The Things You Do To Me
USA Today Best-selling Author, Sydney Holmes, brings you a smoking-hot contemporary romance series that will keep you up all night!
“The Knight Skies series will burn you up from the inside out.”
The Things You Do To Me (Knight Skies Book One)
Stress, humiliation, worry, anxiety- this is what her life has become. Kiera Rockwell had everything she ever wanted in life: a great job selling luxury real estate, a cottage by the sea, and a sports car just for fun – but somehow it all just added up to nothing.
Start a new project, they said. The higher the risk, the bigger the reward, they said. While her real estate career was slowly killing her, flipping spec homes seemed like the perfect way to re-engage in her career while using her skills and contacts. So far it had only amounted to a whole lot of debt, stress, and humiliation. What she hadn't counted on was AJ Knight. Not only is Knight Construction the hottest construction company in town (a good choice for her project), but turns out AJ is one sexy contractor. And, as hard as she tries, she can’t seem to get over his good looks and act like her normal, smart, articulate, competent self around him.
AJ Knight has poured his heart and soul into his construction business, earning him a top spot in the Steamy Falls building boom. No one in the business would guess that the uber-sexy contractor spent the last few years nursing a broken heart.
On the outside, Kiera represents everything AJ has been trying to avoid since his break-up two years ago. Not only does she appear shallow, scattered, and barley able to put three sentences together, there is just something about her that rubs him the wrong way. However, AJ can’t seem to stay away from her and the longer they work together, the more AJ learns that Kiera may not be the woman he first thought. Sparks start to fly, but can they get past their own insecurities and stubborn perceptions to see each other for who they really are?
Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, Kiera peeled her eyes from the spreadsheet in front of her long enough to take another sip of coffee. The predawn light spilled into her tiny living room, filling the space with a purple and grey hue. Too early to be awake, she shivered and wrapped her hands around her warm mug.
Maybe a walk on the beach would help clear her head. This early, no one would be out; just some early morning surfers hitting the waves before the start of their work days. It might be just the thing she needed to quell the panic rising in her gut. She knew putting her life savings on the line wouldn’t be a cake walk, but she’d had no idea just how the stress would manifest itself.
Torn between wanting to shrink into a ball and chastising herself for her behavior of late, she shivered once again and looked out her window. She could see the large oak trees in her yard, and knew that if she opened her window she’d be able to hear the waves crashing nearby. Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to the numbers spread out on her table.
This project meant too much to her to let some silly crush ruin her dreams. As a real estate agent, she had seen firsthand how much money there was in flipping houses, and this was her chance to jump on that bandwagon. She was done playing the real estate game, and needed a change. She knew how to flip a house, knew how to follow a budget, how to file for permits, who to hire, how to stage a home to sell at maximum value – she had this in the bag. All she had to do was pull her head out of her ass and stop acting like a class-one idiot around her contractor. At first she thought it was brilliant to hire the sexy contractor she had been dreaming about, but two weeks in she knew it was a fatal error. She needed this to work, she needed to be the adept businesswoman she knew she was - she couldn’t keep doing what she was doing. Although she was good at selling and buying real estate, she knew she couldn’t keep up the facade it took to maintain her real estate career, and worried that it was only a matter of time before she was going to completely lose her shit with one of her clients or another agent.
She hated the game, hated the uppity clients, and the fake enthusiastic greetings. In the beginning, it was tolerable – she figured it was a small price to pay for the money it brought in. Some days she actually liked it, but the longer she stayed in the business, the more people she worked with, the more deals she did with other agents, the more houses she toured, she knew she wasn’t going to last.
Moving away seemed extreme; she had grown up in the area and knew what a paradise it could be. Besides, she wanted to use her contacts to start something here in Steamy Falls. She knew of other agents and builders making tons of money flipping houses, buying cheap, run-down, distressed properties and remodeling them. Her plan was to work with investors until her portfolio was strong enough to set out on her own, hire the best contractors, and track every damn penny that went out the door. She’d still be in real estate, but she would only have to sell her own houses, for that she could play the game, walk the walk, talk the talk.
Kiera wanted total control of her own destiny. She had learned fast that selling real estate was precarious, and she needed to save at least fifty percent of her income just to keep herself afloat when the winds shifted and her clients changed their minds. Glancing back at the spreadsheet, she realized that her safety net would soon be zero, even if everything stayed on track – and what construction project stayed on track?
