Masquerade - Book cover


Nicole Flockton

Chapter 2

Sophie didn’t want the dance to end. Alex moved like a dream and she followed as if she was made just for him. The rest of the crowd melted away. All that existed was her and Alex.

They’d only been on the dance floor for a short time but in his arms, it was as if time was in slow motion. Sophie’s skin prickled and tightened with each move they made and each touch of Alex’s hand.

A cloak of desire surrounded Sophie, enthralling her. The way Alex’s hold tightened and his body hardened further against hers told her he felt the same way. She badly wanted to kiss him, but knew if she did, it would be splattered across the gossip pages tomorrow.

She wanted their first kiss to be at midnight and in private where no one could see them. Could they slip out before the clock struck twelve?

“It’s nearly that time,” his softly whispered words pulled her out of her dreamy state.

“Time for what?”

“Time to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. Time to take off our masks. Time to show yourself to me, Sophia.”

She didn’t know how she felt about exposing herself. She wasn’t worried about her looks, she knew she was attractive, but would he see the real her? The girl whose self-esteem had recently been battered and bashed until it was unrecognizable?

Behind the anonymity of her mask, she was able to portray someone she wasn’t normally.

A light finger stroked the side of her head, breaking up her tumbled thoughts. “What thoughts trouble you so?”

“I was thinking that I can’t believe it’s nearly midnight. I hadn’t realized it had gotten so late.”

From behind his mask, his eyes twinkled and she knew he didn’t believe a word she said. And why would he? It sounded lame to her ears.

“Come, let’s go out onto the balcony to watch the fireworks.”

Suddenly Sophie didn’t want to be around a crowd. What if someone she knew saw her? Her dress was recognizable and everyone attending the ball knew who she was thanks to the earlier introduction.

All of a sudden, she didn’t think she was brave enough to follow through.

“Wait,” she cried. “I don’t want to go out onto the balcony. I don’t—”

“Shhh.” Alex placed a finger on her lips. “Can you trust me to protect you and what is happening between us, Sophia mia?”

She looked into his eyes and the desire she saw shining out of them filled her. Her body screamed in agreement.

“Yes.” The moment she uttered the word she knew it was true. She did trust him.

“Follow me.” He slipped a strong arm around her waist and she shivered at his touch. He pulled her closer into his embrace as he led her through the crowd of partygoers. She didn’t know how he managed it, but before she knew it they were in a secluded part of the balcony. Darkness shrouded them and a large potted plant hid them from prying eyes.

The night was balmy, a soft breeze wafted over Sophie’s arms, the fine hairs on them standing to attention. There was no other way to describe the evening except phenomenal and memorable.

The air was scented with the sweet smell of jasmine and she knew that no matter what the outcome was going to be, whenever she smelled jasmine, she would always remember Alex and this moment.

Excitement sizzled along her veins—she was finally going to get to taste Alex, feel his lips on hers. He turned her and she stood loosely in his embrace. Placing her hands on his hard chest, his heartbeat thrummed beneath her fingers in time with the blood coursing through her veins.

She looked up at him. If she were paper, she would have spontaneously combusted from the fire sparking within the dark depths of his eyes. Her breath hitched as she ran her hands up to his shoulders needing something solid to grip. He felt so good under her touch and she started caressing the strength beneath the warm fabric.

Sophie found herself pulled closer, his arms tightening around her. His breath floated over her skin, like snowflakes drifting down at the start of a storm. With his arousal brushing against her belly, heat pooled between her legs. All around her the noise of her fellow partygoers rose, but they remained hidden and untouched by it all. She was in a world that revolved solely around Alex.

The sound of the crowd counting down penetrated that world. “Ten, nine, eight, seven . . . ”

Apprehension warred with excitement. Her stomach muscles clenched and her breath came in short, sharp gasps.

“Five, four . . . ”

The anticipation of experiencing a first kiss built. The moment when their lips would touch for the first time.

“Three, two, one. Happy New Year!”

Time stood still as Alex’s hands reached out and framed her face. With slow, precise movements, he reached around to the back of her mask, his fingers brushing her sensitive earlobes. He pulled at the ribbon holding her mask in place. He slipped the ties apart like a knife cutting through butter. Her mask fell forward. She made no effort to catch it, letting it fall to the ground.

Alex leaned in close, his lips mere millimeters from hers.

“Happy New Year, Sophie.”

Before she had time to respond or remove his mask, he closed the distance and locked his lips onto hers. This was what she’d been waiting for from the moment they’d met. The touch of lips on lips. It was everything she’d wanted and more. Electricity jolted through her. His lips were firm and soft as they cajoled hers to respond. She didn’t need any encouragement. She wanted this and what this first touch would bring them.

