Aftershock - Page 3

Author: Sylvia Day

“I’m not sure. No,” I amended, “that’s not true. I’m pissed off that he’s made an already complicated relationship more complicated by investing in Pembry Ventures. Not just that, but he called Isabelle directly to solidify her defecting. I can’t trust him, Lei.”

Every time I thought about what he’d done, I got angry all over again.

“That’s a fatal flaw.”

“I know it.” The thing was, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Jax had deliberately moved to put a wedge between us. But I couldn’t decide if that motivation made him less dangerous or more so. “I need you to tell me if I’m risking my job.”

“You know you are. I’m not going to fire you over who you date, Gianna. That’s your business. But if he happens to make another move that looks like he got a tip from you—whether it was done deliberately or not—I’ll have to let you go, because then we’re talking about my business. Got it?”

My stomach knotted. “Got it.”

“All right.” Her voice softened. “What’s on the agenda tomorrow?”

I told her. While I spoke calmly and steadily, I couldn’t shake the fear that had taken root. I’d planned my whole future around my job and I didn’t have a Plan B.

“Let me know what Chad thinks of the architect’s renderings when he sees them. And take care of yourself, Gianna. You’re not just an employee to me. I think you know that.”

I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. “I do. Thanks, Lei.”

We hung up and I threw my phone on the bed. A headache was building and I loosened the clip that rolled my hair into a neat chignon at my nape. I really hated Jax at that moment. I didn’t know how to deal with all the emotions he’d been stirring up in me since he had walked back into my life. I kept shifting from wanting to heal whatever was wounding him to wanting to hurt him myself.

Ping. Incoming text.

When I saw Going crazy waiting 4 u from Jax, I let it all explode.

I called him. Everything that was wrong in my life was his fault and he needed to know that.

“Tell me you’re in the lobby,” he said in greeting, his voice husky.

I didn’t screw around. “I love my job. It’s the most important thing in my life, and I’m in danger of losing it because of you.”

It took him a second to switch gears. “Fuck. Gia—”

“If you love me at all, you’ll tell me right now if this is going to end with me jobless. You can get easy pussy, Jax. You don’t need mine.”

“Jesus.” He exhaled roughly. “I’ve done what business I intend to do with Ian Pembry.”

It was another non-answer. I was sick of them. He gave them for damn near everything.

I hung up and tossed the phone onto the bed. I started undressing, wanting to take a shower and scrub the day off.

My phone started ringing. Click. Time to shut that sucker down for the night.

I took my room phone off the hook, too, before he could start in on me that way. I’d come to Atlanta for some time away from Jax, and I needed it, despite how my body protested the idea of being denied him.

“I don’t need him to have an orgasm,” I scolded myself aloud. Of course that didn’t address what I really loved about sex with Jax—the man himself.

Twenty minutes later, my hair was wrapped up in a towel on my head and I was on the phone with room service. An impatient, angry rap on the door startled me enough to make me jump.

I knew who it was before Jax said, “Open the damned door, Gia.”

My jaw clenched. There was no way in hell the hotel had given out my room number. It irritated me to no end that Jax had the connections to circumvent the rules everyone else lived by.

I returned my attention to my call. “You know what? Make that a bottle of Ste. Michelle instead of a glass, please. Thank you.”

Jax knocked with even more impatience.

I hung up and glared at the door. “Fuck you,” I snapped.

“You’re acting like a child.” Even muffled through the door, his voice resonated with fury.

“Get a clue, Jax. I don’t want to see you.”

“That’s too damn bad. You can’t stay in there forever, Gia, but I can put a guard on your door who’ll make sure that when you come out, you come straight to me. It’s your choice how you want this to go.”

Narrow-eyed, I slapped the security bar back and yanked the door open. Jax immediately crowded me, forcing me back into the room. I caught barely a glimpse of a guy in a suit behind Jax’s big frame, then Jax kicked the door shut behind him.

I backed up quickly, my gaze darting down the length of his body. He was dressed in black slacks and a matching vest, his gray shirt and tie not softening the dark vibe. His hair looked as if he’d been running his fingers through it, the longer strands falling over his forehead in sexy disarray. His brown eyes were hot as they catalogued my appearance, his irritation evident in the scowl that furrowed his brow.

He’d said I was sexy as hell when I was mad at him and I understood what he meant when confronted by over six feet of angry, bristling masculinity. The angles of his gorgeous face were tight, his jaw rigid, the sensual curve of his lips firmed into an unyielding line. He looked dangerous and fiercely sexual.

“I’m getting real tired of you cutting things off,” he said, clenching his teeth.

“Boy do I know that feeling.”

He glanced at the ceiling as if he were praying for patience. “Is Yeung giving you a hard time?”

“No.” I crossed my arms, wishing I were wearing more than the hotel-provided robe, which was a thin shield for my nakedness underneath. “She’s actually been remarkably forgiving, all things considered.”

