Chapter One: Restraint

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“Sweet, steamy, and heartfelt, RESTRAINT is the perfect romance for a hot summer day. There’s something irresistible about two fiercely independent workaholics breaking down each other’s walls. Nobody weaves a sultry small town love story like Adriana Locke!” — USA Today Bestselling Author Melanie Harlow

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Chapter One

Holt

 

“Watch where you’re going.”

I quirk a brow at the man who just bumped my shoulder. He reads me correctly and mutters a half-assed apology just as I switch my brown leather briefcase to the other hand — maybe to avoid a confrontation and maybe to get a hand free for one. It’s up to him.

The stars must align in his favor because the next thing I know, he’s scurrying to the other side of the partition that separates us.

It crosses my mind, once again, that I could avoid this. I could forgo the hassle of airports altogether if I’d just give in and buy a private jet. Oliver, one of my younger brothers, keeps bringing it up, but I keep vetoing the idea. It’s not the money. It’s the pretentiousness of it all. Unless you’re flying weekly or have more money than brains, owning your own jet is a sign you need attention. It’s the more affluent version of the middle-aged, balding man driving a cherry red sports car, and I have no trouble getting attention without an overpriced toy.

Turning the corner, I’m muttering to myself about how Oliver’s going to be on my case about being late when I collide head-on with another body.

“Ah!”

A flurry of gauzy fabric and long, tobacco-colored hair go tumbling in front of me. My mouth falls open, practically brushing against the cheap linoleum of the breezeway, and my eyes feast on the beauty bent on one knee in front of me.

She picks up an array of items that fell from her purse. Each motion is deliberate and graceful. Scents of her perfume—warm and seductive—drift through the air.

She looks up, her blue eyes in stark contrast to the dark hair that sweeps below her elbows. Her fair cheeks pink as she watches me. She runs a hand through her strands as her full lips, a pale red, begin to part.

Holy. Shit.

Travelers scamper around our diversion, but they’re no more than a blip on my radar. I’m focused on her as I try to put all the pieces together that are laid, so beautifully, so exquisitely, in front of me.

“Let me help you up,” I offer, extending a hand.

She watches me for a long moment before lifting her delicate palm. The handful of gold bracelets encompassing a narrow wrist clamor together before she places her hand in mine. Her skin is warm and soft—so soft it almost makes me shudder. Immediately, I wonder what the rest of her feels like as I tug her gently to her sandal-clad feet.

She stands, removing her palm from mine, and smooths out her skirt. Pulling at a cord nestled between her breasts, two earbuds pop free. “I should’ve been paying attention. I know better than to listen to an audiobook in the airport.”

“Must be a damn good audiobook.” I cringe at the reply. It’s not my best line, but it’s all my brain can come up with to continue this conversation and keep her standing in front of me for a while longer.

“It’s a podcast, actually, on a recent Supreme Court case.”

Brains and beauty? No wonder my cock is throbbing.

“Do you agree or disagree with the decision?” I ask.

Her perfectly arched brows pull together as she tries to hide a smile. “Well,” she says, pausing as if she’s unsure whether to answer the question or not. “I believe the Justices followed the Constitution, and that is their job.”

“Nice non-answer,” I chuckle, watching a sparkle flicker through her irises.

“I’m an attorney. We never say too much. Or,” she says, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, “most of us try not to.”

Clearing my throat and, hopefully, my head, I pick up a tube of lipstick at her feet and hand it to her. She takes it without touching me. Instead, her eyes roam over my suit, take in my watch, then draw up my arm and over my chest, landing on my face. She studies me with intent. If I turned around right now, I bet she could draw a composite of me with intricate detail.

As if we’ve done this before, we turn toward the baggage claim and begin to walk together. Her posture is perfect, her narrow shoulders held just so. There’s a cool elegance to her, a sophistication, a refinement that lures me in. But it’s the warm complexity, an intelligence in her eyes that holds my attention.

“Are you in town for work?” I ask.

“No,” she scoffs. “I’m on vacation.” Her long, thin nose crinkles at the end. “For three long days.”

“You say that as if it were a death sentence.”

