*****CARESS is an erotic romance that includes explicit
sexual scenes. Also warm toasted bagels spread with gooey cream cheese, banana
splits dripping with extra cherries, and a panty-dropping alpha male who’s good
enough to eat all by himself. Side effects may include naughty thoughts, secret
smiles, and friends asking what on earth you’re reading. Proceed at your own
risk. XXXOOO Josie*****
Welcome to the Arcadia, Manhattan’s most seductive address.
For almost a century, the exclusive Art Deco apartment
building overlooking Central Park has been home to passionate, star-crossed
lovers. Now a new generation is about to discover the obsession and mystery
hidden within its luxurious walls.
When smart, gutsy Emma Whittaker returns to the building
where she grew up, she’s only hoping to gain a foot-hold in a city that has
turned cold and hostile since the exposure of her father’s multi-billion dollar
financial fraud. Instead, she meets the one man who can make her forget all the
hard-learned lessons that life has taught her and tempt her to risk everything,
even her heart.
Lucas Phelps is New York’s premiere realtor, the confidant
of stars, tech moguls, and oligarchs, gatekeeper to the city’s most sought
after properties, none more so than the Arcadia itself. At ease in the world of
the wealthiest and most powerful, Lucas has long since hidden his true nature
behind steely resolve. But his deepest yearnings will return to haunt him when
he crosses paths with the one woman capable of shattering his hard-won control
and unleashing his darkest desires.
As the betrayals of the past and the dangers of the present
collide within the Arcadia, Emma and Lucas will struggle to overcome both
before they can make the future their own.
Savage, hot desire clawed at me. I couldn’t breathe,
couldn’t think. All I could do was feel over every inch of my skin.
The rasp of Lucas’ voice resonated deep inside me, a caress
that left tremors in its wake.
“For the love of god, Emma, tell me you want this!”
Was the man insane? How could he possibly think
Distantly, I remembered last night on the couch in the
screening room, the thrust of his tongue, the clenched power of his body, his
finger stroking me where I was so wet and hot. Overwhelmed by the sensations he
unleashed, I’d panicked and called a halt.
But that was then and this was…after. After a night of hot,
carnal dreams about him. Followed by a morning of longing, wishing, imagining…
The empty morning when he wasn’t there. His sudden reappearance.
Alone with him riding up in the elevator, remembering one particularly hot,
explicit dream with me on my knees and his cock in my--
My head fell back. I heard a woman’s voice moaning
helplessly and realized that it was mine.
“Oh, god, Lucas, don’t stop!”
His hands closed on my bare shoulders. His fingertips and
palms were roughened, unexpectedly so for the CEO of New York’s premiere real
estate firm. The chiseled perfection of the body that I had glimpsed days ago
in nothing more than a towel was evidence that he worked out often and hard.
But I still hadn’t understood how seductive his carefully controlled strength
could be. Especially not when it was edged by the intensity of his own need.
Margo’s scarlet silk gown that I had decided so impulsively
to try on lay around my feet. I was wearing only a scrap of panties and they
were too much. I ached to be skin-to-skin with him.
He’d taken off his jacket but he was still in business
attire--dress shirt, trousers, even a tie although he’d loosened that at least.
I grabbed hold of it, ran my hand up the length of natural silk the shade of
pale honey, and tugged at the knot, unraveling it further.
Before I could stop myself, I murmured, “Please…”
The fire behind his grey eyes leaped higher.
“Tell me what you want,” he demanded.
So much. How could I ever explain it all to him? I wanted
the physical pleasure that I knew beyond any doubt that he could give me. But I
also wanted to let go of the self-protectiveness that had caused me to seal
myself off from so much of life and experience. For just this moment, with this
man, I wanted to break free.
After years of living so carefully, keeping my emotions in
such strict check, I had begun to doubt that I could ever know anything else.
My relief at being proven wrong was so powerful that it overwhelmed any
lingering hesitation I might have felt.
“I want you,” I said. “I want whatever this is between us
for however long it is. I don’t want promises. I don’t have expectations. I
just want this moment, the two of us together in it.”
