One Night: Unveiled eBook: Page2

Jodi Ellen Malpas (2015)


  ‘The bed’s an awful mess,’ I say with a teasing smile as he arranges my hair over my shoulders and slides his palms down my arms until he has my hands.

  ‘My compulsion to have you in bed with me far outweighs any compulsion to have the sheets tidy.’

  My smile stretches into a massive grin. ‘Why, Mr Hart, did you just admit to a compulsion?’

  His head cocks and I flex one of my hands until he releases it, then take my time pushing back his stray wave from his damp forehead.

  ‘You might be on to something there,’ he replies, totally composed and with no humour in his tone.

  My hand falters in his waves and I watch him closely, searching for that cute dimple. It’s nowhere in sight and I look questioningly at him, trying to figure out if he’s finally admitting that he suffers terribly from OCD.

  ‘Might,’ he adds, remaining poker-faced.

  I gasp and jab him in the shoulder, forcing the sweetest sounding chuckle to slip from his mouth. The sight and sound of Miller displaying amusement never fails to mesmerise me. It’s without question the most beautiful thing in the world – not just my world but the whole world. It has to be.

  ‘I’m inclined to say definitely,’ I break in, interrupting his laughter.

  His head shakes in wonder. ‘Do you realise how hard I find it to accept you’re here?’

  My smile fades into confusion. ‘In New York?’ I’d have gone to Outer Mongolia if he had demanded it. Anywhere. He laughs lightly and glances away, prompting me to take his jaw and direct his perfect face back to mine. ‘Elaborate.’ I raise my eyebrows in authority, pressing my lips together, despite the overwhelming need to join him in his happiness.

  ‘Just here,’ he says on a little shrug of his solid shoulders. ‘With me, I mean.’

  ‘In bed?’

  ‘In my life, Olivia. Transforming my darkness into blinding light.’ His face comes close, his lips ghosting mine. ‘Replacing my nightmares with beautiful dreams.’ Holding my eyes, he falls silent and waits for me to absorb his heartfelt words. Like many things he says now, I fully understand and comprehend it.

  ‘You could just say how much you love me. That would work.’ I purse my lips, desperate to remain straight-faced. It’s hard when he’s just blown my fallen heart from my chest with such a powerful declaration. I want to push him to his back and demonstrate my feelings for him with a heart-stopping kiss, but a tiny part of me is willing him to take my not-so-subtle hint. He’s never said anything about love. Fascinated is his word of choice, and I know exactly what he means. But I can’t deny my desire to hear those three simple words.

  Miller takes me to my back, smothering me with his stubble, kissing every available inch of my screwed-up face. ‘I’m deeply fascinated by you, Olivia Taylor.’ My cheeks are encased in his palms. ‘You’ll never know how deeply.’

  I surrender to Miller’s way and let him completely overwhelm me.

  ‘While I’d love to lose myself beneath these sheets all day with my habit, we have a date.’ My nose is nibbled and he’s pulling me up from the bed, placing me on my feet and messing with my hair. ‘Take a shower.’

  ‘Yes, sir!’ I salute him and ignore his eye roll as I saunter off to the shower.

  Chapter 2

  I’m standing on the pavement outside our hotel, gazing up to the sky. It’s part of my daily routine. Every morning I wander down, leaving Miller fussing with something back upstairs, and take up position at the roadside, my head fallen back, staring in wonder up to the heavens. People sidestep me, taxis and shiny black SUVs zoom past, and the chaos of New York City saturates my hearing. I’m held captivated under the spell of the towering glass and metal guarding the city. Just . . . incredible.

  There are not many things that can yank me from my raptured state, but his touch is one of those things. And his breath at my ear.

  ‘Boom,’ he murmurs, turning me in his arms. ‘They don’t grow overnight, you know.’

  I glimpse up again. ‘I just don’t understand how they stay upright.’ My jaw is clasped and pulled back down. His eyes are soft and amused.

  ‘Maybe you should seek to sate this fascination.’

  My neck retracts. ‘What do you mean?’

  His palm slides to my nape and he starts guiding me towards Sixth Avenue. ‘Perhaps you should look into studying structural engineering.’

