Hush Resort and Spa. The hotel Archer’s father gave him as some sort of punishment after he barely graduated college. He turned it into one of the most exclusive and successful couples-only resorts in all the country, if not the world. He became white-hot in an instant, in demand. Gorgeous and sexy, intelligent and ruthless, women wanted to do him, men wanted to be him. And the arrogant jackass knew it.
“I suggest you make a reservation.” His voice is full of irritation. He’s trying to steer us around her but she’s not budging.
“I can’t. I’m not part of a couple.” She literally bats her eyelashes. “Maybe you could help with that?”
“I’m sure we could find one of your friends to hook her up with, don’t you think, baby?” I smile up at Archer, sending him a meaningful look so he gets what I’m trying to do. He blinks down at me, no doubt startled by being called baby, which is fun. He’s sort of hot when he’s confused, and it’s hard to frazzle Archer. So I decide to do it some more.
Leaning up, I nuzzle his neck, inhaling his unique spicy scent. God, he smells amazing. Why have I never noticed this before? Not that we’re ever standing this close together, but I’m tempted to rub against him like a cat.
I wonder if she’s bought we’re a couple yet. If I have to keep this up I might do something crazy. Like . . . bite him. “I’m sure that could be arranged,” he says, his voice rough as his arm tightens around my shoulders.
I slip my arm around his back. He’s as solid as a rock. Makes me wonder what he looks like beneath all the finery. I haven’t seen him shirtless since I was in high school, and he’s filled out since then considerably. “If you’ll excuse us,” I tell Miss Persistent with a sickeningly sweet smile before I turn it on Archer. “Let’s go dance, baby.”
He leads me out onto the dance floor wordlessly, pulling me into his arms just as another slow song starts. His hand rests on the small of my back as we begin to move to the music and my entire body tingles at his nearness. Which is odd because 1. I have no desire to be with Archer like that and 2. I’ve been immune to his charm for years.
“You’re good, with the ‘baby’ bit and rubbing your nose against my neck,” he murmurs close to my ear. His hot breath makes me shiver and I wonder if he felt it. He had to.
And I don’t really care. I’m hyperaware of him, of his size and his warmth and the sheer strength of him. His big hand shifts lower on my back, his fingertips grazing my backside, and I inhale sharply. I bet he knows just how to use those hands, too.
Oh my God, this is Archer you’re drooling over. Stop it!
“Think she bought our act?” I ask breathlessly.
“Not sure.” He hesitates for the slightest moment, causing me to look up at him. I’m struck dumb by his smoldering gaze, the way he’s staring at me like he wants to gobble me up. I wonder if I’m returning the same look, because I have the sudden urge to kiss him. For hours, if possible. “But I know I did.”
WELL, THAT WAS totally unexpected.
I’m still reeling, though I’m trying my damnedest to act like she doesn’t affect me whatsoever. All that “It’s just Ivy” talk flew right out the window when I saw the glint of determination in her gaze as she realized she could help me get rid of the clingy woman. How she draped herself all over me and called me baby. Flashing me a sexy, secretive smile as if she knew exactly what I looked like nak*d and liked it.
Then she went and nuzzled my neck with her nose, making me so hard I’m still aching with the memory just before she moved away.
Talk about torture. No wonder I avoid her. Within a few minutes of being near her, I’m sporting wood and plotting how I can get her out of here so I can strip her nak*d and have my way with her. All night long.
“You’re teasing me,” she chastises, her pretty hazel eyes watching me carefully as we dance. There aren’t many couples on the floor but the bride and groom are nearby, the lights are dimmed low, and the atmosphere is scarily romantic. “You so didn’t buy into that act. Come on.”
Fuck, she’s the tease. I’m not sure she gets just how much she affects me. I know she doesn’t. I wonder if she ever thinks of me. Her brother’s best friend, the jerk wad who does nothing but give her a bunch of crap. Knowing her since I was sixteen seems to translate me into my idiot teenage self every time I’m around her. It’s like I can’t help it.
I’m a grown-ass man worth billions who runs one of the most successful, exclusive resorts in the country and this is what Ivy Emerson reduces me to.
“I pretty much did buy into it,” I offer with a shrug. Going for nonchalant. “I’m surprised you didn’t take it to the next level. Grab my dick and claim it as yours.”
A dark brow rose, her lips quirked to the side. Damn, she’s hot, even when she’s irritated. Especially when she’s irritated. “You are so crude.”
If only she knew the extent of my so-called crudeness. I want her.
Having her in my arms is not helping my plight, but she’s soft and she smells so damn good I can’t resist her. Her dark hair shines beneath the golden lights and the top of her strapless dress appears fairly easy to tug down if I wanted to do such a thing.
Not that I do. Not really.
