Compromising Kessen

  Maybe they were more lenient in Europe?

  She took a sip of water and stole another quick glance in his direction. It was hard to ignore how built he was, yet she had never seen him work out. Then again, it wasn’t as if they had been living together; how would she even know?

  Her gaze traced down the curve of his triceps and ended at his clenched hands. He truly did take this whole driving thing seriously.


  Christian felt like he would snap any second.

  He was tightly wound, and unfortunately, the reason for his stress was sitting next to him dozing off. She was falling asleep!

  How did a person fall asleep at a time like this?

  The tension could have been cut with a knife, and she was closing her eyes! Oh, how he wished he could close his eyes and push out the images of her body pressed against his.

  One would think that after kissing her on numerous occasions, the desire would fade, but it did nothing but fan the flame. It took every brain cell in his possession to stay focused on the road instead of her.

  He turned on the air conditioner, hoping to wake himself from his sensual state. He suddenly realized the error of his ways when the scent of musky perfume floated through the car. Christian contemplated not breathing, but decided death was probably a little extreme at this point.

  The perfume was toxic to his body, making him think thoughts he shouldn’t be entertaining. He looked at Kessen and relaxed a bit. At least her eyes weren’t open. He didn’t know how to control himself when she was looking at him the way she so often did.

  They would be at his country home within a few minutes. It was getting late; he needed a good night’s sleep and a shot of something strong.

  By the time he pulled into the driveway of his house, he had mentally counted every tie in his closet, and recited Job 31:3 (which was the only verse his parents shoved down his throat at a young age); it talked about lusting after things of the flesh, which he thought fit the situation perfectly.

  Maybe if he remembered what Job had to go through, he would be able to stop thinking about Kessen. It didn’t work, because somehow in the midst of reciting Job he got to thinking about books, then about how she read the books about his family. He wondered if she wished the two of them could be in a book, and what would happen in such a book if they were in it together … alone.

  How would the scenes play out?

  Needless to say, that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

  He needed to stop role-playing in his mind. He’d never been guilty of day-dreaming before meeting Kessen. Apparently, it was one of her many charms. He felt totally disarmed.

  Once he parked, he went around to her side and carefully opened her car door and nudged her to wake up.

  She wouldn’t budge; instead, she wrapped her warm hands around his neck and pulled him down to her level.

  He swore.

  He jerked back suddenly, allowing her to topple to the ground. It was either that or ravish her in his driveway. He thought she would appreciate his choice had he had time to explain himself, which he didn’t.

  Instead he was met with a string of expletives which would have made Kessen’s grandma blush. Consequently, it just made him more aroused.


  Because that’s just what he needed at this point.

  He picked her up off the ground and dusted her off. “Sorry about that. I slipped.”

  She glared. “Slipped my—”

  He covered her mouth with his hand. “No more swearing. It isn’t ladylike.”

  “Neither is dropping someone when they’re in a dead sleep!”

  “I said I was sorry!” he barked.

  She stuck out her tongue and grabbed her bags. “Aren’t we supposed to be dating? Doesn’t that mean you’re supposed to turn the charm on?”

  Christian snickered. “I already have, sweetheart. What, you couldn’t tell?”

  She mumbled something under her breath and slammed the door. “Stupid British men, dropping women and seducing them in gardens.”

  “I’ll forgive you for your inability to complete actual sentences, considering I did just wake you out of a dead sleep. You’re not at your sarcastic best at this point.”

  She sent him a chilly glare. He walked out of the line of fire and opened the door. It smelled like home. He had missed this house immensely. Kessen was sure to love it, considering her unhealthy obsession with his family’s heritage.

  A smile began forming as Kessen took in the huge entry. “This is perfect.” Her voice held no previous disdain from being dropped. For some reason it made Christian pause to think, something he hadn’t been doing a lot of lately.

  “Does it remind you of home?” he asked.

  She turned around to face him. “Actually, it does. Does that seem weird to you?”

  He shrugged. “No, I actually did have two purposes for bringing you here. First, you are absolutely obsessed with those stupid books about my family; and second, I knew you probably wanted to get away. We have been mauled by the paparazzi for the past two days. This is the place which came to mind. It’s famous, as you already know. But it’s also very cozy and has a crazy woodland feel to it.”

  “It feels like a fairy tale,” she said, doing a little twirl. To say this girl was hard to figure out would be an understatement.

  Kessen looked more awake now that she was walking around exploring. He could hear her “ooh” and “ahh” from the entry. He brought the rest of the luggage in and set out to find her.

  It wasn’t hard to guess where she’d be. She was sitting in the sun room, which faced the garden where the famous wedding took place in the book series.

  She must have sensed his presence, because she started talking.

  “What was your childhood like? And please remember I’ve read all the books about your family. Though none of them included you—probably because that story’s yet to be written. Is any of it true? Before you answer, I also feel the need to remind you that you could crush all my dreams in one second by being too truthful.”

  Christian let out a chuckle and joined her on the couch. “Actually, you’d be surprised to find out that most of the books are true. Naturally, the author adds details to make the situations more interesting. But the rumors of my family only marrying blue bloods or being oddly religious? All true.”

