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Authors: Sigal Ehrlich

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BOOK: Outer Core
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I smile at the graying concierge with the penguin tail tux entering the elegant, checker-floored lobby of the hotel. The sweet scent of the humongous orchid arrangements tickles my nose as I pass the threshold of the hotel's lounge where I'm headed to meet Daniel for an early dinner. My brows furrow and an alarm beeps in my head when I spot him. Daniel is sitting at one of the low tables, bent forward, elbows on his knees, absorbed in his cell. Albeit, next to him there's a pretty lady in a red suit who seems ready to accost what's for all intents and purposes known as
. She leans in, in a that's-the-best-view-to-my-cleavage maneuver. She seems to whisper something, nearing her lips to his ear. Daniel frowns, tilting his head sideways to look at her.

I take a few hasty steps to reach them. “Oh hi, are you two in the middle of something? Can I bother for a sec?” My voice dripping with honey.

Daniel raises inquisitive eyes my way, and the lady who I'm about to offer a little hanky to for her drooling condition twists her mouth. She shakes her head, appearing not the least bit delighted with the interruption.

“Sir, excuse me, but would you be so kind as to accompany me to my room?”

The tip of Daniel's mouth slants into a lopsided grin as he slowly rises to stand. I hold my hand out for him. With Daniel's hand in mine, I bend down to near the baffled lady's ear and whisper, “He seems quite potent, no?” I wink at her and turn to give Daniel a quick, sass-coated once-over.

“What did you tell her?” Daniel asks as we exit the ample room.

I smirk, looking at him from under my lashes, the tip of my tongue held between my teeth.


“That you look like a decent lay.”

Daniel shakes his head, his eyes crinkled at the sides. “So, Miss, now that you have me, what would I have to do in your room?” he teases and adds, “Weren't we supposed to have dinner? I'm starving, baby.”

“Follow me.” I wink at him, exiting the elevator. Swiping the card at the door, I wait for the little green light to come on and push open the door. “The correct question, Sir, is what you wouldn't have to do.”

Daniel lets out an animated snort. “Dinner, Hales?” he asks following me into the suite.

“Tada!” I gesture with my hand to the little shindig of a picnic set on the coffee table in the great room.

Daniel takes it in and walks to the table. He leans down to reach one of the domes with two fingers and opens it. “God, I love you,” he murmurs to the display of nicely browned, roasted ribs that enrich the room with the most mouthwatering smoky aroma. “So I guess it's staying in tonight.” He steals a fry and brings it to his mouth.

“Well, it's actually having dinner with a
Kill Bill

“You're fucking perfect.” Husky and happy.

“You're not bad either.” Flirty and joyful.

We're halfway through the first movie when I leave my snuggly den under Daniel's arm for a quick pit stop.

“Pause it?” Daniel asks from his resting place on the thick carpet, his back leaning against the sofa.

“Nah.” I send him a tiny smile. Daniel's warm stare follows me as I bend to take the leftovers of our dinner and set them outside the door. He watches until I disappear in the vast hall en route to the en suite.

When I come back to the living area, Daniel pauses the movie on the screen. His gaze as he leisurely drinks me in causes warmness to spread over my skin. Said stare grows absorbed, even hypnotized, as if the sheer breaths I take put him in a transfixed state.

“Come here.” He offers me his hand, his voice a smoky, coaxing command. I slowly bend down to straddle him. We trade silent gazes as I settle myself on his pelvis. His features soften. I tip my head down, locking our stares. An easy smile touches his lips. His hand moves up to thread into my hair, pausing on the nape of my neck. The distracting chime of Daniel's phone breaks our promising moment. His forehead creases as he checks the screen.

“It's okay, get it,” I say in a tranquil voice.

Daniel brings the disturbing device closer to his ear. He huffs, pulling me near to nestle on his chest. I inhale the mix of the clean linen and his warm manly scent. His fingers comb through my hair, caressing in little indulging circles as he listens to the person on the other end. Daniel drops his lips to press on the center of my head.

In the warmness of his embrace, my mind drifts back to the subject that has been occupying my every waking hour for the past two weeks. I feel restless and queasy, but in a good way, with what I'm about to share with him.

