Saturday, September 6, 2008

In Control by Ava Rose Johnson

She shouldn’t have come.

Annabelle clutched her purse in her lap, closing her eyes as the negative thought echoed in her mind.

In her history of bad decision-making, this was the worst. Definitely the worst.

Hell, even before the plane landed, she’d known this was a bad idea. The gray skies and the turbulence had been the first signs. Only now, with minutes to go until she reached the hotel, she was finally realizing how bad an idea this really was.

She turned her head to look out the window but it was pointless. The grime-covered glass only hinted at the Dublin City buildings they were passing by. She leaned back in her seat, catching the cab driver staring at her in the rear-view mirror. Quick as lightning, the man’s eyes returned to the road ahead. She almost laughed. The man’s embarrassment at being caught looking was something she rarely encountered. People tended to stare at her outright, shamelessly gawping at the world-famous movie star. This poor guy was blushing fiercely in the front as if he’d somehow offended her. She almost wanted to reach out and pat his hand, a sign of assurance that it was okay. Except, she didn’t touch cab drivers.

Maybe he wasn’t sure if it was really Annabelle Lawson who was sitting in his back seat. Even she knew it was damn crazy that a two-time Oscar winner would be riding in a Dublin taxi that smelled like baby sick instead of traveling in her usual limo. Nevertheless, her decision to jump onboard the plane and fly to Ireland had been made too fast to think about ordering a fancy car to pick her up on arrival. Hell, she wouldn’t have been able to do it anyway. Susie, her long-time friend and publicist, did all that crap.

Yet, Susie didn’t know she was here, and Annabelle sure as hell didn’t want to tell her.

“Here we are, Miss.”

Annabelle was so taken with the soft Dublin accent that reminded her so much of Liam that it took a second for the cab driver’s announcement to sink in. They were here.

She lifted her head, and her breath caught at the sight of the Dublin Park Hotel looming before them—Liam’s hotel. He was inside, no doubt. Merely meters away from her.

“Will I take your bags out of the boot, Miss?”

Gathering her composure, Annabelle gave a sharp nod before stepping onto the sidewalk. A cool breeze hit her immediately, reminding her that the Irish May was very unlike the Los Angeles one. Pulling her coat firmly around her shoulders, she marched up the hotel steps, not stopping until she was in the warmth of the foyer.

She let out a long breath, the surrounding luxury taking immediate effect. Renaissance paintings decorated the walls, crystal chandeliers hung from the high ceiling, and a massive fireplace created a stunning centerpiece. Even though, only a few feet from the city streets, she felt as if she’d stepped into another world; the ostentatious world that she lived most of her life in.

Annabelle’s heels clicked along the expensive marble floor as she approached the reception desk, then she stopped. In the midst of the luxury, she’d almost forgotten why she was here. However, finding herself standing in the presence of Liam O’Brien was a strong reminder.

For a moment, her heart seemed to stop, and her world ceased to spin. Liam stood at the reception desk, chatting with a guest. Three years gone by and he hadn’t changed a bit. He still had that shock of black hair curling above his collar, the same charming smile that turned her legs to jelly, and the confident stance that made his six-foot frame appear even larger and more intimidating.

She was vaguely aware of the bellboy taking her bags from the cab driver, and somehow, she managed to pay the driver, complete with enormous tip, her eyes never leaving Liam.

Finally, Liam shook the guest’s hand and turned in the direction of the bar, but just as he was about to walk off, he appeared to hesitate. Hardly breathing, Annabelle watched his body twist, as if in slow motion, until he faced her, and his dark brown eyes found her own.

She stayed in that same spot, her feet rooted to the marble floor until the receptionist caught her attention. Forcing her eyes from Liam’s, Annabelle drifted to the welcome desk. The shock of seeing him after all this time had her so dizzy that her feet didn’t seem to touch the floor.

“Name, please.” The receptionist looked at her expectantly, and Annabelle knew exactly what she was thinking. Nobody on the planet had to ask for Annabelle’s name.