Taking another sip of coffee, she looked out her window again. The purple hues had faded as the yellow and orange light fought to break through the thick marine layer. Maybe a run would be better than a walk. It would certainly warm her up, and hopefully calm her nerves. Her contractor was losing faith in her – she could tell. And she couldn’t blame him; every time she was around him, she acted like a fool.
She couldn’t think straight around him, couldn’t finish her sentences, and ended up just nodding her head in agreement with a stupid smile on her face. She had a responsibility not to act like a nitwit. It wasn’t just her life savings on the line; it was Anderson’s money as well. When he first suggested they use AJ as the general contractor, she almost leapt for joy. Now she mourned the day.
How many nights had she spent dreaming about the aloof, sexy contractor? How many times had she tried to get his attention by showing clients homes near where he was working? All for nothing; the man hadn’t known she existed. This project was not only the start of her new career, but her introduction to AJ. The man was a walking sex god; the way he moved, his rich deep voice, his olive skin and thick dark hair, his amazing chocolate eyes that pierced her soul.
But every time she opened her mouth around him, she sounded like a high school girl. She giggled – ugh. She couldn’t make up her mind, couldn’t form a thought, have an opinion, or simply act like a competent adult. She was disgusted with herself.
Pulling on her running gear, she vowed that the madness would stop. As of right now, she would no longer be a giggly, tongue-tied girl. From this moment forward, she would be the woman, large and in charge, that she really was. Tying her shoes, she squared her shoulders. “You are in charge of this project,” she stated to the empty room. Filling her water bottle, she almost shouted, “You are not intimidated by AJ.” Strapping on her runner’s belt, she chastised herself, “AJ is just a man. He is not interested in you, nor will he ever be – so get over it and grow up.”
Fully geared up, pep talk over, she stepped outside and let the cool air fill her lungs. Today was the first day of the rest of her life, and she was taking back control – she needed this project to work more than the oxygen filling her lungs. No more screwing around; this was her life she was messing up. Time to get serious.
You’d have to be a blind man not to notice Kiera Rockwell, but after two weeks working side by side with her, AJ found that beauty ran only so deep. Most men, he observed, turned into gentlemen, opening doors for her and calling her ma’am, hoping that their charms would be rewarded with that killer smile of hers or maybe even a head toss. Not Antonio Jackson Knight.
It wasn’t that he didn’t find her just as physically attractive as the next guy. He noticed her perfect ass and her perky tits at their first meeting when Anderson introduced them. But after two weeks of meetings, he just wasn’t sure about her. He was thrilled to be hired by her investor – he needed the business and the contacts for sure – and after asking around, he thought working with Kiera would be easy. She was a successful real estate agent, respected by her peers as a savvy businesswoman, but he was having a hard time reconciling what he had heard with the giggly, un-opinionated woman who showed up on his job site every day.
As he sat in his truck, he scrubbed his face and blew out a long breath when he saw her shiny black Audi TT pull up to the house, not her larger luxury SUV she often showed up in. And that was another thing about her that he found odd; who drives two cars as a single woman? The fact that Kiera found it necessary to own two cars just baffled the mind. She baffled his mind. She was beautiful, attractive as hell and, from a distance, seemed highly intelligent – but up close, not so much.
Still, he watched as she slipped her long legs out of her fancy car. Of course she was wearing a tight, short skirt today and, as she got out of her car and bent over to gather her stuff, he got a nice view of her firm, round ass. His dick twitched to attention as she bent at the waist, jutting her hips into the air. Visions of mounting her flew in his head and he felt his blood rush south, making his dick twitch again. That was the other thing about the woman; no matter how annoyed he got with her, he could never shake his attraction to her. The woman was a walking contradiction.
“Easy,” he said out loud, and then laughed. Christ, the woman was making him talk to his own dick now.
She gathered her stuff and slung her bag over her shoulder. She was wearing a sheer white blouse that gave him just a peak of her enticing skin and the white lace bra covering her perky breasts. With perfect posture and a long stride, she crossed the street. A groan slipped out of AJ’s mouth; even her tits were standing at attention. Who has perfect posture like that? As if concentrating around her wasn’t hard enough, he now had a perfect view of what lay underneath her blouse, thanks to the sun shining behind her.
She reached the door and knelt down to open the lockbox with her e-key. He watched with rapt attention as her skirt slid up her toned thigh. Once she disappeared inside the house, he shook his head, trying to clear his pornographic thoughts. He knew they were just temporary – he knew there was one steadfast way to correct his line of thinking. He just needed to get out of the damn truck and start talking to her.
