Compromising Kessen

  It was awesome.

  He went above and beyond the call of duty, so she did what any normal girl would do. She stood up and clapped. Whistles from Nick and Duncan soon followed the clapping. It was obvious both of them were relieved to be the ones serving dinner.

  Christian did a little twirl and a bow, and then seated himself straight across from Kessen. For some reason, she felt uncomfortable.

  It wasn’t supposed to go like this; he was supposed to be mortified and angry. Instead, he was taking it in stride, as if he had done it before.

  It made her nervous.

  He smiled at her knowingly.

  Then he began humming.

  He went through the entire list, twice, and when he was finished singing he sauntered to his seat, but not before winking at her.

  Dinner was gone, and all the boys were now seated with her in the dining room. Christian didn’t say a word. He simply left the room, only to return dressed head-to-toe in a three-piece suit.

  Kessen looked to Duncan and Nick, who were trying unsuccessfully to hide their smiles.

  “What are you doing?” Kessen asked.

  Christian smirked. “Well, I did hum all the songs. Did I not provide you with acceptable enough entertainment and fulfill my end of the bargain?”

  “Well, yes, but—”

  “No buts. Now it’s my turn to continue dating in my fashion.”

  She laughed. “Oh, yeah. And how do you plan to do that?”

  Duncan and Nick looked at Christian, both grinning like complete idiots.

  “I intend to seduce you.”

  “Hear, hear!” Nick shouted. Duncan whistled and hit the lights.

  This was not good. Not good at all. She thought of a million things she could say to deter him from his present state of mind, but was rendered speechless when he sat at the piano.

  “Oh no,” she said out loud, putting her hands on her already red face.

  Duncan nudged her. “Don’t you mean ‘Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Yes?’”

  Her glare turned hot on his face as he shrugged his shoulders innocently and crossed his arms. “Kessen’s nervous,” he said under his breath, so only Nick and she could hear.

  Nick nodded his head sadly. “She doesn’t have much experience with men, poor dear.”

  “Ah, I see. I wonder how many other men have tried to tutor our young Kessen in the ways of the world,” Duncan said out loud.

  Nick held out his hands. “It can’t be more than two. No, I couldn’t imagine that. She’s probably nervous because she’s so innocent. It happens, you know.”

  Duncan slapped his hand across Kessen’s back. “Don’t worry, Christian will take good care of you.”

  “That’s what I’m afraid of,” she mumbled.

  And then it began.

  Christian played like a pro. It was as if every key on the piano reached up to greet his fingers before he even put pressure to it. The music glided through the room and made emotion ripple in her chest as if she were part of the song he was playing. Embarrassingly, she found herself with her eyes closed when the music ended.

  She quickly opened them to see all three boys smugly grinning in her direction.

  “Like taking candy from a baby.” Nick chuckled.

  She scowled and crossed her arms. The disappointment was evident on her face when Christian got up from his seat behind the piano to stand in front of it. Duncan replaced him and began playing Maroon 5. Stupid Nick; she would kill him. He had told them the biggest secret of all.

  Kessen had a sick obsession with Maroon 5 songs, and one in particular which was extra-sensual. She would never have admitted such to anyone other than her best friend, the dirty little traitor. She threw a pillow at him, but naturally he ducked just in time to feather his hands into a wave, an expression of pure satisfaction plastered across his chiseled face.

  And that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

  Suddenly Christian was singing.

  “Oh no, not good, no, no ,no,” she chanted to herself, then out of desperation, closed her eyes.

  He continued to croon right in front of her chair. “I know I don’t know you, but I want you, so bad.”

  Even her body was treacherous. She was tingling all over. It took every ounce of restraint not to physically attach herself to his person.

  She opened one eye and caught him taking off his jacket. Out of desperation she sat on her hands.

  Oh, Lord.

  Then his suspenders.

  She gulped.

  Then his shoes, which wasn’t that big of a deal except for the fact he was prolonging the inevitable.

  It was suddenly extremely hot in that room. She looked to Nick and Duncan for help but they had retreated and left her there in the lion’s den. God help her, she wanted nothing more than to be eaten alive.

  Christian was still singing and humming. She noticed the boys had put the actual song on the sound system.

  They were completely alone in a dark room with candles, and the most sensual song she had ever heard. Panicked, she closed her eyes again.

  Christian took it as an invitation to completely crowd her space.

  She felt his hot breath on her face as he whispered the seductive words into her hair. Instinctively, she opened her mouth—for what, she didn’t know. A kiss? Air? To scream? Any of the above would have probably sufficed.

  His voice was velvety smooth and breathless. “Tell me all your secrets. I’ll keep them, I swear.“

  How was it possible he sounded better than Adam Levine himself? And why did Nick have to go spilling all of her secrets about men who could sing and play the piano? And why did Christian have to be good at absolutely everything? Well, everything but paintball.

  One point for Kessen.

  Then she opened her eyes in time to see his lips inches from hers.

  Ten points Christian. Heck, she’d give him her point if he’d just kiss her and continue looking at her as if she was the most delicious thing on the menu.

