While this book takes place after Glutton for Pleasure, it also functions as a stand-alone novel
Hungry for a touch…
Rana Malik is over being her family’s resident black sheep. She’s on a mission: ditch the casual hook-ups, revamp her bad-girl image, and fall in love with a proper Mr. Right even her conservative mama can’t find fault with. Not on the menu? The beautiful, brooding Mr. Right Now who lives next door, and all the ways he whets her appetite.
Starving for love…
Artist Micah Hale had it all–women, success, friends and family–until his world changed in a single act of senseless violence. Now struggling to conceal his scars and get his life and career back on track, he knows he has nothing to offer a woman except his body. He’s not looking for love…but he can’t control his craving for the sexy bombshell voyeur he’s caught looking at him.
Just one bite.
Their attraction boils over, and their defenses are stripped off along with their clothes. They promise they’ll walk away if it gets too hot. But it’s hard to do the right thing…when being wrong feels so good.
Long, elegant, dexterous. His fingers slid over her curves with the greatest of precision, handling each centimeter with expert care. This was a man who knew his way around a woman’s form, from the roundness of her breasts and the dip of her belly, to the arch of her neck and the muscles of her limbs.
Rana Malik tucked her legs under her body, ignoring her aching feet. After a busy Friday night waiting tables at her family’s restaurant, a hot bath should have been her first priority. But when she’d happened to glance out her bedroom window, she had no choice but to abandon all of her thrilling plans for the evening and plop down on her bed, enthralled.
Happened to glance? Let’s not fool ourselves.
Fine. In the two months and sixteen days since The Hottie had moved in, peeking through her curtains at the house next door had become an admittedly bizarre part of her nightly ritual.
She wasn’t always rewarded. There was no rhyme or reason as to when he would be busy at his craft in that brightly lit room, and sometimes it would be vacant and dark. Those nights were tragic.
When he was there, though… Lord. Those nights were the best.
She couldn’t fully explain her fascination. It might, however—and she was just spitballing here—have something to do with the fact that he was so fucking gorgeous her eyeballs felt like they were being French kissed by angels when she looked at him.
That was only a small exaggeration.
This glorious creature could have been engineered in a secret government lab to take advantage of Rana’s infamous weakness for beautiful men. Tall? Check. Packed with muscle? Check. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, strong back, grabbable ass? Check, check, check, check.
Granted, his hair wasn’t short like she preferred, but maybe her preferences were wrong, because damn. She’d had more than one fantasy about loosening the tie that kept those heavy black strands clubbed back. His hair would skim against his high, sharp cheekbones, framing his face. She’d sink her hands into the rough satin and tilt his head down, and he’d lift one of those fierce, angled black eyebrows. Not both eyebrows. Just one. Super sexily.
Then she’d lick the scar that bisected his full upper lip.
She sighed. That would be her starting point. There were so many places her tongue could travel on that man.
He paused, his pinky resting against a nipple, as if he heard the voyeur peering over his shoulder. Rana pressed her lips together, instinctively freezing.
Surely he couldn’t hear her. He had no idea she’d been here night after night, until she could barely remember a time when she hadn’t come home hoping his lights would be on.
“Don’t stop. Not yet. Keep going,” she whispered, like she could will him to continue. Silly. If she could will him to do anything, it would probably entail taking off all his clothes and coming over to her place.
She let out a low breath when instead of swiveling around to glare at her, he leaned back on his stool.
In profile, his expression remained stony. Smiles and giggles were not something this man was familiar with, she imagined. She’d never seen anything on his face except focused concentration.
His arm flexed as he raised his pencil in a smooth glide and threw it across the room, the act seething with repressed violence.
Aww. He hadn’t had one of these nights in weeks, and she’d hoped he was past it. Rana opened the bag of leftovers her youngest sister had stuffed into her hands as she’d left the restaurant, pulling out foil-wrapped cold naan and a plastic tub of chicken curry, her eyes glued to the action. As the sole living expert (she assumed) on the man’s solitary painting sessions, she could attest these shows always ended in one of two ways. One was with him working feverishly for hours, until even her night-owl sensibilities had to cry uncle and she fell asleep watching his long fingers dragging a brush over canvas.
She flinched when he picked up the X-Acto knife from the table, aware of what was coming next.
