Skin of the Night

§ 3. Won't You Come In?

© Copyright C.K. Bennett 2022

HIS STATEMENT EXPELLED THE AIR from my lungs, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He had me trapped in his gaze.

Astonished, I asked, ‘Are you always this crude?’

‘Sorry,’ he apologised insincerely and put my cocktail back on the table. ‘I can’t seem to think straight in your presence. My tongue travels before my mind.’

The edge of his mouth tucked up to form a crooked smile, and I recognised it as the one he had already presented several times. It was unique to him, and a testament to his cunning and calculating persona. The shape of it whispered tales of his intellectual conquests, of how sublimely he outwitted any opponent. Anyone could have been fooled by the invincibility it exuded, and yet, despite this, I thought I detected a hint of veiled vulnerability, and it intrigued me.

‘Anyway,’ he interrupted my analysis, ‘though I haven’t been acting my age, I’m twenty-eight. How old are you?’

Since I saw no harm in sharing this detail about myself, I said, ‘Twenty-three.’

‘So you’re in your—’

‘Ah-ah,’ I interrupted. ‘My turn.’ I pointed at my chest and his eyes followed. It occurred to me then that I had directed his gaze straight to my shy amount of cleavage. Immediately, heat flooded my face, causing a crimson blush to penetrate my faint layer of make-up. I hurried to lower my hands to my lap. William seemed equally bothered, his gaze veering to Olivia and Andrew.

Was it possible that he harboured at least a modicum of respect for me? I had just provided him with a golden opportunity to ogle my breasts, but instead, he had hastily looked elsewhere. It increased my faith in him. Perhaps he wasn’t so terrible after all.

‘First impressions,’ he muttered. ‘They can be surprisingly difficult to disprove.’

I chuckled. ‘Spoken like a true solicitor.’

He gave me a vague smile. ‘Your turn, you said. What would you like to know?’

Where to begin? Glancing at Olivia and Andrew, I was reminded of his companion. They seemed like good friends, and that made me curious. ‘How long have you known Andy?’

‘My whole life. My turn.’ He grinned. ‘What are your interests, aside from medicine?’

That was a substantial question. ‘Er, I have eclectic tastes, so I find that question too vast to answer. You’ll have to filter it down.’

‘What do you spend your spare time doing?’

I scoffed. ‘Spare time? What spare time?’

‘Have you got a boyfriend?’ he suddenly tossed at me.

I stiffened. ‘That’s none of your business.’

A lascivious gleam entered his arresting eyes, and it captured me wholly. All I wanted was to explore the dancing blue depths. In so many ways, he seemed like a promise of pleasure. Given his level of self-assurance, I couldn’t imagine that he would disappoint between the sheets, so why did I deny myself the chance to explore his potential?

His smile turned crooked again. ‘I assure you, darling, it is.’

Unsure of what he meant, I looked briefly away. I had a vague idea, but I wanted to be certain. Frankly, I wanted to hear him confess it.

‘And how is that?’

‘Because I’d like to see you again.’ His smile faded. ‘So, if you’ve got a boyfriend, I’d prefer to know. I’ll have to reconsider my tactics, then.’

I gaped. ‘Reconsider your tactics?’ I echoed disbelievingly. ‘Are you trying to say that if I do have a boyfriend, you won’t respect it?’

‘No, I’ll respect it – physically.’ Glancing away, he murmured, ‘But I’ll try and tempt you to leave him.’

‘You’re ruthless,’ I said. Was he drunk?

‘Which you need,’ he claimed with a smirk.

I frowned. ‘You don’t even know me.’

‘No, I don’t, but I’ve got a vague idea of what I’m dealing with.’ He shrugged. ‘My intuition tends to serve me well.’

I blinked at his cockiness. ‘Are you drunk, Will?’

His brows furrowed. ‘What makes you think that? No. I’ve had two cocktails.’

‘Because your head is messed up.’

‘You’ve messed it up.’

I snorted. ‘That’s ridiculous. What a cheesy line.’

‘Better than “have we met?”, though.’

I glared at him, and he glared straight back. Eventually, he tilted his head and watched me as though he were trying to solve an enigma.

‘If you’d actually had a boyfriend,’ he said with narrowed eyes, ‘I doubt you’d allow me to keep my arm round you like this, much less let me pour your drink into your mouth. Then again, you could just be a partner prone to cheating, but I seriously doubt you’re the type. You seem too righteous.’

