Book: Tough and Tender (Bad Boy Romance Box Set)

Previous: Chapter Five
Next: Chapter Seven

Chapter Six


The very next evening, Keyonna swung open her front door to its ring and stopped short at the sight of Nick standing on her doorstep looking as virile – and forbidding as ever.

He was dressed in a dark business suit which fit his broad, lithe frame to breath-stealing perfection. His brown eyes were narrowed with fathomless intent and as she stared into his handsome face, she felt that twinge in her deepest core that reminded her how long it was since she’d felt solid masculine heat surge between her thighs.

“Nick,” she let out on a croak, pressing her suddenly sweaty palms down on her faded cut-off shorts which barely skimmed past her bottom. The only thing else she had on was her cropped sleeveless white tee which suddenly felt like it could stifle her especially as Nick was giving her a thorough once-over. A flicker of appreciation crossed his face and she could swear it made her panties all the moister.

He finally lifted his gaze to hers, a predatory smile flashing white against his smoothly tanned face. “Why do you look so surprised? I should have thought you’d be expecting me.”

“If you’re here to play your games...,” she began tightly, and saw him lift his hands in surrender.

“I come in peace,” he cut in mildly. “And hopefully I’ll get invited for a cool, long beverage. I drove over straight from the office and I’m sort of hot and bothered.”

“Yeah, right,” Keyonna muttered, surprising herself by stepping to the side to allow him in even as she said, “Okay - but no hanky-panky.”

Nick laughed deeply, brushing past her and into her sizeable, elegantly furnished open-plan apartment. “Do people really still say stuff like that? No hanky-panky. Don’t worry, I had no such thing in mind.” He chuckled once more, shaking his head and turning to face her in the middle of the living room done in highly modern chic with red, cream and black accents. Well lit and filled with tasteful artifacts gracing the walls and corners, it wasn’t an overly large place but every item had been picked with care and thought.

Keyonna led him to one of the stylishly upholstered sofas, and watched him survey the contemporary surroundings with an appraising air. “Nice décor,” he commented. “Did it all yourself?”

“I handled the design, yes,” she murmured, inwardly brimming with pleasure at his light approval. “Would you like to sit down? I made some iced tea – would you like that?”

“Sounds nice,” he said with a slightly mocking tilt to his smile, and Keyonna resisted the urge to make a face at him as she headed for the kitchen. She returned some minutes later with a pitcher of cubes and two filled glasses to find him standing by an inlaid shelf, looking at the framed pictures set there.

He sent her a glance. “I take it these are your parents?”

Keyonna nodded. “They’re back home in Illinois. I’m an only child and they more or less groomed me to fend for myself. It’s a lesson I took along with me to this day, living far from my family and trying to make my way in the world.”

She handed him a glass which he took with a nod of thanks. “I’m sure they’re very proud seeing the success you’ve become,” he told her mildly, and she smiled with a shake of her head.

“Still a long way to go. But then, I’m grateful for what I’ve achieved.”

There was a pause as they both sipped from their drinks, Nick’s brows rising in enjoyment as he murmured, “This is good.”

Keyonna took a much too hasty gulp of her iced tea as their eyes met over the glasses. The fact that they were having small talk, here, seemed incongruous to what was actually sizzling beneath the surface. There was that twang of awareness between them that made perspiration slide down her bare back in tiny rivulets. She’d never known a man to look so potently male with all his clothes on – making her start to imagine just how much more tantalizing he’d be naked.

Damn...the thought of Nick Vitale, naked, was enough to turn her nipples into granite-hard knots now straining against her thin tank.

“Looks like we have more in common than I had realized. We’re both an only child – and we’re both go-getters determined to achieve our goals,” Nick said in a steadily deepening voice that seemed to tease the very hairs on her pores. “We’d make a perfect combination, don’t you think?”

Something that glinted darkly in his eyes right then made Keyonna’s throat constrict. His beautiful lips curved in a tyrannical smile and Keyonna just knew she’d been a fool to let him in. Not that she’d had the chance to even think or consider the right or wrong of giving Nick the chance to invade her personal space the way he was doing now.

