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Page 17

“Please,” I said. I wasn’t ashamed to beg.

“As much as I’d like to turn you into a shaking, pleading mess, we don’t really have the time for that,” he said. “So you’ll just have to imagine that I spent half an hour making you forget your own name.” And without any more warning, he slid his hand into my panties, the waistband stretching around his wrist, and started rubbing my clit in tight circles.

I arched my hips off the sofa, my mouth open in a soundless moan. Everything between my thighs was wet and throbbing, and Carter knew exactly how to touch me, exactly where to put his fingers to make me lose my mind.

“That’s right,” Carter said. “No time for subtlety. You’re going to cream yourself in the next five minutes, and I’m going to smell you on me for the rest of the evening.”

How could I do anything, when he talked to me like that, but tip my head back onto his shoulder and close my eyes and let him work me into a frenzy?

He slid his hand further between my legs and pressed two fingers into me. I clenched around them, welcoming the intrusion. He used the heel of his hand to grind at my clit, and I heard myself make a high-pitched sound somewhere between a gasp and a cry of ecstasy.

His other hand slid up my side to tease at my breasts through the silky fabric of my blouse. I was wearing an unlined bra, and he plucked and pinched until my nipples were throbbing in time with my clit.

I never knew, until I met Carter, that I could be this kind of person, this shameless, sexual creature. He drew it out of me, made me forget myself in the search for pleasure, made me want nothing more than to do exactly as he said and come to pieces under his hands.

“You’re so close,” he said. “Don’t hold back. What else do you need? My mouth? A finger in your ass?”

I only needed his words, breathed hot into my ear. I pushed my hips against his palm and squeezed around his fingers and came like a rocket, shuddering in his arms.

He kissed my neck, gently, letting me recover.

“Wow,” I said, after a couple of minutes had passed.

I felt his mouth curve into a smile against my neck. He slid his fingers out of me and drew his hand out of my panties. His fingers glistened, and I turned my head away, embarrassed, as he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and dried his hand.

“And now, you need to get back to work, and I need to attend to my guests,” he said. “Don’t let Germaine scold you. I’ll tell her you were doing me a favor.”

“Okay,” I said. I stood up and shook my skirt back into place and combed my fingers through my hair, smoothing it back into place. My legs still felt wobbly beneath me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to spend all evening serving drinks after that.

“You’re glorious,” he said. “Come to my mother’s with me on Wednesday for dinner.”

“Okay,” I said again, without thinking, and then froze. Had he just—

“You can’t back out now,” he said, reading my expression. “You already agreed.”

“You did this on purpose, didn’t you?” I asked him. “You got me all—relaxed and pliant, and then—”

“You’ve discovered my master plan,” he said, laughing. “You’re right. I was hoping to catch you off guard.”

“Carter,” I said. I shook my head. I didn’t know what to say. Was he crazy? We had been dating for less than a month, and I was just some trampy cocktail waitress he picked up in a sex club, some nobody with a high school diploma and a screwed-up childhood. I couldn’t meet his mother. She was—rich, and sophisticated, and she loved Carter. I was sure she did. She wanted everything for him, all of the best things in life, and there was no way she would count me among them.

“Say yes,” he said. “She wants me to chair one of her social committees. I can’t withstand her assault without backup.”

“Carter,” I repeated. “I can’t. It’s—your mother, and I—”

He took one of my hands in both of his. “Regan. I like you very much. I’m sure you can imagine that I’m somewhat picky about who I let into my life. This isn’t a casual thing for me. You invited me to meet your family, and I’d like you to meet mine.”

I blinked, overwhelmed by pretty much everything he had just said. He was right that Sadie and Ben were my family, the only family I had. And saying it wasn’t casual, that he had chosen me, that I was somehow worthy of being allowed into his inner circle—

It was too much. I felt my throat closing up. “Carter,” I choked out, the third time I’d said his name, and maybe this time he would understand what I was trying to say, all of the meaning I was trying to pack into that one word.

“Yes,” he said. He raised my hand and kissed it. “Say you’ll come with me.”

When he looked at me like that, I couldn’t refuse him anything. “Yes,” I said, heart sinking at the thought of it.

Oh God. His mother. How was I going to survive?

Chapter 6

I spent the rest of my shift worrying about it, and most of that night, and all day Tuesday: while I rode the subway to work, while I waited tables, while I rode the subway home in the evening. Did I have anything to wear? I could probably just wear my work clothes, but even though they were completely innocuous business attire, I was sure they would scream “I work at an expensive strip club.” Maybe Sadie could loan me something. Maybe Carter could loan me something. I was sure he had things stashed in his closet that had been left by prior girlfriends or one-night stands.

I had a hard time falling asleep that night, and when my alarm went off on Wednesday, I felt pretty out of it. I made coffee and settled at my laptop. I hadn’t checked any of my usual lifestyle blogs in a few days. I was still trying to turn myself into a fashionable tour de force, but it was just so hard to make myself care about what celebrities were wearing. No progress without struggle. I sighed and opened a new tab.

I scrolled idly down the page, skimming through the headlines. The season’s hottest new lipstick color; supermodels wearing sweatpants; blind items; Carter Sutton—

Stop. Rewind.

“CARTER SUTTON STEPS OUT WITH MYSTERY WOMAN! WHO KNEW HE LIKED ART???”

A shot of pure adrenaline hit my veins. My face turned hot. My temples felt like they were pulled taut, like my scalp was too small to contain my skull.

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