Start reading the excerpt for Chapter 1 of Conflict of Interest right now!
Jaxton Harris pushed open a set of heavy wooden doors to the Great Ballroom. The room was lit by one massive, multitiered, crystal chandelier, hanging in the center of the high ceiling. White paper lanterns floated over the rest of the room, adding a dim ambiance. A live band was playing jazz music, and the lead singer had a sexy, smooth voice. The smell of fresh floral arrangements on the center of each table mixed with the various perfumes of fellow partygoers. Glitter of expensive jewels and sequin-clad gowns was only amplified by several large mirrors and floor-to-ceiling windows in the large ballroom.
Jax walked in, adjusting the uncomfortable mask on his face. Why did he even bother coming to these types of events? Charity.
A few double takes from other guests made him avert his eyes to the bar. He needed a drink. Being one of the very few Black men at this masquerade ball meant he would most undoubtedly be confused for the help at least once.
“Whiskey, neat,” he said to the bartender.
The man grabbed a glass and filled one finger of whiskey in it before handing him the amber liquid. Jax swallowed it down in one gulp, welcoming the burning sensation in his throat. He slammed the empty glass onto the white, marble, bar top that matched the giant ballroom floor.
“Another. Three fingers this time.”
He surveyed the room, seeking the best way to serve his time at the function. Several men in tuxedos flaunted their expensive watches while introducing their fellow business acquaintances to their trophy wives, or whoever was most likely their flavor of the month. He couldn’t make out who most of them were from the masks they wore.
Several tables were filled with guests enjoying gossip. Gold-rimmed china place settings were piled high with expensive fare, and there was more silverware at each setting than any one person would ever need. But proper etiquette—like the difference between a salad and a dinner fork—was something he’d had to learn to make it to the top. Well, almost the top. He would get there soon enough. He just had to follow his plan and stay focused.
A sea of women wearing silky, sparkling gowns and red lipstick parted, and one woman caught his attention. A barely there black gown hung dangerously low against her back, her brown hair cascading down her bare alabaster skin. Jax admired her curvy ass as she walked through the giant French doors and out onto the balcony. Her hand, painted with nail polish as black as her dress, held an almost empty champagne glass.
Not wanting to miss his opportunity, he headed toward her, swiping a fresh glass from one of the waitstaff circulating the dining room with a tray full of champagne flutes, then he stepped onto the dark balcony, searching for the mystery woman. It was a warm Friday night in June, and there were only a few guests outside.
Spotting her facing the view of the Boston skyline while taking the last sip of her drink, he extended the champagne flute to her. “I thought you could use a refill.”
She turned, her bare thigh peeking out from an enticingly high slit in the long gown. She met his gaze, her sultry brown eyes igniting a fire inside him. She set her empty glass on the railing of the balcony before accepting his offering. Instead of the champagne flute, she grabbed his glass of whiskey, brought it to her lips, and took a sip.
“Thank you.” She turned and looked out toward the skyline once more.
Jax wasn’t sure what just happened. Did she think he was a waiter? Anger heated his body. She wasn’t worth his time.
Turning to head back into the ballroom, he paused when she said with a husky voice, “Giving up so easily?”
Jax turned around and stared at her. She was confident and relaxed, still gazing at the view of twinkling city lights. Maybe he did want to play her game. He took a large sip of champagne, the bubbles tickling his mouth, before stepping up to the railing, beside her.
“I never give up.”
She turned to face him. Her black and gold filigree mask with ancient Roman details across the top sparkled in the few lights on the large balcony.
“I like your disguise,” she said, motioning her hand to the black and silver mask he had chosen that covered most of his face.
“I like you.” His eyes dipped to admire the low V cut in the front of her dress, which accentuated her perfectly full breasts. Lust and desire churned in his belly, stirring and growing with each second.
“Hmm. Forward,” she purred, her voice smoldering with possibility.
His hands itched to touch her. “Dance with me?”
