A new-adult romance duet.
Warning: This book is designed for readers 18+ due to language and graphic sexual content.
A blueprint for desire.
With a shared passion for breathing life into an unconventional
dream home, the attraction between a struggling new grad of interior design and
an award-winning architect with eclectic sexual tastes is irresistible. But
with a cloud of lies and loss hanging over him, the only arrangement Logan
wants is one of indulgence and pleasure. However, fate seems to have another
design plan in mind for them—a plan that ultimately leads them down a path of
desire and discovery.
When the man obsessed with creating his unusual home sets
his sights on the woman who keeps unknowingly navigating her way back to him,
lust clouds his judgment and he makes an inappropriate proposition. After
nearly blowing his chances with the talented and alluring beauty, he readjusts
his plans, because it just so happens
that his sexy ulterior motives go hand-in-hand with her expertise in interior
Though Chloe may be young and naïve in Logan's eyes, she sees
him for who and what he is: a man with severe commitment issues. But she's
optimistic—maybe too optimistic. And she isn't easily deterred or scared away
either, not even by the unusual nature of his design plans or his eclectic
sexual tastes. In fact, she's intrigued by them. Faced with a man who can give her not only the experience she needs to
propel her career, but everything she's ever fantasized about, she hopes that their
physical and intellectual compatibility can prevail over his fears. And more
importantly, that they can move forward to become not only design collaborators, but partners on a deeper level.
Chapter One: House of Evans
Casual-sexy attire—check. Just-got-fucked hairdo—check. Hadn’t been laid in over a month—double motherfucking check. Logan’s dick may not have seen the light of day, or rather the dark depths of a pussy, in thirty-some-odd days, but at least on outward appearances he looked sexually maintained.
Dimitry Moriarty, the highly sought after and openly gay interior designer, would be there any minute, and too much caffeine and nerves were getting the best of Logan. Although Logan wasn’t gay himself, he believed in keeping all his options open. If there was one thing he knew for certain, it was that pleasure could be gotten just about anywhere when one was willing to expand their horizons.
With everything he needed for his rendezvous printed and neatly presented on the dining room table, he prepared some music in anticipation of waiting another few minutes. To his surprise, there was a knock on the door. Pleased with Indulgent Designs' promptness, he took in a deep breath and opened the door. Though his head was still foggy from all the wine he’d consumed the previous night in celebration of his first night in his home, and his body still stiff from having slept on a mattress on the floor, the vision of pure elegance standing on the other side of the double doors quickly brought him out of his haze.
Momentarily taken aback that the person he was staring at wasn't Dimitry, Logan stood motionless as he silently assessed the lovely specimen of a woman who stood at least half-a-foot shorter than himself.
Her choice of clothing wasn’t anything to write home about—standard-issue khakis, a white button-down shirt and black flats, but that was the last thing on his mind. First and foremost, it was her deep-set caramel-colored irises hidden behind thick, ebony lashes that stared wide-eyed and expectantly at him. The muscles around his eyes tensed when they came to rest on her sensuous mouth. The faintest trace of a smile tipped her full lips upward, making him smile in return as his gaze slowly roamed over her body. As if her long locks the color of rye whiskey hanging around her shoulders in wispy curls, warm tawny complexion, sculpted cheekbones and curves weren't enough—her fragrance sent a rush of arousal clawing at his insides.
She let out a short, breathy laugh before she thrust a hand in his direction and introduced herself.
"I'm Ms. Stephens," she smiled up at him. "Mr. Moriarty will be joining us shortly."
Picking up on her nervousness, he quickly composed himself and took her hand into his as he stepped aside to allow her in.
Tardiness irked Logan and, normally, it would have put him in a bad mood. Time was money, after all. However, seeing his present company and the vibrancy in her eyes beckoning him, he couldn't help but feel fortunate for Moriarty's lack of timeliness. At any rate, it was still early and, technically, Dimitry wasn't late.
With a lick of her lips, she moved past him with eyes fixed upward on the decorative arch and scissor trusses spanning the one-hundred-foot vaulted ceiling. While she quietly inspected his home in those brief seconds, images of what his home looked like before its completion flickered in his brain like a movie reel. The same way he felt much of the time was how the house had once looked: barren, worn, and in disrepair.
