Conquer Your Love(Surrender Your Love 02)

By: J.C. Reed

Chapter 4





HOLY MOTHER of sins!

What the hell was he doing here?

The question played over and over in my head as I swallowed hard to get rid of the sudden lump in my throat. It wasn’t just my throat that felt constricted, but everything else—from my stomach to down below, as though every inch of my body remembered the good times he and I once had.

That was before I found out he was planning to steal my future estate.

“J—” My mouth opened and closed again, unable to utter his name, while my eyes remained glued to him like a moth to light. I wanted to run; I wanted to scream, and yet I did none of those things. My whole being was too hurt to react, too stunned by his presence.

It couldn’t be. He couldn’t be here because he couldn’t possibly know where I was. No one did. I took a deep breath to calm the alarm bells ringing somewhere at the back of my mind. I was in deep crap. No, make that the deepest and crappiest of crap, because Jett was at least twice as sinfully gorgeous as I remembered him and thrice as dangerous—to my heart. The soft spot I thought I had for him in my heart and in my lower abdomen, magnified in the blink of an eye.

Dark hair that brushed his collar, eyes as deep and green as sin, a white shirt that only managed to emphasize his broad shoulders and sculpted chest—the guy was a walking hazard to the female population. He certainly was to me. Even though he had crushed my heart and I knew about the kind of jerky trick he had tried to pull on me, I still couldn’t help the tiny butterflies fluttering in the pit of my stomach. Maybe it wasn’t my stomach, but something else. Something remembering his exploring fingers and the way he had filled me, making me come over and over again.

I rolled my eyes at my sudden onset of stupidity. Okay, we had amazing sexual chemistry and he definitely knew what he was doing, but whatever he had to say I wasn’t going to listen to him. Or bed him. Even though I sort of wanted the latter. A lot.

“You know what I’m going to do to every guy who so much as looks at you?” Jett’s lips brushed the lobe of my ear as his mouth moved to the corner of my mouth, his deep tone with just a hint of a Southern accent caressing my every nerve ending, making me want to—

Hell, no!

I jumped to my feet to put some much-needed distance between us and almost toppled over the bistro table. My eyes bore into him and the music died around us. The whole room began to spin and the people turned into a blur of distorted faces and colors. Closing my eyes, I gripped the edge of the table for support and forced myself to take deep breaths until my heartbeat slowed down to a bearable level. When I opened my eyes again he was still there. Still towering over me. Still gorgeous. The room began to spin again and my resentment started to slip away, which angered me. I needed to be angry because he was the bad guy.

“Sit down.” He closed the distance between us, the deep frown between his eyebrows barely taking away the breathtaking perfection of his face.

My mind screamed at him to stay the hell away from me, but my throat remained constricted, incapable of following my brain’s command. I raised my arm to stop him. Jett flat out ignored it as he clutched my upper arm and pushed me back into my seat. He dropped down next to me, so close I might as well have sat on his lap. I watched him sniff the contents of my glass and push it into my hand, seemingly satisfied that it wasn’t alcohol.

“Drink up. You’re dehydrated.” His tone left no room for discussion. I hated to give him the satisfaction of following his command, and yet I found myself taking one sip after another until the glass was empty. He took it from me and placed it on the table, then turned to regard me, his head cocked to the side, his jaw set. His stunning green gaze wandered over me, drinking me in, making me feel completely naked. Even though the lights were dimmed, I could see a nerve twitching beneath his right eye. With every moment that passed he seemed even more pissed. I crossed my arms over my chest, wishing I was wearing more than the thin layer of nothing Sylvie called a dress.

“You still haven’t answered my question, Brooke,” he said slowly, emphasizing my name.

I returned his icy stare and my tongue finally regained its ability to speak. “Sorry, did you say something? I was too busy figuring out whether you were stalking me.”

Jett’s expression darkened. “What the hell are you wearing?”

“This?” I looked at my half exposed chest and laughed. It sounded a bit strained and nervous, but he certainly couldn’t tell with the music in the background. The tune changed to something about a girl not letting a guy trick her twice. I snorted.

How fitting!

The DJ was sending me a message.

“Okay, I’ll bite,” I said. “What’s wrong with it?”

“You’re giving every guy in here a hard-on. Including me.” His fingers brushed the inside of my thigh, riding as high as the hem of my dress, which was mere inches away from my thong. At his warm touch, heat immediately travelled through my belly and pooled between my legs. I pressed my thighs together and tried to push his hand away. He didn’t move.

“Maybe every other guy was the plan,” I said. “Because I wasn’t planning on seeing you. How did you find me?”

