Power. Wealth. Respect.
The members of the Boardroom share these things—and more.
Copyright © 2018 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Publication Date: 07-16-2018
Digital ISBN: 9781488097102
Genre: Erotic Romance
Length: Short Story, 13,000 words
Series: The Boardroom
STORY FOUR: SIGNED OVER
No limits. No refusals. No out.
She’d be his—for one night.
Bailey Brown wants more. More risk. More passion. Her experiences in the Boardroom—open, hedonistic sex with trusted but anonymous members—have been exciting, but that feeling is back. The one that pushes her, dares her to do more, risk more.
Jacob Anders has always been the Boardroom’s go-to guy—caring and thoughtful, he fulfills other people’s fantasies. It’s a role that suits his caretaker needs, even if it’s one that sometimes requires him to ignore the ache of his own desires.
But now Bailey is offering him everything he’s ever wanted. Total control. Absolute trust. It’s a heady feeling, and a huge responsibility.
How far will he go, and will it be enough?
Copyright © 2018 by Lynda Aicher. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
“Are you sure about this?”
Jacob Anders studied Bailey with an intense scrutiny she was used to—and so damn tired of. She bit back the sigh that threatened to heave out and returned his appraisal with a steady one of her own.
“Yes,” she stated, her voice firm. “I’m sure.” About as sure as she could be given the details laid out in the contract before her.
His lips pressed into a thin line, doubt narrowing his eyes before he released his own deep sigh. He shook his head and shoved a hand through his hair, his shoulders dropping.
“You.” He pointed a finger at her. “Are going to drive me mad.”
Victory danced a jig in her chest, but she withheld her joy to an impish smile. “I have no idea why.”
Yet she did. Her happiness soured beneath the weight of that reality. She held her front, though. Held it strong and solid against the jitters and admonishments slamming around in her head. Admonishments she’d heard from everyone from her parents to her last boyfriend.
You’re never satisfied. When is it enough? Stop manipulating. Why can’t you just be happy?
“Yeah, right,” Jacob scoffed, but his scowl lacked bite, just like the tone of his voice. He snatched a pen from his suit pocket and held it poised over the contract.
Hope swelled to shove the air from Bailey’s lungs. This was it. The next leap in her never-ending cycle of risks was almost a reality. He just had to sign the damn agreement. Her signature was already scrawled and dated on the bottom of the page. She’d skimmed through it the night before to find the key points she’d asked for.
No limits. No refusals. No out.
She’d be his, and he could do any sexual thing he wanted to her.
Anything—for one night.
Her skin stretched tight with that too-familiar mix of need and fear. Of want and self-ridicule.
Why did she do this? Push for what others didn’t understand? Shove when most would be happy with what they had? Cajole and manipulate until she got her way—or simply took it?
Her leg bounced beneath the bar, that insatiable crush of energy escaping in the only available way. Would Jacob notice? Did he really understand what was at stake for her?
He turned his head, his gaze penetrating her before she had a chance to deflect. She swallowed, anxiety creeping in to twist her stomach. Strength built on that unrelenting quest for more kept her from looking away.
She straightened in her seat, spine locking into place against the speculation in his eyes. Blue with flashes of gold that lightened and darkened with his moods, Jacob’s eyes were as unique as the man. His classic good looks were enhanced by his easy manner and kindness that appeared open-ended.
His clipped words shot out to nail her with another rush of doubts. He didn’t blink, and she didn’t dare flinch. But what did he want to hear? What would get him to sign the contract?
She swept her tongue over her lip in a slow pass, the dry texture tugging slightly before she rolled her bottom lip between her teeth. His gaze never lowered, not even a little, through her attempt to distract him. Her heart did a quick flutter as desire flashed hot and fast.
That right there, that was why him.
“Because you’ll give me what I want,” she finally answered, her words heavy with the need simmering beneath her skin. His brows hitched up. “And we’re good together,” she tacked on, her smile knowing.
Their sexual chemistry had been tested and confirmed in multiple Boardroom scenes in the year since she’d joined the exclusive group. The open, hedonistic sex, conducted in boardrooms, between some of the Bay Area’s most elite men and women, had fed the crazy need that churned within her, but it was back now, pushing for more.
Something new, daring. Something that would test her.
