Elizabeth Harding is determined not to let Luca Santos get in her head or her bed ever again. Even if he does seem ready to play all her favorite games, he’s still the same ambitious man he’s always been—and she’s still the boss’s daughter.
Luca’s a man who gets what he wants, and what he wants is Elizabeth. He knows she’s hiding secrets, but he’s never been one to shy away from a challenge. He’ll show the mysterious temptress exactly what she’s missing…and that he’s not so easy to scare off.
Note: Stay My Fantasy is the second (and last) title in the Fantasy Series. Be My Fantasy is the first title. It’s best to read these two books in order.
“You’ve been very bad, Elizabeth.”
The words slipped over Elizabeth Harding’s ears and under her skin, the deep voice awakening every nerve ending, making her tingle from head to toe. That voice made her want to spin around, fling herself into the arms of the man standing behind her, and kiss him like a sailor who hadn’t seen dry land in years.
She couldn’t do that, though. That would be a weakness, and she didn’t show weakness. Not to any man, not anymore, but especially not to Luca Santos.
Even if he was a god who had spent one glorious night fucking her until she saw rainbows.
She allowed herself a moment to gather herself, shoring up every defense she’d painstakingly rebuilt over the last two weeks since their indiscretion. There was no kidding herself that she wouldn’t feel an instant bolt of attraction and need, but she didn’t have to let him see it.
Elizabeth turned to face him. Her fingers tightened on the stem of her martini glass, but she patted herself on the back for otherwise maintaining her poker face.
Her parents preferred black-tie events, but she’d pointed out that perhaps a garden birthday party should have a more casual dress code. Casual meant something different to her parents then it did to most people. So here she was, wearing an uncomfortable thong to eliminate panty lines under her formfitting sequin-embellished cocktail dress.
The dress her mother had already hinted did not flatter her curves. Perhaps an A-line number next time, dear.
No one could have complaints about how Luca looked in his suit. The time he’d spent in Florida on his business trip had darkened his golden-brown skin and brought out a glint of red in his hair.
Her mouth dried, imagining him in nothing but swim trunks and droplets of the ocean.
Stop that. Or more realistically, dream of that when he’s not around.
She lifted her chin and pretended she hadn’t heard his deliberately provoking words. “Luca. A pleasure.”
His hair had grown out more. The black curls made her fingers itch. She wanted to grip those strands and force him to his knees.
Luca rocked back on his heels. “I always strive to be a pleasure. Even when I’m being ignored.”
She kept her welcoming, calm smile, though she felt anything but relaxed. She couldn’t slip, not here in her parents’ garden. The night was early still, but the crowd was beginning to grow, and she had to assume people were watching her. Someone’s always watching. Life in a fishbowl was something she’d learned how to navigate early on. “I don’t know what you mean. I’m so happy you could make it for my father’s birthday. I’m sure it means the world to him.”
“He doesn’t care whether I’m here or not, so long as I bring him a bottle of wine that costs more than a car payment.”
Her smile stretched, wanting to become genuine, but she stifled it.
He took a step closer. “You’ve been avoiding me.”
Her gaze flickered away. She had seen Luca enter less than half an hour ago, but it’d been easy to slip into mingling and schmoozing her parents’ guests, avoiding eye contact with the man she wanted to have all sorts of contact with. “I’ve had to greet guests—”
“Not just tonight. You’ve been avoiding me for weeks.”
Fair. “You were in Miami.”
“Not last week. You haven’t responded to my texts. Or my calls.”
“Calls.” She tried to laugh breezily. “How old are you? Nobody calls anyone anymore unless they’re angry or want to sell something.”
“Or if they’re dying to hear that person’s voice.”
That killed her forced laugh. “I—I should talk to—”
“Your guests. I’m a guest. You’ll talk to me. Unless you want people to wonder why you aren’t talking to me.”
Argh, he was right. Nobody would think anything odd about them chatting extensively, but they would raise eyebrows if she suddenly stomped away from a man who worked for her father. She groped desperately for some thread of conversation that had nothing to do with how badly she wanted to strip him out of that elegant suit and climb him like a pony. “I trust Miami went well? You look like you got some sun.” He’d sent her texts from down there, that first week. Pictures mostly: an overturned conch shell, the insides a pearly opalescent pink; a seagull; the ocean.