  Dipping out of his hold, I place my hand in his. And he lets me, carrying out the usual flex of his fingers until he has a comfy grip. ‘I prefer the history behind the building, not how it was built.’ I glance up at him, then let my eyes fall down the length of his tall physique, smiling as I do. He has jeans on. Lovely, relaxed fitting jeans and a plain white T-shirt. Wearing suits while we’re here would be ridiculously inappropriate and I wasn’t afraid to tell him so. He didn’t argue about it either, allowing me to drag him around Saks for the whole first day we were here. He has no need for a suit in New York; there’s no one he needs to fool with his routine as an aloof gentleman. Despite this, though, Miller Hart still doesn’t do wandering very well. Or mixing, for that matter.

  ‘So, do you remember your challenge for today?’ he asks as we pause at a DON’T WALK signal. His eyebrows are raised as I smile up at him.

  ‘Yes, and I’m all prepared.’ I lost myself in the New York Public Library for hours yesterday while Miller took care of some business calls. I didn’t want to leave. I’d tortured myself a little by Googling ‘Gracie Taylor’. But it was like she didn’t even exist. After a few more tries of coming up with nothing, I lost myself in dozens of books, but not all historical architecture books. I took a brief peek at one about OCD, and I found out a few things, like the connection with anger. Miller certainly has a temper.

  ‘And what building did you choose?’

  ‘The Brill Building.’

  He frowns down at me. ‘The Brill Building?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Not the Empire State or Rockefeller?’

  I smile. ‘Everyone knows the histories of those.’ I also thought everyone knew the histories of most of the buildings in London, but I was mistaken. Miller knew nothing about the Café Royal or the story behind it. Perhaps I’ve immersed myself a bit too much in the opulence of London. I know everything and I’m not sure if that makes me sad, obsessed, or a damn good tour guide.

  ‘They do?’

  I’m delighted by his doubt. ‘The Brill Building is more obscure, but I’ve heard of it and I think you’ll love to hear what I’ve learned.’ The lights change and we begin to cross. ‘It has a very interesting history in music.’

  ‘It does?’

  ‘Yes.’ I gaze up at him and he smiles fondly. He might seem alarmed by my pointless historical knowledge of architecture, but I know he relishes in my enthusiasm. ‘Have you remembered your challenge?’ I pull him to a halt before he can take us across another road.

  My lovely, obsessive man regards me closely. And I grin. He remembers. ‘Something about fast food.’

  ‘Hot dogs.’

  ‘That’s right,’ he confirms, full of trepidation. ‘You want me to eat a hot dog.’

  ‘I do,’ I confirm, hysterical on the inside. Every day we have been in New York, we’ve each set a challenge for the other to fulfil. Miller’s challenges for me have all been somewhat interesting, from preparing a lecture on a local building to bathing without touching him, even if he touched me. That was torturous and I failed miserably. Not that he was much bothered, but it lost me a point. My challenges for him have been a little bit childish but perfectly appropriate for Miller, like sitting on the grass in Central Park, eating in a restaurant without precisely aligning his wineglass, and now eating a hotdog. My challenges are all very easy . . . supposedly. He fought through some and failed others, like resisting shifting his wineglass. The score? Eight to Olivia, seven to Miller.

  ‘As you wish,’ he huffs, attempting to tug me across the road, but I stand firm and wait for him to turn his attention back to me.
He’s watching me carefully, his mind clearly racing. ‘You’re going to make me eat a hot dog from one of those grubby little corner stands, aren’t you?’

  I nod, knowing he’s seen the grubby little corner stand only a few paces away. ‘Here’s one.’

  ‘How convenient,’ he mutters, reluctantly following me to the hot dog cart.

  ‘Two hot dogs, please,’ I say to the vendor as Miller twitches uncomfortably beside me.

  ‘Sure thing, sweetheart. Onions? Ketchup? Mustard?’

  Miller steps forward. ‘None.’

  ‘All!’ I interrupt, pushing him back and ignoring his gasp of annoyance. ‘Lots of it, too.’

  The vendor chuckles as he loads the bun with a hot dog and proceeds to pile on onions before squirting lashings of ketchup and mustard across the top. ‘Anything the lady likes,’ he says, handing me the finished product.

  I push it straight to Miller with a smile. ‘Enjoy.’