Jacob was known for his willingness to grant member requests. Yes, others did—they all did when it meshed with their own desires. But Jacob liked to fulfill the unique ones, and he had a reputation for doing so with compassion and tact.
Not that she was asking for either of those.
His lips compressed yet again, sending off another wave of desperation within Bailey. Please. Don’t bail on me. Don’t…give up on me.
She laid a hand on his arm, her plea silent but unrestrained. In a leap of faith, she let it all show. Every aching need and fear that bombarded her until she couldn’t think, couldn’t…be.
“I want— No.” She shook her head. “I need this.”
“Have you done it before?” He tapped his finger on the contract without looking away from her.
“Then how do you know this is what you need.”
“I just do.” Could he understand that when few did?
A silent curse formed on his lips, his nostrils flaring with his quick inhalation. “The risks are—”
“I trust you,” she implored, cutting him off. “I do.” She squeezed his arm for emphasis, or maybe that was the fear sneaking out once again. “I wouldn’t have asked you if I didn’t. Don’t you see that? I wouldn’t do this with someone I didn’t trust completely.” The truth of that resonated on a clear signal from her head to her heart.
Jacob would take care of her.
Her heart contracted around that nugget of security. He was too kind, too conscientious, too good to be horrible to her. Yet he’d push, right? At least she hoped he would. Why would he go through the effort of getting a special contract created and then approved if he wasn’t going to sign it?
“I’m not stupid, nor do I have a death wish,” she informed him, sitting back. Her hand was oddly cold when she removed it from his arm. The chill crept beneath her skin to smother the heat that’d just been there. “I want this—with you.” Just you.
Even she couldn’t answer why that last point was so important. It just was.
It had to be Jacob or no one.
That buzzing restarted beneath her skin, humming at an increased frequency that throbbed against her chest the longer he remained silent. Her leg bounced, nerves spiraling until she forced herself to still. Her pulse still pounded and sweat trailed down her side, but she was well versed at hiding the urgency that even she didn’t understand.
Questions crowded his expression, but none of them spilled out. Did he think she was crazy? He wouldn’t be the first or likely the last.
“Please,” she finally whispered, the single word lifting on a plea that felt like her last safe hope.
She could go elsewhere. Hunt down a different guy, place, environment that would feed the urge that never seemed to quiet. But she was actually trying to be smart here. Trying to be cautious when her default was the opposite.
Jacob swiveled his head in a slow arc that could’ve been rejection or resignation. “I’m not taking this lightly,” he finally said, serious. “You’ll still have a safewo—”
“No!” Her refusal snapped out before she could stop it. His eyes widened and her hopes dropped. Damn it. She bit her tongue, swallowed. His eyes narrowed again, and she had to clear her throat of the regrets and insecurities before she could finally add, “I won’t use it.”
“And that right there is why this is so damn risky.” His voice had hardened. “You are giving up too much.”
Am I? Maybe. Yet she couldn’t get herself to back down.
A calm settled over her as she accepted the truth of his words. She leaned in, meeting him halfway in the little space between their bar stools. She made sure he could read the conviction that’d taken root with her determination.
“I’m giving you everything.” His nostrils flared again on his deep inhalation. She waited for him to exhale. “Only you.”
“Fuck.” He hung his head, grimaced, but heat simmered beside resignation when he scratched his name over the bottom of the contract. She sat back, her muscles going slack with the relief that swooped in. He’d done it.
The contract was signed.
He pinned her with the steady intent that’d first drawn her to him. He came across as affable, charming even. The easygoing guy who was the first to step up or lend a hand. Yet there was something steady and focused beneath his friendly demeanor, something deep when she felt so shallow.
“Don’t make me regret this.”
His warning stoked the rebellious side of her that never seemed to die. She flicked her brow up, swallowed the last of her drink before sliding from the bar stool. Her chin was lifted, pride holding her shoulders back when she nailed him with the same hard intent he’d handed her.
“Don’t make me regret this,” she said before she strode from the bar without a backward glance. Her nape prickled with awareness as he tracked her departure, but she held strong in her refusal to show more than she already had.
Jacob Anders was the only man she trusted her life with, and that wasn’t her being dramatic. He could seriously hurt her in numerous ways, and she’d just signed a contract giving him permission to do so.