The Last Affair
by AC Arthur
Book 3 in the Fabulous Golds Series
There’s no going back once they start down this path.
Attending a sex retreat at a luxurious Finger Lakes ski resort isn’t exactly Desta Henner’s vision of an ideal weekend. But if she plays her cards right, she’ll uncover sweet multiorgasmic rewards. Because after three months of unbelievably hot verbal foreplay and straight-up sexy fantasies about “Dear Lover 1686,” Desta’s ready to meet her naughty mystery man in person.
Only, “Dear Lover 1686” isn’t the anonymous stranger Desta expects. He’s Maurice Gold—the hot and delicious glitterati millionaire. To the world, he’s a charming playboy. To Desta, he’s a coworker and friend…whose family owns the renowned fashion house she works for. Now, for the first time ever, sparks are flying!
They have only one weekend to explore the explosive chemistry they’ve just discovered. Come Monday, they must return to their lives—and working relationship—in New York’s high-profile, high-stakes fashion world. But what happens at a sex retreat doesn’t always stay there. And Desta and Maurice’s risky little tryst is about to put their reputations—and their hearts—on the table for one last walk of chance.
The Last Affair
Book 3 in the Fabulous Golds Series
The Last Affair
Aurora Mountain Ski Resort
Finger Lakes Region, New York
Desta Henner walked into the main hall of the ski resort like a boss. That is, her shoulders were back, her chin held high, her steps assured, and nothing but confidence radiated from her body. That’s how her assistant, Nessa, described the way Desta entered any marketing meeting. Even thousands of miles away from the office, the same energy applied.
Check-in to the Dear Lover weekend retreat had taken fifteen of the longest minutes of her life, possibly because she’d confirmed her attendance and made reservations at the last minute. Now she wore her name badge proudly and walked past all the people she didn’t know, giving nods and smiles before coming to a stop at the farthest corner of the room.
This might be a mistake. Some things were better left unchanged. Especially good things, which was precisely what she’d had for the last three months. An online connection with an intelligent thirty-three-year-old man who shared her love of R&B music and foreplay. Who would’ve thought a virtual relationship could’ve brought her so much joy and fulfillment? More importantly, after all she’d been through, who would’ve thought she’d crave any of those things with a man again? Certainly not her, but she’d taken a chance when she’d signed up for the Dear Lover app. Tonight, she’d meet Dear Lover 1687 for the first time face-to-face.
She spun around, barely noticing the trip in her pulse at the sound of a deep and alluring male voice.
“Hello.” He was taller than her, so she tilted her head to meet his gaze.
“Why’re you standing all the way over here by yourself? This is Mix ’n’ Mingle time.” She supposed he meant to highlight those words with the waggle of his eyebrows, but it just came across as weird. Besides, she knew what time it was. She’d read the agenda that had been emailed with her confirmation a couple times already.
“I just arrived after a very long drive from the city.” Not exactly true. She’d gone to her room after checking in, taken a shower and changed for the welcome party. In addition to being tall, the man had an athletic build, sandy-brown hair cut low and neat, sea-green eyes and a charming smile.
Was this Dear Lover 1687?
Dear Lover offered full anonymity; all posts went through their message board so personal email addresses were hidden. User identifications were numbers instead of some variation of the person’s name or nickname. And when couples linked up, they were strongly advised not to reveal any personally identifying information. So, she and Dear Lover 1687 hadn’t discussed anything outside of world news, favorite foods, dream vacations and, of course, every sexual position, fetish and/or fantasy they’d ever had. None of which were helpful in figuring out if he was the guy standing in front of her.
“Well, it’s Friday, and I don’t care what my watch says. It’s five o’clock somewhere, so we’re having a drink.” He snagged two champagne flutes from a passing server’s tray and offered her one.
Accepting the glass with a slow smile was polite, but she needed to cut to the chase. “What’s your user number? Aren’t we supposed to wear them so we can meet up with the one we’ve been talking to?” After all, that was the purpose of being here. While the Dear Lover app was advertised as just a social networking site for adults, private events were held for their members four times a year. Attendance was voluntary.
Before answering her question, the cheerful green-eyed guy put the glass to his lips, emptied the contents and then stuck a hand in his pocket to pull out a badge.
“This is a long weekend, baby. We’re not confined to one meetup.” Again with the pet names he probably thought were cute and the strange eyebrow waggling. This time, after she’d peeped the number on his badge, both actions were registering as creepy.
Plus, he wasn’t Dear Lover 1687.
“I only came to meet one person.” In case he didn’t understand the words, she shook her head so vehemently it almost caused an instant headache.
