Primed for Sin | 18+

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thirteen : the truth hurts

H E R A

♥ ♥ ♥

ONE OF THE first things that I learnt when I first arrived in New York was that I must read everything that I must sign.

I have learned that lesson once and I vowed to myself that I would never make that mistake.

And also to have a lawyer read over it to find any sort of loophole or mistake that would impact my life and status in a very bad way, and take my life into one full of debt that I won’t be able to pay off.

“So this is all legit, yes?” I ask the lawyer in front of me. I lean down in front of the coffee table to pick up my cup of mocha and take a sip of the bitter and sweet substance. Raising an eyebrow in his direction, I wait for him to answer my question—patiently as I can be.

The lawyer—Ethan nods his head in my direction, flipping through the contract that was drafted by Phillip’s lawyers just last night and early into the next morning. “Yes, everything in here is fine and nothing bad will happen to you throughout this one year.”

A sigh of relief escapes me. “That’s good.” A smile in Ethan’s direction. “Thank you so much, Ethan, for looking over the contract. You just saved me from a case of something bad and ugly.”

Ethan blushes at my words.

I smirk. Males and their ability to act innocent in front of me.

I watch as Ethan takes a sip from his own coffee before placing it down and looking right at me, waiting.

Waiting for me to ask him something else.

I gesture a hand towards the paper, doing the only thing that is coming to my mind at the moment and something that I need to know. “Can you repeat the terms and conditions applied to me when I sign that contract?”

And he does.

He goes through the papers full of terms that I must abide to and that applies to Phillip as well.

With each word that comes out of his mouth, I just nod along, knowing what he’ll say after everything because I know what is in the contract.

I know word for word, the terms and conditions after the next, and what I will have to follow when I place my tiny, old signature on that paper in Ethan’s hands.

My mind is half in this moment and the other half at what happened last night.

I can’t get Phillip’s expression out of my mind. When I gave him my thanks, I told him that I’m so grateful for him to allow me to—during this year-long period—keep doing my job, my acting, my career that I’ve worked so hard for in the last five years. And then I was quite surprised that he knew some of the movies that I’ve been in the last five years.

And I most definitely was surprised when he knew about Treacherous Waves and that scene with me and another one of my co-workers from around a year ago. It was a fun little scene in a tavern in Scotland. The both of us had a rather sexy scene in front of a group of people in the dim and tiny confines of the tavern. I was bare from the waist down, my boobs in the view of the camera while the male, whose arms I’m in, suckled and gave them the attention that they deserved. I’d felt his lower half grinding on my own before he brought me into a kiss. And damn him to hell but he was a good kisser.

The scene went on for some time, him kissing around my chest before going lower and me with my chest arched into his body, my head thrown back.

Then a woman came behind me, starting to kiss my neck before going higher, up to my ears and she’d whispered in my ear, This is quite an intimate scene going on here. Might I join?

I had just nodded my head in agreement, following the scene just as the director had described it.

The male in my arms said yes, and so we had a threesome, and it was hot on camera.

After the scene was wrapped up, the three of us had laughed it up before going on a break.

Sure it was a little awkward right after but we still managed to shoot the last few scenes as a team and the movie turned into a great one with a huge audience who saw it as soon as it came out in the cinemas.

I still would talk to the male actor in that scene sometimes.

He would throw the best parties at his beach house in Miami. And I would always get an invite. It should be happening soon—being that it happens in the middle of summer and summer is getting closer to me.

Ethan looks right back at me. “So I’ve read the conditions again”—he raises his eyebrows in my direction—”and now that you know what you’re signing and that you agree with it, you can sign it and your fake marriage can continue for a year in wedded bliss.”

He hands me a pen.

I stare at it for a moment.

This is it. This moment will change my life for better or worse. I hope that’s it for the better part. When I place my signature on that paper, my life will be attached to Phillip’s and his to mine. The media will be monitoring my movement more closely now that I’ll be engaged to a Whittaker heir and the CEO of Whittaker Industries. That means that I have to be more careful of what I do and what I will do in the future. The both of us would have to act the part as fiancé and fiancée for as long as the engagement process would last and then later, acting the part as husband and wife when we swear to love in front of our friends, our family—in front of God.

That sure is going to be fun.

I take the pen from Ethan’s hand while looking at the contract in his hand. “This is going to be one hell of a year, don’t you think, Ethan?” With the paper in my hand and a pen in the other, I sign my life away to save my future.

I hand back the paper to Ethan—who looks through the pages, muttering words under his breath while also nodding before placing the contract in a file. He sifts through the contents of the file, and then pulls out another paper and hands it over to me.

I stare down at the file, wondering what the hell it’s for.

Ethan—bless him—must have noticed my confusion because he answers my unasked question. “That’s the non-disclosure agreement Mr Whittaker’s lawyers sent over to me with the contract to just make sure that whatever happens in this year-long arrangement, stays between you and him.” He gives me a pointed look. “Nothing gets out to the public, Miss Langford.”

I sign this paper as well. “Don’t worry, Ethan,” I voice, looking up at him, “I’m great at keeping secrets.”

Handing the paper back to him, he places both papers into his file before grabbing his cup of coffee and drinking it down to the dregs. Ethan places the cup down at the table and then stands up. “I should get going, Miss Langford. And don’t worry, I’ll hand these over to his lawyers.”

I nod my head. “Thanks, Ethan.”

With a smile on his face, Ethan takes his files and makes his way towards the elevator and off the floor of the hotel and down to the busy streets of New York.

I lean back in my chair, the natural light of the day coming through the windows and a sort of calmness settling over me with finally being able to solve my problems.

Now my only problem is to handle this year and then after, I can do whatever I want.

Thirty minutes pass with me just listening to the city below me stirring from sleep and coming to life, and the sound of car horns and the soft mutter of people’s loud voices from below. My eyes are closed, the now cold cup of coffee sitting on the table before me with barely a few fumes escaping from the top.

I’m at peace. If only for a little while.

My eyebrows scrunch together, a noise of annoyance coming from my lips at the sound of a ring coming from my phone—that sits right beside my cold cup of coffee. Opening a single eye, I take a glance at my phone, seeing a message popping up.

