in and I can see everything — the big four-poster bed, the perfectly fitted built-in wardrobe made of the same expensive, dark wood, the two designer armchairs in front of the window.
Jonathan is lying behind me, I can feel his warmth. I turn around carefully, so as not to wake him. He’s still sleeping, on his side, with his head on one arm. His other arm is lying right next to me and his tanned skin stands out against the white sheets. His upper body is naked and I let my eyes wander over his muscular chest and broad shoulders, and then back up to his face. His hair has fallen onto his forehead and I stroke it back tenderly.
He looks peaceful in his sleep. I observe him; I can’t take my eyes off him. The traces of last night are still clearly visible in his face. The spot on his cheek where Yuuto’s fist hit him is red and swollen, but luckily not blue, and the skin beneath the scabbed-over wound on his lip is bulging slightly. But to me that doesn’t lessen his attractiveness. Quite the opposite. It gives him a swashbuckling look somehow. And, besides, he got those injuries defending me, which makes him even more beautiful in my eyes.
In fact, I still can’t quite believe that this incredibly exciting man desires me. Just the thought of what he might still do to me sends goosebumps down my spine. I can’t get enough of him and it takes all the self-control I possess not to touch him.
I don’t want to wake him. A glance at the alarm clock on the nightstand confirms my suspicions. It’s just past nine o’clock already and, as it’s Friday today, we ought to have been on our way to the office a while ago. But yesterday Jonathan decided to stay home this morning. Which is probably a good thing because of the way he looks, I guess it’s better if he doesn’t show his face at the office today. Otherwise, he’ll just set off the rumour mill unnecessarily. I actually wanted to get up earlier than him and call his secretary to inform her of the situation, but since I lay awake half the night, thinking everything over, I was too tired myself. I’ll get it done in a minute.
I fetch clean clothes — underwear, my black blouse and the matching skirt — from the closet as quietly as possible. I have a few things here now, because lately I’ve hardly spent any time in my room at the Islington apartment. Jonathan’s housekeeper, Mrs. Matthews, who also does the laundry, has hung some of my things with Jonathan’s shirts, as well as freeing up a shelf for me. I suddenly realise that by Jonathan’s standards, that’s a real concession. The question is whether things will stay that way. Or, after yesterday, whether he’ll be able to make even more room for me in his life?
I take my things and go into the bathroom, get dressed, and examine myself critically in the mirror. My strawberry blonde hair is dishevelled, but that’s easily fixed, and my cheek isn’t red from Yuuto’s punch anymore. With the help of a little makeup, the shadows underneath my green eyes disappear and, after a short time, I look presentable.
I return to the bedroom quietly and sit on the edge of the bed. I just want to check on Jonathan once more before I go down and make breakfast — or, rather, attempt to make breakfast; it’s pretty questionable whether my omelettes will turn out as well as his, because, unlike him, I’m a complete disaster in the kitchen — but to my astonishment he opens his eyes. And before I have a chance to react, he’s got his hands around my wrists and has pulled me down into bed with him, so I’m lying on top of him.
The warmth of his body penetrates the fabric of my blouse, and I don’t fight back, I willingly comply.
“Where are you going?,” he asks, against my lips, without letting go of my hands, and a tingling feeling runs through me because I’m at his mercy — which is my new preferred state of being.
“I wanted to make breakfast,” I breathe, melting into the hypnotizing gaze of his blue eyes.
“But I don’t want anything to eat right now,” he says roughly. “I’d rather make up for what we missed yesterday.”
Yes, yes, yes, I want to tell him, because, as always, when we’re so close, he can do whatever he likes with me. But I don’t get the chance, because he doesn’t wait for an answer. Instead, he just starts kissing me, conquering my mouth with his tongue slowly, luxuriantly, and unhurriedly. I try to return his kiss, to deepen it, but he won’t allow that either, he’s going to set the pace again. I groan in frustration because I want more and I can feel the rumble in his chest when he laughs softly.
“Greedy little Grace,” he says, next to my mouth. “You can never get enough, can you?”
Not of you, no, I think, conscious of how defenceless I am where he’s concerned. If he changes his mind about things, it’d really hurt me. But I’m not going to worry about that. Not today.
“And what about you?,” I say, sucking his lower lip into my mouth and biting on it gently. “Can you get enough?”
For a long moment, we look into each other’s eyes and I watch with baited breath as the expression in his eyes changes. But, before he can say or do anything, a loud, melodious gong suddenly echoes through the house. The doorbell.
“God damn it.” Jonathan lets go of me and rolls me off him in one fluid movement. The gong sounds again, several times in a row. Someone is ringing the front doorbell downstairs like crazy.
“Can you go and see who that is?”
I nod, and get up and go to the door. What terrible timing, I think, as I walk down the stairs. Why does someone have to turn up now of all times?
When I reach the dining room, the ringing stops, but now Jonathan’s mobile phone, which is lying on the dining table, starts ringing instead.
I pick it up resolutely because I recognise the caller whose photo is lighting up the display.
