Skye Madden sat in the holding cell along with her colleague, Barb Smith, at the Blue Piste Ski Resort in Aspen, Colorado.
“Don’t worry, they can’t actually do anything to us,” Barb said.
Skye had just taken a job as a photographer with a well-known gossip magazine and she was accompanying Barb to learn the ropes, as her boss called it. Learning the ropes meant figuring out how to dodge security at places like this exclusive resort in order to get shots of celebrities that would sell and sell well. But today, the dodging hadn’t quite worked out for them.
“They can arrest us for trespassing, Barb!”
“I wish they’d let me have a cigarette. You’d think we were hardened criminals.” Barb looked relaxed, leaning against the wall and picking her cuticle. She was in her mid forty’s and almost twice Skye’s age. She’d also been doing this for the last ten years so Skye imagined this wasn’t her first time to sit in a holding cell somewhere.
Well, it was Skye’s first time and it scared the hell out of her.
“Here we go,” Barb said when the door opened. Skye sat up and watched as two men entered, one looking down at a file, the other, directly at them. They were both big, at least 6’4”, and one wore a security uniform. The other had his head bowed down reading the file folder.
“Ah, we have the pleasure of meeting again, Ms. Smith,” he said, looking up into the cell.
Skye’s mouth fell open and her eyes grew wide while her heart beat at a speed that could neither be possible nor healthy. After all these years, it couldn’t be him. From the surprised look on his face, he was thinking exactly the same thing.
“Nice to see you again, Aidan,” Barb said in the most seductive way possible.
Barb’s voice suddenly grated on Skye’s nerves like fingernails down a chalkboard. Meanwhile, she watched Aidan Hastings. She hadn’t seen him in seven years, the man who had stolen that kiss the night before he had disappeared.
He quickly opened the other file he held. She imagined that was the one with the photo they took of her when they had brought her in, along with any personal information they’d learned about her in the meantime. It took him a moment to confirm before he returned his gaze to hers, his ice blue eyes focused wholly on her. It was just a moment, but in that moment, Skye’s belly somersaulted and she wasn’t sure if she wasn’t going to be sick at this unexpected reunion.
Aidan Hastings had been her brother Marc’s best friend throughout college and they’d even taken a semester off to travel through Europe together. That was a lot of years ago though and they’d lost touch some time back. It had seemed then that Aidan had dropped off the face of the earth after that night when he’d kissed her. It had been the eve of her eighteenth birthday on the back porch of her parent’s house. She just hadn’t expected that kiss to have such an impact on her and she certainly hadn’t realized he would disappear before they even had a chance to talk about it.
She thought she saw his throat work as he swallowed, but then he handed one of the files to the other man, and even though Aidan’s speech was directed at him, he kept his eyes on Skye the entire time. “Why don’t you talk to our friend Barb, Terrence, while I take Ms. Madden to my office.”
Skye gulped. To his office?
“You two know each other?” Barb asked, not one to miss things.
Skye cleared her throat and looked up at Barb, unsure how to answer, but she didn’t have to because Barb leaned down to quickly whisper in her ear while Terrence unlocked the door. “Don’t tell him anything, we have every right to be here. We bought lift tickets, remember.”
“Step aside, ma’am,” Terrence said to her.
“Skye,” Aidan called from the other side of the cell.
She looked up, absolutely unable to speak. She’d had a crush on Aidan Hastings for years, but she’d had a crush on a lot of her brother’s friends back then. She was twelve years younger than Marc, a surprise addition to the family in fact, and his friends were just always around and she’d always had a thing for older guys.
Aidan raised his eyebrows and gestured for her to come out of the cell. She cleared her throat and rose to her feet.
“I’ll see you later, kid,” Barb said.
“See you,” Skye uttered back, unsure what was going to happen, worried Aidan was going to arrest her. God, the embarrassment of such a thing! It was enough to make her want to cry. Hell, she’d been on the verge of tears since they’d been picked up by security an hour ago but hadn’t wanted to cry in front of Barb who acted like this was no big deal. But now, when she looked up at Aidan who studied her with a stern expression, her facade was on the verge of coming apart.
She lowered her gaze to her feet and when Aidan’s hand just touched her low back, she jumped.
“This way, Skye,” he said, his tone one of pure and undeniable authority.
She didn’t speak. In fact, she could hardly breathe. All she could think about was the feel of his big, warm hand on her back as he guided her down the hall and through another corridor to his office. Once inside, he pointed to the chair in front of the desk and told her to sit down. She did, seeing Barb’s camera on his desk along with their wallets and jackets.
