By: J. S. Scott

A single tear escaped my eye as I answered. “I’m sorry, Mr. Walker, but not everything revolves around what you like or want. Life’s hard, and it stays that way.”

I’d learned that even if it was possible to survive, happiness could be elusive and fleeting. When my father was alive, I’d been happy during the rare times we’d had together, just the two of us. I’d had a small taste of happiness during those outings. Other than that, I had little experience with joy.

“It should never have been this hard for you, Eva. You’re right, I was born to privilege, but contentment can be just as difficult for everybody. Life is hard, no matter how much money you have.” Trace’s tone was even as he continued to stare, but the anger was still there. “The problems are just different.”

I contemplated his words for a moment as I lowered my head and panted against his chest anxiously, wondering if there wasn’t a little bit of truth to them. True, he didn’t have to struggle for money, but Trace Walker was far from happy. Beneath his anger, I could sense his pain. Maybe he was right. Maybe life wasn’t perfect just because he had food to eat, amazing vehicles to drive, and custom clothing to wear. Still, he’d never walked in my beat-up shoes, and I’d never walked in his custom loafers.

“Let’s call a truce,” I said breathlessly. “We come from two different worlds. We’ll never understand each other.”

I needed to get out of his hold. I was starting to get drunk on his masculine scent, and mesmerized by his ferocious gaze. He was big, powerful, and I had to tilt my head to look at his face.

He moved back slightly, only to place a hand on each side of my face gently before he said hoarsely, “I think we can communicate perfectly.”

I opened my mouth to ask him to release me, but he was too stealthy and quick, his head lowering to capture my mouth in a demanding encounter that left me helpless and stunned.

He tilted my head, obtaining better access to my mouth, his tongue easily gaining entrance and commanding more.

More. More. More.

My heart stuttered as I wrapped my arms around his neck, my body coming alive as he pressed closer, pushed deeper, the kiss hot and all-consuming. I felt myself starting to drown in the scent of him, the taste of him, wanting to get closer, feel him invade my senses even deeper.

He wrenched his mouth away, cursing. “Fuck! I shouldn’t have done that.”

Trace sounded angrier with himself than he was with me. He rested his forehead on my shoulder, his breathing ragged. My heart was still racing as I realized that he had one hand on my ass, pressing my core against him, and his other arm around my back.

He didn’t move to release me, and I didn’t try to get away. I savored the feel of him, my body pressed so tightly against his larger form. Drawing a breath, I let his essence flow over me like a soothing balm to my soul.

Finally, I asked, “Why did you do that?”

“Because I couldn’t control myself. Dammit!” He drew back and released his grip. “I don’t lose control. Ever.”

He sounded irritated and underneath that anger, slightly confused.

I’d never been the object of any man’s lust, and it was slightly heady. Still, I couldn’t figure out what he saw in me. Trace probably had most of the female population at his disposal. Why would he waste time on me when he could be nailing a supermodel?

“Sex isn’t part of this deal,” I told him shakily, part of me wishing that it was. But it would be wrong for so many reasons. Like it or not, this had to stay business only for me. Anything more could be a disaster, and I’d had enough of broken dreams and shattered hopes.

Running a frustrated hand through his hair, he answered, “I know that. I’m not looking for a damn prostitute.”

I recoiled like he’d physically struck me. “I’ve never done…that.”

His fierce gaze locked with mine, and his eyes devoured me.

“I know you haven’t.” Trace’s voice was clipped and slightly pained. “I’m not about to hire a hooker to be my fiancée. No matter how well she played the part, my brothers would figure out the truth. Like I said, I need someone convincing.”

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