After draining the last sip of amber liquid, she set the empty glass on the railing.
He stood mesmerized as she wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her body against his. Vibrations of need rippled through him as they collided. His hands wrapped around her small frame, pulling her closer. Flames of tension licked the air between them as they swayed to the music.
Jax had been hot in his stifling tuxedo before, but with her hands against the exposed skin of his neck, he just might combust.
Reaching both hands to the curves of her hips, he brought her body closer to his as he grinded against her. He needed more. The woman in his arms was sexy and the mask only added to her allure. He couldn’t see her face except for her honey-brown eyes and dark purple lips. It was enough to ignite his body with a fierce longing he had never known. He wanted to suck and bite those plump lips until all the purple lipstick was gone. Something inside him banged in his chest, a warning clamoring around his rib cage, drowned out by the roar of lust.
She shivered in his arms, as if she were having a similar reaction. Her breasts pressed against his chest as fantasies played out in his mind of all the ways he could take her. His hands grazed her bare skin, fueling the blistering greed, aware that she was nearly naked under the silk. Jax wanted desperately to find out for sure. He wished he could strip it off with nothing between them until his skin was against hers. He searched her eyes, scanning for any sign she wanted him just as badly.
“Are you here for business or charity?” he asked.
“Pleasure,” she challenged, looking into his eyes. “You?”
He smiled and said, “A little of all I suppose.”
She bit her lip, and that small movement sent a thrill of excitement through him.
“Do you live in the city?” he asked.
“Hmm . . . yes and no.”
Jax furrowed his brow at her cryptic answer. “Care to elaborate?”
“Let’s make a deal. You get to ask me three questions and I’ll answer them. I get to ask you the same.”
“Anything?” he asked, several naughty questions suddenly coming to mind.
“Absolutely anything. Nothing is off-limits.” It was almost as if she was daring him.
“Deal,” Jax agreed.
She lifted her chin. “You go first.”
“Are you single?” Jax might be okay with the occasional hookup or casual fling, but he was never one to encroach on someone else’s relationship.
“Yes. Are you?”
“Always. Are you turned on right now?”
She licked her lips and looked up at him before answering, “Soaked.”
The desire to take her right here on this balcony while everyone watched was damn near overwhelming. His cock was hard, straining against his zipper.
He swallowed, trying to regain control of himself. “It’s your turn,” he managed.
“What is the wildest thing you have ever done?”
“Uh . . .” He hadn’t done anything crazy in his life. He had strict parents, who would beat his ass if he ever got out of line. Being Black in an almost all-white school meant he’d had more pressure thrust upon him to “behave” a certain way.
Even in college he was never too crazy. After realizing how boring his life seemed, he got creative with his answer. “I’m hoping tonight will be the wildest, craziest thing I’ve ever done. Maybe you can help with that.”
She smiled and laughed. “I like your answer. Last question.”
Jax grinned. “What’s your fantasy?”
She blinked twice, the only tell that she was surprised by his question. He guessed if he removed the mask she was wearing, he would see a tinge of pink on her creamy skin.
“You want to know my fantasy?”
“Yes,” he said, finding it more difficult to breathe by the second.
“I want . . . to be tied up.” She moved her lips to his ear and whispered, “I want to be so completely out of control that I have no choice but to enjoy every minute of it. I want . . .” She trailed off, her breaths increasing and thrusting the swell of her breasts into his chest. “I want you to take control until I beg for you to stop.”
She pulled away, and Jax no longer doubted she wanted to spend the night with him too. He’d never been so turned on in his life. He might die if he didn’t get this woman alone.
Her lips parted in invitation as she stared at his mouth. He leaned forward and kissed her. A warm sensation flooded his body, instantly seizing control. He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue in, coaxing, and tangling with hers like two hot flames flickering to life. She met his hunger with her own urgency. She tasted like whiskey and the promise of sex.