“Once I figured you were in Italy, it wasn’t hard. Knowing you and Sylvie, and given that this is the only club in the area—” He shrugged. I cringed at his audacity. Who the fuck did he think he was?

“Seriously, you’re such an arrogant jerk,” I hissed.

His icy stare dropped a few degrees, if that was even possible. I narrowed my eyes in the hope he’d feel my distaste for him.

“Didn’t I make myself clear enough in New York? It’s over between us. Get the fuck away from me, Jett. I don’t want to see you.”

If my words reached him, he didn’t react. Didn’t even blink. For a second I thought he didn’t hear me. I opened my mouth to repeat myself when he raised his hand to cut me off. “Look, I know what I did was a shitty move but I can explain. I was trying to protect you.”

The protection crap again. “What are you protecting me from? An inheritance you’d rather have for yourself?” I rolled my eyes. “Please, spare yourself further embarrassment and just leave me alone because I’m not buying your lies.”

His hand grasped my upper arm so fast and hard, I flinched. He inched closer until I could feel his breath on my lips. “Listen to me. I don’t want the Lucazzone estate. There was a time when I did, but that changed after I met you in that bar and we got to know each other.”

There was something in his eyes, a glint that begged me to believe him, a flame that forced me to search through our history for signs that he hadn’t been trying to deceive me all along.

“Fuck you, Jett.”

He was so close, barely an inch away from me; I could barely breathe. I needed to get away from here, from him, from the whole situation. And yet I remained seated, not even yanking my arm away even though his grip was beginning to hurt.

As though sensing my discomfort, Jett loosened his grip but didn’t let go of me. “I know you don’t trust me and I can’t blame you. I probably wouldn’t trust myself, but this is serious, Brooke. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.” His calm tone and sharp gaze sent a shiver down my spine. Somewhere in the back of my mind I realized he had said exactly the same words before, and the realization made me uncomfortable. Not to mention it managed to ignite my curiosity.

“Protect from whom?” I almost choked on my words. The entire situation sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie. And yet I didn’t laugh. Maybe it was the dead serious expression on his beautiful face. Or the way his thumb brushed my thigh, both soothing me and setting my skin on fire. Or his voice that conveyed a magnitude and significance I somehow seemed to fail to grasp.

“It’s complicated,” Jett said, hesitating. “Go out with me and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

He almost got me.

I snorted at my idiocy. He was playing mind games again, and this was just another ruse to get me alone so he could seduce me or get whatever he was after.

“No way.”

“Fine. No date. Just breakfast, coffee, or whatever you want.” He cocked a brow and a glint of amusement lit up his eyes. Green as sin—the kind of sin I couldn’t wait to dive into and stain my body with. No way was I going to be alone with him anywhere.

“What are you afraid of, Miss Stewart? That you won’t be able to resist me?”

Oh, god.

How could I have forgotten his inflated ego? I bit my lip hard so I wouldn’t smile, not because it was funny but because he was so spot-on—I might not be able to resist him. Not only was he scorching hot, he knew the effect he had on women, and that’s never a good combination. Jett raised a brow in challenge.

“You’re not God’s gift to the female population.” I hated to admit it but he sort of was. At least his good looks were, thanks to his inherited hotness gene. Not sure about his shitty character. “I’ll give you five minutes over coffee, just to explain, and that’s it. Then you’ll leave me alone. Deal?”

He seemed to consider my suggestion for a moment. I felt my heartbeat speed up again as I regarded him. Even though I was fuming mad and the scars of betrayal he had left behind would take years to heal, if ever, I couldn’t help the bubble of happiness growing in my foolish chest. Now that the shock was slowly wearing off, I was happy to see him.

“Make it dinner.”

I laughed at his self-assured expression and the amused glint in his eyes. He obviously thought I was going to give in. The guy definitely needed to be taught a lesson.

“Lunch, and that’s my final offer. Take it or leave it.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Miss Stewart.”

“I’m known for my bargaining skills,” I said proudly.

“Throw in a drink and a dance today, and you have a deal.” He moistened his lips, his tongue leaving a moist trail. I stared at it for a moment longer than I should have, unable to peel my gaze off him.

“I’m not drinking tonight,” I said.

His leg brushed my thigh. It was just an inch, but enough to remind me just how close we sat. My breath hitched and the walls began to close down on me. The air felt too hot to breathe.

“A dance, then. And I get to pick the song.” He grinned.

No way was I letting him pick the damn song. He’d probably go for something slow and sexy. Something that would invite a lap dance. That was way too personal, not to mention the last thing my crumbling self-control needed.