Rising up on tiptoe, she wound her arms around his neck. Tracing the shape of his skull, hooking her fingers under his mask before slipping it over his head, and letting it fall silently to join hers. His hair was soft and springy under her touch. She opened up beneath his onslaught to allow him access. His touch and taste were heaven. She never wanted the kiss to end. It was everything a first kiss should be and more.

She moaned when he pulled away from her, laying his forehead against hers.

She pulled back, tilting her head up, getting her first good look at Alex. He took her breath away. It was amazing how a little mask could hide so much. Her imagination hadn’t done him justice. He was more handsome and striking than she had thought. Reaching out, it was her turn to trace his features. Cupping his cheek, his light five o’clock shadow bristling under her hand, she continued her exploration of the man who’d captivated her all evening. His nose had a tiny bump, signaling that it had been broken at some stage. His strong, square jaw defined the personality he had shown her tonight, but she knew there was a softness to him too. Sophie finally ran her finger along his full, plump lower lip, gasping when he took it in his mouth, sucking gently. Sensations sizzled through her, all converging at the one point between her legs. She shivered at the thought of what would come later.

He grabbed her hand and laced his fingers with hers, heat radiating through her at his touch. She looked up and saw the question burning like a laser in the dark depths of Alex’s eyes.

The fact that he wasn’t assuming, but asking her, melted her heart again.

She knew, from the one kiss they’d shared, that she would experience something she’d never experienced before in her life. Was she still willing to take the risk?

The answer was an unequivocal yes. She was so tired of always doing the right thing. Always playing it safe and erring on the side of caution. Always worried about what her actions might mean to her father and the family’s social position.

But not tonight. Tonight was for her. She would give herself this one night of pleasure.

She reached out and laid her hand on his chest, feeling the rapid beating of his heart. Gripping his shirt, she pulled him toward her, capturing his lips in a short, soft kiss.


He didn’t need to ask her what she meant. The smile on his face told her he knew exactly what she was agreeing to. He held her to him briefly before sweeping her away from the crowd mingling on the balcony. It was then that Sophie realized the fireworks display was underway. So caught up in Alex’s kiss and the intenseness of the moment, she hadn’t registered the loud booms resonating around the balcony.

With everyone occupied with bringing in the New Year, they were able to slip out and into an elevator without drawing any attention to themselves. Sophie was relieved. She didn’t want anything or anyone intruding on this moment.

It was all about her and Alex.

She knew it was only for one night, and she had no regrets. After her holiday break, she would go back to work and tackle her new position and the challenges it would bring. At this point in her life, she had no time for a relationship. After her last disastrous one, entering another relationship was the last thing on her mind. And from Alex’s cryptic words, it was the last thing on his, too.

“You’re thinking again. Why?” Again Alex’s smooth voice pierced her mind, shooting holes in her thoughts. “Just feel, Sophia, just feel.”

The lift doors opened and he swept her down the hall.

“You booked a room?” She wished she could take the words back the moment she spoke them. She sounded so gauche and naïve, so caught up that she hadn’t taken any notice of which direction they were heading. Right at this moment, time and place had no real relevance to her.

He gave a short laugh as he stopped in front of a door. Reaching into his pocket, he extracted a keycard and unlocked the door. Ushering her in, he let the door close, the snick as the lock connected echoing around the room. “Yes, I booked a room. And in case you’re wondering, I never expected to be sharing it with someone at the end of the evening.”

She didn’t need to hear those words. Sophie knew the last thing Alex had planned was for them to end up in the room he’d booked. Fate had made the decision for them.

She moved over to the windows to gaze out. The fireworks had finished and all that lingered was the smoke. The residual cloud cast the city with an eerie glow. The buildings seeming to rise out of a cloud of dust, reaching up to inhale fresh, sweet, clean air. That’s how she felt right at that moment, as if she were reaching out from the cloud of disappointment to grasp something fresh and new.

Warm hands slipped around her waist and she found herself being pulled against a wall of hard muscle. The room was lit by only a couple of table lamps. Their reflections were clear in the glass. His hands spanned her waist and he started a slow journey up her body. Her breath caught in her throat as she waited and watched, wondering just where those hands would end up. They stopped just short of touching her aching breasts. He swiveled her around and his mouth came crashing down on hers. She could feel the strength of his desire against her belly and lost herself once again in his kiss.

He picked her up in his arms, all the while keeping his lips on hers, worshipping them, as he made his way to the bed.

He broke contact as he laid her down. She groaned her disappointment when he pulled away. Her disappointment soon changed to enchantment, when he started to remove his tuxedo. With every piece of clothing he removed, heat scorched its way up her body, igniting a passion in her that was bold and new and intense.

His eyes never left hers and she was close enough to touch the bronzed skin he exposed. His flesh warm and his stomach contracted under her touch.

He joined her on the bed, starting a sensual assault at her ankles and working his way up. His hands were gentle as he removed her dress. Her body hummed like a tuning fork with every touch, every stroke, every kiss he graced on every area of skin he exposed. His hands never left her body as they learned her curves. His fingers delved between her thigh and she was more than ready for Alex’s possession.

