Honey Girl

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Chapter 9

Lila


I left them to the paperwork and promised to meet Alexander and Jake later, to celebrate. I could have taken the day off, of course, but once the verdict had been delivered, I thought it best to leave them to it.

Two million dollars was more money than I’d ever seen in my lifetime, by a longshot, but Alexander brushed it off as though he was paying a parking ticket. I was happy for them both, and as I made my way upstairs, I felt buoyant with relief. And more in love with Alexander than I’d ever been. He used his wealth, I was realizing, not as a trophy or a as a crown, but as a shield. The money, in itself, didn’t matter to him. It was a layer of protection, a way of saying fuck you to the world. You can’t touch me and you can’t touch him, not if I’m here to protect him with everything I have: that’s what his drive was all about.

Knowing that he would do the same for me, in whatever way I might need him to, was dauntingly comforting. Almost addictively so. It was another reason I decided to spend the day working, away from Alexander. Something animalistic inside me was on fire and it was a difficult feeling to define. I was afraid, that’s what it was. I was afraid of how much I loved him. And I was even more afraid of how much I was starting to feel like I needed him. He was gallant and unselfish and protective. He was beautiful and empathetic and real. I was afraid of how deeply he’d gotten under my skin, entwining his effect into the very foundations of my soul. I was afraid that if he ever withdrew, it would shatter me.

There were times that Alexander’s power and wealth almost seemed to undermine my footing. He claimed that our relationship was equal, that I had as much to offer as he did. Most days I felt that too. But on days where he waved two-million dollar checks around like five-dollar bills, I couldn’t help but feel that the playing field was a little skewed. What did I have to offer Alexander besides admittedly scorching-hot sex and the kind of unconditional love that was riddled with hang-ups from my hell-hole of a childhood? Was that enough?

I spent the day doing my best to keep as busy as possible, to use my intellect to make me feel like the part of myself I was most familiar with, the self-reliant, focused, capable side, was still there. And it was. Ashley had taken several of my ideas for the fashion shoot on board.

“You’ve done a good job,” she said to me. “And I’m not just saying that because you’re engaged to the CEO. I know Alexander’s plan is to groom you as his business partner, but you should think about working in fashion full-time. You’ve got a knack for it, and I don’t say that to everyone. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever said it to anyone. But you do.”

“Thanks, Ashley. I appreciate that.”

“And now, take a half hour for lunch if you want. We’ve got a long afternoon ahead of us. The photo spread needs to be finalized by the end of the day.”

I walked to the elevator. I planned to grab something quick at the Skyscraper cafeteria on the eighteenth floor, which had killer views and had recently been rated ‘the most upmarket workplace cafeteria in New York.’ The elevator was empty when I went in but someone else hurried through, just as the doors were closing.

Mark Faber.

The doors closed firmly.

“Hello, Lila,” he drawled.

I remembered him more from Monday morning’s meeting than the night of the poker game. He was tall with dark blond hair and the kind of Bradley Cooper blue eyes that you can’t help but notice. He was lanky and sort of lithe-looking, like he might have a pro soccer player in a former life. I tried not to blush at the thought of what he’d seen … and what he’d seen me do. God, that night had been totally out of control. It all started when Alexander … introduced me to something new. He’d put some beads inside me. Which had then proceeded to arouse me to fever pitch … and then he hadn’t let me come. I’d been so turned on I hadn’t even cared that five or six men were there in the room. I’d wanted Alexander so badly … I’d wanted Alexander to make me come so badly I’d pulled my top down to reveal my bare breasts to him … to them all. I’d wanted them to see how turned on I was, how much I wanted Alexander. I’d put my nipple into his mouth. I’d straddled him with my short shirt … and nothing underneath. With my pussy so wet and swollen and throbbing I thought I’d go mad with it. I’d pleaded and moaned and begged right there in front of our very attentive audience. And Alexander had done it. He’d laid me down there on the poker table on the big pile of hundred dollar bills and kissed me and pulled out those beads and feasted on me, giving me the most intense orgasm I’d ever had in my life. It was a little hard to rank the intensity of the many orgasms Alexander had given me, actually, since all of them were intense beyond belief. But this one … the other men had put their hands on me. Their mouths. Alexander had later apologized about it. For letting things go that far and get that out of control. In hindsight it was totally out of character for him. He hated other men even looking at me, let alone touching me … so intimately. All I’d cared about in that moment was my climax. All Alexander had cared about was getting me there. Neither of us had been prepared for the devastating force of our passion and our lust.

And now. This very-handsome man that I now found myself face to face with in the office elevator had been suckling one of my full, sensitive breasts, biting and licking as Alexander licked me in an even more intimate location – delving deep, so deep with his tongue, playing me with his clever mouth and wicked fingers. Mark Faber’s teeth had scraped my nipple with tender-rough adoration. Now that I stood here not two feet from him, sealed away in this small cage-like elevator, I could recall the vague, shadowed details of his touch. I could also recall that my cravings had been all about only one man. Alexander.

“Hello, Mr. Faber.”

He laughed. “We should consider ourselves on a first-name basis, don’t you think?”

Why? Because you took my breasts in your hands and feasted on me? Because you watched me come and cry and moan with orgasmic ecstasy, splayed out on the poker table like some nymphomaniacal hussy gone wild?

“Please,” he said, detecting my unease. “Call me Mark.”

“Mark.”

“Where’re you headed?”

Even though I’d been thinking about going to the cafeteria on the eighteen floor to grab some lunch, I had the distinct feeling Mark Faber was headed to the exact same place. The last thing I needed was a lunch invitation from the guy who’d become Alexander’s public enemy number one. “Just down to the coffee shop. To get coffee.”

He smiled again. He had very white teeth.

“Obviously,” I said.

“Yes.” His mouth quirked. “That is usually what you get at a coffee shop. But not always. I mean, you could have been getting tea. Or some of those disgusting Danishes I can never understand why people buy. Or a brownie.” He was chivalrous, maybe. Trying to break the ice.

“I don’t like Danishes either,” I said. There was no point being overly cold, really. He was a senior employee of Alexander’s, and he was trying to put me at ease. I could at least meet him halfway. It wasn’t his fault, after all, that I’d laid myself out half-naked on the poker table mid-game and come like a banshee.

“See? I could tell that about you. You’re a kindred spirit.”

A kindred spirit? That might have been overstating things just a tad. He was flirting, sure. Not a particularly wise move considering I was the boss’s fiancée, but no biggie. No one could see us. More to the point, Alexander wasn’t here: a detail Mark Faber was evidently more than a little pleased about.

“You know, I’m glad to hear it,” he said. “I was beginning to wonder if you’re ever allowed out of this building. You live here, right? And work here. I imagine you crave a little fresh air every now and then. It all must get a little … stifling.”

His insinuation was not hard to decipher. He knew Alexander well enough, as an employee and occasional poker buddy if not friend. He would have known that Alexander was controlling by nature. And it was true we’d been inseparable – and still were – when circumstances allowed.