  “Did your great-grandfather really marry the servant girl?” she asked pleadingly.

  Christian felt ill. He didn’t want to be honest with her, because if he was honest, she would find out his great-grandfather did marry the servant girl, but then he cheated on her with a duchess from the ton and ended up sending the same servant girl to the countryside to live in a nunnery.

  He decided to lie.

  “They lived happily ever after.”

  She beamed.

  He felt better.

  “I bet your childhood was amazing,” she said in a quiet voice. “Not that I’m saying mine wasn’t.”

  “Of course,” he said agreeably.

  “My father would probably disown me if he knew how much of a fantasy I actually lived in when I was small. I think it’s why I like books so much. I mean, how romantic is it to know your parents married for love, and that your aristocratic father left London to move to America with his wife?”

  Christian didn’t say anything; he didn’t have to. They were sharing a moment, and he knew it would be ruined if he spoke. For reasons he didn’t have the energy to figure out, Kessen was being vulnerable. He would take what he could get.

  It was exhausting, having to defend oneself against her constant stream of sarcasm.

  “Were they happy?” he asked.

  “My parents?”

  He nodded.

  “They were more than happy. They were something you would read about in romance novels. We did hospice during the last year so they could spend time together. He was such a good caretaker. I always told myself I would never marry, unless I could find a rel
ationship like that.”

  He winced. “And now you have to marry. I’m sorry.”

  She brightened a bit. “No, it’s okay. I know you want to kill me most the time for speaking. But other than that, at least we have the whole physical attraction thing going for us.”

  “You have no idea,” he moaned, putting his head in his hands.

  She laughed. “Oh, I think I have some idea.”

  He scooted away. “To prove my point, I’m going to put at least a good two feet of space between us, so your body heat doesn’t radiate anywhere near my vicinity.”

  “If it’s too hot, stay out of the kitchen,” she snapped.

  He rolled his eyes. “Oh, Kessen, the kitchen is exactly where I want to be.”

  “I think that’s my cue to go to bed.”

  “I think you’re right.” He held out his hand, and she took it. “Your bedroom is the first hall on the right. Breakfast is served at eight. Oh, and Kessen?”

  She turned to look at him. “I have a surprise for you tomorrow morning.”

  Kessen laughed. “Interesting.”

  “I sure hope so.”

  She winked and went up the stairs, leaving Christian feeling very alone. Her presence filled the room with so much warmth, it was hard for him to imagine going back to being without her. He was nearing dangerous territory with her. It was frightening how much he was beginning to like her for her personality. His life was hard enough being merely attracted to her; what was he going to do when he couldn’t have a normal day without her constant chatter?

  Chapter Sixteen

  Kessen didn’t even remember falling asleep. She grumbled when she looked down at her wrinkly clothes; apparently she was making a habit of falling asleep before she had time to change into more appropriate attire.

  Her gaze darted around her large room in search of her suitcase. Her vision was fuzzy and sleepy, but she finally saw a flash of brown designer luggage by the door.

  She tumbled out of bed and got ready.

  By the time she reached the bottom of the stairs, she was struck with the realization that she would be getting married in six days now. It had a sobering effect on her, but looking around made her almost giddy for her marriage; it would mean she would inherit this wonderful house as well, after all, they would be married. Everything they owned would be shared unless there was some sort of evil Regency-style marriage contract she didn’t know about.

  It was kind of Christian to bring her here, not that she was starting to like him or anything. No, that could not happen. But then again he had been so sweet the night before, listening like he actually cared, and he didn’t even take advantage of her sleepiness; instead he sent her to bed. Without him. That was the big shock, not that she thought he was that type of man.

  Honestly, it was more than shocking! He didn’t even try anything! What was this feeling she was having? Was it—oh no, she moaned out loud, throwing her face into her hands. “I cannot be in love with this man.” Her voice rang through the room.

  She took a few deep breaths before bounding down the stairs.

  “Well, well, well. Look who we have here.”

  It was a familiar male voice, but no, that was impossible. It couldn’t be.

  “Nick?” Kessen asked curiously.

  “Live and in person. Wow, I thought you’d be more shocked,” he said, walking around the corner. He was in his usual style of designer jeans and Henley shirt.

  Kessen ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. “I can’t believe it! How? Why? Oh my! I missed you so much! Is Sammy here?”

  “Easy!” Nick hugged her back. “I came for the wedding, naturally, because I’m your best friend, and also because page six didn’t do you any justice. Have you been getting any sun at all over here? And no, Sammy is not here. She had to work, but we have a internet chat date tonight.”

  Kessen sighed. “I love you. Thanks so much for being here.”

  “If I wasn’t so confident in my ability to seduce young Kessen, I would almost be jealous,” Christian said, coming into the room. “Although I suppose it helps that your best friend is married to your other best friend.”

  Kessen laughed. “Don’t worry. Nick and I have never had that type of relationship.”

