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“Say it,” he said with the force back in his voice.
I bit my lip. “I want you.”
“You want me what?”
“I want you to f**k me,” I breathed.
When the words left my mouth, there was no question who I was. I wasn’t the dream girl I had been told to be—no, I was the real me and I wanted him, all of him. Everything he had to give I wanted to take. The hunger inside me was nearly unbearable. Thank God it didn’t take long before he was inside me. He made love to me as no one ever had. I became his dream girl at some point during the night because I wanted to give him everything he didn’t even know he wanted. I wanted to do things to him I had only heard about.
The things we did would become a memory that stayed with me for a very long time. When he took me it wasn’t with an urgency to just fulfill his own need. It wasn’t fast and quick like with other guys I had been with. Rather, it was a night filled with passion, lust, with our deepest, darkest desires being met. It was a dream, a fantasy—one I wanted to live out over and over for a very long time. He must have fallen asleep around five a.m., but I didn’t want to close my eyes. I watched him, thinking how perfect he seemed. He was a mix of good and bad, salty and sweet, all of which left me wanting more. I wanted to be his dream girl—always.
But he belonged to someone else and who was I to take him from her? The sudden realization shattered me. I knew I should leave before morning came, to make this easier for both of us. So while he slept, I gathered my things. Before leaving, I picked up his shirt and breathed in the scent and stared at Ben for the longest time. I’d remember him like that forever—all long and lean, suntanned skin, mess of blond hair covering those eyes that were bluer than any ocean. I covered him with his shirt, the one with the frayed edges. When I looked down at him one last time, I couldn’t help thinking it looked the way I felt.
Walking backward toward the door, I stumbled over his sweatshirt on the floor. I couldn’t resist it. I wanted to keep a small piece of him, so I slipped it on. He stirred, mumbling, “S’belle” as he slept, but he never woke. I crept out of the room, thinking to myself my name was Bell, not S’belle. My Paris high was still strong and even though I had told a few people my name was S’belle because I thought it sounded sexier, I knew he would be the last. I wanted him to own it.
• • •
“Red? Did you hear me?” he asks, pulling me back to the here and now.
He calls me Red because I flat-out told him when I saw him this past summer to never call me S’belle again. That’s not what I wanted at all, but it was for the best. I draw in a shaky breath before I can find my voice. “I know the way back. Follow me.”
In the dark corridor he takes my hand in his. An innocent gesture, gallant even—guide a woman through a dark hallway. But to me, there’s more to it. Don’t read too much into it, I remind myself. I squash the emotions entering my brain that can only lead to false hope. But when he squeezes our laced fingers, my stomach immediately starts to flutter. Sex, I tell myself. That’s all this could ever be. That’s all it ever was. And besides, there is too much baggage between us for there to be anything else.
“You know this hotel is not only rumored to be haunted but has a monumental place in movie history,” he says so matter-of-factly that I’m wondering if maybe the attraction I thought was mutual isn’t.
“No, I didn’t know that. What do you mean?” I try to mask my anxious breathing the farther into the darkness we step.
“The hotel was used to film the prom scene in Pretty in Pink. A boxing ring was set up in one of the ballrooms for Rocky III. The Ghostbusters movie used the Music Room to catch Slimer. Eddie Murphy—”
I interrupt his list of credits, thinking maybe he might be a little nervous after all. “Oh, my brother Xander loved Ghostbusters. I used to watch it with him and his girlfriend all the time when we were younger.”
We enter into the stainless steel food prep area, where I had seen him earlier tonight. Suddenly a noise, sounding like a loud whisper, echoes through the room and I jump at the same time a scream escapes me. “Oh my God, this place really is haunted.” My heart thumps at the thought.
It’s kind of hard to make out in the dim lighting, but I know I catch sight of a smirk on Ben’s face.
“Hey, it’s okay. It’s not ghosts, I promise. It’s probably just the mice.”
I shriek this time. “Where are they? I hate rodents.”
He presses me against the cool stainless steel wall before murmuring in my ear, “They live in the walls. They can’t hurt you. And even if they could, I’m here.”
I’m not sure if he means the ghosts or the mice, but honestly, I don’t care about either with the warmth of his body pressed so close to mine. Even in my heels I have to tilt my head to see his face. “I’m not a damsel in distress, you know.”
He slides his tongue along his lip before answering me. “Maybe you could be,” he whispers.
Lust, want, and need for this man purge themselves from every single one of my pores. I swallow hard, then lean in and breathe him in. It’s the same scent I remember from so long ago—nothing more, just soap. Fresh and clean.
“Did you just smell me?” he asks.
“I did,” I purr.