Music floated from his stereo speakers and filled the blank canvas of his home. The soothing female voice and pulsating bass carried on the spring breeze up to the high ceiling and rippled through the room, but he barely heard it. His thoughts were on not only the attractive brunette standing near him, but the next chapter in making his dream come true: making the House of Evans into something magnificent.
Inwardly, he laughed at the name he had given it. Sure, it sounded pretentious, but it only seemed appropriate considering it had formerly been a place of worship, not to mention the amount of religion that had been shoved down his throat while growing up. Besides, anyone who knew him would understand the title was meant in jest. Mostly.
When sunbeams from a nearby window cast shadows against Ms. Stephens’ body and the faint outline of her nipples came into view beneath the thin material of her shirt, Logan was reminded why he loved a woman's body so much. Right on cue, his cock rose from its slumber, reminding him why he hated having such a one-track mind.
Before Chloe stood the most tantalizing piece of masculinity she had ever laid eyes on. Or smelled. Her brain briefly faltered when his unique scent, reminiscent of classic leather, enveloped her. She couldn't tell if her excitement stemmed from the opportunity to demonstrate her talent, or the crooked smile that Mr. Evans was throwing her way. Whatever it was, when her gaze tangled with his, her pulse flickered and leaped, filling her with exhilaration.
If she had known she was going to be in this situation, she would've worn something nicer—maybe even spent a little of her rent money on something stylish. When she had woken up, the last thing she expected was to be starting a new project or coming face-to-face with an attractive stranger.
She blinked rapidly several times, still unable to process what was happening. On the cusp of finally having the chance to use her college degree, the moment felt oddly surreal.
Offering Mr. Evans a polite smile while barely containing her enthusiasm with a misplaced giggle, she stepped into the foyer. Radiant yellow, ruby, sapphire and emerald hues of light from a stained-glass window streaming down a staircase several feet away from her made her heart pound against her ribcage.
Though the ferry ride from the Bay Area to Napa had barely given her enough time to go over the specs of this assignment, she was almost glad, because stepping into Mr. Evans’ home was like opening a gift on Christmas morning.
The stunning interior was far more enchanting than the unassuming outer façade. A classic exterior of white siding with a matching picket fence held decorative windows as its only notable external feature. The picture from his file had done little to spark her imagination, and she’d found it difficult to believe that the man who touted a degree in engineering would take on such a mundane project. But now, seeing the full scope of everything, she could understand why he was an award-winning architect.
Surrounded on three sides by the green and purples hues of sun-ripening grapes, the house sat on the edge of a pristine acreage on the outskirts of Napa. The dazzling vineyard enhanced by rolling hills in the backdrop were befitting of the gorgeous home. Having been the victim of people's judgmental assumptions based on looks when she was younger, Chloe chastised herself for having judged this book by its cover.
All of the details were almost too much to take in, and she suddenly felt as if she had been sucker-punched in the diaphragm and had the wind knocked out of her. Every single one of her senses came alive as she stood gaping at his home: the smell of wood and fresh plaster intermingled with Mr. Evans' cologne, a woman singing about The Sweetest Taboo, yellow rays of sunlight from the numerous cathedral windows bathing the extensive woodwork and soaring ceiling in light.
She was standing in the midst of a mere three-thousand square feet, but every bit appeared to remain true to its historical heritage, with no inch of space wasted. This man, this architect, Logan Evans, was an engineering genius. She could only guess that he had intentionally made the outside as understated as possible so as to not take away from the beauty of the interior.
Quickly, she glanced at him and tried to relay her gratitude for being allowed to share in this journey with him, even if it was only temporarily.
She had arrived earlier than her mentor, but that was nothing new. Faced with her current situation, she was thankful that time was a concept Dimitry couldn’t seem to grasp. He was late more often than not, and that was one of the main reasons he relied so heavily on his assistants and interns. Her coworkers had already schooled her in ways to keep the client busy until his arrival, but all that knowledge seemed to fly out the window when confronted with not only a beautiful client, but a home that looked like something straight out of a movie set.
She continued to scan the room, admiring all the expensive fixtures and furnishings positioned haphazardly throughout the space.
"May I?" She gestured with her head toward the living area.
"Of course," Logan answered with a grin.