I smiled politely but I didn’t reply. I could hardly say: You know what, Mark? I’m so in love I can barely see straight. But there is the odd, fleeting moment when I do feel like a bird in a gilded cage. Sometimes it can be a little confusing. And there was this time when he actually did lock me up and, well, I totally freaked out. I ran and hid from him and I swore I’d never come back. I just can’t be treated that way, you know what I mean? But we’ve worked through all that. We’re good now. I’ve got his key now and … we’re good.

“It just so happens that I’m also heading to the coffee shop,” he said. “Join me for a coffee?”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Mark,” I said. “I should be getting back soon anyway.”

“Come on,” he persisted. “State law says every employee who works eight hours a day is legally entitled to a thirty-minute lunch break. You still have …” he glanced at his Rolex, “twenty-six minutes. Or more, considering you work more like twenty hours a day.”

I bristled slightly at this implication. Shawna Beale’s accusations flashed. You gold-digging fucking whore. “I don’t know what you mean.”

He held his hands up loosely, like I held him at gun-point. “Hey, all I meant was that you’re working some long hours for Ashley. I wouldn’t work you that hard,” he smiled apologetically. He seemed mildly amused by my touchiness on the subject.

We both knew I wouldn’t be working for him at all, but before we could get into that discussion – to my relief – the doors of the elevator binged open. Since we were both now headed in the same direction, I walked with him. And as we stepped through the automatic doors of the Skyscraper building out to the street, I realized it was nice to get some fresh air. It had now been almost six weeks since I’d simply walked down the streets of New York. Without a limo driver on hand or a billionaire chaperone.

And now, I could acknowledge this: it felt good. To just stroll along and be a regular person for ten minutes. To take a little time out.

Mark Faber smiled down at me as though reading my thoughts. “See? Not so bad.”

“It has been a little while,” I admitted.

We walked in silence for half a block, past some street vendors selling scarves and I ♥ NY t-shirts, past a pretzel cart, a homeless man. Mark threw a dollar bill into the guy’s hat.

“Can I tell you something?”

I looked up at him, not sure I wanted to hear whatever confession he was about to make. I had the distinct feeling it was a confession he wouldn’t want me to share with Alexander. “I do have a Plan B, as it turns out.”

“Plan B?”

“I can see the writing on the wall.” He paused as we reached the coffee shop, and opened the door for me. We walked into the cozy space which was infused, not surprisingly, with the heavy scent of freshly-ground coffee. I’d only been here one other time. Alexander and I had met Jake for a Sunday afternoon coffee, soon after we got back from Paris. We stood in line. “I mean, after that night –” He smiled lightly at the heat that rose to my face. “I started looking around in case Alexander decided to give me my notice, which I have a feeling he will.”

“No, I don’t think he’ll do that,” I said, although it was, we both knew, a distinct possibility. I felt bad, that I was the cause of his uncertainty. It was entirely my fault that Mark Faber’s job was on the line. “I can talk to him.”

We were at the front of the line. “What’ll you have?” he said. “I’m buying.”

I pulled my wallet out of my bag. A new one. Pink leather. A gift, containing a platinum credit card with a $100,000 limit and a debit card linked to a bank account that held exactly $500,000.00. (To start with. We can always top it up when you need to, Alexander had said). “You don’t have to do that –”

“Please. I insist.”

“Okay. Thank you. I’ll have a skim latte, one sugar.”

Once we’d placed our order, we found a small table for two in the window. I almost balked at the seating placement. What if Alexander walked past? It was unlikely, but still. Or someone he knew? He’d go ballistic if he saw me having coffee with Mark Faber. But then, this was it: trust. Trust me, he’d said. Well, trust went both ways. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t sneaking around behind his back. I was having coffee with a work colleague, nothing more.

“I’ll talk to Alexander,” I said. “Or we can talk to him together –”

He laughed. “No. No way. That would be a bad idea.”

“Okay, not together. But it’s wrong, that all this would get you fired.” I was still blushing from the last reference to my crazy, wanton behavior, and the blush only amped up a notch. “It wasn’t your fault. Alexander knows that.”

“Alexander doesn’t give a shit whose fault it was.”

“I think he’d listen to me, if I talked to him.”

“I appreciate that.” Mark Faber smiled and his hand, a few inches from mine, slid closer. He took my fingers between his own. “You really do have the greenest eyes.”

“And yours are very blue,” I said. It was true, after all. Strikingly so. There was something about Mark Faber that was refreshingly non-aggressive. I was used to Alexander’s alpha zeal. Mark’s was a different vibe altogether. He was unassuming, and his eyes were friendly. I had to admit to myself that it was a nice – if very temporary – respite from all the intensity that was Alexander. Mark was clearly flirting, which was wildly inappropriate. But it was several seconds before I removed my hand from his. I wasn’t sure why. Reclaiming a sense of my own power, maybe. My own independence. And it was clear that I’d introduced some angst into Mark Faber’s life. It was because of me and my brand new wild side that he was in this predicament. A few minutes of empathy was hardly the end of the world.

But when I gently pulled my hand away, he playfully chased after my fingers and he held my hand, toying casually with the contours of my knuckle.

“Mr. Faber –”

“Mark.”

“Mark. You shouldn’t …” I didn’t want to lecture him, but he was treading some potentially dangerous waters here.

“What – play with fire? So I’ve heard. I might get burned. Which is exactly why I’ve come up with a Plan B. I actually think it’s good timing. I’ve been working for Skyscraper for five years. I have enough experience to start my own publication. So I’ve been looking into it. I found a space and I’ve got my eye on a couple of potential employees.” Mark Faber’s eyes held mine. “I’d appreciate it if you kept this to yourself for the time being, Lila. Just until I know for sure one way or the other.”

He didn’t give me time to answer. “And, I know this is out of line, all things considered, and I know you’ll say no now, but keep it in the back of your mind, in case you ever need to: I’ve seen your résumé and I overheard Ashley singing your praises and, if I do make the break, which I probably will, you could come work for me.”

I stared at him, speechless. It was a preposterous suggestion.

“I know, I know,” he said. “Your answer is this: No, Mark. No way. I don’t need a job. I have a job. I have a company to learn to run and a fiancé to obey and a big fat expense account to work my way through.” He put one of his hands up in that don’t-shoot-me apology again: the one that wasn’t caressing my fingers. “Don’t tell me to leave yet. Please. Because I know you’re about to. Just keep it in mind, that’s all I’m asking. A little ace in the hole, to fall back on.” I felt a fresh heat on my face at his poker reference. “Just in case you ever need to. Okay?” He leaned a little closer, his grasp growing bolder. “You know …” His voice was low, as though he didn’t want to be overheard. And he leaned closer still. “You were – you are – so incredibly beautiful. And so hot. Jesus Christ. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the way you –”

“Mark – ” I pulled away. But it was too late. Because something in my peripheral vision made me look out the window. The glint of sun on chrome. On a very shiny black stretch limo. A familiar one, with tinted windows.

