Episode ten

By the time I return to my room, Isabelle is awake. Just like last night, her dilated pupils make her eyes dark pools of seduction. There’s just one notable difference. Her wide-eyed response isn’t complements to a bunch of soiled panties in a bedside table. It’s from drinking in the inches of my naked form not covered by the basic white towels Catherine stocks in the guest bathroom. 

 

As her tongue delves out to wet her lips, Isabelle drags her hooded gaze over my hairless pecs and the bumps in my midsection before she drops them to the gap in my towel that’s on the verge of parting. Her heated gawk is doing more than drying the droplets of water on my body. It has my cock acting as if it didn’t achieve release only minutes ago.

 

I took matters into my own hands. I came while imagining the exact look she’s giving me now, yet my cock thickens as if it didn’t reach the pinnacle of satisfaction. 

 

That’s unheard of. 

 

Usually, this apartment’s sole purpose is about my pleasure. Today, the needs of my cock aren’t at the forefront of my mind. They haven't even secured second place. Nothing but fulfilling Isabelle’s every desire is on my mind.   

 

I just need her to get on-board with my plans. Not only do her enthralling eyes expose her every want, desire, and need, they also reflect her unease. They reveal her emotions are precariously teetering, unsure if she should listen to her head or her heart.

 

She appears to side with her logical-thinking brain when she tugs up the bedding, denying me the chance to continue perusing the puckered pink nipples braced against the thin material of the shirt I dressed her in last night. 

 

“Don’t you think it’s a little late to be shy, Isabelle?” It’s conceited of me to test her when she’s hungover, but I refuse to enter a fight where the only contender in the ring is me. The firmness of her nipples reveals she wants me, yet she continues denying what her body has wanted since she crashed into me at the airport. 

 

When nothing but silence projects from Isabelle’s side of the room for several heart-thrashing seconds, I enter the walk-in closet on my left. I usually dress in here. It’s the size of most people’s living rooms, meaning there’s plenty of space for me to stretch out, but if an undeniable attraction can’t get Isabelle over the line, perhaps something she can’t deny will give her the final push she needs to answer the whims of her body.

 

With a suit bag in one hand and a pair of shoes in the other, I reenter the master suite. A gasp I’d hand over millions of dollars to hear time and time again whistles across the room when I drop my towel to commence getting dressed. To say I’m pleased about Isabelle’s reaction is an understatement. I was beginning to wonder if she was immune to the appeal that makes most women weak at the knees. 

 

As a heady scent fills my nostrils, Isabelle openly gawks at my flaccid cock. Her hungry stare presents the perfect opportunity for me to make a move, but since I had to force her to admit her interest in me, that isn’t something I’m willing to do. I hate being strongarmed, and although I’m desperate for Isabelle to stop denying her body’s every want, I won’t take it further than I have. My motives today are already sinister; however, the ones in my head are far worse. They have me wishing to be a man without morals. That’s staggering and incomprehensible. I’ve never acted so reckless.  

 

When Isabelle’s eyes eventually return to my face, I hit her with a frisky wink, not only announcing I noticed her watch, but that I also appreciate it. 

 

As a pink hue creeps from her neck to her cheeks, she covers her eyes with her hand before she slants her head so she's facing the wall. Her endeavor to act unaffected is a ploy. Even with her head angled away from me, I can feel her eyes drinking in the benefits that come from a man who can’t clear his mind without a ten-mile run and an hour with a boxing bag. Then there’s the fact she thinks my penis is handsome. She didn’t quote that directly to my face, but she did mumble it under her breath.

 

“Can you call a penis handsome?” 

 

“No, you can’t.” My voice is both amused and content. My amusement isn’t because she finds my penis handsome—today isn’t the first time I’ve been told that—I’m humored about her constant rambling under her breath. She did it a handful of times last night. I assumed she was talking in her sleep. Only now am I wondering if it's just my astuteness that goes askew when we’re in the same room. 

 

Under Isabelle’s watchful yet somewhat mortified gaze, I finalize getting dressed. Once I’m donning a pair of designer slacks, and a light blue buttoned-up dress shirt, I move to Isabelle’s side of the room. Her eyes track me. They’re still full of unquenched thirst, but regretfully, that isn’t the sole emotion they’re manifesting. She’s cautious, and although she is no longer drunk, the sheen in her eyes exposes she could still be under the influence of alcohol. 

 

The knowledge has me altering the direction of my course. That isn’t something I often do. When I want something, I go for it. I want Isabelle, but my past alone ensures I too must tread carefully. 

 

“I have a meeting I must attend this morning.” I take a moment to drink in the disappointment darting through her eyes before continuing, “Your dress was sent to the dry cleaners, but there are spare clothes your size in the wardrobe.” The dash of amusement in my voice earlier is seen on my face when Isabelle screws her nose up. Even with her focus nowhere near the drawer of panties she opened last night, I know what she's thinking. “They’ve never been worn. Catherine purchased them specifically for you this morning.”