  Chapter Nineteen

  Christian hadn’t meant for it to go this far. When Kessen closed her eyes he motioned for the guys to leave. Naturally they were reluctant to bow out of a free show, but they dragged their feet to the door and turned the lights even lower for him. Not that he needed a more sensual mood than he already had going.

  He would have cursed if it wouldn’t have broken the moment. Unfortunately, he was too good. Too good. He was supposed to be seducing her, not himself in the process!

  Here he was crooning a song Nick said was her most guilty pleasure, and her expression nearly undid him. It was definitely supposed to be the other way around. He focused on the wall for a few seconds before he continued his seduction.

  He was a Vandenbrook, for crying out loud. He liked her; they were getting married. He could do this!

  After about five more seconds of mental coaching, he pulled Kessen into his arms and began slow dancing with her. The heat radiating from her body was toxic to every remaining sane brain cell, rendering him completely without logical thought.

  Other parts of his body had ideas of their own, though, as she pressed closer into him.

  And then he heard a voice.

  He cursed—in his head, of course—as Kessen began singing the first part of the song. Apparently the song was on repeat, which normally would have upset him at his friend’s incompetence. Instead he wanted to stay in that moment forever.

  She ran her delicate fingers across his bare chest. “I know I don’t know you, but I want you so bad.“

  Troublesome woman and her amazing ability to do anything she set her mind to. Her voice was husky and, unfortunately for him, perfect.

  He captured her lip between his teeth and let out a slow moan as she responded eagerly.

  In that moment he realized he desperately wanted to ruin her. He wanted all of her. It was the basest, most purely masculine thought he had ever had in his entire existence. No doubt morally upstanding gentlemen were not supposed
to think such erotic thoughts, but here he was, fighting his own battle over what he was going to do with his hands as he slid his tongue into Kessen’s mouth.

  First, he made a mental note to again thank Nick for his superb teaching skills. Next, he wanted to punch him in the face for ever touching her; and finally, he wanted to find out if her skills extended beyond kissing.

  A man in need, want, and a pool of wicked desire—Kessen’s grandmother would have him shot on the spot, if she knew the things he was thinking, things he didn’t even want to admit he had been thinking.

  She arched her back against him, and again all mental scolding ceased as he pulled her into his embrace and possessively wrapped his body around hers.

  Red flags began flashing through his brain, but his body was doing its best to ignore them. Talk about a battle of conscience.

  He moved his hands to trace the outline of her perfect body in her tight little red dress. If she hadn’t already been compromised by the media, he would turn on his camera phone and ruin her reputation for good, especially if it meant she was stuck with him.

  A door slammed in the distance, jolting both of them from their seduced state.

  He jumped back in shock as she jerked up to her elbows. Her lips were swollen and hair a mess. He would have to be a complete idiot to stop kissing her now. Her eyes were glazed as if drugged, and he realized he must look the exact same way.

  “You’re too good,” she said, flushing.

  “My sentiments exactly,” he mumbled, clearly upset about the interruption.

  She shot him a helpless look, but he kept his expression stoic.

  His blood was pounding in his ears; he needed to regain the moment they had just lost. Later he would have words with Nick and Duncan for merely breathing too loudly, let alone for slamming doors and snapping them both out of their pleasurable trance.

  The door to the room flew open just in time for Christian to adequately push away and for Kessen to try to put her hair in a quick ponytail.

  Duncan and Nick stood at the doorway; dessert in hand and with innocent looks on their faces.

  “We thought you two might want dessert,” Duncan interjected.

  “We were having dessert,” Christian mumbled.

  Nick coughed. “Heard that.”

  “I loathe you,” Christian seethed to both of them.

  Kessen looked like she was about to die from embarrassment when Nick handed her a bowl of ice cream and said, “I wanted to protect your flower.”

  She groaned and put her head in a pillow as Nick and Duncan started cracking up and hitting Christian in the arm.

  “What type of guy do you think I am?” he asked, exasperated.

  “The kind who seduces young innocents who had to pay their best friend to kiss them, so they would know how?” Nick said it as more of a question.

  “You paid him?” Christian asked, turning towards her.

  “Worst. Night. Ever,” she said through gritted teeth as she glared at Nick.

  Duncan laughed. “Relax, Kessen. We’re only protecting you two. Trust us, it’s better this way. Neither of you know everything about the other. For example, what if Christian is allergic to cats, and you have ten cats? What would happen?”

  “Terrible marriage!” Nick finished for him. “Or how about this? You guys are both super happy for a year, then one of you wants kids and the other never wanted kids. Then one resents the other, and before you know it…”

  Duncan sighed. “Separate bedrooms and we cannot have that on our hands. No, we can’t.”

  Nick nodded his head in agreement. “It is our responsibility.”

  “Nay, our duty!” Duncan interrupted. “To make sure you both know exactly what you’re getting into before this weekend.”

  Christian felt worried. A quick glance told him Kessen was positively outraged.

  “I’ll go first.” Nick cleared his throat. “The very short, very exciting biography of Kessen Newberry.”

  “Oh no,” she mumbled into the couch pillows.

  Christian laughed. “Okay, you’ve got me curious. Please, continue.”

  “Thank you.” He bowed dreadfully, and then continued, “Kessen grew up in the beautiful state of Colorado.”