The very same limo screeching to a very sudden stop.

And an enraged black-haired billionaire practically leaping out of the car.

Walking in my direction, a hell-raiser look on his flawless face.

He’d seen us.

My heart skipped a beat, not only from being caught in an innocent, clandestine rendezvous with Mark Faber, but from the beauty of my fiancé as he stormed towards us, his fists clenched, fury written all over his expression and the set of his broad shoulders in their exquisitely-cut suit. His hair was curling over the collar of his shirt, slightly windswept like he’d just driven in not from a series of legal meetings but from a bear hunt in the mountaintops or a horse trek across a wild, idyllic ranch in Montana where the air was cool but not cold and the rivers so clean you could drink them. That was the thing: he looked clean but sensually gritty, groomed but tantalizingly rugged. I wanted to lick the salty sweat off his skin and feast on his virile perfection. He was so insanely beautiful I literally could not breathe.

Mark Faber saw him too. He stood suddenly, almost knocking his chair over in the process. “Just think about it,” he said. “I’ve made my decision. I’ll be handing in my resignation this afternoon.”

I didn’t reply to him, feeling the full weight of Alexander’s fury and tuning into it, reflecting it. I stood too, and turned to face Alexander as he stormed into the café, all male aggression and blustery bravado. The entire place went quiet, all eyes on the man who looked like a stray GQ cover model who moonlighted as a bad-ass pirate. His wealth and his raw sexuality clung to him, radiating in shimmery, invisible waves. His look screamed Try me: I’ll give you the hottest sex of your life and make all your wildest fantasies come true. I knew this to be true.

But this reaction. This stalking, ferocious assumption of guilt when I’d done nothing to deserve it, it riled me beyond belief. It felt too similar to that locked cage of entrapment that Alexander promised to never, ever impose. We were supposed to be past all this. I’d agreed to marry him because he’d promised not to suffocate me.

He walked up to me, stopping a few feet from where I stood. I could smell him, that spiced, minted flavor that cut through even the thick coffee-scented air. That scent did the same thing it always did to me: seeped into me, lighting little fires of desire in every erogenous zone I possessed. I went wet. I could feel my pulse in the warm, intimate hollow between my legs as a sweet, slippery throb. I felt like I might erupt, from the passion, the desperation and the rage. Keep it breezy. Don’t make a scene.

“Nice seeing you Mark,” I said, glancing once over my shoulder. “Thanks for the coffee. We’ll do it again sometime,” I added, just to jab Alexander. I wanted to enrage him further, for his oppressive control over me. For the pull of resisting urges he incessantly introduced: the juxtaposition of a cocooning sense of control our relationship allowed me and at the same time stripped me of. To Alexander, I smiled and said, “Darling.” I’d never called him ‘darling’ in my life – or anyone else – but it fit. The practically-mocking, almost-subservient ring to it fit the moment perfectly. “We have some things to talk about. Shall we head back to Skyscraper?” I was playing the Mad Men secretary again and it pissed me off even more that the reference – once again – flashed through my mind.

His eyes narrowed at my choice of words. The delicate formality. The arcane inanity.

I knew we were going to have this out and so did he. It would be a gigantic blow-out of emotion and I couldn’t wait to get started.

Alexander turned to Mark Faber. He grabbed the label of his suit jacket with his fist. “Stay. Away. From. Her.” he growled viciously. Some of the people in the café were murmuring and moving away from the conflict, as though worried it was about to erupt. I was worried too. Alexander looked like he was on the verge of losing his cool big time.

It didn’t help matters when Mark Faber replied with this: “She was enjoying a little freedom. A little fresh air. That’s what she said: it’s been while since she’s been out from under the boss’s thumb, among other things. No harm done.”

Alexander was going to hit him, I could see it coming before the words were even out of Mark’s mouth. So I stepped in. I’d had to break up his fight with Jake and didn’t feel like doing that again right here in the middle of a damn coffee shop.

I stood in front of Alexander and I removed his grip from Mark’s lapel. I took both his fists in my hands. He was practically humming with his own wrath. I knew he wouldn’t lunge if I was in his way and I stood my ground. “We’re going. I need you to come with me. Now.”

“You’re fucking fired,” Alexander said to Mark at exactly at the same time Mark growled, “I quit, by the way.”

I managed – somehow – to pull Alexander away, to get him to come with me.

“Think about it, Lila,” Mark called after us. I closed the door before Alexander could react but his simmering vitriol was practically scalding us both.

The limo driver was there, of course, holding the door open for us. I suddenly felt strange, just being in this position, with servants and drivers and housekeepers. Mostly, I’d enjoyed being pampered. But now, this distance between the new, rich, engaged-to-a-billionaire me and what suddenly felt like the real me felt vast and foreign. It was his fault. He’d stolen parts of me that mattered, muting them and overpowering me. “Thank you,” I said to the driver.

The driver seemed taken aback and said nothing, like he’d never been thanked before. I wondered if Alexander had ever thanked him. I doubted it.

I slid across the expansive leather seat of the limo, all the way to the far door. Alexander sat in his seat, making no move to bridge the divide. The driver shut the door and Alexander raised the opaque glass partition between the driver’s compartment and ours.

We sat in stony silence for a few seconds.

I felt his hot gaze on me; its icy removal inflamed me even more. We were alone, encased in roomy opulence as we oozed through traffic, removed from it all. We could watch the rush of the city out the tinted windows as people grappled with their lives, desperately clawing their way through the day in mostly-futile attempts to arrive at the place where we already were. Where he was, I corrected myself. Rich beyond belief. Successful. In control.

In total, suffocating, tyrannical control.

“You had no right to storm in on me like that!” I began, feeling a strange sense of relief at the thought of throwing it all away. Of leaving him behind and being free of this, and of him. “If I want to have a cup of coffee with Mark Faber, I will. Whenever I fucking feel like it!”

He stared at me and I met his almost-surprised anger head on. I never swore like that. It might have sounded as strange to him as it did to me. He didn’t reply but I could feel it: the response he wanted to give: No you fucking won’t.

His rage was practically a physical presence. I could feel the heat of it, flushing my skin. He glared at me coolly. “You’re having private meetings with my poker buddies now, Lila? Is this your idea of a fucking joke? Holding hands? Staring meaningfully into each other’s eyes? What the fuck?”

My own fury was just as potent. Asshole! “There’s no joke, Alexander. You don’t control me. You’re not in charge of who I get to have a coffee with or lunch with or dinner with – or anything else! I don’t care if he is your poker buddy! I don’t care if he saw me lying naked in your living room. I don’t even care that he watched me get off! It’s my choice! So can keep your goddamn dictatorial regimes to yourself!”

He leaned toward me. He was so big and so angry I instinctively flinched back from him. “Oh, so you’re afraid of me now, are you?” he seethed. “What about him? He’s safe and I’m the monster?” He was practically hissing the words. “Come here.”

“No! Stay away from me.”