She heard the water cooler gurgle and after a moment, Aidan set a tall glass of cold water on the desk in front of her.
“Thank you,” she said, having to clear her throat again as she reached for it, all the while watching him from beneath her lashes.
He took his time to hang up their jackets. Terrence had taken them before putting Barb and herself in the holding cell. Aidan then sat down, his elbows on the desk, his hands cupped beneath his chin, looking at her.
Silence was thick for what seemed like an eternity and Skye felt herself getting warmer and warmer as she grew more and more uncomfortable. She finally had to pull her heavy wool sweater over her head and remained sitting in the t-shirt she’d worn underneath the itchy, oversized sweater. It was either that or sit in a pool of sweat. When Aidan Hastings looked at her like that, her body reacted, only this time it wasn’t just a fluttering of her belly. No, it was more than that. This time, his expression told her she was in trouble.
“You’re about the last person I would expect to see in my holding cell, Skye.”
She looked up at him, wondering if she was supposed to answer that. Meanwhile, Aidan leaned back in his chair seeming completely relaxed. She took this moment to really look at him, see how he’d changed. And he had changed. He was no longer the fun loving jock friend of Marc’s. He looked older and much more serious, stern even. He’d be, Skye did the math quickly, about thirty-six now she guessed. He was eleven years her senior. His hair was still a thick, rich black but the scruff at his jaw was spotted with gray and his blue eyes held a hardness that she didn’t remember being there before.
Although when he looked at her, it wasn’t with hard eyes. She wondered if he could see the old emotions she’d been aware of but managed to keep hidden even from herself for the past seven years. It had been one kiss. It should never have meant as much as it had and it obviously hadn’t to him because after that night, he’d easily left without even a goodbye.
“How’s your family?” Aidan asked, watching the young and very nervous girl sitting across the desk from him. He’d known little Skye Madden for years. She was his one time best friend’s kid sister. He still remembered the last night he had seen her, how she’d looked up at him in the shadowy light of the moon while they’d stood on her parent’s back porch. He hadn’t planned what had happened but he had felt as though he had no choice but to do it, to kiss her, just that one time. But after he had, something had shifted for him. And if Marc had found out that Aidan had kissed his little sister, well, Marc would do what any overprotective big brother would do.
Aidan’s guilt had eaten at him for some time, but he’d managed to put it aside. He and Marc had lost touch, but after joining the FBI, Aidan had lost touch with everyone from his past. When he’d come home from that last job, he’d needed to separate himself even further. It was the only way he could be sure to keep them all safe.
“Mom and Dad are good,” she said after clearing her throat for the hundredth time. “Still living at the old house. Marc is married and has three kids.”
Kids. He’d wanted kids once.
He smiled at Skye. “I bet he’s a great dad,” he said.
“You know Marc, he’s like a kid himself,” she said, her pretty, almond shaped green eyes nervous as they just glanced at him, before long, dark lashes shielded them from his view. Pretty and still shy, but she’d grown up, little Skye Madden. He wondered if she thought about that night, about that stolen kiss.
Her eyes still sparkled though and he was glad to see that. Glad to see she had kept her innocence. His gaze traveled the rest of her face, the length of her body. Her skin was pale although a blush kept appearing and disappearing on her neck and cheeks and she kept biting her lips. If that wasn’t enough, the way she wrung her hands in her lap gave away how nervous she was.
“Tim and Joe are married too,” she said, speaking of her other two brothers. Marc was the eldest and from what he knew, Skye was a surprise addition to the family. A much loved one if not downright spoiled by her dad as his one and only daughter.
“And what about you?” he paused, not sure if he wanted to open that can of worms. He couldn’t help but note the fact that she wore no rings. But it was better to avoid the past. “What are you doing here with Barb Smith of all people?” he asked.
If he’d managed to put her at ease at any point, it was gone with that one question. Without giving her a chance to answer, he carried on. She was scared, he could see that, and maybe scared was a good way to be because if what he suspected was true, that she was working for the same tabloid as Barb Smith, she was going down the wrong path. What Barb did was expose people’s shame and it only caused pain. Skye wasn’t like her. Not the Skye he remembered anyway.
“You realize I can have you arrested for trespassing, right?” he asked, leaning toward her.
“I bought a lift ticket,” she quickly said. “I have a right to be here.”
“Did Barb coach you into saying that?”
She quickly shook her head but couldn’t hold his gaze. Aidan opened her file again and confirmed that she was, in fact, employed by the same tabloid.