“Let’s do this,” he grumbled to no one.
Walking in the front door, he noticed that she was still standing in the entrance.
“Good morning, AJ. Nice of you to join us on this fine day,” her voice slithered down the back of his spine in a rush, bringing more blood down to his groin.
Goddamn, AJ needed to change the trajectory of his thoughts. “I don’t see this as a good morning.” He grimaced as he realized he said that out loud.
She paused and looked at him, tilting her head just slightly to the right before laughing, “Someone’s a little grumpy this morning, huh? Should I have brought some coffee?”
“You have no idea.” He moved farther into the house, hoping some distance would quell his overwhelming desire.
“I’ll note that in the file: Contractor not a morning person. Needs coffee if meeting early.”
She followed him, talking to him; always talking to him. The house wasn’t as bad as he thought it was going to be. It had nice bones, but the layout was all wrong. Small rooms cut up the floor plan, creating an almost maze-like effect.
“Anderson and I were thinking that the second story will really open the downstairs, maybe add another bedroom as well, and extra living space.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said. What was wrong with him this morning?
He needed her to leave him at the house. Alone. He needed to think, and there was no thinking with her this close to him. AJ glanced around the old-style kitchen and noted, with disdain, that the tile grout was green. God, the seventies were a hideous decade.
“I know, right? Green grout – just wow, and the black and white bathroom; they went with white tile and black grout.”
She was suddenly behind him, and he inhaled her perfume mixed with her spicy scent. The smell was intoxicating, and he had to stop himself from leaning into her, to surround himself with it. He felt her breath on his neck, and his dick instantly got hard. Alarm bells rang loud and clear in his head, but his lower half seemed to have a mind of its own. Before he could stop himself, he turned toward her, craving her touch, her smell.
Goddamn it! He couldn’t go there with her.
“Do you mind?” he grouched at her. “You’re in my personal space here.”
She moved back and sashayed her way back toward the front of the house. “Sure thing, Mr. Knight; I’ll give you all the space you need.”
He waited a beat and then heard the front door slam.
Smooth, Kiera, real smooth. That did not go as she’d planned. She was fuming – the first time she wasn’t a starry-eyed, admiring female, he gets pissed and kicks her out of her own project? Okay, he didn’t really kick her out, and she might have been a little too close to him, but she couldn’t stop herself. He was right there, his smell luring her in, closer and closer until she was surrounded by his intoxicating scent.
Kiera marched to her car, her blood boiling, humiliation running hot through her veins. Her head swam as the adrenaline dissipated. When she reached her car, she decided she would give Antonio Jackson Knight all the space he needed and work in her car. Reaching for her bag, her heart sank. It was in the house.
Pacing on the street for a few minutes while her blood pressure returned to a somewhat normal rate, she glanced over at his truck; dark brown and chrome with silver trim just sitting there, tempting her. Goddamn truck is so freaking hot, with its slick lines and dark color, as if advertising a darker side of AJ himself. All the other contractors in this area drove white trucks. Of course, his would be the black one in the herd of nondescript white sheep.
At the moment, though, she wasn’t sure what was hotter: the truck or the driver. That damn driver, with his tenor smooth voice, dark skin, and muscles. Muscles everywhere. And that ass; she could have wet dreams about his ass alone. Her heart raced again, this time leaving her feeling even more light-headed than before.
Why do the good looking ones always have to be such assholes? In this case, the better looking, the bigger the asshole. He doesn’t just walk, he struts; with each step promising a new sexual experience. His shoulders were wide and muscular, his trim waist accentuating his thick muscular legs. But screw him! She was not going to think about any of that anymore. Two weeks of her subservient behavior was now biting her in the ass. She was in charge of this project – this was her project – he was the hired contractor. She wasn’t waiting in the freaking car so he could have the house to himself. No way!
Turning and marching back into the house, she burst through the front door. It felt empty; no sound greeted her as she stood at the entrance. Guessing he was out back, she made her way to the kitchen and started gathering her stuff. She had a contract to read and some disclosures to go through.
The sound of the back door opening startled her, making her drop her papers on the floor. She heard him come in, and leaned down to scoop up the paperwork. Standing as quickly as she could, hoping to have the mess cleaned up before he came back in the room, her head began to swim and the room tilted as she stood.
