Secrets and Sins:Raphael(5)

By: Naima Simone



“Greer,” Ethan hissed, edging closer and blocking her view of Raphael, who watched them silently and with ill-concealed interest. “I know you’re hurt and confused, but this isn’t—”

Heat surged up her throat, flooded her face. Jesus, she didn’t want Raphael to overhear her brother going into I-need-to-stop-my-sister-from-having-a-slutty-rebound mode. How humiliating would that be? “Ethan,” she murmured. “Please.”

“Don’t worry, Ethan, is it?” Raphael stood, and in an easy, smooth move, inserted himself between her and her brother. His back was braced against the edge of the bar while his arm and thigh pressed against hers, forming a partial shield from Ethan’s reproach. She blinked, momentarily taken aback. Had he just tried to protect her? How…novel.

“I’m Raphael Marcel. Your sister and I met last week at my office. If she wants to stay here, I’ll make sure she gets home safely.”

As expected, his assurance didn’t go over well. More often than not, it had been her guarding her older brother, being the gatekeeper of his secrets, acting as the buffer between him and their father. Yet as he surveyed Raphael, his mouth thinning into a straight, grim line, she sensed the advent of a full-blown overprotective fit.

“While I’m sure that should ease my mind—”

“Wait a sec.” Raphael pulled his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans and withdrew a small slip of paper. “Here’s my business card. Feel free to pass my information along to the cops if I don’t return your sister home in one piece.”

Greer groaned. Oh, Jesus.

“Ethan.” She waited until his focus shifted from Raphael’s teasing grin and reverted to her. “I’ll be fine. Please. Go to your dinner with Jason. I’m sure he’s waiting.”

Indecision warred with refusal and frustration across Ethan’s features.

“If you’re sure…”

“I am.” She offered him a smile. “Tell Jason I said hi.”

He blew out a long breath and dragged his hand through his short brown curls. “Fine. Call me when you get home.” He pinned a steely glare on Raphael before leaning down and brushing a kiss over her cheek. “Call me,” he repeated, voice firm.

“I will,” she promised.

As Ethan disappeared through the pub’s front door, Raphael’s stare settled on her like the heavy weight of a heated blanket—electric, hot, encompassing, consuming. It instilled a warmth that penetrated the chill of rejection, hurt, and doubt. Yet she couldn’t entirely shush the voice of reason that railed, What are you doing? This is crazy! God, he looked every inch the rebellious, fuck-the-establishment type she’d avoided in high school and college, afraid too close an association would draw her father’s censure. Gavin, with his short, well-groomed haircut, conservative but expensive suits, and impeccable manners, had been the antithesis of Raphael. He’d been acceptable, solid, safe.

He’d also never elicited the dip-and-roll in her belly with his nice lovemaking that Raphael did with one hooded glance.

Nice.

Jesus. How bland.

How…sad.

For once she wanted more than “nice.” More than suitable. Satisfactory. She wanted—“Damn it,” she breathed, her lashes lowering. I don’t know what I want. Three days ago, her life had been planned out to a stifling tee. And tonight…tonight she didn’t have a fiancé or any idea what tomorrow would bring. Or if she had the courage to face it.

So for the next few hours, she was going to do the totally selfish and reckless thing and grab a hold of what she did want. Forgetfulness. Oblivion.

Raphael.





Chapter Two

“Would you like another drink?”

A drink? Surprise arced through her. She’d thought… Their conversation scrolled through her mind like closed captioning across a screen. Heat writhed up her chest, streamed up her throat, and set her skin on fire. God, had she misunderstood…?

“I-I’m sorry.” The words stumbled over her tongue, embarrassment tripping them up. “You don’t want…” She couldn’t finish the thought, couldn’t force the rest of the question past her lips. At the last second, she tackled her dignity and wrestled it to the ground. With an abrupt shake of her head, she slid off the barstool, avoiding his scrutiny. “I’m sorry,” she repeated hoarsely. “I should—”

“I don’t…what?” One moment she was trying to edge past him, and in the next, the rim of the bar dug into her back. The solid wall of his chest pressed against hers. She gasped. Bit back a moan. He was so…big. Not muscle-bound like a weight lifter but tall, wide in the shoulders, lean. Hard. He surrounded her—his arms bracketed her, his chest covered her. His warmth reached out for her. She shivered, and he shifted closer. As if of their own volition, her hands grasped his hips, her fingers curling into the band of his jeans and hanging on. Hanging on. How accurate.

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