I leaned forward and grabbed my espresso martini. ‘I don’t see why we’re even entertaining this question. You said you’d prefer to know because you’d like to see me again, but in case you’ve already forgotten, I live in Edinburgh.’

‘Sure, but for now you’re still in London. How long are you staying?’

‘Will,’ I shook my head, ‘I’m not going to set aside time to see you. I’m here to spend time with Livy.’

‘Who is obviously interested in getting laid.’ He jerked his head in Olivia’s direction. Looking over, I saw her laughing at something Andrew must have said. ‘I’m sure she’d appreciate it if I took you off her hands, at least for tonight.’

Though it had been on the cards, his proposal still took me by surprise. I faced him, and his eyes were ablaze – two blue flames, wild in their craving for me.

Under the dim orange light, he resembled something of the divine. A Greek god, perhaps, and I was only a mere mortal. How was I supposed to resist such celestial temptation? I was submitting to his power more by the second.

I struggled to fathom the reality that I had only met this man mere moments ago. Our chemistry was clearly off the charts.

When I had spent too long contemplating his offer, his impatience got the better of him. ‘Listen, we can either spend all night bickering, or we can spend this ridiculous energy in my bed. It’s up to you.’ His tone was clipped while his gaze burrowed into mine. ‘Either way, you would be doing both yourself and your friend a favour by joining me back at mine.’

Pink and breathless, I looked away from him. This man surely didn’t beat around the bush. He hadn’t even kissed me yet, and now he was suggesting sex? What sort of a scene was he into? No-strings-attached, I reckoned. That notion filled me with relief, because I didn’t have the capacity for romance at this point in my life.

To buy more time, I raised my drink. ‘I’m not nearly drunk enough for this,’ I said and filled my mouth with the liquid courage. Amused, William watched me drain the remaining contents.

‘I fancy my women responsive, Sandra, so please keep the intake to a minimum.’

‘You’re speaking as if I’ve agreed,’ I said and put my empty glass on the table.

Just as I was about to grab my next drink, a large and unfamiliar hand clasped my jaw. Turning my face toward him, William leaned in until our noses touched. Only then did he pause his advances.

My breath abandoned me, my heart throbbing with bittersweet delight. It was begging me to give in, to allow myself a night I would never forget. Besides, it wasn’t like I hadn’t had a one-night stand before. Hell, I often preferred them. The less they knew, the better.

I wasn’t at a point in my life where romantic companionship was even remotely appealing. It was far too time-consuming a venture. I had my studies to mind, my ambitions to realise. I was a millennial woman, and fiercely independent at that. Intellectual pursuits were my main priority.

However, I was still a sexual creature. I had needs. While I had a friend – Aaron – to fulfil them, my casual arrangement with him allowed me to have one-night stands, which I occasionally indulged in. Tonight, William wanted me to treat myself to another one. So why was I being so difficult? Because he had been an arsehole at first? What did that matter if I wasn’t going to see him again? Plus, he had apologised, and now he wanted to make amends – properly.

The light-blue colour of William’s eyes struck through my defences as he gently released my jaw. Trailing his thumb across my cheek, he buried his hand in my long, wavy brown hair.

His voice was as mollifying as a lullaby when he said, ‘I want you to know that if you decide to join me, I’ll have no expectations. I’d be happy just to talk all night.’

My heart throbbed again. Seduced by the sensual promise that basked in his eyes, I gave him a faint nod.

‘I’m going to kiss you,’ he warned.

Utterly at his mercy, I swallowed. I couldn’t move another muscle. He had me completely spellbound.

‘Okay.’ It was barely a whisper that escaped my mouth.

A lopsided smile claimed his lips, and then he pressed his soft mouth to mine. I marvelled at the taste of him. Only seconds into it, I knew he was the best kisser I had ever encountered. His lips moved tenderly across my own – gently at first, until his lust overruled his resistance. With his hand in my hair, he brought me closer, his other arm coming around me.

He pressed me tightly against him, kissing me like I’d never been kissed. It set my heart on fire. No words could ever match the immense feeling. Kissing someone had never felt so right. The mere motion of his lips overwhelmed me – he made me feel like the most precious thing alive, as if he couldn’t bring himself to stop until he had devoured all of me. Craving more, he pushed his tongue into my mouth to explore the rest of me, and I welcomed him with eagerness.

The space between my thighs tingled, and I realised why this particular kiss affected me so. For the first time in my life, kissing someone didn’t feel like a mandatory part of seduction. I actually wanted this. I wanted to kiss him – I was desperate to. In fact I never wanted to stop.