“You okay?” She heard his voice, but it sounded so far away.
Her body felt as if it was floating, the papers slipped out of her hand, darkness covered her eyes, and the room spun as she faded inside of herself. Soon she felt as if she was in the clouds, or the most comfortable bed ever made. His warm hands were on her. They felt amazing, waking up nerve endings over her entire body. Heat spread from his touch to her legs and her stomach. Her hips surged up, begging for more as she felt his rough hands slide up her ribs and under her shirt.
What an exquisite dream. How she got here, she had no idea, but she never wanted to leave. Moaning slightly, her hands reached out to find his; she needed to feel them, to guide them to her legs, her inner thighs, to all of the places screaming for his touch. How many times had she had this dream? But this time, the warmth of his skin and the rough texture of his hands seemed so real, so magnified, igniting a fire of desire deep inside of her.
“Kiera.” She could hear his voice, still so far away. It was always his voice in her dreams.
“It’s okay, AJ. It’s just a dream.” Even in her dream he was hesitant. It was her dream, damn it; he should be ripping off her clothes and taking her on this bed.
“Kiera, wake up. Jesus, you’re scaring the fuck out of me,” AJ’s voice was urgent.
Reaching out again, this time finding his hand right away, she slid it down across her stomach, pushing it to her very center. A growl made its way to her ears, but she didn’t know if it was from her or him. She was burning up, the heat overwhelming her, turning her core to liquid. Her hips moved up to guide his hand exactly where she needed him most.
“Kiera!” he shouted, and her eyes flew open.
She was not on a bed. She was, in fact, on the floor of this dreaded house. The look on AJ’s face was one of shock and wonder, not desire and heat. His hands were, however, hovering just over her elevated pelvis. Reality crashed in; her hips slammed back down on the hard floor.
Oh. My. God. What the hell did she just do?
Sitting up, she pushed him away. Adrenaline surged in her veins as she looked around, taking in her surroundings once more. He was watching her as if she was a wild animal.
“Kiera,” he said again, crouching on his feet, ready to spring away from her at any moment. “Are you with me now?” He was holding his hands in the air, a gesture of innocence, his olive skin teasing her yet again.
Gasping to catch her breath, she looked around. Jesus. That wasn’t a dream, but this was a nightmare. Trying to speak, she opened her mouth, but nothing came out. What could she say anyway? Sorry I just tried to get you to molest me? Sorry I just admitted that I dream about you?
“Did I say anything when I was out?” she asked him, desperately trying to put all the pieces together.
He sat back on his heels and dropped his hands. “Um, nothing too clear.” He looked amused now. His eyes were starting to twinkle.
Twinkle, Goddamn it!
Anger and shame fueled her blood, and she stood abruptly. The room tilted momentarily, but then righted itself before she felt the fog start to clear. Stupid diet. She knew she needed more protein. Who the hell thought eating nothing but grapefruit for three days was a good idea? Yet another part of her life she needed to get a handle on.
She needed a burrito, the biggest burrito she could get her hands on. She needed to get the hell out of here.
“Um,” she started, while gathering her stuff yet again. “You know how to close a lock box, right?”
“Yeah,” he said slowly, still watching her carefully.
“Okay, good. I need to leave. Call me when you’re done, so I know the house is empty.” She dropped her eyes and turned to leave.
Just as she got to the door, AJ grabbed her shoulder and spun her around.
“Are you okay to drive? What the hell happened back there?” All amusement was gone from his eyes. Genuine concern and confusion clouded his deep brown eyes.
Staring at the gold flakes floating across his dark irises, she took a deep breath. His short, dark hair was slightly disheveled now; she never noticed it was long enough to rough up before. A flash of her fingers running through his silky hair, and her hands brushing against his perpetual day-old beard, caused her heart to race again. She needed to get away from him. He hated her, and she’d just humiliated herself in front of him.
“I’m sorry about that. I just fainted. I’m experimenting with a new diet. Apparently, the protein content isn’t enough for me. I am so sorry about whatever else happened while I was out. I guess–” Not knowing what to say or how to explain it, she stopped, and looked anywhere but at him.
“I’m not worried about that right now. But I am worried about you getting in a car and driving away,” he said, looking very much like a worried father.
Laughing at the thought, she replied, “Yeah. No. I’m okay. It’s okay. I live right in town. I’m good.” She nodded one more time before turning and heading out the door before he could say anything else.