Stark International Novella
Aspiring actress Jamie Archer is on the run. From herself. From her wild child ways. From the screwed up life that she left behind in Los Angeles. And, most of all, from Ryan Hunter— the first man who has the potential to break through her defenses to see the dark fears and secrets she hides.
Stark International Security Chief Ryan Hunter knows only one thing for sure— he wants Jamie. Wants to hold her, make love to her, possess her, and claim her. Wants to do whatever it takes to make her his.
But after one night of bliss, Jamie bolts. And now it’s up to Ryan to not only bring her back, but to convince her that she’s running away from the best thing that ever happened to her— him.
Tame Me is Story # 1 in the Stark International Security - Jamie & Ryan series.
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About this StoryPublication Date 03/21/2014 Story Type Novella Primary Characters Jamie Archer Ryan Hunter Series Stark International Security - Jamie & Ryan Place in Series Story #1 Genre Contemporary Romance
More About This Story
Just a note: This story takes place after Take Me in the Stark series.
That, I think, was one hell of a party.
I am standing with my back to the Pacific as I watch the efficient crew break down the lovely white tents. The leftover food has already been packed away. The trash has been discarded. The band left hours ago, and the last of the guests have already departed.
Even the paparazzi who had camped out on the beach hoping to snag a few choice pictures of my best friend Nikki Fairchild’s wedding to multi-bazillionaire and former tennis star Damien Stark are long gone.
I sigh and tell myself that this vague emptiness I’m feeling isn’t melancholy. Instead, it’s an aftereffect of staying up all night drinking and partying. I am, of course, lying. I’m melancholy as shit, but I figure that’s normal. After all, I’ve just watched my best friend get married to the one man in the entire universe who is absolutely, positively perfect for her. Great news, and I’m really and truly happy for her, but she found him without trolling through the entire male population of Los Angeles.
Compare that to me, who’s fucked approximately eighty percent of that population and still hasn’t found a guy like Damien, and I think it’s safe to say that Nikki got the last decent man.
Okay, maybe not the last one, I amend as I catch sight of Ryan Hunter coming down the walking path that winds from Damien’s Malibu house all the way to the beach where I’m now standing. Ryan is the Chief of Security for Stark International, and he and I have been the de facto host and hostess for this post-wedding soiree ever since the bride and groom took off in a helicopter bound for marital bliss.
Ryan is not among the eighty-percent, and that is truly a shame. The man is seriously hot, with piercing blue eyes and chestnut hair worn in a short, almost military style that accents the hard lines and angles of his face. He’s tall and lean, but strong and sexy. I’ve seen him now in both jeans and a tux, and the curve of his ass alone is enough to make a woman drool.
We’ve gotten to know each other over the last few months, and I consider him a friend. Frankly, I’d like to consider him more, and I think he feels the same, even though he has yet to make a move.
I’ve seen the way he watches me, the heat that flares in his eyes when he thinks I’m not looking.
Maybe he’s shy—but I doubt it. He’s got a dangerous edge that perfectly suits his job as the head security dude for a guy like Damien and an enterprise like Stark International.
Nikki once told me that there was nothing Ryan liked better than chasing monsters. I believe it, and as I watch him stride down the walking path, his movements a combination of grace and power, I can imagine him in battle and am certain that he would do whatever it takes to win.
No, I don’t believe that Ryan Hunter is shy. All I know is that he’s never made a move on me, and that’s a damn shame.
And now, of course, it’s too late. Because I’m heading back home to Texas tomorrow as part of my newly implemented life goal of getting my shit together. And, as part of the whole Repair My Life plan, I’ve put the kibosh on sleeping around. I’m focusing on Jamie Archer. On figuring out who she is and what she wants, and step one of The Plan is to not do the nasty with every hot guy who crosses my path.
Honestly, men are so five minutes ago.