I pick up my phone, reading the message that comes from an unknown number.

My first thought is that it is Nadine Nix on a mission of blackmailing me into leaving the city and giving up everything that I’ve ever known and loved in a very long time. But as I read the message, I know that it is not Nadine.

It’s Phillip Whittaker himself.

Come to Whittaker Industries office, now
We have a few things to discuss before the news spreads of our engagement.

I reply back to him, How did you get my number?

His response is instant. My P.I. might not have found a lot of things about your past, but he did find out your phone number.

I roll my eyes. My fingers tap away at the keypad, sending him a reply. Keep your private investigator out of my business.

Can’t. Your business is my business.

My eyebrows furrow at his words. What the hell does that mean? I shake the thought out of my head, sending him one final reply before shutting off my phone and walking to my room.

Whatever. I’ll be there in 20.

♥ ♥ ♥

I KNEW BEFOREHAND that the Whittaker family has quite a generous sum of money and fame that comes with the last name attached to their first. They can accomplish a huge amount of things in a short time and that is something that I aspire to be.

But standing in front of the monstrous tower with the bold title of Whittaker Industries plastered at the front, I now know that this—this is real. And that there is no going back from this now.

I close the door to the car that has just dropped me off and make my way up the short steps of the building and towards the front door. The entrance to the building is a revolving door, and I make quick work of passing through the door and coming to the stuffy heat of the building.

My eyes scan the area, looking at the people passing through doors, briefcases in hand to get to where they needed, all having something that they need to do. Some come through elevators just to hop into another, some are in a group of others, coming in my direction. Others head in the direction of a pristine desk at the front that houses a woman on the other side—obviously a receptionist for the ground level.

Business as usual in a multibillion-dollar company.

I send a small, simple smile to the people who smile back at me. The smile on my face is fake, but theirs is not.

The silk red blouse of mine hangs softly on my body, holding my breasts in place while the tight, black jeans of mine stretch across my legs, form-fitting and I know that it’s doing wonders for my ass. And that a male’s gaze would be on it sometime during my walk.

One foot in front of the other, I keep this rhythm until I reach the woman at the front desk, speaking urgently into a phone

“—I don’t know anything about that, Sir, but I do know that—″ She stops for a moment, glancing up at me, raising a single brow, silently asking a question. What do you need?

“I have an appointment with your CEO about”—I take a glance at the watch on my wrist —“now.” I grin at her.

She narrows her brows, glancing down for a moment. And then she continues the discussion that she’s having on her phone.

A sigh escapes from my mouth, an angry one. “Listen here, lady, but your darling boss messaged me moments ago—”

The woman raises a hand in my direction, a silent gesture to keep my mouth shut.

The grin on my face instantly vanishes at the woman’s actions, and anger starts to trail and makes its way into my skin, my blood.

Which might explain the reason why I rip the phone from her hands and place it against my ear. “Hey,” I say into the phone, “this is Hera Langford and you are really messing with my day, so I’m ending this call and you can call back in five minutes. Thanks!” I say the last word with enough sweetness coating my words to make sure that the other person doesn’t fuck up my day in any way that they can.

There’s silence for a moment and then—

The person ends the call.

I stare at it for a moment and then hand the phone back to the woman at the front desk.

She gazes at me, to the phone and then back at me before snapping at me in a firm tone, “You had no right to just take the phone out of my hands. I could have you escorted out of the building at this very moment.” Her threats are kinda not that threatening to me.

I’ve heard worse.

“You could, I know that,” I admit. Shrugging my shoulders, I continue on. “Why don’t I give you a hand to do that?” I turn from my position and look in the direction of the many security details gathered around the expensive lobby. “Hey!” One gazes in my direction, just his body. And all he does is give my body a gaze over, twice, and then goes back and continues his work. “Oh well.” Another shrug. “Looks like he has better things to do.”

The woman gives me a glare—that I know will do nothing to change my way of acting. She looks down for a moment, her recently manicured fingers caressing the skin of her nose before picking up the phone from the table in front of her. She presses a single button and waits for the person on the opposite side to answer.

“Mr Whittaker”—finally, something is going my way. “There is a woman at the front desk”—she gives me another glare—”and she is not taking no for an answer.” There’s silence for a little while. The slight vibrations of Whittaker’s voice muttering bullshit on the other side, before he asks a question. The receptionist gives me a once over, a casual gesture to intimidate me. “Yes, she looks exactly like you’re saying.” A pause. “Yes, Mr Whittaker, I’ll send her up right now.”

She places the phone back to where she found it moments ago and then gestures to one of the elevators. “Take the elevator up and you’ll meet with the CEO.”

I give her a small, feeble grin, nodding my head at her words. “ Thank you so very much.”

She scoffs at my words, and says coldly, “Whatever.”

I ignore her final words and head towards the elevator that she had pointed at seconds ago. The elevator is regal, sophisticated, and damn well gorgeous. I press the button at the side and it opens instantly, allowing me entrance into the metal box.

My eyebrows scrunch together, a question forming in my head. What level is Whittaker’s office?

But my question gets answered when I see just a single button inside on the side panel. The round disk has the letters in bold across a single plane of metal. CEO. I roll my eyes. What a big fucking ego this man has.

The elevator goes up and up when I place a gentle finger onto the disk. The movements travelling through my body and this force just tells me—in the depths of my bones and blood—that I’m travelling up.

A few moments later, the door opens to my eyes.

I take in the level before me. The various people walking around, the shining logo of Whittaker Industries on the expensive wall in front of me. The drab and bland colours on the walls, on the floor, on the desks, on the fucking people, is supposed to represent Phillip Whittaker and the boringness that he has and that I know he has.

I peek in the way on a door where I see a redhead woman coming in my direction. And she is gorgeous. Bright red hair runs down her back in a straight line, her tan skin being an odd comparison to her hair colour. But it suits her. My eyes track down her body, and I focus on the clothes. It is a nice situation with a black and white striped blouse and a simple black pencil skirt that stops at her knees. A pair of flats is on her feet, black so that it matches her clothes and the only pop of colour is the red beaded necklace that hangs on her chest.

