by AC Arthur
Book 3 in the Donovan Dynasty, The Corporation
Talaya Richmond is content with her life as a social care worker in London where nobody knows her father was a notorious serial killer. The notion that nefarious tendencies could be passed via DNA still haunts her, but she’s determined to build a new life, one where pain and despair are distant memories. A meeting with billionaire oilman and infamous playboy, Ridge Donovan, should have been routine. Instead, it opens a door to dark desires she never knew she possessed.
CEO of Donovan Oilwell UK, Ridge Donovan believes he’s back on track after his mother’s death two years ago. New house, new car, new position—all things he’d made an easy transgression toward, but the one thing he’s determined to hold on to is his never-lose-his-heart mantra. That is, until Talaya Richmond interrupts his morning routine with claims of a paternity suit and an undeniable sensuality that incites his deepest cravings.
While intent on unraveling the tale spun by a previous one-night-stand, Ridge is drawn closer to the alluring Talaya and the haunting pain in her eyes. When he learns Talaya is a murder suspect, instead of walking away—because their bond over shared trauma has become unbreakable—Ridge whisks her away to the safety of Sansonique, his family’s private island. Amidst the pristine beauty of the Caribbean, two headstrong strangers struggle to make peace with their past demons, prepare for a confrontation with a killer and embrace a passion that just might destroy them.
“When I was twenty-one, I killed a man.” Talaya spoke the words evenly as she stared at the familiar reflection in the mirror. “His intention was to hurt me. To use me for his pleasure first, and then hurt me. I couldn’t let him do that.”
It had taken years of intensive cognitive processing therapy as one method of treating her PTSD for her to be able to speak those words in such a concise and non-judgmental way. Didn’t mean she no longer felt the tendrils of disgust at the knowledge that she could take a life. It just meant she was coping with it. Thirteen years later, she was still coping.
“I had every right to protect myself. To preserve the life that had been given to me by a force much larger than, and more powerful than, the man who’d dared to attack me.”
Her hands no longer trembled as she listened to the phrases and knew well the memory drifting in the recesses of her mind to which they referred. She stood with her shoulders squared, her feet firmly planted on the tiled floor in the bathroom of her tiny flat. And forced herself not to just breathe.
It was bad this morning. She didn’t know why. There was no anniversary looming—not the date of the incident when she was a senior at Texas A&M or the day she’d gotten that frantic call from their neighbor telling Talaya that her mother had taken her own life, and not that other date either. Even though that dark time in her life couldn’t be relegated to one day on a calendar. It felt instead like a lifetime of grief, horror, disappointment and heartbreak.
Her fingers clenched at her sides, low-cut and perfectly manicured nails biting into the skin of her palm until the discomfort made her gasp and drop her head. She closed her eyes in defeat letting the sickening emotion wash down on her like a torrential rain. Why was this happening on today of all days? She’d been doing so well. For years now, she’d been on the right track. The carefully curated combination of medication and varied cognitive behavioral therapy methods had kept the nightmares and most of the negative thoughts at bay. So much so that she was able to maintain her job at the Addison Agency.
A job she desperately needed to keep which was why this meeting she was preparing for was so important. But she’d been out of it all morning. First, waking with a throbbing headache that had intensified with every move she’d made. Then, after she’d had the good sense to call the office and inform them that she’d be working from home—with the exception of leaving for her noon appointment—she’d almost jumped out of her skin at the sound of a car backfiring and then stalling right outside her building. She’d taken her frayed nerves and achiness into the shower where she’d prayed for relief.
Positive. Say something positive about yourself. About today, about your life at this very moment.
She didn’t speak those words aloud, but instead let them flow through her mind as she bathed and focused on steadying her breathing.
“I’m a good person,” she whispered when she was out of the shower and had dressed. “A good social care worker.”
It wasn’t the political job she’d dreamed of, but it was the one she had and as long as she was helping people, she was fine with it.
“I am fine with it. I’m content with my life—my job, my very economical flat and…” She opened her eyes and peeked down at her shoes. “I’m really good with these Balenciaga knife pumps, even if I’ll be cooking and eating chicken noodle soup for the next year.” Those words caused a slow grin to spread.