His pride was clearly evident. As it should be. The place was staggering, not only in its appearance but in the old-world charm that it exuded—a kind of charm that she had only read about and seen in magazines. It even smelled like times gone by: old wood and freshly cut grass blowing in on a breeze from an open window. Standing amidst antiques and staring out at the vineyard as the morning fog lifted from the valley, the full impact of her surroundings astounded her. Even in its undecorated and raw state, it was spectacular, and its potential had already begun to inspire her.
When she turned to face Logan, sunlight coming in through one of the large windows reflected in his piercing blue eyes and caused a throb of desire to roll through her belly. Unable to move, her gaze fixed on the wicked gleam reflected back at her before roaming over his face and slowly taking in his body.
He looked to be in his late twenties or, at most, early thirties. She examined his slender, toned physique before her eyes zoomed in on his left hand. Noting that no wedding ring was present, her eyes moved further down his body. When her gaze paused on the outline of his shaft nestled in his charcoal-gray slacks, her cheeks warmed, and her eyes darted around the room in an attempt to redirect her focus. But it was too late. Judging by the knowing smirk hovering on his lips, she had been caught mentally undressing him.
Silently, she reprimanded herself. It wasn’t often one was given the chance of a lifetime, and acting like a flustered, luststruck teenager only made her appear unprofessional. Though she had worked with plenty of attractive men, it seemed this particular man's allure was far more tempting than any of those she had laid eyes on before.
Towering at six feet tall, dark strawberry-blonde hair pushed away from his brooding Prussian-blue eyes, scruff accentuating his strong chin, lean body and well-defined lips—he would undoubtedly be the highlight of her future wet dreams. But beyond his looks was the way he stood confidently and intensely watching her. There was a wild unruliness that danced in his eyes. She could be wrong, but hopefully, she was right.
Her cheeks burned again at the sinful thoughts flashing in her mind as she replayed how she had just been caught eye-fucking him.
Noticeably uneasy for having been caught checking him out, Ms. Stephens rocked from foot-to-foot before finally making eye contact again. A strand of hair fell into her eyes when a gust of wind blew in from the open window, and she lightly swept the loose tendril away and tucked it behind her ear. Despite her attempts at appearing professional, there was an unmistakable look of innocence. But it did little conceal a thinly veiled voraciousness. Logan knew the look well and gave her his best-lopsided grin in a silent apology for his own awkward, aroused state.
She tilted her head and pried her gaze away from him to examine the room once more.
"Your home is," she lightly shook her head as if in disbelief, "incredible."
Quietly contemplative, he watched as Ms. Stephens gazed out of the windows of his 'new' home. It was hard to believe the wait was finally over and that in only a few short moments, the next phase in the rebirth of both his home and himself would take place: interior decoration—literally for his home and metaphorically speaking for himself.
When Ms. Stephens glanced nervously at him, he couldn’t tell if the pink of her cheeks signaled mortification or arousal. He hoped for the latter because it was a damned good look on her.
The future had arrived, and Logan was staring right at it. In spite of the fact that he hadn't always made the right decisions, life was steadily moving forward and everything for which he had so impatiently waited, was finally present. Anyway, no one in life made all the right decisions. Bad choices led to mistakes, which then led to the greatest life lessons learned. Or so he was told. At least the mistakes he had made, he owned—unlike some people he knew.
And there were plenty of mistakes, especially when it came to relationships. Or, to be more specific—his lack of wanting one. Having his loyalty taken for granted and his heart shit on had left a bad taste in his mouth, and the only things he wanted in both his immediate and long-term future were indulgence, pleasure, and gratification. Hopefully, the decision to live his life that way wouldn't eventually bite him in the ass. Nothing terrified him more than the thought of a lifelong commitment, unless it was the thought of growing old alone. Granted, there was reasonable cause for not wanting to commit, but he still hadn't decided yet which of those prospects was more frightening.
He had been dreaming of a time when he could indulge himself fully with the various kinks that got him off. And why shouldn't he? He was single and finally at an age where he was wise enough to know his limitations and how to satisfy a woman in a way that could be rewarding for not only her, but for himself as well. Creative sex sparked his truest passion, and if it wasn’t blueprints and schematics on his mind, it was thoughts of a beautiful, witty, and intelligent companion with the same kinky inclinations at his beck and call. But, more importantly, he craved a partner who wanted what he wanted: a mutually satisfying physical partnership without a commitment.
