Bared to You
Praise for Sylvia Day
“Sylvia Day is the undisputed mistress of tender erotic romance. Her books are a luxury every woman deserves.”
—Teresa Medeiros, New York Times bestselling author
“Sylvia Day’s writing is stunningly sensual.”
—Jaci Burton, New York Times bestselling author
—Lauren Dane, New York Times bestselling author
“When it comes to brewing up scorchingly hot sexual chemistry, Day has few literary rivals.”
A Touch of Crimson
“Angels and demons, vampires and lycans, all set against an inventive, intriguing story world that hooked me from the first page. Balancing action and romance, humor and hot sensuality, Sylvia Day’s storytelling dazzles. A Touch of Crimson is a paranormal romance lover’s feast!”
—Lara Adrian, New York Times bestselling author
“A Touch of Crimson will rock readers with a stunning new world, a hot-blooded hero, and a strong, kick-ass heroine. This is Sylvia Day at the top of her game!”
—Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author
“Sylvia Day spins a gorgeous adventure in A Touch of Crimson that combines gritty, exciting storytelling with soaring lyricism. This is definitely a book for your keeper shelf.”
—Angela Knight, New York Times bestselling author
“A Touch of Crimson explodes with passion and heat. A hot, sexy angel to die for and a gutsy heroine make for one exciting read!”
—Cheyenne McCray, New York Times bestselling author
Pleasures of the Night
“So hot the pages should be on fire!”
—Gena Showalter, New York Times bestselling author
“Dreams have never been this hot! Pleasures of the Night sizzles as a romance, enthralls as a paranormal, and captivates with a fantastic cast of characters. I didn’t want the ‘night’ to end!”
—Susan Grant, New York Times bestselling author
“Sylvia Day delivers readers to a fantasy world as unique as it is erotic! Ms. Day is an up-and-coming talent in the world of erotic fiction.”
—Toni Blake, award-winning author
Eve of Darkness
“Great characters and terrific storytelling in a hot-blooded adrenaline ride. A keep-you-up-all-night read.”
—Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Exhilarating adventure in an edgy world of angels and demons…Dynamic and vibrant, Eve is an impressive protagonist, and her fierce spirit and determination to make the best of her circumstances will keep readers enthralled.”
“Eve of Darkness is a sizzling, heart-pounding urban fantasy that thrilled and fascinated me from beginning to end. Eve is a smart, spirited heroine I won’t soon forget!”
—Jeri Smith-Ready, award-winning author
“Gripping, nonstop action and one hell of a heroine.”
—Shiloh Walker, national bestselling author
In The Flesh
“Lush, evocative, inventive…Fans of Dara Joy will love this!”
—Shayla Black, New York Times bestselling author
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.
BARED TO YOU: A CROSSFIRE NOVEL
Copyright © 2012 by Sylvia Day.
All rights reserved.
Edited by Hilary Sares.
Copyedited by Martha Trachtenberg.
Cover design by Croco Designs.
Interior design by VMC Art & Design, LLC.
Published by Sylvia Day
23905 Clinton Keith
Wildomar, CA 92595
The uploading, scanning, and distribution of this book in any form or by any means—including but not limited to electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of the copyright holder is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized editions of this work, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
ISBN: 978-0-9851146-0-2 (print)
Library of Congress Control Number: 2012900464
Book Club/Readers' Group Guide
About the Author
This one is for Dr. David Allen Goodwin.
My love and gratitude are boundless.
Thank you, Dave. You saved my life.
My deepest gratitude to my editor, Hilary Sares, who really dug into this story and made me work for it. Basically, she kicked my ass. By not pulling her punches or letting me shortchange the details, she made me work harder and because of that, this story is a much, much better book.
BARED TO YOU wouldn’t be what it is without you, Hilary. Thank you so much!
To Martha Trachtenberg, copy editor extraordinaire. This book is an important one for me and she treated it that way. Thank you, Martha!
To Victoria Colotta, for all her hard work on the interior design and typesetting. She took my plain text and made it gorgeous. Thank you, Victoria!
To Tera Kleinfelter, who read the first half of Bared to You and told me she loved it. Thank you, Tera!
To all girls who were at Cross Creek at some point in your adolescence: May all your dreams come true. You deserve it.
And to Alistair and Jessica, from Seven Years to Sin, who inspired me to write Gideon and Eva’s story. I’m so glad the inspiration struck twice!
“We should head to a bar and celebrate.”
I wasn’t surprised by my roommate’s emphatic pronouncement. Cary Taylor found excuses to celebrate, no matter how small and inconsequential. I’d always considered it part of his charm. “I’m sure drinking the night before starting a new job is a bad idea.”