Normally, Talaya didn’t breathe outside of her budget, but these seemingly simple—except for the eight-hundred-and-fifty-dollar price tag—pumps had been a birthday gift to herself. She had to celebrate herself since there was no one else in her life who would.
Inhaling another deep breath and releasing it slowly, she raised her head until she was once again staring into familiar amber eyes. Her mother’s eyes, the one physical trait she’d gotten from Dr. Regina Copeland. The rest of her appearance resembled him, a fact that further stressed her even after all this time.
“You can do this,” she said loudly as if the volume would drown out the thoughts. “You will do this.” Because she had no other choice.
Forty minutes later, Talaya parked at the curb in Kensington. She reached over to the passenger seat for her purse and dropped the keys inside. Then she pulled out the file folder to check the address again. The numbers on the side of the door of the two-story angled white house matched those on the first page inside the folder. A call to his office had insured he wasn’t there, so her plan to catch him at home, should work.
“Let’s get this over with.”
Opening the door, she eased out of the car. Once she closed the door, she sighed at her absentmindedness, then reached back into her purse to grab her key fob and pressed the button to lock the car. She started to walk across the sidewalk, glancing down at her clothes one more time before it was too late to be concerned with her appearance. It was the first week of November and while a light chill may have filled the air this morning, the dashboard in her car had read that it was fifty degrees now. So, she’d left her black trench coat on the back seat. She wore a smoky gray pantsuit with a white camisole beneath the jacket that should be enough to ward off any cold since she was hopefully going to be in and out for this meeting. Neat and professional, that was the look she’d been going for and she’d achieved. Not that the knowledge would quiet the butterflies doing a line dance in the pit of her stomach.
It was ridiculous, she knew, and yet she still chastised herself as she came up to the door and extended her hand to press the button for the bell.
A few moments passed as she waited and she drummed her fingers over the strap of her purse. She’d done this so many times before, today shouldn’t be any different. Except it was. Not once in the four and a half years that she’d been working at Addison had she ever met with a millionaire, at his house, about a situation she had a suspicion wasn’t going to go over well.
Blowing out a breath she rotated her shoulders and extended her hand to ring the bell again. It was almost noon. Not that she relished the condition she’d awakened in this morning but working from home had been to her advantage since this house was closer to where she lived than where she worked. Another plus had been the fact that up until now she’d avoided being around people. Sometimes, the task of socializing, even on the basic level of workplace cordiality, made fighting to hold onto the strands of her mental stability that much more difficult. Today was definitely part of that “sometimes” group. In fact, because her mood hadn’t totally improved since this morning, she’d actually toyed with the idea of postponing this impromptu meeting. But she had two weeks to get this paperwork finalized and she didn’t like to procrastinate. Besides, it shouldn’t take that long. These types of visits never did. At least when they were with normal people they didn’t. This guy wasn’t normal.
He was rich, successful and he had a reputation. One that didn’t sit well with Talaya but that was neither here nor there. She didn’t have to like the people she did business with, not all of them anyway. And she certainly didn’t have to like Ridgely Donovan. All she needed was to get his signature on the documents in this folder and she’d be on her way.
But when the door finally opened and a man wearing nothing but a sheet around his waist and a scowl on his too-damn-fine face appeared, she amended her sentence.
All she needed was to get the hell out of here before that sheet slipped or she started to drool.
Twelve hours earlier, Ridge had been sitting in a leather chair, his legs spread wide, a glass of Macallan in his right hand and a condom packet in his left.
He’d dropped the packet onto the small table beside the chair and brought the glass to his lips to take a gulp.
Straight ahead, through the window that had been revealed when he’d pressed the green button on the control panel embedded in the arm of the chair, was Kristen or Naomi, Renata or Shannon. Hell, he didn’t know what her name was. He only knew she was one of his regulars. She stood and turned so her back was facing him. Then, she bent over a chair, her hands gripping the spindled back and spread her legs wide giving him a terrific view of her naked ass.
His dick reacted, growing in his boxer briefs until it throbbed and strained against the zipper of his slacks. She reached a hand back and slapped her ass. He took another sip as the slapped cheek jiggled. When she separated those same cheeks and eased a finger down before burying it deep inside her, he licked his lips. Then he set the glass down on the table and settled back to enjoy the show.
