by RJ Layer
Lane Stanford, blindly driven by her influential father, has everything she wants, including power and status. She also believes she has everything she needs—no-strings flings with eager young women who like it when someone is in charge. She is utterly unprepared for the foundations of her rigid world to shake at the sight of beguiling blue eyes.
Ali Castle isn’t planning to be a waitress her entire life, but it’s a big step up from where she’s been. After an unforgettable night with the mysterious Lane, she wants to believe there could be more. But Lane has all the resources to discover Ali’s secrets.
A page-turning romance from RJ Layer, author of The Real Story!
Jeremy stood in the doorway, impatiently awaiting instruction while Lane listened to some nitwit contractor blather on about delays in having Judge Morrison, an acquaintance of her father’s, rescind a financial judgment imposed on him. This was the fourth time in as many hours she had summoned him to her office.
She cupped her hand over the mouthpiece. “Call my father and the restaurant and push dinner back an hour.” She tapped a perfectly manicured nail on the stack of papers in front of her. “I have to rule on this tomorrow morning.” She slowly rolled her eyes to the desk clock. “If I can get this insolent jackass off the phone, and please, Jeremy, no more calls.”
He started to leave, but stopped. “Don’t forget your date for drinks.”
She moved her hand back to cover the phone. “I guess you’re going to have to push that back too. Or—cancel?”
His head shook adamantly. “Oh, don’t you dare. If you don’t make this date, I quit.” He cocked his hip, dropping a hand on it.
She closed her eyes and expelled a long breath. “Fine, change it.” She waved her hand dismissively.
District Court Judge Elane Stanford, or Lane as most knew her, was one of a handful of judges in the city on the fast track for greater attainments. Actually, she’d been fast tracking for as long as she could remember.
Jeremy returned. “Everything’s been rescheduled for this evening. I’m out of here.” A curt nod was the only thank-you he received. “Please don’t forget your date later.” She raised her eyes from her papers to glare at him. “If you don’t get laid soon and release some of that…” he waved his hand dramatically, “I will cease to work for you.” She scowled at his retreating form.
When she heard the outer office door close, she squirmed in her chair. “Great,” she muttered. She hadn’t seen anyone in weeks, maybe a month. She couldn’t even recall the last one. She went back to the papers. After several more minutes, unable to concentrate, she got up and went to the closet adjacent to her private bathroom. She poured vodka into a short glass, added two olives and leaned against the mini-bar. Arms crossed over her chest, she held the glass poised to drink.
When she made herself do so, she recognized the building tension Jeremy had pointed out. Staying busy with work and other activities had kept her focused and usually kept her from thinking about it. She sipped her drink. Jeremy’s reminder had now put it front and center in her mind—or someplace a bit lower in her anatomy. She took another drink, but it couldn’t tamp down her building need. “Shit!” Returning the glass to the bar, she closed the door. There would be no concentrating on the damned brief now, she reasoned as she returned everything to the file and slipped it into her briefcase. She’d have to make it late night reading after, hopefully, someone released her pressure valve.
The maître d’ spotted Lane the moment she entered the Eclipse restaurant on the tenth floor of the KEM building and took her directly to the best table in the house, the one with the magnificent view of the Ohio River as it meandered along downtown Columbia’s waterfront. With great effort, her father stood as she approached, as did the man seated with him. Once the same height as Lane, her father now appeared shorter and frail for his relatively young age of sixty-six. Side by side in their dark power suits, they looked formidable. Weston resembled a pasty old Republican in Lane’s eyes, while her darker coloring, hair and eyes came from her mother’s Mediterranean roots.
She kissed his cheek and murmured, “Hi, Daddy,” making certain no one else heard the endearment.
He would never allow such things. After all, he was Weston Stanford III. He had a reputation to maintain as a former State of Ohio Supreme Court Justice. Health issues had forced him from the position he’d devoted his life to achieving. But he had Lane. She would follow in his footsteps. He was going to make sure of that. And if his influence held, he’d see her bring even more glory to the Stanford name—and help their state, which to his chagrin had helped put the first African American in the White House, return to a bright red hue.