“But it’s time to mingle.” No doubt hunting for another drink or possibly another meetup, he searched the crowd before returning his attention to her. “And you look hot in that dress. We can keep each other company until our matches arrive.”
“I’d rather not.” She knew it sounded snippy and probably a little uptight, which were words she’d heard used to describe herself before, but it wasn’t intentional. “To be honest, I’m kind of nervous about this first meeting, so I’d really like to get it over with.”
Had she just admitted to a stranger that she was nervous? She had, and that was unusual, but it didn’t stop her from walking away from Mr. Green Eyes. Desta didn’t share her emotions or her personal life with people she’d just met. Butterflies did a quick tango in her stomach, and she took a gulp from her glass. It was great champagne; she might need another one very soon.
By the time she finished the drink, she’d walked halfway across the room to another quiet spot near a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. The breathtaking views immediately calmed her. Straight ahead was a light wood deck that seemed to stretch the length of the building. Farther out were snowcapped mountains, rolling hills covered in more white fluffiness and a series of smaller buildings that resembled this one in wood coloring and modern rustic design.
She managed a genuine smile for the server who’d appeared on her left. It took less than a second to tip her head back and empty the current glass. An additional few moments and she’d traded for another drink and took a sip. Yes indeed, they could keep the champagne coming all night and she wouldn’t mind. Her high tolerance for alcohol had always been a source of contention with her five older brothers, who met a drunken stupor three to four drinks in, but tonight it might just come in handy.
As she stared out the window it occurred to her that she was hiding, and that wasn’t acceptable. Invitations for this event had flooded her inbox, and eventually she’d decided that signing up for the app and chatting online was no longer enough. If she were really going to reclaim all of her life, she had to take the next step. Standing in a corner downing champagne was a far cry from the fun and exciting weekend the Dear Lover Meetup had promised.
She took a deep breath and another sip of champagne to restart her boss mode; then she relaxed her face into a welcoming smile and turned to face the crowd. Suddenly, her breath caught. She gripped the stem of the glass and began to choke.
What the hell was he doing here?
“You okay, hon?” came a voice nearby.
As Desta struggled to keep from gagging on a combo of shock and champagne, a woman approached and began patting her back.
“I’m…fine. Just—” Desta cleared her throat. “Fine.”
“Okay. We wouldn’t want you collapsing on the floor before the fun can begin.” The woman’s hand was still on Desta’s back, even though she was no longer coughing.
“Really, I’m fine. Just went down the wrong way, I suppose.” Or she’d seen someone she shouldn’t have seen. This room was full of people, how was it possible that she’d zeroed in on him immediately? Her heart pounded in her chest as she chanced another glance in his direction. His gaze shifted and she immediately turned away. Dammit! It really was him.
The woman nodded, her big bouncy curls in a fiery shade of red brushing over her shoulder with the action. “I’m Kelli, with an i. This is my second Dear Lover event. How ’bout you?”
Second? Had she struck out with her first match?
“I’m Desta.” She resisted the urge to add with an a. Instead she said, “This is my first event.” And in a few minutes it was going to be her last, because if he didn’t leave, she would.
“Oh, then you’re really lucky I stopped by to keep you from choking to death,” Kelli said. “I can show you the ropes, and if it’s not a good face-to-face matchup for either of us, we can just hang out this weekend and ditch the full agenda.”
That would certainly bring Desta great joy. A weekend with a woman she didn’t know.
“Actually, I may just head back to the city tonight. I have so much work to catch up on at the office.”
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and the office was closed from Wednesday to Monday. Ronald Gold Fashions might be one of the top fashion houses in the world, but it was also a family business, and its owner and head designer, Ronald Gold Sr., was all about spending time with family. As Desta didn’t have any family on the East Coast, holidays were the best time for her to catch up on emails and research.
Admittedly, she probably should’ve remained focused on work from the start. Then she wouldn’t be in this position—torn between meeting her match and being spotted by the one man who’d tease her relentlessly for being here while making it impossible to separate this private weekend from her professional life.
“Nonsense.” Kelli waved a hand with silver rings on each finger. “Look, we’ll exchange numbers and keep in touch via text throughout the night. If it looks like our meetups are a miss, we’ll gather at the bar and drink till we can barely make it up to our rooms. And in the morning, we’ll hit the slopes!” Kelli talked while retrieving her phone from her leather purse.
There was no need for a number exchange if she wasn’t staying the weekend. But wouldn’t that be running, something she’d promised herself not to do again? With her thoughts still in a jumble she dug into her RGold clutch and pulled out her phone.
About a minute later, Kelli was all smiles once more as she dropped her phone back into her purse. “There, now we’re all set. Remember, keep in touch, and I’ll see ya in a bit.”
