I pull my rental car to the gate of Grayson Bennett's beachside Hamptons mansion, and I stare at the keypad. The code won't be the same. It's been almost three years now. He would have changed the code and yet, instead of punching the call button, my hand trembles as I reach for the numbers. I key in the code I once used often and the gate begins to creep open. I grip the steering wheel, some part of me wanting to believe that Grayson left the code in place because he hoped I'd come back. Which is ridiculous. The man betrayed me. He never loved me. He hurt me, and yet here I am, about to stand on his doorstep and ask to come inside his home and domain.
I pull the basic sedan that I picked up in the city to avoid a chopper service, and pull it around the circle drive, stopping on the opposite side of the house, where I park under my favorite willow tree. The minute I kill the engine, my heart thunders wildly in my chest. I can't believe I'm doing this, but I am. I'm here. I'm doing this. I slide my purse over my head and across my chest to allow it to rest on my jean-clad hip. I'm not backing out now.
I climb out of the car and into a gust of chilly late-October wind off the ocean that lifts my recently refreshed light brown hair off of my neck and has me snuggling deeper into my light blue sweater. I inhale and the fresh scent of the ocean, the taste of salt on my lips, follows and so do the memories of this place, of me here with Grayson. I can't believe how emotional this feels. Why can't I just get over this man? I am over him. This is just me reacting to a time in my life when this man stole my every breath. It's a part of me, just as he always will be.
With that mantra in my mind, I hurry forward and rush up the stairs of the understated mansion with three steeples and wood siding. My chest pinches with the realization that the last time I was here, it belonged to Grayson's late father. He was a good man with exceptional taste and standards. Raymond Bennett did nothing less than perfect, this stunning house included. I stop at the door and reach for the bell, but my hand falls away, my lashes lowering, with the attack of memories that charge through my mind; the fight, the betrayal, the tears, so many gut-wrenching tears he didn't deserve, but there is also so much more—the history. The way he made me feel like I was his world when obviously I wasn't, but it doesn't seem to matter. I can't seem to forget him and standing here now, I can still smell his woodsy cologne and taste his passion and my God. My eyes pop open. What am I doing? I can't be here.
I should have just called.
I turn and head down the stairs, but my attempted escape comes too late. The roar of an expensive engine sounds moments before a black Porsche Boxster, Grayson's car of choice, circles the drive, and speeds toward me. I halt at the last step as he, in turn, halts the car directly in front of me. I hold my breath, preparing for the impact this man has always had on me, telling myself he won't anymore. I'm not the same person I was when we were together. I'm stronger. I'm harder. I'm more jaded.
I won't melt for Grayson Bennett.
He kills the engine and pops his door open, obviously not going into the garage. I'm here. He wants to know why. He unfolds himself and straightens to his imposing height of six feet three inches, the wind catching in his thick, wavy dark hair, as my fingers often did in the past. He shuts his door, his unassuming, faded jeans and long-sleeved black T-shirt hugging every hard inch of a body that is just as perfect now at thirty-eight as it was three years ago. Back when I looked at him with stars in my eyes, and his wisdom and confidence stoked admiration and attraction in me.
He saunters toward me, his stride easy, but no less predatory, while oozing power and grace. He stops in front of me, towering over me despite the step down I have yet to take. He's close, so very close. My gaze sweeps the hint of gray in his neatly trimmed goatee, that I like a little too much. My lashes lower, and I breathe out before I force myself to look at him, my stare colliding with his potent green eyes and even with all my inner dialogue about not reacting to him, I am. I feel every touch I've ever shared with this man right here, right now.
"Mia," he says softly, and I swear I feel his voice like a caress of his hand.
"Grayson," I say, and his name feels right and wrong on my tongue. So right. So wrong.
"I didn't expect you," he says. "Ever." There is a sudden coldness to his tone that stabs me like a knife.
I'm an attorney and I'm good at my job. I maintain my control and I do it well, but I react now when I don't want to react. "This was a mistake," I say. "Forget I was here." I step around him and off the stairs, but he catches my arm and turns me to face him. Heat radiates from his hand, up my arm, and over my chest and Lord help me, my nipples are hard.
"There are many mistakes between us," he says. "Don't make coming here and backing out another one."
He's right, but that's my only thought. I can't think when he's touching me. I've never been able to think when this man touches me. "Can you not touch me, please?" I whisper.
He releases me like I've burned him when he's the one who burned me, his jaw hardening, his eyes icing. "Let's go inside," he says, motioning me forward, and I know this man. I still know him so very well. I hurt him just now. Why do I care that I hurt him? He practically took a knife and cut me open.
And yet, I do. "Grayson," I begin, not sure what I'm about to say or if I will regret it, but he cuts me off.
"Let's go inside, Mia," he orders, anger in the depth of his voice when he rarely allows anyone to see anger, but then, this is me and I was always the one that broke through all that steel and control. Or maybe I didn't. Maybe I just thought I did because nothing was what I thought it was with Grayson.
I head up the stairs and he doesn't pull the power play of following me. That's not his style. He's at my side, and we fall into step as we walk to the porch, giving me the façade of sharing control. You don't share control with Grayson. You just think you do. That's where I went wrong with this man. I thought I was different. I believed I shared control with him. I believed I shared a lot of things with him, but I didn't. He owned me and the problem is that I wanted to be owned, but those days are over. He will never own me again.
He opens his door, and I don't know why I do it, but I look over at him and when his eyes meet mine, I do just what I said I wouldn't do. I fall into the sweltering heat of our years of history and melt for this man in a way no other man has ever made me melt. I hate him. I love him. I hate him. And as if it somehow protects me from all that he is to me, I dart inside the foyer of his home.
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Dirty Rich BetrayalRomance
Grayson Bennett. He's a billionaire, a lawyer, the king of the world to some. A professed lifelong bachelor. A man who took his father's business and fortune and turned marginal success into an empire. Now someone is threatening that empire and he's...