Slow Burn - J.L. Ryan - ebook
Opis

Pick your pleasure! Do you crave steamy billionaire romance, bad boy romance, Slow Burn romance, or angsty romance? Can't get enough of second chance romance, BBW romance, or sexy boss romance? You don't have to choose. It's all here! From bestselling author J.L Ryan, comes this hot and sexy read with a heat level of 10!Sierra:Why do I keep scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to men? If I go out with one more sleazeball, I'm going to die. Maybe I shouldn't be too picky, though. I'm 90 pounds overweight, broke, and desperate for a baby.From the first time I laid my eyes on his chiseled abs, sky blue eyes, and gorgeous smile, I was hooked. I can barely catch my breath when I see him and I'm hopelessly falling in lust with him from afar. Being in lust is fine. Being in love might be okay, but only on my terms. A.J.:I've always had to fight my way to the top, but I made it because I've got guts.  I run my business like a crazy person. That's how I made my first billion at such a young age. There's nothing I can't have. Women throw themselves at me, but there's only one problem. I'm not interested.I've never wanted anything that was too easy for me to obtain. That includes women. I can possess anything and anyone, but not Sierra. She's the only woman who doesn't want a "real" relationship with me, only hot and dirty sex.I'm becoming obsessed with her and those lucious curves. I can't help myself. I'm falling in love. I would give anything if she loved me back. My need for her dominates my every thought. After she discovers my secrets, she might start exploring her own desires. If you love steamy billionaire romance like 50 Shades Of Grey, bad boy romance, BBW romance, angsty romance, Slow Burn romance, or second chance romance books, then don't miss this heart-pounding read!Buy Now! 

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Table of contents

Book 1 The Billionaire's Game

Book 2 The Billionaire Boss

Book 3 The Billionaire's Bargain

Book 4 The Billionaire's Gift

Slow Burn

Book 1 The Billionaire's Game

Book 2 The Billionaire Boss

Book 3 The Billionaire's Bargain

Book 4 The Billionaire's Gift

Bonus Books

#1 The Billionaire's Caregiver

#2 The Billionaire's Wish

#3 The Billionaire's Secret

#4 Legal Affairs

#5 The Billionaire's Desire

#6 The Billionaire's Addiction

#7 Unexpected Romance

#8 For Keeps

#9 Lost Love

#10 Second Chance Romance

#11 Second Chances

The Billionaire's Game

Sierra stared at her reflection and sighed heavily. Her hair, always tightly drawn up in a ponytail, gave the impression that she had a very angular face. She turned her head from side-to-side, looking at all of the planes that made up who she was. Her hair was a copper brown and her eyes blue. She had a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks that gave her a playful look. She had full lips that were always tinted as though she were drinking Kool-Aid, never forcing her to wear lipstick to give herself some more color.

Not that she ever wore make-up, really. As a waitress, she rarely had the time to care about things like make- up, or much else for that matter. She sat there contemplating what she could do to make herself pretty, or what she could do to improve her looks, or at the very least, make her more exotic or something.

She should have never agreed to stand in for Katie on a blind date. It's not so much that she was going to stand in for Katie on the date, it was that she had to actually pretend that she was Katie. It was just as much her own fault for saying yes, as it was Katie’s for asking. She was always there for her, and this minor thing was no big deal, until now. She used her forefinger to push around the skin on her face, testing to see what she would look like if she had a face lift or something. That is until Katie herself came around the corner and gave her a short laugh.

“ What the hell are you doing to your face, Sierra?” She said it with what remained of her scratchy voice.

“ I’m looking at it, I wish I was more… I don’t know, exotic or something.” She continued to poke and prod.

“ Why would you want to be exotic? You're beautiful the way you are.” Katie made her way across the room. “I really appreciate this Sierra, it’s a one-time thing, I told my mother I would go… and you know how she is.” She rolled her eyes as she said it. Asking you to pretend you're me on a blind date is too much to ask, I know."

“ I don’t mind at all. I never get to go out, especially to a nice place like Giovanni’s. Are you worried you will get found out somehow?” Sierra stopped long enough to glance at Katie, who was rifling through the make-up pile.

“ No, Mom doesn’t even know what he looks like or anything. She set this up for a friend of a friend or something. The guy's mother is desperate for him to find a nice girl and settle down because he's somewhat of a playboy. The only reason I agreed to this blind date was because I owe her for missing my cousin, Owen’s wedding. I just wish I could have found a way out of it without dragging you through it.”

Sierra glanced at Katie. “It’s okay. This interview you have could really be a big break for you. You can't risk missing it by going on a blind date with a guy your mother fixed you up with. I understand, and like I said… free food. Who goes out on a Thursday night, though?” She gave her a smile. Katie giggled. “So what are you wearing? Oh, and I’ll do your make-up, maybe make you look more exotic!” They laughed together as they set out to getting Sierra ready for her date. They also had to figure out how to make the guy think that Sierra is really Katie.

An hour later, Sierra turned to take a long look at herself in the mirror. She was transfixed on her appearance. The Sierra she looked at everyday was gone, and in her place was a beautiful woman. Her hair, normally full of curls when left, down, had been straightened and now felt like silk on her shoulders. Her freckles were hidden and her eyes were the focal point of her face. Katie used her skills to give Sierra's eyes a dark and dusky look and she added some pink to her cheeks. Her dark lips only needed a hint of color, and she was definitely a different woman.

“ Are you gonna stand there and look at yourself all night or go get this silly date over with?” Katie was equally made up for her interview. The two of them stood side by side, staring at the mirror.