Desta’s response was a nod and another smile before “Okay. See ya in a bit.” Those words didn’t even sound right coming from her, but Kelli’s upbeat personality was easy to follow.
He laughed, and Desta froze. She knew that chuckle, which started in the depths of his gut and eventually burst out so anyone hearing it would fall into laughter as well. He had a very infectious personality. Maybe he was Kelli’s match?
It didn’t matter who he was here to meet: he couldn’t see her here.
Desta started to move, heading for the door. She didn’t bother to pinpoint his location in the room now. He had to be close if she could hear him laughing. Kelli would get a text from her when she got in the car, but now she had to get out of here. No way could she be seen by Maurice Gold. Her boss’s son, her coworker and the guy she routinely beat in poker when she visited his parents’ house. How totally weird would that be? Having Maurice—the consummate practical joker—find out she’d resorted to an app like Dear Lover to have a social life would definitely create awkwardness at work.
Her exit path had been clear at first, but there was suddenly a slew of people in her way, one of which was a server Desta collided with in her attempt to sidestep the crowd. She dropped her empty glass seconds before everything around her shifted into slow motion. The server’s wide-eyed shock morphed into dread as his arm shook from the impact and the tray full of champagne flutes wobbled. Mortification lodged in Desta’s chest as she watched the golden liquid sloshing over the rim of those glasses. And as if that weren’t enough to prove she’d made a mistake coming here, there was Maurice’s concerned face as he reached for the tray and easily plucked it from the server’s hand.
Slow motion switched to real time, and Maurice’s brow furrowed. “Hey, Des. What’re you doing here?”
For the first time in the five years he’d known her, Desta didn’t have a quick response. In fact, from the way she was blinking repeatedly, with her lips drawn in that straight line, which usually meant she was annoyed about something, he’d say she was either as shocked to see him as he was her or she was pissed that he was here at all.
“I’ll take that,” the server snapped before repossessing the tray Maurice had rescued.
“Sure, no problem. Glad to be of assistance.” The guy’s frown was about as much of a thank-you as he figured he was going to get. Maurice wasn’t sorry to see him go.
He was, however, still trying to figure out why Desta—the marketing director at his family’s fashion house and the most composed woman he knew—was here at a weekend meetup that, despite its advertising, was sure to be full of frolicking and fetishizing.
“You look really great in that dress.” Actually, she looked phenomenal in the short, off-the-shoulder design that could’ve been made to fit her curves specifically.
“Thanks. You look nice, too.” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, holding her purse in front of her body with both hands. “And I could ask what you’re doing here as well.”
She could, and that would be just like Des—always ready with questions at any meeting or runway show and expecting quick answers. For a moment Maurice wondered how he should respond. Should he just come out and say he was there to meet the woman who’d had him jerking off in his bed too many nights to count in the past few months? Or should he come up with some other entertaining story about why he was at this ski resort, in this room, wearing the same badge…she was wearing.
“Are you registered with Dear Lover?” The surprised chuckle that followed the question barely had a chance to bubble free when he reached out and lifted her badge from where it was clipped to the top pleat of her dress.
Dear Lover 1288. He knew those numbers very well.
When he dragged his gaze back up to her face, she was directing her eyes to where his badge was boldly clipped to the lapel of his smoke-gray sports coat.
“No.” The one word came in a whisper as she finally looked up at him. “This is a joke, right? You’re playing one of your goofy practical jokes on me, and I swear to you, Maurice Silas Gold, my revenge is gonna be epic!”
She spoke the last through clenched teeth, and a part of him wanted to tell her she was right. He could easily throw his head back and laugh like he was watching a Kevin Hart stand-up, and she’d believe he’d constructed this elaborate hoax as one of the annual pranks he pulled on her and his siblings. That would’ve gotten him out of the very uncomfortable spot he was experiencing at this moment.
A variety of emotions went through him, and uncomfortable was the least of them. First and foremost, there was the physical reaction—lust, pure and simple—as he recalled all the messages they’d exchanged and how aroused he’d become reading them. Connecting each word from those emails to the sexy-as-hell woman he was staring at now was a little jarring and a lot exciting. But he couldn’t have been lusting after Des like this for the past few months. Her calm and controlled personality wasn’t his usual type, not to mention the whole coworker situation. In fact, she was more than just a coworker, thanks to his parents always inviting her to their family events because she had no family of her own in New York. Eventually, he’d come to see her as another sister.