She’d been to Miami many times but never truly enjoyed the party atmosphere. He’d known just what things she’d like to see. How, she wasn’t sure.
It wasn’t a hard guess. Don’t go getting sentimental.
“The only sun I got was when I went for a run every morning. Otherwise I was stuck in meetings.”
“Sounds like a standard business trip.”
“If I’d had a reason, I could have snuck away. Next time, you should accompany me. I’ll find a hotel that has a private beach. You could take your bikini off, and I could lick you head to toe.”
She hastily glanced around, but no one was within earshot. People were still clustered around the bartenders and exclaiming over friends they hadn’t seen in a while.
“Stop talking like that.”
His eyes gleamed. “Talking like what? It was warm enough for you to go naked there, and my mouth could keep you nice and—”
“I don’t own a bikini,” she blurted out.
“I’ll buy you one.”
He’d insist on watching her model the swimsuits, and then maybe if there was no one around, they could go inside the dressing room and…
She shook her head, annoyed. Damn it. Stop it, brain.
“Where’d you go?” His smile was knowing, like he was well aware where her dirty brain went, and he was happy to follow her there.
“Nowhere,” she said as firmly as possible. That was right. She’d be going exactly nowhere with him.
He’d admitted that at least some of her charm was her last name. He might like the hint of kink she’d displayed, but he didn’t know the entirety of her past. He didn’t know about her being an investor in Club Prestige, one of the newest, most discerning houses of pleasure in the District of Columbia. How could she trust him for anything more than some fleeting sexual pleasure?
Answer: she couldn’t.
She braced herself for him to push, but instead he changed the subject. “Where’s your new bodyguard?”
Ah. The one communication she had permitted. Security had always been a necessary evil foisted on her because of the enemies the men in her family had made over the years in business and politics. Thanks to a damaging strain of don’t-worry-their-pretty-heads-itis amongst those men, no one had ever told her how bad the periodic threats were, or she might have taken the guards her father and Luca saddled her with a little more seriously. Instead, she’d mostly either treated them as glorified chauffeurs or people to get away from.
Now that she knew, she’d found a security company she felt comfortable with. After she’d forwarded their credentials, Luca had stuck to their bargain and fired the men he’d hired.
She hadn’t realized how freeing it would be to have her own people. She hadn’t tested the man’s loyalty by having him take her to any questionable places, but this level of control was psychologically thrilling. “He drove me here. I figured he wouldn’t need to come inside.”
“Because I would be here.”
“Because my father’s got his own team here, and they do everything but taste test his food,” she corrected him. Even if she did feel unnaturally secure when he was with her.
“And also because I’m here. I’d never let anything happen to you.” His body heat was overwhelming, more so when he stepped closer. “I missed you, Elizabeth.”
“I—” I missed you too, she wanted to say. Damn it, how had he wormed his way into her life over the course of one night?
She’d thought she could scratch an itch and mosey on, but it wasn’t like that at all. The itch had gotten more severe. She had a full-blown rash now.
“Say it,” he said, temptation personified. “You’ve missed me too.”
“I didn’t even think about you,” she lied.
“Mm. Did you wear my shirt?”
“My shirt,” she corrected him, but it was a weak protest.
He ignored it. “Did you wear it? All these nights I haven’t seen you?”
Not every night. But, yes, damn him, she’d found herself reaching for that soft grey T-shirt more than once. The T-shirt with his alma mater’s name emblazoned across it. The shirt she’d found at her grandfather’s house, where Luca had left it behind years ago.
She hadn’t realized it was his when she’d snagged it out of the drawer in her grandpa’s guest room and claimed it as her own. At least, not consciously.
A smile spread across his lips when she remained silent. “Were you wearing panties? Did you slip your hand up under it and—”
He was undeterred. “—rub your hot clit? Wish I was there to do it for you?”
Her mouth went dry, and she couldn’t look away from him, helpless. She had done exactly that. “Luca, stop it. Not here.”
Another step, until his shiny black wingtip was between her heels. “Why not here? Are you scared one of these people could hear me?”
“That would be terrible.”
She tried to swallow. “Scandalous.”
The problem was, she wanted him to ruin her. “Absolutely.”
His gaze slid over her face, over the thundering pulse at her neck. “Say the word, and I’ll walk away.”
