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“Just a second,” I shout over the top of the door. “Are you okay to go out?”

She nods weakly, her blue eyes locked on mine. When she looks at me, it’s like she can see all of me, everything I am, not just what I want her to see. It scares the hell out of me.

I give her some tissue to wipe her eyes, and when she’s ready I lead her out of the bathroom. We stop near the VIP area where her friends are sitting, Logan included.

I take her elbow, stopping her from going any farther. She turns and looks at me, her eyes searching mine.

“I’m taking you back.”

She studies me for a second, like she’s considering it. Then she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, clearing her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Colt.”

“Well I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to stay here with guys you don’t know when you’ve been drinking. Please, let me take you back, Taylor.”

Her face softens; her resolve to say no crumbling away. “Okay,” her voice is shaky, barely above a whisper.

She goes to tell MJ she’s leaving while I stand at the edge of the lounge waiting. MJ’s eyebrows dart up and she regards me with disgust. Nothing new there. She and Taylor exchange a few tense words. Whatever Taylor says to her next works, because MJ nods and gives her a hug goodbye and then Taylor’s at my side again.

“Logan can get a ride with them, right?”

“You brought Logan with you? Why?”

“I had to find you.”

Her eyes light up, studying mine.

I nod to Logan and he tips his chin, signaling he’s okay.

I grip Taylor’s hip, holding her by my side and lead her out of the club.


Chapter 52

I don’t know what prompted Colt to come after me tonight, but Lord help me, I will need all the strength I can muster not to go crawling back to him. Despite his relation to McAllister and his indifference toward the crime I was coerced into committing, I find I’m still captivated by him. And the alcohol coursing through my system is giving me an unhealthy dose of courage. Coupled with the way my body still responds to him, this isn’t going to be good.

He bustles me to the door, his touch possessive as if telling everyone in the club I’m his. His eyes stay on me, like I’m the most fascinating thing in the room. That has to be my imagination, right?

He’s stays silent on the drive back, looking thoughtful as he concentrates on the road. Once we reach the academy, Colt leads me straight to his bedroom. And I don’t argue. It’s where I want to be too.

He flips on a lamp in the corner and dim light floods the room. I head straight for his bed, my legs feeling shaky. I remove my sandals and lie back on his bed. The room spins when I close my eyes, so I open them again. “I don’t feel so good.”

He’s beside me in an instant, caressing my hair back from my forehead. He leans closer, his spicy cologne making my stomach tingle and presses a kiss to my forehead. “I’ll get you some water. Stay here.”

As if I could move.

He gets me a glass of water and two Tylenol. “Here. Take these.”

I sit up to swallow down the pills and finish the glass of water. The water is refreshing and I begin to feel better, more clear-headed almost instantly. “Thank you.”

“Better?” he asks softly, sitting down next to me.

I nod.

He takes my hand, lacing his fingers with mine. The spark between us hums, definitely still there, I note.

“I’ve missed you,” he whispers, leaning near my ear.

Is he smelling my hair? I shiver. God that’s hot. “I’ve missed you too.” My mouth is working independently of my brain again. Filter, Taylor.

Suddenly he’s kissing me. His lips are on my mouth, his warm palm pressed against my cheek, then he’s tilting my jaw, moving his mouth against my neck, pushing my hair off my shoulders as he ignites a damp, tingling path across my throat. I gasp and grip his shoulders, melting at his touch.

Just as suddenly as he kissed me, he stops. “I’m sorry. I…” He runs his hands through his hair. “I don’t know why I did that.”

I scoot over closer, climbing into his lap. “It’s okay, I want you to.” I run my fingers through his hair. His eyes fall closed at my touch and my heart dances in my chest. This feels so right. I don’t allow myself to think about anything other than Colt, Colt’s touch, Colt’s mouth, Colt’s hips moving against mine.



I hold on tightly around his neck while his hands roam under my shirt. He expertly caresses me, his fingers running across my stomach and ribs, before slowly making his way north with feather-light fingertips.

I let out a ragged moan, and Colt instantly mirrors my response, groaning his desire for me near my ear.