  Nick snorted. “Yeah, on account that she would kill me. I did tell you about the machete threat, Christian. And that was probably the tamest threat she’s ever given me.”

  “Scary.” Christian shook his head.

  “Man, you have no idea.” Nick laughed, shoving his hands into his pockets. “So, what’s this I hear about you not drinking tea, Kessen?”

  Kessen’s eyes flashed with anger as she pointed an accusing finger at Christian. “You ratted me out!”

  He backed up with hands in the air. “I did nothing of the sort. I merely explained to Nick how we met … It’s all he needs to know in order to understand the type of relationship we have.”

  “Coffee and tea don’t go well together,” Nick said to himself. “Although I see your point, Christian. She is really high strung. I wonder why? It’s not typical.”

  Kessen looked between the two in shock. Could they have bonded any more over the past few hours?

  “Well, it could be I’ve been keeping her away from sharp objects,” Christian offered.

  Nick nodded his head knowingly. “Yes, she does like to throw things.” He paused, and then turned back to Christian. “Have you tried the Wall Street Journal, or Guitar Hero?”

  “Both solid options,” Christian agreed. “I’ve actually been relying on my sensuality to coerce her into doing whatever I want. But sadly, I think those days are coming to an end. She is kind of prudish, don’t you think?”

  Nick nodded emphatically. “A complaint I often hear. She tends to panic when things get too hot and heavy, if you know what I mean. In fact, I actually had to teach her how to French kiss when we were sixteen.”

  “How did that turn out?”

  Nick shuddered. “With two black eyes and a broken tooth.”

  “Sounds about right.”

  “Yes, well, I hope you’re at least enjoying my tutelage.”

  “Oh, immensely. Thank you.” Christian shook his hand.

  Kessen was rendered mute. Who were these people? What had happened to her best friend? Without thinking, she yelled, “Pick a side, Nick!”

  “I’m sorry. Are we playing capture the flag?” he asked, confused.

  Christian shrugged his shoulders but did nothing to hide his smug grin.

  “No, you can’t be my best friend and still be his friend. It’s not possible—not okay. He’ll get an unfair advantage in all this dating business.”

  “So you’re worried about things being fair?” Christian asked.

  Kessen’s eyes darted between both men. “Exactly.”

  They both looked at one another and laughed. Nick said, “Perfect.”

  Christian said, ”I knew it.”

  It made Kessen feel dumb and furious.

  “I invited Duncan as well. I hope you don’t mind, Kessen. But I thought it would be only fair to have our two best friends here.”

  Stupid interfering men, she thought. “Wait. Does that mean I’m alone with three men in this giant house?”

  Christian smiled wickedly. “Yes, and to protect your virtue, I believe it necessary for you to move to the room which adjoins mine.” He looked to Nick. “No offense.”

  “None taken,” Nick said between coughs of laughter. “In fact, I think that’s wise, my lord Very wise.”

  Kessen yelled, then cursed and ran out of the room, leaving both men shocked with her amazing ability to make swear words sound dirtier than they actually were.

  Stomping towards the kitchen helped a little, Kessen thought, as she reached the breakfast table. It was filled high with pastries and at least four different kinds of drinks including coffee.

  Bless him.

  Interesting choice of words considering she had in fact just cursed the two men
who probably thought to put coffee on the table. She shrugged and took a sip. Bliss. Now at least she could think straight. What in the world was she going to do about Christian and Nick? The saying “all’s fair in love and war” came to mind with a vengeance.

  Of course, she could learn quite a few things from Duncan if he ever showed up. He did seem to be an open book; in fact, she had thought him a lot like Nick.

  Then again…

  It could quite possibly be the worst week of her life. Three men, all of whom teased her mercilessly and wanted nothing more than to hear her curse, just so they can feel better about their ability to taunt her.

  Drat. It was going to be a long week. The wedding wasn’t until Sunday, and it was only Monday. Well, she could always hide out. She took one of the meat pastries and sat at the table.

  Muffled voices arose from the other room, then shouts of laughter, and finally hurried steps coming her way. She closed her eyes for what she was convinced would happen next.

  “Kessen!” Duncan yelled, entering the kitchen.

  She kept her eyes closed. She told herself if her eyes were closed, none of the men would see her.

  “Is she praying?” Christian asked.

  “Doubtful. She only does that when she plays Guitar Hero,” Nick said.

  “Why?” Duncan asked.

  “It gives her an edge,” Nick explained. “Not that I’ve seen it help in any of our time playing together, but it doesn’t hurt.”

  “Ahhh,” they all said in unison. Kessen continued closing her eyes, but felt her face getting hot.

  Christian was the first to pipe up. “Do you think we should let her stay like that for a while?”

  Nick laughed. “She’s very stubborn.”

  “I’ve noticed,” Christian mumbled.

  Duncan laughed. ”Please, Christian. You’re not any better. Last year you punched yourself in the face just because someone suggested you wouldn’t be able to bruise yourself. When the doctor came, you refused pain medication because it might make you appear weak.”

  “That’s kind of childish,” Kessen mumbled.

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