But he pulled away far too soon. Breathless, he looked at my drinks on the table and said, ‘We’re leaving. Non-negotiable. I’m not wasting another second.’ He clasped my hand and stood up, dragging me up with him.

‘I – okay.’ I searched for his eyes. Something was off about him. His gaze was fleeting, and he looked a bit lost, even dazed.

It surprised me. He didn’t come across as the kind of man who would react so profoundly to a mere kiss. Taking his expertise of the art into account, I was confident he had kissed his fair share of women.

Was it possible that the same flame that had spread through my system like wildfire had also ignited in him?

He started toward the exit, meaning we would have to pass the bar where Olivia and Andrew sat chatting. Olivia studied us, seemingly confused. Was it the look on my face? It had to be.

‘We’ll be off,’ William announced and released my hand to wrap his arm around my waist.

Olivia laughed. ‘Sandra, you devil. I knew it.’

‘Devil indeed.’ William shot me a look that I didn’t understand.

Concerned, I asked Olivia, ‘Will you be all right by yourself?’

There wasn’t a chance I would leave her behind if she didn’t approve. If that meant losing my one shot at a sensational night, then so be it. My duty as her best friend would always come first.

She eyed me knowingly. ‘Yes. You, on the other hand, I’m not so sure about.’

‘I’ll take good care of her, Livy. You have my word,’ William said, suddenly the gallant man again, rather than the greedy, libidinous and domineering man I had just been kissing. I quite fancied them both.

‘You’d better. I know who you are, should she happen to disappear by the morning,’ Olivia threatened.

‘She might be sleeping until dusk, seeing as she won’t be getting much rest tonight, so don’t be concerned if she doesn’t answer her phone first thing in the morning,’ William replied.

Andrew chuckled beside my gaping blonde friend. ‘He’s a bit of a character, but you get used to him. Tad blunt is all.’

‘Just a tad,’ I said under my breath.

‘Get your minds out of the gutter,’ William said, looking between them. ‘I didn’t specify why she won’t be getting much rest. For all you know, we’ll be talking all night.’

Olivia raised a brow. ‘Sure. Talking. With your bodies.’

‘That’s generally what people use when they talk, yes.’ William grinned.

Olivia rolled her eyes. ‘You’re definitely a lawyer.’

William chuckled. ‘Anyway, it was lovely to make your acquaintance, Livy. I hope we’ll meet again.’ He leaned in and pecked her cheek. ‘You’re a sweet girl. Again, I’m sorry about earlier.’

‘Y-yeah. Me too.’ She met my eyes with evident concern, and I knew why. ‘I hope we’ll meet again,’ he had said. I hoped it was only his courteous side speaking, because as far as I was aware, this was a one-time thing. Had I jumped the gun by assuming that no-strings-attached was mutually understood?

‘I’ll see you later, Andy,’ William continued to his friend, who responded with a perceptive smirk.

‘Yeah. Have fun.’

Without replying, William dragged me toward the cloakroom, and his impatience was clear from his strides.

‘Do you live nearby?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. Then I heard him murmur, ‘And thank fuck for that.’

§ § §

‘HAVE YOU GOT the time?’ I asked when we had walked along the streets of Soho for a few minutes. Raising the hand that was holding mine, William eyed his watch. I swallowed as I recognised the brand – a Rolex.

Glancing at his profile, I realised that he oozed upper-class wealth, and I wasn’t enchanted by it. Rich people could sometimes be dreadfully arrogant with their aristocratic tendencies. But, since I wasn’t one for prejudice, I wouldn’t let his probable fortune define my impression of him. Besides, Jason came from a wealthy background as well, and he was as close to an ideal human being as could be.

‘Ten to ten,’ William said and tugged me closer.

‘Ten to ten? I was only there for about an hour?’ I was astounded. Had he managed to seduce me that fast? How licentious of me – and I wasn’t even tipsy!

Seemingly amused, he looked at me from the corner of his eye. ‘If it’s any consolation, I didn’t leave you much choice.’ He rounded a corner to enter Wardour Street.

I frowned at myself. Was I really so desperate for him that I couldn’t last much longer than an hour? Poor Olivia. I hoped I hadn’t ruined her evening.

‘Do you think Andy will take good care of her?’ I asked, worrying. ‘I feel like I’m being a bad friend.’

‘Again, I didn’t leave you much choice.’

I halted promptly. ‘We ought to head back.’


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