There was still sunlight out when I stepped out of the car and looked over my front door. My stomach tightened and my heart did a somersault as my feet carried me forward. She was in there waiting for me and I needed to see her.
“Goodnight, Mr. Novak!” My driver, Antonio, yelled from the open window. I didn’t even turn back to look at him. Instead, I waved passively and took another step closer to the front door.
Looking up at the expanse of the six-story white home squished next to a long line of others on the street in New York, I wondered where she was in there. Where would I find her when I went inside?
It was strange to think that even after two weeks of coming home to the dancer waiting for me, I could still feel the way I did. Palms sweaty, heart racing, dry tongue.
Nothing and no one ever made me feel like this. Only her.
Some part of me realized it would always be her. However, it wasn’t a conscious thought just yet. More like a feeling deep in my bones I couldn’t seem to shake.
I looked around the narrow front foyer, hoping for a glimpse of her. When I didn’t see or hear her, I finally turned to lock the front door and rushed to put my coat in the closet. Through the foyer, I walked into the kitchen and the smell of herbs and garlic hit my senses.
Seeing a pot of potato soup simmering on the oven made a ridiculous smile curl my lips, and I didn’t realize it. My house was feeling like a home, and that thought hadn’t registered to me yet. It was starting to.
Leaving the kitchen, I walked through the dining room and noticed one of the bi-fold doors to the small fenced in patio open to the frigid afternoon air outside. I froze, suddenly made of stone and unable to move at the sight of her.
Golden hair shimmering under the sunlight, strands being lifted by the slight breeze to dance around her face like a halo. Striking crystal blue eyes hit me like a dagger to the heart when she glanced up from the ground to see me standing there, watching her, enrapt with the sight of her.
The most gorgeous woman I had ever seen in my life.
“Stella,” I breathed her name. Her lips split as she looked up at me from where she crouched on the ground.
“Viktor!” Stella beamed up at me. Her eyes squinted when her smile grew. “Look what I found!”
“What did you find?” I asked her, stepping out into the cool afternoon air to see what she was hiding in her cupped palms.
“Look!” She opened her palms to reveal a grey and brown lizard. It turned its little head to stare at me and my heart stopped.
“Jesus!” Jumping back, I covered my face and groaned. The shock of seeing the small critter in her hands vanished when I heard the boisterous laughter coming from her.
“Did I scare you?” Stella giggled. Instead of waiting for me to answer, she lowered her hands and let the lizard go. It scampered across the patio and dove into one hedge at the base of the stone wall around us.
“Of course not,” I scoffed, curling my fingers around the knot on my tie to straighten it out. The corner of my mouth was still curled up hearing the breathy laughter coming from her sweet lips.
“You’re home early today. I’m making soup for dinner.” Stella braced her hands on her knees to get up. Without a second thought, I swooped down, wrapped my hands under her arms, and lifted her up.
“I saw the soup,” I said as soon as she was upright and against my chest. Her small hands braced on my shoulders as she gaped up at me with a hint of pink growing on her cheeks. “You’re doing too much, Stella. You should be resting.”
I brushed back a stray strand of her golden hair behind her ear, enjoying the softness of her skin when I traced my fingers along her jaw. She was shivering against me, and I wondered if it was because of the chilly nip in the air.
“Oh, it’s been two weeks since the accident, Viktor. I can’t sit around all day. I’ll go crazy,” she argued, pressing her face into my chest. When she nuzzled up to me like this, I wanted to give her the world.
The accident, she called it. Stella refused to refer to it as anything else, and she didn’t really talk about it much since the night we came back to my place.
It was the night my former assistant, Samara, shoved Stella down a flight of marble stairs in a fit of jealousy. All because Samara and I had fooled around in my office in the past, and she believed there was more to our working relationship than there really was. More than there ever would have been between us.
When Stella came into my life, and we signed our illicit contract, I knew there would be no one else but her. Everything that happened that night was my fault, and the guilt was weighing me down no matter how sincerely Stella told me it wasn’t.
I promised Stella that she was mine, and while she was mine, I would take care of her. That night, seeing her fall and the bruises on her perfect skin, I knew I failed her.