Her hands gripped his neck tighter as she grinded against his body. Jax wanted her. Needed her. Now.
She broke the kiss and breathlessly asked, “Last question. Want to get out of here?”
It was as if she had read his thoughts.
“Yes,” Jax said without hesitation. “I have a room?” he suggested.
He grabbed her hand, admiring the sly smile spreading across her face as she bit her bottom lip. He had plans for those lips, and he wouldn’t stop until every bit of her lipstick was smeared onto some part of his body.
He pulled her hand through the crowd of guests just as a keynote speaker stopped the music and tapped on the microphone. Jax didn’t care. There was only one thing on his mind in that moment, and it overrode his senses. He had one goal, and his target was set on this mystery woman like a heat-seeking missile. He led her to a private elevator and used his black key card to activate it, then pushed the button for the penthouse suite he’d reserved for the night. Jax turned to look at her, and she met his gaze. He still held her hand, a tease when he wanted to touch and explore every part of her naked skin. Their sexual tension was making it hard to breathe.
No longer able to restrain himself, Jax picked her up in one quick motion so that her legs wrapped around his body before his mouth smashed onto hers. She moaned into his mouth as he deepened the kiss, and grazed her teeth along his bottom lip.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. He groaned, then carried her through the spacious entryway to his suite.
“Drink?” he asked.
“I like a woman who knows what she wants,” he said, carrying her past the dimly lit living room and kitchen, and into the master bedroom. He flipped the switch for the gas fireplace, thankful he had left the ambient music playing on the built-in sound system.
Jax set her down. She stood in front of the bed, facing him. Her breasts swelled with each quickened breath. A flicker of hesitation flashed in her eyes before she smiled and reached behind her neck, pulling the straps of her dress undone. Blinded by white-hot lust, his eyes locked on her in awe and fascination as the silky-smooth dress slipped to the ground. Exposing her lush handful of breasts and the rest of her bare body, it confirmed his suspicions—she was naked underneath the dress. Fuck. She stood perfectly stripped except for her face hidden by the mask—Aphrodite sent straight from Mount Olympus.
His eyes caressed and memorized every inch of her curvy body—the peaks of her breasts that he wanted to suck and palm, the juicy thick thighs that he couldn’t wait to wrap around his body again.
“I think I may be in love.”
She laughed. “Your turn.”
Jaxton didn’t waste another minute. He tore off the bow tie, then threw his jacket into a crumpled pile on the floor. He slipped his cuff links into his pocket and started to unbutton his shirt, but he only got one undone before she spoke.
“May I?” Her eyes as dark as midnight locked with his.
The mystery woman stepped out of her black heels before moving closer. He could see clearly over her head and would now have to bend forward to kiss her. He liked that. She ran her hands up his chest to the buttons and started to undo them expertly. How many men had come before him? A sour feeling burned in his stomach. He shook the thought from his mind. It didn’t matter because she was his for tonight.
Jax took the opportunity to run his hands down her hips and around the curve of her ass, fueling the ache that throbbed in his pants. Her skin was creamy perfection.
After pulling the white starched fabric from his body and revealing his toned abs and tattooed arms, she gasped and licked her lips.
“Do you like what you see?” he asked with a chuckle.
“Mm-hmmm.” She moaned, biting her lip again.
His body ignited, needy and desperate. No longer able to restrain himself, he was powerless with the savage need to possess her. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her, his mouth at war, sucking the offending lip before raking his teeth against it. She whimpered as she ran her hands over his shoulders and down his abs before undoing his belt. Her arousal permeated the room, stirring his lust. He had a feeling he would never be the same after tonight.
Warnings echoed in his mind, but his own greed for pleasure overrode them, drowning them out the second his pants fell to the ground. He stepped out of them, falling on top of her on the bed. She gripped the band of his briefs, tugging them lower on his hips. He lifted himself up, helping her slide them down until they, too, flopped onto the ground.