“ I don’t even look like… well me.” Sierra giggled.

“ Well, tonight you’re not you, you’re me.” Katie said simply as she picked up her bag to go. “Don’t forget, meet him at the entrance at 7pm. He said he would have a red handkerchief in his jacket.” Katie walked over to reassure Sierra once more. “I really do appreciate it girl.” She gave her one last smile and she headed out. After Katie left, Sierra slipped on the tall black pumps Katie pushed on her to go with her outfit. She took a deep breath, and with a sigh, she left for the restaurant.

A.J. was frustrated. His latest business merger was in trouble, he was in desperate need of a woman and lastly, he had this blasted date tonight that he didn’t want to go on. The day was dragging and he wanted to go. He flicked open the black book on the top of his desk and sighed. He had an unusual appetite and he needed something new, something exciting to help him calm down. This company… his company was everything to him. He built it from the ground up, and with it, he become an important figurehead in the community. The truth was they didn’t really know him.

He had a dark side, one he kept hidden and he needed more. His appointments were short today. One merger meeting. Tomorrow morning, he had one charity appearance for a donation he had made locally. He was always glad when the corporation could donate funds in the city where it was needed. It was almost a penance for the side of him that he couldn’t control. He owed his mother his life and so, from time to time when she would request this of him, he would do it, to soothe her worried soul about the playboy reputation he had developed. He checked his reflection in the mirror and smiled to himself.

He was a playboy, and that suited him just fine. There were far too many women out there for him to have to settle for just one. He loved them all, and enjoyed his life exactly as it was. The unfortunate thing was that he was an only child and his mother was constantly on him about settling down and finding a nice girl to marry, to carry on the family name.

He gave his hair one last smoothing down before he put on his glasses and made his way to the waiting car. One of the perks of running a multi-million dollar company was the luxury of enjoying someone else driving you to and from.

He would be lying if he said he didn’t get a thrill of impressing the ladies by having a driver when he pulled up to a new club in town. He liked to be impressive and his looks helped with that. He took care of himself, working out 5 days a week until he was toned. He had jet black hair, almost shaved on the sides and longer on top. His eyes were described as black by most and he always had a shadowed goatee. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome, and his evasive nature with women gave him an air of mystery.

He settled into the cool leather of the seats and leaned back to rest for a second. Hopefully, this night would go smoothly. The last time he went out with one of his mother’s “girls” she bored him to tears until they made it back to his penthouse. There, she became a tigress and the sex was phenomenal. It was typical of his situation. More often than not, these girls would come in, hoping to find a husband and he would charm them right out of their clothes before they knew what happened.

This date would be the same, of that he was sure. He felt the car come to a stop and he made his way to the restaurant with ease. He gave the hot little hostess a smile and she started shuffling the papers in front of her as she blushed. It was almost too easy for him. What he wanted most was a challenge, something to work for, at least a little. He was led to a table in the corner, as requested, and he waited. As usual, he arrived early so that he could watch and decipher the woman his mother sent for him this time. It was almost like an animal stalking its prey. He leaned back some and waited with hooded lids.

Sierra took a deep breath before entering the restaurant. She was nervous that her date would find out that she really wasn't Katie. She knew she wasn’t a mess since she was receiving appreciative looks from random men in the main entrance. She was led to a table, thanked the young lady who seated her, and turned to meet this month's “guy.” She felt the blood in her veins warm up and her mouth go dry at the same time. He stood and extended a hand to her, helping her into her seat. She felt the faint presence of his fingers trace her back as he helped push her seat in. Before she choked on the water she was sipping, she decided to speak first.

“ So, you must be A.J?” She took another sip.

Surprised by her forwardness, he raised an eyebrow. “I assume that makes you Katie. Yes, I am A.J. It’s nice to meet you.”

He had a voice that spilled out of his mouth like honey. She knew exactly why he was getting appreciative glances from the waitresses. He was almost too attractive. He had classic good looks with a mix of ruggedness which made it clear that he was no innocent poster boy, but rather a force to be reckoned with.

“ It’s very nice to meet you too. This is a nice restaurant. Do you come here often?” She was trying to make small talk, and he knew she was nervous. He could tell by the way she sipped her water uncontrollably.

“ No, I’ve only been here a handful of times, but it’s very good, trust me.” He gave her a dashing smile and Sierra knew in his simple off-handed comment that he was going to irritate her.

It wasn’t his looks. The truth of the matter was that he was the most intensely gorgeous man she ever saw. That alone gave him some kind of arrogance that reached out of him. He was put together like a package. Every piece of him from head to toe was perfect. Part of her wanted to ruffle his hair and put him in sweats. He almost seemed too well put together. He was gorgeous, but his cookie cutter life made him unattractive to her, not to mention that he was far too sure of himself. She again sipped at her water as he watched her. It was almost unnerving.

“ Do I have something on my face? You seem to either be lost in thought or overly concerned with what I'm doing.” She said it simply and with a smile, and enjoyed the puzzled look that crossed his face.

“ No, on the contrary. I was just looking at you, Katie.” He delivered his words smoothly, and she had to stop her heart from racing. He gave her a smile and she felt her stomach lurch. She was as bad as the hostess. She rolled her eyes and glanced at the menu. With any luck, this would be over soon anyway.

