Authors: Emma Jay
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary
Vicente stared. She hadn't—No, she wouldn't. She had as much riding on this presentation as he did. So she was lying for him. Why was she sacrificing herself for him? He took two steps forward, between her and her boss. “No. She didn't. She wouldn't have done that."
"I did.” She moved up beside him, gripped his sleeve to look into his eyes. “The only thing Vicente did wrong was make love to me in the conference room, and I paid him back because I wanted to lead this team. I deserved it."
Vicente cocked his eyebrow, letting her know he knew differently, and he wasn't going to allow her to throw herself on her sword.
"Then why are you protecting him now?"
Thank God, she wasn't fooling her boss. Well, former boss.
Now she met Forrester's eyes. “It was the wrong thing to do, and Vicente has already risked so much to be here. His design is divine. You know. You've seen it. He deserves to see the project through. I don't know how to make this right, but if firing me is a step in that direction—"
"It is.” He pressed a button on his phone. “Send security."
Tears shimmered in Veronica's eyes, but she lifted her chin. “You don't need to do that. I'll leave on my own."
"Sir, she has worked here since college,” Vicente pleaded. “I'll go. Please do not fire her for my mistake. We were working late and you see how beautiful she is. I wanted her, and I let that take over my judgment. I will leave. I will surrender my design,” all that hard work, the crowning achievement of his career, “and I will go back to Spain."
"This isn't an either-or proposition,” Mr. Forrester said. “You caused this company a great deal of embarrassment. You're both out. I can forego the security if you can be out of here in fifteen minutes."
Again Vicente looked at Veronica, whose lower lip trembled. She'd been here fifteen years and she had to be out in fifteen minutes. He moved toward her, but she pivoted and left the room.
He waited for her once his things were packed in a box; not much after four months. She was having a bit more trouble, and her hands shook as she packed.
"Let me help you,” he murmured, easing her aside and loading everything that looked personal into the paper box she'd been provided.
But she wouldn't look at him. Why was that a surprise? He'd ruined her life.
When they were done packing, they had to walk past the conference room, where the rest of their team and a few of the clients remained to watch their walk of shame. Vicente positioned himself between them and Veronica, who kept her head high as she walked past.
She would not cry. She would not cry. But Veronica had never been so embarrassed in her life. She determined not to look at her co-workers, but a snicker from Cathy drew her glance, and she saw the smug smile on the other woman's face. Fury rolled through her and she veered in front of Vicente to confront the other woman.
"You did this. You put that picture up there. Were you jealous because I'm smarter than you or because of Vicente?"
"Please,” Cathy replied with a wave of her hand. “Do you think you're the only one he fucked?"
Betrayal slammed through her, almost as painful as the betrayal of seeing herself on the screen, and the tears that had been threatening shimmered again.
"You have what you want,” she said in a shaky voice. “I hope you enjoy it."
Aware that Vicente reached for her arm, she dodged his touch and moved toward the elevators. When the door slid open, she stepped inside, but held a hand up to stop him, meeting his gaze for the first time since Forrester's office.
"You take the next one."
Arthur was waiting for her when she got to the lobby. “Vicente said I am to take you home."
She didn't want to accept, didn't want anything from him right now, but God, she wanted to be home, to be alone to break down. She allowed Arthur to take her box and escort her to the car.
Veronica arrived home from another fruitless interview to hear the phone ringing. Her heart pounded, but she pushed back the hope that it could be Vicente. He hadn't called in the days since she'd been fired. Hell, he hadn't called when they were seeing each other. And he was probably back in Spain anyway. She'd thought, after the last time they made love, something had changed. If she hadn't thought so, she wouldn't have been willing to take the fall for the presentation fiasco.
But he hadn't called. She'd be smarter to hope a prospective employer was calling.
Still, she was breathless when she picked up the handset, and her heart dropped like a rock when a woman's voice said, “Veronica Butler?"
"Did I catch you at a bad time?"
Was this a telemarketer? Figured she would have rushed for that. “I was just coming in. Who is this?"
"I'm sorry. I'm Jordan Milburn from Milburn Hotels. I understand you worked on the Hotel Barcelona."