My brain snaps into action. “Wait Colt.” I pull back from his kisses, looking into his eyes. The distance is just enough to clear my head. I pull a few ragged breaths into my lungs, concentrating on what’s happening between us. It strikes me that despite our eager reunion, I don’t know where we stand. “Does this mean we’re back together?”

He moves to my neck, kissing his way to my collarbone. “Of course baby. If you want me still.”

My body clenches, shouting yes! I do want that, but something tugs in the back of my mind. After everything that’s happened, can I trust Colt? And what about McAllister? “Shouldn’t we talk about what we’re going to do about McAll..I mean, your dad?”

He strokes my hair back from my face. “I told you there’s nothing we can do.” He continues kissing my neck. “Shh, baby. No more talking.”

I place my hands on his chest, pushing him back. “Stop.” Tears spring to my eyes. I realize this is a package deal for me. I need someone who’s strong enough to stand up for me, to fight alongside me. And this – the physical stuff between us isn’t enough. I want more. I’ve always wanted more. “If that’s how you feel…then I need to go.”

“Taylor, wait.” His hand encircles my wrist.

I close my eyes, steeling my nerves. “Let me go.”

He releases my wrist, and I tumble from his bed on shaky legs and make a dash for the door.


Chapter 53

I awake in the morning hung over and feeling awful. Bits and pieces of last night stream into my consciousness. A slow familiar ache spreads through me, like with Wes, but a thousand times worse. Had I truly believed I could tame Colt? I was no one special. Just someone who called him on his bullshit. Something about that realization strikes me – maybe that’s exactly what he needs. Perhaps I am special. But it’s too painful to remember his reaction last night after we kissed. I run my hands over my face. I have no tears left to cry, so I force myself out of bed and into the shower, despite the early hour. I know what I have to do today.

A short while later I steady myself in front of his door. Regardless of my feelings for Colt, this is the right thing to do. I rehearse the speech in my head one more time. I take a deep breath, then pull open the door to McAllister’s office.

When I enter the office without knocking, McAllister stands.

“What you did was inexcusable. You have no business…”

“I know,” he interrupts, looking tired. Exhausted actually.

I step back, my hands falling from my hips. “You know?”

“Colt talked to me this morning. I understand that you were going to go to the police if I didn’t step aside and hand the company over to him.” He holds up his hands in surrender. “You got what you wanted. He’ll be in charge, and I’ll stay on as a consultant.”

I’m utterly speechless. Colt already spoke to him. It’s then that I notice much of his office is packed up, boxes lying scattered across the room, files open and disorganized on his desk.

“Why are you still here?” he asks after a few tense moments. “You got what you wanted.”

I shake my head. “There’s one more thing.”

He cocks his head, looking at me quizzically.

***

I know I need to find Colt, to find out why he’s done this, but I can’t bear to face him right now, so I retreat to the safety of my computer lab. I need time to process all this.

So much for being alone. Colt is sitting inside the lab as if he’s waiting for me.

I stop just inside the door. “Hi.”

My hearts pounds looking at this achingly gorgeous guy who I can’t have, who I’m pretty sure no longer wants me. I blush at my behavior last night. Getting drunk with guys I don’t know, going to his bedroom, throwing myself at him, then pushing him off me and storming away like an impulsive child. Meanwhile, he’s talked his father into leaving.

The silence between us is chilling. I wait for him to say something, but he makes no move to speak. He just quietly watches me like I’m the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. God I wish I knew what he was thinking.

“So are your parents on their way to come collect you?” His voice is cold, unemotional.

“I never actually called them.” I sit down in my usual chair. Between everything with Colt and McAllister and the ship disaster weighing on me, I hadn’t been ready to talk to my mom –or break the news that I was coming home.

“Why not? Seemed like you had your mind made up.”

“I thought I had too, but I still had some unfinished business here.”

He flinches. Yes, he was part of that unfinished business. But was he still? That was the million dollar question. Or actually, two million.

“Speaking of…” I hold up an envelope and hand it to Colt.

“What’s this?” He turns the plain white envelope over in his hands.

“Open it.”