Prepared as she was, she couldn’t stifle her cry of dismay when the knife cut into the canvas, sinking through the drawing of the couple entwined in a passionate embrace like it was hot steel through butter. He was thorough, not stopping until the entire canvas was reduced to nothing more than ribbons of pulp.
The painting had been in its early stages, but sadness crawled through her. Such a fucking waste.
With controlled precision, he set the knife on the table holding his supplies. He was always controlled, a harsh contrast to the passion his hands meted out.
This is weird.
He is weird.
You’re obsessed with a weirdo.
That was…accurate. Depressingly accurate.
Her weirdo—her hot weirdo—stood staring at the wreckage of his work for a long moment. Then he pivoted, pacing away from the easel to head toward the en suite bathroom. He lifted his shirt, giving her a glimpse of his back before he kicked the door shut behind him.
Rana scooted until she could rest against the mound of pillows on her bed, deflated at both the destruction and the short amount of time she’d gotten to spend with him. She opened the curry and dipped the thick bread into it, uncaring that both were cold. Every day for lunch she scarfed down a salad or whatever veggies she could grab from the restaurant’s kitchen. The heavy, rich food she brought home with her was her primary sinful indulgence.
Lord knew, she had so few sins left to her name lately.
You did this to yourself.
She swallowed her mouthful of meat and bread and dove in for another bite, barely giving her taste buds a chance to savor the flavors from the first. She had officially entered her twelfth consecutive month of celibacy last week. Did that earn her something? A chip or a gold watch? A diamond-encrusted chastity belt?
Oh, there was nothing wrong with celibacy as a concept. Rana hadn’t even minded it much for the majority of those twelve months, so consumed was she with her family’s expansion plans for the restaurant and her newfound zeal to get her personal life in order. Then Hottie McNeighborPants had moved in. He might as well have stood on his lawn, wiggling his penis about and reminding her of all the things she adored about sex.
She sniffled in self-pity and ate another delicious bite. The problem was, she adored all the things about sex. Maybe more than she adored chocolate, and there were times of the month she would cut a bitch for chocolate.
Sex was magnificent. The weight of a man’s body on hers, the smell, the sweat, the pressure of a nice hard cock between her legs…
Right when she’d been so certain she’d kicked her habit, he’d dragged her needs out into the light. Now she craved him frightfully, the way a person on a carb-free diet might crave a huge muffin. She needed that muffin. She wanted to make love to that muffin. She wanted to engage in acts of questionable legality with that muffin.
No. No muffins for you.
At least not until she found someone she’d want to…nibble on…long-term.
She squinted. No, not nibble on. Bake? Knead?
Ugh. She’d never been good at metaphors. Someone she could have a serious relationship with, damn it. Her casual hook-ups had been fun, but at a certain point last year she’d looked up and realized she wanted…more.
That didn’t mean she liked everything about her self-imposed finding-herself-and-love stretch. Clearly. Look at her sad life. Without a regular source of muffins, she was reduced to creeping on a hermit with a perfect butt and beautiful face.
Even telling herself he was probably fucked up didn’t help her. He had to be fucked up, right? The obsessive way he painted, the way he destroyed his own work. He might be an asshole, which meant her lust would die a quick death. She’d never fucked a jerk, and she wasn’t about to start now.
But her brain couldn’t be tricked. Since she knew nothing about him, her mind was free to conjure up all sorts of fantasies. He was hurting; he was tortured; he was passionate; he was generous; he was alone.
Well, she did know that last part was fact. She’d seen no evidence to indicate anyone shared the three-bedroom home that was the mirror image of hers. He was always alone, except for the people he painted.
She frowned at the remnants of her meal and stuffed a last bite into her mouth before closing the lid and placing the container of curry on the nightstand. Maybe she was mistaken about his loneliness, though. He might have a family or a girlfriend or a boyfriend, and she simply never saw them because they were in the witness protection program because they’d witnessed a hit on someone and had to testify…
Something moved in the corner of her eye. She glanced up at the window and promptly choked on the food in her mouth.
She gasped and groped for the water bottle she’d tossed on her bed, opening it and swigging a giant gulp, her eyes locked on this new development.
He wasn’t naked on his lawn, wiggling his penis about. But he was naked. Fully, delightfully naked.