He took her hands in his. “You look well.” His tone was gruff—he was a man of few words. He always told Lane as a child, “Say what you mean. Don’t pad your speech with a lot of words because you think it will make you sound intelligent. People respect directness. Say only what you expect or intend.” Growing up, she had never had reason to question his intelligence, expectations, intentions or power. She wanted to follow in his footsteps in every respect, including the lofty goal of becoming one of the youngest women to sit on a State Supreme Court. And beyond that…well, the sky was the limit.
He released her hands and waved a shaking, wrinkled one to the man beside him. “This is Thomas Beckman. His company is City Development.” Lane offered him a firm handshake. “My daughter, Judge Lane Stanford.”
The dinner was pleasant enough. They talked mostly about the business of developing areas that had fallen victim to a faltering economy, with Beckman explaining how profitable it could be to build in these areas if one could persuade city officials and committees to get banks and financial institutions to let the run-down real estate go for peanuts. They danced around the subject of politics very briefly. Lane knew the purpose of this introduction was for her to meet another powerful businessman in the city and a potential backer for her political aspirations.
After dinner Lane stood, offering another firm handshake.
Thomas Beckman said, “I’m sure our paths will cross again. It was very nice to meet you.”
Lane nodded, following her father’s simple advice. “And you.”
* * *
Randall was waiting across the street when she emerged at nine. “Where to, ma’am?”
“Home,” she sighed. “I’m calling it a night.”
“Very well, ma’am.”
Randall had been driving her for nearly six months. She debated trying to break him of the “ma’am” habit, but decided it was an improbability. He was about her father’s age and undoubtedly raised to be respectful. As long as he continued to be discreet, something paramount in her drivers, she’d live with his habit.
A moment later her phone rang. She answered tersely. “I’m on my way now.”
“I have a life too, you know? You should be here already,” Jeremy huffed.
“I’m only fifteen minutes away. Keep your pants on.”
“Being late does not make a good first impression.”
Sometimes you are such a drama queen. “Please pass an apology along to my guest. You can leave. It’s not as though there’s china or crystal to steal. I think I’m capable of making a simple introduction and lasting first impression.”
She rode the elevator up to the eighth-floor penthouse, quickly changing into a casual pair of slacks and blouse. She removed her hair clip, shaking her head to let her hair fall loosely to her shoulders, and took the back stairs to the fifth floor, entering through the rear door. Her “date” was comfortably seated on the couch. Lane paused to take in the red hair and milky white skin—and the breasts nearly spilling over the top of her tight dress. She took another moment to mentally undress the woman before stepping into the room.
“I’m sorry you had to wait. I had this other thing.” She hooked her thumb over her shoulder. From behind the bar she gave the woman her most engaging smile. “Can I freshen up your drink?”
She raised her champagne flute. “I’m fine, thank you.”
Indeed you are, Lane thought, pouring her own drink. “I hope Jeremy took care of you before he left.”
The woman offered a dazzling smile. “He did. He’s such a charming young man.”
“That he is.” But only with other people. Settling on the couch, Lane extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Renee.”
The redhead slipped her delicate hand into Lane’s. “Caroline. Jeremy told me you were very attractive and I would enjoy meeting you.” She had a sexy smile. “So far, I’d say he’s right…”
“I’m flattered you think so. And you are…” Lane lightly rubbed her thumb over the back of Caroline’s hand, “quite a beauty.”
Blushing slightly, Caroline took a quick sip of champagne. When Lane sat back, Caroline too eased back into the cushions. “I’d like you to know right off that I don’t do blind dates. But Jeremy said I just had to meet his dear friend.” She laughed lightly. “Well, I’m sure you know how he is…you’re friends. He can be quite convincing.”
Lane didn’t think that “convincing” was a word she’d use to describe Jeremy. Pushy, overbearing, maybe, and plain annoying at times, but not convincing. She pasted on her best social smile. “I don’t make a habit of blind dates either.” Because I always know exactly why I’m meeting a stranger.
“Well, I don’t think I’m going to regret taking Jeremy’s word.”
