Beyond her door lay all the comfort a prized suite could hold. When she entered, it offered safety from fear. She locked the door behind her, then reached blindly for the switch next to it.
A hand like a vice gripped her wrist and twisted her arm, then pushed her backward so fast her scream of terror ended as a short gasp when her back slammed into the switch. The light came on, briefly blinding her from seeing her attacker’s face. A hard unmistakably male body pressed into her, trapping her against the wall. The pressure of the body against hers made breathing and struggling impossible.
In spite of her panic, the intimate contact with a strange man’s body was humiliating. Convinced she couldn’t move, her attacker leaned a fraction away from her. She drew a quick breath and forced her gaze toward him. There had been some vague familiarity about the male body imprisoning her against the wall. The shock of confirmation made her want to scream, but it died in her mouth when he clamped a hand over her mouth.
“You don’t want to scream,” the stranger warned. His lips barely moved but the words held chilling emphasis.
She clutched the hand against her mouth and struggled to free herself. A cold metal pressing against her temple ended her fight. She sighted the menacing weapon out of the corner of her eye. He slid the gun from her temple to her brow. The silencer attached to the muzzle wickedly caressed her left eyebrow, guaranteeing her cooperation.
“I wouldn’t try me, if I were you.”
She kept still, afraid to nod her response with the silencer on her brow. Now she knew the source of the blank cards, the caller who listened in silence, the face behind the words that filled her with panic. “What do you want?”
“What do I want?” he repeated the question silkily.
“I haven’t done anything to you,” she explained hurriedly.
“Who told you that?”
“I don’t owe you anything anymore.” She knew the bargain she’d made with him would return to haunt her, but she hadn’t expected it so soon. Starting a new life of modelling would buy her time to determine her world for a long time before she had to face Lex Koldsweat again. That assumption was wrong. He was standing right in front of her, his face silhouetted by the light behind him.
“On the contrary, you owe me more than you can imagine.”
“But I did everything you wanted.”
Without saying anything, he stepped away, giving her more space to breathe and clearly see him. His features were as she remembered them, chiselled out of rock, primitive and dark. The sharp, angular lines of his face were hard and male. They lent him the look of a punch-hardened, battle-scarred animal, and he had a number of them to show for it, medals from a lifetime spent getting whatever he wanted through brawls.
He could survive any brawl. The hard muscled body in front of her was testimony. She’d felt those muscles rippling against her own body, not just in the few seconds he’d pinned her to the wall. Even that was brief enough to bring back memories she longed to erase from her mind. The time she spent against his body, the way its contours felt against her curves, the heat radiating from him haunted her sleep most nights. She stopped herself thinking too much about the sinful sensuality she’d given herself over to. It brought back memories that were better erased.
The earthy animal sexuality she remembered was absent. The man in the room filled her with fear instead. He held the gun with the expert ease of someone accustomed to using weapons. He kept his penetrating gaze levelled at her, as though he could see right inside her.
“You have no idea what you are talking about,” he said, jolting her.
“The money?” she asked. “Isn’t that what this is about? Otherwise, why would you be here?”
“You paid me, so what? That doesn’t put me at your beck and call. I did everything you wanted and then some more. End of story.”
He stared at her for a full second, unflinching. She began to cross her arms over her chest, but stopped. That signified nervousness. She wasn’t anxious, and if she were, she was damned if she showed him how jumpy he made her. She was a cold bitch, as far as men who attempted to get into her pants were concerned. They considered her cold because she’d mastered the art of hiding her emotions and remaining unfazed in jittery situations. Her cold-bitch life was redemption. Nothing moved her, but his next word did.
She dared not show dismay, though she trembled within. “What?”
He repeated himself calmly. “Take off your clothes.”
“I am not asking you.”
“Is that supposed to be a new kind of order? What gives you the right to follow me halfway across the world to this place and try to run my life? I didn’t know you were that desperate. There must be someone on this island who can play kinks with you. I’ve had a very busy day and if you don’t mind…”
She turned to catch the door handle not sure whether she was opening it to throw him out or to run through it. His voice stopped her. “Don’t you dare touch that door!” he whispered menacingly.
“Fine,” she admitted. “Then let yourself out. I have things to do.” Garnering courage, she took a first step and the second step seemed natural. She sidestepped him to continue toward the bedroom. She opened the door and something flew past her with a muted pip and slammed into the wall. The bullet that narrowly missed her embedded itself in the plaster beyond the paintwork. She froze with fright and turned to the man. Instead, her nose met the gun’s warm muzzle.
“Don’t think I missed that shot,” he warned. “Next one might not be so lucky for you. Now…take off your clothes,” he ordered. “Start with the skirt.”
The erotic games he played didn’t go this far. His haunted eyes made it clear he wasn’t looking for kinks. It was the look of a predator playing with its prey, the look of an assassin toying with a mark, the look of a murderer. She moved in a daze, shaken by the impact of a bullet missing her by calculated inches.
She reached behind to undo the hook on her skirt, took little time to undo the zip fastener, pushed the fabric over her hips and down her legs, then stepped out of it. The last time she’d stripped for him, which also the first and only time, he’d demanded a full striptease, complete with mood music to accompany the sultry, slow, sensual movements of her hips and limbs. She never forgot the movements of her body swaying to the music or the way his gaze fastened hypnotically on her. He didn’t mind that she carelessly kicked aside the heap of fabric at her feet. That wasn’t his target.