“Welcome!” she proclaims, standing in front of me. “I’m Emily, secretary to Phillip Whittaker. It’s lovely to meet you and I’ve got to say”—she tucks a strand of red behind her ear—”that I love your movies.”

“Thank you.” This woman before me—she seems sincere and kind so what’s the point in being mean to her? “I have a meeting with your CEO. Randomly might I add. I had a short amount of time to come here and to dress to impress”

“He’s like that,” she states, gesturing to me to follow her, and I do. “Does things when he doesn’t have to. And unexpectedly in a way that it surprises others when he does.” Emily gives me a once over before declaring, “You look good, even though you say you had a short amount of time to get ready.”

I smile. “Flattery is always appreciated.”

She chuckles. “Thanks. Come this way.”

Emily takes me in the direction of a door before opening it and shutting it right behind me. I sigh, turning around and noticing the single long glass table down the length of the room and the white leather chairs around the table.

Seems like a conference room.

My eyes rove the room, spotting a pair of white modern chairs to the side of the room and a glass table in front of it. There’s a single floor to window panel in the middle of the room while on either side of the window, a wall runs to the edges of the room. The room itself is in a rectangular shape; the short side running in the direction of the floor to ceiling window and the long side in the same direction of the way the conference table is.

I spot a familiar figure near the windows and a groan runs through my body and escapes out of my mouth. “You could at least have gotten me a cup of coffee. Or maybe more time to get ready.”

“You gave yourself twenty minutes,” Phillip answers my question, turning around from his place, hands in his pockets, brows raised in my direction. “Don’t blame it on me.”

“Your text was oh so demanding,” I drone in a dry voice to him. “And you said so yourself. Whatever is going to happen here is going to be important not just to you, but for me as well.”

Phillip rolls his eyes, taking his hands out of his packers to start fiddling with the cuffs of his grey shirt. “Always the nicest, aren’t you?”

I grin, feline and purr to him, “Always.”

He rolls his eyes again and gestures a hand towards one of the two white seats. “Sit. And stay while I go and get Emily and Ivan and then we can begin.”

I see Phillip walking towards me, his business clothing immaculate as always and his leather shoes glimmering in the ray of light coming from above. He passes me, and I tense up—just the slightest.

I hope that Phillip did not notice it.

I notice the slight scrunch of his eyebrows, the crinkle between his eyes as he moves past my body, but it is gone as soon as it comes.

Then he’s out of the room.

My hazel gaze lands on the chairs—that Phillip pointed to a little while ago—and just shrug my shoulders, as my answer.

All right, Phillip, I’ll follow your rules.

We are in your domain after all.

The cushions under my thighs, my ass is not that bad. Actually—it’s rather comfortable considering that I’m in a business conference room and not in Jacob Huges’s down to earth office that I was in a while ago.

The party, the red carpet, the blackmailing, the dinner, it all feels like a lifetime ago.

Not something from my life but rather, looking through it on my phone, watching someone else’s life play before me.

But it’s mine.

My head snaps to the door when I see Emily enter again followed by yet another male with blond hair and the coldest cornflower blue eyes that I’ve ever seen. I watch as the male’s gaze strays in my direction and holds. But those eyes are just so, so cold—hauntless.

But he still manages to pull a smile on his face, one that is just allowing a flicker of warmth to pass onto me and Emily.

I say, standing from my chair and hand ironing my jeans while keeping eye contact with the blond, “I’d presume that you’re Ivan, yes?”

The blond male just gives me a nod—an acknowledgment in his way.

“That’s good.” Sending a smile to Emily, I say, “Nice to see you again, Emily.”

The woman blushes under my gaze

I keep smiling at her before seeing a shadow pass under the entrance to the room, and makes my eyes snap to dark silver ones. I roll my eyes at the way that Phillip looks.

“Hera”—he waves a hand in the direction of Ivan—”this is Ivan, my head of advertising and who will help in the process of announcing our engagement.”

I watch as Phillip takes a seat on the opposite side of me, on the other white couch and notice that both Ivan and Emily drag two seats from the conference table.

I just now notice the tablet in Ivan’s hand while he explains to the two of us, “The announcement will happen at two today, and it will be in front of a few press—only because this is big news. A wedding between the CEO of Whittaker Industries and an A-list actress will spread like wildfire across New York, and later to the whole world through the power of the internet. Articles will be written, videos will be made, and little edits of the two of you will start trending on social media.”

I place a hand up to stop Ivan’s speech. “Does that mean that I get a hashtag? And what would it be?” I grin at the thought.

He gazes at the two of us, keeping those icy eyes hard. “I would suspect that it would be a ship name between the two of you. Don’t worry, you two don’t need to bother about that. Just focus on the announcement.

“Now it needs to be casual, like the two of you were just caught in the love between the two of you and didn’t notice the cameras before it was too late.”

“Let me guess.” I giggle. “The both of us are going to take a walk around Central Park and a beam of light would shine on the both of us. We would smile at each other, laughing and chuckling at the love between us. We would talk, would whisper sweet nothings into each other’s ears like we don’t care about the world around us, the people around us. And when the time is just right, we would seal out love in a kiss that would rival the one that’s given by Ariel to Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid.” Now I think I’ve been watching too many Disney movies.

Ivan gapes at me. “You’ve just described the announcement better than me.”

My jaw hangs open at his words. Does that mean—? “That was your plan? Just what I described it as?

“I was thinking of going shopping or to a cafe but that sounds more romantic and fairytale-like that everyone would believe it.”

I think about his words for a moment.

This engagement came out of nowhere. The . . . Love that the two of us would have, would be fake and a forgery of everything that is good . . . I grin. What a great way to play with peoples’ hearts.

“I’ll do that,” I agree with Ivan’s words. “But there will be no kiss.”

I might like the idea, but that does not mean that I want to lock lips with the biggest player in New York and Brooks’s oldest brother. I gulp. Oh God . . . After this, Brooks would be family. She would be my sister by law and would only be broken by the end of the year.

Same as our friendship. I know that.