  He cleared his throat at Duncan.

  Duncan jumped in suddenly. “Oh right, sorry.” He opened up a map and pointed to Colorado.

  Nick continued, “She was a small girl, awkward and weird. Many thought she would never have any friends, considering she talked to more animals than she did people. In fact, her father had to pay a certain particularly handsome little boy to play with her for a half hour every Saturday.” He pointed to himself with an ironic smirk.

  Kessen groaned.

  “Anyway, after a while he didn’t need to pay me anymore. I would go over to her house just because she was exciting. We climbed trees, made mud pies, told each other secrets, and captured frogs in the pond by her house. I knew she was from a rich, aristocratic family, but I didn’t feel intimidated, because my own family was in the oil industry.”

  Christian stole a look at Kessen’s face; she looked amused. He turned his attention back to Nick.

  “I introduced Sammy, my fiancée, to Kessen, and they also became quick friends. Sammy is the, um, stable one of the three of us. We were like the three Musketeers as Kessen grew into a young lady through middle school. I was the one who fought off the boys who tried to hit on her and held her hand when she got a bad grade, which wasn’t often. She had a relatively normal childhood, but it was mixed with tragedy when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Her days were filled with much sadness, which I alleviated greatly by taking her to the library, so she could read and escape the sad world she was so used to living in.”

  Kessen laughed nervously. “Thus the romance novels.”

  “I blame myself entirely,” Nick said, putting a hand across his heart. “In high school, she played all sports, and I mean all. She even managed to be on leadership and do cheerleading. Her first real date was with the point guard from our basketball team. All the girls loved him, including Kessen, but she was afraid he would kiss her. So that’s when I stepped in and took one for the team.”

  Duncan gave Nick a little shoulder rub as if to say, “Atta boy.”

  Christian rolled his eyes. “And she paid you?”

  “Well, not with money.”

  Something akin to murder flashed across Christian’s features before Nick continued.

  “I had a huge crush on Sammy, but she only thought of me as a friend. Kessen helped her see me differently. It took a Michael Jackson impersonation and a quick makeout session, but I’m happy to say she’s been mine ever since.

  “Fast forward to college, we all attended Ivy Leagues, and Kessen decided she wanted to go into business. She graduated early, earned her master’s, and in her free time dedicated as much volunteer time as possible at the local hospice where her mother was staying. She also read to her mother every single Vandenbrook romance novel on the market. I can still remember them having Vandenbrook Saturdays, as they called them at the hospice center. Her father never knew; he always considered Kessen to be extremely logical.”

  Christian suddenly had a great deal more respect for the stupid romance novels, which had helped Kessen’s mother through that hard end to her life.

  The mood seemed to change to something sad, so Christian asked, “What’s her most embarrassing moment?”

  Kessen opened her mouth to speak, but Nick put his hand up. “I’ll take this one. It happened like this—Kessen had a crush on this boy.”

  Kessen looked away in fear; Christian was ecstatic to hear the rest of the story. “Please continue,” he urged.

  “This boy … well, let’s call him Tom. That okay with you, Kessen?”

  A whimper was heard from her direction on the couch. Christian tried to keep his face straight.

  “So Kessen found Tom attractive. The problem with Tom was, Tom didn’t know Kessen existed. So Kessen, i
n a flash of pure brilliance, decided she would find out his likes and dislikes and then pretend to like them too. She followed him home for three weeks straight, taking notes on where he hung out and what he did. Finally after the third week, a cop showed up and arrested her. Turns out, Tom had seen her stalking him the whole time and thought she was some sort of psycho out to get him. He did have a rather inflated view of himself, so it was totally logical to him a girl would stalk and kill him. Anyway, imagine his surprise when it turned out to be Kessen. He ended up not pressing charges, but he did obtain a restraining order against her, because he feared for his life.”

  “I switched schools,” Kessen admitted.

  Christian laughed. “How old were you?”

  “I was only fourteen!” she said defensively. “And I was still going through that awkward phase!”

  “Still?” Duncan said patronizingly.

  She stuck her tongue out at him. “As much fun as it’s been to go down memory lane, I believe it’s time to turn the tables. Duncan, if you would be so kind.”

  He saluted. “Right away, my lady.”

  Duncan cleared his throat. “Our story now takes us across the Atlantic to the tiny country of England. Our boy Christian was born in London. Nick, if you wouldn’t mind.”

  “Of course.” Nick held open the map and pointed to London, England.

  “Thank you, Nick.”

  “Of course.”

  Duncan cleared his throat again. “He had a relatively normal childhood. That is, if normal includes having a nanny most of your life, and your mother and father sending baby pictures of you to the newspaper and local television stations, and women begging to betroth themselves to you at the ripe age of eight.”

  Christian winced. He had forgotten about all the betrothal offers. How embarrassing.

  Kessen blanched. “They still do that?”

  “The Brits and their blue bloods,” Nick said wistfully, obviously making fun of Kessen’s interest.

  Duncan pointed at Christian. “We grew up together. I immediately wanted to be friends with Christian, mainly because he had more toys, and his parents let him throw mud.”

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