Lane hid a smirk behind her drink glass. The beautiful redhead was not going to regret a single second they were about to spend together. “So, Caroline, tell me about yourself? What do you do for a living?”
Caroline, it turned out, was a loan officer at one of the city’s larger bank chains. Her enthusiastic attitude gave Lane a good feeling about working out a “transaction” with her before the evening ended.
As usual, she spent a significant portion of the evening deflecting questions about herself, sharing only that she worked in the legal field, which was “boring,” and that a lot of what she did couldn’t be discussed outside of work. In the midst of half-truths, it was a factual statement.
Every time Caroline attempted to steer the conversation to Lane, she turned it right back. As a former prosecutor, Lane was an expert at getting people to confess things they vowed to never reveal. Her years on the other side of the bench paid off for her not only at work but also when it came to finessing women.
“What’s your favorite thing to do strictly for pleasure?”
Caroline stared off. “Oh…probably walking arm in arm with some attractive someone along the river walk downtown, taking in all the night lights.” She looked at Lane. “What about you?”
Lane knew her lines by heart. “Sharing the company of a beautiful woman.”
Caroline gazed into Lane’s eyes, her lips curving into a sexy smile. “Do you play?” Lane’s own lips curled as one brow lifted. Caroline looked past her. “The piano.”
Lane followed her gaze to the baby grand tucked in the corner of the room by the bar. “No, I never learned.”
She had wanted to as a child. If her mother had lived, she certainly would have had the opportunity to try, but Weston the Third was intent on seeing to it that his only child followed in his footsteps. “You’ve got to do something with your life that will make a difference,” he said, and he had pushed her to pursue law as a career. She slowly returned her gaze to Caroline, realizing suddenly that she had scooted closer.
“That’s a shame, because I can picture you perfectly at those ivory keys.”
“Yes, well, I have it here for when I entertain. I know several people who play…” She glanced at the piano again, recalling a particular musician—a woman in town with a visiting orchestra—if not her name. She’d sprawled across the piano’s massive ebony black surface, begging Lane to make her come. In turn, she had offered Lane a demonstration of what talented, nimble fingers could do when someone was as well acquainted with the female anatomy as the keyboard. That had been more than a year ago.
Caroline’s voice brought her back to the present. “Perhaps you’ll entertain me here sometime.” The smile that transformed the redheaded beauty’s face made Lane wet with desire.
Lane moved her hand under Caroline’s hair. She brushed her fingers lightly over the back of her neck and offered her own “I want you” smile. “I can be quite entertaining when I put my mind to it.” When Caroline slipped her hand onto Lane’s thigh, she pulled her to her lips. After the briefest of kisses, Lane leaned back slightly. “I hope I’m not overstepping.”
Caroline’s head shook very slowly. “I’ve been hoping you’d kiss me since you walked in.”
Lane pulled them together again for a kiss that was all hunger and want. She needed to release the pressure that’d been building for weeks. When Caroline began unbuttoning her blouse, Lane stopped her. She wouldn’t need to be naked to get off tonight.
Lane ended the fiery kiss. “Why don’t you slip that dress up a bit and sit here…” She patted her thighs.
Lust filling her eyes, Caroline stood, hiking the bottom of the dress to her hips before straddling Lane’s lap. Lane caught a glimpse of black lace under the tight-fitting dress. When Caroline leaned in to kiss her, the sweet taste of her lips triggered Lane’s need for more. She expertly worked the dress above her hips so the only thing between her and Caroline’s desire was the thin lace. Brushing her fingers over it lightly, she felt the warm moisture. A tiny moan escaped Caroline. She stroked gently until Caroline’s hips began to rock.
Caroline pulled away, leaning her head against the back of the couch and groaned, “Please, touch me.”
And as if her only purpose in life was to answer the desperate pleas of beautiful, sexy women, Lane pushed the lace aside and slipped her fingers through the silky wetness coating Caroline’s sex.
Caroline’s hips bucked. “Oh, God,” she pushed harder against Lane’s fingers, “that feels…oh…yes…that feels soooo…good.”
Placing kisses down Caroline’s neck and across her shoulder, Lane murmured, “You feel amazing.” Her fingertips played at Caroline’s opening.