It was late and he’d come straight here after his business dinner had concluded. Here was The Corporation—an elite sex club with facilities all over the world, its clientele reaching as high up as world leaders, to as low as businessmen daring to pay the hefty membership fee and yearly dues. In addition to the price tag, being a member of The Corporation also came with a significant risk. Considering the titles and positions that many of the members held, each of them risked their extracurricular and oftentimes taboo sexual endeavors becoming public knowledge. Because regardless of how progressive people liked to believe the world had become, sex outside of the vanilla scope and rigid relationship guidelines would always be a scandal. Yet, night after night, in dwellings across the world, they each used their specially coded keycards to enter a place of opulence and uninhibited pleasure.
Ridge’s keycard was tucked safely in his wallet, his phone rested in the inside pocket of his suit jacket, as he struggled to focus on the woman in the window.
It didn’t seem like too much of an effort for his body to quickly get on board with tonight’s entertainment. Then again, that was always the case. Arousal wasn’t his problem. Nor was getting off, which he’d do eventually by either watching Naomi—he knew it was her now because of the gold chain-link ankle bracelet she always wore—or pressing a different button on the control panel to request another one of his regulars enter the room. That’s the only reason he’d pulled the condom out of his wallet before he’d sat down. If he required more tonight, it was damn sure gonna be with safety first and foremost on his mind.
A finger glided over his chin where his thin beard added a—as his younger sister Suri had joked—grownish look to his face. He’d of course reminded her that he was, in fact, grown at the big ‘ole age of thirty-seven, and even more grown than her since she was just thirty-two.
But his sister was the last person he needed to be thinking about while he was in a place like this. The place that had been his second home in the last two years.
Naomi was pushing two fingers inside her creamy center now, pulling them out slowly so he could see her essence coating them before they plunged back inside. If he turned on the audio, he was certain he’d hear how slick with arousal she was. But for now, he was content to just look. He didn’t want to hear anything. Had, in fact, been trying to drown out banal conversation, phone chimes, car engines, inbox notifications, chastising relatives, music…hell, everything. He didn’t want to hear any of it. Not at this moment and not, hopefully, for the next few hours.
He shifted in the chair once more, this time, dropping his palms to rest on his thighs, focusing his gaze on Naomi. She was still moving her fingers in and out slowly, while her other hand held one of her cheeks apart so he’d have a clear view. Her breasts hung down from her, nipples already hard. Every inch of her sun-kissed copper toned skin looked as if it had been oiled. His hands lifted, like he was tempted to reach out and touch the glass that separated them. But, nah, he was only here to watch and so he settled his hands again on his thighs.
When she removed her fingers and brought them up to her mouth, Ridge released a quiet moan. She’d turned her head so that he could see her tongue extend as she licked each finger clean of her juices. His dick jumped and begged for release. He obliged, undoing his belt and the button of his pants before easing down the zipper. As he reached inside his boxers to free his throbbing length, Naomi turned to face him and sat on the chair. She spread her legs wide and leaned back, bringing her hands up to cup her generous breasts. Now, he had an unfettered view of her cleanly-shaved pussy and gorgeous dark nipples.
He gripped his dick and began to stroke.
A rush of desire swept through his body and he groaned, welcoming the peace.
But it was a peace that never quite hit home. A race he’d often run, barreling toward that perfect place where his mind was clear, his heart at ease, his soul in harmony. He needed desperately to get there to free his mind of all the darkness that had resided there for far too long. To finally be able to join the rest of the world in some semblance of normalcy once and for all.
With her legs parted she circled a finger around her clit in what seemed like slow motion. Ridge clenched his teeth, his grip on his shaft going harder as he jerked from the base and circled up to the tip. Up and down, harder and harder, until his hips began lifting from the chair. Her motions increased too, until she’d rubbed her clit so hard and so fast her knees began to bounce, her breasts following suit. She was so wet, her essence glistening over her while her breath quickened as evidenced by the deep rise and fall of her torso. Her free hand gripped a breast, squeezed a nipple between her fingers until her head fell back, mouth going open. She was screaming, he knew, but he didn’t want to hear it. All he wanted was the peace.