“Are making some kind of choice here, then, Lila? Is that it? You prefer Mark fucking Faber to me? What would you have done if I hadn’t walked in on you? Gone back to his place? Fucked him on the table to recreate the scene?”

No! I was having a cup of coffee, goddamn you! That’s all!”

He seemed to not have heard me. When he spoke again, his rage had been tempered by a pained vulnerability. “Fine. You prefer him? You like the way his mouth felt on your breasts, is that it? You loved how good he fucking sucked on you? Is that why you met with him? So he’d do it again?”

God! I was so angry I felt like lashing out at him. I leaned towards him and held my hand up as though to slap him but he grabbed my wrist. “I’m not a whore, Alexander, so don’t treat me like one.”

“You said it, not me.” His grip on my wrist was tight. Too tight. He was pulling me closer.

I struggled against him but he was too strong. He pulled me onto his lap, his arms like steel bars as I squirmed and punched at his chest. I could feel that he was hard as he forced me to sit down onto him and my body, traitorously, molded perfectly against his, inviting him. This only inflamed me more. “Let me go!”

No. I’m not fucking letting you go until you tell me what the fuck’s going on.”

“I told you! I can’t help it if you don’t trust me! I told you! Now get your hands off me!” I fought him like a wild thing, trying to claw my way out of his grasp, but his grip only grew tighter.
“Lila, stop it. Fuck.”

Goddamn him and his goddamn strength! I was completely powerless to break free of him. He held me against his body, waiting for me to calm down. But I was miles away from anything resembling calm. “Leave me alone. I hate you!”

His glare was like ice tinted with fire. “You hate me. That’s great. You want me to fuck off and leave you alone. But I won’t. No fucking way. Not until you tell me exactly what happened. And exactly what will happen. You want to leave me? You want to run off with him so he can suck you off any time you want?” A note of ragged despair touched the tail-end of his husked, enraged questions.

“If you’d just listen to me for once, you might actually hear what I’m saying! I never said I liked anything about Mark Faber. I ran into him and we were both on our way to the same coffee shop. That’s all that happened! I don’t even remember what he did to me or what it felt like that night, Alexander. All I remember is you.” I felt the sting of tears but I pushed them back. Alexander, I noticed, was fighting the same urge; his eyes were shiny, bloodshot.

It wasn’t the only urge I was fighting. Damn him. The hot, hard jut of him against my sensitive flesh was infuriating me. Even more, the depth of his emotion was softening my fury, against my will. I didn’t want him to look so sad, so utterly heart-broken.

“What do you remember?” he said.

I remembered it all. That crazy-hot state I’d been in, riding the high of my own frenzied arousal. My body remembered it too. As livid as I was, the echoing shadow of lust began to resurface, spurred by the colossal rigidity of him nesting hotly between the curves of my ass. My dress had ridden up in my struggle. Only the sheerest film of my moistened panties prohibited his entry as I wriggled in an effort to distance myself and at the same time draw closer. He was an over-controlling tyrant. A beast. And one that melted not only my heart but my softening, pulsing core.

He was challenging me. To fight him and to resist him.

My anger had taken a turn. I wanted to use it. To torture him as much as he was torturing me.

“I remember pulling my top down. For you. Putting my nipple into your mouth.” The memory made me wetter. I could feel my own depths become slippery. The lips of my pussy felt warm and soft against his hardness, open, molded to the shape of him.

“What else?” he said softly.

“I remember when you lay me back onto the table. You pulled out the beads and you put your mouth on me.”

His breath was coming heavier now. “And what happened then?”

“I came. I came so hard.” Oh, god. I had. My body was remembering, craving more.

He licked his lips and I could see he was remembering too, tasting me in his mind.

“I came for you, Alexander. Just you.”

“Why the fuck was he touching you, in there? Why was he holding your hand?”

“It was nothing.”

Why?” he insisted.

“I don’t know.”

Alexander’s hand released my wrist. He placed his hand on my thigh, easing upward. His hand cradled my sex through my saturated panties. His fingers pushed the fabric to the side, and his thumb skated over my clit, centering there in light, circular strokes. My anger was melting into molten, honeyed sensation. I couldn’t help it: I opened my legs wider, settling more deeply onto his massive, rock-hard erection. He felt so goddamn good. “Who are you so wet for, Lila?” he murmured. “Him? Or me?”

“How can you even ask that? You know it’s you. It’s all you.”

“Is it? Tell me what he said to you.” He slid two fingers into me, curving them to touch a sensitive place inside he knew drove me wild. His thumb continued to stroke and to glide.

Oh,” I breathed. “I can’t remember. It was nothing.”

“Open your dress.”

When I hesitated, still clinging to the dwindling embers of my anger, he slowed the pace of his delving fingers. Then he stopped, removing his touch.

Challenging me, once again, to resist him.

I couldn’t. He was too beautiful, too unruly, too imperfectly perfect. God, I wanted everything he could give.

I pulled down the neckline of my dress. My skimpy bra was made of extra-fine lace with no underwire. I adjusted the fabric, pulling it down. The lace framed my bared breasts, pushing them gently together and up. My nipples were high and rosy and beaded.

“Put your nipple in my mouth. Feed it to me.”

I should have protested. I should have stone-walled him and made him suffer. Instead, I adjusted my position slowly, turning towards him. My breasts felt full and heavy with need. My nipples were aching to be sucked. By him. I was incapable of withholding anything from this man. My pussy was pulsing and wet. All I wanted to do was to please and to give. And to take. I wanted him in my mouth. I wanted to feel his big cock sliding into my slippery warmth. He could read this shift in me and I could see it pleased him. He was going to use every ounce of his power, as he always did. He ripped the lace of my panties as I straddled him and threw the shreds aside.

“Those were expensive,” I commented.

“I’ll buy you some new ones. Give it to me. To my mouth.”

I held my breasts, easing them together so my nipples were both on offer. I placed one in his mouth as I arched my back slightly. “Like this?”

I wished he would touch me again with his fingers but I knew if I asked, he would purposely deny me.

He drew my nipple into the hot silk of his mouth, taking it between his teeth until a dart of pain jolted in a shadowy strike, straight to my pussy, which throbbed and fluttered. I gasped. He released me, licking the tip of my nipple. “Who do you think of when I do this to you, Lila? Did you like the way he sucked on you?”

“No. I told you: I don’t remember.”

“Not at all?”

“No.”

“Did you think about his touch when he was holding your hand?”

“No. I thought of yours.”

“Do you like the way it feels when I suck on you?”

“Yes,” I said.

He had pulled back just slightly and I couldn’t bear it. I placed my nipple between his parted lips. Just the humid strikes of his breath on my wet, sensitive flesh was electrifying. Soft puffs of pure pleasure that warmed me at the contact, and deeper. My orgasm was fringing, already. I was so damn hot for him I felt half-mad and entirely desperate. “Suck me again.”

“Tell me what you talked about.”

