Breathless Trilogy

By: Maya Banks


“Mia, the doorman just buzzed to say a car is here for you,” Caroline called from the other room.

Mia’s breath hiccupped, and she reached for the contract that was lying beside where she sat on the edge of the bed. It was slightly rumpled and was showing signs of wear for all the times she’d read over it.

She’d memorized every word of it, and it played over and over in her mind. Along with it, images fired by her imagination. Of her and Gabe together. Him controlling and possessing her. Owning her.

Shoving it into her purse, she stood and hurried to her dresser to look in the mirror one last time. She showed signs of little sleep. There were dark smudges under her eyes that makeup couldn’t disguise. Her color was off as well. Even her hair had refused to respond and had a rumpled look to it.

There was little to do now except go.

Taking a deep breath, she left her bedroom and walked through the living room toward the door.

“Mia, wait!” Caroline said as she ran to where Mia held the door open.

Caroline hugged her tightly and then stood back, her hand going to push Mia’s hair behind her ear.

“Good luck, okay? You’ve not been yourself this entire weekend. If it’s stressing you out this much, don’t do it.”

Mia smiled. “Thanks, Caro. Love you.”

Caroline made an exaggerated smacking sound with her lips as Mia turned and left.

When she left the building, the doorman opened the car door for her and ushered her inside. Mia leaned back against the comfortable leather seat and closed her eyes as the car pulled away, heading from her apartment on the Upper West Side to Midtown, where the HCM building was located.

Her brother, Jace, had called her the day before, and she felt terribly guilty about keeping this from him. He’d apologized for missing her at the grand opening and told her that if he’d known she was coming he would have made certain he was there.

The two had talked for half an hour. Jace had asked how things were with her and then told her he was going to be in California with Ash for the next several days. They’d made a date to spend an evening together when he returned and then she’d rung off, melancholy descending, because she and Jace were close. She’d never hesitated to share anything with him. He’d always been there, willing to listen and offer comfort even through her girly teenage-angst years. She couldn’t ask for a better big brother, and now she was keeping secrets—huge secrets—from him.

She barely tuned in to the drive, the typical stop and go of traffic, until the car stopped some time later.

“We’ve arrived, Miss Crestwell.”

Her eyes flew open and squinted against the wash of the bright autumn sun. They were indeed just outside the HCM building. The driver had already gotten out to go around and open her door for her. She rubbed her hands over her face in an attempt to revive her dulled senses and then she stepped out, a cool breeze ruffling her hair.

Once again she found herself walking into the building and riding the elevator up to the forty-second floor. There was some serious déjà vu going on. Same butterflies. Same sweaty palms. Same attack of nerves. Only there was more panic involved because this time she knew what he wanted. Knew exactly what she’d be getting into if she agreed to this.

When she entered the reception area, Eleanor looked up and smiled and then said, “Mr. Hamilton says you’re to go straight back.”

“Thank you, Eleanor,” Mia murmured as she headed past Eleanor’s desk.

Gabe’s door was open when she arrived. She hesitated just outside and stared in to where he stood, hands in his pockets, staring out the large window overlooking the Manhattan skyline.

He was gorgeous. Beautiful to look at. Even relaxed there was so much raw power emanating from him. She was suddenly struck by why she was so drawn to him—or at least one of the many reasons. She felt safe with him. Just being near him gave her a measure of comfort. She felt secure and…protected.

In essence, the relationship he’d proposed would provide her with all of those things. Safety. Security. Comfort. Protection. He’d guaranteed all of those things. All she had to do was agree to cede ultimate power to him.