“Fine.” Daniel heaves a bothered sigh. “I'll do the interview. No personal questions, though, Karen. Nothing but the recent announcement. Any deviation from the subject and I'll cut it short.” Daniel listens for a few silent moments. “Yes, I fully intend on following that.” After another brief exchange, he concludes the call.

“Hey,” he says, his mouth grazing my hair.

I take another lungful of his comforting scent and slightly lean back to return his gaze.

“Hey.” My voice comes out mildly croaky, hinting at the mini anxiety I'm harboring. “What was that all about? You're giving interviews again?”

His hand slides to the small of my back, falling lower to palm me. “Just this one. I'm looking to pursue this new venture and the media shining some light on it won't be a bad thing.”

“What is it?”

“Just some startups we're considering investing in,” Daniel says drily, his lips meeting the skin above my collarbone, his hold on me becoming more eager.

I ease back, bringing my finger to his lips. His eyes search mine. A supple smile eases onto my lips. I gaze at him for another lengthened moment. The special glee in his eyes, my glee. The three scars decorating his sharp features. The deepest one on his upper lip, the nearly hidden one on his brow, and the new one high on his tanned cheekbone. Hazel eyes become soulful, drowning into mine.

My voice comes out quiet and throaty. “Two weeks have passed. It's the real deal now.”

Daniel cocks his head, eyes still absorbed in mine.

“The next time we . . . get busy.”

A low chuckle rumbles between us. “Get busy, Hales?”

“The next time we ‘work on a project,' if you will.” Daniel chuckles. I smile in response. “It's been two weeks. We're now officially what they call ‘trying.'”

When understanding dawns on him, his hands move to cup my face from either side. His silent air speaks louder than any words could. And it makes my heart ache in the most vicious, sweetest of ways. Daniel slowly brings his mouth to hover next to mine.

“Hales.” One word, and the multitude of emotions and promises it carries. When our mouths meet, there's something new about our connection. It's deeper, it's powerful, saturated with a profusion of emotions. Everything around us slowly fades away and it's only us.

Daniel and me.

His hands hold my face, his eyes on mine. They travel to my mouth and back again. He slightly cocks his head, ever so gently advancing. I slowly lean forward. A sliver of air separating our mouths, our breath mixing, our stares transfixed. He tilts his head an inch closer, his eyes slowly closing while his mouth softly covers mine. I part my lips, letting him in. The kiss grows deeper and harder. With an urging need to feel him, I slide my hand under his tee, touching his warm skin. But it's not enough. I tug on the fabric, pulling it up. Daniel breaks our kiss to help me discard his shirt. When our stares re-meet, wordlessly we speak of the magnitude of the moment. And the gears shift. As though possessed, with hurried, clumsy hands, we rip each other's clothes off.

On our knees, our bodies bare, facing each other, is when the atmosphere around us shifts. Gently, Daniel lays me back on the carpet. With a reverential hazel stare, he lies above me, his mass held by his stretched arms. Unhurriedly, he leans down to rest on his forearms, his lips just mere inches from mine. As our bodies slowly meet, words are meaningless. Words are not enough to express this overpowering thing that's happening between us. It's our stares, mouths, skin on skin, that give voice to our emotions. We move together, embraced as proximate as our bodies allow. Every stroke, every thrust, every moan, closer, deeper, overwhelming.

Lost in his adoring stare, in the heavenly pleasure he gives me, in the immense, almost impossible to contain love I feel for him and the thought of the potential outcome of our lovemaking, I feel my throat swell. A shiny screen suffuses my eyes when my hands haste to grab his face and pull his mouth to mine.

Deep inside of me, Daniel stills, gazing at me. A creases forms between his eyebrows as he leans in for his lips to kiss the moist trail under my eye. “Hales, I love you so much, it aches. I never want this pain to go away. Nothing feels this incredible.”

I swallow hard because it is painfully incredible, and it's a feeling that's scarce and precious beyond comprehension.


“Hales?” Daniel's husky voice pulls me out of my post-ecstasy soaring, blissfully sprawled on his warm body. Lazily, I raise my head from his chest.

“You're quiet . . .”

“Just thinking, you know.”