He leaned back into the booth, watching her intently. She was so beautiful, it was almost painful. He enjoyed the banter they were having because she wasn’t like most women. She had no idea how beautiful she was and that intrigued him even more. Usually the women he went out with were all superficial and very much aware of their beauty. They ordered their food and managed to make some small talk about nothing. He knew she was nervous and that gave him some sort of excitement. She moved without thought and enjoyed her food without counting calories. The entire scene was refreshing for him. She made an idle joke about the waiter, which he found amusing and they laughed about it.

“ The decorating in here reminds me of a painting. I think art is beautiful.” She gave him a half smile, less concerned about his good looks now that she was three glasses of wine into the date.

“ Really? Maybe we should go to the art show that’s traveling into town next week. I can get tickets fairly easy, actually.” He gave her a smile and she felt the warm heat travel up from the pit of her stomach. He certainly had a way with words, and with women. She saw more than one lady go by to use the restroom and his eager attempts to greet each and every one of them. Playboy all the way.

He wasn’t sure why he even asked her to the art show. She was definitely not his type, and not an easy conquest either. Perhaps it was the challenge that made him want her more. He gave her every look and effort that he possibly could, and she brushed him off at every turn. Maybe he wasn’t her type, but whatever it was made him want her even more. Even now, as she hummed along to the ambient music in the restaurant, he wanted to kiss her full pouting mouth. He felt his pants tighten and he knew she would be his before they were through. Soon, dinner was over and they made their way outside. He walked her to her car and waited for her to look up at him.

“ Well, I guess I'm gonna go." She gave a hiccup and a giggle, and he knew she wasn’t going anywhere. He walked her over to the area where his driver was and after a moment of tapping on the roof, he safely tucked her into his car.

“ Sorry, sweetheart, but you’re not driving anywhere.” He let his hand linger for a moment on her waist.

She was full of fire. “You can’t kidnap me A.J. No way, Jose.” She fell into a fit of giggles, then and he couldn’t help but smile at her.

He felt the tension rise even more than before. As he clicked her in the seat belt, he followed the line of her clinging dress up her hips and ending with a set of full breasts straining against the soft fabric, begging to be released. She looked up at him and he smiled at her. He wanted her. He knew it the second she looked up at him. There was something different and refreshing about her. Her hand trembled just slightly and he felt the heat rush through him. He let her go, watching as she straightened her clothes and looked at him.

Her heart was beating faster than usual and she wasn’t sure why. He held her hand for just a second longer than necessary when he helped her in the car. He made his way around and slid into the seat beside her.

He looked up at her and leaned over closer. “I’m taking you home, you obviously cannot drive.”

She felt a tremor go through her body as she felt his hot breath on her ear. He owned a really flashy car with a driver, it was one good sign, but even still, she was leery of getting into a car with someone she just met. The reality was, she didn’t have much choice in the matter. She couldn’t walk, let alone drive.

She gave him directions and soon enough they were at her apartment. He guided her up the stairs and soon she was inside. She felt her body come to life as he walked her inside. She watched him slide his eyes over the bed and then back to her.

“ I hope you will be more careful Katie, perhaps not drink as much?” He reached out and took her hand in his.

His touch was sending little balls of fire through her veins and she knew this was dangerous ground. She felt his fingers moving along her wrist and he leaned towards her closer and closer still until she heard the front door open. Reality came crashing back in and she turned red as she glanced up at him. He stood slowly and moved towards her.

“ Hey Sierra, I can’t even begin to tell you how much stuff costs at the store now, I mean it’s ridiculous.” She stopped short at Sierra’s door noticing the man inside. Sierra struggled to sit up some.

The blonde was much closer to his typical tastes. She had come bounding in full of sassiness.

Sierra gave her a look and Katie smiled. “So, who is this?” She extended her perfectly manicured hand towards A.J. and he eagerly held it to his lips.

Sierra felt her face flaming as she explained the story, and how they came to end up here, now.

“ Wait a second who is Sierra?” He gave them both a confused look.

“ Me, I am… it’s actually my middle name.” Sierra gave Katie a sour look but he seemed to buy it.

“ My name is Alayna, it is nice to meet you.” She stifled a smile at Sierra. Alayna was actually Sierra’s middle name. This was getting more complicated by the moment.

There was a moment of silence that passed between them before he took a step towards Sierra. He watched her for a moment as she struggled to stand, somehow trying to put herself together. She gave Katie an apologetic look.

“ Well, I have to go back out, Katie, I’m glad your home safe, and A.J. thank you taking such good care of her. You two have a good evening.” She winked at an angry Sierra before leaving the apartment.

He gave Alayna a wave and once she was gone, he turned to look at her. She wasn’t sure what to do or feel. The alcohol in her system was more than she should have taken in and it had impaired her judgement. It didn’t matter what she wanted really as he made his way over to her and leaned in close before his mouth made its descent on hers. He pulled her towards him and explored her mouth at length. He was radiating heat and she met his kiss with equal intensity. They moved together with him pushing her back into the couch and holding her arms above her head with one arm. He ran his hands under the hem of her dress and up along her thigh, she wanted him to touch her, but yet she didn’t. He found the laced edge of her panties and she froze, finally coming to her senses. She was anticipating his touch when her phone rang, shattering the moment. What the hell, she inwardly cursed herself?

He stood now, facing her and looking down at her. He wasn’t upset, but merely amused. He wanted her, eventually, but never like this. He stood once more and made his way to the door. Leaving her with an aching need she felt deep down and nothing to cure it. She glanced down at her clothes and straightened them quickly. What was wrong with her anyway? She always had control over her actions, but today she most definitely was not in control. What he must think of her, meeting him on a blind date and then within an hour letting him touch her like that.