  ‘I doubt it,’ he mutters, eyeing his breakfast dubiously.

  I direct an apologetic smile to the vendor and take my hot dog, handing him a ten-dollar note. ‘Keep the change,’ I say, quickly taking Miller’s arm and leading him away. ‘That was rude.’

  ‘What was?’ He looks up, genuinely stumped, and I roll my eyes at his ignorance.

  I sink my teeth into one end of the bun and gesture for him to follow suit. But he just looks at the hot dog like it could possibly be the strangest thing he’s ever seen. He even turns it in his hand a few times, like looking at it from a different angle might make it more appetising. I remain quiet, enjoying my own, and wait for him to take the plunge. I’m halfway through before he braves a nibble on the end.

  Then I watch in horror – which almost matches Miller’s – as a big dollop of onions, mixed with a copious amount of ketchup and mustard, slips off the end and splatters down his bright white T-shirt.

  ‘Oh . . .’ I swallow hard, bracing for the imminent meltdown.

  He’s staring at his chest, his jaw clenching, his hot dog quickly tossed to the ground. I’m all tense, my teeth clamped down on my bottom lip to stop me saying anything and stoking the clear irritation coming off of him in droves. He snatches my napkin and starts rubbing frantically at the material, stretching the stain, smearing it in a little more. I cringe. Miller takes a calming gulp of air. Then he closes his eyes and slowly reopens them, focusing on me. ‘Just . . . fucking . . . perfect.’

  My cheeks puff out, my lip slipping through my teeth painfully as I try my hardest to contain a laugh, but it’s no good. I throw my hot dog in the nearby bin and lose control. ‘I’m sorry!’ I gasp. ‘You just . . . you look like the world is going to end.’

  Eyes blazing, he clasps my neck and leads me down the street, while I work hard on reining myself in. He won’t appreciate it, whether we’re in London, New York, or Timbuktu.

  ‘This will do,’ he declares.

  I look up and see a Diesel store across the street. He quickly guides me across the road, with only three seconds to spare on the pedestrian countdown, no doubt unwilling to even allow the potential of being mowed down delay his mission to be rid of the horrifying stain on his T-shirt. I know for absolutely certain that this would never be his usual store of choice, but his current tarnished condition won’t allow Miller to seek out a less casual outlet.

  We enter and are instantly bombarded by loud, pumping music. Miller whips off his soiled shirt, revealing miles of sharp muscle to everyone in sight. Lines of definition rise from the waistband of his perfectly hung jeans and drift into stupidly taut abs . . . and then that chest. I don’t know whether to cry with pleasure or shout at him for sharing the stunning sight.

  Countless female shop assistants trip over themselves to be the first to make it to us. ‘Can I help?’ It’s a petite Asian woman who wins, smiling smugly at her colleagues before dribbling all over Miller.

  The mask slips right into place, delighting me. ‘A T-shirt, please. Anything.’ He waves his hand around the store dismissively.

  ‘Certainly!’ She’s off, grabbing various garments on her travels, calling behind her to follow, which we do once Miller has settled his palm on my nape. We walk until we’re at the back of the store and the sales assistant has reams of material in her grasp. ‘I’ll pop them all in the changing room and you can call if you need any assistance.’

  I laugh, earning me a curious sideways glance from Miller and pursed lips from Miss Flirty. ‘I’m certain your biceps need measuring.’ I reach down and smooth my palm down his thigh to raised brows. ‘Or maybe your inside leg.’

  ‘Sass,’ he says simply, before turning his naked chest back to the assistant and riffling through the mountain of clothes in her grasp. ‘This will suffice.’ He pulls out a lovely casual blue and white checked shirt, with rolled up sleeves and a pocket on each pec. Carelessly yanking off the tags, he slips it on and walks away, leaving Miss Flirty with wide eyes and me following his path to the till. He slaps the tags down, along with a hundred-dollar note, and walks out, fastening the buttons.

  I watch him disappear out of the store, Miss Flirty standing to my side, all dumbstruck but still dribbling. ‘Um, thanks.’ I smile and go after my uptight, ill-mannered part-time gentleman.

  ‘That was so rude!’ I exclaim when I find him outside, securing the last button.