He held a towel in his hand and used it to finish blotting his wide chest before he tossed it into the bathroom.
Even knowing he leaves wet towels on the floor doesn’t diminish his sex appeal.
Uh-oh. She was in such a pickle.
Rana finally managed to swallow her half-masticated bite and absentmindedly threw the water bottle on the bed. Was it capped? Who cared. Let it soak her bedspread.
Holy Mary. His brown skin was darker then hers, and it gleamed under the studio lights. He was the same color all over, which meant he either never left the house, or he sunbathed naked.
After having observed the hermit in his natural habitat for months, she was aware the former answer was more likely. But she was going to go ahead and save a mental image of him sunbathing nude for her happy-times bank.
She’d known his body must be tight, but seeing it stripped of the soft white shirts and worn denim he favored was… There were no words adequate to describe this heavenly sight.
No, you’re drooling.
There didn’t appear to be any spare fat on him. Though she ought to touch him to be sure. Maybe measure those huge biceps or run her nails over the shifting slabs of muscles that made up his chest and stomach. He didn’t have much chest hair, but he was blessed with a lovely happy trail that deserved an hour or so of worship on its own.
His powerful legs bunched and released as he walked to the sheet-draped couch, giving her an excellent side view of his sculpted ass. She wanted to see more of that ass, but he sank down on the couch.
His thighs spread wide, and she instantly stopped mourning the lack of an ass view. She could console herself with his penis.
She swallowed, her mouth dry. Her breath was coming in small pants, and she was unable to look away from that delightful appendage. He was only semi-erect, which made his size all the more impressive. Long and thick, with a fat head, his cock rose from a base of curly black hair and rested against his thigh, curving slightly to the left. She wanted to wrap her hand around him.
This is wrong. He doesn’t know you’re seeing him like this.
It was one thing to watch him without his knowledge while he painted or drew. As weird as that was, she could reconcile it with her tattered conscience.
This, though…this crossed far too many boundaries.
She was going to shut her blinds. Her curtains too, to be safe. Right now. Because she was a decent, good, non-perverted human being who was not ruled by lust and drama and base desires. She was new-and-improved Rana.
New Rana was not impulsive. New Rana was thoughtful.
New Rana could not, however, conserve electricity, because she’d once again left her bathroom light on, the door open enough to let a bit of illumination spill into her bedroom.
Rana, came her mother’s annoyed, aggravated voice in her brain. Why do you always leave the light on? You are throwing money down the drain.
The money was a secondary concern. It might be hard for him to see into a darkened room. But one that was lit, when he was directly facing her? Fuck, if she could see him, he could see her.
Calling herself ten times a moron, she swung her legs over the edge of the bed slowly, fearful of making sudden motions that might catch his attention. Yeah, if he discovered her peeking when he was drawing, she might be embarrassed, but they’d both be beyond mortified if he saw her eating his cock with her eyes.
Rana stood on none-too-steady legs and took one step toward the window. She had the best of intentions. Close the curtains, put away her leftovers, shower, crawl into bed, and forget she ever saw her gorgeous neighbor’s dick. Responsibly adulting like a pro, that was New Rana’s game.
Yes, she had the absolute best of intentions. Until his perfect hand smoothed over his six-pack abs.
Her legs weakened, and she slid to the floor, uncaring that the hardwood thumped against her tailbone.
His hand moved down his belly, over the dip of his groin, and fisted his penis. His cock hardened as he jacked it slowly a couple of times, the mushroom-shaped tip peeping over his locked fingers as he ran his palm up and down.
Her breath came out in a sharp cry as he brought his hand to his mouth and licked it before returning to stroke his cock, faster now.
So wrong. Stop. Stop.
She couldn’t stop. Neither could he.
That could be you. That could be your hand fucking his cock.
She whimpered when his head fell back against the couch and he parted his lips as if he was moaning. His pulls became harder, longer, his thighs tensing, feet braced against his own hardwood floors.
She swallowed as well, her gaze locked on that thick, fat cock. Her hands were rough, a side effect from carrying trays and working in kitchens for over a dozen years. No amount of manicures could file her calluses off, but she used that roughness to her advantage. She knew how to bring a man to tears with her grip on his body. A year’s celibacy couldn’t destroy those skills.