Colt looks at me for a moment, then carefully breaks the seal on the envelope and slides out a two million dollar check to the Center for Cervical Cancer Research, made out in honor of Elaina Palmer. His breath catches. When his eyes flick to mine, they’re filled with incredible emotion.

It was my last request of McAllister, to see that all of money be donated to a good cause. This is the first installment. The next check I want donated to the region affected by the oil spill. When I told him what I had in mind, he didn’t even argue. He hastily made out the check and handed it to me. I suspected it had something to do with safeguarding that one day in the future, maybe he’d have the chance to rebuild his relationship with his son.

Colt’s still quietly studying the check in his hands, but there are a few more things I need to say to him.

“I wanted to…thank you.”I take a deep breath, trying to clear my head. Why did everything feel so horribly formal between us? “I talked to McAllister. You changed your mind about helping me. Thank you,” I say solemnly.

“I wanted to help you, I just had to figure out how, Taylor. He’s my dad.” Colt inhales sharply and runs his hands through his already disheveled hair. “He and I already had a terrible relationship. Running him out of his own company didn’t help that any, but you were right, it had to be done.” He meets my eyes, his gaze steely and intense. “I just needed time to see that.”

Gosh, of course he needed time. Was I so selfish that I just expected him to disown his father on my command? The achy feeling in my chest intensifies. This is not going the way I expected. What must he think of me?

“Not to mention, the thought of being the head of an international multi-million dollar corporation at age nineteen is a little overwhelming.” He smiles softly and my stomach flips.

Oh God. My feelings for him haven’t faded. Not one bit. If anything, after this, they’ve intensified.

“So I suppose we’re back to Mr. Palmer, then given your new role?”

He smirks, and shakes his head slowly. “No. But if I can, I’d like to use my pull around here to see if I can get you to stay. Of course, that’s up to you.”

My heartbeat builds, waiting to see where this conversation is going.

But we both stay quiet. A few moments later Colt stands nods once politely and leaves. The empty feel of the room haunts me after he’s gone.

***

“Taylor,” MJ sighs, pulling me up from my bed. “This has got to stop.” She studies me with concerned expression.

I close my eyes, silently pushing back the heartbreak, Colt’s rejection. And I take a deep breath to clear my head.

“You mope around. You barely speak. You don’t eat. You zone out in class.”

I can’t argue with her. Everything she’s said is true.

“And Colt’s the same way. Distracted, sad and sulky. She shudders. “I’ve never seen him sulk. In fact, I didn’t think he had any human emotions before you got a hold of him.”

I look up at her. Colt, sad? No. He could’ve easily made this right between us, but he hadn’t. This is what he wanted. I forced his dad away and forced him into a role he wasn’t sure he wanted. I ruined any chance we had.

“Taylor, I can read it on him plain as day. He misses you. The line of girls streaming from his bedroom was his defensive mechanism. He was scared. But you showed him another way.”

“Don’t.” I hold up one hand, stopping her. I can’t allow myself to hope. It would only destroy me again. What happened to the MJ who hated Colt? Was disgusted by his very existence? I missed that MJ. I needed her level-head to keep my feet on the ground and not allow this crazy line of thinking to continue. I was not the girl who would change Colt. He truly was beyond help.

MJ squeezes my hand. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but…he loves you. I can see it in the way he looks at you. He’s heartbroken without you. ”

“Are you high?”

“I wish.” She rolls her eyes. “Go talk to him. Okay?”

I nod while tears irrationally well in my eyes.

“And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up now for suggesting you be with Colt.”

I laugh despite my teary eyes. “Thanks, MJ.”

She gives my hand a squeeze then leaves me alone.

***

I tap lightly at the door to the office.

“Come in,” his voice calls.

I open the door to find Colt behind a heavy wooden desk, clicking away on his keyboard in his newly appointed, but bare office. He’s deep in concentration and doesn’t look up from the screen. He’s dressed in a button down shirt and dress pants, and would have looked professional and sophisticated if it wasn’t for his messy bedroom hair. I sigh; his hair that always invited my touch. When I think about how good he looks, I feel a little stabbing pain my chest. Is this what heart failure feels like?

