When I felt threatened or nervous, I panicked. While Adam Kinkade did spark a lot of emotions, fear wasn’t one of them.
“You ready for dinner, Kate?” Brian asked me, looking at Adam the whole time.
Adam looked like he was about to rip Brian’s throat out with his teeth. Finally, he took his death stare from Brian and locked it on me. “I was unaware you had plans this evening. Especially since you seemed so adamant about coffee.”
I didn’t have time to form a sentence before Megan piped up, “Oh! No, it’s totally fine if you two were going out. Brian and I will catch you next time, Katelyn.” Megan was all smiley and I could have sworn she wiggled her eyebrows at me.
I was going to argue, and from the looks of it, so was Brian, but Adam didn’t give either of us a chance. He leaned forward and placed his hand on the small of my back, leading me away.
“Good,” he growled at Brian. He gave Megan a lazy grin. “Thank you, Megan.”
The girl looked like she was about to fan herself. Adam Kinkade, with his abrasive swagger and lethal smirk, could melt the panties off any woman.
And I was currently in his clutches.
I sat in the back of Adam’s town car while his driver wound through the city. Lights from the local shops and streets were bouncing off the wet pavement as we passed through downtown.
“Where are we going?”
He looked over at me and I checked the urge to sigh. He was so damned handsome it was kind of hurting my chest. Of course, remembering to breathe would have helped.
“The best seafood restaurant in the city.”
He didn’t say any more, and neither did I. Tension ran thick, though I couldn’t really say why. It had been awkward with Brian and Megan earlier, but that shouldn’t make him mad. Right?
We pulled up to the restaurant. It was packed, glamorous, and sat right on the waterfront. The large glass skyscrapers surrounded us and two open towers serving as parking garages made every car look like a Lite-Brite piece of a bigger, luminous puzzle.
Adam got out, walked around, and opened my door for me, then silently ushered me inside. The host sprang to attention. “Mr. Kinkade, it’s a pleasure to see you this evening.”
Adam simply nodded, his palm remaining on the small of my back.
As if the host’s internal gears had shifted into turbo boost, he showed us to a private table at the back of the restaurant. White linen covered the circular tables, dazzling chandeliers hung from the ceilings, and vibrant art lined the walls. Everything screamed class and wealth and not…me.
“So, Adam.” After pulling my chair out for me, he seated himself. “Do you come here often?”
“Yes.” His eyes bored into mine and I fidgeted with my hands in my lap. So much for small talk.
The waiter came and Adam ordered wine and food, never once glancing at the menu. He didn’t ask me what I wanted. His actions didn’t offend me; rather, they made me feel a bit more at ease. Being out of my element, I had to trust his expertise in this.
Once our wine glasses were full, the waiter left. A long swallow of the crisp grigio left tingles on the roof of my mouth.
“What is the situation between you and Brian?”
I almost spat out my wine. “What? What do you mean?”
He leaned forward, ensnaring my gaze. “Are you two currently, or have you ever, f**ked?”
This time I coughed and the wine burned as I forced a swallow down the wrong pipe. “That is none of your business. What kind of question is that?”
“An honest one. I like to know in advance if there are any obstacles.”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Obstacles to what?”
“To f**king you.”
My mouth hung open. The waiter brought a tray of oysters and Adam put one on my plate. No one had ever approached me in this manner, let alone so bluntly and seemingly emotionless about it. Was this how dating worked these days? I didn’t have any experience with this—what with literally keeping everyone at arm’s length—but surely it wasn’t this forward.
“I can hardly have a dialogue with you if you remain speechless.” His tone was somewhere between anger and boredom.
“I’m sorry.” Shock flared through my system. “I’m just trying to figure out what kind of ass**le it takes to pull off this kind of ‘seduction.’”
A wide grin split his face and I got a glimpse of those straight white teeth. My God, it was an incredible sight. “Not many people have the nerve to call me an ass**le.”
“Maybe not to your face,” I mumbled before taking another sip of wine.
He sat back in his chair and looked me up and down, that sleek confidence radiating from him. “And here I was giving you a compliment.”
“Compliment? By asking me first about my sex life, then informing me you want to be a part of it?”
“No,” he snapped, and sat forward. “I want to be all of it.”
My brain short-circuited. This man was sexy, rich, and powerful. Was this how he spoke to people? Just expected them to fall at his feet?
Part of me—and I knew which part—wanted to give in to him, because while I might be lacking experience, this man obviously wasn’t.
“I see I have you thinking about it.”
My cheeks flushed and my eyes shot back to his. There was no way he could have known what I was thinking.
“You’re very expressive,” he said, as if once again reading my mind.
“I—” I started to stutter, then just decided to stop attempting to talk. “Excuse me.”
I got up from the table and headed toward the ladies’ room, desperate to get out of his presence. He brought out things in me that I didn’t like. Like emotions in general. My eternal balance was being tilted. Too far in any one direction could be bad. I needed to shut it down before it took me over. This man was tempting me. Sucking me in. And damn if I didn’t want to get lost in it.
The way he spoke to me. Looked at me. Not an ounce of pity was ever present. Yes, he was blunt. But he didn’t know me or my past. Didn’t think of me the way Megan and Brian did. They loved me and had only good intentions, but they assumed I was damaged and couldn’t handle myself. Adam Kinkade made me feel competent. A few short encounters had me feeling like something beyond an adult.
He made me feel like a woman.
I looked in the mirror and made sure the sides of my face and neck were covered by my hair.
“Too bad…” I mumbled to my reflection. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter how Adam made me feel or what I wanted—which, presently, was just him. My skin was actually throbbing for his touch. But if he got close, he’d see the scars, and if he saw the scars, it would only be a matter of time before he found out about my past and either ditched me or looked at me the same way Brian and Megan did.