Lip to lip, chest to chest, hip to hip—they were made for each other.

He dealt with the necessary protection and paused above her, holding himself a hair’s breadth away from her entrance. His lips gently touched hers, belying the muscle and strength and power enclosing her, and asked her a simple question.

“Are you sure? Just tonight?”

She fully appreciated his question, but if she didn’t want to be there, she wouldn’t have followed him to his room. She knew what was at stake.

In answer to his question, she lifted her hips encouraging him to take what she was offering.

With a single thrust, he slid inside her warm, moist center. She arched her back, sighing, relishing the feel of him as her inner muscles contracted around him.

Alex stilled his body while hers cried out wanting more. He captured her lips in another kiss while his hand massaged her breast, tweaking her nipple causing arrows of pleasure to shimmer through her until they reach where they were connected. She dug her fingernails into his back and swiveled her hips, letting him know the time for slow was over.

He answered her call and pulled out before plunging back in. She moaned loudly and all coherent thought lost as every increasing thrust swept her up in a vortex of sensations, leading up to the moment where they both were crying out their completion.

He held her close, raining soft kisses over her face as her body subsided from the power of her climax. Even in her sensual haze, Sophie wondered whether one night with Alex would be enough. Would she have the strength to walk away from him? It was something she didn’t want to think about right at that moment. She would just enjoy the rest of the night and deal with the aftermath at a later time. When she had her erratic emotions under control.

If she ever did.


Sophie gazed down at the man sleeping peacefully in the big bed. He was the man who’d played her body like a first violinist in an orchestra. He’d made her body hum and sing like no one ever had.

Now she must walk away.

Alex had said he wasn’t in a place for a relationship and with her new promotion, neither was she. Not to mention her heart was still recovering from the bruising it had received at the hands of Neil. A relationship between them would never work. Her hours were long, erratic, demanding, and, at times, tragic. She would disappoint and let him down time and time again. He needed someone who would always be at his side.

She would take the memories they had created and when life got unbearable, she would bring them out and soothe her frazzled nerves.

How she longed to climb back in that bed and throw all caution to the wind. But she couldn’t. She had to be strong.

Their night together was something out of the ordinary. A fairytale, but one that could never have a happy ending. She would never see him again.

She touched her fingers to her lips and then placed them against his bare shoulder. She didn’t dare place them anywhere else in case he woke.

Picking up her shoes and purse, she walked toward the door, and with one last glance over her shoulder, turned the handle and walked out.


It might’ve been the click of the door. It might’ve been the empty space in the bed where a warm body should’ve been. It might’ve been instinct that jolted Alex out of his slumber, but whatever it was, he knew that sleep would be elusive for the rest of the night.

Sophie had left.

He didn’t bother calling out to check. Stillness permeated the air. He knew she had gone. All she’d left behind was the elusive scent of her subtle floral perfume and a crushed pillow.

Flinging back the covers, he slung his legs over the side of the bed, breathing deeply as he thrust his fingers through his hair, bringing memories hurtling back of Sophie doing exactly the same at the height of her passion.

He swore and banished the memories from his mind. It was one night, both had agreed. Then why did he feel one night would never, ever be enough? He’d been captivated by her from the moment he’d caught a glimpse of her silver dress. She’d stood out among the sea of people. When he found himself seated next to her, it had taken all he had not to reach out and touch her blonde hair. He gave a small smile as he recalled the way her eyes are sparkled blue fire when she’d pierced the prawn as if it had bitten her. The soft curve of her mouth when she smiled at something someone said. Her skin was as soft as it had looked when he touched her. Her beauty was classic and ethereal, that was the only way he could describe her. He would remember their one night for a long time.

He pulled on his trousers and wandered over to the window where the curtains still stretched across the glass, stifling the room.

Opening the heavy material, his gaze was drawn to the horizon. The first fingers of a new day glowed behind the hills, beckoning him to embrace all the wonders of a new year. Like a new baby crying out its welcome when it first enters the world from the safety of its mother’s womb.

Fingers touching, curling on the cool glass, he accepted the invitation the sun offered. He had a new job and adventure to look forward to.

A relationship would never have worked between him and Sophie. He’d tried that once, even going so far as to marry. But the pressures of his career and the hours he worked made a relationship too hard to maintain. No woman liked playing second best to patients.

Sophie would never understand the life of a doctor. She was a society woman who expected to attend charitable functions on any given evening, like the ball last night. He would disappoint her again and again with a phone call each time to say he was caught up with a patient.

No, it was better this way. Better that she’d left and they didn’t have to face the awkward morning-after talk.

He would embrace his new position and put this night down to a beautiful memory.

It was what they’d agreed on—one night. Only somehow, he knew it would be a long time before he experienced a night like that again.

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