A shadow moved across his face. I chased it, trying to
understand what it meant, but it was gone in an instant. In its place was a searing
look of raw, hot hunger that made me tremble.
“Fair enough,” he said, “but we do this my way, understand?
I call the shots.”
Given our relative levels of experience--or in my case
inexperience--that seemed reasonable. Yet the thought of it made the muscles at
my core clench painfully. I knew I should tell him that I hadn’t done this
before but the words caught in my throat. I didn’t want to say or do anything
that could possibly wreck the mood.
His hands gentled on my shoulders. He bent his head and the
brush of his lips against mine was tender, even sweet.
“Emma,” he breathed.
Distantly, I realized that he was backing me toward the bed.
Suddenly overwhelmed by the fear that I was about to fall, I grasped his
sculpted biceps. But I needn’t have worried. He lowered me carefully.
Cool air touched my skin and for an instant I felt starkly
alone and exposed. Before I could begin to process that, Lucas stretched out
above me on the bed. He held most of his weight on his powerful arms. Even so,
I felt controlled and contained in a way that was oddly reassuring.
Leaning on his side, he smoothed my hair back from my face
and smiled. Softly, he said, “I have to be out of my mind to be doing this but
as long as I am, I want it to be good for you.”
My throat went dry as the full impact of what was happening
hit me. I was about to experience sex for the first time with a man I’d known
for little more than a week. The same instinct for flight that had seized me
the previous evening threatened to take hold again.
But before it could, a kernel of calm opened up inside me.
It expanded as I met Lucas’s searching gaze. I did know him, no matter how
short our acquaintance.
He was the man who dominated my thoughts waking and
sleeping. The man who had a starring role in my shockingly carnal dreams. But he
also brought me bagels, laughed at my jokes, taught me to watch for hawks
soaring above the city, and coaxed me to open up in ways that I’d never
considered doing with anyone else.
Even now, with me all but naked on the bed, and his erection
hard against my thigh, he left no doubt that the choice was mine. A man of
remarkable strength and will, he nonetheless put all the power in my hands. For
the moment, at least.
“Do you trust me?” he asked.
When had I last trusted anyone other than myself? Even
before the exposure of my father’s vast financial fraud, his arrest and suicide,
and the sundering of our family, I’d been instinctively cautious.
Growing up, I’d wanted to be liked for myself but in the
circles I lived in, friendship, or what passed for it, was merely a means to an
end. My family’s wealth and influence were a barrier I couldn’t get passed.
Ironically enough, that remained the case even after both evaporated like drops
of rain on a steaming hot sidewalk.
But Lucas was different. For all that I’d sensed his
irritation with his younger sister, Caroline, I’d also recognized the deep
undercurrent of affection that ran between them. So, too, he’d spoken of his
mother and brother with genuine feeling.
He was capable of caring and, for the moment at least, he
gave every appearance of caring about me.
That was enough, if only for now.
“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t,” I said softly. It was a
half-answer, true within the constraints of the moment. But it was all I had to
Even so, my answer seemed to provide the reassurance that he
needed. It also changed the dynamic between us in a way that made me gasp.
His mouth took mine in a soul-searing kiss, his tongue
thrusting deep. I moaned again and tried to grasp his thick, silken hair, the
color of dark chocolate. But his hands closed on mine, implacably stretching my
arms above my head and holding them there as he plundered my mouth.
When he lifted his head at last, I all but sobbed at the
sensation of loss. Behind the fringe of lashes that a woman would have killed
for, his eyes glittered with the sheen of steel.
“Stay still,” he said. “Understand?”
I frowned. How could I possibly manage that? With every
breath I took, the need to touch him grew stronger. I longed to run my
fingertips over the chiseled planes of his face, down the powerful column of
his throat, along the broad sweep of his shoulders and--
“I want to make this good for you,” he said, his voice
strained. “But if you touch me right now, I’m going to lose it. I’ll be too
quick and too rough. Neither of us wants that, agreed?”
His words were so stark and so carnal that they sent a hot
bolt of longing through me. Not trusting myself to speak, I nodded.