His hands were on my skin. On my thighs. His fingers roved, touching me intimately. His fingers pushed inside me as he gently squeezed the lips of my pussy together, rubbing and catching my clit between the slippery flesh. He worked a light rhythm, stoking sensation. I was touching my nipples, rolling them gently between my fingers and thumbs. I tried to feed one between his lips. He licked it once but he wouldn’t take it. He was staring at me coolly. That sexy-arrogant sneer.

“Tell me,” he said again. I hadn’t replied yet. As a punishment, his hands slid away, to my thighs, leaving me dripping for more.

“I – I don’t know. He talked about how he was worried about getting fired.”

“So he wanted you to comfort him, did he? Sway my decision?”

“Yes, a little. But –” Alexander’s fingers slid into me. At the same time, he started feasting gently on my nipple, tugging and biting in lightning-strike nips with his teeth. He touched his thumb to my clit, pressing in a circular swirl. It might have taken six, maybe seven, of those gentle presses to make me come. He gave me four. Then, again, he removed his touch altogether, letting his head fall against the headrest, challenging me once again with his deceptively-lazy, midnight gaze.

“But?” he pressed.

I felt bad about it, but Alexander had already fired him. It was only common sense that Mark would need start his own business or get a new job. “But he was thinking of going out on his own. He felt it was only a matter of time before he lost his position at Skyscraper.”

“Where’s he thinking of going?”

“He said he was considering starting his own publication.”

He considered this. “What else did he say?”

I didn’t want to think about Mark Faber anymore. I just wanted Alexander to touch me again. I reached for his belt buckle and began to unfasten his pants. I thought he might stop me but he was distracted, waiting for my response. He was holding me in place on top of him so I couldn’t fully free him. I reached into his boxers, playing with the head of his cock, running my fingertips across the slit until I felt the hot spill of a drop of moisture. I tried to adjust my position, to get closer so I could rub him against my aching clit and ease him inside.

But he wouldn’t let me, holding my hips, locking me in place so I couldn’t move. “What else?” he said again, his voice deep and vaguely hoarse.

“That’s all, really. He was just thinking about a Plan B, he called it.”

I swirled the silky liquid across the broad end of his cock but he took my wrist, pulling my hand away. His denial was starting to reignite my fury. I wanted to come. I wanted to free him and slide down onto his big, thick cock. To ride him as he sucked my breasts and played me with his fingers.

He knew this. But he held me securely with his strong hands. He watched my face as he touched his thumb to me, just where I wanted it. He circled my clit, working it gently between the saturated folds. I started to writhe against his touch. I was very close. I could feel the sweet rise building in my belly and the soft clench of my inner muscles. I could get there if he just kept doing that. Just a little more …

Again, he stopped.

I was getting more than a little desperate. And furious. “Alexander.”

But his hands were like steel bars. “Did he offer you a job?”

How did he know that? “Yes,” I said. “But –”

His grip became painful. “Yes?

Ow!”

He didn’t quite push me off him but sort of placed me on the seat next to him a little less gently than he could have. “Let me guess – you told him you’d consider it? Are you going to fuck him at the job interview too?”

I stared at him. I couldn’t believe he’d just said that.

“Stop the car,” I said. “I’m getting out.”

“No. We’re going back to the apartment.”

“I’m not going anywhere with you! Let me out.”

“No. You’re –”

“Now! Let me out!”

“Lila. Stop this.”

I reached for the door handle, but the door was locked. Locked! How could he? I struggled with the handle, pulling on it, my accumulating anxiety unreasonable, maybe, but very real.

“The doors are locked for our safety, Lila. Calm down.” For our safety. That on-going fine line we walked between what was protection and what was entrapment. Only a few hours I’d been reveling in that safety, and now it felt more like a noose around my neck.

Let me out!” I said, feeling that rising tide of panic begin to boil in my brain. He knew. He knew.

And he could see it, the beginning of my withdrawal. “All right,” he said, his all-out fury now infused with frustration. “Fuck.” He pushed an intercom button. “Stop the car, Ralph.” He pushed another button. There was a click as the locking mechanism released. And the car was slowing but not yet stopped.

I realized I was still half naked. I tugged my bra and dress back into place and smoothed my skirt. Alexander was buckling his belt. I leapt out of the car and started walking. Through traffic. I heard the honk of a car but barely noticed it. Alexander was almost immediately at my side.

“Lila.” His hand was on my arm but I shrugged it off angrily. “Come on,” he said, trying too late to diffuse what was already a fucking fucked-up situation. “Come to the apartment with me. We’ll talk this through.”

“No. I’m going back to work. There’s nothing to talk about.”

I kept walking, not even realizing he was making a call until he started talking into his phone. “Hi,” he said. “Yes. Lila and I have some wedding arrangements to work through this afternoon. She won’t be coming back in today.” I stopped walking. Ashley, that’s who he was talking to. Asshole! Taking total control again, because he could. Because he was in total control. Of everything and everyone, including me. “Yes,” he said, into his phone. “Tomorrow.” A distracted pause. “Yes. Thanks.” He hung up.

“How dare you, you overcontrolling asshole!” I shouted, getting the attention of the entire street corner. “I told her I’d be back this afternoon!”

Alexander looked around, equally flustered and irate at my outburst. At the attention we were getting. “Lila, fuck. What the fuck is up with you? You’re not going to run away from me again. You promised me that.”

“And you promised me you wouldn’t be such an almighty prick all the time! I don’t want to talk to you … you egomaniacal control freak! You self-righteous jerk! If I recall correctly, you had no problem whatsoever with me fucking you at my job interview! And every five minutes since! If I’d known it went against your principles, I never would have done it!”

Alexander ran a hand through his hair, disheveling it, making him look even sexier than he already fucking did, which pissed me off to no end. “Jesus Christ, Lila! I’m sorry I fucking said that, all right? But how do you expect me to react when I just so happen to walk in on you getting cozy with … him! The one goddamn person in the world you knew it would fucking infuriate me to all hell for you to ‘have coffee with’ … for obvious fucking reasons! Are you trying to fuck with me?”

A guy was taking a picture of us with his phone. I could picture it now: ‘Mogul Alexander Wolfe and Unidentified Woman Seen Brawling on Fifth Avenue’ splashed all over Twitter. Alexander grabbed the man’s phone and threw it into the concrete wall of a nearby building, smashing it in a dramatic little explosion of metal and plastic. A woman made a shocked sound, like a squawking seagull. The small crowd of people that had gathered took a few steps back.

Fuck, man!” the guy yelled.

Alexander ignored him. “Lila. Please can we take this somewhere a little more private?”

I started walking and Alexander strode along next to me. His plush penthouse apartment was the very last place I felt like going right now, for the very reason that it was his but the reality was: I had no other goddamn place to go. At least we could have this out without all of New York videoing it.

Neither of us said anything as we walked the final block. And entered the lobby of his building. And took the elevator to the twenty-seventh floor.

Claude was there, cleaning. He looked surprised to see us, and he quickly turned off the eighties techno-pop music.

“Claude,” Alexander said. “Please. Take the rest of the day off.” Well, here was an improvement: ‘please’! So the man was capable of being polite! Maybe he was still making amends after the last big blow-out we’d had, when Alexander had locked me in his fucking bedroom and practically attacked Claude when he’d let me out.

