Tied to the Tycoon

By: Chloe Cox

He’d said one week, no strings, he’d be in charge. He’d take control and show her everything. It sounded like a free pass to explore all the sexual stuff she’d never trusted anyone else with, but was it really free? The man had already broken her heart once. And as much as she’d tried to forget Jackson Reed, in her worst moments, when she felt most alone, the memory of him had been a comfort to her, late at night. Her friendship with Jackson was the closest she’d ever felt to being safe, and cherished, and treasured. The closest she’d ever been to anyone, ever. What if it had been an illusion? What if one week with Jackson revealed that she’d been wrong all along?

“Stop thinking about Jackson Reed!” she said to the empty room. Maybe if she said it out loud, it would actually take.

She pressed a button on her phone to replay the last message. She’d missed it completely, thinking about Jackson, and fear, and being alone forever. Good job, drama queen, she thought, and snorted. She was glad to hear her sister’s voice, finally.

“Hey, it’s me. Um, don’t hate me, but I’m just calling to remind you about dinner with Mom.” Ava cringed. What Ellie was too sweet to say was, ‘Please, for the love of God, don’t make me go alone.’ How could Ava let her little sister deal with that all on her own? Ellie was stuck with their mother the rest of the year, but she shouldn’t have to bear the burden alone during the holidays.

“And it’s Christmas, Ava,” Ellie’s voice said. “And don’t roll your eyes, I’m not being sweet. I just want to see you.”

Ava laughed, rooting around for her pajamas. Ellie couldn’t help but be sweet, even when she was trying to be a bitch. Ava tried to tell her, you can’t fight who you are, but Ellie was a stubborn little sister.

Wait, who can’t fight who they are? Ava stopped halfway through getting her pajama pants on and nearly fell over. Did I just accidentally give myself good advice?

Jackson had told her he knew what she really was. That he was going to show her.

She shivered.

The most infuriating thing about Jackson’s offer was that it had shown her how much she was missing. The thing was, not finding anyone she could trust meant that Ava hadn’t been able to be fully herself—ever. She couldn’t fully be herself at her job, she couldn’t fully be herself with her family, she didn’t even feel like she could share her painting anymore, which she did in secret in a tiny little second bedroom in her apartment. But this was something there was no outlet for. This was sex. And the kind of sex where she definitely needed someone else to be there.

And it hadn’t been an offer so much as an order.

Which was damn sexy.

And he’d called her Frida.

“Damn it!”

She plopped onto her bed, her comfy pajama pants still half around her ankles. She was always telling Ellie not to fight who she really was, and yet Ava had been doing that for ten years. At least. She was still doing it. The universe had gone ahead and plonked the best man she’d ever known in her lap, and he had told her he wanted to fulfill all of her fantasies for a week, and her reaction was…to freak out? Who does that?

Maybe she was just rationalizing the fact that she couldn’t stop thinking about him, that she felt an inescapable pull whenever she remembered his hands on her body, as though there were an invisible cord that tied her to him. Maybe it was that she’d never wanted anyone so badly in her entire life. Maybe it was that he’d said that she belonged to him.

She knew from experience what it meant to trust Jackson Reed with her heart, and she wasn’t about to do that again. But she’d never had the chance to trust him with her body. Until now.

It was almost like she didn’t have a choice.

It’s ok, Ava. No strings. Just sex.

She grabbed her running shoes, coat, and purse, and ran out the door before she could change her mind.

chapter 4

Jackson Reed did his five-hundredth sit-up, lay back, sweating, and waited.


It hadn’t worked. He’d had at most a moment’s respite before his dick demanded access to a woman who wasn’t there. He’d been like this all goddamn night, ever since he’d left Ava Barnett breathing hard in an empty room.

He flipped over and punched out quick twenty chest-to-deck push-ups, then switched to one-handed when the burn wasn’t enough. Might never be enough. It was out of character for Jackson to vacillate like this—or at least it had been for a long time. Realizing how damaged Ava had been had thrown him. He’d hurt her more than he’d known, years ago, and then he might have done it again tonight by pushing her. Jackson worked hard not to be a man who hurt people, not to be a man who pushed people past where they ought to go just to show he could. Not to be a bully, not to be...

He worked very hard not to be like him.

The idea that he’d become what he feared in the very process of trying to become the opposite, like some stupid Greek myth, angered him.

Where the hell is she? he thought, sitting up, the sweat dripping down his chest. He was sure she’d come—as sure as he’d ever been of anything. They still had that connection. He’d seen it in her eyes when she came all over his hand.

He felt himself getting hard again, and groaned.

The thought of her, any thought of her, was enough to get him going. She’d tripped some wire, set off some sort of damn fuse left over from ancient history, and now he was like a caged bull.

It made it hard to think. And Jackson had a lot to think about.

He had to think about how much he didn’t know about Ava Barnett. He was willing to bet he knew more than most—maybe more than anyone, the way she kept herself closed up tight. But that didn’t mean much. He knew she must have been rubbed raw already, even more so than he’d thought, a woman who’d already been battered by the world, or maybe just some of the people in it. She had to be, if the one metaphorical blow from Jackson that stupid night was enough to knock her out for the count for ten years.

He thought back and tried to remember details from the late nights they’d stayed up after studio sessions for their shared art class. Details were hard. He remembered the vague outlines of a relationship that went bad for her just before she’d transferred in at the beginning of senior year, a relationship she’d never wanted to talk much about. And he remembered the way she had mostly changed the subject whenever anyone had brought up family, but half the time, Jackson’d been right behind her, no more eager to talk about his family than she had been to talk about hers. And they were both scholarship kids, both of them working outside of class. But it was difficult to recall the hard facts of her life before him, because that’s not how he thought of her. She wasn’t a dry biography or a cold psychological profile. Every time something useful started to float to the surface, there’d be something else, something of far more interest. Her laugh, or the way she smirked at him at a party, sharing some private joke. The look she got on her face when she was listening to someone else’s problems, like there was nothing more important in the world than whatever was making her friend sad. All those things you notice when you’re in love.

Goddamn it.

He’d just been too self-absorbed, too concerned with his own bullshit. She’d been too good at hiding. And they’d both been too enamored at that connection they’d felt to do much more than enjoy it. And he’d let her slip through his fingers because of it.

There was, of course, the one night he remembered in crystal clear detail, one night he’d carried with him since then, and would until the day he died. The night she had given him the two most precious gifts he’d ever gotten.

You owe her.

That was all that was important. He couldn’t just wait around, hoping she’d come to her senses. He’d waited ten years to become a man who was good enough for her, and he wasn’t going to fuck it up by waiting around any longer. He wasn’t going to give either of them a shot at ruining their second chance.