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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 ...»

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“I want to give you both,” Cole said, his expression almost rapturous as he gazed at me, my legs spread, my back arched, my sex bound, my nipples clamped. I was an object for his pleasure—and for my own. And that thought alone sent waves of delight coursing through me, making my already sensitive clit swell and harden, so that each movement, each breath was torture as that damnable knot rubbed against me and the plug worked in tandem to remind me of just how completely I was his.

“More and more,” Cole said. “Not tonight, but over time. I want to take you as far as you can go, Kat. Tell me you want that, too. Tell me you want everything I can give you.” “Yes,” I moaned. “Oh, god, yes.” “I’m going to fuck you now,” he said, and I almost wept with relief.

He lowered himself over me, and I almost passed out from the wave of intense pleasure when he positioned himself and then readjusted the rope so that it would stroke his cock on either side as he thrust into me.

He did just that, and I wasn’t expecting how the movement of the rope with his cock would intensify the motion of the knot against my clit. Or how the impact of him thrusting so damn hard into me would shift the plug in my ass, setting off a riot of sensations in me. Or how the building pressure of the nipple clamp combined with every other sensation would shoot sparks through my body, making me electrically charged, so that even the slightest brush against my skin would totally light me up.

I was there—right there and ready to explode faster than I’d ever done in my life, and I gasped, calling for Cole.

Needing and wanting and demanding. And through that gray haze of sexual drunkenness I became aware that he had taken hold of the chain. And as I arced up toward release, he yanked on the chain from the center with enough force to pull the clamps off my nipples in one violent, fluid motion.

Pain shot through my breasts, but that pain translated almost immediately to delight. And in that gap— that tiny gap between the two —the world exploded around me and I came more violently than I’d ever come before. I was desperate. Wild. My sex clenched around Cole’s cock, bringing him right along with me to the hardest, fastest, hottest orgasm I had ever experienced. One that left me breathless and exhausted and completely astounded.

“Wow,” I said when the world returned to me. “That was—that just was.” He chuckled. “Yes. It certainly was,” he said, and then kissed me, hard and deep. The kind of kiss that marked a woman in a way that even wild sex couldn’t manage.

He pulled me close to him and held me tight. I was still bound, and that made me feel more small and fragile. As if he were holding me safe, keeping me shielded from whatever awful things might lurk in the world.

I floated there a moment on a wave of contentment, but his words kept playing back in my head. “More, you said,” I murmured. “Will you tell me what the more is?” “Eager?” he said, with a tease in his voice.

“Maybe.” “I won’t tell you, but I’ll show you. Not all at once, but when you’re ready. Trust me, Kat. Trust me to make this journey exceptional for you.” “I do.” I hesitated, then asked, “Will you take me to the Firehouse when we get back to Chicago?” It may have been my imagination, but I thought that he stiffened slightly.

“Maybe,” he said. “I haven’t decided.” “Oh.” I’m not sure why his response disappointed me, but it did. “Is it because of Michelle? Why you’re not sure, I mean?” He eased back, then rolled me over so that I was facing him. “No,” he said. “Not because of Michelle.” I nodded, knowing I should drop it. I could tell that much just from the tone of his voice. But somehow, I couldn’t quite seem to back away. “Were you two together?” “No.” “Oh.” I licked my lips. “I saw you the night of the gala.

That argument with Conrad. I don’t know. I just thought..

.” I trailed off into a lame shrug.

“Conrad Pierce is a fucking asshole,” Cole said.

“He was trying to recruit some of my girls into prostitution. I made it clear that wasn’t going to happen.” I recalled Cole’s fury that night, and decided that it was perfectly understandable.

“Was he trying to recruit Michelle, too?” Cole exhaled. “No,” he said. And then a moment later, he added, “Christ, Kat.

She works in that trade, okay?” “Oh. Right.” I hesitated a moment, then pressed on.

“Do you pay her? To fuck her, I mean.” I saw a muscle in his jaw twitch, as if he was trying hard to keep a grip on control.

“Can we quit with the twenty questions?” “I’m sorry.” I rolled away, suddenly chilled by the gulf I felt growing between us.

“Really. Never mind.” “Shit.” I heard him exhale, then felt the press of his hand against my shoulder. “Shit,” he repeated, this time more softly. “I’m the one who’s sorry.” He drew in a breath, and the irony of the situation—me naked and bound with a plug in my rear while we discussed another woman—really wasn’t lost on me. “I don’t want to have secrets from you.” He eased me over so that I was facing him again, and the intensity I saw in his face nearly did me in.

“But I do have secrets,” he continued. “I won’t lie to you.

But I want to start chipping away at them. So let me start by saying that I don’t pay Michelle, but I do fuck her.

Or I did. I haven’t touched her since you. Haven’t wanted to. Haven’t needed to.” He looked at me, and I felt that sweet ping in my heart.

“Really?” The word tasted like hope. More, it tasted like love.

“I told you, Kat. You fill me up. It may take some time for me to figure out what that means, how it manifests. But I know that it’s true. Can you be patient, baby? Can you let me find the words my own way, in my own time?” “I can,” I said, because at the heart of it the past didn’t matter. The Cole I’d fallen for was the one I saw in front of me. All the rest was just backstory and gossip. And all of that could wait.

twenty “Cole?” “Mmm.” He sounded far away and yet right beside me.

“Before you fall asleep, do you think you could untie me and, you know, all the rest?” I heard the low rumble of his chuckle. “I don’t know.