Well, that certainly was no longer the case. The woman who’d been at Thanksgiving dinner with his family last night now collided with the woman who’d given him an in-depth explanation of why she loved the doggy-style position during sex. No way was he ever going to look at Des the same now. “Maybe we should go someplace private to talk about this.”
She closed her eyes at his suggestion, her long, curled lashes dropping. When they lifted again, she stared back at him with resolution.
Her answer was to turn and start walking toward the door. He followed, letting his gaze drop to the easy and very tempting sway of her ass. She had the age-old and much-coveted Coca-Cola-bottle shape, and from this view, it added to his already growing erection. This was something Maurice had long ago noticed. Des was a great-looking woman. She was dangerously smart, fiercely independent and competitive as hell. Any man would be lucky to have her.
This time yesterday, he would’ve sworn he was not that man. Yet, here he was, wondering how it was possible that she was the sexy vixen who’d coaxed him to jerk off for the first time since high school?
In less than two minutes they were in the lobby of the ski lodge, going to a far corner where couches were positioned in a cozy square facing a huge open fireplace. Des sat on the end of one couch, and Maurice sat at the end of another a couple feet from her.
“You’re the one who’s been messaging me all this time?”
Leave it to Des to dive right in before anyone else in the room could talk. It’s what she did at meetings. Particularly when someone in a meeting was acting like she didn’t exist. He’d always admired her talent in the business arena and counted her as a very valuable asset to their company. Now, he had to consider if also being insanely attracted to the woman behind all the sexy words was worth jeopardizing the company’s biggest marketing asset.
“We’ve been messaging each other.” He wanted to make sure she accepted that they’d both created this scenario.
“Why? You can get a date by snapping your fingers. Why in the world would you go to a dating app?”
“First, it’s not technically a dating app—it’s a social networking app.” At least that’s what he liked to remind himself. The app certainly didn’t market itself as a dating app.
Her lips turned up in a familiar look that said he should know better. “With definite sexual undertones that begin with the name Dear Lover. That’s a marketing tactic they’re using. If they don’t say they’re a dating app, they don’t have to advertise like one and be lumped in with all the other apps claiming to help people find a happily ever after.”
She was right about that. Dear Lover didn’t promise clients anything more than an opportunity to socialize in a private setting. The privacy part had been the deciding factor in him joining.
“I signed up because I wanted someone to talk to, not to go out on the town with. Or be photographed with.” Or even to sleep with, because—as she’d alluded to—there was no shortage of women willing to fall into bed with him. No, he’d simply wondered if he’d enjoy talking to someone who didn’t know who he was or how much money he had. The answer to that was hell yes. He’d enjoyed conversing with her immensely.
Desta’s hands covered her face as she shook her head. “Okay.” A deep inhale followed by a huff of breath, and her hands fell away. “Well, we’ll just take off these badges and walk out of this resort. There’re a couple hundred people in that room so they won’t notice two are gone. We’ll go back to the city and act like this never happened.”
It was a good suggestion. Efficient, to the point and effective. Probably exactly what they should do. But Maurice wasn’t known for doing what he should do. He was the most reckless and unruly of the four Gold siblings—the one who was exactly as the media portrayed him when it came to lovin’ and leavin’ women. Except lovin’ only meant sex; there were no emotions other than lust involved with him and any of the women he dated. He probably should just agree with Des and get out of here, but nothing they did from this point on was going to erase from his mind the words they’d already shared.
“Or we could stay for the weekend and act like those two adults who’ve been exchanging their deepest and most coveted sexual cravings. The two people who’ve been looking forward to this time together to explore each other’s bodies in all the ways they’d described.” His pulse pounded with the realization that he was totally flying by the seat of his pants right now. How was the transition from friends to lovers going to work here? And was that what he really wanted? Did he want to have sex with Des? And why hadn’t he figured that out before tonight?
She offered a bemused smile. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No.” He touched her knee. “This is the part where I tell you how much I enjoyed our exchanges these last three months. It’s where I ask if you enjoyed them, too, and if so, what’s stopping us from going further?” Because the reasons he was giving himself to walk away seemed awfully flimsy right now. Why couldn’t two consenting adults have sex? Why did having sex have to ruin a business relationship, or a friendship, as long as they both knew what the limits were?
When she didn’t immediately respond, he continued. “It’s the part where I confess that all week I’ve been thinking about this woman who I’d never met face-to-face and how good it would feel to experience some of the things she and I had discussed. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought you’d be that woman. But here we are, and to be honest, I don’t think there’s any way I can forget what we’ve shared now.” She licked her lips, just a quick swipe of her tongue, and he knew there was no turning back. “I can only admit that finding out that you’re Dear Lover 1288 makes me even more interested in spending this weekend with you.”