Page 25 of Corrupted

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He wags his brows at me. “I guess we’ll have to see about rectifying that,” he says, his voice full of promise and dirty innuendos.

“When you put it that way,” I say, trying to keep the mood light.

His teasing smile dims and his Adam’s apple bobs when he swallows, his amusement dissolving like honey in hot tea. “What you’re doing here. That’s really nice.”

I study him, warmth traveling all the way to my curled toes. “You don’t think it’s silly? That I’m silly?” I ask, his words from all those years ago still cutting deep.

He frowns, the worry lines in his forehead intensifying, and I can practically hear the gears churning. What, were those harsh words not important enough to remember?

“Of course not,” he says. “Why would you even say that?”

“No reason,” I answer, not wanting to dredge up old memories, and reopen old hurts. The truth is we both messed up.

“Next time just leave me a note or text me, okay?” he says.

“I didn’t mean to make you worry.” I glance at my watch and my eyes bug out of my head. “Ohmigod, the time.” Panicked, I glance back up at him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I should have been back by now.” The man bought me in an auction for God’s sake. I’m supposed to be his companion, not run off and disappear for hours. I’m probably violating the contract and giving him grounds to ship me back home.

“Hey,” he says, his gentle voice cutting into my thoughts. He pulls up a stool and sits, and my gaze rakes over the concern in his face. When he looks at me like that, like I’m the most important person in the world to him, it creates a deeper intimacy that goes well beyond what we shared this morning, when he was inside me.

Keep it together, Londyn.

He paid for you and simply wants his money’s worth. As that harsh thought leaves a bitter taste on my tongue, a breeze blows in through the open door and a chill moves through me. The temperature was well above the normal for Cannes in December when I left the villa this afternoon, but has since dropped. A cold front must have moved through, and I’m definitely not dressed appropriately. “It’s okay. I found you. You’re safe. That’s what matter


I take a gulp of my coffee, giving my heart a second to settle. “I totally lost track of time,” I say.

“Actually, I’m kind of glad this happened.” He shakes his head and grins. “You have no idea what it’s like to see you work.” He reaches out, tucks a wayward strand of my hair behind my ear, and his closeness teases my senses. “I just... I forgot how much I liked this about you.”

A little bubble wells up inside me, the way it always does when I’m doing what I love. “This is what I was meant to do,” I say, the excited fire in my belly flaring as I glance at the pile of clothes in need of my attention. I root through them. “I love fashion, fabric and creating.”

The smile he aims my way pierces my heart. This is the Cason I remember from our youth—vulnerable, a little off his game and a whole lot of sweet. How could I have hurt the one guy who was always so nice to me? I don’t deserve these two weeks with him. I don’t deserve any of his kindness.

“I know you do, and I’m the one who should be apologizing,” he says.

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t expect you to sit idle for two weeks. It’s not who you are, and I should probably send—”

I take hold of his coat, grip the lapels, as lightning bolts of worry burst through me. “I don’t want to go back,” I blurt out. If I leave, I won’t get the rest of the money, and I’ll be damned if my father is going to marry me off in a merger. But I can’t tell Cason that. He hates my father, rightfully so, and if he knew his money was actually going to help his businesses, he’d kick me to the curb faster than my father stole his app idea. But there are other reasons I don’t want to leave, more important reasons that hit close to my heart.

His warm expression changes, worry pushing back the smile. He waves his hand in front of my face. “Hey, where did you go?” he asks, the genuine concern in his eyes, and the tenderness in his voice, nearly bringing me to tears. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me that, the last time someone cared about me or my well-being. Actually, maybe I can. Maybe it was back in college with this sweet man. Which makes the things he said about me all the more hurtful, and a bit confusing actually. I guess he was just playing with the rich brat. Having a good time talking about her with his friends behind her back.

“I’m here,” I say, not wanting to talk about my father. “And here is where I want to stay. I want to help out with this film, if you don’t need me for anything in the day, maybe I could spend a few hours here.”

I hold my breath, a part of me desperate to hear him say he does need me.

The words don’t come. Instead he gives a small chuckle and says, “I wasn’t going to send you back. Actually, if you have the time, I’d like to show you some of the designs Luis sent me. You have a great eye for fashion.”

“Really?” I shake my head, positive I’m hearing things.


My heart wobbles, and stupid tears prick my eyes. I swallow against a painful throat, and work my words past the lump forming. “I would love that.”

“It’s settled, then.”

He’s about to stand, but I tug on his coat. “Cason.”

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