“Grace, is that you?” It’s Alexander Norton, Jonathan’s partner. He doesn’t give me a chance to answer but just carries on talking. “Where in God’s name is Jonathan? This is my tenth call to his mobile. Can’t you hear it ringing? Where are you, for God’s sake?”
“At home. Um, I mean, in Knightsbridge,” I correct myself. He stops short.
“Why won’t anyone open the door then? I’ve been standing here for five minutes already, in front of the …”
Alex doesn’t finish his sentence because at that very moment I open the front door. He looks at me in surprise.
He’s wearing a suit and tie, his normal office clothes — he’s much more conventional than Jonathan in that respect, Jonathan has his own dress code — and his blonde hair is gleaming in the June sunshine. It’s bright and sunny again today and I’m blinking in the sunlight.
We just stand there for a moment and then he clears his throat.
“Have I come at a bad time?,” he asks and it suddenly sounds so British, so correct, that I have to smile.
“You could say that,” I reply. “Jonathan isn’t dressed yet. He’s a little …” How can I put this? “… out of it.”
“Out of it?” Alex snorts, angry again now, and goes past me into the house without waiting for me to ask him in.
“Do you know how late it is?,” he asks, as we go upstairs to the floor where the dining room and kitchen are. “Have you had breakfast, at least?”
When I shake my head, he heads straight for the kitchen, fills the kettle, and puts it on. He reaches confidently into the cupboard for cups, a teapot, and the tea caddy. He clearly knows his way around here. I let myself sink into one of the kitchen chairs, grateful that he seems so perky and that he feels called upon to make tea for us.
“Jonathan’s not very well. I don’t think he can go into the office today,” I say.
Alex stops short and turns around toward me. Then he leaves the kettle to do its thing and comes back to the table to sit down opposite me.
“I’d like to think that he’s this exhausted because you had wild sex last night.” He raises his eyebrows expressively. Just a few days ago, I would probably have blushed at his words, but now I just smile. It’s none of his business, so I don’t answer him, but last night was in fact the first one that Jonathan and I spent in bed together without having sex with each other — because he was so beat.
“But I’m afraid his condition might have something to do with Yuuto Nagako,” Alexander continues, giving me a penetrating look. “Am I right?”
I swallow, feeling myself turn pale. “How do you know that? Is it already in the newspaper?”
I look at him uneasily. “I thought you knew.”
“No.” He gets up again and goes back to the counter because the water is boiling. He pours it in the teapot he prepared earlier. “All I know is that I got a call from Yuuto’s office an hour ago. He’s terminated all forms of collaboration with us and will no longer be advising us on our business dealings in Asia. Without any explanation, just like that.”
“Shit.” It slips out before I can stop myself. I know that Jonathan and Alex are trying to expand Huntington Ventures’ business dealings in the Asian region, so this has probably come at a pretty inconvenient time.
Alex seems to see things exactly the same way. He nods and his face looks very serious. “You could put it like that, yes. I wanted to talk to Jonathan about it, but he wasn’t at the office and wasn’t answering his mobile either — which I found rather puzzling. It’s always possible to reach him and, if it isn’t, then at least I know where he is. So I drove over here to see what was going on.” He places a steaming cup of tea on the table in front of me, and sits down again. “Well, out with it then: what happened yesterday?”
Hesitantly, I tell him about the fight in front of the club, at least in general terms. I leave out exactly what we were doing there and why we were standing in front of the club because it’s too personal, but I call tell from the way Alex reacts that he knows what kind of a club it is. As Jonathan’s best friend, it’s probably no secret to him. For a moment, I ask myself if he’s ever been there himself, but somehow I don’t think so. He’s not the type.
When I’ve finished, Alex breathes out and leans back in his chair. “That explains a lot,” he says, folding his arms over his chest. And then, to my astonishment, he suddenly smiles. “Jonathan really got into a fight over you and resigned from the club? That’s — remarkable.” He leans forward. “I can’t remember him ever standing up for a woman like that — except for Sarah, of course.”
I return his smile uneasily. I would love to ask him if he believes I might mean as much to Jonathan as his sister does. He’s very attached to her. If there’s any chance that my love for him isn’t one-sided. Because up to now, all Jonathan’s said to me is that I should stay with him and that he wants to try to have a relationship — not that he loves me. But then I don’t have the courage to ask. I like Alexander, he’s very nice and in many ways more approachable and friendly than Jonathan. But these are very private matters — and, after all, he’s Jonathan’s friend, not mine. Alex leans back again. “What are your future plans, Grace? Are you planning to stay in London?” It’s a good question, one I thought about a lot last night, while Jonathan was sleeping. And it always boiled down to one simple answer. One that took away a lot of the elation I’d felt on my way here in the limousine.