Dread pounded through her. Milburn Hotels owned the hotel, had paid the fee for Vicente's services. Had seen her shame. “I did. Is there a problem?"
"We have tried to work with who remained on your team after the ... incident, but we are not finding them to be the least knowledgeable. We need you on board."
Shoving her hair back from her face, she paced before the window. “What about Vicente? He would suit your needs better."
"You were the one who pulled everything together, from my sources. You were the go-between with Vicente, Forrester and the team. That's what we need from you. We're willing to match any offer you've already received."
How would it look to admit she hadn't received any offers? “I would be delighted to meet with you, to work with you."
"You're not contracted with anyone else?"
"No, I'm free to work on this with you."
"I'm pleased to hear it. Can you be here first thing Monday morning?"
Veronica did a little dance of excitement, but the feeling was short-lived. If she had this job, it meant Vicente had gone back to Barcelona.
"You are no fun,” Cindi chided, spinning her martini on the tiny table in front of them.
The last time Veronica had come here, she'd left with Vicente. She couldn't stop herself from glancing hopefully at the door.
Cindi drew her attention back. “We're supposed to be celebrating and every time a dark-haired man walks in, you get all tense."
Veronica opened her mouth to deny it but didn't have the energy to lie. “He could have had this job for himself. He wanted to stay in the U.S. Why did he arrange for me to have it?"
"Because he ruined your life?"
"He didn't do anything I didn't want him to do."
Cindi shook her head. “I thought Evil Steve taught you a lesson about giving a man too much power."
"Vicente doesn't have power over me, other than the memories. He reminded me how to take power for myself, how to take what I want. But honestly, Cindi, if you're going to fall in love, shouldn't you give him some power while you take some for yourself?"
Cindi set her glass down hard. “Are you in love with him?"
Veronica pushed her hair back. “I think I might be."
"But he's back in Spain, right? I mean, it's hopeless."
Veronica didn't voice the idea she'd nurtured all day long, of the money she had sitting in her savings that she no longer needed to horde until she got a job, of the long weekend ahead of her, and how long it would take to fly to Madrid. She just needed a little more information.
"Not hopeless,” she said, hopping to her feet. “Not hopeless at all. I'm going to go. Thanks, Cindi. I'll talk to you later."And she ran out of the bar as quickly as her heels could carry her.
He hadn't left America. Veronica stood in the lobby of his hotel at almost two in the morning after getting his address from Laurie, who hadn't appreciated the late phone call. For a moment, Veronica reconsidered charging up to his room, waking him, to find out if he could love her.
Of course, it made more sense than spending her savings and flying to Spain, but still, maybe she should wait until morning. After all, what if he had a woman up there? Arthur had sworn when he'd dropped Vicente off earlier in the evening that he'd been alone, but the idea continued to niggle.
If Vicente had taught her anything, it was to take risks. She leaned forward and pressed the elevator button.
Moments later she had the same conversation with herself outside his door. He'd been in town for weeks and hadn't called her. What other clues did she need that he wasn't in love with her, that he'd moved on? Okay, if only for closure, she'd go through with this. She rang the bell.
Vicente opened the door after an agonizing minute, bare-chested, hair rumpled from bed, eyebrows lifted. Sexier than ever. All thoughts of telling him about the job offer from Milburn Hotels fled. She had to seize this moment or she might not find the nerve.
"Veronica,” he said, surprise lacing his sleep-roughened voice.
"I thought you'd gone home."
"The rent was paid, so I thought I'd stay. What are you doing here?"
For a moment she thought she'd have to make her declaration in the hall, but he reached for her arm, slid his touch down to clasp her hand and drew her into the room, closing the door behind her. He motioned her to a lush couch in the center of the suite and excused himself. She was too anxious to sit, so instead she merely held her tiny purse in both hands, let it bounce against her knees as she listened to him brush his teeth.
He walked out of the bathroom, wiping his hands on a towel before tossing it back into the sink.
"You didn't call,” she said, and hoped it didn't sound accusing.
"You were angry with me,” he reminded her.