“Good,” he said with a smile so predatory that it made me
I fisted the covers of the bed in a desperate effort not to
reach for him again. Slowly, Lucas moved down my body. He dropped light kisses
like licks of flame in the valley between my breasts and over my stomach to my
navel where his tongue swirled in a motion that made my clit throb for the same
When he came to the rim of my panties, he stopped. Gazing up
the length of my body, he licked his lips and said, “I’m going to taste every
inch of you.”
Heat exploded inside me. I only just managed to hold on to
the covers as my hips arched helplessly.
His deep, knowing chuckle whispered over my skin as he rose to
stand beside the bed. Without taking his eyes from mine, he slipped his fingers
under either side of my panties and slowly eased them down my legs.
Straightening, the scrap of lace bunched in his hand, he
said, “Sweet heaven, Emma, you are so beautiful.”
His praise warmed and reassured me. Even so, I started to
press my thighs together.
“Don’t,” Lucas said on a note of warning.
I stopped but that wasn’t enough. The weight of his gaze
settled over me as he said, “Spread your legs for me. I want to see you.”
For a moment, I felt paralyzed, no more capable to doing as
he said than I was of flying to the moon. But then I remembered that I wanted
this. I wanted him. And even more, I wanted the sense of power that came with
the realization of how I could affect him.
Slowly, feeling at once acutely self-conscious and
deliciously bold, I did as he said.
I wasn’t waxed, having neither money nor inclination for
that. But I was neatly trimmed. I had to hope that would be enough.
The quick intake of his breath was my reward. That and his
harshly murmured words.
“You’ve got the most gorgeous pussy, Emma. Like the folds of
a blossom wet with dew and just begging for the sun to coax it open.”
No one had ever spoken to me like that, not remotely.
Outside of the pages of certain books I had enjoyed, I had no idea that any man
could. Much less had I guessed the impact it would have on me.
I gaped as he grinned and twirled my panties around his
finger like a captured battle flag before tucking them into a pocket. The
action was at once so intimate and territorial that I couldn’t help being
But my response was nothing compared to how I felt when he
said, “Another time, I want you to touch yourself for me.”
I didn’t think that I could do that but before
I could voice any such concern, he said, “But that will have to wait.”
Without warning, he took hold of my legs just above the
knees and pulled me down so that my butt was on the edge of the bed and my feet
on the floor. I managed to raise myself on my elbows in time to see Lucas, still
looking every bit the ultra-successful executive that he was, go down on his
knees in front of me.
With a wicked gleam in his eyes, he spread my thighs even
further and said, “Lie back, baby.”
I more like fell back, unable any longer to hold myself
upright. Anticipation lit up every cell of my body. He breathed--so softly!--a
mere puff of air against my hot, swollen flesh but the effect was electrifying.
I cried out and all but bucked off the bed. Only his firm hands holding my
thighs open stopped me.
“Let’s see just how responsive you are,” he said.
“Aaahhh!” A cry of mingled anguish and ecstasy broke from me
as the top of his tongue swirled around my clit.
This couldn’t be right! Something had to be wrong with me.
He’d barely touched me and I was about to come.
“So sweet,” he murmured.
His thumbs separated the outer lips of my sex, allowing the
broad flat of his tongue to stroke me from top to bottom. Heat pooled in my
groin, a delicious, melting heat that made me feel as though I was dissolving.
That sensation heightened unbearably when he drove his tongue into me.
Deep tremors coursed through my body. I tried to hold off
the orgasm that I felt approaching but it was relentless. Distantly, I heard
myself sob, in release, in affirmation, in submission to the power of this man
and what he could do to me.
I’d come before but never remotely like this. The orgasms
I’d given myself in the past were pale reflections of what Lucas unleashed in
me. In his hands, beneath his sinfully skillful mouth, I became a woman of fire
and passion who refused to be denied. Instead, she rose from deep inside me,
bold and unabashed, to claim what he so lavishly offered.
When I was next aware of anything else, Lucas was leaning
over me. His expression was a cross between smug male pride and genuine
Softly, he touched the tears I hadn’t realized were slipping
down my cheeks. “Are you all right?”
Still so stunned by what had happened, I could only nod. But
something more seemed called for. Hesitantly, I said, “I guess I was…on edge.”