Claude obeyed and immediately took his leave, shutting the door behind him.

We stared at each other. Alexander’s fists were still balled and, amazingly, so were mine. It could have almost been comical, if it wasn’t so goddamn infuriating.

“You can’t tell me what to do all the time,” I began. “You can’t! You don’t own me and you don’t get to decide what I do or who I have a goddamn cup of coffee with! I don’t care who he is or what he saw! It wasn’t even his fault! It was my fault and your fault that all that happened, not his!”

He glared at me, saying nothing. Which infuriated me even more.

“And that comment about the job interview was the meanest thing you’ve ever said to me, you know that? The meanest thing.”

“I’m sorry. I told you I was sorry for saying that. But that’s exactly what he’d love, don’t you see it? For you to jump my ship, get a job with him so he can make a move on you. I guarantee that’s what he’s up to. It makes me feel like tracking him down right now and beating him to a fucking bloody pulp.”

“Oh, that’s nice. That’s your solution to everything, isn’t it? Beating people to a bloody pulp. Are you going to beat me to a pulp, too? Or are you waiting to marry me first?”

He looked hurt. “Lila. You know I’d never hurt you. You know that, don’t you? I’d never, ever hurt you.”

“I’m not marrying you,” I said, and the pronouncement caught me a little off-guard, enough to cause a tiny sinking jolt in my stomach, of sadness. “I can’t marry you if you keep trying to control me all the time. It’s not what I want. I can’t stand it and I won’t be able to stand you, if you do that all the time.” I willed my anger to override that aching sadness, because it was true that I would give him up. I would. If I had to. If he couldn’t respect my boundaries. If he kept continually trying to cage me in. “I thought we already talked all this through, Alexander. I thought you understood. But you don’t. You don’t. So I can’t marry you.”

Alexander fell to his knees. He hugged his arms around my legs and rested his head against my stomach. I almost tried to jerk back from him, to gain some distance, but his hold was too strong.

And too warm.

Too maddeningly good.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured into the silk of my dress, grabbing handfuls with his hands. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I promised you I wouldn’t do it and I have. Again.” His rage had turned. To utter despair. “Please don’t say that. Please don’t say you won’t marry me. I’ll prove it to you. I’ll make it up to you. Just tell me what to do and I’ll make it up to you.”

He was sorry. I could feel the depth of his regret in the grip of his hands. He looked up at me and his eyes were anguished. His swarthy, beautiful pirate’s face was so full of remorse I couldn’t help it: I began to soften. He was human. And he was imperfect, I knew that. And I knew that I loved him, imperfections and all.

“You know what you said to me the other day, Alexander? About trust? You asked me to trust you, and I did. I do. But that’s not enough. You have to trust me, too.”

“I do. I do trust you.”

“Not enough to let me have a cup of coffee with Mark Faber.”

“It’s not that, Lila! It’s not that I don’t trust you. I don’t trust him! I can’t take it! You’re so fucking irresistible. I know he wants you. I know he does. He offered you a fucking job for Christ sakes! How could he not want you? It makes me fucking crazy. I was jealous. And insane. I love you and it kills me a little every time I have to let you go. But I’ll do it. For you. I’ll do whatever you want. Just don’t say you won’t marry me, honey girl. Please. Anything. I’ll do anything.”

I knew why it was so hard for him to let go. I knew what drove his protective instincts. His past. Jake’s abuse at the hands of a vile predator; Alexander could never undo it but had sought his entire life to try to prevent it from ever happening again. He felt he had to do it: to be that bulletproof fence. That role was ingrained in Alexander, and it was intensely difficult for him to disengage from this need to protect and to shield those he loved.

For this reason, I agreed to listen to him. To let him try again. But I had a few conditions. “I want you to allow me total control. Of myself. You can’t dictate the terms of what I do and don’t do. It’s my life. I want you in it, but it’s my life.”

“I know. I know. I will.” I’d never seen Alexander so agreeable. I knew that he would literally do anything to keep me and there was something about this knowledge that made me feel exactly the same way about him. Which meant forgiving him, even if he might make the same mistake again. I had to trust that he would keep trying.

Because I did want to marry him. More than I’d ever wanted anything in my life. Of course I did. He was everything I had ever not even thought to dream of, times a billion. I wanted him to fix this.

I wanted him to fix me.

And the way his breath was humid and hot against the low skin of my stomach was burning me. With damp desire. With that sweet ache that swelled and bloomed every time he was near me. With that unsatisfied overblown urge to take him into my body. God, how I lusted for this man. It was disabling.

“I’m going to forgive you, Alexander Wolfe, because I believe you. I know you love me. But I want you to prove to me that you trust me.”

“I will. I will.”

“Right now.”

“How? I will.”

“Tonight I’m going to prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I trust you with everything I have. And you’re going to let me. And then, you’re going to offer Mark Faber his job back, if he wants it. You’re going to let me work in Political Affairs when I choose to, if I choose to. I might not. But it’ll be my choice. Our choice together, even. But not just yours. And if I want to have an innocent goddamn latte with some colleague I run into in the elevator, I will! Okay?”

Something flashed behind his eyes. The instinct of defiant refusal. This was a choice he was making: to relinquish total control, or to watch me walk away. It was an impossible concession for him to make but he didn’t hesitate. “Okay.”

I loved him for that. I loved that he was willing to try. I wanted to try something, too. He was going to put his past aside, in a way, to allow me what I wanted of him. I wanted to put my past aside, too. To lay old fears to rest. To replace them with new emotions, like comfort. Maybe even happiness. “And now, I want you to promise me that you’ll do whatever I ask of you, tonight.”

He looked at me warily. “Okay,” he said, not understanding my request. You want to have another coffee with Faber? he seemed to be thinking.

“Promise.”

“All right. I promise.”

I had a plan, and it was one that made my heartbeat quicken. It was mad, maybe, to even try it. But I wanted to break through a barrier of my own. And I trusted that he would take care of me. “Undress me.”

His eyes flashed again. This time there was no defiant refusal in him. Just pure, glittering lust backlit by a slow burning love. “That, I can do.”

“Slowly.”

He stood and untied my black silk dress, leaving me only in my sheer lace bra and my tall boots. He’d already ripped off my panties in the limo.

I reached for his belt buckle, slowly unfastening it. Then I unthreaded it from the loops of his pants. I held it out to him. And I held my wrists together, looking at his face.

Dawning realization flickered in his eyes. “You want me to --? No. Lila.”

“You promised. I’m asking you to. Give me a good memory. That’s what I want. With you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. This is how much I trust you. Tie me up.”

“Lila –”

Do it.”

He paused, his expression dark, intense. He gently wrapped the belt around my wrists.

“Tight,” I said.

He obeyed, pulling the loop tighter, fastening it.

“Fix me,” I whispered to him.