So far, The Plan is going pretty good. I found a tenant for my Studio City condo a few months ago, then went home to live with my parents in Dallas. It’s hard being a twenty-five-year-old actress in Los Angeles, especially one who has yet to land a decent gig. There are too many guys who are prettier than me—and who know it. And way too many opportunities for a fast fuck.
Texas is slower. Easier. And even though it’s hardly the acting capital of the universe, I’ve already had a few auditions, and I think I may even have a decent shot for a job as an on-air reporter at a local affiliate. I’d auditioned right before flying out here for the wedding, and I’m hoping to hear back from the programming director any day now.
And, yes, true, I’d also auditioned for a commercial here in SoCal, but I didn’t get the job. I tell myself that’s a good thing because I would have taken it and stayed in Los Angeles, because I love Los Angeles and my friends are here. But that would have put me right back on that hamster wheel of auditioning and fucking, and then starting the whole destructive process right over again.
The Plan is good, I tell myself as I watch the crew finish the job. The Plan is wise.
As a dozen workmen haul the last of the tent poles to a nearby truck, the supervisor approaches me with a clipboard and a pen. He takes me through the list, and I duly check off all the various items, confirming that the final details have been attended to.
Then I sign the form, thank him, and watch as he climbs into the truck and drives away.
“So that’s it,” Ryan says as he approaches me. He’s still in tuxedo pants and the starched white shirt, but the cummerbund is gone, as is the jacket. He really does look sexy as hell, but it’s his bare feet that have done me in. There’s something so damn devil-may-care about a guy in a tux barefoot on the beach, and I can’t help but wonder if there really is a bit of the devil in Ryan Hunter.
And if there is, will I ever get to peek at the wickedness?
“No more cars in the driveway,” he continues, as I try to yank my thoughts back to reality. “And I just signed the invoice for the car park company. I think we can safely call this thing a wrap. And a success.” His smile is slow and easy and undeniably sexy. “It really was one hell of a party.”
I laugh. “I was just thinking the same thing.” My stomach does a little twisting number, and I tell myself it’s hunger. After all, champagne isn’t that filling, and I’m sure all the dancing I did during the night burned off the three slices of wedding cake I’d devoured.
I’m lying again, of course. It’s not hunger that’s making my stomach flutter. It’s Ryan. And as I stand there silently wishing he’d just touch me already, I’m also getting more and more irritated.
Because why the hell hasn’t he touched me already? We’ve spent time together. We’ve even danced together during various club outings with friends. Not touching, maybe, but close enough that the air between us was thick with promise.
And once, when Damien had a security scare, he sent Ryan to check on me. I’d been wearing a tiny bikini with a sheer cover-up, and I looked damn hot. But he hadn’t made a move. We’d ended up talking for hours, which was great, and I even made him eggs, which is about as domesticated as I get.
I’m certain I haven’t been imagining that sizzle between us—and yet never once has he made a move. I can’t fathom why, and the whole situation grates on me.
Except I’m not supposed to care—Ryan is not part of The Plan.
He starts to walk toward the surf, and I fall in step beside him. I’d kicked off my own shoes once the workmen hauled away the dance floor because beaches and two-inch heels really don’t go well together, and the sand beneath my feet feels amazing.
I love strolling the beach in the morning. There’s so much to look at—the seagulls that scavenge for their breakfast, the waves that pour like latte foam onto the sand, the tanned hard bodies of twenty-something surfer dudes out to catch a morning swell. It’s like a little slice of heaven.
This morning, Ryan adds value to the view. His sleeves are rolled up, revealing well-muscled forearms, and when he bends down to pick up a lovely purple seashell, I find myself fascinated by his hands. They’re large and strong, but as they hold the shell, I can’t help but think that his touch would be surprisingly gentle.
I start to pick up my pace because, hello, mind really not supposed to be going there, but he reaches for me, holding the shell in his outstretched hand. “A souvenir,” he says, and though his smile is casual, there’s nothing easy about the heat in his eyes. His gaze is hot enough to cut right through me. The hair at the back of my neck prickles, and for a moment, I’m not certain I remember how to breathe. “I’d hate for you to get back to Texas and forget everything you’ve left behind.”
