The playboy's virgin

By: Mia Carson


Belle sagged against the wall of the gallery room Wednesday night, nursing a cup of coffee. She glanced at clock on the far wall and groaned. Two in the morning. She had to be back at the office by seven thirty.

“So much for getting some sleep,” she muttered to the empty room.

Her plan had been to go back to the dorm, sleep for a few hours, and catch the bus to work, but she was stuck at the gallery unless she wanted to risk walking back to campus. The buses stopped running at midnight. She looked at the walls and the artwork she’d managed to hang up and label so far. Her boss, Greg, told her he trusted her enough to handle the set up overnight if she had to, as long as everything was ready by Saturday.

Most of the artwork was taken care of, and with only two more nights to go, she knew she’d get it done. As long as she didn’t plan on sleeping at all or getting any of her homework done. Part of her was happy about spending so much time alone with Greyson. He’d accidentally brushed his hand against hers last night, and before she left, he’d sidled as close as he could as they leaned over his desk together. She closed her eyes, thinking of his perfect mouth and the firm feel of his body beside hers.

Her mind ran rampant with dreams of what would happen if she gave into his flirting, but another voice told her to be careful. He was still her boss, and if anything happened between them, it might not end well.

What felt like a few minutes later, her cell phone went off shrilly and she jerked upright, cursing at the spilled coffee on her jeans. She fumbled for her cell and squinted at the time. It didn’t click right away, but when it did, her stomach dropped.

“Shit! I’m late, I’m going to be so damn late!”

She hadn’t returned to the dorms and had no time to hurry back, shower and change, then make it to the office on time. Maybe Greyson wouldn’t notice, but his careful brown gaze always watched her. He would notice she wore the same damn clothes, and she cursed again. There was nothing for it, so she gathered her things, locked the gallery, and booked it to the bus station.

As she sat on the bus, ignoring the people pressed around her and the noise, another alarm went off on her cell. She threw her head back against the seat. She had a project due tonight at midnight. And she had to work at the gallery. And she had to stay late to help Greyson.

Every day, she told herself she had no limits, that she would do whatever she had to do to make her life successful. Today, with her body exhausted and her eyes barely staying open on the bus ride, she realized she was dangerously close to reaching that limit. She rubbed her face, trying to wake herself up, and sucked in a deep breath.

You can do this. You are strong, independent, and you’re not going to fail, not now.

The bus emptied at her stop, and she reached her desk a few minutes later. She'd arrived earlier than 7:30, and the office was mostly empty. At least she wasn’t late, but she wore her clothes from yesterday, her hair was a mess, and when she went to the bathroom, she groaned at the heavy bags under her eyes. She used her fingers and did her best to fix her hair, cursing its frizziness, and splashed water on her face.

Once she made it to the break room for some coffee, a few more people wandered in and the office picked up its usual morning hum of work. Keys tapped, the legal team did their typical morning hacky sack game, and Kelly’s cheerful voice reached her ears, wishing every one good morning and announcing she brought doughnuts. Belle plopped down in her chair, logged in, and intended to get a head start on Greyson’s emails, but her head throbbed from lack of sleep. She closed her eyes for a second, just to rest her eyes. Just a few seconds…

“Belle?” a deep voice growled as a heavy hand landed on her arm.

She jumped with a yelp and ran into Greyson’s hard-planed chest.

“Whoa, where’s the fire?” he teased, his hands gripping her shoulders gently to steady her on her feet. His eyes narrowed, and his jaw clenched. “You look terrible. Were you up all night?”

She rubbed her eyes and opened them again. He eyed her worriedly. His hands hadn’t left her shoulders either. “I… uh, I had some work to finish up. I slept for a few hours.”

“How many is a few?”

She twirled one of the rings on her fingers and avoided his gaze. “Enough.”

“Belle, look at me,” he growled.

The last thing she wanted was a lecture from someone on how she lived her life, but the anger and worry mixed in his tone drew her to him.