Alexander was quiet, contemplating the challenge I’d issued him as I walked backwards, towards his huge bed. Determination and a devoted steadiness colored his movements as he followed me. I turned, sliding onto the bed. My hips rose and I was on my knees, my shoulders on the bed. I knew this position drove him wild. He was there behind me, sliding my knees further apart. He buried his face between the curves of my ass, licking me everywhere in hungry, heated strokes. He was so dirty, so entirely raunchy. Animalistic. He feasted on me like a starving man, lewd and lusty, his tongue probing indecently into every hollow in wet, greedy lunges. I moaned from the pleasure and the sound seemed to trigger something in him. A reminder, of the task at hand. He slowed, licking more slowly. Careful, succulent dips. His hands caressed me as he rearranged me, picking me up and carefully settling me on my back. My head rested on plush down pillows. Now, his hands were utterly gentle, his manner calm.

Very carefully, he raised my arms, securing my wrists to the bed. My stomach did a small flip. “Do I need a safe word?” I said, breathless.

He sat down next to me and grazed his fingers across my hair. “’No.’ ‘Stop.’ ‘Get off me, Alexander.’ Any of those will do. Unless you want to get kinky and play the ‘no’ means ‘harder’ game, in which case you can cry ‘Wolfe’. ”

I smiled nervously. “Ha. Funny.”

He laughed at his own joke, a low chuckle that turned me on even more, then his smile faded as he focused. “You trust me?” he said.

“Yes.”

“I promise I’ll be very, very careful with you. And I promise I’ll spend every day for the rest of my life trying to be the man you want me to be. I’ll fuck up on a regular basis, no doubt. You’re right: I’m an overbearing egomaniacal asshole. But I’ll keep trying.”

“I’m sorry I called you that.”

“I deserved it.”

“Maybe a little.”

“Careful,” he purred, playful. “You’re at my mercy, remember.”

“Yes,” I said, a light sweat dewing my skin. “I’m at your mercy.”

Alexander stepped behind the wall that partitioned the main bedroom from the massive walk-in closet. And he returned with two ties and something else: a long, thin piece of leather with a triangular tip. He sat down next to me once again, holding up what he was holding. “I’m going to tie your feet. Then I’m going to touch you with this.”

“What is it?” My voice sounded just a little too high, a little too husked.

“A whip.”

I could feel my eyes widen. “I said fix me, not annihilate me.”

His crooked smile reassured me. “This will fix you. I won’t do anything you won’t ask me to do, all right? I promise.”

My heart was racing. “All right.” I sounded uncertain, even if I was starting to feel … crazy. His hands were on my thighs. Gently, gently kneading the soft flesh, easing my legs apart. His warm palm slid back, to the round curves of my ass, gently roving. His fingers skimmed the most intimate hollows of my body, caressing but not lingering, leaving feathery, heated echoes of his touch. His hands smoothed down to my knee. To my calf. To my ankle, which he secured to the bed with a silk tie. He did the same to the other ankle.

I was completely bound.

I could feel the residual panic, the deep-down fear. But I concentrated on Alexander’s face. His wild black hair. His perfect lips. He was so different … this was so different. Nothing like the clouded memories.

“Close your eyes.”

It was a command I could obey. And it caused a long-buried flashback to rise. Keep your eyes open. It’s always the way he had wanted it: the predator, the beast who had so thoroughly and permanently scarred me.

I let my eyes close and I let myself feel. Heal me, Alexander. His hands and his mouth, worshipping my body. Kissing me. My hands. My mouth. My breasts. Not hard and quick, not cold. Not like the long-ago terror. This touch was so very tender and so filled with adoration I could only give in to it. I could only savor every sweet, succulent caress that was all about my pleasure and my salvation. He kissed my stomach, teasing with light licks. He moved lower, kissing my intimate petals, parting me with his tongue. He moved slowly, deliberately, licking me in long laves, opening me to his sensual invasion, taking his time. Until the fear was displaced by a rising tide of longing. I was wet. My sensitive flesh was softening under his loving exploration. His tongue delved between my folds, pressing against my clit, sucking gently on the swelling nub, exposing it. I was bound and open, entirely vulnerable.

At his mercy.

I felt myself strain against the ties and a sudden wash of panic cooled my damp skin.

I opened my eyes. To see him. To make sure.

“You’re okay, sweetheart. It’s me. I love you.” He kissed me again, dipping his tongue into me, in and out, licking me. “Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” I breathed, reassured by his black hair and broad shoulders. I wished I could grab his hair in handfuls. Alexander.

“Relax for me. I’m going to make you come now. I’m going to touch you with this soft whip, very, very gently. It won’t hurt. I won’t hurt you. It will feel good. Relax for me, honey. Trust me.”

I closed my eyes again, letting myself feel only him, willing myself to be aware only of the here and now. All sensation focused on my center: that wet, hot pulsing place where his mouth tenderly feasted. He sucked my clit again, drawing, pulling, parting the folds of my pussy with his fingers to expose the nub fully. He drew again and there it was: the beginnings of a curling, blissful rise. I gave in to it, letting the momentum build, letting the pleasure overtake the fear, banishing it. His fingers delved into my saturated core, playing the moisture, swirling and dipping. The swell spread, to my belly, to the tips of my breasts. My climax was there, just out of reach. It was then that Alexander withdrew but before I could protest I felt the gentle pat of the soft leather whip. There. Right in the middle of the bliss. It was shocking, almost. Not painful: the opposite of painful. Needy. The pleasure bloomed warmly from the light contact, not yet taking hold.

Alexander waited, gauging my reaction, assessing my response. I gasped as the concentric circles of pleasure seemed to ripple through my body, promising a release that was so exquisite and so devastating I grew impatient for it. “Again,” I pleaded.

“You want more, honey?” His voice was low, almost teasing. He wanted me to beg for it.

“More. More.”

He made me wait and I writhed gently. The anticipation was excruciating. I liked the feel of the ties against my skin. I liked that I was vulnerable like this, for him, fully exposed. I wanted him to take advantage of my vulnerability, to use me and possess me. I needed it: I needed this release so badly I thought I would die.

Alexander tapped again with the leather whip.

Oh, god. The sweet swell blossomed in a heated, rapturous rush, centering in my clit, where the echo of contact lingered, spilling outward in a gently-coursing glow to touch the tips of my fingers and toes. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t hard enough, or fast enough. It was too teasing. Too gentle. “Please, Alexander. Please. More. Again.”

“Shhh,” he soothed. “I’ll give you more, sweetheart. I’ll give you everything.”

Again, he waited, taking his sweet, langorous time, goddamn him. He kissed my nipple, barely suckling. But I needed more. The swell was mellowing, not waning but rippling there, gaining a sublime, just-out-of-reach momentum. “Please, Alexander. Please.”

There it was. The light, beautiful tap. I moaned and my body sang with the low wave it introduced, the pure, enchanting reward, alighting my body with promise, with wonder. I was beginning to come. I was on the precipice. I strained with it, trying to reach it. But I couldn’t quite get there. My body arched, to get closer to him and this beautiful agony.