They were a sensual knot of mouths and tongues, hands and skin, twisting and tangling together in frantic, frenzied gasps, nips, and caresses. She was his drug, and he was her addict.
Jax kneaded her breasts with his palms before using his mouth on one of her erect pink nipples. His hand skated down her soft belly, his fingertips teasing the sensitive skin between her thighs. He dipped two fingers in, coating them in her juices as he found her sweet spot. She shivered and gripped his shoulders tighter, as if she, too, was afraid of this energy between them. Her moans created a map of her pleasure, guiding him. It made him want to give her more, to give her everything, to become an expert in her desire.
Jaxton had experienced his fair share of one-night stands. His life was about his career, and that didn’t leave time for romantic relationships. This was the most exhilarating encounter he’d ever had. And they hadn’t even gone beyond foreplay yet.
He couldn’t get enough of her kisses, her moans, and her soft body against his hardness. Usually, he would take his time, exploring every inch of a woman, pleasing her in every way she would let him. This time, there was an urgency to be inside of this mysterious beauty—as though she could slip through his fingers like quicksand and disappear at any moment. Jax didn’t even know her name and she’d made him feel things no other woman before had—spinning him in a web of desire, reeling him closer to the wildfire of promise.
Overpowering his own demand for release, he drowned in the urgency to send her flying.
Her body tensed and her fingernails dug into his flesh as she shuddered around him. He pulled his fingers from her wetness, bringing them to his own mouth, tasting her.
“So fucking sweet.”
She moaned in response, reaching out to wrap her hand around his cock. He pulsed and groaned, his blinding unbridled pleasure and torment building. He wanted to get lost in this woman and take her every way she would let him. One night would never be enough. But it was all he had, so he better make the most of it. Tension throbbed, making it damn near painful with each second he was not inside her.
He needed to fuck her and get it out of his system because he had no room for uncomfortable sensations such as attachment. He couldn’t afford to feel this way about someone. But stopping seemed like the ultimate form of torture, and he wasn’t a masochist.
“I have to be inside of you,” he said, his lust boiling over.
She swallowed before asking, “Condom?”
“Always.” Jax leaned over the bed, reaching to grab a foil packet from his wallet.
He took off his mask before rolling the latex on, hazy with tension. He climbed back onto the bed and spread her thighs apart, nudging his tip at her hot entrance. Ready to put an end to his misery, he gripped her hips, preparing to thrust inside.
She gasped. “Oh my God!”
He smirked. “My friends call me Jax, but I’ll take it.”
“I know,” she said.
Jax stopped, his eyebrow rising. “You know me?”
She pulled the black and gold mask from her face, the fireplace illuminating her lust-swollen lips.
Jax froze in shock before raking both hands over his face. “Fuck.”
“We still could,” she offered with a sly smile, need and amusement burning in her eyes.
Jax jumped out of the bed, turning his back on her as he yanked on his clothes.
“What are you doing? Jax, it’s not a big deal. Relax.”
He looked at her for a second before blocking his view with his hand. “Harper, please put some clothes on.”
“That isn’t what you asked me a minute ago,” she teased.
Jax didn’t find one thing about the situation funny. “That was before I knew you were my best friend’s little sister and my boss’s daughter. Damn it!” He pinched the bridge of his nose.
Harper got up and pulled on her clothes, fumbling to tie her dress. An embarrassed flush deepened in her cheeks and ran down the neck he was just kissing.
“Sorry I was such a disappointment.” She grabbed her shoes and ran toward the elevator, making a quick getaway.
Jax bounded around the corner, following. “Harper, we need to talk about this!”
The elevator doors shut before Jaxton could get there in time.
“Fuck!” he yelled.
How the hell was he going to fix this? How had he come so close to ruining all he had worked for in one night? And more importantly, how had Harper, younger half sister of his best friend, River Parker, grown into such a sexpot?
That’s it for this romance novel excerpt.
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