“How long have you been working for that trash magazine?” He realized his mistake as soon as the words left his mouth because her expression changed and she grew defensive, almost rebellious.
“It’s not trash. We only report the truth.”
“M-hmm. And leave out the parts of the truth that don’t suit you.”
The look on her face told him she knew he was right. “I’m just a photographer. It’s a job in my field at least. Please don’t judge me.”
“I’m not judging you, Skye. I just think you’re better than that.”
“It pays the rent,” she said. Then, after a moment of hesitation, added: “for now.”
“There are other ways of paying the rent that don’t involve ruining people’s lives.”
She had no answer for that one.
“Do your parents know what you’re doing?”
“They know I’m a photographer.” She visibly grew agitated as she answered. “Why do you care anyway?” she asked, her tone turning just a little bitter.
It was his turn to look away. He nodded, and changed the subject back to the present.
“Did Barb tell you she would be arrested for trespassing if we caught her up here again?”
Skye looked at him, confused, but finally shook her head no.
“Well, we did. And if she’d had any photographs of our guests on her camera, she would be on her way to the local jail now. She got lucky this time, but I don’t want to talk about her anymore,” he said, rising to his feet and coming around the desk to perch at the end of it. “Look at me, Skye,” he said, folding his arms across his chest. “Skye,” he repeated, his tone more stern when she wouldn’t look up.
She turned her face up, her nervous eyes just barely meeting his.
“You’re a good girl. This isn’t the job for you and you know it.”
She stared up at him, that rebellious, defiant side of her rearing its head again. “You don’t know me,” she said. “And I’m not a kid anymore so don’t call me a girl.” This time, she held his gaze, the challenge clear. Perhaps he’d underestimated her.
He nodded. “All right, I suppose that’s fair.” He turned to pick up her wallet and opened it, taking out her driver’s license.
“Hey, you have no right to go through that!” She stood, trying to take the wallet from him.
Aidan looked at her, pulling the license just out of her reach before firmly taking hold of her arm. “Twenty-five,” he said before reading off her address, committing it to memory. He set the license down and turned to her, feeling the charge in the air between them as he closed that space.
She stopped struggling and pulled back just a little.
“You are a girl, Skye, and people like Barb Smith will take advantage of your naiveté.”
She narrowed her eyes and glared at him, only proving his point with that childish expression.
“Are you arresting me?” she asked, defiance marking her words.
“No, I’m not. But I am warning you. Don’t let me see you back on my mountain again as long as you’re working for that tabloid, is that clear?”
“I have a right to be here as long as I pay to use the facilities! What can you do?”
At that he chuckled before pulling her in tight, his face just inches from hers, his eyes boring into hers. Then, in one swift move, he tugged on her arm, pushing her up against the desk and bending her over it, just twisting one arm behind her, not painfully, but so there was no question as to who was in control of the situation.
“What can I do?” he asked, looking over her bent form, her small waist, the soft swell of her bottom.
Skye had stilled entirely. He wasn’t even sure she was breathing. She lay with her cheek on his desk watching Aidan from the corner of one eye. Aidan’s free hand just brushed over her back, fingertips barely touching yet the contact causing an almost electrical charge between them. He swallowed, his cock hardening as that hand traveled lower and over the rise of one hip. Skye sucked in a breath as he circled her buttock softly before laying his hand flat over it, gripping it harder, causing her to flinch when he did.
“I can do a lot of things, Skye,” he said, his voice quiet, his words well chosen and drawn out. “This is my mountain and I make the rules here. You want to know what I do to pretty little girls I catch doing something they’re not supposed to be doing?” he asked, not really waiting for a reply, realizing from the stiffening of her body how the words ‘little girl’ made her tense. “I take them over my knee, I bare their pretty little bottoms, and I spank them,” he said, delivering that final sentence in a near whisper at her ear.
Skye’s soft whimper satisfied him and after holding her for one more moment, he released her. Skye stood, stumbling backward, her face flushed, her eyes wide. She put as much distance between herself and him as she could, her eyes glued to his but otherwise seemingly unable to speak.
“Do you need a ride home?” he asked, breaking eye contact and casually moving back behind his desk. Truth was, he was more affected by this display than he could have imagined he would be.
“I have my car,” she said. She lived down in Denver so it was a good four-hour drive, but the weather was dry and the roads good. “Am I allowed to go?” Although her hand was on the doorknob, she didn’t turn it, waiting for permission instead.
Aidan looked at her, curious at that. He nodded, clearing his throat. “Terrence will see you and Barb out.”