“ I’ll pick you up next Friday at 8pm Katie, be ready, I can be impatient.” He rebuttoned his jacket and smoothed his hair before dropping a quick peck on her forehead and leaving her stunned.

“ What was he even talking about anyway?” she whispered to herself once he had left.

She hung her head in her hands and sighed. She had very strict rules about sex, and dating and right now she was breaking every one of them. She allowed herself a moment to try and recover, but she had been changed for good. Whatever she did, she would need to stay away from A.J.

The next week passed by and she did her best to stay calm and not think about him. Katie was making it nearly impossible with her line of questioning that seemed endless.

“ Oh wow, so you kissed him, that’s it? Honey, he is gorgeous, I should have totally gone on that date.” She laughed at her own joke but seemingly aware of Sierra's unhappiness.

“ Yes, and it was stupid because he is an ass, totally shallow and he thinks he is some gift put here for women to look at.” She rolled her eyes. “Not to mention, he kissed that night's version of me, not the real me.” She threw her bag into the window of the car.

“ Maybe he is a playboy, and shallow and whatever, but the truth of the matter is he liked you Sierra, and when was the last time you went out and had any fun anyway? It’s good for you, go enjoy it.” She made her way to her car. “Byeee.” She gave a wave.

“ Whatever, be quiet Katie.” She said it with a laugh as she settled into her car. It was then she noticed the note that was under the wiper. She moved to retrieve it.

That was only the beginning, I want you

She felt her body come to life with the excitement of the words. He certainly had no problem sharing what he wanted, but she had decided to not let it go any further than it already had. She had very strict guidelines about how she lived her life. She had been reckless and let the fantasy take over yesterday. It had been the make-up, the dress and the stupid wine. Nothing more. She wouldn’t let it happen a second time. She needed to focus on the important things in life like her family, and taking care of herself. She made her way towards the town where she had grown up. She was off this morning and was going to see her little brother off to his first day of school. She loved the small-town charm that made up the community where she used to live. It was hard to imagine that just two towns over the city was overfilled with people and congestion. It was good to sometimes come home and put things into perspective. She only hoped to not run into A.J., ever. He had wanted that woman from dinner, not the one getting ready to visit her family in a sundress and flip flops. The fantasy was something she couldn’t give him, or anyone for that matter. All she had to do was get refocused.

She saw her little brother in the front yard with their father and she got out of the car just in time to hop into the SUV that would take the four of them to the school. He was excited, and scared, she could tell by the way he was fidgety but not talking much. Having a child after so many years since Sierra had been a struggle for her parents, but they loved Jacob more than anything in the world. He had been a miracle child for them really, and completely unexpected. She had been 16 when he was born and the shock had just subsided about having a new toddler running around when he was getting ready to go to school. Even harder was the fact that her brother needed medication for his condition. When he was five he had been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia. The medication alone had cost her father their savings. She knew she needed to do something to help, but she wasn’t sure what. She looked down at her brother and put her hand on his knee and he moved his to hers smiling, then after a second she tapped his nose and he would tap hers back. Finally, she stuck out her tongue and he followed suit. He relaxed as she tickled him in the back seat.

The brick building was spread out ranch style and had two wings. It was a beautiful undertaking and after years it was finally ready. She walked hand in hand with Jacob, her father ahead of them. He really was a good boy. They watched as the announcer made a speech about the importance of family. It was then that she froze. She heard his voice before she even looked down towards the podium. He was dressed impeccably as he had been yesterday. He was far away enough that he did see her but she watched him as he shared the importance of meeting educational goals. That was where she had recognized his name. Trager Enterprises was the largest business in the area and often would give money to local causes. It was his money that made this building possible. The old school had been falling apart and now, apparently with his help, they had a new one, one that had a special wing for children with illness like Jacob. She felt her heart soften a little towards him. This knowledge would only make it that much harder to stay away from him.

She walked with Jacob and her father to his class. She felt the sense of loss once he was inside for them both. She only wished her mother could have been there to see him go inside. Just two years ago, she was killed in a tragic car accident that left her and her father with Jacob. They did the best they could and now he was getting older. Her father headed back to the car and she waited a few seconds longer wanting to remember this moment for her mother. She turned to leave and there he was, leaning against the wall watching her again.

“ Hello Katie.” He enunciated her name strangely and gave her a stormy look.

“ Mr. Trager hello… again. My brother is a student here now. This is a great thing you did.” She knew she was rambling and gave him one final look. “It was nice to see you again.” As she walked by him, he grabbed her arm pulling her towards him.

He kissed her lightly and let her go, it was almost a tease, but enough to remind her that he was in control. She started walking as soon as she was free and she tried to calm her racing heart as she did it. She saw his dark smile as he turned to leave. He was the most arrogant person she had ever met that she knew. She touched her fingertips to her lips still tingling from his latest onslaught. How was it he managed to show up places when she was there?

She headed to lunch with her father before heading back into town. They had just sat down when suddenly he was there. She almost choked on her water.

“ Sierra, Mr. Trager is having lunch with us. It seems we he knows you and in mentioning lunch I asked him to join us.” She smiled weakly and looked up to catch his eye. It was as if he were looking right through her.

“ How nice.” It was all she could manage to squeak out.

“ Sierra, are you okay, you looked pale.” Her father seemed genuinely concerned.

“ Yes, you look as though something shocked you or something of that nature.” He interjected with the same smile that drove her crazy.

“ I’m fine, just some pesky bugs in the hall before that’s all.” She saw his smile again but he said nothing.