“I pick the song,” I said decisively.

“What about we retreat to the VIP area and no one picks the song?”

I shook my head. “We stay here, on the dance floor, where everyone can see us.”

“Fine by me, Brooke. I’ve always been into public performance. I’m glad to know I could give you a taste for it.” His voice was low and hoarse, his stare intense, the glint of amusement gone, leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Oh, god.

My cheeks flamed as I thought back to the one time we had sex on the shore of Lake Como, where people could have seen us. I realized I had just said the most stupid thing ever and probably managed to inflate his ego even more. Soon it’d grow to monstrous proportions, and he’d need a bulldozer to push it through the door.

“Let’s just dance before I change my mind,” I said. At least he didn’t get to choose the music.

Jett stood and reached down to help me up. I placed my hand into his outstretched palm, trying hard to ignore the electric shock running through my arm, playing havoc with my nerves.

As he pushed through the crowd making room for me to follow, I scanned the dance floor and bar, realizing Sylvie was nowhere in sight. She had taken off with Tattooed Guy.

Unbelievable!

My mood plummeted.

The dance floor was crowded but not to the point of strangers touching you. The neon lights over our heads flickered with the beat, bathing us in a seizure-inducing white glow. Above us I could see the staircase leading to the darkened VIP area; to our right was what looked like a DJ booth. Jett turned to face me but didn’t move. I frowned, wondering what the heck he was waiting for.

The music was louder here. I leaned in to shout so he’d hear me over the noise. “One song, Mayfield, and that’s it. No touching, grinding, or any other funny moves. Or I’m gone.”

“What? You think I can’t keep my hands off of you? You’re damn right about that, baby.”

As though to prove his point, his hands moved to my ass and pulled me against him. Balancing on seven-inch stilettoes, I barely reached his chin. His hand forced my chin up until our gazes interlocked. His lips neared mine, scorching my skin with his hot breath. For a moment I thought he’d kiss me but he just hovered there, leaving me both wanting and fearing his kiss.

“What are you doing?” I managed to say through ragged breaths.

“Waiting for the right song. I’m going to make the best of my one and only dance.”

The music slowed down a bit as the DJ made an announcement in Italian. I looked around, confused, wondering what was going on. An instant later, half the dance floor cleared and other people joined us. Most were couples. I realized the DJ was about to change the music and none of us had asked for it. Damn! I had been pretty comfortable with the last fast-paced song.

“What did he say?” I asked Jett, frowning.

His lips curled at one corner but he made no effort to explain as the beat morphed into a different song. A love song. I groaned inwardly.

Great, just great!

Jett must’ve had a lucky day.

“That’s more like it,” he whispered as he pulled me closer to him—so close I could feel his heartbeat.

I knew this song and instantly wished I hadn’t agreed to a dance. The female vocalist began to sing something about love never dying, lurking in the deepest crevices, bypassing time, and resurfacing once more, stronger than before. It was just one song, albeit a stupid one. I chose to ignore her voice and let the beat lead the way.

It was all so slow and sexy, the way my chest trembled against his, the way Jett’s body began to move against me, his hips molding into mine, his breath tickling my cheek, sending my heart into overdrive. I wanted to run and yet I couldn’t move, as though he had put a spell on me and frozen me in his arms forever.

As the music pulled us in, our bodies moved in accord. I inhaled his scent—a mixture of manly aftershave and him—and let his arms envelope me, pressing me so close against him I could barely breathe. Maybe it was the way he smelled or the way his hands possessed me, but something about him drove me wild and daring. I felt his body brushing against mine and my mind dissolved into nothingness as our bodies merged to the hot beat. I don’t know how long we just danced, clutching at each other, wanting, owning. By the time we stopped, I had lost track of both time and myself. I had long forgotten why I was so pissed at him. All that mattered was that I had never felt so right in anyone’s arms.

“You smell so good. Like wild roses in a warm summer night’s breeze,” Jett said in my ear as he led me through the crowd and back to my table.

Smiling, I averted my eyes so he wouldn’t see how much his words affected my sappy heart. What woman wouldn’t want to hear she smelled like roses?

We reached the table and Jett pulled me against him, forcing me to meet his cryptic gaze. “Brooke—” He trailed off, hesitating, as though he wanted to say something but couldn’t decide whether to continue, or not. We stared at each other in silence, relishing the other’s presence. Eventually he said what he had started, though I could tell by the guarded look on his face that it wasn’t all.

“I’m sorry.”

