Awakening: A Dangerous Man #1
His voice is hoarse. “I am going to make love to you now,” he says, “so if you want me to stop, tell me.”
I shake my head frantically. If he stops at this point, I’ll probably die.
Sophie Bennett has virtually no experience with men. Orphaned from birth, she’s gone from living with her reclusive aunt, to a sheltered education in boarding school. So nothing prepares her for David Preston. The intensely attractive businessman is entirely out of her league. Can she handle such a dangerous man, or is she in over her head?
Involuntarily, I step back, suddenly hoping that the glass will hide me from him. My heart starts to pound, beating against the front of my ribs with an intensity that makes me dizzy. My blood is rushing in my ears. My skin flushes, suddenly feeling incredibly hot. His eyes meet mine from across the glass, and I am immediately flooded with awareness. The street disappears, the glass, the shop, everything, until the only thing I’m aware of is him. I can’t breathe. I’m excited and afraid at the same time, and I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never seen anyone who looks like him before.
His face is breathtakingly handsome, almost as if it was lifted directly from one of the classical sculptures or paintings I’ve seen in art textbooks, and then perfected. His hair is thick and very black, slightly too long and elegantly tousled, framing his exquisite sculpted face. His lips are firm and perfectly shaped. His nose is straight. His eyes, framed by a pair of winged black eyebrows, are the most intense blue I’ve ever seen.
I’m only looking at him, but I feel as if all the air has been sucked from my lungs. I pray he doesn’t come into the shop, and I hope fervently that he does.
I’m staring at him with my mouth hanging slightly open, but I can’t stop myself. I can look at him forever. He commands my admiration in a way I’ve never felt. He is… compelling.
His eyes narrow slightly as he looks at me. I flush, embarrassed at being caught staring, even though I shouldn’t be, since he’s been staring at me too. Trying to escape his commanding gaze, I look away from his face, and take in his tall, broad-shouldered body in a superbly tailored gray suit. My mouth suddenly feels dry. I swallow.
As I watch, he starts to move towards the door. His movements are graceful and lithe, and yet I can see the strength in the way he carries himself. I’ve read more than a few romance novels, and I’ve always thought the phrase ‘like a jungle cat’ was ridiculous, but it’s what comes to my mind as he walks in my direction.
As soon as the obstruction of the door is out of the way, his eyes are on me again, holding me captive. He dwarfs the shop, making everything in it fade to insignificance by his presence alone. His expression is unreadable, but as his eyes hold mine, potent, commanding, powerful, I want to run from him, or to him. I’m totally disoriented.
He doesn’t stop walking until he is right in front of me. I am five six, which isn’t short by any standards, but I have to look up at him, and when I do, I am hit again by the force of his attractiveness. At such close quarters, it totally floors me. I have a desperate need to lean on something.
We stand there, him looking down at me, and me staring at his face like I’ve been hypnotized. He doesn’t say anything. At first, I don’t notice because I’m too busy memorizing the contours of his face. I’ve lost the ability to breathe, which is probably why my mouth is hanging open, trying to get enough air to at least keep me alive.
“Good afternoon,” he says at last, interrupting my meditation on his features. His voice is cultured and deep, with a bold inflection that speaks of command.
He is waiting for me to say something, I realize, but there must be something stuck in my throat, because I can’t seem to get any words out. Say something Sophie! I tell myself desperately, or he’ll think you’re an idiot.
“Good afternoon.” I finally manage, my voice an unfamiliar squeak. His lips move in the beginnings of a smile. I stare at the movement, entranced, and also aware that he’s laughing at me. I’m so ridiculous I’m amusing to him, I decide miserably.
“Would you like to buy something?” I ask, knowing that my face is probably a bright red. My voice still sounds unfamiliar. I swallow again.
My question seems to amuse him. I watch, fascinated as a black eyebrow moves up a little higher than the other, “Of course,” he replies.
Of course, he wants to buy something. Staring at him has obviously made me stupid.
“I’d like ah…” He looks around, his eyes taking in the shop, “a gift for my mother.” His gaze swivels back to mine, and I have to bite back a sigh.
I pull in a sharp breath. “Okay,” I say, wondering what to recommend. I have to squeeze by him so I can lead him through the shop. As I pass him, my body barely an inch from his, I am careful not to look at him, but I can’t stop my nose from breathing in his delicious scent, fresh linen, and soap, with a faint hint of cologne. I have an overwhelming urge to snuggle close and fill my lungs with the scent of him.
I recover myself just in time. “What do you have in mind?” I say instead. “We have um… a selection of items you can consider.” As I move ahead of him through the tables where the gifts are displayed, I can feel his eyes on my back, which makes the skin from my neck to the back of my legs tingle with warmth. I have never felt so awkward. I turn to say something to him, and jump when I find that he is right behind me.