Lunch was an interesting time. He spoke and laughed with her father as if there was nothing underlying between them. He asked her to show him the gardens at the café and at her father’s insistence she did.

“ You look beautiful today Miss Ford.” He glanced over at her as they walked.

“ Thank you, Mr. Trager.” She refused to look at him.

“ So, when were you going to tell me that you are not Katie?” He never broke stride.

“ How did you find out?” She crossed her arms over the front of her dress as they walked.

“ Does that really matter? The reality is you lied, I don’t do well with liars.” He said it stiffly. She felt the anger start to rise deep down.

“ Oh really, well, it’s a good thing it was only one date.” She flashed her eyes at him and saw him do his best to hide a smile.

“ Have I mentioned how badly I want you?” she tripped lightly and he caught her arm.

“ Really? Why would you say something like that to me?” She stopped to look at him.

“ It’s simply the truth, if I want something I find it much easier to get if I simply make it clear.” He took a step towards her and she started walking again as he chuckled.

“ You’re safe for now, Miss Ford. One day soon I won’t keep that promise.” She glanced at him, but he continued to look at the pond beside them.

“ You’re almost a different person today Sierra, more free and happy perhaps.”

“ I am in my own clothes, and I’m at home. I supposed I am free that way.” He stopped her and looked down into her face.

“ I like you better this way.” There was a long moment between them and she broke free and made her way up the path. He chuckled.

“ Tell me about your brother.”

There was something in the way he said it that made her feel close to him. He seemed genuinely interested and she shared her story with him. Her brother had been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. He listened and interjected when necessary. He was almost a different person in this environment. She found him easy to talk to and strangely, she felt safe with him. He spoke about some of the new directions the company was going in and she listened, interested in the way business is managed. She gave him some input and he arched an eyebrow at her point of view. She was happy she had at least shown more to her character than the way she behaved around him before. Right before they made their way back to the café he stopped and pushed her into the overhang kissing her again, quickly but deep and hard. He stopped and pulled away slightly before he backed away completely. They made their way back to the table where her father sat and Trager jumped right back into the conversation as if it were nothing. They parted ways and she rode back with her father to get her car.

“ That Mr. Trager is a nice guy, Sierra.” She looked over and he gave her a wink.

“ He is an ass dad, plain and simple.” She crossed her arms in the car and he smiled at her but didn’t say another word.

She missed home when she wasn’t there, but she loved the city more. She said her goodbyes to her father and headed back to the apartment. She pulled her car into the lot adjacent to her apartment building and her phone started ringing. She assumed it was A.J. and ignored it since her hands were full. The second time it went off after she had been inside for a few minutes she checked it. It was work, with a sigh, she called Harry back at the diner.

“ Sure Harry, I’ll be there just as soon as I can ok?” With a sigh she pulled her hair back into a bun and threw on her uniform. Hopefully since it was a Friday she would make decent tips.

The night seemed to drag on as she made her usual rounds. Despite her effort to not think about him, he was there and present in her mind. Maybe Katie was right, maybe she needed to get out more, and have fun. Things had been a mess since Jake and she couldn’t seem to move past it. There was some level of trust she couldn’t seem to give too freely to anyone. She was tired and she was unhappy. Sure, she had great friends, but she was living paycheck to paycheck and she needed to get things together. Her classes here and there were certainly not helping to propel her career in any way. She had big plans once upon a time and now she was just surviving. She felt someone touch her apron and glanced back to see another staggering drunk trying to touch her rear. She pulled the apron away and made her way to the counter. She let her head hang in her hands for a second refusing to give in to the stress, she was only 26 she still had time to get it together. Finally, the night came to a close and she headed home lost in deep thought about her future.

The next morning was there too quickly and she rolled over with a sigh. Today would be busy. The only day the she could actually clean the apartment and get it together. They both worked and went to school all week and rarely got anything done. She knew that Katie was still sleeping. She shuffled her way to the kitchen lost in thought once more about her brother. His prognosis, if medicated was good, but she worried about him. She looked around and jumped in full force. She would be lying if she said she didn’t think about him. It was strange, someone making her feel things now. She had assumed that was all behind her. She wanted desperately to be like Katie. To find love and happiness, but none of it was for her. She needed to focus on what was important.

A.J. was having a similar morning. He was killing himself waiting to find a woman. Usually he could go out and find any number of them to bring home, but now he was stuck. He told himself it had nothing to do with her, but he wasn’t so sure. Ever since their kiss at the school opening he couldn’t get her out of his head. This was the first day in a long time he woke up unsatisfied from the night before. He always had someone, but she had robbed him of it. He was completely focused on winning her over. He wanted her even now, in his bed. He gritted his teeth and made his way to the shower. Sometimes it helped, sometimes not. Soon, however, she would be his even if only for one night.

The rest of the morning flew by and Sierra looked around enjoying her clean apartment. There was a sense of pride in that and she liked order. She never would be considered spontaneous on any level. She slumped down in the chair and threw the rag in she had in the waiting basket. Soon Katie would be gone, moving for her new job, and she would either have to find a way to make the payments on this place herself, or move home. She liked the simplicity of the apartment, but she was doubtful there was any way she could make it on her own. For now she would enjoy it.

He knew she would be mad. Furious more likely. She wanted him as much as he wanted her, but she was determined to fight him. She was always leery of him, part of him liked it that way, and he enjoyed the banter they seemed to find themselves in every time they spoke. She was smart and quick, he knew that by talking to her, but something kept her from giving in to him and he wanted to know what it was. He wanted her and he rarely was ever turned down. She was fighting him and the chase had begun. When she was here, which he was sure would be within the hour, he had every intention of claiming her body once and for all. The morning seemed to go on forever as he anticipated the way she would feel beneath him. He wanted to control her every move and the thought flooded him with fire. Soon, he thought to himself, soon.