 

When the glossy gleam in her eyes is cleared away for gratitude, I tilt closer to her. Her eyes bounce between mine, but she doesn’t pull back. She’s too busy seeking answers to the many questions in her head to worry about how well-aligned our lips are.

 

“Stop looking so worried, Isabelle.” Her nostrils flare when my minty fresh breath sneaks through the crack of her parted lips. “You wouldn’t have any doubts if I’d fucked you, no matter how many drinks you had.” 

 

Her brows join, assuring me I hit the bullseye with my assumption her mind is a little hazy on the events of last night. “We didn’t have…” 

 

I smirk, humored a woman with looks as sultry as hers is too shy to say the word ‘sex’ out loud before I reply, “No, we didn’t.”

 

“Why?” As her chest expands with worry, her eyes dart up to the mirror above my bed. As she takes in her messy bed-hair, mascara-stained face, and barely covered body, I curse Hunter and Hugo to a life without sex. Isabelle isn’t sickened by the ghastly monstrosity peering back at her, and the knowledge makes my struggles not to claim her ten times worse. Thinking rationally during problematic times is all I know. That same levelheadedness isn’t being showcased today.

 

“I like my women not comatose.” My response comes out gravelly, the strain solely Isabelle’s fault. After licking the tip of my thumb, I commence removing the smears of mascara under her well-rested eyes. “You passed out within ten minutes of sitting in the back of my car.” Memory on the reckless situation she placed herself in last night makes quick work of the twitching of my cock. She’s been far from safe the past twelve plus hours, so I'd hate to consider what she could have faced if I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind.

 

My already tight jaw doubles when Isabelle gabbles out, “I generally handle my liquor a lot better than I did last night, but I was drinking on an empty stomach.” 

 

“And what would have happened if I didn’t arrive at that club when I did, Isabelle? What if it were another man who carried you into his apartment and undressed you?” It’s almost impossible to articulate my next set of words. That’s how tight my jaw is. “Do you think he would have slept next to you all night long, smelling your sexually enticing scent without touching an inch of your seductive curves and skin?” My nostrils naturally flare to suck in the scent I’m mentioning. “I could smell you all night long, but I couldn’t do a darn thing about it. A lesser man wouldn’t have resisted.” 

 

The last morsel of my sanity snaps when Isabelle responds to my aggression with a moan. Every fine hair on her body is bristled, we’re breathing as one, and her eyes are begging for me to kiss her. The temptation is immense. I’m moments away from making her mine, then three little words stop me. 

 

“Ruthless. Cunning. Lawless.” 

 

They trickle out of Isabelle’s mouth on repeat, making the minute gap between us appear as if it is as wide as a treacherous river. 

 

I thought she was hesitant because her wealth and reputation weren’t on par with mine. I had no inkling her reluctance centered around the numerous false accusations about my empire and me. 

 

Needing to leave before I’m once again forced to defend myself, I stand from the bed and snatch up my jacket. “Hugo will return after dropping me off. He will take you home.” 

 

“I can take myself home,” Isabelle injects, her tone as low as my mood is now sitting. 

 

Since I’m not in the right headspace to argue, I nod before striding to the double wooden doors of the master suite. My plan is to exit without so much of a backward glance, but my neck cranks back at the request of my heart before my head can demand it not to. 

 

The evil, vindictive woman I’m imagining isn’t close to the remorseful one on my bed. She’s panicked about my abrupt departure, but since she believes the words she muttered, she also believes it is for the best. 

 

The innocence in her eyes has my naturally engrained dominance rearing its ugly head... or perhaps it's the organ I sometimes wish I was without. “If you go out drinking with your friends again, only go to my clubs.”

 

Anger is sluicing through my veins, blinding my astuteness even more than Isabelle’s beautiful face, but that doesn’t mean I want to see her get hurt.  That would kill me more than her belief I’m the evil man my competitors want her to see.

 

Some of the heat roaring through my veins cools when Isabelle dips her chin, agreeing with my request without thougth. I show her my thanks with a smile before I exit the room with the dramatics I was aiming for only seconds ago.

 

My brisk pace slows when I spot Hugo standing near the entryway table. I requested for him to wait for me outside.

 

“Hey.” His Adam’s apple bobs up and down before he nudges his head to the refrigerator. “I thought I might grab a bottle of water before we head out. My throat is dry from the smoky conditions last night.” That will be the first thing I change when the deeds for the nightclub I purchased last night are placed into my hands. All my clubs have a no smoking policy. “Did you want one?”

 

When I shake my head, Hugo lifts his chin before he moves into the kitchen to secure the bottle he mentioned. While he does that, I gather my cell phone and keys from the entryway table. My brows pull together when I notice a handful of unopened envelopes next to Isabelle’s phone. They’re all addressed to me and they weren’t there earlier.

 

With the confrontation with Isabelle still in the forefront of my mind, I stuff my phone and keys into my pocket then head for the front door. “Let’s go. You can test Hunter’s hospitality when we arrive at his home unannounced.”

