Home > Burn (Breathless #3)

Burn (Breathless #3)
Author: Maya Banks

chapter one

Ash McIntyre stood on the concrete walkway of Bryant Park, hands stuffed into his slacks pockets as he breathed in the spring air. There was still a nip in the wind, carrying with it hints of winter fading to spring. Around him, people sat on benches and in chairs at the small tables where they drank coffee, worked on laptops or were listening to iPods.

   It was an absolutely gorgeous day, not that he usually indulged in things like a walk in the park or even being in a park, especially during business hours when he was usually entrenched in his office, on the phone or typing emails or making plans to travel. He wasn’t a “stop and smell the roses” kind of guy. But today he was restless and cagey, he had a lot on his mind, and he’d found himself here without really realizing that he’d planned to end up in the park.

   Mia and Gabe’s wedding was a few short days away, and his business partner was up to his eyeballs in wedding preparations as he sought to ensure Mia had the wedding of her dreams. And Jace? His other best friend and business partner was in a very permanent relationship with his fiancée, Bethany, which meant that his two friends were otherwise occupied.

   When they weren’t working, they were with their women, and it meant that Ash didn’t see them except at the office and on the occasions they all got together outside of work. They were still close, and Gabe and Jace ensured they’d stayed solid, including him in their changing lives. But it wasn’t the same. And while it was good for his friends, Ash still hadn’t quite come to terms with how rapidly all their lives had altered over the last eight months.

   It was weird and life-changing, even though it wasn’t his life being impacted. It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy for his friends. They were happy. That made him happy. But for the first time since the beginning of their friendship, he was on the outside looking in.

   His friends would vehemently dispute that. They were his family. Much more so than his own batshit crazy family whom he spent most of his time avoiding. Gabe, Mia, Jace and Bethany, but especially Gabe and Jace, would deny that Ash was on the periphery now. They were his brothers in all the ways that counted. More than blood. Their bond was unbreakable. But it had changed. So in fact he was on the periphery. Still a part, but in a much different, smaller way.

   For years their motto had been play hard and live free. Being in a relationship changed a man. It changed his priorities. Ash got that. He understood it. He’d think less of Gabe and Jace if their women weren’t their priority. But it left Ash out of the loop. The third wheel. And it wasn’t a comfortable place to be.

   It was especially hard because, until Bethany, Ash and Jace had shared most of their women. More often than not, they fucked the same women. It sounded asinine that Ash wouldn’t know how to function outside a threesome relationship, but there it was.

   He was restless and edgy, in search of something, he had no idea what. It wasn’t that he wanted what Gabe and Jace had—or maybe he did and refused to acknowledge it. He just knew he wasn’t himself, and he didn’t like that fact.

   He was focused. Knew exactly what he wanted at all times and had the wealth and power to make it happen. There were no shortage of women who’d be more than willing to give Ash what he needed or wanted. But what was the point when he himself had no clue what it was he wanted or needed at present?

   He scanned the park, taking in the baby strollers being pushed by mothers and nannies. He tried to picture himself with children and nearly shuddered at the thought. He was thirty-eight, almost thirty-nine, a time when most men had already settled down and produced offspring. But he’d spent all of his twenties and a good chunk of his thirties busting his ass with his partners to make their business the success it was now. Without using his family’s money, their connections, and especially without their help.

   Maybe that was why they hated him so much now. Because he’d thumbed his nose at them and basically told them to fuck off. But the biggest sin he’d committed was in making more of a success of himself without them. He had more wealth and power than even the old man did. His grandfather. For that matter, what had the rest of his family ever done but live off the old man’s largess? His grandfather had sold his successful business when Ash was still a boy. None of his family had worked a day in their lives.

   He shook his head. Fucking leeches, the lot of them. He didn’t need them. Damn sure didn’t want them. And now that he had surpassed them—and his grandfather—he sure as hell wasn’t going to allow them back into his life to reap the benefits of riding his star.

   He turned to go because he had shit to do that didn’t include standing around in a damn park self-reflecting like he was in need of a shrink. He had to get his act together and start focusing on the one thing that hadn’t changed. Business. HCM Global Resorts had projects in various stages of work. The Paris hotel was a done deal after their having to work fast to replace investors that had backed out. Things were moving along and progressing well. This wasn’t the time for him to drop the ball, especially when Gabe and Jace couldn’t give work the time they had in the past. Ash was the only one not distracted by his personal life, so he had to step up. Take some of the slack for his friends so they could enjoy having a life outside of work.

   As he started to stride back in the direction he’d come, he saw a young woman sitting alone at one of the tables outside of the primary traffic area. He stopped mid-step and let his gaze settle more fully on her, taking in her appearance. Long blond hair that drifted just so with the breeze, revealing a startlingly beautiful face with striking eyes that he could see even from the distance at which he stood.

   She was wearing a funky long skirt that swirled with the wind, baring the long expanse of one leg. Blingy flip-flops adorned her feet and he could see the bright pink polish on her toes and a toe ring that sparkled when she moved her foot to shift position. The sun caught on a silvery ankle bracelet, drawing even more attention to her slender leg.

   She was busy sketching, her brow furrowed in concentration as her pencil flew over the page, and beside her was a huge bag stuffed full, with rolled-up papers extending from the top.

   But what most caught his attention was the choker she wore around her neck. It didn’t fit her. He made that instant assessment. It was tight around her neck, resting just at the hollow of her delicate throat. But it didn’t fit her. It didn’t reflect her at all.

   It was gaudy on her. A diamond choker, obviously expensive and probably not fake, but it didn’t go with the rest of her. It stood out, out of place. His curiosity was piqued because when he saw a piece of jewelry like that on a woman, it meant something far different than it did to most people and he was seized with interest to know if it was indeed a collar, or if it was just an ornament, chosen by her. And if it was a collar, the man who’d chosen it for her had done a piss-poor job. The man didn’t know her, or maybe he didn’t care to ensure that such an important adornment suited the woman he called his own.

   If Ash could make that judgment after mere moments of studying her, then how the hell could the man making love to her not see the same? Maybe the collar was more a reflection of her dominant, which was arrogant and idiotic. A collar should represent his care of his submissive, how in touch with her he was, and it should fit the woman wearing it.

Hot Books
» Buy Me Sir
» Daddy's Pretty Baby
» The Dom's Virgin: A Dark Billionaire Romanc
» Wet
» Mastered (The Enforcers #1)
» The Greek's Forgotten Wife (The Boarding Sc
» If You Were Mine
» His Erotic Obsession (The Jamison Sisters #
» Dominated (The Enforcers #2)
» The Sheik’s Sensuous Trap
» Kept (The Enforcers #3)
» Fallen Crest High (Fallen Crest High #1)
» The Billionaire Takes All (The Sinclairs #5
» Pregnant with the Sheik's Baby (The Samara
» Dragon's Storm (Legion Of Angels #4)