New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones shares a sneak peek of the latest installment in her bestselling Inside Out series, I BELONG TO YOU with XOXOAD and all you fabulous readers out there. Mark is desperately searching for control anywhere he can find it, but maybe he all he needs is Crystal…
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Mark . . .
An hour after we land in New York, Jacob stops the rented Escalade in front of a ten-story gray building nestled within a cluster of buildings inside the center of Manhattan’s Rockefeller Center. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be,” I tell him, reaching for the door.
“I’ll stay close,” Jacob assures me, his steady, clipped ex-military tone part of his steely reserve.
With a short nod, I exit the rear seat onto the street and into large white snowflakes that quickly cover my hair and my Crombie topcoat. The beginning of a late fall snowstorm is yet another chilling reminder of how far I am from San Francisco and the life I’d worked to create for myself. But the illness my mother fights makes none of that matter anymore. Her living is all that matters.
Stepping under the overhang of the building, I glance at my Rolex to confirm I’m ten minutes early for the nine o’clock private meeting I’ve scheduled tonight, before I surprise my mother with my extended visit. “Riptide” is etched in gray stone between the large glass doors, and pride fills me. It’s the largest auction house in the world, and my mother’s creation is now twenty-five years strong—only nine years shy of my time on this earth.
This place is her beast to command and her kingdom of thousands of employees to relish, but I’m the ruler here now. And I also have to take the helm of my life, and everything around me. I have to be the Master that I lost somewhere along the line—the one who would never allow someone close to him to be hurt, as I did Rebecca.
I key in a code and enter the building, greeting one of the security guards on duty. Mr. Kimmel, well into his sixties, has been here since Riptide opened, and he offers me a quick greeting. “Mr. Compton, sir. I am certain you have made your mother’s day.”
“I’m surprising her in the morning.”
He smiles and his eyes light up. “A good way to start her day, indeed. Will you be staying long?”
“Oh, sir, this is good news that everyone, Ms. Smith included, will welcome.” And I have this sense that despite all the negative media about me, he feels I will save the day, or the company—or, hell, the damn world. As if I am unable to fail, as I have too much as of late.
He lifts a hand. “Shall I take your topcoat and briefcase?”
“Just my topcoat,” I say, shrugging out of it and handing it to him. “Thank you, Mr. Kimmel.”
“No, thank you, Mr. Compton.” He taps his badge. “I got an offer from Walker Security to stay on when they took over this week. I’m honored to have the opportunity to continue to work with your family.”
Having known him since my childhood, and being aware of my mother’s fondness for him, I easily reply, “It’s we who are honored to have so many years of honest service.”
Pride glows in his eyes at my words. He deserves the compliment. I might be hard; I might be demanding. But my mother taught me to commend those who prove greatness with loyalty and fairness.
His reaction to my arrival sets my determination to achieve the goal I’m here to attend to, and my steps quicken as I walk down the long hallway that I know leads to Ms. Smith’s office. She needs to know that the Master is back from the bowels of hell. Sex and control make me stronger, which I’d forgotten these past few weeks—with gut-wrenching, heart-shredding results. I eased my rules, and crossed lines for and with Rebecca that ultimately led to her death.
I swore ten years ago that no one by my side would ever get hurt again. Yet in the dangerous gray that lies between black and white, I’ve already crossed lines with Ms. Smith.
No more. There is no in between.
Stepping confidently into Crystal’s open doorway, I find her behind her glass desk, gaze fixed on the file she is studying, her long, shapely legs crossed. Seconds tick by before, in the midst of turning a page, she freezes. Her gaze lifts, landing on me, and she pops to her feet. My eyes sweep the way her formfitting pale pink suit hugs her curves and complements her sleekly styled long blond hair. My cock thickens and heat that I don’t deny or dismiss blazes in my veins, allowing myself the right to be unapologetically a man and a Master.
When my gaze returns to hers, I don’t hide the predatory gleam in mine. It’s part of the message I’m here to deliver. Sex is my release, my way of dealing with life.
“Hi,” she says, her stare remarkably unwavering as the sexual tension between us crackles like a live current. “And before you ask what kind of greeting that is,” she adds, reminding me of something I’d said to her a week before when we’d burned up the sheets in a California hotel room, “the answer is the same as before. It’s my kind.”
Her kind. The kind that simply doesn’t work for me as a Master. But it does, apparently, work for the man beneath the armor I fully intend to restore. I have restored.
I shut the door and then motion to the small, round conference table in the corner. “Let’s sit.” I’m irritated that I’m aware she’s wearing the same outfit she’d worn the first night I met her, several weeks ago.
She nods and moves with the same pace, the same confident steps, confirming that she is not my type. As she once said, we’re too alike, two bulls fighting for the same red flag. We come together at the edge of the seats, neither of us voluntarily claiming one first, standing toe to toe, our gazes locking.
A band seems to tug our bodies closer; I feel our shared connection in my chest and see it in the dilation of her soft blue eyes. The howl of memories is like a heavy wind that refuses to be ignored. I’d buried my pain over the news of a search for Rebecca’s body in Crystal’s body. I’d been weak, drunk, hurting. I’d tried to recover with a business-from-this-point-forward talk.
But when I’d walked Crystal, not Ms. Smith, to a private jet the next day, I’d needed to touch her, to taste her one last time—the “one last time” I’d never had with Rebecca. My weakened armor had dropped, and I’d pulled her to me and kissed the hell out of her.
And damn it to hell, I want to do that again.