“I hope it will look like you. A mini version of you,” he says next.

A smile, the naughty kind, crawls up my lips. “God forbid it will take after its daddy. We'll have a psycho kid.”

“I'm giving you a second and a half to take that back. I can't be held accountable for my actions if you don't.”

I narrow my eyes at his humored hazel ones. His scarred lip tips up. Before I know it, I'm on my back with an amused Daniel straddling me, holding my hands stretched above my head. I roll my eyes in utter joy. He shifts to hold my hands with one hand while the other travels right to my most ticklish spot.

“No!” I beg through choked laughter, which of course just encourages him to take even greater pleasure in my misery. “Please, Daniel . . .” Nothing. “I take it back,” I exhale, trying to even my breathing.

Daniel stops his assault, his lips in a gigantic grin. He dips to press a light kiss on my panting lips. “I never want to do life without you again,” he says, shooting a warm surge right through me.

Saying things like that could be irreparable to a girl's heart, D.

Chapter 7
The One Thing



It's the third time I've tried to read this damn long email. My thoughts wander with each attempt. Wander off to the one place that sets my mind at ease. A smile tugs at my lips as snippets from last weekend run through my mind. I shake my head grinning.
Fucking surreal
. Hales might be pregnant with my child.

“Mr. Stark, I'm sorry. Can I interrupt for a moment?”

I give Anne a sharp gaze. “It's the kind of question that should be asked at the door, not halfway through the room.”

Anne's round cheeks tint with a smear of a pink hue. I sigh and fold my shirt's sleeves to my elbows, waiting for her to speak.

“Do you still want to talk to Ms. Taylor, or would you like me to reschedule the meeting?”

My jaw clutches. “It's on the calendar, right?” I ask, irritation rapidly taking over my patience.

“Um, yes.” Her edginess grows. She presses the stack of papers she's holding closer to her chest.

“Why would I want to reschedule then?”

“Okay, I see. I will call her right in.” Hastily spinning around, she almost loses her balance and leaves the room. My eyes meet the ceiling.

Waiting for Natasha to come in, I give Hayley's framed photo a quick glance. I can't even try to fight the grin that's spreading on my lips.

Nodding, I gesture for Natasha to take a seat as she greets me.

“Okay, I'll cut to the chase,” I say, leaning back in my chair and steepling my fingers.

“Oh, wow . . .” Natasha gapes at me for an absorbing moment, her mouth rounded with surprise. I wait for her to digest everything I just told her, offered her. “Um.” She straightens up and wets her lips. “Do you need an immediate answer?”

I shake my head. “I wouldn't expect you to have an answer right away. Think about it. Let's talk again . . . in a week?”

“Yes. A week sounds good.” She brushes the non-existent lint from her skirt. “Thanks for thinking of me.” She shifts again in her chair. “It's a lot to think about. Wow, I'm honored.”

I nod.

She shifts again. “Dani . . . Mr. Stark. Um . . .” She clears her throat. “Sorry. This might come across, um, unprofessional to bring up your personal life,” Natasha says hesitantly, squirming in her chair again, appearing not the least bit comfortable.

I nod, telling her I'm listening. The muscle above my jaw working under my skin.

“Does Hayley know? Did you tell her about . . . this?”

I purse my lips. “There's nothing to tell her before you make your decision is there?”

“Right. Right.” She breathes, pensive.

I dismiss her. “That will be all.”

She gives me another introspective gaze, thanks me again, and leaves the room.

What would Hales say if Natasha decides to . . .

The vibration of my cell on the desk pulls me back from my momentary lapse. Creases pile up on my forehead as I notice the name on the display.
never calls me at work . . .

“Everything okay?” I ask in lieu of a greeting. She takes a deep breath. Something about her sigh doesn't sit well with me. “Are you okay?” I repeat, concerned.

As she starts to talk with an undercurrent of a shudder to her voice, my chest tightens.

“I'm coming over,” I say after she lays it all out for me. My heart beating at a borderline painful rate.

“No. Not now. I'll call you once I have further details, and we'll see.”

I curse under my breath. “I can't be here thinking God knows what, when you're there, alone. I'm coming over.”

BOOK: Outer Core
5.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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