Tied to the Tycoon

By: Chloe Cox

She shivered.

The most infuriating thing about Jackson’s offer was that it had shown her how much she was missing. The thing was, not finding anyone she could trust meant that Ava hadn’t been able to be fully herself—ever. She couldn’t fully be herself at her job, she couldn’t fully be herself with her family, she didn’t even feel like she could share her painting anymore, which she did in secret in a tiny little second bedroom in her apartment. But this was something there was no outlet for. This was sex. And the kind of sex where she definitely needed someone else to be there.

And it hadn’t been an offer so much as an order.

Which was damn sexy.

And he’d called her Frida.

“Damn it!”

She plopped onto her bed, her comfy pajama pants still half around her ankles. She was always telling Ellie not to fight who she really was, and yet Ava had been doing that for ten years. At least. She was still doing it. The universe had gone ahead and plonked the best man she’d ever known in her lap, and he had told her he wanted to fulfill all of her fantasies for a week, and her reaction was…to freak out? Who does that?

Maybe she was just rationalizing the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about him, that she felt an inescapable pull whenever she remembered his hands on her body, as though there were an invisible cord that tied her to him. Maybe it was that she’d never wanted anyone so badly in her entire life. Maybe it was that he’d said that she belonged to him.

She knew from experience what it meant to trust Jackson Reed with her heart, and she wasn’t about to do that again. But she’d never had the chance to trust him with her body. Until now.

It was almost like she didn’t have a choice.

It’s ok, Ava. No strings. Just sex.

She grabbed her running shoes, coat, and purse, and ran out the door before she could change her mind.

chapter 4

Jackson Reed did his five-hundredth sit-up, lay back, sweating, and waited.


It hadn’t worked. He’d had at most a moment’s respite before his dick demanded access to a woman who wasn’t there. He’d been like this all goddamn night, ever since he’d left Ava Barnett breathing hard in an empty room.

He flipped over and punched out quick twenty chest-to-deck push-ups, then switched to one-handed when the burn wasn’t enough. Might never be enough. It was out of character for Jackson to vacillate like this—or at least it had been for a long time. Realizing how damaged Ava had been had thrown him. He’d hurt her more than he’d known, years ago, and then he might have done it again tonight by pushing her. Jackson worked hard not to be a man who hurt people, not to be a man who pushed people past where they ought to go just to show he could. Not to be a bully, not to be...

He worked very hard not to be like him.

The idea that he’d become what he feared in the very process of trying to become the opposite, like some stupid Greek myth, angered him.

Where the hell is she? he thought, sitting up, the sweat dripping down his chest. He was sure she’d come—as sure as he’d ever been of anything. They still had that connection. He’d seen it in her eyes when she came all over his hand.

He felt himself getting hard again, and groaned.

The thought of her, any thought of her, was enough to get him going. She’d tripped some wire, set off some sort of damn fuse left over from ancient history, and now he was like a caged bull.

It made it hard to think. And Jackson had a lot to think about.

He had to think about how much he didn’t know about Ava Barnett. He was willing to bet he knew more than most—maybe more than anyone, the way she kept herself closed up tight. But that didn’t mean much. He knew she must have been rubbed raw already, even more so than he’d thought, a woman who’d already been battered by the world, or maybe just some of the people in it. She had to be, if the one metaphorical blow from Jackson that stupid night was enough to knock her out for the count for ten years.

He thought back and tried to remember details from the late nights they’d stayed up after studio sessions for their shared art class. Details were hard. He remembered the vague outlines of a relationship that went bad for her just before she’d transferred in at the beginning of senior year, a relationship she’d never wanted to talk much about. And he remembered the way she had mostly changed the subject whenever anyone had brought up family, but half the time, Jackson’d been right behind her, no more eager to talk about his family than she had been to talk about hers. And they were both scholarship kids, both of them working outside of class. But it was difficult to recall the hard facts of her life before him, because that’s not how he thought of her. She wasn’t a dry biography or a cold psychological profile. Every time something useful started to float to the surface, there’d be something else, something of far more interest. Her laugh, or the way she smirked at him at a party, sharing some private joke. The look she got on her face when she was listening to someone else’s problems, like there was nothing more important in the world than whatever was making her friend sad. All those things you notice when you’re in love.

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