It’s tempting to just keep you like this, bound for my pleasure, mine to take whenever I want.” “I already am,” I said.

“You don’t need the ropes for that.” I saw the emotion in his eyes in response to my words.

And when he removed the plug and gently untied me, I thought that I’d never known anything more erotic than the simple experience of being tended to by this man.

Once I was unbound, we lay atop the covers, legs twined so that we were facing each other. I traced my fingertips over his chest, enjoying the way his skin felt against mine. “Thank you,” I finally said. “For showing me this. For showing me that I like it, too.” “Oh, baby.” He brushed my cheek, and though there was no mistaking the tenderness in his voice, I couldn’t help but see the storm clouds in his eyes.

“What did I say?” He sat up, leaning over in the bed as he took two long, deep breaths. “I’m glad you like it. There’s nothing I want more in this world than to give you pleasure.” He stood up, then turned back so that he was facing the bed. I was sitting up now, wary because of the measured tone of his words. I wanted to beg him to explain what the trouble was, but I also knew that he would. He just needed to take his time, and I just needed to be patient.

“It’s not a question of like for me. It’s a need. A requirement. Hell, it’s my goddamn sustenance.” His eyes were locked on my face, and I don’t know what he saw there. Understanding? Maybe a little. Mostly, I wanted to simply hug him, because no matter what I did or didn’t understand, I knew that he was hurting. And all I wanted —all I would ever want again —was to see this man happy.

“I want to help,” I told him simply. “I want to understand.” “I know,” he said. “I want that, too. I told you I didn’t want secrets, and I meant it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.” “No,” I said. “It doesn’t. I think the hardest thing I’ve ever done was tell you about Roger.” “You’re stronger than me, Katrina Laron. But then again, I’ve always known that.” “And that’s just bullshit,” I said. “Just tell me. No matter how hard or how horrible or how complicated, just find the beginning and start there.” He looked at me for a long moment, then pulled me close and kissed me hard. Then he sat down on the edge of the bed, and I scooted over to sit beside him, one leg tucked beneath me so that I was at an angle to face him.

“You have Roger living in the shadows of your life,” he began, his matter-of-fact words somehow managing to drip with pain. “I have Anita.” I reached out and took his hand, then held it tight in mine. I said nothing, but I knew that he’d continue when he was ready.

“I didn’t think I’d ever talk about her. I wanted to forget her. To pretend the bitch didn’t exist.” “But she did exist,” I said softly. “And even if you could forget her, it wouldn’t change whatever she did to you. But it helps to talk about it.” I managed a small, supportive smile. “In case you were wondering, I have it on good authority that talking about childhood shit with someone you care about helps a lot.” He held tight to my hand for a moment, then released me and stood up. After a moment, he moved to the window and spread the curtains wide. It was late now, the sky pitch-black, the stars unable to push through the curtain of ambient light that rose like a halo to surround the city.

Beyond Cole, I could make out the silhouette of buildings, most just a few stories tall, that filled the view before ending abruptly at a dark expanse of ocean that seemed to reach up and merge with the deep black of the night sky.

“I was eleven when I got in tight with the gangs.

Young, but not for that life.

Especially not for a kid like me who needed cash.

Because it was just me and my grandmother and my aunt, and it was me who took care of them. There was no other man, not who stuck, and I don’t think I would have relied on someone else, anyway. How could I when my grandmother had taken me in and worked herself to the bone taking in laundry and sewing when my bitch of a mother had dumped me on her? And then was left with nothing when her mind started to go?” “Where is your mother?” “Dead,” Cole said, without any emotion at all.

“She was a junkie and a whore, and she died when I was five. And good riddance to the bitch. She’d already poisoned herself. Poisoned me. She drank, smoked crack, did god knows what when she was pregnant with me, and then gave birth to a scrawny, screaming baby who was as much an addict as she was.” I sat frozen, completely clueless as to how to respond to something like that. What I wanted to do was stand up and hug him. What I did instead, was simply give him space.

“Fuck,” he said after he ran his hands over his head and sucked in air. “I didn’t mean to get off on all that.

Point is, my grandmother took care of me practically from the day I was born.

Made me work, made me think, made me something better than I would have been. So when early-onset Alzheimer’s started to kick in, I knew I’d be the one to take care of her and my aunt even though I was only eleven.” “Not an easy thing for a kid,” I said.

“No, not easy. And damned near impossible if you want to come by the money legitimately. But if you’re not too picky, then there’s always the gangs. And since the gangs are there— right under your nose from the first moment you set foot in the world—they already feel like home. Hell, I was practically part of the Dragons from the moment I slid out of the womb, but when I was eleven I made it official.” “The Dragons? That was the name of the gang?” He nodded.

“That’s why you have a dragon tattoo.” “No. I have the tattoo because I got out.” He turned so that I had a better look at his back. “The gang sign was a small dragon on the right shoulder. See it?” I peered, then found an outline of a dragon hidden inside the bolder, wilder artwork of the beautiful creature that covered Cole’s back.

“This one’s mine. I drew it. I designed it. I hired the artist to do the needlework.

And the most important part was covering up that mark.

Making my own symbol.” “It’s wonderful,” I said, feeling absurdly proud that he had not only done that, but that he’d thought of it. “You took something horrible and made it beautiful.” “I tried,” he said. “But the horrible still creeps in around the edges. I’m getting ahead of myself,” he said, before I could ask what he meant. “I was talking about the gang.

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