Title: Venture Forward
Author: Kristen Luciani
Series: The Venture Series
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing
Raw. Cold. Detached. Domineering…
Paul Emerson lives life like he f*cks. It’s the only way to survive, to battle the demons forever lurking in his subconscious, to resist succumbing to the darkness that perpetually overshadows his existence. As a ruthless venture capitalist with an insatiable appetite for power and control, he has no tolerance for emotion or any tryst spanning more than a few hours. Feelings equate to weakness and weakness destroys livelihoods.
Driven. Focused. Bitter. Guilty…
Avery Hunter is tormented by what she can’t change, but letting go is never the preferred option. Her successes aren’t nearly enough to fill the gaping void in her heart and soul. No, revenge always begets satisfaction and fulfillment…except when it extinguishes the last source of brightness in her life. Karma is a bitch and irony is her evil twin sister.
Damaged. Rejected. Broken…
The woman who harbors and the man who resists. With so much baggage and even more angst, can their wounded souls finally find solace in one another? Or is their future happiness doomed to be ravaged by the lies and deceit that litter their pasts?
**Venture Forward is an Interconnected STANDALONE in The Venture Series. Each book features a different couple.**
He’d turned her down. He’d turned her down? What the fuck just happened? She’d been drunk, emotional, probably looking for her friend to comfort her. It was the right decision. Separating himself, when he knew damn well it wasn’t just physical, would be impossible. There was no shortage of excuses not to go and find her.
With a tightly clenched jaw, he launched a rock into the surf. Getting involved romantically guaranteed certain disaster. Hell, without even laying a finger on her, he’d managed to drive her away.
She was so fucking perfect. He couldn’t be the one to ruin her, but desire threatened to overshadow his sensibilities. Could she handle just one night? Could he?
The decision took a split second to make.
Inside the hotel, he approached the front-desk clerk, a guy who looked to be in his early twenties. “I need a room number.”
“Um, sir, I’m afraid I can’t disclose that information. There are privacy laws—”
Fuck the privacy laws. The kid was young, probably making ten dollars an hour behind that desk. Good, it would make his next bet a guaranteed winner. “I get all that. I’m not a crazy person or a stalker. I’ll make it worth your while.” He pulled a crisp hundred-dollar bill from his pocket and slapped it on the counter. “The room number please.”
The clerk’s jaw dropped, and he scouted the desolate lobby. No cameras, no guards to call him out on what he was about to do. “Jeez, um, yeah.” He dropped his voice. “Name?”
The clerk punched the keyboard and peered at the screen. “Room 613.”
Paul waited for the elevator, each passing second giving him pause. What was he going to say to her? That is, if she even answered the door. His stomach rolled at the possibility. Since when did he let a woman have this kind of effect on him? Rejection had never been a concern in the past, but what if he blew his chance?
The elevator painstakingly crept to the sixth floor.
He’d made a fortune off calculated risks. Paul Emerson didn’t run from uncertainty. But this was different. She was different. He didn’t give a damn about the faces behind his investments. If they tanked, he walked away, no lingering feelings, no regrets. Women were no different.
But that defense mechanism was a double-edged sword. It protected him and isolated him at the same time. Could he break down those walls? And what would happen once he’d let her in?
His mouth was drier than the Sahara by the time the doorknob finally turned. Avery’s glossy blonde hair hung loose around her shoulders, lithe body clad in a skimpy tank top and matching shorts. The sight of her pert breasts stretched against the thin fabric caused an intense throbbing in his groin, and he could think of nothing other than peeling her out of those clothes.
“Hey.” A deep flush stained her cheeks. “I’m really sorry about that, um, that whole thing before. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
“You didn’t. I shouldn’t have let you leave like that.” She was upset because of him. He had no business being there. Talking would just fuck everything up even more. Walk away now!But his legs refused to obey his mind.
“It’s okay. Entirely my fault. I shouldn’t have… I mean, I knew it would mess everything up.“
“It would.” He stepped closer, intoxicated by the sweet scent of her perfume. So captivating… he couldn’t fight it anymore. The barriers crumbled around him, leaving him open, exposed, and vulnerable for the first time in his life.
“I don’t want that to happen.” Her voice was barely a whisper.
“Me either.” He could almost taste her she was so close. His eyes refused to wander from her pained expression, even though the reality of what was looming scared the shit out of him.
Lust won out. He pulled her close until she was firmly wrapped in his embrace; their lips crushed together. Hot. Intense. Hungry. The tangy taste of peppermint enveloped his mouth. Her coiling tongue, so hot against his own, plunged deeper and with wanting, her throaty moan telling him exactly what he needed to know. She wanted this, too.
Avery wound her arms around his neck as they backed into the dimly lit suite. The blonde waves cascading down her back were so soft. His hands were forever lost in that thick mane as his lips trailed the supple skin of her neck. A soft mewl slipped through her swollen lips, the evidence of her pleasure causing his pants to strain against the growing bulge. All control was finally lost, and, for once in his life, he didn’t care. It felt too good, too right.
Her fingers fumbled with the buttons on his shirt, unable to free them fast enough for his liking. Every passing second was sheer torture. He ached to feel her hands somewhere else,anywhere else. Fuck it. He tore at the starched white fabric, buttons popped off and flew through the air.
Cerulean eyes fluttered open, her hooded gaze sending pangs straight to his swollen cock. Her lips curled into a seductive smile as she slid off the shirt. “Okay, my turn.”
Her breasts swelled against the tank top, beckoning him, begging to be touched. He pulled the slinky material over her head, letting it drop to the floor. Everything about her was perfect… so beautiful, so special. She’d wakened parts of his soul that had lain dormant for too long, unearthed the emotions he’d been so careful to keep secure. No, this wasn’t about sex at all. This was different. She was different. Her racing pulse matched his own as his hands molded her soft mounds, his tongue and teeth working the taut pink buds. Every squeal and moan intensified the ache deep within him, but it was such delicious torture. She’d almost slipped right through his fingers, and now that he had her, there was no way he’d let go. Closing the space between them, connecting on a level he’d never experienced — it was all that mattered now.
He looped his fingers into the waistband of her shorts and gently pushed them to the floor. The shreds of self-control that still remained diminished rapidly with each passing second. His tongue traced a path to her navel then lower, brushing the sensitive skin of her inner thighs, inching toward her damp opening. Desire flooded his eager mouth when her body quivered against him, her moans becoming full-fledged pleas for more.
The erection in his pants begged for release, but a little more self-inflicted torment wouldn’t kill him. This had to last. Who knew what would happen in the morning? No, he needed her tonight… all of her. His lips explored every square inch of her body while he tried to calm himself down, the sweet scent of vanilla taunting his nostrils with each breath he took.
“I want you, Paul.” The words, murmured against his ear, sent shivers straight back to his now raging erection. Her fingers fumbled with his belt buckle, finally freeing him. A jolt zipped through his swollen shaft at the intensity of her touch. Stroking, tugging, rubbing… the sensations coursing through him were almost too much to bear.
Coherent thoughts flew out the window. His mind was foggy, clouded with lust, dizzy with need. All focus was on Avery and the way she made him feel. Fuck worrying about tomorrow.He only cared about what was happening right then, and it was so much more incredible than he’d ever imagined. She was everything he needed but never knew he wanted.
Kristen Luciani is a self-proclaimed momtrepreneur with a penchant for Christian Louboutins, Silicon Valley, plunging necklines and grapefruit martinis. As a deep-rooted romantic who prefers juicy drama to fill the lives of anyone other than her, she tried her hand at creating a world of enchantment, sensuality, and intrigue, finally uncovering her true passion. No pun intended…