Declan stared out the plate-glass window of his office at Antaeus International, his eyes on the coastline that stretched as far as he could see. He hadn’t been good for a single thing today. His mind had been on Elysia ever since she’d left his house just before dawn. He gazed in the direction of Granville Cemetery, seeing the distant patch of green that signified the parklike acreage. Gods, he had been two thoughts away from a full hard-on all day. He’d showered, but he swore he could still smell her on him. It was as if she had marked him with her scent.
Life played out so strangely sometimes. He hadn’t wanted to go to the Undertaker’s Ball. Ever since Elysia had stopped going to industry events, he’d had no interest in them himself. This time he’d had no choice. His older brother Sean had slapped the ticket in his hand, given him a hard look from his golden eyes, and demanded that Declan represent the family and the company at the ball. Knowing that Sean’s lethal gaze meant business, Declan had caved
He’d been making small talk with two of his managers when he’d spotted Elysia. Instantly, his cock had wanted to go meet her. Luckily, the reaper robes had hid his eagerness. As he’d strode across the room toward her, every meeting he’d ever had with her had flashed through his head. True, that was a sum total of three times, but each one was memorable to Declan.
The first time he’d met her had been at the big party Sean had thrown when Declan had returned to the family business after having been away in Europe. Declan had instantly been attracted to Elysia’s cool beauty. Her violet eyes lit him on fire. She’d smiled at him, shaken his hand, and then turned away to nuzzle Austin Stone, that pretty-boy fuckhead. Austin had had the gall to smirk over the top of her head at Declan as if to say, I’ve got her and you’ve got nothing but a stiff dick, loser!
Elysia had been so lost in Austin that she’d never noticed his attitude toward Declan.
The second time he’d met Elysia had been at her engagement party. Declan didn’t know how Sean had managed to drag him to that event, but Declan figured it had something to do with the bender he’d been on ever since hearing about Elysia’s engagement to that rat bastard Austin Stone. Declan vaguely remembered Elysia being concerned about him being too drunk to drive and Sean assuring her that the company limo would take his brother home. At least he hadn’t puked on her shoes or anything.
Declan grimaced as he recalled that episode. He was a thrice-damned fool. He always had been when it came to Elysia. The moment he’d met her, he’d wanted her for himself. Something inside him had just clicked and all the pieces of his life had fallen into place when he’d looked at her. Her relationship with Austin, something that had started long before he arrived on the scene, had grated on his nerves.
The third time he’d spoken with Elysia had happened when Austin had dumped her at the convention three years ago. He had been torn between taking care of her and tearing Austin limb from limb for hurting her and humiliating her. Taking care of her had won out. When she’d spun away from him saying she needed to throw up, it had broken his heart.
In the three years since her public breakup with Austin Stone, Declan had only seen her a couple of times in the distance, always surrounded by her brothers, always cold and aloof. Tonight was the first time he’d seen her alone in years. She looked very obviously unattached and like she was looking for fun. The defiant expression in those violet eyes did something to his stomach and his head. Now that her overprotective brothers weren’t around, he had a chance to get close to her, and he wasn’t going to screw it up.
Declan leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes. Oh man had he not screwed it up.
Instantly, his thoughts were assaulted with memories of the night before. If someone had told him that his first sexual encounter with Elysia Granville would be in a mausoleum while both of them were dressed in absurd Halloween costumes, he would have laughed himself silly. For more than four years, he’d had a fantasy of making love to her in his bed, of spreading her hair across his pillow and spending hours worshiping her body. He never would have thought that lust would ignite between them to the point that it didn’t matter where they were so long as he could bury himself in her hot depths.
“What’s wrong with you?”
The annoyed voice of his brother Sean broke into Declan’s thoughts. His eyes flew open and he spun around in his chair, grateful for the desk that hid his lap and the huge hard-on he sported as a result of his thoughts.
“What are you talking about?” he said gruffly, avoiding his brother’s sharp eyes. He shuffled some papers on his desk, trying to order his scattered thoughts.
“You’ve been in here all day, but you haven’t been here. You don’t answer your phone. You’re not checking your email. You didn’t order lunch or go out.” Sean planted his hands on the surface of Declan’s desk, leaning in and capturing his brother’s gaze. “What’s wrong?”
Pinned by the all-knowing eyes of his older brother, Declan sighed. “It’s all your fault,” he admitted.
Sean blinked; then his mouth turned up in a slow smile. He straightened and walked over to the door, shutting it. He sat down across the desk from Declan and asked, “What happened at the ball?”
Declan got the distinct impression that Sean was hugely pleased with himself. Which made no damned sense at all. “If you must know, I met Elysia Granville,” he grumbled.
Sean grinned openly. “Actually, I do know. Everyone we know knows. If you had bothered to come out of your office and out of your sexual stupor, you’d know the entire office is buzzing about you and her,” he said smugly.
Declan’s eyes widened. “Shit. I should have known.”
His brother nodded. “Yeah, you shoulda.” He sat back in the chair, his rugged face wreathed in an expression of wry amusement. “One minute you were standing with Brian and Maire and the next you made a beeline for Elysia like the two of you were magnet and metal. Everyone in that room saw you head right for her, saw her flirt with you, and watched the two of you walk out of the ball minutes later and not come back. It’s stirred up a helluva lot more gossip than Austin Stone dumping her at the convention ever did.”
Declan groaned and rubbed a hand over his face. He just could not catch a break some days. He had a feeling Elysia would be severely pissed at this new turn of events. “I never thought of that,” he muttered.
“Obviously not,” Sean said. “You realize that our whole world knows what’s going on. Austin Stone never did anything privately. He’s a PR guy. He lives for the spotlight. When he decided that his career could be best fostered by hooking up with the most attractive and powerful woman in our industry, he slammed Elysia with his megawatt public persona. She never had a chance. Austin made sure that they attended every event, no matter how small. He took every opportunity to show off the fact that Elysia Granville was his. When he decided to jettison her for Laurie Valetta, he did it the same way he does everything: in a classless public display. Only that time, it was guaranteed to humiliate Elysia in front of every one of her peers.”
Sean looked at his brother with a speculative gleam in his eyes. “You think that after what happened at the convention that Elysia could ever walk into an industry event unnoticed? For three years she’s stayed away. When she did attend an event, she was flanked by brothers who would tear anyone to shreds if they came near her. Last night, the gossip mill fired up the instant she walked in alone. Then you made a beeline for her and minutes later the two of you leave and don’t return. Didn’t you stop to think about how that would look to every person in the room?”
Declan’s stomach roiled. “No,” he admitted, feeling slightly sick at the thought of how Elysia would take all the gossip. “I walked up to her and she came on to me and my brains took a hike.”