The beautiful creature standing before him reminded him exactly why he loved everything about the female form, regardless of whether or not he wanted a relationship. The creativity that fueled his passion for work was the same ingenuity he wanted to put to good use in the form of pleasuring women. Like the one staring up at him expectantly. To him, their bodies were like celestial pieces of architecture, or art that begged to be reinvented and crafted into something ethereal. Like his home. And he had the imagination and inventiveness to make it happen.
When he realized he was giving away too much about himself by sporting a semi-wood and lingering too long in his own head, he felt the heat of embarrassment rise to his own cheeks. He needed to seriously get his shit together, but damn if Ms. Stephens' zeal wasn't contagious. He could feel her excitement radiating off her in waves, turning him on to a degree nearly impossible to get under control. Seeing the eagerness shining brightly on her face made him wonder: did her appetite for life match her passion for interior design?
Something appeared to catch her eye, and she glanced over his shoulder. "Is that an authentic Louis XIV period armoire?"
"It is. You have a good eye for detail."
"I'd better or else my education was a waste."
She snapped her mouth closed, ran the palm of her hand over her pants, and her face brightened once again. She not only appeared excited, but uneasy, and Logan got the distinct impression that this might be her first dog and pony show.
"I take it you’re new at this?"
Her lashes flew up and her mouth hung open as if shocked that he had called her out.
"I really shouldn’t answer that," she whispered before biting her inner cheek.
"You’re not Mr. Moriarty's assistant?"
Logan’s question, phrased more like a statement, made her sigh and throw one shoulder up in a half shrug as if defeated.
"No, I’m not. I'm a new graduate working pro bono for the experience." Well, that explained her enthusiasm. "But, I'm not supposed to mention that."
He gave her a questioning shake of his head. "Why not?"
She eyed the toes of her shoes. "I’ve been told that admitting inexperience can be a turn-off to clients. I really shouldn't have …"
"I can assure you that I'm completely the opposite of turned off," he cut in. Her irises darted up to his, and when their eyes locked, there was a moment of white-hot awareness. "Look," he pressed on, "I don't mind. In my opinion, a fresh perspective can be a good thing." Her eyes remained guarded, so he reassured her, "I promise I won't mention your admission to Mr. Moriarty."
A slow-to-surface smile appeared as did her confidence, and she spun around to walk into the large open space that encompassed the living and dining area.
"This is going to look amazing when it's finished. Do you have specific ideas of what you want or is D-Mo," she quickly glanced back at him and corrected herself, "Mr. Moriarty going to be given creative license?"
"Oh, I definitely know what I want."
Chapter One: Icing on the Cake
Chloe's smile was different. Concealed behind a small crowd, Logan gazed down at her from the upper level. His photographic memory kicked into high gear as he took note of all her physical changes: a more sophisticated hair style, a few extra pounds accentuating the lush curves of her figure, toned upper arms and calves hinting at a new workout routine, and sun-kissed skin suggesting she had been enjoying the San Diego weather. Despite her normally carefree smile appearing forced, she was just as breathtaking as she had been the first time he’d laid eyes on her.
He had purposely shown up late to the meet-and-greet to avoid being seen and ruining the surprise. Still undetected, he took advantage of the opportunity to watch her as she slowly made her way around the lower level. Her confidence had grown exponentially as evidenced by her practiced introduction. He could only hope that she’d be just as receptive to working with him again as she was being to the people she conversed with on the level below.
Because Chloe was a woman mature beyond her years and, for the most part, level-headed, he couldn't think of any reason she wouldn't be. Though things hadn't worked out between them, their breakup had been a clean one.
Watching as she paused to stare at one of the abstract paintings on the wall, he recalled her questioning him about whether or not there was really such a thing as a clean breakup. At that time, he had insisted there was no such thing. It turns out he had been wrong—there was such a thing, though ‘clean’ was a relative term, considering he was still nursing a bruised heart and wounded ego. Though their brief union and split hadn't been plagued with the usual spitefulness of his past relationships, their passionate, short-lived affair and her abrupt departure had left an indelible impression on him.