She could make him scream.
The bright lights of his studio made his forehead gleam. Drops of pre-come wept from the tip of his cock. She licked her dry lips, imagining leaning over and capturing that essence on her tongue, swallowing it. She could work her mouth even better than her hands. Suck him shallow and slow until he was clutching her head. She would let him fuck her mouth a little, then take control. Take him deep. Have him writhing beneath her.
So many options. There were so many ways to get him there. And then. And then, and then, and then, she would take the pleasure she had denied herself for a year.
She clenched her thighs together. Her mystery artist would let her play with him until he was wild, his hips arching. Then he’d shove her to the floor, kick her legs apart, and ram himself inside her, filling the emptiness that was suddenly unbearable.
Though her fingers itched to slide inside her panties and spread her wetness over her clit, she refrained. No distractions. He was close, and she didn’t want to miss a second.
His fist twisted with every upward stroke, his beautiful face strained with pleasure, thick eyebrows meeting over his nose in a grimace of need. A strand of silky dark hair had escaped his stubby ponytail and stuck against the sweat on his neck. She’d pull off that elastic tie. Let the strands of his hair mingle and merge with hers as he fucked her.
His hips arched up. His mouth opened on a silent cry. She leaned forward, her panties so wet she was embarrassed by her need.
And then…nothing. He stopped, his hand falling away from his cock.
Rana waited a beat. Then another one.
He dug his hands into his eye sockets. His cock rested against his belly, so hard it looked painful.
His chest rose and fell, and Rana didn’t move, fearing he was crying. But when he drew his hands away and launched to his feet, there was no wetness on his face. Only more stoic impassivity, an impressive feat when he had that erection bouncing in front of him.
He stalked to the door of the converted master bedroom and disappeared, smacking the light switch on the way out, draping the room in darkness.
Rana’s breath came in shallow pants. Her fingers curled on the top of her thighs. Desire and lust mixed with confusion and guilt. Why had he stopped? Was he unable to come? Or had he simply decided to finish somewhere else?
Curiosity swirled inside her, so powerful it scared her. Curiosity was probably a good thing for most people, but not for someone whose impulsive nature often outpaced her common sense. If beautiful men were her weakness, her tendency to jump before she looked was her downfall.
She’d always had a problem with impulse control. At least, that was the official diagnosis of more than a few of her frustrated teachers. I’m sorry, Mrs. Malik. Rana is such a bright girl, but if only she would learn to control her impulses…
And her beleaguered mother would haul her out of the detention room, her face pinched and angry.
She was already primed to find this man fascinating. Add in “inefficient masturbator” to what she already knew about him, and she was dangerously close to reverting back to her old self.
You don’t even know him.
She could. She could meet him.
Her overactive imagination spun into play, imagining all the ways she could endeavor to casually bump into him. She was pretty sure she was out of sugar. Would he find it odd if she knocked on his door right this second to request a cup? Everyone engaged in some late-night baking, right?
Like…muffins. Her mouth was watering for some muffins.
Rana stiffened. No. No. No. Oh God, that was classic Old Rana thinking. Not. Acceptable. It didn’t matter what his deal was.
Not your business. Like spying on him during an intimate moment was not your fucking business.
She winced at the shaft of guilt. Grimly ignoring the gnawing ache in her belly, she came to her feet, trying to find some balance on her watery legs. His room was dark now, his destroyed canvas and the white couch nondescript lumps. If he’d seen her, is that what she would have looked like to him? A lump of swirling need and desire?
She bit her lower lip hard, hard enough to jolt her back to the here and now, away from the Technicolor lustful fantasy in her head. She would forget this. Forget the image of his hand jerking his thick—
Rana inhaled and yanked the cord on her blinds, drawing them closed. She would forget this, she repeated, even if that meant she had to forget him. Cold turkey was the only way she’d ever quit anything.
Mechanically, she took her leftovers downstairs to the kitchen, ensured everything was tidied up, and came back upstairs to slip out of her uniform and into her hot bath. And if her hand eventually found its way to her pussy and she stroked herself to orgasm, she told herself that it wasn’t a mysterious artist’s paint-stained fingers tugging at her clit.
Sometimes New Rana was a very good liar.
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