How could she look at me the way she did now? Her big blue eyes were like a clear ocean I could drown in, and there was something akin to adoration in that gaze. The deeper I fell into her stare; I could see and feel her desire. That never ending need we had for each other.
Her fall had scared me, and I could admit that to myself. If those stairs had been any taller or she had fallen the wrong way… I might have lost her. That opened a dark pit in my chest, and I needed to stay away from those thoughts and the ones that would follow if I lingered on them too long.
A heavy exhale left me as I caressed my hands up and down her back. “I don’t want you to go crazy, Stella, but if you want to get back to the ballet, then you need to focus on your recovery.”
Despite the ballet, I was getting so used to coming home to her presence every day that I wouldn’t mind if she never went back. It was selfish to want to keep her, but my hunger for her had yet to be sated. Each little taste was addictive and kept me coming back for more.
“I know, and I do.” Stella tilted her head back to look in my eyes, batting those long dark lashes at me and sending me head over heels. “The doctor said my ankle wasn’t as bad as they first thought. Guess I have strong bones.”
Her laugh that followed was forced. I knew she missed the dance studio and the stage. It made the local news when the Prima Ballerina of New York City was pushed down a flight of stairs at an event and her spot was given to her understudy.
Stella Sokolov smiled through it all. Nevertheless, I could see the shadows that followed her. All she wanted was to dance, and thanks to me, that was temporarily taken from her.
“That’s good to hear. You’ll be back on stage as the Swan Queen in no time.” I poked the tip of her nose, enjoying the adorable way she scrunched her face up at me. “I must insist you take it easy. Chasing lizards and moving around on your feet to make dinner won’t help you heal any faster.”
“But you’re not here to carry me all day, Viktor,” she cooed. The tone changed in her voice as she smirked up at me, and it made me do a double take. I felt her shift, tightening her arms around my ribs and caught sight of her luscious full bottom lip as she tugged it between her teeth.
“You know I would too, baby, don’t you?” I asked, hearing the rasp in my voice as it lowered to meet her energy. She slightly nodded in response.
My hand went under her chin, and her breath hitched. Using my pointer finger, I lifted her face and lowered to meet her. Closing the distance, I captured her lips before she could say anything else.
First kissing her top, then bottom lip. I opened my mouth, and she matched my movement. I slid my tongue along her lip, feeling her breathing quicken against my mouth when I teased the tip of her tongue with mine. Then I closed my lips over hers, our tongues tangling as we savored the taste of each other after being apart all day.
And God help me, I needed to feel more of her. All of her. One of my hands trailed down her side to her hip, and I grabbed her, pulling her closer against my chest. I palmed her perfectly round ass, enjoying the softness of her petite frame in my hands.
A little whimper slipped free when I pulled her harder against me, hoping she could feel my growing excitement. The way she arched her back and wiggled against me, I knew she could. I took the opportunity to plunge my tongue deeper into her mouth; the kiss turning wet and sloppy, as if we were on the verge of devouring one another.
Stella’s breathy whimpers of ecstasy drove me wild. The front of my pants felt tight as my groin throbbed with my growing desire.
Her hands traveled down my chest, over my stomach, flicking open the buttons of my black dress shirt as she went. The feeling of her delicate touch on my skin made the muscles along my stomach tighten. I felt the smile on her lips against mine when she reveled in the feeling of my abs under her fingertips and the way my body reacted to her touch.
I felt her palm dipping over the light trail of hair to my navel and lower. Her manicured nails tickled my skin as she traced them along the top of my pants, eliciting a growl from deep in my throat.
A shiver raced down my back, and I wanted to crush her against me. To be inside of her. Moving inside of her and claiming her as mine.
The bruises from her fall healed, and now I wanted to leave new ones across her perfectly unblemished skin. To mark her up with my mouth and my teeth and let the world see that she belonged to me, intimately and wholly.
She was mine, and I was getting so wrapped up in the taste and feel of her. I no longer felt the frigid air outside or cared that the sun was dipping into the distance. My ears were ringing, and it was only her whimpers into my mouth I heard as I lost myself in everything that was Stella.
Her sweet scent was intoxicating, and it engulfed me. The taste of her on my lips was an aphrodisiac, and it made me hungry for more. I was starving and Stella was the feast I had been looking forward to all day.
