Home > Come As You Are(11)

Come As You Are(11)
Author: Lauren Blakely

She lets out a murmur, and when I pull back to meet her eyes again, I ask, “Have you seen the library here?”

“There’s a library?” Her pitch rises.

“Yes. Why don’t we check out the books and you can tell me more about your Monopoly strategy and the taxi apps you didn’t fund?”

“Why, yes, your grace. I’d love to.”

I laugh. “I’m not a duke.”

“Can we pretend you are?”

“Of course, Angel. I can be whoever you want.”

As long as it’s not me.

* * *

The door crawls shut.

Inch by inch.

A slow-mo door.

I have no patience for its theatrics. I kick it shut, eager for the next part of the evening to begin.

Her laughter sounds across the library and echoes off its dark wood shelves bursting with books. A leather couch takes center stage, flanked by a mahogany table.

“Are you in a rush to read something?” she asks coyly.

Her voice turns me on. It’s like bourbon and honey. A little throaty and husky, but with sweet undertones. Funny, how when you can’t see someone’s face—at least, not all of it—your other senses heighten. Your ears work harder, homing in on the voice, or you zoom in on the eyes. Hers are warm hazel with flecks of bronze and green.

“Why, yes, I was looking for a particular book.” I stroll to the bookshelf along one wall, running my fingers across the spines, from old hardcovers like Tess of the d’Urbervilles to modern thrillers from the likes of Clive Cussler to non-fiction reads on the habits of highly effective people. “I thought if you wanted to go to the library you’d want to read. Naturally.”

“Of course. Read me a story. A bedtime story.” She leans against the wall next to a writing desk with a green lamp on it, the kind that has one of those chains you pull down to turn it on. She goes with the moment, and this night seems like role-play with her. I half want to understand who she is. But in a way, I’d rather experience everything she seems to want to give. Her body. Her mouth. Her mind. Whoever she is here in the library is as real as whoever she is behind the mask. My mission is to make sure she gets everything she wants.

I grab the nearest book and crack it open. It’s a James Patterson. “Once upon a time, there was a woman at a party who wanted to be kissed,” I say, walking to her, the pages open.

The angel raises her hands to her hair and sweeps off the headband that holds her halo. She tosses it to the desk. “That sounds like a very scintillating tale.”



The night is glitter. It’s fireworks. It’s an unexpected victory in a game I didn’t intend to play. I’m almost at the finish line, about to win Boardwalk.

Tonight doesn’t belong to my failed wedding, to my cursed dress, to the thief who raised me. It sure as hell doesn’t belong to my lost job.

This night is mine, and I’m going to take my winnings, this delicious morsel of pure pleasure the universe is serving on a silver platter. Tomorrow, I have to return to my regular life where I’m scraping by, fighting for every damn thing I need and want. Hell, I might turn into a pumpkin at midnight. But right now? There’s a man who wants me. A man I want.

I didn’t come here for a guy. But now that he’s found me—this other version of me—I want him to keep talking, keep touching, and keep going.

Now I truly understand why all the heroines in those historical romances craved masquerades so much. You can let down your guard, talk freely, tease. It’s so much easier to be who you are when no one knows who you are.

I’m not a woman with an unused wedding dress. I’m this other version of me. Tonight’s me. A woman with no past. And the man in my present is so damn handsome—at least, what I can see of him. His square jaw, his lush lips, and his green eyes captivate me.

He glances down at the book, as if reading from it, then back up at me. “She had the prettiest lips,” he says, and my stomach swoops.

Then, because we’re playing our parts, I imagine what comes next in my script, and I do it. No holding back. I blow an almost imperceptible kiss in his direction, whispering into the air, “Did she?”

He hums an appreciative sound then tosses the book onto the desk. Closing the distance between us, he runs a finger over my top lip. I gasp.

His gaze pins me, and the butterflies in my belly escalate to full-blown dives. “And the most mischievous eyes he’d ever seen.”

He runs a hand along my hip, and I ignite. Fire burns everywhere. I shudder as he touches me.

“And an absolutely addictive body,” he adds.

I think I want him addicted to me. “How do you know I’m addictive?”

“I don’t. But I want to find out. That’s why I’m telling the story.”

“What happens next?” My voice sounds breathless, maybe even a little giddy.

“The narrator isn’t finished extolling the virtues of the woman who wanted to be kissed.”

“What are the other virtues?” I ask, gobbling up his compliments like they’re a bowlful of candy. I want to eat them all then take another handful too.

“Her lips aren’t just pretty. All these words that spilled from her wicked mouth, and her wicked mind, had a particular effect on a certain man.”

I arch a brow above the outline of my mask. “What sort of effect?”

He moves closer. “I think you know.”

“And this man, I wonder who he is.”

He’s inches away, and I’m on the edge. My whole body vibrates with anticipation. “I think you like not knowing who he is,” he says.

I shake my head, as the confident, masked me answers, “You’re wrong.”

He wrenches back. “Why am I wrong?”

Time to go for Boardwalk. Time to make my move. I loop my hands around his neck, jerking him closer. “I love not knowing.”

I go for it. I’m soft at first, but not tentative. I brush my lips to his, dusting across his mouth.

We’re not soft for long.

He shifts the kiss to hard. Rough. A little desperate. A lot needy. And full of promise.

It’s one of those kisses that doesn’t exist on its own, but as part of a continuum. It will become a mouth over skin, a tongue tracing the softest parts of me. It will lead into hotter, wetter kisses that don’t stop. It will turn sloppy and wild as we fuck.

He’s kissing me that way, his hand running up my neck, traveling along the braided section of my hair. I moan into his mouth because it feels so damn good the way he sweeps his thumb over my cheekbone as if he’s imprinting the feel of me, memorizing me.

We kiss harder and deeper, our tongues tangling. Our bodies press and grind, and I wonder if he’s curious why I’m a jack-in-the-box tonight, wound up, full of a desperate need to get closer.

But maybe he’s not thinking of why, because it’s enough for him to be the object of all my pent-up desire, this unknown man, this stranger. Briefly, a neon sign flashes in my brain—who is this man behind all this black? He could be anyone.

But I know enough. He’s in this field. He’s a venture capitalist of sorts. That’s more than I need to know.

Besides, I don’t truly care what he does for a living.

I care how he makes me feel.

His kisses should be labeled “known to induce swooning.” His touch should be listed as the kind that can melt me into a puddle. Because that’s who I am right now. I’m dissolving into sugary-sweet pleasure as he touches me.

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