Home > Stripped (Stripped, #1)(3)

Stripped (Stripped, #1)(3)
Author: H.M. Ward

I pause at the top of a long winding staircase. The room below has floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the Ross Barnett Reservoir. The water sparkles in the morning sun, blinding me. Uncle Luke sees me standing around as he eats his breakfast in the dining room below.

"Come on and get some breakfast." He's a tall thin guy with a head of thick, dark hair. He combs it like an eight-year-old, parted on one side, and plastered to his scalp. The guy is wearing a plaid shirt, a pair of khakis, and boat shoes, which means he's planning on spending the day on his yacht. It's one of the many gifts the family has sent him to keep him happy and quiet down here. The Ferro name carries a lot of weight and anyone that messes with it gets shipped off to no man's land.

"Uh, actually, I'd like to head to the mall and buy some clothes. Mom tossed my ass on the plane before I could pack." As soon as she heard about what I did, I was dragged to McArthur Airport and shipped out of state. Now, I'm Uncle Luke's problem. I walk down the staircase and over to the table.

I'm wearing the same outfit from yesterday, which isn't exactly new. It was in the dresser drawer from the last time I was here, and no longer fits quite right. The jeans are way too tight and if they hug my balls any harder my voice will go up an octave.

Uncle Luke takes forever to answer. When he does, he leans back and flashes his perfect smile at me. His mouth is filled with veneers, another present from Mom. "Fine. Take the black car. Keys are in the garage. Jonny, do something stupid and I'll take it out of your ass." Uncle Luke isn't kidding. Mom threatened him, too. If I mess up down here, I don't even want to know what she'll do next. I've never pissed her off that much, but it can be done, and there are secrets that I'm sure she doesn't know. If she did, I'd be disowned and lose my entire inheritance. The Ferro family is wealthy beyond comprehension. When I was a kid, I thought we were rich, but it's more than that. There's power in our name, backed by more money than I could ever spend. I'm not getting disowned. Fuck that.

He adds quickly, before I can walk away, "How are you paying for it?"

I shrug. "Charge card, I guess. Mom locked me out of my accounts."

Luke glares at me like I'm a moron. "Never use credit cards. They'll know your business." I blink at him like he's hit his head one too many times. Luke sighs, explaining, "The government looks at shit like this Jonny, and it's none of their goddamn business. Use cash. Always have cash on you and pay in cash. Period." He reaches into his pocket and takes out his money clip, pulling a few bills and handing them to me. "I'll get your mother to reinstate your allowance. In the meantime, that should be enough for a few things."

I nod and thank him, heading to the garage before he can change his mind or make me wear a tinfoil helmet so no one can read my thoughts. Uncle Luke is a little bit of a conspiracy theorist. It was fun when I was a kid, but now it's just uncomfortable. The guy can ramble on for hours about how the government, aliens, and other assorted groups are out to get us. I get why he was banished—Luke makes the Ferro family look f**king crazy.

But the man does have good taste. As I enter the garage I see three cars—a cherry red Ferrari, a dark blue Sunbeam, and a black Maserati convertible. Score. Knowing Uncle Luke, I figured he'd hand me an old Civic or something, but this is way cooler. I get in the Maserati, put the top down, and feel the engine begin to purr as I start the car. It's f**king orgasmic, the way the machine comes to life.

With a slick grin on my face, I pull out and head toward the mall. The ride is over way too fast. I pull the car into a parking spot and head inside. I don't know where to find Robyn, but it doesn't really matter. The mall isn't that big. I pass a few stores and slip my hands into my pockets.

That's when I see Robyn. She's standing in the center of the corridor, with her full profile visible. She looks good. I haven't seen her in a few years, and I take a few seconds to appreciate the way her body's filled out. She was the first girl I made out with who had real curves. The memory is imprinted on my mind. Soft, milky flesh that was smooth and perfect. Maybe I should just wait for her to get off work and we can pick up where we left off a few years back.

Robyn doesn't see me approaching. Her face has a shocked look on it, with eyes too wide. She blinks over and over, like she can't believe what she's hearing, which forces my gaze onto the chick standing across from Rob, with her back to me. Long dark hair falls down her back in a cascade of spirals, hanging just above a tight ass that's the perfect size. She's not a twig with nothing to grab, which is good. When I'm with a woman, I want to grip her ass and drive into her hard—grabbing a bunch of bones isn't the same thing. A bony ass is an automatic turn off.

Her legs are shorter than I'd like, but they're curvy and connect with a killer set of hips. God, and she has that pale skin everywhere. It reminds me of forbidden flesh—of the places that my tongue will slip over and between later if things go well. She's my type, Robyn was right, and from the back, she's pretty hot.

I step toward them, preparing to pry the new girl off of me, because that's what always happens. Once they find out who I am, they get clingy. That's my only concern at this point. The girl looks like the perfect way to spend my summer, and I wouldn't mind being between her legs for most of it, but I don't know. I'll have to see what level of crazy she's running on before I do anything. I can't make any waves down here. The press can't know I'm here, so this might be a bad plan—but there's no way I'm jerking off for the rest of the summer.