My cheeks warmed as I added, “I’ve been thinking about you.”
His smile was breathtaking. He looked surprised but
“Have you? I won’t deny that you’ve been on my mind a great
deal, Miss Whittaker.”
His mocking formality, so at odds with the circumstances,
made me smile. “Have I?”
“Oh, yes, often at the most inopportune times. I’ve had
trouble working and the other day, I got crushed on the handball court because
“Me? I wasn’t even there.”
“You were in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about--” He
broke off and slipped a hand down gently between my thighs. “Why don’t I just
show you instead?”
He couldn’t mean to-- Again, without taking anything for
His fingers parted me, gently exploring the folds of my slit
before he slipped just one into my vagina, stroking in a circular motion. As he
did so, he watched my reactions intently.
“Just here, I think—” he murmured, touching one particular
spot more firmly, again and again.
In the aftermath of the powerful orgasm I had just
experienced, I wouldn’t have thought it possible to become aroused again so
quickly. But I would have been wrong.
He was relentless in the best possible way, seeming to understand
exactly what I needed and how I was must susceptible. A little harder, a little
softer and I might have rebelled. As it was, all I could do was succumb as
pleasure built again to a shattering peak of release.
In the aftermath, he stood, tall and indomitable against
the darkly paneled walls of the bedroom. Holding my gaze, he pulled his tie
loose and tossed it on a nearby chair. Slowly, smiling faintly, he undid the
buttons of his shirt and pulled it from his trousers. It, too, landed on the
My tongue snuck out to moisten my lips as I stared at him. The
glimpse I’d had of his bare torso the day we met hadn’t quite prepared me for a
more intensive appreciation of the work of art that was Lucas Phelps.
Sweet lord, the man was living, breathing temptation!
Taut skin that looked kissed by the sun stretched over
broad, sculpted shoulders and a torso that tapered, long and ripped, to narrow
hips and the V of muscle that disappeared beneath his waistband. He moved with
grace and agility that only hinted at his carefully contained strength. In
another age, he would have been a warrior. With a start, I realized that in a
sense, he still was, ready and more than able to do battle for anything he
Helplessly, unable to stop myself, I observed, “You work out
He nodded as he bent and removed his shoes and socks, in the
process giving me a view of his rock hard ass.
“It helps me to concentrate,” he said as he straightened.
A quiver ran through me as I reflected that he was
definitely a man who knew how to focus, whatever the subject of his attention.
His hands went to his belt. I watched, transfixed, as he
undid it and slid the zipper of his trousers and briefs down. My breathing was
shallow. If I was honest, I’d admit that I was panting.
The dusting of dark hair over his chest that narrowed into
an arrow down his abdomen thickened from below his naval to his groin. From it
Oh, my. Oh, sweet heaven, fuck me.
Not that I’d never seen a penis before. But a few drive-bys
of certain kinds of sites on-line and the occasional glimpse of a naughty movie
hadn’t prepared me for what he matter-of-factly revealed.
His cock was long and thick, the shaft traced by bulging
veins and the tip a velvety crest that I had sudden urge to taste, swirling my
tongue around and around him as he had done to my clit. He was every bit as compelling
as I’d fantasized and then some.
he sight of him was a more than a little daunting--he’d fit,
right? But mostly all I could do was anticipate what he would feel like inside
“It’s okay,” he murmured, lowering himself onto the bed.
“We’ll go as slowly as you need.”
The care evident in his voice shook me. I was so used to
looking after myself that the thought of surrendering that responsibility to
someone else, if only briefly, was at once enticing and frightening. The
sensation of his big, hard body, bare at last and pressing down gently but
firmly on mine, unleashed a torrent of emotion that threatened to undo me.
I was vividly aware of my own vulnerability but any fear I
might have felt dissolved into a shiver of delight as Lucas stroked a finger
along my cheek and over my lower lip, tugging gently.
“Open for me,” he commanded.
I obeyed and was rewarded by his smile of approval in the
instant before his so-seductive mouth took mine, his tongue plunging deeply,
withdrawing, and plunging again.
“Taste yourself,” he murmured against my lips. “Taste how
sweet you are.”
