The Reckless SecretBy: Alexa Wilder
“Thank you,” she said, swallowing dryly. “You look…” She risked a glance up at his face, found him gazing down at her as if she was all he saw. She looked away quickly, blushing, and focused on the glint of his watch—a watch that was obviously worth more than her entire apartment. “Rich,” she finished, and he chuckled, pulled her closer just a little. She didn’t object.
“Something you find a complete turnoff, if I remember correctly.”
“I don’t hate society,” she said. “I just want more from life.”
“I always admired that about you.”
She choked out a laugh. “Are you drunk?”
“Not yet,” he said, “but it’s on the agenda.” And when she glanced up at him this time, he was wearing his bright, charming grin, the one he’d dazzled her with all her life.
They fell into a silence, and Maggie found herself lulled into a sense of calm by the rhythmic swaying of the dance, the moody tones of the music, the strength and warmth of Declan pressed into her, the steadiness of his heartbeat against her breast. Her stomach twisted dangerously, the same way it had back when she first developed her crush on him as a teenager. When every time she saw him, she’d felt like she was looking at perfection.
And when he’d flirted with her outrageously at the beach party all those months ago, then sent flowers to her apartment with a note asking her to meet him, and her heart had swelled with giddy anticipation…
And then he’d given her a date and a half and nothing else, no other contact, nothing but the cruelty of parading Ms. Leggy Blonde around in the newspapers and magazines.
As if following her train of thought, Declan suddenly drew in a breath and asked, “So…what did the doc have that I didn’t?” There was an oddness to his voice, the words coming out rushed and stilted. She’d never heard that hitch of uncertainty in his tone before.
“You traded me in pretty quickly.”
“What was I supposed to do?” she asked, pulling back an inch or two, enough to look up at his face, “sit and wait for you to be done with your blonde?”
His jaw twitched. “She’s not my blonde. She’s my friend.”
“Right,” she said, injecting disbelief into the word.
His hand tightened on her back. “Were you jealous?”
“Were you?” she shot back at him.
“Extremely,” he said without hesitation, the tightened hand on her lower back now forming a fist, catching the material of her dress and pushing her forward. Her breath stuttered in his throat.
“You didn’t do anything about it, did you?”
“Didn’t I?” he said quietly, and his gaze slipped down to her mouth. Maggie’s head was spinning, and for just an instant, for one blindingly stupid instant, she felt the overwhelming urge to lean forward.
“Song’s finished,” Declan said, and the world rushed in on Maggie, lights and sound exploding back into her awareness. She blushed.
“Right,” she said, pulling away from his hold. There was a hint of reluctance in the way he let her go, a lingering drag of his fingers across her back and hip. She straightened her dress and looked everywhere except his face. “Thank you for the dance.”
Then she got away from him as quickly as this dress allowed her to move.
He caught up with her again as she left the bathroom—she’d only gone in there to splash some water on her face, cool down, gather herself after the betrayal of her body. The way it reacted to Declan’s proximity. The way she ached for him.
But he didn’t let her; didn’t allow her a reprieve.
He marched towards her down the empty corridor, fire in his eyes and deliberation in his step, staring directly at her as he drew closer and closer, as she lost her breath and slowed her pace and lit up with the anticipation of it—
Then he met her in the middle, and he took her waist, and he yanked her aside.
“Shh,” he said, tucking her firmly into an alcove, shadowed and separated from the world, the intimacy of it all as he swept in close, as he pressed his body to hers, as he settled one hand on the wall beside her head and the other on her hip… Then he dipped his face to hers, his breath teasing her lips, and murmured, “Can I?”
And in that moment, there was not one part of her that wanted to say anything other than the breathless, whispered word that tumbled from her mouth.
Declan couldn’t handle himself around Maggie Emerson. She lit him up like nothing else, burned through his blood and hammered into his heart, made him lose sense of himself and his composure, made him desperate.