“Annabelle Lawson.” She opened her purse to find her credit card. “I don’t have a reservation.”

“Oh.” The receptionist tapped a few keys on her computer. “I’m not sure if we have any rooms available.”

“What?” Annabelle blinked at the young woman. It had been years since she checked into a hotel by herself, but she’d never have believed that she’d be turned away just because she had no reservation. She was Annabelle Lawson, for Christ’s sake.

Deciding now wasn’t the time to cause a fuss, Annabelle gave a polite smile. “I’m sure you’ll find something.”

“Well, we do have a single.”

“I’d prefer a suite.”

The girl shrugged. “I’m afraid we have no suites available.”

An argument was on the tip of Annabelle’s tongue but it froze there when she sensed him move up behind her.

“Ms. Lawson can take the Medallion Suite,” Liam told the receptionist, his deep voice that sent little shocks down Annabelle’s spine. “The Mitchells will be out of there by noon.”

As the girl typed the information into the computer, Liam turned to Annabelle. “For now, you can join me for lunch in my suite.” He looked back at the girl. “Have Johnny take Ms. Lawson’s cases to my rooms.”

Without another word, Liam took Annabelle’s elbow and led her to the elevators. She didn’t speak—she couldn’t. The heat of his hand on her arm had her speechless. The familiar masculine scent of him was already consuming her senses. Being so close to him had every nerve in her body alive, vibrating with excited anticipation.

“Where are your rooms?” she finally croaked out when the elevator door slid open.

“Top floor.” He nodded to the couple coming out of the elevator then led her inside. “Your suite won’t be ready until the afternoon.”

She nodded. Under any other circumstances, she’d be very pissed off to be kept waiting for a hotel suite, but here with him, she’d be on her best behavior. Liam didn’t like drama.

The higher the elevator rose, the more anxious Annabelle became. Her face heated; her palms sweated. She crossed and uncrossed her arms. Her eyes darted from the elevator ceiling, to him, and back to the ceiling.

She swallowed, dropping her eyes to study her feet. Her throat was dry. She hadn’t had anything to drink since the plane, and for the first time in about ten years, she had no Evian in her purse. There’d been no one to get a bottle for her.

Liam shifted beside her, making her jump. Her eyes shot to his, but all she saw was a hint of amusement.

Oh hell, he’s laughing at me.

Her nails dug into her palms as she fought to pull herself together. She badly wanted someone to hand her a script, to tell her exactly what she had to say. It was as if she’d had a shock of stage fright and forgotten all her lines.

She jumped again when the elevator doors slid open. Feeling her cheeks grow even redder, she stepped past Liam into the suite. In an effort to take her mind off him, she studied the décor. This suite was nothing like what she’d seen downstairs. Instead of luxurious furnishings and rich colors, there were sleek lines and monochrome. Pieces of abstract art speckled the living area, while a very modern kitchen stood behind a breakfast bar; very masculine in its simplicity, very Liam.

She’d almost managed to lose herself in a painting when he spoke.

“Sit down on the sofa. I’ll get you a drink.”

“I’d rather stand.”

His eyebrows lifted but he didn’t argue. “Suit yourself.”

Not knowing what else to do with herself, she followed him to the kitchen area. He reached into the fridge, retrieving a bottle of wine.

“Is white okay?”

She nodded. The thought of a crisp white wine made her throat itch.

While he poured, she turned to look out the floor-to-ceiling window. From this high up, she could see right across the city to the bay. Tall buildings mixed with old-fashioned, red brick houses, a combination of two worlds: the modern and the quaint.

“This is quite some—” her breath hitched as his body came up right behind her, and he placed the wine glass in her hand. Steadying her voice, she finished the sentence. “This is quite some view you got here.”

“It’s just buildings and water.”

Annabelle shivered as his breath tickled her ear. “You never were able to see the beauty in your surroundings.”

Behind her, Liam snorted. “Sometimes, there’s fuck-all beauty to see.”