“Perfect combination for what?” Keyonna heard the slight tremor in her voice and bit on her bottom lip. Crap. Looking into Nick’s deep brown gaze reminded her of the moment he’d kissed her in his car. Now that had been one hell of a hard, hot and passionate kiss. No games, just lust. But then he’d ruined it by talking like he wanted nothing to do with her. Called her a distraction he didn’t need or even want.

And yet now he was here. Heaven only knew his agenda but from the way the air crackled all around them, Keyonna had a feeling that nothing on earth could save her from Nick’s feral pursuit.

Like a panther on the prowl, he closed what space was left between them. Even though he didn’t touch her, she felt his nearness like a blanket of warmth closing in on her. There was no doubt that Nick could turn up the temperature in a room without even trying.

He merely shook his head with a smile at her question and then murmured, “We're very much the same, you and I. Because we don’t let anything hold us back be it personally or professionally. I can tell that like me, you’ve broken a few rules – rocked the system, just to make sure you reached the next level. You do what you need to do, Keyonna. And I respect that. You’re sassy, you’re bold – and you’ve got one hell of a way of making your point.”

Nick flashed a sudden grin and Keyonna felt herself smiling back for like no apparent reason. Damn, but when a man like Nick switched on the charm, what was a simple woman to do?

Shivering slightly, Keyonna stamped down the urge to simply dissolve in a puddle beneath his scorching smile.

“While you, Nick Vitale, are a tyrant – and one hell of a contradiction,” Keyonna muttered, her eyes challenging him to deny it. Here he was, paying her high compliments when many nights ago, he’d painted a far less flattering picture.

Keyonna was still waiting for his apology for the way he’d spoken and treated her. Though all things considered, she’d more than given him a taste of his own medicine – in more ways than one.

He smiled, nodded once, and raised his glass in a toast. “I’ll drink to that. Cheers.”

Their glasses clinked, and Keyonna’s lips were twitching in a smile she had to fight back as their eyes met over the rim of their glasses. Who would have thought it? Both of them, drinking iced tea, smiling and toasting glasses like old friends – or lovers.

I really shouldn’t have thought up that last word, Keyonna realized, knowing Nick must have seen something on her face by the way his gaze narrowed suddenly. Both their smiles died off and an unspecified element of raw, intense awareness shot up between them. Slowly, he set down his glass, gently taking hers from her now nerveless fingers.

Keyonna didn’t think to react, not until his arms encircled her waist. Then she tried to pull back and yet found the effort futile because his hold was like bands of steel as he brought her chest-to-chest with him.

Keyonna’s head was reeling. Her body felt turned to jelly; she was in heat. This man. He was something else; he made her lose her self-control in ways she’d never dreamed possible. Just by holding her close, he rendered her speechless as she became achingly aware of every strong, masculine outline of his frame.

“This is what I really want,” he said huskily, his gaze sweltering, right before he swooped his head to the side and took her mouth in a demanding, eating kiss.

In a last bid at resisting, Keyonna fought to keep her lips clamped tight – only to have her resolve shattered almost instantly when his masterful tongue flickered out to run moistly over the seam of her lips, causing her to exhale sharply in submission. Unable to fight his manly skill, Keyonna opened up to him eagerly.

In seconds it became clear to Keyonna why she’d had innumerable sleepless nights since that first time they’d kissed. And like that second kiss inside his car, Nick called the shots, deepening and then easing off the kiss at will, driving her off the brink with his alternatively tender and rough probing of her moist, hidden secrets.

Keyonna heard a tiny whimper of pleasure escape her parted lips, her fingers curling into his jacket lapels. As she tumbled inside his exciting taste and aroma, his hands swept over her quivering form. His touch was possessive, heated, famished. He cupped the curves of her ass and brought her even tighter against his hard, overpowering masculinity. Time stood still for her as Nick made her maddeningly aware of the effect kissing her was having on him.

Previous: Chapter Five
Next: Chapter Seven