“Come on, Eva.” Cary sat on our new living room floor amid a half-dozen moving boxes and flashed his winning smile. We’d been unpacking for days, yet he still looked amazing. Leanly built, dark-haired, and green-eyed, Cary was a man who rarely looked anything less than absolutely gorgeous on any day of his life. I might have resented that if he hadn’t been the dearest person on earth to me.
“I’m not talking about a bender,” he insisted. “Just a glass of wine or two. We can hit a happy hour and be in by eight.”
“I don’t know if I’ll make it back in time.” I gestured at my yoga pants and fitted workout tank. “After I time the walk to work, I’m going to hit the gym.”
“Walk fast, work out faster.” Cary’s perfectly executed arched brow made me laugh. I fully expected his million-dollar face to appear on billboards and fashion magazines all over the world one day. No matter his expression, he was a knockout.
“How about tomorrow after work?” I offered as a substitute. “If I make it through the day, that’ll be worth celebrating.”
“Deal. I’m breaking in the new kitchen for di nner.”
“Uh…” Cooking was one of Cary’s joys, but it wasn’t one of his talents. “Great.”
Blowing a wayward strand of hair off his face, he grinned at me. “We’ve got a kitchen most restaurants would kill for. There’s no way to screw up a meal in there.”
Dubious, I headed out with a wave, choosing to avoid a conversation about cooking. Taking the elevator down to the first floor, I smiled at the doorman when he let me out to the street with a flourish.
The moment I stepped outside, the smells and sounds of Manhattan embraced me and invited me to explore. I was not merely across the country from my former home in San Diego, but seemingly worlds away. Two major metropolises—one endlessly temperate and sensually lazy, the other teeming with life and frenetic energy. In my dreams, I’d imagining living in a walkup in Brooklyn, but being a dutiful daughter, I found myself on the Upper West Side instead. If not for Cary living with me, I would’ve been miserably lonely in the sprawling apartment that cost more per month than most people made in a year.
The doorman tipped his hat to me. “Good evening, Miss Tramell. Will you need a cab this evening?”
“No thanks, Paul.” I rocked onto the rounded heels of my fitness shoes. “I’ll be walking.”
He smiled. “It’s cooled down from this afternoon. Should be nice.”
“I’ve been told I should enjoy the June weather before it gets wicked hot.”
“Very good advice, Miss Tramell.”
Stepping out from under the modern glass entrance overhang that somehow meshed with the age of the building and its neighbors, I enjoyed the relative quiet of my tree-lined street before I reached the bustle and flow of traffic on Broadway. One day soon, I hoped to blend right in, but for now I still felt like a fraudulent New Yorker. I had the address and the job, but I was still wary of the subway and had trouble hailing cabs. I tried not to walk around wide-eyed and distracted, but it was hard. There was just so much to see and experience.
The sensory input was astonishing—the smell of vehicle exhaust mixed with food from vendor carts, the shouts of hawkers blended with music from street entertainers, the awe-inspiring range of faces and styles and accents, the gorgeous architectural wonders…And the cars. Jesus Christ. The frenetic flow of tightly packed cars was unlike anything I’d ever seen anywhere.
There was always an ambulance, patrol car, or fire engine trying to part the flood of yellow taxis with the electronic wail of ear-splitting sirens. I was in awe of the lumbering garbage trucks that navigated tiny one-way streets and the package delivery drivers who braved the bumper-to-bumper traffic while facing rigid deadlines.
Real New Yorkers cruised right through it all, their love for the city as comfortable and familiar as a favorite pair of shoes. They didn’t view the steam billowing from potholes and vents in the sidewalks with romantic delight and they didn’t blink an eye when the ground vibrated beneath their feet as the subway roared by below, while I grinned like an idiot and flexed my toes. New York was a brand new love affair for me. I was starry-eyed and it showed.
So I had to really work at playing it cool as I made my way over to the building where I would be working. As far as my job went, at least, I’d gotten my way. I wanted to make a living based on my own merits and that meant an entry-level position. Starting the next morning, I would be the assistant to Mark Garrity at Waters Field & Leaman, one of the preeminent advertising agencies in the US. My stepfather, mega-financier Richard Stanton, had been annoyed when I took the job, pointing out that if I’d been less prideful I could’ve worked for a friend of his instead and reaped the benefits of that connection.
“You’re as stubborn as your father,” he’d said. “It’ll take him forever to pay off your student loans on a cop’s salary.”
That had been a major fight, with my dad unwilling to back down. “Hell if another man’s gonna pay for my daughter’s education,” Victor Reyes had said when Stanton made the offer. I respected that. I suspected Stanton did, too, although he would never admit it. I understood both men’s sides, because I’d fought to pay off the loans myself…and lost. It was a point of pride for my father. My mother had refused to marry him, but he’d never wavered from his determination to be my dad in every way possible.