“Don’t worry, Hera, I don’t want to kiss you too. Too many diseases you’d give me.”

I shoot a glare full of hate and malice right in Phillip’s direction, my eyes narrowing.

He just smirks as an answer.

“All right,” Ivan begins, breaking the tension between the two of us. “No kiss. That’s fine. But that also means that you have to sell it a lot harder.”

“Don’t worry.” I shrug off his words. “I’m more than capable of acting out a false sense of love.”

After the words, I feel a tug on my leg and notice that Phillip has crossed his legs, one over the other and that a bit of his leather-covered foot is hitting my leg.

Dick.

I ignore it though, listening to the words that Ivan has to say while I feel the tapping of Phillip’s heel on my leg, over, and over again.

“And that’s it,” Ivan announces, pressing his tablet to his chest, gaze darting between his boss and his boss’s future wife. “Any questions?”

I glance at Phillip’s face, brows raised in question. Anything to ask?

Phillip understands my actions. He faces Ivan shaking his head and answers, “No questions. Thank you very much, Ivan.”

Nodding his head, Ivan stands from his chair and walks out of the room, that familiar sense of coldness stealing over him.

That feeling leaves when he leaves.

Phillip faces Emily now, ordering her. “Emily, can you bring in the cases that came in this morning?”

Emily nods her head murmuring to her boss, “Don’t worry, Mr Whittaker, I’ll bring it over at once.” She stands from her seat as well, gives me a small wave—that I return with a smile—and leaves the room, to bring back whatever Phillip wants.

Silence travels over the room and I take a glance at Phillip who climbs off the chair and walks to the side of the room—in the direction of a small trolley that holds a white ceramic pot and a few cups at the side. He fills two with the liquid in the pot and calls over his shoulder, “Cream and sugar?”

“Two cubes of sugar, and a dollop of cream. Do you have any sweet things over there? I’ve got a sweet tooth that’s incredibly needy.”

He doesn’t answer my question about sweets but I do watch as he drops two sugar cubes into a cup and a dollop of cream and places it on a saucer. Phillip walks over to me, passing me the coffee, and I take a deep sip, sighing. “Thanks.”

He nods and walks back to the trolley, picks up his coffee and another smaller plate and comes back to his seat. I watch him place the plate on the glass table between us and my mouth waters at the red velvet cupcake with cream cheese with a garnish of something yellow—maybe lemon zest.

I take the cupcake off the plate and towards my mouth, taking a bite. A moan slips past my lips when the taste of the sweet red velvet and the bitterness of cream cheese and that the lemon adds a bit of tang to the sweet and salty.

Phillip looks at me—long and hard.

I don’t shrug off his gaze. I just ignore it, looking in the direction of the door when I hear footsteps coming closer.

Emily pops her head in first, followed by her body and then two cases in her hands. They’re not big boxes, more like cabinets able to be held. Behind her comes another male holding three more cases, each being black, long and opens upwards, like a box. I notice the lock at the front and my lips slant to the side.

What’s in the box?

My question gets answered when Emily places the two in her hands down on the glass table—and I move the two plates to the side so there’s enough space to allow both the cases there.

“These are the ones that she dropped off,” Emily explains, making sure that the two cabinets are arranged in a way that can be seen. “The other three are there.” She points towards the table where the three sit, the male now walking out of the room.

I lean forward getting a glance through the glass and—

Holy shit.

These Whittakers’ don’t fuck around when it comes to the jewellery that their woman wear.

“Pick any of the rings in the boxes,” Phillip declares. “Any that catches that dark, bitter heart of yours.”

♥ ♥ ♥

CENTRAL PARK, A rectangle of grass and life in a city of concrete and corporate bosses.

One that’s standing right beside me, taking a walk through the park.

I appreciate the trees around me. The slight chatter of birds through the air, and the sound of rushing water that crosses through the park in the small streams. Summer starts to shine through the clouds in rays of light that stream down onto the two of us—and most importantly, to the four-carat diamond ring that sits tightly onto a band of gold, surrounded by smaller diamonds embezzled into the band.

The ring is a wonderful engagement ring—something that shows regalness and royalty that I know runs through the Whittaker blood and straight to Phillip Whittaker himself, being an heir to a dukedom and all.

But it was one of the more favourable ones from the fifty or so rings that came from the jeweller. Some were too much; some had diamonds the size of golf balls, some had too many coloured jewels in the band and sitting as the main attraction, and some were just too much in a sense.

Even though I love things that stand out.

This ring is the one for me. I know that.

I take a sneak peek at Phillip. The way that the male towers over me with his six foot three height; the blond hair running in strands over his head and some falling onto his face; the silver-grey eyes that shine in the around mid-afternoon light; the strong jawline that he carries, the high cheekbones and the light stubble that runs along the lower half of his face. My eyes go down, to the grey shirt of his, the black slacks holding his lower half, and the black tie around his neck. No blazer seeing as the sun is so bloody hot.

Phillip’s jaw moves for a moment, him noticing the people trying their best to hide from us. But he knows who they are, I know who they are.

The paps that Ivan tipped off to catch the two of us acting like the loving couple we are.

Phillip’s eyes move before he slips a hand around my waist, pulling me flush against the side of the strong body that he has. A gasp escapes my lips at the rough, unexpected move. I can feel everything that he holds. The strength in his arms, the hardness of his chest, the way that his shirt of his stretches over his skin,

I smile at him, teeth shining in the light, and whisper, “You can’t just manhandle me like this.”

“Can’t I?” He keeps my body close to his, continuing to walk down the empty pathway. “We are playing the part of a happy couple. And we have to act like it. Manhandling is in the description.”

“You aren’t a feminist right? I can feel it”—A gesture down the length of his body—”just from all of this.”

Phillip narrows his eyes—just the slightest. “Don’t worry about that. Just act happy in front of the paps, and in love.”

“Yeah yeah,” I mutter under my breath and make the decision to lean my head against his chest.

Everything in my body is telling me to pull away from his body; to get as far away as I can. Memories play behind my orbs, in my head. Everything that has happened to me by the hands of teenage boys, the hands of teenage girls. Bratty little bitches they are. The things they had said, the things they did.