He watched me back carefully away. He filled the entryway of the room, blocking the exit, the closet, and the bathroom. The Mondego was a really nice hotel, beautifully decorated with understated elegance, but this suite was nowhere near as fabulous as the one Jax had taken me to in New Jersey. “My deal with Pembry has nothing to do with you.”

“I don’t believe you.”

His brows rose. “You don’t? Or Yeung doesn’t?”

“Me. I’m sure you had a few reasons why you did it, but I’m also pretty sure I was one of the reasons. And since it’s worked out so well and made me seriously consider how much of a liability you are, I can’t be sure you won’t pull something else that makes me hate you. That’s what you want, isn’t it? You want me to end things because you can’t.”

His face revealed no expression, but something in his eyes changed. “Why would I want to do that?”

“Because you’re afraid of me. Especially the way you feel about me.”

“Am I?”

“That, or your dad has you running scared. Which is it?”

“I’ve told you what he’s like,” Jax said softly.

That stopped my retreat. “I guess I have more faith in you than you have in yourself. I think you can take him on, Jax. I trust that you’d watch out for me.”

He laughed and it was a horrible, humorless sound. “You think I’d protect you from the big bad wolf?”

I stared at him, shocked, never having seen this bitter side of him. The next thing I knew, he had me in his powerful grip, his body curling into me and his face close to mine. He was impossibly beautiful. The most stunning man I’d ever seen. And he was seriously pissed.

“I am the big bad wolf, baby,” he growled. “You want to be with me? You want to be my girlfriend? You want to go to parties with dinner with the family?”

“Yes!” I lifted onto my tiptoes. “I’m sick of being your booty call, Jax. You’ve got dozens of women for that. I deserve better!”

“Dozens? I’ve damn near been a monk since I met you! Two women, Gia. Two. And since you fucked two guys, you’ve got no room to talk. I’m entitled to those two, as pointless as they were.”

I gasped, horrified that he’d watched me close enough to know how many men I had slept with since we’d been apart.

“You want the whole deal?” he snapped. “Fine. Your life is about to change completely. Your privacy is a thing of the past. You’re going—”

“As if I had any privacy! My God, you’ve been stalking me for years. Are you—?”

“Gia, every questionable thing you’ve ever done is about to become tomorrow’s news. Your brothers’ lives are up for grabs, too. And that goes for your parents and friends, too. Go out in public and the photographers will follow. From how you vote to what you’re wearing, everything is fair game.”

I swallowed hard.

“You’re going to move in with me. You’ll be safe in my apartment, but I can’t say what your brothers will have to deal with. Or your sister-in-law. There’ll be security with you at all times. And I don’t want to hear about how inconvenient it is to constantly have someone with you, someone you’ll have to report your schedule to.”

“You can’t scare me,” I whispered, but it was a lie. My heart was pounding with anxiety. I had always been incredibly protective of my family. Whenever they were threatened, I came out swinging.

“Oh, I will,” he warned darkly. “You’ve had nothing but the best of me so far, but if you want it all, that’s what you’ll get. The good and the really fucking ugly.”

“Bring it on,” I challenged, getting angry again. He was deliberately being an ass.

“I travel a lot. You’re going to have some late nights that will bore you to tears, only to get up the next day to go to work. I’ll tell you what to wear, what to say, how to act. It’s what I do, Gia. Image is everything in politics and business, but you’ve already figured that out, haven’t you? You’ve laid a lot of the groundwork for me. Sometimes, I barely recognize you.”

I rebelled, yanking myself away from him. “Thank you, Jax,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “You’ve made the decision really easy for me.”

His mouth curled in a cruel smile. “Scared you off, did I?”

I was so frustrated with his crap, I wanted to scream. We’d never been nasty to each other. More than anything, I was desperate to put distance between us.

“I’d face all that and more for a guy who really loved me,” I told him coldly. “But I’m not putting up with this shit from a jerk.”

He looked ready to smash his clenched fist through the wall.

I waved toward the door. “Please leave, Jax. I don’t want to look at you right now.” Another lie. I would never get tired of looking at him. But I was tired of dealing with him. I’d wanted a break for a reason.

“I give it to you straight and you flip.” He scrubbed a hand over his face and cursed.

“No,” I corrected. “You wanted to scare me straight and you’re getting what you wanted. I’m settling for a fuck-only arrangement, but I’ll do so on my time, not yours. I’ll call you when I want you, so don’t bother calling me—I won’t answer. And stop popping up where I am. It’s creepy.”

“Damn it.” Jax stepped forward, reaching for me.

I backed up quickly. “Don’t touch me.”

His dark eyes bored into mine. “You might as well tell me to stop breathing. What the fuck do you want from me, Gia? I’m trying to give you what you’re asking for, and it’s still not enough.”

“Damn right! You set up all those pitfalls and didn’t leave me any way out. Why would I want to take the first step?”

“Living under a microscope is part of my life! I can’t change it.”

“You could’ve said something like, ‘Listen, Gia, sharing my life won’t be easy, but I love you. I’ll do the best I can to make sure our private life is worth the public hell.’ Or something like that!”

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