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«Copyright © 2014 J. Kenner The right of J. Kenner to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the ...»

-- [ Page 22 ] --

“I’m yours,” I said, my breath a gasp. “I’m at your mercy. I’m in thrall to you.” “Any time I want, any way I want. Tell me you like knowing that’s true.” “I do—oh, god, I do.” “Do you trust me, Kat?” “Completely.” “Could I do this to you— fuck you in the bathroom of the goddamn Drake hotel if you didn’t trust me?” “No.” “Then trust me to know what I’m doing.” I nodded. And then, because I couldn’t stand it any longer, I whispered, “Please.” “Please what?” I pressed my hand over his on my breast, then drew his other hand up from my clit until he held both my nipples again. “Harder.” “Oh, sweet Jesus,” he said, and as he squeezed tight —as I cried out from the sweet, delicious pain that shot through me—I felt him explode inside me, his release ripping through both of us.

Ribbons of pain that felt like pleasure burst through me, growing and building until my own climax shuddered through me. In that moment, Cole released the vise-grip on my nipples, and the feeling rushed back so quickly it made me weak enough that he had no choice but to hold me tight or let me fall to the floor.

“How do you do that?” I asked, when I could once again form words. “How can I be so pissed at you and then you turn it around, and use it to make me explode? And not just explode, but—oh my god, Cole. That was insane.” The corner of his mouth lifted. “Still pissed?” “Yes,” I admitted. “You broke your word.” “I wanted to ensure he was safe sooner rather than later,” Cole said. “And I didn’t break my word.” “Bullshit. You—” “Were intending to tell you the moment I saw you. I only promised to keep you apprised of the plan, Kat. I didn’t say a goddamn word about whether I’d tell you before or after I acted.” “That’s a truly pitiful argument,” I said. “You knew what I meant.” But at the same time, I deflated.

Because damned if his heart wasn’t in the right place. He had moved in—and fast—to protect my dad. And angry or not, that really did mean the world to me.

I lifted myself up on my toes and kissed him.

“I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, Kat. But right here, right now, you’re mine. And I will always take care of what’s mine. And that includes both you and your father. Do you understand?” I nodded, because I did.

He dampened one of the provided hand towels and then cleaned me up, tending to me so very gently. I sighed, then lifted my arms for him as he put my shirt over my head.

He was taking care of me, dressing me, cherishing me.

There was control, yes, but there was also a sweet sensuality to the moment. I thought about that, about the dichotomy of this intense feeling of warmth and safety juxtaposed against the pain and pleasure of the spanking and the pinching.

And as I thought, I realized something else— Cole was like me. Not that he needed to submit, but that he needed to dominate. He hadn’t just wanted to spank and pinch me, he’d needed to.

Just now. Last night. Because without that, he couldn’t have reached orgasm any more than I could.

Hadn’t he told me as much when I’d come to his door, boldly demanding that he fuck me? I like it, he’d said, talking about inflicting pain. I need it.

I didn’t know what, but I was certain that he was able to empathize with me because something had happened to him, too. Something that kept him from coming unless he could pull himself over by grabbing onto the red threads of pain.

I was tempted to ask him to tell me. I didn’t, though.

He’d tell me eventually, and right then, it was enough to simply understand him. And to know that somehow— through all the crazy shit that had made us who we were— we had ended up in each other’s arms.

sixteen I followed Cole out of the ladies’ room, ignoring the curious stares from the two women who were entering as we were leaving.

“Oh. My. God,” I said, but Cole just grinned.

“You ready to see your dad?” “Are you kidding? Of course.” “Then let’s go.” He led the way down the hall, then to a service elevator.

I frowned as he punched the call button. “We’re going up to see Tyler and Sloane? I thought you were taking me to my dad.” He stepped into the car. “I am.” The elevator let us off on the sixth floor, and I followed Cole down the hall toward a corner room. “The Jahn Foundation keeps a suite here for out-of-town visitors. It’s ironic, but the more money you spend on someone, the more often they will donate to a cause.” The Jahn Foundation, where Angie now worked, had been endowed by Howard Jahn as a charitable foundation with a primary purpose of preservation, restoration, and education regarding all forms of art. All three of the knights sat on the board of directors, so it didn’t surprise me that Cole had access to this suite.

“What about security?” I asked as we paused in front of the door. “There are surely cameras in the elevators and halls.” “The odds of Muratti checking those are slim. But,” he added before I could voice my protest, “we took precautions anyway. Wig, mustache, lifts in his shoes.





We aren’t new to the game, Kat. Remember that.” “I do,” I said. “But it’s my dad.” He took my hand and squeezed it. “I know.” “What about maids?” I asked as he tapped three times on the door. “Room service?” “Taken care of,” Cole said. “No one sees him.” The door opened, revealing a perky girl in her early twenties who looked vaguely familiar.

“Hey! Come on in,” she said, stepping back so that we could enter.

“Darcy, you remember Kat? She’s Maury’s daughter.” “He’s such a nice man,” Darcy said, holding out her hand for me to shake. “And we’ve met at Destiny. I used to dance there.” “Darcy’s going back to school in the fall,” Cole said.

“She’s taking a few college prep courses now, so we made a deal. She hangs out with your dad, answers the door and keeps him out of sight, and she can get paid for spending the rest of her time studying.” “Not bad,” I said.

“It’s a great gig,” Darcy said, looking at Cole with something close to hero worship.

“Um, can I see him?” “Huh? Oh! Right. Come on.” Darcy led the way into the suite, a still elegant but much smaller version of the one Tyler and Sloane occupied. “He goes into one of the bedrooms when anyone comes—maids or room service or maintenance. Hang on.” She bounced across the room, then disappeared down a short hall. I heard her tap on a door and call for him. A moment later, my father walked into the room, a wide grin spread across his face, and his arms held out wide for me.