After her fall, it was so hard to be gentle with her, but I knew she needed to recover. Of course, she was just as needy, though not as openly vocal about her desire.
We’d been intimate only twice since she came home from the hospital. Slow, careful fucking in the dark. I tried to resist knowing that she needed to recover, but my little dancer knew how to push my buttons.
She was pushing them now. Stella didn’t want me to touch her as though she were a delicate flower anymore. No, she wanted me to grab her and dominate her in all the ways I did before.
Pushing those thoughts away, I broke the kiss. Glancing down, I admired her swollen rosebud lips and the flush painting her cheeks. The haze of desire in her eyes as she breathlessly whined at the broken kiss almost made me dive back in for more.
“Viktor,” Stella mewled, trembling in my grasp. It was a complaint at stopping, and I relished the sound of my name coming from her needy lips.
Suddenly wrapping her up in my arms and pulling her into a crushing hug, I breathed in her delectable scent and hoped it would calm my racing heart. “I don’t want to hurt you, baby.”
“You won’t.” Stella wiggled in my grasp. I felt her hand traveling down between our bodies. Then she grabbed the length of my erection through my slacks. “I know you can be gentle, Viktor.”
I hissed as she palmed my dick through my pants. One of my hands snaked up and curled in the back of her golden hair. Pulling her head back, I leaned down to whisper against the shell of her ear. “I don’t think I can be gentle with you right now, Stella. Please, don’t tempt me.”
“But-” she started to argue.
“No.” I tightened my fist in her hair, skimming my lips along the curve of her delicate neck. “If I fuck you right now, it’ll be hard and fast. You’d enjoy it, God would you enjoy it, but it would hurt. As much as I’d enjoy seeing your pretty little tears as you came on my cock, I can’t do that right now.”
“Then why am I here?” She hadn’t asked that question once in the past two weeks. My need for her is what her into my life and led to the contract, and I knew the desire to ask had been burning on the tip of her tongue.
“You’re still mine by contract, baby.” And I want you here. Day and night, at my side. “It would be a waste of money for me if you were recovering in your tiny apartment across the city.”
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense.” Her smile was fake. The disappointment written in her eyes was so obvious. When she stepped out of my embrace, I wondered what was on her mind.
Stella bodily shivered when a late afternoon breeze blew over us. She crossed her arms across her chest and my first instinct was to wrap my arms around her again and do everything in my power to shield her from the cold.
“Let’s go back inside. I should check on that soup.” Stella didn’t look me in the eye as she stepped through the bi-fold door and into the dining room.
Like an obsessed puppy, I followed her in while fixing the buttons on my shirt. Something I said had upset her and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Stella was mine, and she did belong to me. What was I missing?
That heat between us outside on the patio was smothered by the sudden cold tension surrounding us. It felt as if Stella put up a wall with no intentions of letting it down any time soon.
I hated it. It drove me wild when all I wanted was to feel her and be with her.
When I caught up to her at the stove stirring the pot, I couldn’t help myself when I looked down at the black brace on her ankle. While Stella was walking on her own and everything else from the fall was healed, I was still terrified of hurting her.
It was one thing to be rough with her when we were both caught up in the throes of intense passion, but halting her recovery time because she made my dick hard?
I was selfish, but I knew she needed to get back on stage. That’s where she wanted to be. That’s where she really belonged.
My thoughts and feelings were conflicted, and this wasn’t a normal occurrence for me. I’m fucking Viktor Novak. One of the richest men in the city, and from a strong Russian family. Yet here I was, wrapped around the little finger of a ballerina.
A sudden knock on the front door broke me out of my thoughts from where I leaned on the counter, staring at Stella. My brows lifted over my forehead, and I whipped around, wondering who was at my front door at this time on a weekday.
“Kto, chert voz’mi, u moyey dveri,” I cursed in my mother tongue. Stella’s head snapped up when she heard the knock, and then she turned her quizzical blue eyes on me. “Do you know who that is?”
Stella tried to hide the smirk curling the corner of her lips. “Who do you think it is?”