It’s not just her beauty that does me in though. There’s so much more to Ivy. How she listens to me, how proud she seems to be when I tell her what I’m doing in my career. It’s like she really cares.
“You’ve always appreciated my blunt honesty,” I assure her, pulling her in just the slightest bit closer as I twirl her around the dance floor. Her br**sts brush against my chest, her hand slides over my shoulder, and her touch burns me. Through my suit jacket and shirt, like she’s touching bare flesh, branding me.
And I want to be branded by her. Despite my reluctance of ever becoming involved with a woman, Ivy’s the only one who I both want to be with and want to run away from.
Yeah. I make no damn sense.
“Really? According to whom? When was the last time we had a scintillating conversation, hmm?” She smiles. It’s faint but there, and the sight of it encourages me.
Plus, she just made the word scintillating sound hot. The woman is either some sort of sex goddess or I’ve turned into a complete pervert. “Maybe we need to renew our friendship. Get to know each other again,” I suggest, trying my best to sound nonchalant.
“Like you care about getting to know me again.” She rolls her eyes. “We’ve known each other for years. It’s not like you’ve ever shown any sort of interest in me before.”
“I’ve always been interested, you just never noticed.” I pause, taking in the way her eyes widen the slightest bit. I bet my revelation surprises her. “Every time I see you, Ivy, I remember what you looked like when you were twelve, the first time I met you. All gangly and skinny with braces.” Look at her now. She’s filled out in all the right places and she’s the sexiest woman at this stupid reception.
“Great. So you see me as an eternal twelve-year-old,” she mutters, curling her lip.
Shit. I’ve somehow stepped in it with a few choice words. Could I be more of an idiot?
“I definitely don’t see you as a twelve-year-old,” I murmur, tightening my hold on her hand. “You have to realize that, right?”
She meets my gaze, her eyes full of wariness, her pouty lips curved in the tiniest frown. “What do you see me as, Archer? Gage’s pain-in-the-ass little sister? The girl you made fun of her freshman year when you were a mighty senior? Remember how you did that?”
Well hell, is she going to list all of my faults or what? I’m not proud of the way I acted when I was younger. I’d been a self-centered bastard. Some say I still am. “I was a jackass back then,” I mutter.
“From what I’ve observed, you’re still holding on to some of those jackass tendencies.” Her hazel eyes flash as she lifts her chin in subtle defiance.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Damn, maybe I avoid her because we tend to argue every time we’re around each other. Yet I want her. I’ve wanted her for what feels like forever. But she acts like she despises me. Like my very presence fills her with disgust. No other woman has reacted to me like this—ever. I don’t get it.
I don’t get her. And I definitely don’t get my attraction to her.
Glutton for punishment maybe?
Yeah. I shove that nagging little voice straight to the back of my brain.
“Forget it.” Her gaze cuts away from mine.
“Tell me what you’re talking about, Ivy.”
“Nothing.” She meets my gaze once more. “Drop it, okay?”
I let her drop it and we dance quietly, the sharks still circling. I can spot at least three women who are contemplating me standing on the edge of the dance floor. Ready to jump on me the moment the song is over.
I gotta get out of here.
“Let’s go outside,” I tell Ivy, my gaze trained on one woman in particular who’s vaguely familiar. I swear the groom tried to set me up with her once. We went out to some dinner when Jeff and Cecily were first dating.
“Are you serious? No way will I go outside with you. You’ll probably try to maul me.”
That sounds like a fantastic idea but I know she won’t go for it. “Maybe you need a good mauling to get that stick out of your ass.”
“What did you just say?” She stops dancing so abruptly she nearly trips over my feet, what with those fuck-me high heels she’s wearing.
Tightening my arm around her waist, I save her from sprawling. “I speak the truth and you know it. You need to loosen up, chicken. No wonder the last guy didn’t stick, what with how uptight you are.” Her eyes widen and her jaw drops open. She looks ready to tear into me and I immediately regret what I said. “Ivy, I’m sorry,” I start, but she cuts me off.
“Fuck you,” she whispers harshly, shoving at me so I have no choice but to let go of her and watch as she escapes the dance floor.
A woman swoops in within seconds, the same one Jeff tried to hook me up with long ago. I remember she had stalkerish qualities, what with the way she Googled me prior to going out to dinner. I know it’s the norm nowadays but her admission turned me off. “Archer. It’s so good to see you again. Want to dance?”
I glance toward the open doors that lead onto the giant terrace. Ivy’s headed straight toward them, her h*ps swaying, her legs looking incredibly long. She’s gorgeous and sexy as f**k and I said she needed to get the stick out of her ass.
What the hell is wrong with me?
I turn my attention to the woman who’s looking at me expectantly. I don’t even remember her name. Ivy’s right. I still have plenty of a**holeish tendencies and I just unleashed them all over her. “Sorry, I’m going to have to pass. I need to go apologize to a woman.”