I blink the thought away.

When I look at him again, he’s stopped typing and is watching me intently.

“Hi,” I offer, my voice trembling against my will.

“Hi.”

I take a deep breath, hoping to clear my head. “I’m here for my next assignment,” I inform him, sounding business-like and confident, I note.

He smiles one of his sexy half-smiles, making my stomach twist. “Are you now?” He rises from his chair, placing his palms flat on the desk in front of him, leaning in toward me. “So eager this morning. What changed your mind?”

“You,” I say boldly, meeting his eyes.

He watches me cautiously, neither of us moving. That familiar buzz of electricity still hums between us.

My eyes flick down from his, and instead focus on his hands, still flat on the desk. I don’t know why, but suddenly I feel self-conscious around him. “Thank you for what you did.”

“Thank you for that donation honoring my mother. That was very kind of you.”

I nod silently. “So about my next assignment…that’s not the only reason I came down here.”

He smiles, tilting his head as he watches me.

“I do intend to stay, but there’s something more I want too.”

“More?” he asks, a slight smile tugging on his lips.

And after everything he’s already done for me, how can I possibly be asking for more? But his impish little smile urges me on.

I take a deep breath. “Us. The girlfriend thing…is that all in our past?” I look down, blushing.

Suddenly he’s around the desk, standing in front of me, lifting my chin to meet his eyes. My heart flies into my throat. The contact of his skin sends a jolt through my stomach and my body clenches in response.

“I hope not, because I was quite fond of that idea.” He brings his hand up to cradle my jaw, his thumb skimming across my bottom lip. I eagerly open my mouth, my lips complying greedily at his touch. His voice washes over me in just a whisper, “I’m game, if you’re okay with teaching me about this whole having a girlfriend thing. There’s a lot I don’t know.”

I nod. “I can teach you.” My voice is breathless as my body instantly responds to his touch. “And there are probably a few things you can teach me too.”

He looks at my quizzically. “Like what?”

“My eighteenth birthday is next week.” I wait for my meaning to sink in.

His eyes get wide. “Always so sassy.” He shakes his head. “But you forget, I make the rules around here now.”

“And?” I challenge.

“Maybe I’m not so keen on waiting anymore.”

Whoa. He’s so freaking hot like this.

Colt leans down to kiss me, stopping before our lips touch. The wait is agonizing. “God I’ve missed you,” he murmurs against my mouth.

I groan as his words tug at me, feeling wanted and very desirable. I reach up and grab his hair, forcing his lips to mine. Turns out, I’m not so keen on this waiting thing either.

After a deep kiss, Colt pulls back and peppers my lips with several chaste kisses. He’s smiling. It’s so good to see him happy. I take stock of how I feel. And in this moment, I decide nothing could be better. I’m choosing my future: a relationship with Colt, this crazy school, all of it, and feeling very up for my next adventure. Life is good.

“So you’re in charge now?” I ask, while Colt nuzzles into my neck, inhaling deeply. But it’s really not a question, more of an observation.

He smirks. He looks confident, completely in control, yet I can’t help but remember his comment from before about not wanting all this.

“How do you feel about all that?” I inquire.

“I got this, baby.” He leans down to kiss me again. I wonder if he’s talking about being in charge of the school, or learning how to be a proper boyfriend. Or maybe both.

Without breaking the kiss, he kicks the door closed behind us. Colt being in charge is going to have its perks.

***

Stay tuned for book two, the sexy conclusion to In Too Deep…

Tempted

by Eliza Jane

Seventeen year old Taylor has survived her first year at the Wilbrook Academy for gifted teens. Even more difficult than her hacking assignments is learning to trust that her boyfriend Colt’s manwhoring ways are history. But if she can get over his past, she may get her first chance at love. When an extended field assignment takes Colt and his ex-fling Bria to London, Taylor gets stuck entertaining Colt’s younger, and just as tempting brother, Reis. Can she trust Colt alone with Bria? And what about when emotionally available and baggage-free Reis makes his feelings for her clear, will she be the one tempted to cheat?

Tempted will be released November 4, 2013


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