His sheer audacity shocked me. Even so, my body couldn’t
help responding. He stripped me bare, discarding modesty, banishing inhibition,
leaving me with nothing but raw passion and need.
The rough silk of his hair brushed the curve of my breasts.
He moved lowered, unleashing his devil tongue first on one nipple, then the
other, not relenting until both were painfully hard.
I gasped, inhaling the fragrance of his skin--crisp, clean
with a hint of musk. Coils of need tightened deep inside me.
He was so skilled, so sensual, so gloriously, unabashedly
male. He stole my breath, robbed me of reason, and left me clinging to him in
the tempest tossed sea of my emotions. I wanted this, wanted him, so much.
He broke off his sweet, skilled torment and rose above me,
the sculpted muscles of his arms bunching as they took all his weight. His eyes
were the color of dark smoke, barely concealing the fires within.
A pulse leaped to life in his jaw, the only hint I had of
what it cost him to hold himself so strictly in check.
“You’re sure--?” he asked.
Something inside me, so long closed against the world,
cracked. I blinked back tears as my body and soul together curled in longing.
On a breath of sound, all I could manage, I said, “Yes.”
“Thank fuck,” he murmured, so fervently that I couldn’t help
Cool air touched my heated skin as he moved a little away,
reached into the drawer of the bedside table, and took out a condom. I only
distantly wondered at its presence there given that he’d never brought a woman
back to the apartment. Had he anticipated this?
If he had, I could hardly blame him. The attraction between
us had been evident from the moment we met.
I’d told him the truth when I said that I didn’t have any
expectations but that didn’t mean that I was anything less than overwhelmed by
lust for him. On the contrary, right now, in this moment, I was a seething
bundle of desires and he was at the center of them all.
Later, I might have reason to regret that but all I could do
was stare in fascination as he tore the condom wrapper open with this teeth and
adroitly sheathed himself. My head fell back, my lips parting in a moan, as he
took hold of his cock and slowly rubbed the full length of it up and down my
“I love how wet you are for me,” he said gruffly. “How soft
and ready. You’re an incredible woman, Emma.”
My name on his lips felt like a caress. While it still
reverberated deep inside me, Lucas moved, drawing my legs further apart and
slipping an arm under my hips. With his other hand, he positioned himself.
“Breathe,” he murmured and pressed his hot, smooth tip
against my opening.
I did as he said and a moment later, gasped. He entered me
in a single long, hard thrust. I felt a quick, flashing instance of pain but it
swiftly morphed into a sensation of pleasure that shouldn’t have been possible
yet somehow was.
The sense of fullness was overwhelming but so was the
, as though I had been heading toward this all my
life. Before it, all the demands and complexities of the everyday world,
everything that seemed so important and inescapable, dissolved as though they
had never been. Nothing remained except a raw, primal force that held within it
the very essence of life.
I clung to Lucas reflexively as he held himself still,
giving me time to adjust to the sense of being at once possessed and
possessing. As surely as he claimed me, I claimed him. When the realization of
that sunk it, I raised my hips, tentatively at first, then with more certainty
as the need to take all of him became irresistible.
I felt his smile against my skin. He raised his head, meeting
my gaze, and with one hand gently stroked my face.
“So beautiful,” he murmured. “So tight and hot and perfect.”
As he spoke, he began to move inside me but slowly at first,
controlling the pace, still watching me intently.
Beads of sweat shone on his forehead. I wanted to catch them
on my tongue, be suffused with his taste, and—
I gasped in mingled shock and delight. With each slow,
measured thrust, Lucas slid into me so deeply that his groin rubbed against my
swollen clit. At the same time, his shaft stroked that place inside me that was
My muscles clenched all along his length, wringing a groan
from him. I gazed up, enthralled, as his head arched back, exposing the line of
his throat where a jagged pulse beat.
Ecstasy seized me at the same moment it did him. The
knowledge that I could do this to him, shatter his control, give him such
pleasure, and make him come apart in my arms overwhelmed me.
I came gloriously in wave after wave, crying his name, and
slipped from the peak of release directly into gentle, all-encompassing
darkness. Even then, I felt him with me, in my body, in my arms. In my dreams.