“That’s me, a constant disappointment.” My words are laced with sarcasm and just the right amount of bite to annoy him.
“Why are you determined to fight me, Juliet?” Christos looms over me, a smirk on his cruel lips, amusement in his brilliant green eyes.
Smug with his latest victory over me.
Christos Constantine showed up on the Chicago scene a year and a half ago and has been a constant thorn in my side ever since. He’d opened up his management consulting , and in less than three months he’d stolen the Pennington bid from me, and everyone knew his name.
He was the kind of person people noticed. He commanded attention. Around forty, power poured off him. When he was in the room, men stood straighter and women, well, they practically melted into a puddle at his feet.
Once, I’d had the unfortunate experience of being stuck in a reception area with him for over an hour. The sweet, little grandmother receptionist blushed and stammered over him like a schoolgirl.
I’m not immune, but hell will freeze over before I give him the satisfaction of seeing me sweat. They don’t call me the ice queen for nothing.
As we stand in the lobby of the downtown Chicago office building, the sun backlit behind him, his six-foot-two-inch frame casts a dangerous shadow, blocking out everything but his face. Which is, of course, unbelievably gorgeous in a hard, commanding way that makes women question the point of moral purity.
I hate him.
Even as I think the words, my heart pounds against my ribs, desire pulling at me. I hate that I want him. Hate that he knows it. Hate that in some twisted way, every time he wins he becomes more irresistible to me.
But I will resist him. In this, he will not beat me.
His penetrating gaze meets mine. “Why fight when you know I’ll win?”
At the rich rumble of his voice, my knees weaken.
Maybe I could let it pass if he were only talking about the client contract he’ll surely be signing by the end of the week. But he’s not. He knows his physical effect on me. Lords it over me, calling to my attention that he could break me if he chooses with hardly an effort.
Despite myself, I pathetically react to the arrogance. It’s as if I’m genetically hardwired to respond to his dominance over me. The more he bests me, the more I salivate.
Like Pavlov’s dog.
Standing tall in my white blouse and black pencil skirt, I put my hands on my hips, tapping the toe of my three-inch-high slingbacks. “You might win the business, but you’ll never win me.”
He laughs. The sound travels through my body like the most intimate touch. But I stand firm, not giving in to the shudder that wants to overtake me.
He raises one dark brow. “Who are you trying to convince? You or me?”
His broad shoulders block out the ray of sun from the lobby windows as he steps closer. The urge to retreat has my foot twitching, but I fight the desire. My shoulders square.
He will not win.
I dig in my heels both figuratively and literally.
He crowds in on me, mere inches away.
I hold my breath. Afraid to move, to swallow—he’s never gotten this close to me—and my heart pounds.
The heat of his body slides over my skin.
My lungs burn.
I suck in a fast burst of air, my head swimming at the intoxicating scent of him, spice and man.
Jesus. I want no part in this kind of lust. This kind of hunger.
I don’t know how, but I stand my ground even though a desperate desire to flee beats at me. This isn’t our first run-in, the first acknowledgment of our chemistry, although it escalates each time we’re alone.
But I can survive this. I’ve resisted before, and I will again.
His long fingers touch the side of my neck.
I jump, flinching under him.
What can only be pleasure sparks in his gaze.
His palm skims over the slender cords as he curls his hand around my neck, his thumb stroking where my pulse thumps wildly. “It’s a matter of time, Juliet Russo.”
I manage to repress a gasp. I shake my head. “Never.”
He leans in close. “Yes. You know it and I know it.”
“You’re wrong,” I manage in a strangled whisper. I need to escape, but I don’t budge. I refuse to let him see my fear, my almost unbearable excitement.
And I’m excited.
His thumb presses against the hollow of my neck. “I don’t think so.”
Primal need pounds through me like a stampede. Slick, wet heat warms my inner thighs even as I manage to say, “You’re delusional.”
God, help me. I’m powerless. I’d made a grave error. I should have retreated. With him, retreat is always the smarter option.
His lips curve into a slow, wicked smile. “How wet are you?” A shift of his hips and his erection nudges my belly. “How hot?”
“Stop it.” The words are stilted with no force behind them. A plea when I want a curse.
“No.” He shakes his head. “Stop fighting it. Stop fighting me.”
“You’re going to lose.”
At his words, I shudder, lost in the ache.
He leans down and his lips brush the soft skin at the curve of my neck. I long to lean into him. Let him take me. The way I feel right now, I’d do anything to have his mouth on me.
Thank god I have more pride than I know what to do with. It’s kept me safe more than once in my life, and this is no exception.
It’s the only thing that stops me from begging.
His tongue flicks against my pulse.
Our first real touch.
I can’t stop the groan from slipping past my lips. I clench my hands into fists, digging my nails into my palms. Force my lids to remain open when they want to drift closed. His teeth scrape my flesh and my entire body hums with sensation.
He raises his lips to the shell of my ear. “You want me to win, Juliet.”
He’s right. I do.
By my own design, no man has ever bested me. Not my ex-husband, not the lovers I’ve had since. For thirty-five years my relationships with men has been coolly confident and distant. I have the control. I respond if I wanted to, choose to. There’s never been any question that it’s been my choice. And I never let anyone get too close.
That was for weak women. Not me.
On some primitive level I understand distance isn’t possible with Christos. Under the all-consuming jumble of emotions, of lust and fear, is the certain knowledge that he’ll change me irrevocably. That when I lost, I’d be stripped of everything.
That alone is worth every ounce of fight I have.
“No.” My tone surprises me with its steadiness.
He raises his head, his green eyes piercing. “Stubborn.”
“I’ll never give in.” Confidence growing as I regain my equilibrium.
Once again his fingers tighten on my throat. The power in his grasp is not lost on me. An assertion of his dominance, and though my body responds, I stand strong.
“I’m a patient man, and if you insist, we’ll do it the hard way.”
“There will be no way, Christos.” My chin tilts. “Now let me go.”
“Very well.” His hand falls away, leaving behind the imprint of his touch like a brand.
A cold chill of loss blows through me like the most frigid of Chicago winter winds. All it had taken was one touch to miss it. I square my shoulders. “Don’t touch me again.”
“I’m coming for you, Juliet.” He steps back, and smiles. “Consider yourself warned.”
Pride & Surrender
Release Date: April 24, 2018
I want no part of messy emotions, of lust and surrender. But none of that seems to matter to Christos Constantine. No matter how much I resist, no matter how much I fight, he keeps coming after me…and I am powerless.
My pride and strength of will have always kept me safe. The armor I’ve built around me is impenetrable and no one is allowed to see beneath. I’ve kept Christos and the attraction that simmers between us at bay for two long years, but he’s done taking no for an answer.
I don’t think I have the strength of will to resist, but I will not go down without a fight.
I hope you have fun with Pride & Surrender!