His eyes looked so earnest that my breath caught in my throat. No words could convey so much and yet so little. What was I supposed to say? That I believed him and that everything was all right—when it wasn’t? It’d be a lie because I didn’t believe him. I didn’t trust him.

Jett squeezed my hand gently but combined with his words, it was too much. A sting of disappointment and pain washed over me. I pulled my hand away and stepped back to put some much-needed physical space between us. This stupid song! Love wasn’t supposed to hurt.

His eyes bore deeper into my soul, cutting through layers of hurt and mistrust. I could feel him in my heart and in every fiber of my being.

“I know you don’t trust me, Brooke, and I’m ready to give you as much time as you need, just don’t back away from me. Give me a chance to prove that I was telling the truth.”

His gaze was so intense, I found myself nodding. I wanted him to regain my trust, not to get back together, but because I knew deep down he wasn’t a bad person.

“There’s a bus station in front of the club. Meet me there tomorrow and I’ll explain,” he said.

“Okay,” I said reluctantly, already regretting my decision. “And no more lies, Jett.”

He took a deep breath and smiled that dazzling, lopsided smile of his that always managed to send my pulse racing. “I promise you the truth and nothing but the truth.”

“Now go,” I said. “I don’t want Sylvie seeing us together, or she might decide to bite off your head.” And then I’d certainly miss his beautiful face, but that I didn’t add. Jett didn’t need to know just how much he still affected me.

His face clouded over. “I’m not letting you—”

“I’ll be fine, Jett. I’ve never been better. Now go, or the deal’s off.” I infused my tone with all the resolve I could muster. I knew I sounded brisk and unfriendly, but I didn’t want him to get the wrong idea. Jett could be stubborn, but so could I. I wasn’t going to spend the evening with him and risk falling deeper into this mess before he had told me his part of the story.

Countless emotions, ranging from annoyance to mulishness crossed his features, and then it all settled into compliance. Obviously, he was a clever guy and knew when to back off.

“Bus station. Twelve o’clock.” His fingers trailed up my upper arm and settled beneath my chin, and for a moment I thought he was going to kiss me. I held my breath, anticipating the intimate touch of his lips, but it never came. “Please be careful. And Brooke—”

I raised my brows, barely able to breathe. “Yeah?”

“Switch that goddamn phone on now. I don’t want to have to remind you again.” His tone was menacing, carrying just a hint of a sexy threat.

I opened my mouth to tell him where he could shove his command, but he had already turned away, having the last word, as usual. Speechless, I watched his broad shoulders move away until he was swallowed up by the crowd. Only after sitting back down did I realize I had been holding my breath and my heart was acting crazy. And was that a hint of disappointment I detected?

I exhaled and pulled my phone out of my handbag, fighting the urge to do as he had bid. What would he do to me if I defied his authority? My heart skipped a beat at the countless possibilities flooding my mind, and my stomach clenched with anticipation at each and every one of them.

Did I want to find out what he had in mind?

Hell, no. We were done, so naturally I’d switch on the phone—after letting him steam just a little bit longer.

Twenty minutes later—enough time to calm down my nerves—Sylvie joined me at the table, blue eyes sparkling, cheeks glowing. She placed another glass of water in front of me and slumped into her seat.

“Thanks.” I pointed at the glass as I eyed her carefully, trying hard to keep my expression as nonchalant as possible.

“Good catch! I’m glad you’ve met someone new,” Sylvie said.

“What do you mean?” I looked up from my glass, startled. Did she see Jett? Oh, god. I wasn’t ready to explain yet when I didn’t know what to say.

She pointed at a guy lingering near our booth. He had been standing there waiting for someone for the past ten minutes, and he just happened to look our way that very instant.

“No, it’s not what you’re thinking.” I grimaced, unable to hide my annoyance.

“No?” She raised her brows knowingly.

I chose to ignore the irritating grin on her face and changed the subject. “Had fun?”

“Got his number.” She waved her phone and laughed. And then she went on to tell me everything about the guy. As much as I tried my best to listen to her gushing, I found myself drifting off, following my own thoughts to green eyes and a warning that had managed to instill discomfort in me.

“Hey,” I said, cutting Sylvie off. “I’m really tired. Let’s call it a night.”

Maybe it was the disquieting undertone in my voice that reached her through the veil of alcohol and raging hormones, but Sylvie’s gushing stopped instantly and her expression became serious. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I gave her a half-hearted smile. “Just tired.”

“Okay. I’m calling our driver to pick us up early.”

I nodded and mouthed ‘thanks’ as I followed her out into the starry night. Standing outside the club, the countless unfamiliar faces only managed to magnify my unease, and I couldn’t wait to get home.

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