“Are you ready, honey girl?”

“Yes. Yes. I’m ready. Please. Do it now.” My response was breathy and raspily eager.

But he sounded relaxed, lazy. Like he was enjoying my agony too much to hurry. “You want more, Lila? You want me to make you come?”

He was torturing me. It was pure torture, this wait, this game. I let out another gasping sob of anticipation. I knew that when I found the ultimate peak of this rise, it was going to be so high and so good it would blow my goddamn mind. “Alexander. Now. Oh, please, I need it now.”

“Relax, sweet girl,” he crooned. “Relax.”

I tried. I relaxed my body, reveling in the feel of my soaked, swollen, total exposure. He was going to give it to me. Any minute. My mouth was watering, my fists clenched with hope and fervor.

This time, Alexander tapped the leather whip against me not once, but in a light, gradually increasing rhythm. The pleasure was blindingly intense. It began low and the gentle taps fed the ecstasy into my body in a spooling beat that took over all my senses, flooding me with an orgasm so extreme I cried out, bucking and gyrating as much as my constraints would allow just to cope with it, to deal with the excruciating gravity of the clenching, undulating bliss that washed through my core and radiated through my body in rolling tidal waves of beauty.

God …” I was moaning as the climax began to ease, but he wouldn’t let up.

Alexander’s fingers entered me, thrusting gently in time with the tap of his leather whip and he made me come again, the second climax just as brutally pleasurable as the first.

After the spasms had calmed, I opened my eyes and he withdrew. His dark gaze held mine as he wickedly raised his two fingers to his mouth, touching his tongue to the taste of me. “Honey girl,” he said.

He looked so big, so powerful and dark-eyed. He was still fully clothed. And here I was, boneless and bound, wet and wanton and fully on display, my inner muscles still rippling.

It was the look of him that fired me up. All that tense, lusty, muscular energy. That full mouth, savoring my taste. That thick mane of black hair. My body felt like an overripe fruit that he’d taken a juicy bite of. And I wanted to shift this power. I wanted to use all this overflowing femininity to tame his arrogant composure. Something about this release had freed something in me. Not a cure, but a corner turned. I did not feel sated: I felt wild, and loose.

“Untie me, Wolfe,” I said.

He contemplated me, as though tempted to disobey, but he did as I asked. He seemed to sense a change in me, a fierceness, a freedom. “You okay?”

“Yes. I’m amazing.”

He smiled. “Agreed,” he said.

“But there’s something else I want.”

“What?”

I waited to reply until he had completely untied me. I took the belt from his hands and he watched me as I curled the thick leather around his wrists. “My turn,” I smiled.

He laughed lightly. “No. No way.”

“I get whatever I want. You agreed.” His reticence was palpable, which made me laugh too. “Don’t you trust me?”

“Of course I don’t.” His smile touched his eyes. Alexander didn’t often smile like that. He was drop-dead gorgeous even when he was brooding; like this, he was simply breath-taking. “Of course I do, I should say.”

“That’s better.”

“I have a feeling you’re going to take out all your wrath on me.”

“You’d be right,” I said, and he chuckled again. There was the tiniest edge of reserve in him that was downright irresistible. “You promised.”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“Yes. Let me.”

A hint of his smile remained but his narrowed gaze was midnight-black.

“Trust me,” I said again, unbuttoning his shirt, easing it over his hard shoulders, pulling it off.

“Lila –”

“I love you,” I said, climbing onto his lap, kissing his lips slowly, playfully. “I’ll be nice. Well … sort of nice. Now lie back.”

He didn’t protest again, allowing me exactly what I wanted, letting me manoeuver him into place. He was both wary and aroused as hell. His eyes watched me as I lifted his arms and fastened his bound wrists to a metal loop on the wooden bedhead that, now that I considered it, seemed perfectly placed and designed for this exact purpose.

“There,” I said, pleased. I could do anything to him. Anything. “You are completely at my mercy, Mr. Wolfe.”

“I’ve been completely at your mercy since that second you walked into my office, Mrs. Wolfe.” He went quiet for a few seconds, then he said, “Please marry me.”

“I might,” I whispered, unfastened his pants, pulling them down low on his hips. His erection sprang free, huge and hot, and I grasped him, handling him lovingly, sliding my palms all the way from the root to the tip. I leaned down, lifting his engorged shaft to my mouth. I kissed him in little feather-light nips. “What can I do,” I said, “to teach you that you’re not the king of the whole world and everyone in it?” I eased him into my mouth, gently touching my teeth to him.

Oh, god,” he groaned.

I let him slide free of my mouth. I cupped him from below, squeezing gently. I kissed him everywhere as I cooed my reprimand. “What will it take …” I gripped him more tightly and nipped him in a very intimate place.

Oh, fuck.”

“… for you to admit that you are not in complete control of everyone and everything…”

I used my fingers to stroke and explore. He groaned again.

“… all the time?”

I took him deeper into my mouth, feasting on him like I was starved, pulling, kissing, sucking and biting until he was groaning and thrusting into my mouth. I could tell he was getting close to climaxing, so I slowed my pace, then let him slide from my mouth once again. I pulled his pants all the way off and crawled up his body like a cat, rubbing my breasts against his cock, touching my nipple to the gathering moisture at the tip.

Christ,” he groaned.

I straddled him, fitting the blunt end of his cock to my slippery entrance, using him to swirl my own wetness over my clit. I played, making him wait.

God, Lila. Give it to me. Let me inside you. Let me feel that sweet little pussy gripping me as you come.” I wanted to torture him but I was too eager for exactly that. I loved hearing him talk like that, with all that love and desperation coloring the tones of his lust-rasped voice. I didn’t want to wait. I lowered myself inch by inch onto him, bouncing gently until he was snugly inside me. Then I began to ride him, swivelling my hips in a circling sway, increasing the pace as lifted myself all the way up, then sat onto him again, taking him as deep as I could, keeping him inside as I moved in an arching, pivoting glide.

Something in me had broken open: a long-held fear no longer felt quite so heavy. A piece of my deep-held pain had lifted. Gone, poof, just like that. My lover’s brand of therapy had, miraculously, worked. And this sudden, acute sense of liberation made me feel crazily happy, lustfully wild.

I took it all out on Alexander: this enlightened abandon had given me not only power but also a sexy vigor that seemed to almost undo him. My playful, wriggling swivels and my slick, tight grip as I rode him made his cock so hard he felt like warm, velvet-smooth stone.

Ah, holy fuck,” he growled, as I increased my pace yet again, finding a perfect, passionate rhythm.

It was the warmth of him as much as the pulsing jets of his release that spun my orgasm out again: that leeching heat that filled me in gushes of sweet, scorching fire. His eyes were squeezed shut, his face pained. He was saying my name, groaning it in a worshipful chant.

I collapsed onto him, spent in body and in soul.

After a few minutes, once he’d recovered, he said, “Untie me so I can hold you.”

I did and he wrapped his arms around me and held me close for a very long time.


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