He heard the first stirrings of activity in the lobby. He smiled and leaned back in his chair waiting and anticipating how she would look when she was angry. He spun around as his assistant opened his door.

Mr. Trager someone, a young lady is here to see you. “She glanced behind her quickly. “She said you were expecting her.”

“ I am, please let her in.” He sat up and made every effort to look busy as she stormed into the room.

As soon as he heard the click of the door, he looked up at her and it hit him like a punch to the gut. She was more beautiful at this very moment than she had been yet. Her hair was a swirling mass of reds and browns and flowed down her back freely. He could almost feel his fingers itch to run through it. Her arms were crossed and her body was fitted into a dress that hugged her every curve and angle.

“ What the hell were you thinking towing my car?” She continued to tap her foot as she waved a sheet of paper at him. “I had to take a cab to get here and even that took forever. I can’t afford to take a cab all the way across town, Trager.” She huffed and exhaled slowly and he noticed the pink hue of her cheeks,

“ I’m sorry Sierra, I wanted you to come see me, and I knew this was one way to make it happen.” He leaned back and smiled.

“ You are so smug sometimes, A.J., you just assume the world is here to give you whatever you want aren’t you?” She was practically yelling and he wanted to somehow bottle up all the fire she carried and make love to her for hours.

“ Sometimes, yes. I like getting what I want and right now I want you.” He said it simply enough, but there was much more to the statement.

“ You don’t even know me, Trager.” She sighed.

It was the truth and it had never been clearer to her than right now. He had no idea of what was on her plate, or in her world for that matter. She was already stretched too thin and it wouldn’t take much to push her over the edge. Her Monday started out badly, her car was towed, and she’d spent hours on the phone looking for various agencies to help fund Jacobs’s medication. Money was running out and she needed a solution fast. Her father called her to discuss the house and he decided to take out a loan against it. It was the only thing of value he had left that he’d shared with her mother. With the growing figures for Jacobs’s medication, it was clear he had no choice. Then after going outside and seeing that her car was missing, she stomped off in search for it, only to find it had been a ruse to get her here.

“ I want you in my arms Sierra. I have wanted to touch you since that night when I watched you walk into the restaurant.”

“ I don’t know how you do it, Trager, but for me, I am not interested in becoming some notch on your headboard.”

“ I don’t have a headboard, Sierra, but you will see soon enough.” His arrogance was stifling, but she couldn’t stop the warmth that spread through her body. “I know you want the very same thing from me but you won’t let yourself go. I am not asking for marriage or family, I just want you, plain and simple.”

He was almost too much to look at. He was impeccably dressed as always. He delivered his point clearly and effectively and she knew what he said was true. She wasn’t too old yet to want to be touched by someone, and held by someone. The obvious problem was that she wasn’t that type of girl.

“ Shut the door, Sierra.” She did as he told her, and as she started to walk towards him, he added “lock it.”

With a gulp, she did as she was told. There was an underlying current in the air and she could tell he was playing with her, like a cat and mouse game. She wouldn’t be bossed around by his arrogance and she wanted him to know it. The entire situation was out of hand and she let it go too far that day in her apartment. She took responsibility for drinking the wine that got her into this mess.

“ Mr. Trager, I think I need to apologize. I think I may have given you the wrong impression about me. I am not the kind of girl who just lets strange men touch her... well you know what I mean. I can’t let this… attraction between us continue.” She fumbled the words out. “To say that my life is complicated right now would be a very sincere understatement.”

They sounded less harsh than she intended, but she finally got them out. He turned slowly towards her and he had a sinister look about him. He wasn’t frowning, or smiling, but it was as if he was stuck between both. He moved towards her like a cat chasing its prey and she backed up against his desk as he moved over her. He was slow at first. He simply ran his finger across her neck relishing at her quick intake of breath. He looked at her as he traced his finger across her chest and across the tops of her breasts. She couldn’t breathe, it was if she had never said a word. He kissed the tops of each mound lightly before he undid her hair, letting it cascade around her like a fiery blanket. He put his hands in it and pulled her hard against him, crushing his mouth to hers. She was lost. The feel of his mouth, grinding into hers was a welcome one. She tried to put up a defense against him and failed. He turned her around and she felt him lean into her as he whispered into her ear.

“ Sierra, I have been very clear about the fact that I want you. I want you to know that before anything else happens. I want you to know without any doubt that it’s going to happen.” She gasped as he pushed against her and she could feel the length of him against her.

“ You have to let go, let yourself feel all of the things I want to show you.” He kissed her mouth lightly. “If you want to say no I will, but understand if you do, I may not try again.”

She nodded yes to him as the rest of her defense slipped away. He was very matter-of-fact about things and she loved it. She felt him unzip her dress and trail his fingers down her spine as the dress slipped to the floor. She was aware of every nerve ending in her body as his hands reached around and touched her.

“ Don’t move.” It was all he told her before he began his descent.

Even in slow motion Sierra couldn’t stop the kiss, she welcomed it more than she should have and she shivered as she felt his other hand under the other side of her head. He raised back only once searching her face and seeing no resistance, he kissed her once more. This time deeper, longer and more demanding. She felt him cup the back of her head to tilt her towards him as the kiss intensified.

