Sweet Surrender: Page2

Maya Banks (2008)

Page 2

“Faith, I’ve been thinking. ”

She turned her head back to John. Panic hit her square in the chest. Surely nothing good ever came of a man saying he’d been thinking. Men just didn’t think, and they certainly weren’t prone to expressing those thoughts over pillow talk.

He shifted until he lay on his side facing her.

“I’ve been thinking too, John,” she blurted.

He raised his eyebrow. “You first. ”

She rose up on her elbow and stared nervously down at him. Her mind raced to come up with a coherent way to put what she wanted to say.

“Why don’t you plan our date tomorrow night? You decide what we’ll do, where to eat. And maybe afterwards we could come back here, and you could…I don’t know, tie me up, or do something kinky. Basically whatever you want to do. Your choice. ”

What a disaster. Could she have stated it any more awkwardly? She bit her lip as she waited for his response.

His eyes widened. Was that surprise or was it excitement?

“Uhm, I’m not sure I follow,” he said uneasily.

Definitely not excitement.

“I want you to take charge,” she said softly.

He sat up in bed and rubbed his head. “Faith, where on earth did this come from?”

Her cheeks burned, and she swallowed. God, she felt stupid. Nothing like sending a man running in the opposite direction.

“Are you unhappy with the way things are? Is that what you’re trying to say?” he asked.

She thought about lying and backtracking. It’s what she’d done in the last relationship. And the one before that. But that wasn’t getting her anywhere.

“I wouldn’t say unhappy. Exactly. ”

“Then what would you say?” he prompted.

“I’m not satisfied,” she said quietly.

“You mean sexually?”

She looked up to see him staring intently at her, irritation lighting his eyes.

“No. It’s not just about the sex, John. If it was, maybe I could deal with it. It’s more than that. I want…I want a man who can take charge. Make decisions. Be…in control. And not just in the bedroom. ”

“And I’m not that man. ”

She twisted her fingers together, bending and squeezing. “You haven’t been. ”

He cursed softly under his breath. “You want me to change?”

She gazed sadly at him. “No. That’s not fair. To you or me. I guess…I guess I just hoped maybe you could be that man. ”

“Damn it, Faith, you make it sound like it’s over between us. What is this? Some fantasy you want me to act out? I can do that. I mean if you mean role playing, but it doesn’t sound like you want a temporary situation. ”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t. I want—no, I need this. And that’s the thing. There have been men who would be more than willing to spend a night playing the dominant male, but it ends there. I don’t want it to end. ” She leaned forward, willing him to understand. “Does that make sense?”

He scrubbed a hand over his face and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Yeah, it makes sense. ”

She reached out to touch him, and he flinched away from her. “I don’t know what to say. Are you angry?”

A harsh sound escaped his lips as he blew his breath out in a rush. “No. Yes. Hell, I don’t know. I feel like you dropped a damn anvil on my head. ”

He reached out and cupped her chin in his hand. He stroked his thumb over her cheek as he stared into her eyes. “I knew…I knew something wasn’t right between us. I didn’t expect this, but I knew you weren’t as happy as you could be. Or should be. I want you to be happy, Faith. Hell, I want me to be happy. And I guess we just don’t do it for each other. ”

He quirked one corner of his mouth up in a semblance of a grin, and she relaxed.

“You weren’t satisfied either,” she accused.

His smile turned into a rueful grin. “I guess I won’t get into trouble for saying no then. ”

She flopped back onto the bed and let out a giggle. “Don’t we make a good pair. Lying here naked after sex, breaking up. ”

He leaned over her, his expression serious. “You’re a terrific woman, Faith. I’d hoped for more between us, and I admire the guts it took for you to tell me what you wanted. ”

“So you don’t think I’m a perverted sicko?”

“No, but I want you to promise me you’ll be careful. A lot of men out there would take advantage of the type of situation you want. They wouldn’t have your pleasure or best interests at heart. ”

“Thanks, John,” she said softly as she reached up to touch his face.

He bent and kissed her cheek before sliding out of bed to get dressed.

Faith sat behind her desk at Malone and Sons Security and nibbled absently at her pencil. The office was quiet today. Pop and the others were out on a job bid with the new guy, and she was left to ponder alone. Never a good thing.

John had left the night before instead of staying over as he usually would. But then breaking up had a way of pushing a man out of bed. She could console herself with the fact that apparently, he’d been as unsatisfied with her as she had with him, so she doubted he was suffering a broken heart.

She, on the other hand, was well on her way to major funkdom. Maybe she had been too subtle. Too afraid. Too ashamed of her needs and desires. It certainly wasn’t something she’d ever discuss with her girlfriends, not that she had many. They’d probably vote to kick her out of the league of women upon hearing just what it was Faith wanted in a man.

Last night had been the first time she’d actually voiced the dark desires floating around in her head. Not that she’d gone into any great detail. Just the brief mention had made her cheeks burn with embarrassment.

But that had to end. Now.

Subtlety was not her friend. It wasn’t getting her anywhere with the men she’d been involved with. Hinting and hoping wasn’t the way. No, she had to be more proactive. More forceful. If she didn’t make it clear what she wanted, then how could she ever expect to get it?

The ringing phone interrupted her melancholy train of thought, and she reached gratefully for it.

“Malone and Sons,” she greeted.

“Hi sweetie, it’s Mom. ”

Faith’s heart plummeted. A sick curl began swelling in her stomach, and she had to physically restrain the urge to hang the phone back up. God, it had been a year since she’d heard from her mother. A year of no hysterics, no martyr acts, no lame excuses.