The silence of his mind and the calm beating of his heart. That’s what he needed. What he’d been coming here so frequently in search of but had yet to fully claim. The reasons why baffled him and he was determined to beat this obstacle in the same way he’d conquered every other goal he’d ever set for himself. He would get through this and he’d be an even better man as a result. He had to be or everything he’d ever promised them, or himself for that matter, would be for nothing.
He eased his free hand down the arm of the chair until his fingers found the control panel. The quick push of a button had him sitting up straighter as the quiet whoosh of a hidden door at the back of the room opened and closed. In seconds, Shannon stood in front of him, her curvy cocoa-hued body nude, blonde dreadlocks cascading down her back to rest just beneath her ass.
She didn’t say a word. All of his girls had been instructed on what he wanted whenever he visited and they obliged in accordance with the service he paid for. He didn’t need conversation or any type of sexual or, heaven forbid, emotional declarations. This wasn’t about feelings, intimacy, or emotional connections. He wasn’t in search of a girlfriend, a wife, or even an affair. This—what he did each time he came here, what he prayed for whenever he was alone in the solace of his home, what he thought about more than anything else—was about his deep-seated desire to be healed. The thing he needed most in this world to survive.
Shannon went to her knees and eased between his legs. With a gentle touch she removed his hand from his dick, replacing it with her own. The softer warmth that engulfed his shaft had him sighing deeply as pricks of ease started to slide along his spine. He settled back in the chair again, letting his knees drop to the side. Lifting his hands, he scrubbed them down his face before dropping them to the arms of the chair. Then, his gaze returned to Naomi, just as Shannon’s tongue touched his tip.
Shannon sucked him in deep as Naomi simultaneously eased two fingers into her now dripping center. Ridge groaned. Shannon sucked like his expected release was a favored drug she craved and Naomi pumped herself as if she believed he’d come through that window and fuck her until she passed out. His heart pounded, fingers dug into the soft leather of the chair, hips thrusted as he fucked Shannon’s mouth.
This is what he needed. It was the beginning of the sprint to the finish line. He could see it just ahead, the doorway that he needed to burst through to finally feel it. To get what his life depended on. With bared teeth he groaned louder, pumped faster. Shannon took everything he gave, expertly working her mouth and tongue over him while Naomi continued her frenzied finger-fuck through the window. His mind clouded, that thick haze that always appeared, cloaking him in a primal heat that he couldn’t stop at this point. His body had taken over, needing everything he saw and felt at this very moment to get it to this very basic release.
Somewhere in the recesses of his mind, Ridge tried to fight it. Yeah, that was strange as hell, a man trying not to come. But a part of him knew this wasn’t going to be enough. Hell, no matter how many times he’d come here, it was never enough.
“Dammit!” he yelled as his release burst free and Shannon held him tightly in her mouth.
Now, in the light of day, the blaring of his doorbell had cut through that memory like a hot blade, making him moan seconds before gritting his teeth. He’d lay still in his bed for a few moments, thinking that Sage would answer it and send whoever was foolish enough to come to his house unannounced away. But he’d sent the guard home last night.
While he’d been born into a wealthy family, Ridge and his siblings had always had the freedom to move about on their own. They’d never been flanked with any type of security or entourage, facts that had allowed them to lead as simple a life as the children of multi-millionaires could. But after all that had happened two years ago, the security that his older brother Roark had hired to keep them safe from a psychopath murderer and his delusional daughter, the guards had remained. That was by order of Aunt Birdie who, at ninety-four years old, nobody wanted to go against.
So, as he’d tried to get his rapid breathing and that lump of disappointment that had taken up residence in the center of his chest to subside, the doorbell rang again. And he jumped from his bed, remembered he slept naked and grumbled before grabbing the sheet to wrap around him.
Whoever was at his door was about to be on the receiving end of every ounce of his ire and he didn’t give a damn who it was. His teeth clenched with irritation as he bypassed the lift at the end of the hall on the third floor of his house, stomping down the stairs until his bare feet touched the cool tile floors of the front foyer. The bell sounded again and he kept one hand fisted around the sheet, the other balled at his side. His lips were already peeled back as he ignored the security panel and camera that would’ve told him whether the door should be opened or not and he disengaged the locks. With a powerful yank the door swung open, a gentle breeze from outside skated over his bare chest and then his gaze rested on her.