Caroline growled, “Oh, please…Renee…fuck me.” She pressed down on Lane’s fingers.
Lane thought she might come on the spot. She would be wonderful in the bed, she thought, as she kept rhythm with Caroline’s hips.
She gasped, “Oh…oh…,” and tightened around Lane’s fingers.
Lane rested her head against Caroline’s ample breasts.
Caroline gave one last thrust before her body shook with spasms. “Oh…yes…” She gasped for breath as Lane placed delicate kisses on the tops of her exposed breasts. “Yes…yes…”
Lane held tight around her hips with one arm. “That,” she lightly kissed her way up her neck, “was simply wonderful.”
“You are an amazing lover.” Caroline still pulsed around Lane’s fingers. She whispered on labored breath, “I want you.”
When she tried to move, Lane stopped her, “I’m not done with you.” And with that, Lane moved to lay Caroline back on the couch without withdrawing from her.
Caroline offered a weak protest. “I’m not sure I can—”
“Believe me, darling, you can. Let me show you.” Lane’s lips worked slowly down the column of Caroline’s neck. When she reached her breasts, she pulled the dress down off one of Caroline’s shoulders to expose her breast completely. She sucked and tugged at the nipple, eliciting a hungry moan from Caroline, who tightened once again around Lane’s fingers. Lane moved down her body, pushing the panties down her thighs and finally touched the tip of her tongue to Caroline’s center.
“Oh—God,” Caroline groaned while threading her fingers into Lane’s hair and pushing her face hard against her.
Lane slowly retracted her fingers, replacing them with her tongue, forcing Caroline’s hips off the couch. Lane positioned her arm across her hips to anchor her while she expertly tortured Caroline with her mouth and tongue.
“Oh, God, Renee…you’re going to make me…oh…I’m going to…oooh…” Caroline shuddered through another orgasm and lay panting, her body still humming as Lane moved up to straddle her leg. She kissed and nuzzled Caroline’s neck, coming quietly, without breathless words or writhing limbs. She bowed her head, savoring the feeling. Lane was rejuvenated.
“Can I get you another drink?” she asked after another moment.
“But you haven’t…” Caroline tightened her legs around Lane’s thigh. “I want to make you come too.”
Lane gently pushed herself up. “I am more than satisfied.” She touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. Settling her eyes on the curly triangle between Caroline’s legs, she added, “Believe me.”
Under Lane’s admiring gaze, Caroline slipped her lacy panties up, wiggled her dress hem down past her crotch and pushed into a sitting position. “You are the least selfish woman I’ve ever met.”
Lane gave a smile. “Please don’t tell anyone. I have a reputation I’d like to maintain.” She stood and made her way behind the bar.
Caroline rose, tugging her dress back into place over her shoulders. Setting her empty champagne flute on the bar’s highly polished wood surface, she said, “I can have only a sip, then I really must head out. I have an early day tomorrow.”
Lane glanced at the clock. It was approaching eleven. She was reminded of the brief she needed to finish for her morning’s court appearance. “Perhaps we can plan an actual date for the next time.” Caroline smiled. “You know, dinner first and all the appropriate foreplay.” Lane leaned forward. “I would like to see you again.”
When Caroline leaned over the bar toward her, Lane thought her breasts might fall out of the top of her dress onto it. Caroline’s mouth curved into a sultry smile. “I’d like that very much.”
Lane leaned her arms on the bar, keeping her eyes riveted on the beautiful redhead. Yes, she would definitely see her again.
The kiss at the door was brief. “The doorman will hail you a cab if you need one.”
“I have my own car, so…”
“Jeremy has your number?” Caroline nodded her response. “You can expect a call.” When Caroline stood a moment too long, Lane planted another quick kiss on her lips. “I will call you.” Finally taking Lane at her word, Caroline left.
After depositing their glasses in the dishwasher, Lane hurried up the stairs to the penthouse. She figured she would never be too old for this life as long as she could make the three-floor climb. Pouring herself another drink, she slipped into comfortable silk pajamas and into bed. She flipped open the brief and got to work.
* * *