“I’d rather be working.” She stops in front of a wall of windows. The sunlight streams in, highlighting the red and gold tones in her hair. “My brothers arranged this. How could I not come?”

I laugh. “That was nice of them. My brothers would’ve sent me to work and taken the vacation on their own.”

“How many do you have?”

“Four.”

“I have three, and they’re a giant pain in my ass.” There’s a slight upturn to her gorgeous lips as she says the words, and I find myself wondering how much of that I really believe.

“I’ll trade you,” I offer.

Our eyes lock, her grin pulling my own wider as the throng of bodies hustling around us thickens. A thousand questions are on my lips, an itch to know more about this intriguing beauty in the middle of Savannah Hilton Head International Airport. Before I can figure out which way to go with this conversation, she gestures toward an exit.

“I apologize for running into you,” she says. “It was nice to meet you.”

“No, wait.” It’s too quick, too telling—and not my style. I make fun of men for tripping over themselves like this, but it comes out before I can think. “Can I take you to dinner sometime?”

The question surprises me as much as it seems to surprise her, but I don’t regret it. As a matter of fact, I like the idea. A lot.

She hesitates, her response on the tip of her tongue, but she doesn’t let it pass. I almost think it’s on purpose, but I’m not sure if she’s fucking with me, or if she has plans. Or a man.

For about a half a second, I contemplate if I care about the latter.

I don’t.

My phone buzzes in the jacket pocket of my suit, and I know it’s Oliver asking me where I am. I’m never late. But I can’t even mull that over right now, not with her standing in front of me and looking at me with the same curiosity about her that’s filling every nook of my mind.

“Ugh,” she grimaces, taking a large step toward me as the crowd begins to fill the entire hallway connecting the concord with the baggage claim. The top of her head barely reaches my eyes. “I’m not a big people person.”

“Me either.” I lift my briefcase and step so that my back is against the wall, giving her more room. “So … dinner?”

She considers this. “I don’t typically go to dinner with nameless men.”

“That’s an easy fix.” I grin. “I’m Holton Mason. My friends call me Holt. All three of them.”

She laughs, her long lashes fluttering. I fight from reaching out and brushing the stray strand of hair off her cheek.

A hundred people might be swarming around us, but it may as well just be her in front of me. A circus could be clamoring down the hall, complete with elephants and man-eating tigers, and I wouldn’t notice.

“I’m not sure what my plans are, actually,” she says finally.

“Well, let’s meet up, and I’ll help you make them.”

She smiles. “I bet you would, Holt.”

“Ah, you used the nickname. That’s a good sign.”

“I just feel sorry that only three people like you.”

“Does that mean you’ll give me your number?”

Digging in her bag and pulling out a small notepad, she rips off the bottom of a sheet in a crisp line. She offers it to me along with a pen. “No, but you can give me yours.”

“I could text it to you.”

A single, perfectly arched brow rises farther. “And I could exit those doors and get into my rental car. Your call.”

My fingers wrap around the scrap of paper, glancing at her delicate fingers in the process. Visions of them gripping my cock pop immediately to mind, and I have to shake them away.

“I can’t say I’ve had a woman refuse to give me her number before,” I say, the words mixed with a chuckle.

A part of me wants to refuse, just to see if she’ll bend. But when I look at her standing there, the resolution in her eyes means she’s not bluffing. So while that’s frustrating in a plethora of ways, it’s also really kind of hot.

“But there’s a first time for everything, right?” I scratch out my digits and hand the paper back to her.

She presses her lips together and drops the pen and paper into her bag without even looking at it. “Thanks.”

“I look forward to seeing you again,” I say as she turns toward the doors.

“Nice to meet you,” she replies with no indication that I will see her again. In a split second, she disappears.

Like a damn fool, I don’t move. I just stand and watch her, breathing in the remaining notes of her perfume. It’s a second too late before I realize I don’t even know her name.

When I shove my hand into my pocket, it nudges my phone. As if on cue, it begins to ring. Again.

“Yeah, Ollie?” I ask, my voice filled with a level of frustration equal to the pulse in my temple.

“Where the hell are you?”

“On my way.”

 

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