“Oh.” My voice sounds breathy, and I take the shell, my fingers brushing his palm as I do. I feel the shock of contact all the way down to my toes, and I expect him to pull me close. To touch me. To do some damn thing so that I’m not just standing there feeling all hot and horny.
He does nothing—and the sharp prick of irritation breaks through the wall of lust. I close my hand around the shell and force myself to aim an equally casual smile back at him. “Thanks.”
I’m grateful my voice sounds normal despite the fact that I am both genuinely moved and
undeniably irritated. Moved because it’s a lovely shell and the gesture is very sweet. Irritated because now I’m getting mixed signals from a hot guy who still hasn’t touched me and who I have absolutely no business being interested in.
My libido, however, still hasn’t gotten the message because there’s some serious sizzle and pop going on. To be honest, there’s been sizzle and pop since the first time I met Ryan.
I take a deep breath and mentally recite what has now become a mantra: Plan. Texas. New leaf.
I start walking again because he’s made me too antsy to just stand still. “Are you flying back today?” he asks, falling easily into step with me.
“Not flying. Driving.” I see the confusion on his face—Nikki had been stuck in a meeting and had asked Ryan to pick me up at the airport just over a week ago. Yet another encounter where I felt both sizzle and pop—but he didn’t touch me once.
Honestly, I need to stop this mental tally; I’m going to give myself a complex.
“Planning on doing a little recreational car shopping today?”
“Nikki and Damien gave me a car for my birthday,” I mumble, because I’m still a bit embarrassed by such an extravagant gift. Not that it’s extravagant to a guy like Damien. I’m pretty sure that to him, Australia wouldn’t be too much.
“Happy birthday,” Ryan says in the kind of voice that makes me think that he would make a damn good present. Especially with a big red bow in just the right place.
I clear my throat, banishing the thought. “Right. Yeah, well, it’s not really my birthday. They were planning on just giving it to me because, you know, my Corolla has seen better days. And I said I couldn’t accept it, and Nikki said…” I trail off, shrugging.
“She’s a good friend.” He’s walking in the surf now, the waves breaking around his feet.
“Cold.” I say, nodding toward his feet.
“A little.” He tilts his head up, his gaze taking me in before he finally meets my eyes. “But I’m willing to put up with all sorts of things if it gets me something I want.”
Wow. “Right.” I swallow, then curl my hands into fists so that I don’t lean in, grab his collar, and kiss him. “Um. So. What is it you want?”
“To walk on the beach with you, of course.”
And there it is. That pow, that snap. He takes my hand, the gesture light and casual. Seemingly friendly, but really it’s so much more.
He’s intense, I think. Strong. Silent. Steady. The kind of guy who knows what he wants and goes after it methodically and relentlessly.
Is he going after me? I shiver a little as I slide into a nice little From Here to Eternity fantasy. Not that I’ve ever actually watched the movie, but I’ve seen that famous sex in the surf scene, and I’m more than happy to let my imagination fill in the blanks.
“You’re not driving back to Texas today, are you?” He is watching me closely, his eyes as deep and intense as the Pacific behind us. “You were up all night. You shouldn’t risk it.”
“I’m not,” I say, imagining the surf crashing over me and Ryan’s body hot above me. “I’m staying the night and heading out first thing tomorrow.”
“I’m very glad to hear it.” His voice is as smooth as whiskey, and I wonder if I’m getting a little bit drunk on it. “I’d worry about you.”
I stand there, feeling nine kinds of itchy, and wait for him to make a move. But the move doesn’t come.
I tell myself that’s a good thing.
Then I tell myself I’m a goddamn liar.
Then I remind myself about The Plan.
But you know what? Screw The Plan. The Plan is for Texas, after all. I mean, I’ve pretty much already established that when in California, Jamie Archer is a hot mess. So why not be a mess one last time with this incredibly sexy guy who is making me tingle?