Bad memories.

“I know that you don’t like my hands around your waist,” Phillip mummers—making my head snap to his face, eyes wide. “I’ve noticed that by the little things that you do.”

“I—”

“You don’t have to explain anything to me.” That brings shock to me and my mind. “Unless you want to. But we aren’t friends, maybe friendly acquaintances is a nicer way of explaining this relationship that we have going on. But still, I’ll be happy to listen.” Then he gives me a harsh look. “Don’t expect me to be happy about your blackmail. I’m still pissed about this little stunt of yours.”

Those words make me go silent for a moment. And I ignore the ones he said at the end. I place my head back to his chest and just continue down the pathway, in the direction of a small bridge over a stream.

The words start pouring out of my mouth. Some vague, some holding truth. “When I was younger—a teenager, some . . . bad things had happened to me. Some from the hands of little boys and girls the same age as me. The words they said, the things that they did. I can touch you—there’s nothing wrong with that . . . But the suddenness of touches from others—that puts me on edge and makes me tense up.”

Phillip’s silent for a moment but still walks. “Are you talking about rape? Did someone rape you?”

“No,” I reveal, shaking my head into his chest, inhaling the cologne that he wears on a daily basis. “Nothing like that . . . Just some other things.”

“That’s fine.” Phillip inhales, once—and there’s something rough in the way that he does that. “It’s nice to know that my future wife—now fiancée, didn’t have someone rape her.”

“Yeah . . . ,” I trail off. “That’s something nice.”

The stone bridge comes before us and we take the short steps onto the gravel path. Ducks swim past us, gilding their little bodies through the current and the leaves that the stream holds. The small lily pads that stay in place despite the power of the current’s pull.

Phillip drops the arm from around my waist.

A little sigh comes from my lips at the body heat now gone.

Philip doesn’t acknowledge it at all—and I’m grateful for that.

He pushes his body onto the stone wall of the bridge, and I step up beside him, taking in the life in this place.

“Since you gave me a look into that deceiving mind of yours, I’ll give you one of mine.” I look over at him, watching him as he watches the stream. “Something personal to you since you gave me one as well—even though you already know about my darkness, I’ll still tell you something of my choosing.”

I wait for him to say that personal thing he wants to. A giddy feeling goes through my body at the thought of holding something intimate of this powerful man before me. Something else than his kinks and his favourite toy.

“My heart loves another.” Phillip’s voice comes out hoarse compared to the power and strength he uses to talk to his employees—and to me.

My eyes blink. Once, and then twice. “I already knew that. Known it for a couple of days. It’s Gemma, right? Gemma Sneddon?”

The blond male looks over at me, his eyes wide with surprise. “You know? And yet you still blackmailed me into marrying you?” Phillip’s hands grab onto the edge of a stone, hands tightening, knuckles turning white.

“Something as small as having a girlfriend is not going to stop me and the plans that I have for you.” I keep staring at the stream, the sound entering my ear. “Is she your sub as well? That’s another tip to keep in the back of my mind.”

Phillip chuckles—one that’s harsh and cruel. “Of course you would take my secret—a secret that I gave you because I thought that you deserved it—and use it against me to do whatever you need me to do.”

“Can I tell you something that I’ve learnt in this city?” I don’t wait for him to answer my question. “I’ve learnt that being nice is not going to get you anywhere. That listening to the things that people say around you—important things—can get things to happen in your favour. That being a raging bitch and having people afraid of you is much better than being a breakable Barbie doll and being used again and again by the people around you.”

“You speak from experience.”

I look him dead in the eye, being as serious as I can be. “That truth that I told you is not the only thing that has happened to me over the years.”

Phillip stares me dead on before taking a step close to me. He looks down at me, once over my body later.

My eyes narrow. What is he doing—

His arm wraps around the back of my waist, once again pulling me into his chest.

I go forward to open my mouth, ready to tell him off, to tell him to get his hands of me—

When his mouth dips down to cover my own.

My eyes widen for a moment, at the touch of his lips, until I then notice the slight flashes of lights appearing from bushes a few feet away. I close my eyes, before bringing my hands onto Phillip’s cheeks, making sure that the engagement ring is on display for the photos.

I know the scene that we are painting. The star crossed lovers, going on a walk through the park, away from the people around us and the busy things that happen in our lives. The innocence that the stream conveys to the photo, the trees holding fresh fruit and small buds of flowers, allowing the essence to seep around us, sugar coating the photo. The love that we’re holding around each other, encasing it around us so that it doesn’t escape the small bubble that we’re placing around us.

The photo paints something else.

The feeling of Phillip’s lips on my own is something else entirely.

His lips are cold, demanding. There’s nothing warm about them. They just give me a sense of control, control that he has over me. Even though I hold the blackmail, I hold the truth, I hold this man right by his balls. He’s having control over this kiss. He pushes his lips onto my own and I push right back, hoping that he knows that I’m not going down with a fight. He knows it. I know that.

I feel Phillip’s hand around my waist turning me around so I now have the stone wall pushing right against my back, my ass, and Philip towers over me, encasing me in him. The blond male keeps one hand wrapped around my waist, the other against the stone wall, keeping me in his close proximity tighter.

He pulls his lips back long enough to whisper, “That is the most pathetic thing that I’ve ever heard.”

I stare him down, eyes to eyes. Silver grey against hazel green “You loving someone while I’m wearing your ring is also pathetic. I suggest that you tell her of this arrangement if you already haven’t.” My hands—that now rests against my side, move forward to place with the collar of his shirt.

Phillip only glares at me in response before moving away from me, his body now right beside me, against the stonewall of the bridge.

I look towards the grass, noticing that the paps are now gone, having gotten what they needed from the insistent flashes of light while we had our kiss.

I convey that same thing to Phillip.

“Good. At least one thing that happened today happened just as we planned.”

I turn my body so that I face the stream before replying, “Now all that needs to be done is the engagement party and the second part of the trouble is over.”