Taking a sip of wine, Annabelle struggled to relax. The heat of his body was enveloping hers, pulling at her very core. Between her legs, wetness surged to her pussy. Just feeling him breathe on her shoulder turned her on more than any sex she’d had in three years.

“You cold, Anna?”

She closed her eyes, his intimate tone hitting her with full force. Lord, she’d missed the sound of him saying her name.

“No. Why do you ask?”

“You keep shivering.”

As if to prove his point, Annabelle shivered. It wasn’t the cold that affected her, and judging from the quiet satisfaction in his voice, he knew she didn’t shiver from the cold too.

Without saying anything, he moved closer. So close, she could feel his erection pressing against her ass. She bit her lip to stop a moan from escaping. Her clit thumped, aching for what was coming. She knew it was coming. It was just a matter of waiting for Liam to touch her.

The waiting hung heavy between them, thickening the air, stretching the tension. To stop herself from losing it, Annabelle focused on her breathing. Still, no amount of “breathe in” and “breathe out” could take her mind off him.

Eventually, he made his move. His large hands settled at her hips and Annabelle gasped, the heat of his palms searing through the thin material of her blouse. For a few seconds, he kept his hands there, sitting on her hips. Then, with controlled movements, he slid his hands upward, tracing the curve of her waist.

“Did you have a good flight?”

Annabelle nodded wordlessly. His touch was so potent, she just wanted to bend over.

Unable to stop herself, Annabelle pushed back, pressing her buttocks into Liam’s groin. He didn’t respond. His hands kept stroking her waist, up and down, until she thought she might go mad. Then he loosened her blouse, pulling it out of her skirt and slipping his hands underneath.

She whimpered as his hands made contact with her bare skin. Goosebumps rose along her arms while her pussy clenched in anticipation. His hands stroked upward until they met the underside of her bra. A sweat broke out on her forehead as he brought his hands around to cup her breasts. His thumbs flicked over her nipples, stiff and throbbing beneath the lace of her bra. He circled them, teasing them, bringing them out further.

“Was there a lot of traffic coming from the airport?”

“Uh huh.” Actually, she couldn’t remember if there had been traffic. She couldn’t think right now.

Biting down hard on her lip, Annabelle reached out to grip the edge of the breakfast bar. With one hand, Liam continued to play with her nipples while the other slid back down over her belly. In one quick moment, his hand was slipping under her skirt and his fingers were tracing the silk edge of her hold-ups. She moaned as his hand ran over her bare thigh, stroking the flesh. He was so close to touching her; just not close enough.

Annabelle ground back against Liam’s cock. What in the hell was up with him? He knew she’d never had any time for patience, and this wait for gratification was going to send her insane.

Liam seemed to take the hint. His hand rose until he cupped her pussy and his middle finger pressed into her. She moved against it, riding his hand, only the thin material of her thong acting as a barrier. Liam pushed the scrap of material to the side so that his fingers pressed against the bare skin of her pussy.

“Christ, you’re wet, Anna,” he muttered. “All this, for me?”

Unable to answer, she nodded, grinding against his fingers. She could feel his cock swell at the small of her back and ached for him to put it inside her. Nevertheless, she knew she had to do this his way.

Liam’s thumb and forefinger squeezed her clit, and she fell apart. Pressing into his hand, she came hard, spasms shaking her body, tearing the strength from her limbs. Liam held onto her until the tremors stopped and she could stand again.

“That was amazing,” she whispered, straightening her skirt.

“Glad you enjoyed it.”

She smiled, hearing the self-satisfaction in his voice and knowing that there was a smug grin on his face. Just as she was about to twist in his arms to give him his turn, he pulled away.

“I think we should eat now, don’t you?”

She blinked, watching as he picked up the phone; calm, controlled, and completely together. He did not look like a man who’d just given a woman an orgasm or a man who had a raging hard-on. Hell, she could still see it. Though, looking at his face, no one would ever guess he was turned on.

The Liam she remembered had let nothing get in the way when he wanted to fuck. He’d never thought about ordering food or getting a drink. So what was going on now? Why had he suddenly turned into Mr. Control?