That’s how I’ve gotten through nineteen years of life. It’s what I do every single day—no matter how badly the odds are stacked against me.
Persevere, and survive.
Those are my two guiding words. I never knew either of my parents. I have no family and no home. The only person I could ever rely on was myself. In this cruel world, that’s about as much as I could ask for.
Love? Hah. Don’t talk to me about love. I stopped believing in it the day my first boyfriend ripped out my heart three years ago.
That’s why love is the last thing on my mind when I leave a packed college bar with a captivating stranger. Yet everything changes when I’m awakened in the middle of the night by a pounding at the door. Suddenly, an arrangement meant for just one night threatens to become something much deeper.
All expectations are thrown to the wind as I’m tangled in a dangerous world unlike anything I can believe. The man I met has secrets swirling around him like a dark cape. I’m about to become his biggest one…
Together, we stumble toward the elevator. Rich breaks away for a second to hit the button. The light doesn’t come on.
“Damn,” he growls, “it’s busted again.”
I’m one step ahead of him. I’d spotted the stairs when we entered. I grab his hand and pull him after me with no hesitation. I start up the cement stairwell, determined to get to his room as fast as possible.
I look back, confused. “What?”
A devilish smile plays on his lips. “Only this.” Without warning his hands wrap around my waist, and I’m being lifted up as easily as if I were a doll. He turns to the side and presses my body against the wall, suspending me between him and the concrete.
His mouth crashes down on mine again. I curl my legs around his torso, locking my ankles together, and kiss him back with the passion reserved for a lover after ten long years apart. I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m getting even more turned on. Rich’s hands move down to grasp the outside of my thighs, and I moan into his kiss as the muscles of my core clench in sinful fashion. I want him so badly. If we don’t get somewhere private soon, I won’t be wholly opposed to jumping him in public.
I gasp as he steps away, freeing me from the wall. I start to fall, but one of his hands darts down to catch me just beneath the knees. The other one cradles my shoulders. Before I know it, I’m slung across his arms like a bride on her wedding night.
“I’ve always wanted to carry a girl up these stairs,” Rich admits.
I laugh, and wrap my arm around his neck. “Oh, you are just the best type of romantic.”
Four flights of stairs later, Rich pushes open the fire door to a dimly-lit hallway. He carries me down the hall and stops in front of an entrance on the right. He sets me down, then fishes around in his jeans for the key. When the door creaks open, he sweeps a hand out in front of him. “Welcome to my humble abode.”
I walk in, curious about his apartment. I tend to side with the camp of people who believe that a person’s living arrangements can reveal a lot about his personality. But, I don’t find much to work with here.
The apartment is sparse and dark. Pale moonlight filters in through the balcony window, shining down on the only piece of furniture present: a queen size mattress lying on the floor of the living room. The red brick walls are totally empty—no girly posters or other things I might expect in a bachelor’s apartment. There are no lamps, no chairs, no couches.
After a moment, I notice a second piece of furniture: a small, old-school CRT TV camped in one corner of the studio apartment.
Rich switches on the light. “So?” he asks, “what do you think?”
I walk past the entrance. There’s one hall leading away from the room. It is filled with brown cardboard boxes. Lots and lots of boxes. “Did you just move in or something?”
Rich laughs behind me. “Yeah, something like that. You want a drink?”
“A drink?” I say. “No, I—”
The words catch in my throat as he grabs my hips and spins me around. I had no idea he’d come so close. He’d moved from the door to me without making a sound. His fingers lock together against my lower back, and he tugs me into him, pressing my belly to his waist. I feel his growing erection right away, and a diabolical excitement builds inside me.
For a long moment, Richard just holds me like that, staring into my eyes as I’m left dangling off his arms. His irises are the color of sea mist. I’m hypnotized by the deep intensity I see brewing just beneath the surface. I have no doubt that that type of intensity is mirrored in my eyes.
Then, moving slowly, as if restraining himself, Richard lowers his mouth to cover mine. This time, his kiss is sweet and gentle. Subtle and caring. He explores my upper lip first, then traces the line going to the corner of my mouth. His lips form a perfect mold over mine.
I was wrong before. This is the kiss reserved for a lover you haven’t seen in ten years.