♥ ♥ ♥

P H I L L I P

♥ ♥ ♥

CEO OF WHITTAKER INDUSTRIES AND NYC’S HOTTEST BACHELOR PHILLIP WHITTAKER IS CAUGHT LOCKING LIPS WITH BLACK MARKS HEROINE HERA LANGFORD—WHO NOW WEARS AN ENGAGEMENT RING.

THE TITLE STARES right back at me, taunting me through the screen of my Macbook, a photo of the two of us kissing right under, and I smack the lid of my Macbook, anger starting to burn through my blood, roasting everything around me.

I had to call the paparazzi that Ivan informed to delete everything that they would have written about Gemma in the article. About our relationship. It took a few threats to their jobs and their family before they managed to listen to my words and erase any trace of her.

I don’t want Gemma involved in this mess that I’ve created.

Even though I haven’t told her at all.

I should have told her that morning when she’d bombarded me at breakfast, but it was so awkward, so quiet. That wasn’t the time. Then there was the time when I dropped her off at the townhouse, but that was bad timing as well. She’d just stormed out of the car, right to the door and didn’t even bother to look back at me. Only the smallest glance she gave me is all that I got from her.

That was days ago.

And now . . . I’m pushing this onto her.

I love her, and I know that she loves me. Isn’t that enough in this world? How many more times do I need to give before the upper fates leave me alone to build a better life? How many more chances would Gemma give me before she decides that it’s better to live a life away from the mess that me and my life is?

I rub my nose, a sigh escapes from my lips, and I try my best to will ice into my blood to calm me down.

It’s just me in the penthouse; I sent everyone else away when I stormed into this penthouse hours ago and decided that drinking a few glasses of bourbon would settle the anger.

I look in the direction of the glass bottle filled halfway with an amber liquid on a gold plated bar trolley.

Maybe more would be better for me.

I stand from my chair, forgetting about the article that was written by a quite popular tabloid and head in the direction of the bar trolley and fill a knuckles worth of bourbon. I bring the edge right to my lips, the liquor touching my lips when—

YOU SON OF A BITCH!” And then the drink is being pulled from my lips, my hand and a slap echoes across the room.

My head snaps to the side, the impact of the skin to skin contact making an instant reaction out of me. But before my face turned, I had just enough time to see the tears pouring out of the coffee brown orbs.

“Gemma.” The name comes out in a rasp, hoarse with the thought of Gemma finding out the news from someone else’s mouth than my own.

Is it true?” Her voice comes out shaky, the force of the tears making her act that way, speak that way. “Is everything that is being said online, about you and that . . . woman”—her voice wavers—”kissing and that ring on her finger true? Is that why you’ve been distant?”

My face comes in her direction, catching the tears, the streaks that they make down her skin. Then to the shine in her eyes; the mess of her usually neat clothing. “Gemma, I—”

Her eyes harden for a moment. Gemma’s trying her best to regain her strength. “Anything that comes out of your mouth, it has to be the truth. No lies, no games, nothing but the truth.”

I gulp, my heart starting to break at the emotion on her face.

Gemma Sneddon lives life to the fullest. The happiest. She always walks around with a smile on her face—enough to brighten up even the cloudiest days. She and my sister have that in common. That is one of the reasons why I love her. She’s true. Pure. Something that I’ll never be. And she accepts every part of me; the wicked side, the sad side, the angry side, the corporate side, the side that thrives on the pain of what I do to the woman under me. She understands me and I understand her.

But this . . . This’ll be her undoing.

Gemma takes my silence as my answer. She takes a step back on wobbly legs and I almost bring my hands out to catch her, to save her from the inevitable fall. She looks me dead in the eye. “Is my love not enough? Do you need more from me, from everything else that I have? Do you need—”

Stop.” That word comes out silent, cold, demanding from her. My whole personality changes from those words that came out of her mouth. Before it was sad, upset, now . . . I just want to fuck the words into her

Gemma obeys: She stops.

I take a single step in her direction—until her back is against the edge of the bookcase in my home office. I bring a hand up to wrap around the edge of her waist and pinch the flesh there.

Gemma’s eyes widen, a gasp escaping from those plump lips of hers.

“Do not—under any circumstances—think that your love is not enough.” I stare into her eyes, allowing my face to convey the truth of those words. “Your love is more than enough, more than I should be given.”

Gemma nods her head rapidly to my words, and I can hear the slight change in her breathing. It’s coming out faster. She’s aroused. I almost smirk at that revelation.

I bring my hand from her waist and around her arms before turning her around, so that her front is pressed right against the spines of the many books I have in here. I press my front into her back so that she can feel the way that my cock hardens in my pants.

The gasp from Gemma is my only acknowledgement of that information.

I whisper, leaning in so that my mouth is right against the edge of her ear and I blow a soft bit of air, “I’m going to leave right now and in ten minutes, I’m going to be heading in the direction of the playroom. If you’re not in there, naked except for your panties on, lying on the red sheets of the bed.” I give a sharp tug on the band of her skirt before releasing it so that it slaps her on her skin. Gemma moans the slightest. “You’ll be punished. You can not touch yourself anytime in the ten minutes. You can not be found playing with any of the toys, or you’ll be punished for that as well.” I stop for a moment before continuing. “Do you understand?”

I let Gemma go and rapidly turn her around so that I now face her.

Gemma’s eyes have grown darker for a moment—that might be because of the lights in the room, but I know that it’s from the thought of what might happen in those four walls soon.

The brown-haired woman nods. “Yes, Sir.”

I take a step back before pointing my head in the direction of the office. “Go now. You have ten minutes.”

Gemma’s eyes seem dazed but she still manages to leave the room, closing the door behind her.

I walk in the direction of my phone, turning it on and allowing a timer to be set for ten minutes. Exiting the office with my phone in my hand and the time slowly counting down, I head towards the kitchen.

For ten minutes, I walk around the kitchen doing random things: wiping the benches, closing any windows that were left open, rifling through the many drawers to find something new. I even head in the direction of the fridge to pick up two chilled bottles of water and that’s when my alarm starts blaring from my pocket.

Taking the bottles into my hand and my phone in the other, I take a set of stairs up onto the second floor of the penthouse. I turn right and stop before a door that’s black with red trims at the edges.