Except that doesn’t seem to be an option.
Because Ryan isn’t making a move. I consider making a pass myself. After all, I’ve never once been shy about going after a guy I wanted in my bed. With Ryan, though, I can’t seem to take that first step, and it’s weird. I’m feeling shy and awkward, and I am never shy or awkward.
Maybe it’s the lingering effect of The Plan. Residual guilt. Pre-justification. My subconscious telling me that if he pursues me, then a California fuck is okay. But me going after him is totally against the rules.
All of which is a load of twisted and convoluted bullshit, but I never said my subconscious was a linear thinker.
Just go for it.
Holy crap, this shouldn’t be that difficult. I mean, honestly. When I decided to bang Kevin in 2H, I cornered him in the laundry room, put my hand on his crotch, and asked him if he wanted to fuck. So why the hell am I all sixth-grade girl with a crush where Ryan Hunter is concerned?
Right. Okay. Diving in now…
I clear my throat. “So here’s the thing,” I say, and I don’t get any further. Maybe, I think, he’ll pick up the thread.
He doesn’t. He just looks at me, all innocent interest and calm curiosity. His expression is bland, and yet I have the distinct impression that he’s amused.
“It’s just that I can’t figure you out,” I blurt.
“We’ve had some good times, right? And I’ve seen you look at me.” I lick my lips, hating how nervous I feel. “And I know I’ve looked at you. So what’s the deal?”
I tilt my head a little and give him my best seductive smile. “You’ve never made a pass at me,” I say in the kind of voice that makes clear I would be very receptive to one right now.
“No,” he says, “I haven’t.”
“Oh.” I mentally backpedal. That wasn’t the response I was expecting. “Okay. So, why not?
You’re just not interested?”
“On the contrary. Maybe I assumed you weren’t interested.”
“I’ve had my eye on you for a while, Ms. Archer. And as far as I’ve seen, you’re not the least bit shy about making a move on a man you want.”
I hear the raw heat in his voice, but I can’t tell if he is serious or if he’s playing me. All I know is that the more he looks at me with those fathomless blue eyes and the more he speaks to me in that musically sexy voice, the more I melt, until I fear that I’ll dissolve right there and be washed away when the tide comes in.
“Oh,” I say stupidly. Dear god I want him to touch me. I’ve slept with a lot of guys, but right now, I don’t think I’ve ever been more desperate for a man’s touch.
I think about The Plan. I think about my loophole.
I think about the fact that the loophole calls for him to make a move on me.
And then I think, what the hell. Just go for it.
“All right,” I say as I quash those damn nerves, then fist my hand in his shirt and move in close.
He smells like musk and desire and I breathe deep, letting the scent of him fill me, warm me. We’re not even inches apart, and the air between us seems to shimmer, thick with passion.
I press my other hand to his thigh and stroke slowly up, up, up, until I brush against the hard length of his erection. My thighs quiver, and my sex tightens with need. I’m aware of every inch of my body, as if I’m a live wire, sparking and popping.
We’re well-matched in height, and I only have to rise up a little on my toes in order to claim his mouth with mine. I close my hand over the steel of his cock and feel it twitch under my touch. I hear his moan, and it only makes me wetter.
His hands twine in my hair, pulling me closer as he deepens the kiss, fucking me with his mouth, going deep, making me wet, so incredibly wet, so that all I want is to slide my hand into his trousers and free him, then fall onto the sand, yank my dress up, and scream as he fucks me harder than I’ve ever been fucked in my life.
I am gasping when he breaks the kiss. I’m alive with need, my breasts aching for his touch, my cunt throbbing with demand. I’m wild, desperate, and when I see the matching wildness in his eyes, I know that this is going to be one hell of an amazing morning.
“All right,” I say again, my voice breathless and heavy with longing. “That was me, making a move.”
“And this,” he says gently as he takes a single step away from me, “is me, saying no.”