Knowing it was pointless to get riled up over old frustrations, I focused on getting to work as quickly as possible. I’d deliberately chosen to clock the short trip during a busy time on a Monday, so I was pleased when I reached the Crossfire Building, which housed Waters Field & Leaman, in less than thirty minutes.
I tipped my head back and followed the line of the building all the way up to the slender ribbon of sky. The Crossfire was seriously impressive, a sleek spire of gleaming sapphire that pierced the clouds. I knew from my previous interviews that the interior on the other side of the ornate copper-framed revolving doors was just as awe-inspiring, with golden-veined marble floors and walls, and brushed aluminum security desk and turnstiles.
I pulled my new ID card out of the inner pocket of my pants and held it up for the two guards in black business suits at the desk. They stopped me anyway, no doubt because I was majorly underdressed, but then they cleared me through. After I completed an elevator ride up to the twentieth floor, I’d have a general time frame for the whole route from door to door. Score.
I was walking toward the bank of elevators when a svelte, beautifully groomed brunette caught her purse on a turnstile and upended it, spilling a deluge of change. Coins rained onto the marble and rolled merrily away, and I watched people dodge the chaos and keep going as if they didn’t see it. I winced in sympathy and crouched to help the woman collect her money, as did one of the guards.
“Thank you,” she said, shooting me a quick harried smile.
I smiled back. “No problem. I’ve been there.”
I’d just squatted to reach a nickel lying near the entrance when I ran into a pair of luxurious black oxfords draped in tailored black slacks. I waited a beat for the man to move out of my way and when he didn’t, I arched my neck back to allow my line of sight to rise. The custom three-piece suit hit more than a few of my hot buttons, but it was the tall, powerfully lean body inside it that made it sensational. Still, as hot as all that magnificent maleness was, it wasn’t until I reached the man’s face that I went down for the count.
He sank into an elegant crouch directly in front of me. Hit with all that exquisite masculinity at eye-level, I could only stare. Stunned.
Then something shifted in the air between us.
As he stared back, he altered…as if a shield slid away from his eyes, revealing a scorching force of will that sucked the air from my lungs. The intense magnetism he exuded grew in strength, becoming a near tangible impression of vibrant and unrelenting power.
Reacting purely on instinct, I shifted backward. And sprawled flat on my ass.
My elbows throbbed from the violent contact with the marble floor, but I scarcely registered the pain. I was too preoccupied with staring, riveted by the man in front of me. Inky black hair framed a breathtaking face. His bone structure would make a sculptor weep with joy, while a firmly etched mouth, a blade of a nose, and intensely blue eyes made him savagely gorgeous. Those eyes narrowed slightly, his features otherwise schooled into impassivity.
His dress shirt and suit were both black, but his tie perfectly matched those brilliant irises. His eyes were shrewd and assessing, and they bored into me. My heartbeat quickened; my lips parted to accommodate faster breaths. He smelled sinfully good. Not cologne. Body wash, maybe. Or shampoo. Whatever it was, it was mouthwatering, as was he.
He held out a hand to me, exposing onyx cuff links and a very expensive-looking watch.
With a shaky inhalation, I placed my hand in his. My pulse leaped when his grip tightened. His touch was electric, sending a shock up my arm that raised the hairs on my nape. He didn’t move for a moment, a frown line marring the space between arrogantly slashed brows.
“Are you all right?”
His voice was cultured and smooth, with a rasp that made my stomach flutter. It brought sex to mind. Extraordinary sex. I thought for a moment that he might be able to make me orgasm just by talking long enough.
My lips were dry, so I licked them before answering. “I’m fine.”
He stood with economical grace, pulling me up with him. We maintained eye contact because I was unable to look away. He was younger than I’d assumed at first. Younger than thirty would be my guess, but his eyes were much worldlier. Hard and sharply intelligent.
I felt drawn to him, as if a rope bound my waist and he was slowly, inexorably pulling it.
Blinking out of my semi-daze, I released him. He wasn’t just beautiful; he was…enthralling. He was the kind of guy that made a woman want to rip his shirt open and watch the buttons scatter along with her inhibitions. I looked at him in his civilized, urbane, outrageously expensive suit and thought of raw, primal, sheet-clawing fucking.
He bent down and retrieved the ID card I hadn’t realized I’d dropped, freeing me from that provocative gaze. My brain stuttered back into gear.
I was irritated with myself for feeling so awkward while he was so completely self-possessed. And why? Because I was dazzled, damn it.
He glanced up at me and the pose—him nearly kneeling before me—skewed my equilibrium again. He held my gaze as he rose. “Are you sure you’re all right? You should sit down for a minute.”