The playroom. The red room.

I turn the handle, already knowing that the door would be open by Gemma’s own set of keys into the room. The lights shine above me, a skylight window showing some stars before I press a button right beside the door to turn the window to matte, making sure that no one can see from above what’s happening in here.

When I designed this playroom a few years ago, I wanted to make it something sexy, seductive and something that would hook future submissives into my claws. And also, I’d designed this room to make sure that if anyone had ever made it into this room, they would just see two walls that are shaped like a small box and don’t run all the way to the top. It stops just three feet from the ceiling of the roof. The wall in front of me has a mirror on it so that they can get a look at themselves, and the wall on the left side of the mirror has nothing except a panel to control the lights and windows of the room. The opening to the actual room has a cabinet, the walls painted red, the ceiling black and covered with intricate designs as well as lights throughout.

Something normal that holds something dark and twisted

I turn right into the depths of the room and place the two bottles onto the surface of the cabinet. I know that in the drawers of the cabinet, there are toys; silk masks and blindfolds, different types of vibrators, butt plugs, dildos the size of my own cock, some bigger.

I don’t bother turning around to see Gemma. I know that Gemma lies back down on the bed in the middle of the room, her breasts in visibility, the nipples hardened and peaked from the cold air that she must be experiencing. I know that panties must be covering her pussy, and that she must be soaking wet from the thought of what will happen today. I know that she will be a good girl for me. That her hair must be down her back, a single hair tie holding the strands in place but within grabbing distance when I fuck her.

What I didn’t expect from her is the moans that slip past her lips.

I smirk at that. Looks like my good girl wants to be punished.

“I told you that you must not touch yourself.” I open one of the drawers and pull out a plain black silk blindfold. “You know what is going to happen now.” I pause for a second, shutting the drawer. “You may speak.”

Gemma just moans. “I know, Sir . . . But you were taking too long and I needed to start finger fucking me before you come.” She then whispers, “I thought that I would be done before you’d come.”

I know that she must have been doing that already. The woman doesn’t have that much patience.

I let the mental image of Gemma’s naked body on the bed into my mind, her hand slipping in between her folds, playing with her clit before plunging deep into herself. I imagine that her other hand would be tweaking her nipples, pulling the tight peaks and twisting them while she continues to fuck herself with her fingers. The soft gasps and moans that would escape her lips.

“You thought wrong.” I open another drawer and pull out a butt plug. The black plug is big enough to fit in, I know that. The jewel at the end being the handle to grasp onto if I make the decision to pull it out or push it deep into her ass.

I spin around and my eyes go straight to Gemma.

She looks just like I imagined her as.

Her back is on the bed, her legs raised up to rest her heels against the sheets. She did that so I could just watch her as she satisfies herself. That hand is in between her entrance, thrusting in and out of her tight hole. The other hand is clutching the bedsheets instead of playing with her nipples.

She broke the two things that I told her not to.

“Do you remember what I told you before you came in here? You may answer.”

She replies, nodding her head along, “You told me two things, Sir. One, to not touch myself at all. And two, to lie down on the bed, naked in just my panties.”

“Where are your panties, Gemma?”

“On the floor—right there.” She tilts her head to the discarded grey scrap on the floor.

“What is touching you right now?”

“My fingers. Although”—she leans up just enough to look me deep in the eyes, her tits in perfect view—”it would feel so much better with yours. But oh well,” Gemma says, pushing her fingers into her, “mine just have to do the job when you can’t.”

I stand in front of her, getting a closer look at the way that her finger would angle deeper in, her moans slipping past her lips, her knees wobbling, trying her best to hold the position. Dropping the plug and the blindfold to the side of the bed, I quickly reach in between her legs, my fingers reaching over to touch her clit.

A gasp escapes her.

“Look at you. So needy. Can’t even wait for her master to come in and satisfy her before deciding to do it herself,” I whisper, continuing to rub the soft bud. Gemma withers on the bed but continues to push the single digit in and out. “You should not be feeling any sort of pleasure”—a single move of my hand onto her fingers and it’s being pulled out, being placed to the side of her supple body—”you should be punished. Do you think you deserve to be punished?”

My body now leans in between Gemma’s own. I can feel my cock getting harder and harder, my balls tightening in motion. I want to be in between Gemma’s legs, thrusting in and out of her—but she won’t get it tonight,

She needs to be punished roughly for not listening to me. Not loved tenderly.

Gemma stares deep into my eyes. “I broke your rules. I think that I need to be punished.”

I stare right back, knowing what she actually means. “You broke my rules because you wanted to.” A slip in between her legs and she groans, low and raspy. “You wanted to be punished.”

“You’re right.” She shudders while I fondle with that bundle of nerves. “I wanted to be punished. It’s been too long, and I want to be fucked badly.”

I stop my fingers bringing it back before grabbing her by her hips and flipping her onto her front. “Get on your hands and knees.”

Gemma follows my orders, exactly like how I said.

I grab the blindfold from the side and lift it so that I can wrap it around Gemma’s face—so that she can’t see what’s happening.

“Good.” Her ass is right in perfect view. I bring both hands forward, kneading the tan skin of each of her cheeks. “Now your punishment will be ten strikes because you couldn’t be patient for ten minutes.”

“But technically it was three before—”

Without warning, I strike down on her left cheek. Gemma gasps, a cry filled with pain and lust escaping from her lips. I bring my ear closer over her body to mummer in her ear, “Three more added onto for your reckless speaking when I didn’t tell you to speak.

“Now for every strike against your ass, I want you to count and then say ‘Thank you, Sir.’ Can you do that?”

Biting her lip, Gemma nods her head.

I strike her ass again and Gemma moans before saying in a breathless voice, “One. Thank you, Sir.”

I peer down at both cheeks, a faint red print on it for every slap that I do. I keep on going for the second, third, fourth, fifth and each time Gemma—the darling girl that she is—counts along and repeats the phrase each time. This goes on for the thirteenth one when I can hear the sniffles escaping from Gemma’s nose, the silent tears that must be running down her face and the tremor that rises and falls throughout her body. I take a peek at her ass to see a red print of my hand on it, heat coming off it in soft waves.