“How many hours did you sleep?”

“Three… maybe. I fell asleep on the floor,” she admitted, kicking herself mentally for oversharing.

“On the floor where?” he asked, his hands tightening on her shoulders.

“My other job. I have to get something set up by this weekend—but I’m fine, really. Just need a gallon of coffee, and I’ll be good. Honest.”

His sigh said he didn’t believe her, but he let her go and she sat down. “If you need a rest, take one of the hammocks in the office and nap.”

“No, I’m fine,” she insisted, annoyed, and went back to work.

He stayed by her desk, his arms crossed over his broad chest, breathing so heavily out of his nose that she heard it and it grated on her nerves. After five minutes, she turned to glare at him, and he finally held up his hands and backed away to his office.

Once she was alone again, she hunkered down in her chair and covered her face with her hands, confused by his actions. What was he doing to her? Why did he care so damn much? She saw the curiosity in his eyes, the urge to push with her and see how far he could get, but Belle was not in the business of opening up to anyone. It only led to pain. Carrie was lucky she knew about Belle’s past, or at least some of it. Spending so much time with Greyson was getting dangerous and clouding her usual judgment against people and men in general.

“Belle, ready to work?” Tim asked, drawing her out of her thoughts.

She lifted her head and shoved her hair back. “Yes, think I’m good. What are you guys working on today?”

“Oh, you’re going to love this,” he said with a laugh.

The excitement she usually felt when learning something new was dulled today, but she followed Tim across the office and did her best to look ready to go, though all she thought about was Greyson’s hot hands on her and her bed. Maybe both together.

Chapter 5

Belle gathered her wavy hair back into a ponytail and draped it over her shoulder as she shuffled through the proposal papers again, double checking the terms a final time before they called it a night. Greyson was all too aware of how many times her eyes danced to the clock on his desk, and her lips thinned with every passing hour.

“I'm calling it,” he said finally when she did it again, and her face paled.

“What? No, we’re almost done,” she argued.

He shook his head and pushed back from his desk, stretching his arms over his head. When she watched his body and her lips curled in a smile and a flicker of want passed through her eyes, he smirked. She wanted him, just as much as he wanted her, but no matter how many ways he flirted with her this week, she held back.

“We can finish tomorrow,” he assured her and took the papers from her hands, holding them as he did so. Her face softened, and she nibbled her lip before giving herself a small shake and pulled away. “You need to get some sleep.”

“Can’t,” she mumbled. “I have to get to my other job, and then I have to finish a project for school tonight. If I don’t, I lose half my grade for the class and it will all go to shit.”

Greyson wasn’t sure what happened. One second, she vented to him and her face scrunched up in annoyance, and the next, tears shone in her eyes and she sniffed hard, turning away from him. Her shoulders shook, and Greyson froze, not knowing what to do. He was not used to dealing with tears. For a minute, he just stood there and watched her fall apart in his office, then his chest tightened and before he realized what he was doing, he was behind her, turning her around, and drew her into his arms.

“What are you doing?” she asked, words muffled against his chest.

“You look like you need a hug,” he replied, and she laughed. He rested his chin on her head and closed his eyes. This was right, and he did not want to let her go. He waited for her to push back and try to leave, but she remained curled against his chest as the tears flowed down her cheeks. “Why are you doing this to yourself?”

“I don’t have a choice,” she said and sniffed hard, wiping her face on her hands. She tilted her head back, and it pained him to see her so rundown. “I have to work this job, and I have to finish school. If I fail now, everything I worked for… it’s nothing.”

He scowled. “That does not mean you should forget to take care of yourself.”

Belle shook her head and tried to push out of his arms. “I don’t need the lecture. You know nothing about me.”

“I know that for you to work so hard, you’re either trying to prove yourself to someone or you came from a really hard life,” he stated and she paused. “I know you have a temper that rivals mine, and I know you’re stubborn as hell.”

“You’ve known me two weeks,” she whispered. “You can’t know that.”

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