“Mom,” she said faintly. “How are you?” Stupid question. Her mother was never all right. Always some crisis.

“I’m in trouble, Faith. I need your help. ”

Faith closed her eyes and bit down on her lip. Through the receiver, she heard a sound like cars passing on a highway. Was her mother at a pay phone? It wasn’t likely Celia could afford a cell phone.

Don’t ask, Faith. No questions. You don’t want to know anyway.

“Faith, are you there?”

“I’m here,” Faith whispered. If only she hadn’t answered the phone.

“I need to borrow some money, baby. Just a little to tide me over until I get another job and a place to live. ”

Faith swallowed back the stark disappointment and closed her eyes to call back the sting of tears. As dumb as it was to hope that one day Celia Martin would get her act together, Faith clung to it nonetheless.

Why couldn’t she have a mother? A real mother. Someone not so bent on screwing up everything in her path who could have a real relationship with her daughter.

“Faith, I really need it this time, honey. I’ll pay you back, of course. ”

Of course. What a laugh. Faith’s hand squeezed the receiver of the phone until a sharp pain snaked up her arm.

“Not this time, Mom,” Faith said, surprising herself with her refusal.

The long, silent pause that settled over the line told Faith that her mother was just as surprised.

“But honey, I need the money to get by. ” Desperation edged Celia’s voice. She became more forceful. “I told you I’d pay you back. I have to find a place to live, buy gas and food. As soon as I get settled and find another job, I’ll be okay. ”

“That’s what you say every time,” Faith said quietly. “Only it never ends. I can’t continue to bail you out. It’s time you took some responsibility for yourself. ”

Before Celia could respond, Faith gently replaced the phone on the receiver. Her hands shook as she pushed away from the desk.

“Is everything okay?”

She jerked her head up as she heard the strange voice. Leaning on the doorframe of her office door was a man. And not just any man. He took up the entire doorway.

“C-can I help you?”

He stood upright and walked the remaining distance to her desk. He stuck out his hand to her. “Gray Montgomery. The new guy. ”

Her mouth rounded to an O. She slid her hand into his and instead of shaking it, he merely held on and squeezed gently.

“I’m Faith Malone. ”

He smiled, and his blue eyes twinkled at her. “I know. ”

She blew out her breath. “Of course, you know. I’m the only woman who works here, so I couldn’t be anyone else. ”

“Am I interrupting anything?” he asked as he let go of her hand and gestured to the phone. “You seemed upset. ”

She shook her head and continued to stare up at him. Lordy, but he was an intimidating sort. “It was nothing. Was there something you wanted?”

The phone rang, and she jumped about a foot. The sick feeling in her stomach returned with a vengeance. It was probably her mother. She continued to stare at the phone, unwilling to pick it up, not wanting to deal with an overwrought mother who manipulated her at every turn.

A large hand covered the receiver and yanked it up.

“Malone’s,” Gray bit out. There was a long pause, and he looked up at Faith with that searing gaze. “I’m sorry, but she stepped out for a moment. Can I take a message?”

Please, please don’t leave a message. She couldn’t take some hysterical spiel from her mother. Not to a complete stranger.

Gray put the phone back down.

“Thank you,” she said quietly.

“No problem. Are you okay? I got the impression you definitely didn’t want to talk to whoever was on the phone before. ”

She shivered as he continued to stare at her with those intense blue eyes. “I’m fine. Really. Now, was there something you wanted?” she asked again.

The corners of his mouth quirked up in an amused smile. “You trying to get rid of me?”

She flushed. “Sorry, of course not. I’m very glad to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you from Pop and Connor. Are you settling in well? I haven’t seen you around the office. ”

Shut up, Faith. She wanted to drop her head on her desk. She sounded like a complete airhead.

He cleared his throat. “I’m glad to meet you as well. I’ve also heard a lot about you from Pop and Connor. I’m moved into the apartment just fine, and this is my first time in to the office. ”

His eyes twinkled as he continued to regard her with a smile. Beautiful eyes too. Deep, rich blue. He wore his hair short, spiked slightly on top. Probably didn’t have to do much more than rub a towel over it, wave a comb in the general direction and go.

“I was hoping you could direct me to my office?”

She blinked and yanked herself from her slow perusal of his attributes. She stood up, knocking her knee against the desk. Pain shot up her thigh, and she grimaced.

He raised a brow but didn’t comment. She opened her top desk drawer and rummaged around a few seconds before pulling out a set of keys.

“These are the keys to your office and to the building. I’m sure Pop has given you all the security codes, but if not, I’ll write them down for you. ”

She thrust them toward him, and his hand closed around hers once more. A warm tingle skittered across her skin as his thumb brushed across her knuckles. She yanked her hand back and walked around the desk toward the door. When she reached the hallway, she turned back to see him still watching her. She was pretty sure he’d been eyeballing her ass, but as soon as she’d turned around, his gaze shot upward.

“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you your office. ”

He pushed off from where he’d leaned his butt on her desk and started toward her. She swiveled back around and walked three doors down to the vacant office that had been assigned to him.

She opened the door but didn’t go in. She gestured inside with her hand. “Here you are. If you need anything, let me know. ”

“I’ll do that,” he said in a low voice as he walked by her.

Gray felt her gaze, knew she was watching him as he moved inside the doorway. They’d both done their share of looking. When Mick had given him details on Faith Malone, Gray hadn’t expected her to be so beautiful. Or so innocent looking.