 

I enter the hallway, but I don’t head for the elevator at the end. I stop by the door before pulling out my phone.  Although I appear to be returning one of the countless emails I received overnight, my eyes are locked on the shadowed legs of the entryway table. It’s clear Hugo arrived with the envelopes addressed to me, so I’m eager to see if he plans to leave with them as well.

 

My already hostile temperament nosedives to an all-time low when Hugo’s shadow veers by the entryway table, but it doesn’t stop to ensure the discretion I pay out the eye for is maintained.  I've spent the last five years doing everything in my power to guarantee his safety, so why can’t he do the same for me?

 

I trust him.

 

I thought he had my back.

 

Obviously, I’m the only fool standing in this hallway.

 

I’ve barely ruminated over how to handle Hugo’s indiscretion when it dawns on me what he's doing. He does have my back. He just doesn’t want me to know he does since he’s an old romantic at heart.

 

“What’s in the envelopes?”

 

Hugo splatters, coughs, and almost chokes before he follows me into the elevator car. If he thinks a near coronary will stop my interrogation, I’ve clearly not been hard enough on him.  

 

“And why are you testing Isabelle? You wouldn’t do that unless you had something substantial on her.”

 

He rubs at a knot in the back of his neck while muttering, “Hunter found a license this morning. It gave him a new direction to look.”

 

I’m pleased they’re still seeking information on Isabelle, but his response raises more questions than it gives me answers. “And the envelopes?”

 

Hugo breathes out harshly. “Old bank statements from a couple of years ago. There’s nothing incriminating in them. We just want to see exactly where Izzy’s interests lie.”

 

“We?”

 

I know who he’s referencing, I just want him to spell it out for me.

 

“Regan, Hunter, and me.”

 

Regan is unexpected. I wasn’t anticipating for her name to be thrown into the mix.

 

“We’ve never seen you like this with anyone, boss. We’re just looking out for you as you would us.”

 

I hit him with a stern sideways glare, warning him no amount of buttering up will lessen the burn of my scorn. I can take care of myself. I have for years, and I will continue for many more to come—most likely alone since the one person I trusted on sight hasn’t awarded me the same courtesy. 

 

“Boss,” Hunter greets me with a brutal swallow when I spot him in the driver’s seat of my town car. “You told him about the envelope, didn’t you?” he whispers to Hugo when my slide into the back seat is quickly mimicked by Hugo’s slotting into the front passenger seat.

 

Hugo socks him in the arm before whispering, “I didn’t have much choice. Nothing gets by him.”

 

“It doesn’t,” I endorse while bouncing my narrowed eyes between the two peering at me from the seats in front of me. “So perhaps you should remember that the next time you decide to leave me out of the loop.” I give them a moment to absorb the threat in my tone before adding, “Show me what you've got.”

 

My hands ball into fists when Hugo and Hunter get into a tussle over who should deliver the news. With my fuse short and my temper volatile, I lean over the privacy partition dividing us before snatching up the file on the top of a stack. It is marked Isabelle Brahn. The one beneath it is for someone by the name of Callie.

 

While sinking into my seat, I peel open Isabelle’s file, eager to unearth how a ‘supposed’ accountant can learn so much about someone while keeping her own credentials a highly guarded secret.

 

I groan when a single piece of paper falls out. It’s the driver’s license Hugo mentioned in the elevator. It exposes that Isabelle lived in a small community outside of San Francisco, that her name is indeed Isabelle Brahn, and that her birthday is coming up in a little over six weeks.

 

“What other information have you got?”

 

Hugo snatches a file out of Hunter’s hand before locking his eyes with mine. “That’s all we’ve got right now.” When a twinge impinges my jaw, he talks faster, “Stuff like this takes time, Isaac.”

 

“Her information isn’t hidden for no reason. You only go to those lengths for two reasons. You’re either lying or hiding. There’s no in-between.”

 

I honestly don’t know which scenario I prefer. I hate being lied to, it fractures relationships long before anything else, but I also can’t stand the idea Isabelle is in fear for her life enough she needs to hide. 

 

“I know that, Isaac. I’m just asking…” Hugo pauses, truly unsure how to phrase his next lot of words before he just straight up blurts them out, “I’m asking you to trust us. To give up the blind faith you gave Izzy within a nanosecond of bumping into her.”

 

I try to deny his claims. My lips twitch, but not a syllable falls from my mouth. 

 

Loathing that I want to be anything but honest, I roll down the window, then stray my eyes to the foot traffic darting by my building. The busy metropolis I’m building from the ground up has a way of calming me, but I’m not granted the same latitude today. Isabelle is exiting my apartment building. She’s wearing snug jeans, a short-sleeve shirt, and a pair of running shoes. 

 

The relieved expression on her face that she escaped my clutch unscathed switches to panic when she spots my car across the road. A vein in her neck works overtime as her tongue delves out to moisten her lips. 

 

When she hesitantly waves, announcing she’s noticed my watch, I don’t wave back. I signal for Hunter to go before any of the insane thoughts in my head can transpire. I have an abundance of questions I want answered, but a forced truth is a worthless truth, and I’m so used to being lied to, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll recognize the truth once it’s presented to me. 

 

xx

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