I step back quickly, not because I mind being so close to him, but because my heart is beating so loudly I’m sure he can hear it. I swallow and continue talking. “These glass sculptures are all made locally,” I say, painfully aware of how breathless my voice sounds. I wonder if he can tell that his presence is affecting me so much. His eyes have not left my face, even for an instant, and I wonder what exactly he is thinking.
“What’s your name?” His voice stops me mid-ramble and I blink in surprise. What is my name again!
“Sophie.” I stammer, “Sophie Bennett.”
“Sophie.” He repeats. Coming from him, it sounds sensual, not the name I’m used to.
“And how long have you worked here, Sophie?” His voice is soft and fascinating. I want him to keep on talking. I’ll tell him anything he wants.
“I… um…” I blink frantically as I try to remember, “a few months.”
“Interesting,” His eyes are studying my face again, with a curious expression on his face. “College?”
I shake my head. Silently I wonder why he’s asking all these questions. I can’t imagine any of the boring details of my life being interesting to anyone, let alone someone as beautiful as he is.
He considers me for a long moment, until I feel as if I’m going to drown in his eyes. “How old are you?” he asks suddenly.
Why does he want to know? I frown and lick my lips uncertainly. “Eighteen,” I whisper.
His eyes follow the small movement of my lips, and for a moment, and my heart starts to beat wildly again. I’m full of anticipation, though I have no idea what I’m expecting. He looks back up into my eyes, and his eyes are dark and stormy, like the deep blue of the sea turned to a turbulent, chaotic darkness. My insides start to quiver. The feeling is new and delicious, and I don’t want it to stop.
He takes a small step back, the storm in his eyes quickly fading to something like regret. “You’re very young,” he says softly.
I don’t know what to say to that. I may be young, but he doesn’t look much older than I am. He looks about twenty-five, or perhaps a little older. My eyes drop from his face to his wide chest. I want him to look at me again, the way he did before, I want to feel those quivery feelings inside me again. I feel confused, disappointed somehow.
I look back up at him. His eyes haven’t left me. I wonder if I should keep talking about the items we have for sale, but I have a feeling that he is not particularly interested.
We stare at each other. The quivering starts up again, spreading from my belly to my thighs, and getting more insistent. Everything about him reminds me of the things my body has been telling me for months. The things I haven’t had the nerve, or the opportunity to explore. I suddenly have a very intense vision of exploring those things with him, and I blush furiously, certain that he knows what I’m thinking.
“I’d like the glass swan.”
I have no idea what he just said. “The what?”
He lips twitch in amusement, and he inclines his head towards a smallish figure of a swan on a lake. It’s all glass, transparent but with little hints of color. It is very beautiful and costly.
I nod, feeling silly. I pick up the swan and take it to the front desk. He follows closely behind me, and once again, I can feel his eyes on my back. My legs feel strangely boneless, like I have to make an effort to stay steady on my feet. “Do you want it wrapped?” I ask when I reach the desk, doing my best to sound professional, and not like the breathless, discombobulated wreck I am.
“Yes,” He is still smiling, “and delivered.” He dictates an address in Seattle, which I jot down carefully. When I’m done with the address, he hands me a card. I reach out to take it, and our hands touch briefly. It’s only for a second, but at his touch, something moves through me, taking over my consciousness until the whole world seems centered on his fingers touching mine, and his eyes on my face. I quickly pull my hand away, silently commanding it to stop shaking. I can’t look at him. He only touched your hand, for God’s sake!
David Preston. That’s the name on his card. I mouth it silently as I process his payment.
“I want to see you.” The words hover in the air between us. I freeze, unable to comprehend what I just heard. For the second time since I saw him, I literally cannot breathe. The strange quivering in my belly moves lower. “What are you doing tonight?” he continues, his eyes never leaving mine.
I manage to find my voice. “Nothing,” I tell him.
“Then have dinner with me.”
I draw in a shaky breath. I’m unsure, afraid, and feeling rather faint. It is beyond comprehension that this perfect man is asking me out on a date. I want to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. I want to dance. I want to run and hide. I have no idea what I want.
He cocks his head, “Please,” he says,
though he doesn’t look as if he is pleading. He is still smiling, his perfect lips curling upwards in a beautiful bow, but his eyes are burning darkly, promising me things I know I want.
“Yes.” I accept, wondering what exactly I’m agreeing to.
He has been bending slightly over me, now he straightens, “When do you finish here?” he asks.
“I’ll be here.” His smile widens, revealing perfect white teeth. Mesmerized, I can’t take my eyes off him as he backs away from me before turning towards the door. A few moments later, he is gone, with only the slight hint of his cologne in the air, to convince me that I haven’t been daydreaming.