  ‘I bought a shirt.’ His arms fall to his sides, obviously flummoxed by my scorn. It worries me that he’s so unaware of his odd ways.

  ‘It’s the way you bought it,’ I retort, dropping my head back to look to the heavens for help.

  ‘You mean I told the assistant what I’d like, she found it, I tried it on, and then paid for it?’

  My head drops tiredly and I find a familiar impassiveness. ‘Smart-arse.’

  ‘I’m merely stating the facts.’

  Even if I had the energy to argue with him, which I don’t, I wouldn’t win. Old habits die hard.

  ‘Do you feel better?’ I ask.

  ‘It’ll do.’ He brushes down the checked shirt and tugs at the hem.

  ‘Yes, it’ll do,’ I sigh. ‘Where to next?’

  His palm finds its favourite place on my neck and he turns me with a slight twist of his hand. ‘The Brilliant Building. Time for your challenge.’

  ‘It’s the Brill Building,’ I laugh. ‘And it’s this way.’ I divert quickly, causing Miller to lose his hold, and take his hand. ‘Did you know that many famous musicians wrote many hits in the Brill Building? Some of the most famous in American music history.’

  ‘Fascinating,’ Miller muses, looking fondly down at me.

  I smile, reaching up to feel his dark stubbled jaw. ‘Not as fascinating as you.’

  After a few hours roaming Manhattan and giving Miller a history lesson on not just the Brill Building but also St Thomas Church, we begin to stroll down to Central Park. We take our time, both of us silent as we amble leisurely down the centre of the tree-lined path, benches flanking both sides and peace engulfing us, leaving the concrete chaos behind. Once we’ve crossed the road that cuts the park in half, dodged all of the runners, and descended the giant concrete stairs to the fountain, my waist is circled with his palms and I’m lifted onto the edge of the giant water feature. ‘There,’ he says, smoothing down my skirt. ‘Give me your hand.’

  I do as I’m bid, smiling at his formalness, and let him start leading me around the fountain, Miller still on the ground, his hand lifted to maintain our connection, while I tower above him. I take small paces and watch as he slips his spare hand into the pocket of his jeans. ‘How long do we need to stay here?’ I ask quietly, returning my eyes forward, mainly to ensure I don’t slip off the wall and a little to avoid what I know will be a torn face.

  ‘I’m not sure, Olivia.’

  ‘I miss Nan.’

  ‘I know you do.’ He squeezes my hand, his attempt to reassure me. It won’t work. I know William has taken on the responsibility of seeing to her welfare in my absence, something that is a worry for
me because I still have no idea what he’s told my grandmother about his history with my mother and his history with me.

  Looking up, I see a little girl skipping towards me on the fountain wall, doing a far better job of looking stable than I am. There’s not enough room for both of us, so I make to slip down but gasp when I’m seized and swung around, allowing her to skip on by, before I’m placed back on the raised edge of the fountain. My palms rest on his shoulders while he spends a few quiet moments straightening out my skirt. ‘Perfect,’ he says under his breath, taking my hand and leading on again. ‘Do you trust me, Olivia?’

  His question throws me, not because I doubt my answer, but because he hasn’t asked this since we arrived. He hasn’t spoken about what we’ve left behind in London, and that has been fine by me. Immoral bastards, someone following me, Cassie going all lunatic on Miller, Sophia warning me off, chains, sex for money . . .

  I’ve surprised myself how easy it has been to bury that somewhere deep within me since being immersed in the chaos of New York – a chaos I’m finding soothing compared to what I could be torturing myself with. I know Miller has been a little baffled by my lack of pressing, but there is something I can’t seem to cast aside so easily. Something I can’t bring myself to voice, to Miller or even out loud to myself. The only reassurance I needed was that Nan is being taken care of. I’m sensing now is the time that Miller’s quiet acceptance of my silence changes.

  ‘Yes,’ I answer assertively, but he doesn’t look at me or acknowledge my answer. He remains focused forward, holding my hand gently while I follow the curve of the fountain.

  ‘And I trust you to share your troubles with me.’ He halts and turns me into him, taking both of my hands and gazing up at me.

  I clamp my lips together, loving him more for knowing me so well but hating that it means I’ll probably never be able to hide anything from him. I also hate that he feels so obviously guilty for dragging me into his world.