“The top,” he ordered.
The tank top came with spaghetti-thin straps over her shoulders. It reached midway down her belly. She caught the end of it over her navel and pulled the sheer top over her head. Dropping it next to her skirt, she stifled humiliation and stood before him in brassiere and panties. She’d spent only a few days on the shoot, but she’d had to go through poses clad only in underwear just to build her book. Her portfolio contained a couple of near nudes. The Christon line contained various bra styles, swells and cups she’d have to model. Standing before Koldsweat almost nude was a dress rehearsal, nothing more.
“You don’t have a body you should be ashamed of,” he observed. His gaze roved over her body, focusing on points and curves she wished he didn’t notice. His face betrayed no memory of the way he’d possessed every inch of her anatomy with his hands and tongue. “It’s perfectly proportioned. Your creator made you on a Sunday when he was well rested.”
She knew better than to take his comment for a compliment. It would have been an insult if she weren’t terrified of him.
“What’s the big deal? There is nothing on me you haven’t seen before,” she said arrogantly.
“Or touched and tasted,” he added to kill her arrogance. “Is there? So don’t think you can fascinate the hell out of me with your body and stop me from doing what I came here for.”
“And what is that?”
“The bra,” he said.
“You came for my bra?” The question was out before she realised he was back to her striptease.
He indicated the delicates with a wave of his gun. “Take it off, Toni.”
The use of her first name was supreme insult. Mortified but powerless, she popped the hook behind her and dragged the ends to her front. The strapless piece of clothing still covered the swell of her breasts.
“Put it down,” he ordered.
She obeyed mutely, discarding the confinement. In the moment it took to drop the bra, air fanned across her naked breasts. Her nipples reacted to the current, puckering slightly in exactly the same way they’d done when he’d touched them—first with just his thumb, then his forefinger, next rolling the nubbin between the tips of his thumb and forefinger in ways she hated to recall. She quickly crossed her arms over her bare bosom.
She was already too mortified to consider decency. She pushed the panties past her hips and shrugged them down her thighs until they settled at her feet. Stepping out of them, she carelessly kicked the triangular bit of fabric with her toe. In her anger, she didn’t estimate just how much to kick. The fabric shot up in the air and he snatched at it with his free hand. Seeing her underwear crushed in his fist underscored her vulnerability before him.
“What next?” she asked, strengthened by her defiance. “Everything’s off.”
“What next for you … or for me?”
“I can’t imagine what you want if you are willing to go through this entire stripping charade for just a fuck.” Despite her fright, her flare was surprising.
“This just goes to tell you how wrong you are. Regardless of what you think, Toni, you are at my beck and call.”
“All of this has just been to prove I am your beck-and-call girl?”
He didn’t answer before a knock came at the door. “Toni?” Saint called.
Toni kept silent, caught between embarrassment at her state and fear of the armed man in front of her. Saint knocked again, three times in rapid succession, then fiddled with the handle. “You must look drop-dead gorgeous, but come on out. Everybody’s waiting for us.”
“Answer the door,” said Lex Koldsweat, hitching his head that way. His voice was no longer taunting. He cast an assessing gaze over her body, stopping at her breasts and hips to take in details, but his gaze was more terrifying than erotic. “I am sure he would be pleased to find you butt-naked for that dinner and whatever comes after. Unfortunately, there will be none of it. Not this night.”
Saint knocked repeatedly. “Toni? Are you in there? Are you all right?”
The door held safety, if she could get through it and through the dreadful situation of explaining to Saint why she was naked. Modelling underwear before his camera lens wasn’t any different from opening the door to him in her nudity. What she couldn’t explain was the man in the room.
“Answer the door,” Lex repeated.
“Y-yes.” She’d suddenly lost her voice. “Yes, I’m fine,” she managed. “I will be with you in a moment.” She grabbed her skirt and top from the floor and turned toward the bedroom.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“To get dressed.”
“On whose orders?”
“I’ve got people waiting for me out there and that doesn’t give me enough time to finish your kinky game.”
He motioned with the gun. “Put those down and answer the door,” he commanded. “Tell him you can’t make it to this dinner tonight and tell him to be on his way.”
“I can’t do that.”
“You can’t or you won’t.”
Saint said, “Toni, have you got someone in there?”
“Tell him,” Lex stated calmly. “Or I will.”
She saw the bluff for what it was. “I have to put on something, and you’ve got my panties.”
“Go the way you are right now.”
“I will not!” she flared at him.
Lex turned and marched to the door. He wasn’t calling her bluff. He pulled it open a fraction and possessively faced Saint through the gap. “Yes? Who are you?”
Toni ran into the bedroom and hurriedly put on her clothes. With a final frantic motion, she secured the zip fastener of her skirt in place. The outer door slammed shut, ending the conversation between both men facing each other across the threshold. Her freedom was slipping away. She ran out of the bedroom.
“Saint?” she called out for help. “Saint!”
Lex stood in the middle of the room, his stance ominous. The sexual threat he portrayed was gone. His menacing look was back and being alone with him was the last thing she wanted.
“What did you say to him?”
Her eyes focused on the evil weapon in his hand. He moved so quickly she didn’t see his free hand until it appeared in front of her face. She didn’t see the fist either, just a blur of movement as it flew toward her head and turned her world black.