I would like to stay, really like to. But my time here is limited — there are barely two months left, and then my internship at Huntington Ventures will be over. Then I’ll have to go back to Chicago to finish my economics degree. I have no other option, because it took me so much damned time, trouble, and money to get this far, and I’m about to graduate now. But it means that I’ll be separated from Jonathan for a few weeks — if not months — and that scares me. I still know so little about him and our relationship has only just begun, everything’s still up in the air. What if he changes his mind during that time? What if he realises he’s better off without me after all, and returns to his old habits? I don’t want to think like that, I’d like to see everything in a positive light. But, although things looked hopeful last night, I can’t shake the thought that things could go wrong between Jonathan and me — and pretty soon.
“I couldn’t stay even if I wanted to,” I explain unhappily. “I haven’t finished studying.”
Alexander frowns. “That’s true, I hadn’t thought of that.”
He’s about to say more, but at that moment Jonathan enters the kitchen. He’s wearing a black T-shirt with the pyjama pants he had on before and he’s thrown on a robe, but he hasn’t fastened it. But his casual appearance in front of Alex doesn’t seem to bother him; he looks relaxed and not at all hesitant as he moves through the large designer kitchen.
“What are you doing here, then?,” he asks his friend, who’s looking at him with undisguised horror.
“The real question is, what are you doing still here,” Alex replies. “But Grace has already brought me up to speed.” He examines Jonathan even more closely. “I thought we’d passed the age when we settled arguments with physical violence, Hunter.” His voice now has a markedly ironic, amused note.
“I thought so too.” With a grim expression, Jonathan goes back to the counter where the teapot is, and pours himself a cup. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t feel like discussing his beat-up state with his friend. But Alexander doesn’t seem intimidated by Jonathan’s bad mood.
“You look terrible,” he tells Jonathan, and — objectively speaking — he’s right. It could be worse, but you can certainly tell he’s been in a fight.
“I’ve been better,” Jonathan replies in a growl. “What’s happened at the office now? Can’t I be away for one single morning?”
Alex and I exchange looks. “We’ve got a problem with Yuuto,” he says. Jonathan sits down next to me with his tea and Alex tells him about the worrying call.
Jonathan is silent for a moment, clearly digesting the news. “We’ll be fine on our own,” he says. „We don’t need him.”
„That’s easier said than done,” his associate contradicts. “He’s got important contacts, you know that, and the fact that they won’t be available to us anymore is bad enough. But if Yuuto is actively working against us, he could do serious damage.”
“We’ll find a solution,” Jonathan insists and his voice now sounds so final that even Alex lets the subject drop.
“Well, we’ll see. That leaves us with the other problem. To be honest: the way you look, you’d probably better not show your face at the office today. Otherwise the thing with the fight will end up in the press somehow. But if you’re not there, you won’t be able to take part in the meeting about the Hackney project which is beginning in,” he looks at his Rolex, „less than an hour and which you’ve clearly forgotten all about.”
“Damn it,” Jonathan swears and I jerk my head up in shock, too. The Hackney project, the conversion of an old industrial estate into a huge shopping mall, is particularly important to him, and we’ve been working on it a lot over the past few weeks. These meetings have always been important to him. The fact that one of them completely slipped his mind shows that yesterday’s events really threw him off kilter.
“Catherine wanted to cancel the discussion, but I told her to wait,” Alexander explains. Jonathan is visibly relieved.
“Good. The meeting has to take place. There can’t be any misunderstandings at this stage, or the whole thing could collapse.” His eyes meet mine and I nod silently. He’s right: the investors already have their doubts, since there’ve been a few delays. If a cancelled meeting makes them jittery, they might withdraw altogether.
“That’s why I’m here,” Alex replies. “But there wouldn’t be any point to a meeting without you, would there? And I can’t stand in for you, you know that. I don’t know anything about the project.”
Jonathan considers for a moment.
“You can’t, but Grace can. She can take it on.”
The suggestion comes as such a surprise to me that my mouth drops open. It’s true that I’m up to speed on the project because I’ve been following it right from the beginning — but I would have never have thought that Jonathan would trust me enough to manage things on my own.
Even more surprisingly, Alex doesn’t seem to question it at all. “OK then, Grace. We don’t have much time.”
“OK,” I say, stretching out the word, and get up, still expecting one or other of them to change their minds. But they don’t. “I’ll just get my bag,” I add and run upstairs.
When I come back down, Jonathan and Alex are still sitting at the kitchen table talking. I only catch a few snippets of their conversation, but it seems to be about me, as I hear my name mentioned. Unfortunately they stop talking as soon as they notice me and Alex gets up. But, before he can say anything, his mobile phone rings. He takes it out and looks at the display.
“It’s Sarah,” he says with a smile, and disappears into the adjoining dining room to take the call. I can’t see him anymore, but I can hear him talking. His voice sounds much lighter and more cheerful than it did a moment ago.
“Perhaps I should get my sister a pager — then she could just page Alex directly to summon him, which would save time.” Jonathan’s voice is dripping with sarcasm.
It’s true. Ever since Sarah was admitted to King Edward VII hospital in Marylebone with a broken leg, Alex had been visiting her there as least as regularly as Jonathan and I had — maybe even more often.
“Is that the jealous older brother speaking?” I tease him. He snorts, not at all amused.
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