The word. Lady. The word they’d agreed upon last time, for her to use if she truly wanted him to quit whatever he was doing.
She just had to force it past her lips. Two syllables.
She couldn’t. Worse, he knew she couldn’t.
His smirk made that clear. “You need me. I could take care of you.”
“We’re at a party.”
His lips curved up. “Do you doubt my ability to take care of my woman anywhere?”
Ooooh. No, no. She would not thrill at his possessive use of the word my. “I am not your woman.”
“Not for lack of trying. You could be my woman.” Someone called out his name, and he turned and acknowledged the greeting with a friendly wave and smile. “Do you know what I would do if you were my woman?” he asked, still smiling, not looking her way. “I’d take you upstairs right now and fuck you in your old bedroom.”
Every muscle locked, her breath seizing in her lungs. She was beyond the point where she could worry about what anyone would see when they looked at her. She could only hope his body blocked her from sight.
“Imagine that, Elizabeth.” He switched his attention back to her, his blistering gaze ramping her internal temperature up. “The two of us fucking upstairs while this party mingles below your window. Coming down after, pretending we were here the whole time. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Imagine that. Like she could do anything but imagine it now. “Stop it.”
“You know exactly how to make me stop. You’re not doing it, so I’m going to assume you don’t actually want me to stop.”
He was right. She didn’t.
“Use me, Elizabeth,” he coaxed. “What did you call it? Scratching an itch? I’ll scratch you so good.”
“You want more than scratching.”
“I do. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take care of you. I can see how hungry you are, and it hurts me to see you in pain. So tell me what room was yours, go upstairs, and wait for me.”
On the one hand, she’d been giving herself a talking to for weeks about how she was going to go cold turkey on this man, lest she get tangled up in him and get her well-protected but still fragile heart broken.
On the other hand, she could have him inside her within the hour.
She’d texted Akira the day after she’d slept with him. We had some fun. He wants more.
Her friend and mentor had responded immediately. What do you want?
I told him no.
But is that what you want?
It had taken Elizabeth hours to reply. How do you know when you can trust someone? Akira seemed to do it so flawlessly. She’d created an iron-clad inner circle who would happily kill for her. Friends, lovers, her boyfriend, employees.
The older woman’s answer was unsatisfyingly vague. I’m not always right. Sometimes I just know. Trust your gut.
She’d missed him. She wanted him. Her body was so ready for him.
God damn it. Listening to instincts was hard when she was distracted by screaming lust. “Someone will miss us,” she said low.
Triumph flashed in his eyes, like he’d realized she’d already capitulated. “Not if we hurry. We can be back downstairs well before dinner.”
“Third door on the right after you go upstairs. But this means nothing.”
It wasn’t lost on her that he hadn’t agreed with her. If she was less needy, she might dig in her heels.
But she needed, so bad.
“I’ll be up in ten minutes.” He grasped her hand and brought it to his lips, startling her. He raised his voice as he spoke, and she noted the elderly couple walking within earshot of them. “It was lovely to see you again, Elizabeth. Always a joy to hear about your opinion on the debt crisis.”
She drew her slightly tattered composure around her and inclined her head, retrieving her hand and rubbing it against her leg. No luck. It was still tingling. “Uh, yes. The debt crisis. There’s so much…crisis.”
“One would even say it’s critical,” he agreed sagely, and plucked her barely-sipped drink from her hand. “Let me take that from you so you can go see to the staff. I’ll catch up with you at dinner, perhaps.”
She gave him a tight smile and walked away. No one stopped her as she entered the house, slipping between the caterers and waitstaff bustling in and out of the patio doors. No one noticed as she stole away upstairs and into her childhood bedroom.
They would have to hurry. Luca was right, her parents were too occupied during the cocktail hour to look for her, but if they weren’t back before dinner, there would be raised eyebrows.
Imagine that. The two of us fucking upstairs while this party mingles below your window. We’d have to be careful so they didn’t hear us.
Her breath came a little faster and she paced to the window. Her old bedroom faced the garden. If anyone looked up, they would see her standing here. Or at least her outline.
Calling herself ten times a fool, but unable to halt her perverse desires, she opened the window a crack before closing the sheer curtains. The sound of the party instantly carried through the small opening.
The sounds they made could carry out.