Perhaps it was because none of the usual drama associated with the breaking of hearts had been acted out—no harsh words spoken between them, no insults hurled or voices raised; no blaming or finger-pointing. And other than his last text-messaged song to her, to which she hadn't responded, there hadn't even been any post break-up shenanigans or adolescent behavior. Tears hadn't even been shed. Thankfully. The only thing worse than seeing a beautiful woman cry over a broken heart, was being the cause for it.
Chloe had simply walked out on him. And for good reason. Though his acceptance and acknowledgement of why she had left did little to alleviate the sting of her quiet exodus.
Standing amidst several people, Chloe didn't see him. The sudden twist in his gut, reminded him of their first encounter, and every one after that. Twenty-one months and a handful of days between them hadn't done anything to change the effect she’d had on him. He wasn't surprised at the fact as much as he was annoyed.
And why the hell was he still keeping track of how long she’d been gone? What a jackass.
He inhaled deeply to calm his nerves and ran his fingers through his hair to ready himself for their reintroduction, as Aaron, one of his partners, joined him.
"I know her credentials are outstanding and her references impeccable, but she only has a couple of years under her belt. This project could make or break us. Are you sure about her?"
Logan reached a hand up to straighten his tie as he responded, "I already told you that her work is nothing short of brilliant. Trust me—there's no other candidate more qualified or talented than she is."
His words had no sooner slipped past his lips when Chloe ascended the stairs and loomed closer, her lithe body hovering near his. When her evocative scent drifted closer toward him, a slow influx of adrenaline mixed with arousal seeped into his veins. Finding his breath cut short, Logan prepared himself. When she swiveled toward him and her eyes zoomed in on his face, they both froze. Seeing her with her arms akimbo, her lips parted, and her almond-shaped eyes flicking between his irises and his mouth, the speech he had prepared and practiced was suddenly lost in the moment. The flush of her cheeks that signaled her surprise made the formality he’d been wearing like a suit of armor crumble at his feet.
“Logan,” she whispered with a discomfited giggle.
“Minou” hovered on his lips, but he forced it down. Now was not the time or place for former pet names.
With his ability to speak lost in an abyss of emotions, he simply stared back at her, his eyes fixing on the pout of her matte-red lips. Christ, that mouth. It still did things to him. Hell, he could still recall the things it had done to him.
When Aaron thrust his hand toward Chloe drawing her attention away from him, Logan was thankful for the break in the awkward silence lingering between them.
“Ms. Stephens, I’m so glad you decided to join us. You come highly recommended.”
The pink hue of her skin deepened, sending a shock wave of arousal through Logan. After all this time and her numerous accolades, she still remained humble.
“A lot of decorators were vying for this opportunity, but Logan pushed for you,” Aaron continued.
“That’s encouraging,” she said before blinking several times and pausing as if at a loss for words. “I wasn’t even aware that Mr. Evans was part of this firm. I’m not sure how I missed that.”
Aaron laughed lightly and patted Logan on the back. “It’s no fault of yours. Our boy here has been hesitant about putting his name on the marquee until everything is finalized. But, I’ve already told him that we’re lucky as hell to have him and regardless of putting his name in big print, we’re not letting him go. He’s going to put this firm on the map,” he chuckled again and glanced in Logan’s direction. “But no pressure, right?”
Logan shook his head and offered a small smile. “None at all.”
“What’s encouraging is the work you’ve done for Logan and your past projects,” Aaron plunged on, but then gave them both a perplexed look. “But, I am surprised Logan didn’t contact you before this meeting.”
“I didn’t want to bias her opinion about taking the job,” Logan cut in.
When he glanced in Chloe’s direction, her eyes were riveted on him, making him rock uncomfortably from foot to foot. He had spoken the truth, even if the reason for his not wanting to influence her opinion about the project hadn’t been fully disclosed or as professional as it sounded.
Aaron perked up and stared at Chloe a moment. “So then, you made the decision to consider this job of your own accord?”
“It would seem that way,” Chloe answered, her eyes darting between Logan and Aaron.
Aaron’s lips curved into a smile. “I like that you were willing to take a chance on an unknown firm.”
“Unknown firm or not, I believe in the project. I also believe in paying it forward,” Chloe said with a smile that finally reflected sincerity. “Especially considering how Mr. Evans took a chance on me.”
