Chapter 2 - Seven Nights of Sin (Penthouse Affair #2)

Back at home, I take a deep breath, trying to slow my heart, and guide Presley toward the guest room. She watches me with wide eyes, pausing in the center of the plush carpeting with her heels dangling from one hand.

“Get comfortable,” I say in a gruff voice, then head straight to the kitchen to pour myself a neat Scotch. On second thought, I make it a double. I’ll need some serious alcohol if I have any hope in hell of falling asleep tonight with this swarm of contradictory emotions fighting in my gut.

And with Presley sleeping just a few yards away, whispers a voice from deep in the less-evolved parts of my mind. Here with me, in my home, where we once shared so many happy memories.

I drink like I’m forcing down medicine. No, I’m not going to dwell on her. I’m not happy she’s here. Go the fuck to sleep and deal with it in the morning, like I told her. Stick to the plan.

Francine steps into the kitchen and watches me. I didn’t even bother to turn on a light, and in the dim glow cast by the moon, I can see her frown as she watches me. She must have a million questions about what’s going on between Presley and me, but I have exactly zero answers. It’s a very unusual predicament for me.

“Thanks for coming in. I’m sorry it’s so late,” I say, my throat hoarse from the liquor.

She makes a sympathetic noise and crosses the room to stand before me. For a moment, I think she’s about to hug me, which surprises me because Francine and I have never had any kind of physical contact. Even though she’s always treated me with a motherly warmth, it’s always lacked any affection, which has been just fine by me. But rather than hug me, she reaches around me and grabs her purse from the counter.

“Good night, Dominic. Try to get some rest. You need it.” She touches my forearm once, pats it softly, and then disappears around me toward the door.

“Drive safe,” I mutter into the darkness.

Once the tumbler is empty, I head back down the hall. But something slows me as I walk past the guest room.

It occurs to me that I never checked to make sure Presley was okay. What’s wrong with me? That client clearly scared her—she called me begging for help—and I didn’t even bother asking about what happened.

I need to know if he hurt her, did something to upset her. Touched her. There will be hell to pay with Allure if that prick did something to her. Their screening process is supposed to be rigorous, specifically to keep sick fucks away from their escorts.

The idea of Presley entertaining another man is an unpleasant one. I shake my head. Dammit, I don’t care who she did or didn’t fuck, taking care of her is just the right thing to do. I’d do the same for anyone in the same situation. Wouldn’t I?

I’ll just check on her quickly, I tell myself, and then head to bed. Just to see if she needs any help. She’s a guest, and she’s my employee, something bad obviously happened tonight . . . it’s the least I can do.

I ease open the door as quietly as possible and peek in. She’s facing away, her dark hair spilled luxuriously over the pillow. Her side rises and falls in a gentle, even rhythm. Fast asleep.

I should leave now. So, naturally, I find myself seated on the edge of the bed because I’ve made some pretty stellar decisions when it comes to this woman, obviously.

Her lovely face is peaceful. As far as I can tell in the dim moonlight, there are no bruises or any other marks, thank God. The covers have slipped, revealing her bare shoulder and the strap of her dress. It’s

obvious she would sleep in her clothes, without anything to change into, and because I didn’t even offer her one of my T-shirts to wear. Real smooth, Dom.

I carefully pull the top blanket back over her, and she sighs.

What am I doing?

I have no idea. Maybe I never did.

• • •

I must have fallen asleep sitting up, just like I used to do next to the girls’ cribs when they were babies and restless, because I quickly wake at the sound of the toilet flushing. I grunt and rub my eyes before glancing at the clock on the nightstand. Three in the damn morning. Terrific.

Presley pads barefoot out of the en-suite bathroom, spots me, and freezes. “Dom?”

I clear my throat. Coming in here was obviously a mistake. I don’t act like this . . . ever—but here I fucking am.

“I came to ask if you needed anything, but you were asleep.”

She nods, not moving any closer.

“I guess I fell asleep too,” I admit. “Are you okay?”

She moves to sit on the bed, giving me a wide berth. Because she doesn’t want to be near me, or because she thinks I don’t want to be near her? I do . . . which is precisely why I shouldn’t.

“I’m okay,” she says.

“What happened tonight?”

She looks down at her hands, stalling for time. “I went out with a client. I told you that. I needed the money.” Her voice is small, barely above a whisper, the embarrassment about her financial situation obvious in her tone.

“And your client?” I ask, my voice cold.

She looks up, meeting my eyes. “He was an asshole.”

Rage stirs in my veins. Knowing that she went out with another man shouldn’t bother me this much, but it does. I was the first man to touch her, the first inside her. The intimate moments we shared meant something. Although apparently all that’s behind her now.

“I see. So you’ve sucked two dicks now?” I ask.

Her face tightens, on the verge of crumpling. “It didn’t get that far,” she says, her voice choked and wavering. She swallows hard. “In fact . . . when he tried to push me into touching him, that’s when I ran away.”

I shouldn’t have said that. It was mean and pointless, and it just leaped out of my mouth like a toad.

Feeling like an asshole, I look away. “Did he hurt you?”

She shakes her head. “He was really gross, but not violent.”

“Did he touch you?”

“Yes. Not, uh, anywhere under my clothes, though.”

I consider asking for his name, then decide it’s better for me not to know or else I might hunt him down and kill him.

“Gia told me it would just be dinner,” she says. “Just companionship.”

“Then that’s what she believed it would be. This piece of shit must have been trying to game the system by lying on his request form. Report him and enjoy the fireworks.”

Presley manages a feeble heh. Her weak smile tugs at my insides. I can’t spend all night in here or I’ll do something I’ll regret.

I stand up and start for the door. “Get some sleep.”


Her tiny voice stops me in the doorway.

“I really wasn’t going to go along with Austin’s plan. I’d never sabotage anyone’s company like that, let alone yours. When he first approached me, I thought it was a happy coincidence. I thought he wanted to be . . . friends.”

She wets her lips. “But then after a few get-togethers, he told me what he really wanted, and of course, it was all a setup from the very beginning. He was saying all these things about what happened with Aspen and Genesis that didn’t match the official story. I just didn’t know what to think about it all, so I took his dossier home to read later.”

Instead of turning and walking away like I should, I ask coldly, “And the jump drive?”

“I was going to analyze the files on it and then hand it over to IT.” Her eyes beg me to believe her.

“I want to believe you.” I drag my hand over the stubble on my cheek with a loud, aggravated sigh. I’m just so drained. “Maybe I do. But I still don’t know where we stand, whether I can trust you anymore.” Even if I wanted to.

She presses her lips together, blinking fast, then nods. “That’s fair. I just . . . wanted to tell you.”

“I have to check on the girls, and you need to get some rest.” At the threshold, I add a quiet “Good night.”

Everything should have already ended between us. But closing the door still feels like I’m tearing something fragile apart for good.

It scares me how much I hate it.