“Good girl, darling.”

I look to the side of the bed where the butt plug is placed, Grabbing it, I use my other hand to pull her ass cheeks apart and slip it in.

Gemma’s response is a draw in of heavy air.

I stand up from my place, starting to pull apart the buttons of my shirt. “That is so you know where this night will end. With nothing entering your tight little hole—both of them. Instead, you’ll have that in the whole night.” With each word, buttons are being pulled apart by my hands until I drop the shirt to the side of the room and turn around.

With my naked chest on display, I take a walk around the room, looking for another toy that my darling Gemma would like.

There is a whip—but I’ve already struck her. A flogger—but I’ve already used my hand A paddle? No, not that. I keep looking around until I see a glass cabinet containing a few different variations of a feather body tickler and a feather crop. Perfect.

I grab the black feather tickler by the handle and walk over to the bed, while walking I take off my belt and place it to the side; the tightness in there annoys the shit out of me.

Gemma still stays in her position: on her hands and knees; the diamond of the butt plug shining and there’s a shin of wetness shimmering in between her legs, right on her pussy lips; the shake of her legs, a force in her telling her to drop onto her front, onto the bed. But she won’t. She’s too stubborn to do that.

I get right at her back and wave my hand onto her back, the feather lightly touching her skin. Gemma’s back arches into the touch, her body telling her she wants more.

“Uh—uh—uh.” I click my tongue, placing my cold hand on her back and forcing her not to turn when she makes a sharp movement.

She turns her head to the side, the blindfold boring into my gaze. “I want to touch you, to see you. I want to take you into your mouth, Sir, so why won’t you let me do that?”

“Because”—a sharp tug on that ponytail of hers, on her back—“you’re still being punished. You don’t get my cock tonight, not for the rest of this day.”

I drag the tip of the feather up and down her back and all the while, her body shudders and arches into the touch, moving side to side to try to get out of place. But my hand stays in place—forcing her to stay as well.

Slowly—so slowly, my hand inches down her body, down to her ass. My fingers dance on the skin, eliciting Gemma’s gasps free.

Oh my!” She gasps.

I instantly take my hand off—and pinch her skin. “Ouch!”

“That’s what you get for speaking when I didn’t let you. The next time, it would be much harder and much more painful.”

I continue on course: my hand taking the slow journey to get in between her legs and plunge a single finger into her pussy. She’s so wet. So, so wet and ready for my cock to take her. I had to move the bands of my slacks around when it got too tight. I even harshly jerked my hand around the length hoping that it satisfies me.

It doesn’t.

I return my hand back to her hole and thrust a finger into her. I slip it out—only add a second one when I know that she can take it.

“That’s right. Take my fingers like I know your pussy takes my cock each time it thrusts deep into you.” I take a finger out and plunge it in—Gemma gasps, moving her ass left and right.

All the while I thrust my fingers into her tight hole, the feathers of the body tickler now are fluttering on her nipples, going around to make the tight peeks even tighter before going to the other one.

I continue to finger fuck her, going faster and faster until I can feel her tight walls clenching around my fingers and her body shuddering. And then her orgasm crashes over her and her juices flow down her legs, onto my fingers.

I turn her around so that her front is facing me and she’s on her back. I rip Gemma’s blindfold of so that she can see what I’m going to do.

Gemma’s eyes track my fingers as I take the fingers and slip it into my mouth, sucking the juices right off

Gemma gulps, hard. Lust and passion coating her entire face.

Then she’s up, on her knees and hastily bringing my zipper down and taking my cock out of my slacks.

She looks me in her eyes. “You didn’t say anything about me not taking you in your mouth, Only that I don’t get it in my pussy and my ass.”

And then my cock touches her lips—

And all hell breaks loose.

♥ ♥ ♥

HOURS LATER AND Gemma and I lie down in bed, together.

My mouth feels dry after all the talking that I did.

I told her everything. Without leaving a single thing out of the discussion.

I told her about the way that I found Hera in my office, the pearl nipple clamps that I saw shimmering in her hand. The way that she broke into the door in my room and spotted some things that should not be in a businessmen’s office. That she blackmailed me into marrying her or that she’d tell the world about what she saw. The way that I forged the contract; the guilt that kept me up late at night—that still keeps me up. The dinner that happened to discuss the terms, the things that she’d said that night. This morning, I asked her to come over to the office this morning and let her pick a ring out of the many that I had chosen. The walk that we took in Central Park. The paparazzi. The kiss.

The way that I learnt something important about her and acted with care to her feelings. The way that I told her my love for Gemma, and that Hera said that she’d already known that. How she took my truth and kept it in her back pocket to be used to a later date.

The audacity that she has.

I clutch my fist to my side, anger starting to turn my knuckles white. I’m pissed and ready to make her life hell.

This will be a long, long year of pain for her.

I vow that.

I take a quick glance at Gemma in my arms—only to see her sitting up at the edge of the bed, her naked form leaning forward. “Are you saying that all this is my fault?”

Her voice . . . her voice sounds so broken.

“Because I remember that day. You went in to check the work—and I”—her voice stammers—”I decided to surprise you there and we used the nipple clamps and I—and we—”

I quickly move forward and bring her into a hug. She folds right into my own naked body. “I’m not saying anything like that.” I move her hair away from her face, pressing a soft delicate kiss to her forehead. “This is my fault and my fault alone. I should have been more careful that day. I should have placed it back in the room or the very least to lock the door but—”

Gemma stops my words when she turns around, cupping my cheek. I lean into her hand and she rests the smallest grins on her face. That smile brightens up the darkness of the room.

It’s still night and we are in my room, cuddling and talking about what has happened, about the future.

“You don’t blame yourself and I won’t blame myself okay? We won’t blame each other.” I nod in her hand. “But I’ll tell you one thing: we will get through this. Together.”

“Together,” I sigh out, moving my head to place the smallest of kisses on her palm.

♥ ♥ ♥

chapter 13
yay!
this was a fun chapter for me to write, something sweet and something spicy

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