I hear my name but I cannot open my eyes. I try, pushing and pulling with the weak muscles of my eyelids, but there is no movement. Nothing to minimize the blackness, nothing to pull me from this rabbit hole of darkness. But I can hear. I have emerged into awareness with only one sense, and I grab onto it with all of my heart and pull upward, trying to raise myself into life through the elements of sound alone. I had heard my name, had heard Paul say it, crystal clear, his voice thick with emotion. I strain for more, worried he has left, tensing and pushing every muscle I have, trying for movement, trying to reach out with my hands and grab his skin, his shirt, anything.
Then I pause on my journey, all of my efforts freezing, stalled in their worthless attempts, because a second voice has joined the first.
A voice I love, his deep, authoritative tone one that traditionally makes my breath quicken and my knees weak. But here, in this place, it makes my heart drop. His voice should never be heard in tandem with Paul’s, their presences should never be intersected, much least raised in tandem in what sounds to be an argument.
And I know, as my mind closes off—pushes me deeper into the black rabbit hole of oblivion, my subconscious fighting tooth and nail as I am pulled down, down, down... I have failed. All of my attempts, my careful lives of separation...
“Madison.” I hear my name one last time, but it is so faint, I cannot tell which man it comes from.
THREE MONTHS EARLIER
I am nosy. A meddler. Mom used to say it would be my downfall. She was probably right. It certainly got me in enough trouble early in life, my matchmaking skills often falling flat, my snooping ending disastrously. As an adult, I should know better. I should keep to myself—keep my curiosity to a minimum.
I haven’t seen Stewart in two years. Ever since we had a big blow up over Thanksgiving dinner, and his inability to have time for anything but work. I now regret that fight. It was valid, and I was in the right, but it wasn’t worth the silence. Silence that stretched a week, then a month, then years, each passing holiday a reminder of my loss. I don’t know if it’s his stubbornness or the fact that his busy schedule has pushed thoughts of me out of mind. I don’t know what’s worse—intentionally being snubbed or being forgotten about.
For me, it was initially stubbornness, our commonalities peaking in that one trait: pride. And since I, after all, was right, there was really no reason for me to break first—to weaken and reach out when he was the one in error. Now, it doesn’t really matter whether I was initially in the right. I just want him back. Sadly, my point has been proven even more by his silence. He doesn’t have time for me. He only has time for work. And for her. That blonde who holds his busy heart in her hands.
I first saw them in the society pages, his hand tight around her waist, her smile bright and natural, affection in her eyes as she beamed at him. His is so rarely photographed, never having the time for the premieres or charity galas that most men of his position flock to like obedient animals. He doesn’t lunch at the Ivy or stroll through Beverly Hills. He takes the elevator down from his condo, walks four buildings west, and rides a different elevator up to his office. Work. Sleep. Repeat. At least that was his life when I knew it. When I had a part, however small, in his heart. Maybe things are different now. Maybe he takes weekends off, has dinner dates, movie nights, and tropical vacations, and takes that ray of California blonde right along with him.
But I doubt it. My online stalking has shown no such habits. Best I can tell, he is the same Stewart—she is the only change.
Whether she is a passing fancy or a long-term possibility, that is yet to be known. I will find out. I moved here, in small part, to become a part of his life again. Whether he wants me to or not. So I’ll find out more about her. I’ll know soon enough how much of a role she plays in his life. I’ll sit back, watch, and gather information. He is certainly too busy to notice my eyes.
I don’t know what it is about a wealthy man that women find appealing, but I, Madison Decater, socialite turned beach bum, am victim to it along with the rest of society. And Stewart wears wealth as well as any man I know.
The backdrop of finery always complemented him, his large frame settling into expensive leather chairs; crystal chandeliers casting dramatic shadows that highlight the beautiful lines of his face, and sparkle the brilliant blue of his eyes. His Patek Philippe watch glints, the edge of it barely visible under the cuff of his dress shirts. His custom suits move easily beneath my fingers, sliding over his broad shoulders, the hard definition of trained muscles rippling under pale skin. His skin never sees the light of day, his hours spent indoors, his workouts done under the muted lights of his penthouse gym and directed by a blonde bombshell named Tiffany. We have f**ked on the rubber floor of that gym, my back bare against the soft floor, his shorts yanked down enough for his c**k to pull out, his intensity extra beautiful under the glow of gentle lights and a sheen of sweat on his bare chest.
Tonight, I only have to step inside, my entrance interrupting a set of pull-ups, his muscles popping as he suspends and lifts himself with easy efficiency. The additional light of the open door causes them both to turn, his eyes locking on mine with laser focus, and he drops lightly to his feet. “Tiffany,” he says between hard breaths. “That’ll be all.”
I drop my bag as she hurries past, barely noticing the sound of her exit, my focus on Stewart, as he strides forward and grips my arms, lifting me easily and silently placing me on the counter, his lips pressing against mine quickly, before interrupting us with the cloth of my shirt, pulling it over my head and tossing it aside. He skips a greeting, focusing on my bare br**sts, pressing me backward and taking a hungry mouth to my skin, his hands yanking and pulling on my shorts, sliding them down and off of my legs as his tongue plays a soft rhythm against my nipple.
He moves lower, tasting me, inhaling deeply between my legs. “God Madison, you taste so good.” He groans against my sex, his tongue dipping inside and f**king me thickly, his need pouring through his mouth and his hands, which travel over my body like I am their final meal to feast on. They curl under my body, lifting me, and he carries me to the bench and lays me down, his eyes dark and wild as he stares down at me, pulling down the cloth of his shorts until his c**k pops free.
“This,” he murmurs, “is going to be for me. I promise, I’ll take care of you later.”