If I'd known I was going to wake up tied to my bed, I would have worn nicer panties. Maybe even perfume. Somehow I can never catch a break.
Since dropping out of college, Eva Bright has been keeping secrets. Like sharing her darkest thoughts with an online stranger she knows only as Hex. It's the perfect arrangement: romance at a distance, no strings attached, and all the control. At least that's what she thinks until Hex materializes, devastatingly sexy and very much the one with all the power. He knows Eva better than she knows herself, and he has plans for her.
Lots of plans.
When I unlocked my apartment late that Friday night, I stopped with my keys still swinging from my hand.
Something was different.
A dim beam from the outer hallway light cut into the darkness of my small living room. The deadbolt had been locked when I pushed in my key. The security system had beeped when I entered the code.
There was no back door to worry about. My second-story windows were safe unless Spiderman had turned to a life of crime.
Nothing was out of place. There was silence except for the hum of the fridge and the ever-present throb of Atlanta traffic.
It was all very ordinary. After two years I knew every creak and every scent in every corner.
But my guard was up. Way, way up. Something was in the air that had nothing to do with my life.
A primitive part of me suddenly spoke up.
Run, Eva. Right now. Even if you feel stupid later.
My mind fluttered for a logical reason, found one, seized it with relief.
Maintenance had finally replaced the carpet last month. It looked better, but there was still a faintly unpleasant chemical after-smell.
How stupid to let that worry me. I was getting paranoid at the ripe old age of twenty-two.
It's not the same, and you know it.
"Stop being a chicken," I muttered, reaching for the light switch.
A shadow moved behind the door, knocking it shut. A strong hand caught the back of my head as a cloth covered my face.
Keen scent filled my nose and throat. That was it. The thing that didn't belong here.
Fucking security system. I want a refund.
That childish, useless thought followed me into unconsciousness.
"Wake up, Eva."
Grayness was inside my head as I considered that voice. Deep and male, a hint of rasp.
A cool curve of glass touched my dry lips. Suddenly I was swallowing cold water on reflex.
The brain fog scared me. Something was happening. Something bad. A single thought burst forward with half-awake urgency.
Face. Don't…look at…face…
I squeezed my eyes shut as hard as I could. Pressure starbursts bloomed behind my eyelids.
"I don't have a lot of money," I croaked. "It's in the bathroom, taped under the sink. Just take it and go. I didn't see your face."
His low chuckle stroked my ears.
"I don't need your money. Or your car keys. Or your jewelry, if those are your next offers. Open your eyes. I'm not going to kill you."
The fog was fading faster as I woke up. I was on my back in what felt like my bed. My arms were restrained over my head.
Oh hell. This wasn't good.
"If I wanted you dead, you already would be," he said mildly.
He had a point there. Slowly I let my eyes open.
My bedroom was undisturbed, mostly dark. Light from the kitchen sent a glow down the short hallway and into the room.
It was all very normal except for the dark shape sitting next to me on the bed. Even in the dimness, he radiated power.
"I'm going to turn on the light," he said.
"Don't do that, I—"
The bed shifted as he leaned to click on the small bedside lamp. Forty watts had never seemed so bright, making me wince as my familiar room came into focus.
Then, against my better judgment, my gaze touched his face.
His steady gray eyes held no particular expression as they studied me. Short, dark blonde hair. Skin that looked tanned, though it was hard to tell in the semi-dark.
The lamp side-lit his face, accentuating its strong, lean lines. He was almost beautiful, but his expression was just a shade too serious to allow perfection.
His mouth was well-shaped, firm. The type of lips that can be stern or sensual, depending on the mood of their owner.
Controlled power was outlined in his broad shoulders and chest under the fit of his dark T-shirt. His arms were lean and seemed to ripple with cords of muscle, even though he wasn't moving.
He made no move to touch me. He just watched as I took stock of him, of my situation.
The light confirmed what I already knew. I was in my bed, arms tied over my head.
Glancing down, I saw that I was still wearing my gray Braves T-shirt and my worn panties, once a pretty shade of cobalt blue. The rest of my clothes were gone.
Since he wasn't saying anything, it seemed like it was up to me. My voice surprised me with its calm.
"We don't know each other. Let's keep it that way. You don't even have to untie me. Just take my money and leave. I'll get loose once you're gone."
He chuckled again, a rumble in his throat.
"I already told you. I'm not here for money."
Attorneys advise not asking questions unless you know the answer. But I'm no attorney, just a damn-awesome receptionist in one of the best legal offices in Atlanta.
"Then what is it you want?" I blurted, testing whatever held my hands. It was soft, firm, and tight.
A tiny smile crinkled the corners of those mesmerizing eyes.
"You," he said simply.