I hugged him tight, then stepped back to look at him.

He looked calm and rested— the fear I’d seen on his face when he’d come to my apartment had all but been erased. I eased closer to Cole and took his hand in a silent thank-you, because he’d played a huge part in erasing that worry.

We settled in the living room, me perched on the arm of the couch so I could be close to my dad, and Cole standing near the window, looking out at the city. Darcy played hostess, offering coffee or wine or something stronger.

I went for the stronger.

“You’re doing okay, Daddy? Not getting restless?” “You know me, I’m always restless. But I’m content to stay put until your young man here tells me otherwise.” “Good,” I said. “He’s gone to a lot of trouble, and he knows what he’s doing.

You listen to him.” “I am. You’ve got a good man there, taking care of me.

Taking care of you. I didn’t want to put you at risk, kiddo, I really didn’t. But I’m glad I came.” I sighed. “I am, too, Daddy. I just want you to stay safe.” I made him promise a dozen or so more times that he’d follow all the rules and not do anything stupid.

“I did a bit more poking around,” Cole said, leaving the window to join us. “The property is prime, and although Frederick Charles doesn’t want to sell to Muratti, that’s not because he’s looking to develop the property himself or expects his niece to after she inherits.” “He just doesn’t want to sell to a mafia guy,” I said.

“Exactly. Which gives us an advantage.” “I get what you’re thinking, but even if Frederick sells the property, won’t Muratti hold a grudge?” I asked.

“He’s that kind, yes. But he’s also about to retire, and his son, Michael, is starting to take over the organization.

Michael’s not as old-school mafia—no horse heads in beds—and he doesn’t see the point of flying off the handle if it’s bad business.” I caught my dad’s eye. So far, that sounded promising.

“So once we’re clear, I think Michael will simply write your dad off as a bad bet and everyone will go on their way.” “You think,” I repeated.

“There’s an element of wait and see, I won’t sugarcoat it. But unless you want to call in the Feds—and then we’d be talking about witness protection—this is the best we can do.” “I got myself in deep, sweetie,” Daddy said. “I can take it.” I nodded, then drew in a breath. “All right, then. So how are we getting him clear?” “I have an idea,” Cole said. “Let me work out the details and I’ll let you know.” I started to argue, then decided to stay quiet. I trusted this man, after all.

And that felt pretty damn good.

“So am I forgiven?” Cole asked when we were in his Range Rover.

“Let’s see,” I said, making a show of counting things out on my fingers. “You’ve got my dad under control, I have my closing tomorrow, and we just had really amazing sex. If you take me by my house so that I can gaze longingly at it, then yes, you’ll be forgiven.” “I can do that,” he said, then reached over and stroked the back of my neck, a sweetly intimate gesture that sent shivers through me. “I like seeing you happy,” he said.

“Convenient, since I like being happy.” It didn’t take us long to get to the house, and I once again unlocked the door using the combination I wasn’t supposed to know.

“Naughty girl,” he said.

“But useful to have around.” “This is the last time I get to live dangerously,” I said.

“Tomorrow I’ll own the place, and letting myself inside will be completely legitimate.” He followed me over the threshold, then took my hand.

With one quick tug, he pulled me close, hard and fast, so that I ended up crashing against him, then laughing as he cupped my ass. “I’m more than happy to provide the danger if that’s what you’re craving.” “I like the sound of that,” I said, then curled myself around him for a long, slow kiss. “And I like doing that.” “Once again, we’re in sync.” He drew back, then waved his arm to encompass the house. “Show me everything.” I did, of course, dragging him through the house.

Showing him every room, every closet, every nook and cranny. I told him where I planned to put my furniture, why I was certain I was going to need to add extra shelving, and exactly what kinds of vegetables I was determined to grow in my tiny backyard.

I showed him my bedroom, too. “I plan to spend a lot of time here,” I said. “And I don’t plan to be alone.” “Lazy mornings reading the paper in bed?” “I’m more of an aerobic kind of girl. I was thinking wild, hanging-from-thechandelier sex. But we can relax with the paper afterward if you want.” I saw the amusement flash in his eyes before he tilted his head up to the ceiling.

“Yeah,” I said, “I know.

Buying a chandelier is at the very top of my to-do list. But despite that little flaw, what do you think?” “I think you got an exceptional deal. Whoever owned it could have sold it for at least ten percent more —maybe twenty—if they’d bothered to do just a little bit of cosmetic work.” “That’s what I thought.

And since I no longer work at the coffee shop, I’ll have plenty of time to spend doing all that cosmetic stuff.” He cocked his head.

“When did this happen?” “About the time my boss showed his true asshole colors and tried to screw over my ability to go to my closing and then enjoy my house.” I lifted a shoulder. “Fuck him. I can do just fine without him.” “I don’t doubt it,” Cole said. “But if you need a paycheck, I believe you’re already technically employed at the gallery.” I smirked. “Careful, or I’ll take you up on that.” “I’m serious,” he said. “If you need help making ends meet, you know you can come to me, right?” “I do,” I said earnestly.

And the fact was that I knew more than that. I could go to him about my life. About my hopes and my dreams. And not just could go, but wanted to go.

I wanted to share with Cole. Because this thing between us was more than just sex. It was life. It was us.

It was everything.

“Hey,” he said, peering at me. “Contemplating the horrors of having me for a boss?” “Hardly,” I teased.

“Thinking about how little work we’d get done.” He grinned, but it faded quickly. “Is everything okay?

You got suddenly pensive.” “Everything’s great. I have enough money to cover the mortgage and my expenses for at least six months.” “That should give you time to find another job.



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