As I step closer, I hear her voice. It's nice, not too high. I hate that squawky, whiny tone. I've nailed some women who talk like that, but I can't stand to listen to them. It's like nails on a chalkboard. Instant revulsion. So, everything checks out. She's hot, has the voice, has the hair, the ass, the legs, the flawless skin, so when I hear her say she's a virgin, I freeze in place.



My jackass cousin is speed-walking in front of me. She hurries through the glass mall doors and talks to me over her shoulder. "It won't be that bad. My shift is only a few hours. You can shop the whole time and then we can meet up and hang out."

I struggle to keep up with her long legs. Robyn is the only person who's even close to my age that I know in this entire state. My mom sent me to Mississippi for the summer to give me a break from the city. Like I needed a break from New York? Please. She was just sick of looking at me. "What the hell am I supposed to do for that long? I don't have money to shop for hours every day. You said you didn't have to work, Robyn."

"Yeah, well, I didn't, but things changed, Yankee. Suck it up." I roll my eyes and mutter things. Robyn suddenly stops short and glances over her shoulder at me. "Don't be mad, but I think I have the solution to your problem." I raise an eyebrow at her. This can't be good. Robyn's solutions typically make more problems. "You have nothing to do, and he has nothing to do..."

"What are you talking about?"

"He's cute, and a friend with benefits is a promise if you hang out with him." I must appear horrified because she gives me a funny look. I'm a couple of years younger than her, barely eighteen. "You've had sex before, right?"

I blink at her like she has two heads. I hiss in a low voice, "No, I haven't and I don't want to. Robyn, did you seriously tell some random guy to come to the mall so I'd have sex with him? Are you insane?"

A slow smile creeps across her face. "Oh my God! You're a virgin! You've got to be kidding me?" She's looking at me like I'm a toddler in a tutu—it's that sweet endearing face. The problem is that she's way too loud. People around us are looking as they pass by.

Just as she says it, a guy with dark hair and blazing blue eyes stops next to me. He's smiling at her as he folds his arms over his chest. "So, I'm here. What'd you want?" The guy is beautiful, like completely and totally stunning. His face is perfection, his arms and chest are sculpted, and those eyes—are they even real? He glances at me like I'm not worth looking at and then back at Robyn. "Who's this?" He jabs his thumb my direction.

"That's my cousin Cassie, the virgin." Robyn is still smiling at me. "Cassie, this is Jonathan Ferro."

Hot guy turns abruptly and cocks his head to the side. His eyes travel over my body inch by inch before returning to my face. "Why is she a virgin?" His face scrunches when he says the last word, like it's horrible that I'm not a slut. "She looks perfectly doable to me."

My jaw drops open. "Excuse me?"

"Well, you do. You're a beautiful woman." His eyes sweep over me again as if he's assessing whether or not he'd have sex with me, which makes my cheeks burn. He takes in my reaction and smirks. "She blushes. I love that. It's so virginal."

Robyn laughs and looks utterly amused. "I know, right?"

Up until that moment, I was very proud of my virgin status. I wasn't putting out for everyone and anyone, but this guy is rattling me and I only met him a second ago. He's arrogant and cocky and everything I can't stand wrapped up into one beautiful body. "Hello, I'm right here."

"I know," he says. "With that body, I can't see why you'd have a problem, unless..." There's a questioning tone to his voice.

"Unless what?" I'm actually stupid enough to ask him.

"Unless you're into girls." He rubs his jaw lightly and looks me over again with a smile. "Is that the reason?"

"No," I squeal a little too loudly as my face flames redder. People walking by stare at us, which makes it worse. My mouth opens and closes a few times before sputtering, "I haven't done it yet because I wanted to wait."

"Why?" He blinks at me like I'm absurd.

"Until I find the right person."

"You're waiting on purpose?" He glances at Robyn, truly entertained. "Where'd you find this chick?"

Robyn laughs and shakes her head. "She's from your neck of the woods, Jonathan. Don't blame me. I don't think like that."

He grins at her. "I know."

Robyn smiles, and it's obvious they've seen each other nak*d, then says, "I better get going. You two hang out and try not to kill each other."

"That's why you called me down here? To hang out with the virgin?" He looks horrified.

I hate him. It's hate at first sight. I sneer at him. "I have a name, you know."

He looks at me with a this-can't-be-happening expression on his face. "I'm a self-professing male slut, which means I don't care." Jonathan glances back at Robyn. "What the hell am I supposed to do with her all day?"

Robyn laughs. "Not my problem. Catch you after work, Cass."

I make a mental note to kill my cousin later.



We both stand there staring after Robyn. Jonathan sighs and flicks his gaze my way. I feel it slip over my curves, but I don't look at him. I've never had a guy so openly ogle me like this. It makes my insides squirm. I have every intention of ditching him. I mean, what's the point in trying to hang out with a guy who acts like this?

"My eyes are up here," I say dryly, and fold my arms over my chest. I do it to hide my boobs from him, but he just grins as my arms force the mound of cl**vage higher. Damn V neck shirt. I drop my arms and wave a hand at him, "Well, it's been unreal. Catch you later."

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