"Angry, but more hurt."
"Because I'd slept with Cathy?"
She had been, but rationalized it had been before his involvement with her. God knew he couldn't have had the time or energy to screw them both. She waved away his sentence. “I felt vulnerable. I lost everything I knew, and then you didn't call."
He walked toward her and she was enveloped with the familiar scent of his musk, overlaid with his toothpaste. “I didn't think I'd be welcome."
She lifted her chin to meet his eyes. “Then you should have taken the risk. You're so good at risks, Vicente. It makes you good at your job, your designs. It makes you an amazing lover. What I want to know is if you'll risk your heart to me."
For the first time since he'd reentered the room, he looked away. “I don't know how to do that. I don't know if I can do that."
She stepped forward and cupped his cheek in her hands, drawing his gaze back to her. “I promise, if you think you can try, if you want to try, I'll make it easy on you."
He covered her hand with his. His breath feathered her lips when he said, “I want to try."
Her heart pounded so loud, she was certain she's misheard him. “Are you sure?"
He dipped, tucked his arm under her knees and swept her into his arms. “As long as you don't make it too easy on me."
She curved her hand around the back of his neck, pulled his face to hers, kissed him slow and deep as he cradled her to his warm bare chest. “That can be arranged."
He pivoted toward the bedroom and lowered her onto the bed, following her down, the hair of his chest and legs rasping along her skin. She lifted her chin to deepen the kiss, bringing his tongue in deeper until he retreated, stroking his tongue over her bottom lip, nipped it so that she arched toward him, pressing her breasts to his chest. He coursed his hands under her dress, over her belly, making her skin twitch, her breasts peak in anticipation of his touch. She parted her legs so the fabric of his Jockeys rubbed the insides of her thighs before his weight settled over her hips, his cock hard against her wet cleft, rubbing, the head of him teasing her opening through their underwear before sliding up to nudge her clit with short, teasing strokes that sent sparks firing through her blood. She whimpered in longing, wanting it now, wanting to savor every moment. Wanting, just wanting.
And so happy to have what she wanted in her arms.
She slid her hands down his back, feeling his muscles bunching and stretching beneath his skin, so strong, so sexy. She reached beneath the knit fabric to squeeze his ass, then glided her hands up his spine, over his shoulders, down his arms to guide his hands to her breasts. He dragged his thumbs over her tender nipples as his teeth scraped over her jaw.
"Missed you. God, missed you,” he said against her skin, pushing the fabric of her dress up and lowering his mouth to her stomach, up between her breasts.
His stubbled chin was rough against her tender skin and she curled her fingers through his hair, holding him to her. He shoved the dress the rest of the way up, peeling it over her head, following the movement to cover her mouth again with long, deep kisses as he skimmed his hand down her belly, between her legs, parting her slit, driving two fingers inside. She bowed against his hand with a moan, pressing down, bringing his fingers deeper as his tongue lapped at her mouth.
She coursed her hands over his throat, shoulders, chest before she reached past the waistband of his shorts and closed her fingers around his cock, sliding her curved hand up and down until he took over the rhythm, thrusting into her hand. He murmured something in Spanish as he slid his fingers from her, dragged his hand along her belly to cup her breast.
"I want to savor you, but I can't, not this time. I need to be inside you. Now,
She lifted her hips to skim the panties he'd pushed aside down her legs, and he shed his own briefs, then knelt before her, dark eyes heavy lidded as he curved his hand around his cock to guide it.
"Do I need a condom?"
She watched his thumb move rhythmically over the reddened head of his erection. “No. I want you naked."
With a fluid move, he was over her, bracing his weight on one elbow, and parted her with his blunt cock. She sighed in pleasure and moved into him, bringing him deeper, bringing his weight over her, his hips angled right over her swollen clit, brushing it with every stroke. He eased from her slowly, drove in deeply. She tightened her muscles around him to feel every inch of him, every facet of him, and the tendons in his neck stood out as he fought for control. He repeated the strokes, each one following more rapidly until he drove into her, his hands on her hips to still her, the length of him filling her, stretching her, driving her out of her mind with each thrust.