She didn’t want to fight anymore, couldn’t fight anymore. She stood and with one zip she let her dress drop to the floor leaving him speechless. She made her way over to him and he felt her tentatively put her mouth on his. This kind of forwardness was completely out of her comfort zone and he knew it.

“ How long has it been Sierra?” Her eyes flew open to look at him.

“ Four years.” She whispered it to him and it almost pushed him over the edge.

She let him love her in a way she had never known. Most of it was undoubtedly because of his experience as a lover. There was a sense of panic she’d felt when he told her there may not be another chance. She wanted to feel good, feel better. Her life was a mix of stress and planning and all she wanted was to feel something else. His skin on hers was like fire and ice and she let go, of her fears, of her stress of everything and he loved her completely. She met his every move and every action and she knew she was giving him as much as he gave her.

A.J. was moved by what had happened between them. He had certainly been with many women, but nothing had ever been as moving as what they had shared. She had always been distant and scared and yet something switched and she gave instead herself to him with everything in her power. She wasn’t shy or meek, she was eager and demanding and he enjoyed pushing her to her limits. Yet, as good as it was, she was holding back something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. She lay cupped in front of him and he could sense she was exhausted and simply didn’t want to move. It wasn’t usually his style, cuddling, but for her he would make an exception. There was a sense of sadness about her he wanted to fix, despite the warning bells in his head. He traced his finger up and down the length of her arm as she dozed slightly. No, this wasn’t his usual situation on any level at all. It happened almost simultaneously, the two of them remembering where they were. Sierra jumped up to start gathering her clothes. To be honest, the fact that they were in his office was mortifying and she was blushing the entire time. Along the way that fact had slipped her mind, until now.

“ Sierra… Sierra calm down it's fine.” He smiled at her as she continued to slip back into her clothes and he was able to be a bystander and admire the curve of her hip and the softness of her skin as the light hit it.

“ No A.J. it’s not alright. This is not me, I mean not really me.” She was frantic in her actions and after he redressed, he stilled her arms and helped her to breath. He sensed a panic in her, something deep down.

“ Do you want to talk about it Sierra?” he brushed her hair back from her face as he cupped her chin lovingly.

“ No, no I’m fine, I’m sorry. I have to go.” She gave him one last look and headed out of the office in a hurry. Something was wrong and he wanted to know what it was.

She took the few strides to reach her building and once inside her room, she collapsed against the door. What was she thinking? No matter what she did, she somehow managed to make the situation worse. She shook her head to clear her thoughts of him and what had happened, and called home. Her father answered and they took some time to discuss the home loan further. He sounded tired and she worried about him. She also spoke with Jacob about school. He was excited about the teacher and his class. She missed his little face all the time. She listened to her father and told him about work and Katie, she failed to mention Trager. They chatted for a while discussing the options she had once Katie was gone. Her last day at work was yesterday and she would be another week packing and getting things ready before leaving. Finally, they hung up and she carefully stood to walk into the kitchen. She blushed, remembering. Even now, she was sore from what he put her through. She had to remind herself that it could never happen again. She took a drink of water and settled into the armchair in the living room. Katie had been gone for hours, having met a friend in town. For the next few hours she had the place to herself and she planned to use them wisely. She started running a bath, touching the hot water with her fingertips. She was soaking for ten minutes before she heard a loud thump on the front door. She sat up quickly and wrapped herself in a robe. She felt her heart beating fast as she made her way to the front door. She checked the eye hole and saw no one. She froze when she saw the shadow of someone in the hall.

She opened the door to look. He stood back looking at her.

“ Sierra, hey look don’t shut the door.” He rushed towards her block it with his arm.

She folded her arms. “What do you want Brandon, why are you here and

Furthermore, how did you know I was here?” He pushed the door slightly and came inside.

She took a step back, this was part of the problem between them. He scared her. With A.J., she knew he wouldn’t hurt her. With Brandon, it made her worry, about her safety.

He reached out to her. “Sierra, I miss you so much, if you would just let me show you.” He took a step towards her and she moved out of his reach, grabbing the vase on the table and moving away.

“ Brandon, please. You know it’s done with us you can’t do this. I need you to go.” She moved towards the door and he grabbed her arm. She knew there would be bruises tomorrow. It was then that the front door opened and Katie came through it, followed by someone she had never met.

It was obvious they had walked into something dicey and the man with Katie spoke up first. “Is there a problem here?”

Katie made her way over to Sierra hugging her as she walked her towards the kitchen.

“ No man, not a thing, I was just going. Sierra, I’ll be back.” Brandon said as he left and he shut the door.

Sierra was visibly shaken, she had never expected him to follow her here. She had thought to leave him behind and start over.

“ Thanks, I appreciate the help.” She glanced over at Katie.

“ Sierra this is Marcus, a good friend of mine.” She gave Marcus a huge smile and Sierra shook his hand.

“ No wonder you sent me on that crazy date.” She gave them both a half smile, still reeling from Brandon’s visit. “Really though, thanks for your help. She excused herself to go think.

She made her way to her room. She had no choice, she would have to go home now, and at least with her father around, she felt safe. She supposed she could call the police, but she wasn’t sure much would come of it. Instead, she focused on her assignment for the class she was taking online. Monday, she would give a notice at the diner.

Brandon didn’t bother her anymore the rest of the week. Two of her tires were slashed on Friday morning and she was beginning to wonder if it was Brandon all along. She had Katie drop her off at the diner. She would normally be happy and carefree, but now she was depressed and wasn’t sure how to get out of the way she felt. More than that, she was scared and worried about where she was headed. The day went by quickly and she made her way home on the bus, hoping to just get there safely. She jumped when her phone rang and she checked the number and relaxed. It wasn’t Brandon.