A flashflood of memories rushed through Logan’s brain. It had hardly seemed like he was taking a chance on Chloe at the time. She had shown an appreciation for his home and was enthusiastic and willing as he recalled. Of course, his cock had been doing most of his thinking back then. Not that it wasn’t doing his thinking for him now, but at least he had his urges under control. Then again, those urges had never been as intense as when Chloe had been in his life. In fact, they had never been quite the same after she had walked out.
Watching her now as the green chiffon fabric of her sleeveless goddess dress shifted over her ass, and the way her gaze kept drifting back to him, those impulses and inclinations began to resurface. As she spoke to Aaron about their upcoming venture, her body swayed unconsciously to the tempo of the music. The faint, barely noticeable sashay of her hips and her sweet scent served as cruel reminders of the few times he’d felt her body pressed against his as they danced.
The music, which he had personally chosen for the evening, was offbeat considering the setting, but no one seemed to notice except Chloe. He watched carefully for the subtle cock of her head each time a new song began. Everyone else was too focused on business, but Chloe always noticed the small things. And the only business on Logan’s mind was Chloe Stephens.
Care had been taken to pick not only the sounds filtering through the speakers, but the ideal setting: some place small and intimate, yet big enough for the group invited, which turned out to be an artist’s loft with a stunning panoramic view. Every last detail had been overseen and performed with precision dedicated to achieving the only thing in his mind: to lure his Minou back to San Francisco. As he gazed around, everything was perfect. Just like Chloe. With his unwavering gaze focused on her, the couple hundred dollars an hour it cost to rent the place hardly seemed like enough.
When she wandered away from him and began to prowl the loft once more, he eased back to watch her. The deep-V of her dress enhanced the fullness of her breasts and dip of her waist, and his awareness of her kept an ache burning low in his gut. Now would be the appropriate time to reassure the investors that they had bet on the right guy, but his mind was elsewhere. It had been laser-focused on his goal since the moment he’d realized that Chloe was the only person for the job. He’d kept a close eye on her career and accomplishments, and he knew without a doubt that she was the only one who could help him put this firm on the map. After he had sent her the invitation and received her prompt RSVP, everything else had taken a backseat. Leading his partners to believe that he wanted to wait on finalizing their partnership had all been part of his elaborate plan to ensure that he and Chloe would be working closely once again.
Forcing himself to stay on task and actually do what he was getting paid to do, he sought out his second partner, Brandon, and one of the investors to get a feel for the way the night was going.
“I’ve met her once before,” Marcus said as Logan approached them. “Logan brought her over to show off his work,” he commented as both their eyes converged on Chloe.
“That’s right. Logan worked on your place, didn’t he?” Brandon reiterated as his gaze darted toward him. “Shit, Logan, you’ve really gotten around, haven’t you?”
Logan laughed. He had. Due in part to all of those smaller jobs, not to mention the larger award-winning projects, he’d made a name for himself. He owed a debt of gratitude to Baker & Macy for having given him the opportunities they had. Though he remained on good terms with them, he knew his rejection of their offer and subsequent resignation had stung. But they just weren’t the right fit for him. He needed true creative freedom, and now, mingling amongst like-minded people who were more interested in the beautification of his beloved city than dollar signs, he knew he’d made the right move. Bringing Marcus on board as an investor, as well as several others he had helped to realize their dreams, was the icing on the cake.
When he suddenly felt eyes on him, he turned to find Chloe watching him from below with a look similar to the one she’d given him the first time he had led her to his bedroom—wary but eager; cautious but with longing shimmering in the depths of her brown eyes. Their gazes locked for only a moment, but in those few seconds, she stared at him in the very same way she had when she’d gazed up at him imploring him to give them a chance … along with her offering a promise of fidelity that had only elicited a harsh reaction on his part. He had repeated the reasons why he’d pushed her away to himself so many times that they had become like a mantra. He’d even convinced himself that he’d made the right decision, but now, seeing her again, those reasons seemed inane.
Air heaved in and out of his lungs in an attempt to breathe as her smoldering gaze remained steadily aimed in his direction.
He took it back—Chloe was the icing on the cake.
COMING OCTOBER 2016
Copyright Ella Dominguez