“She’s already visited twice this week. It can’t be.” I ran my hand through my hair with an exasperated huff. Though I had a feeling Stella was right.
Leaving the kitchen, I walked back through the foyer to the front door. Another bout of knocking greeted my ears, harder this time. I groaned and braced myself when my fist curled over the doorknob.
As soon as the door cracked open, the person on the other side burst in. Instantly I was assaulted by my aunt’s thick Russian accent and expensive perfume as she stormed into my home.
“Gde moya milaya balerina?” The hard eyes of Annika Novak turned on me as she slipped off her luxurious fur coat and tossed it into my arms. “Viktor, where is the sweet girl? How is she today?”
“Hi, Tetya, it’s very good to see you too. Work was fine today. Thank you for asking,” I responded with every ounce of sarcasm I could muster.
“Bah,” she waved her hands at me and pushed past to the kitchen, where the sound of Stella cooking reached us. “Stella!”
“Annika! It’s good to see you again!” I heard Stella’s chipper greeting. At least now her smile sounded as if it were sincere.
I knew my aunt loved Stella the first night I took her over for dinner. It hadn’t really meant anything to me at the time. Stella was the first woman I ever brought back to the Novak’s home for dinner.
My aunt had also done ballet when she was a young girl back in Russia long ago. Apparently, they bonded instantly that night, and when Stella was pushed at the Novak Incorporated Gala, Annika nearly lost her mind.
These past two weeks, I’d seen my aunt more than I had in the past two years. Annika was coming to visit Stella though, not me, her only nephew. No, she was here for the ballerina. Bringing her flowers and gifts as the dancer recovered.
Honestly, I didn’t mind. Not entirely. Stella had someone coming to give her much-needed company since I was at work almost all day long during the week. It was when Annika interrupted our time alone together that I wasn’t particularly pleased to see her. Like now.
“How are you feeling today, Stella? How is your ankle? Have you rested enough? Do you need anything?” Annika’s words ran together she spoke so quickly. I rounded the corner into the kitchen to see my aunt holding Stella and squishing her against her bosom.
Stella giggled. The sound was soft and innocent. Seeing her smile as my aunt crushed her made my chest feel strange. I rubbed at the ache there, something I did more frequently when I watched Stella these days.
“I’m fine Annika! The doctor says I’ll be back on stage in no time,” she chirped back, her beautiful face turning as red as a tomato as Annika squeezed her. “I told you I don’t need anything. I have everything I need here.”
Did she need me?
Shaking my head, I stepped further into the kitchen. At the sound of my footsteps on the tiled floor, Annika let Stella go to finally let her get a breath of air.
“Good. Good. My big-headed nephew better be taking care of you, or he won’t see another sunrise.” Annika jabbed her finger in my direction and narrowed her sharp gaze at me. Despite myself, I shivered.
Meanwhile, Stella giggled and went back to the pot of soup, walking gingerly on her injured ankle. She didn’t realize just how serious Annika’s threats could be. There was a reason my former assistant would never bother us again.
No threat to the Novak’s or their name stayed around for long.
“Of course, I am, Tetya. My driver takes Stella to her doctor appointments, and I do everything I can to help her.”
“Then why is she the one making the dinner?” Annika snapped back. “Poor girl, slaving in the kitchen when she has big, strong man to cook. Ni na chto ne godnyy plemyannik.”
“She was already cooking when I got home. I was just telling her to take it easy.”
“He’s right, Annika. Viktor was just telling me to rest more. But, between you and me, I’m not going to listen to him.” She giggled, and the sound was sweet. I smiled at her despite the brief statement she made.
Annika barked out her laughter and curled her hand over Stella’s arm. “Good. Men are useless.”
“I’m telling Uncle you said that,” I quipped. Annika waved me off and turned back to Stella at the stove.
“Why don’t you stay for dinner since you’re already here?” Stella offered. My knees felt weak, and I wanted to pull my hair when I heard it.
I wanted Stella all to myself.
“Oh, sweet girl! For you, I stay.” My aunt was a ball of energy swirling around Stella to help her finish dinner. Putting rolls in the oven to bake and fetching a bottle of wine for her.
It didn’t look as though I would get the dancer to myself tonight, so I buckled up for a long evening instead.