“ Hello A.J., how are you?”

“ I’m doing well, I was hoping maybe we could talk, before our date tonight.”

She frowned, thinking, she had not only forgotten about the date, some part of her assumed he had been joking anyway. Given the last time they had seen each other she almost figured she wouldn’t hear from him again.

“ About that A.J., I’m not sure if I can. Some things have come up I need to take care of. Besides, I don’t have a car.”

“ Even better, I’ll send you one, are you at home?”

“ Yes, but...”

“ Give me thirty minutes.” He cut her off mid-sentence and then hung up abruptly.

The truth of the matter was that she wasn’t sure if she could handle seeing him right now. With the possibility of Brandon lurking about, she was consumed with worry. A.J. probably never had these kinds of issues. On top of her own problems, she was concerned about her father and Jacob. Based on her calculations, even with taking out a loan on the house, he would need more money down the road. What would they do then? She considered A.J., not for the first time either. If she could somehow get him to fall for her then she would have the financial freedom to help Jacob, but it was completely out of character for her to do something like that. Even still, the idea burned in the back of her mind. She couldn’t admit to herself even now, that she may want to get him to fall for her because she just wanted to be with him, it was ridiculous to even think it. He was a known playboy and he would never settle for her no matter what she wanted, on the surface or deep down.

True to his word a car arrived to pick her up. She made the attempt to put on something nice. She had on a black dress and heels and her hair was spun up on top of her head. She applied her make–up, much as Katie had done before, but just not as much. She sat back to see how she looked and once again the person staring back was a stranger. She would at least try to test the waters, to see if he felt anything for her. They had only known each other a short time, but there was something there and they both knew it. She watched the buildings fly by, lost in her own thoughts. Nothing made sense anymore. A.J. Trager had her head spinning and it wouldn’t allow for her to focus on what was important. She would test the waters, so to speak, to see what he said and felt about her. She had zero powers of seduction up her sleeve, but she would try, for Jacob. The car pulled up to his building and she made her way inside and up to his floor. Since he towed her car, she knew exactly where to find him now, he had been nice enough to send her money back to her for the car and the tow with a courier, but it was still about the principle. She smiled at his assistant, a blonde who was gorgeous, and couldn’t help but wonder if he slept with her too.

She heard his voice welcome her in and she took a deep breath and went inside. He looked up from the papers on his desk and sat back in his chair. He was all business-like and the air that surrounded him seemed to come to life. She glanced at the desk and gulped. Just a few days ago, she was laid out in that very spot. She felt the redness rush to her cheeks.

A.J. looked her over. He usually had a firm handle on his behavior, but he struggled with not finding her since she had last been here. Not even 30 minutes after she left during her last visit, he felt himself wanting her again. She was under his skin and he was trying to figure out how to handle it. Something was very different today, she was as pale as a ghost and almost lifeless despite her efforts to seem calm and carefree. He tried to push down the need to fix whatever was bothering her. Instead he stood and walked towards her.

She saw him coming and despite her fears she felt the fire almost immediately. He made her come to life and feel safe all at the same time. He stopped and leaned back on the desk.

“ Come here, Sierra.” She obeyed him. He lifted his hand up to her pale face and traced the line of her jaw with his forefinger. “Did you think about me about what we did?” She nodded her head yes and her eyes met his. He frowned because she was not completely here with him, not now.

“ What’s wrong Sierra?”

“ Nothing, why do you ask.” She gave him a warm smile and reached up to run her fingers over his sports coat.

He frowned. She was doing her best to appear seductive, but her actions didn’t match her appearance. There was something going on but she was hiding it from him, toying with him. There was a loud bang from the outer office and she practically jumped into his arms. She buried her head in his chest and instinctively he wrapped his arms around her.

His door opened to reveal his assistant. “Sorry about the commotion, Mr. Trager. The Adams kids were here and they decided to play a prank on Dad. They have since left and Mr. Adams apologized for their behavior.” She gave him a quick glance and took in the scene of him holding that nice girl whose car he had towed.

“ Thank you for letting us know.” He gave her a smile and once the door was shut, he addressed the woman who was wrapped around him.

“ Okay, Sierra, what’s going on, what’s wrong?” She pulled away from him.

“ Nothing is wrong, A.J... I just had a rough night and I apologize for my behavior. I didn’t mean to embarrass you like that.” She sniffed and he frowned at her.

“ No, I’m not letting this go Sierra, I want to know why you are trembling like that, and now!” He was demanding and loud and she worried someone would hear them outside of the doors.

“ I may as well tell you, there has been a situation that has come up and I will be moving in a week or so. I guess I’m just nervous or stressed, that’s all.” She trembled slightly as he took her hand in his and turned it over, lightly tracing the palm with his thumb.

He pulled her to him and she welcomed the arms that wrapped around her, holding her. She knew then she could never seduce him. Hell, she wasn’t even able to have a conversation with him without falling apart. She felt his hands rubbing her back and she closed her eyes, enjoying the way his hands felt. He moved them now, running them down the length of her and she trembled now, not from fear, but of what she knew his hands would do to her if she didn’t stop them now. She tried to pull away from him, but he held her there and she looked up at him.

“ Didn’t you like what I did the other day to you, Sierra?” He pulled her arm up and nibbled his way up the underside of her forearm. “Answer me, Sierra.”