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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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We’d taken two steps— and my eyes still hadn’t adjusted to the dark—when he pulled me to a stop. “No.” That was all he said. And then he turned around, took my hand, and tugged me back toward the exit.

“Cole!” I said, once we were back outside, having blown past the baffledlooking hostess. “What the hell? What’s wrong? Is it me?

Is it Michelle?” “This isn’t the place for you.” “Dammit, Cole, I thought we were past that. I can handle it. I want to handle it.” “I know you do.” The words were low and harsh and laced with anger. “But I don’t want you to.” I took a step back. “Okay, back up. What did I do? Why are you mad at me?” Even as I watched, his expression seemed to crumble. “Fuck,” he said, then kicked the tire of the Range Rover that the valet had just returned from the lot.

“Dammit, Kat, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at me. Don’t you get it? I don’t want you here. And not because there’s anything wrong with the Firehouse, or anything wrong with you.” He moved in front of me, then wiped away a tear that I hadn’t realized I’d shed. “It’s because of what you are to me,” he said, his voice so gentle it almost made the tears flow freely. “It’s because I came here because I needed something I couldn’t get anywhere else. I needed a safety net. But I don’t need that anymore. If I truly have you the way you say I do— the way I hope and believe that I do—then I don’t need this place anymore. Do you understand?” I nodded, a little bit humbled, a little bit amazed.

“Is that okay?” Okay? With every word and every touch he was telling me how much I meant to him. How could it be anything but okay?

And yet— He’d been examining my face, and now he frowned.

“Oh, baby, I’m sorry. If you want to go in, that’s okay. I understand.” “No—no,” I repeated quickly. “It’s not so much that I want to go in—Sloane’s told me a little bit about it, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m keen on the public part.” “But?” I shrugged, then looked away. “I guess I want the experience.” I gathered my courage and met his eyes, finding them warm and understanding. “I want what I could get in there with you.” A muscle in his cheek tightened, and he nodded.

“Okay. We’ll go in.” I shook my head and grabbed his arm. “No, you don’t understand. I just want you to take me there. I don’t care if it’s in the Firehouse or your bedroom or my house or in the back of your Range Rover. Does that make sense?

I want it all, Cole. Everything you are and everything you have to offer. I’ll admit I’m curious, but it’s not a big deal. And if you don’t want to take me here, that’s fine.” I reached up and fingered the necklace he’d given me. “I’ll wear this anywhere you want me to. I just want you to take me all the way.” “I’ve been thinking about that,” he said, with an odd gleam in his eye. “I was waiting for the right time to bring it up.” I cocked my head. “What are you talking about?” “Instead of the Firehouse, I want to take you to our playroom.” I raised my brows. “You mean, like with sex toys and stuff?” His laugh was pure delight. “God, Kat, you’re wonderful. Yes, with sex toys and stuff.” I cocked my head and crossed my arms over my chest. “I hate to mention this, but I don’t think we have such a room. And if we do have one, I’m a little ticked off that you never bothered to mention it to me before.” “That’s because it doesn’t exist yet. But it occurs to me that you suddenly have a free bedroom. And I can think of one very interesting use that we can put it to.” I had to admit that he’d made an excellent point.

Over the next few days, we divided our time between Home Depot and Forbidden Fruit, the local sex toy store that Cole introduced me to and that I spent many fascinating moments perusing.

What I found the most interesting, though, was that Home Depot became our primary destination. I might be fascinated with the edible body paint—which I intended to let Cole put to good use, what with his innate artistic skill—but it was wood and pipe and brackets and bolts that he was focused on.

It was a little disconcerting how much hardware was going into that room. And, honestly, I had a feeling he was trying to outdo whatever setup they had at the Firehouse.

He was putting together a St. Andrew’s cross—which was, frankly, the very first thing I wanted to try. But he also had something that looked like a tumbling horse and a piece of pipe with soft ankle restraints on each end that he told me was a spreader bar.

There was a wall with various hooks and latches to allow for different positions.

An ornate chandelier that Cole told me would—once it was properly mounted—act as the top cross bar for a sex swing that he had ordered.

Considering how much I’d loved swings back when I was five, the very idea of combining a swing and sex made me more than a little giddy.

In addition to all those things, Cole had at least a dozen more gizmos and contraptions in the works, none of which he’d tell me about.

“Trust me,” he said. And since I did, I left him alone to do the hardware thing while I worked on stocking the more intimate items into pretty baskets and picking out the colors for the room—which wasn’t too difficult since I decided I wanted a deep rich purple, and if Cole wanted to veto it, he would just have to repaint the room himself.

I’d just finished rolling paint onto one of the walls when I turned to find Cole watching me. “You are not going to tell me I’m doing this wrong,” I said. “Because all I’m doing is turning a wall purple. And even someone like me whose skill is limited to stick figures can handle that.” “Take off your clothes and stand by the wall.” I frowned. “Excuse me?” “I have an idea.” I narrowed my eyes, but he stood firm, his brows lifted in silent demand.

“Yes, sir,” I said archly, and then very slowly and deliberately stripped out of my shorts and tank top.

“Arms spread,” Cole said.

“Like you’re doing jumping jacks. And here,” he added, handing me some of the goggles he wore when he used the circular saw. “Just in case.” “What the hell?” But Cole said nothing.

And because I knew the score, I did what he said. I put on the goggles, I held my arms out—and then I laughed in delighted surprise when he flicked a wet paintbrush at me, splattering me and the wall, but in such a way that the splatter left the silhouette of a woman in a pose of what looked like exultation.

“Another,” Cole said, as I laughed and moved into a slightly different pose. And on and on until the wall was covered with dancing, brilliant silhouettes... and I was covered in paint.

“Now that is lovely,” he said, moving closer and tracing his finger over the splatters on my skin in a human game of connect the dots. “I do like to paint you,” he said, his voice full of heat and promise.

“Right now it’s my turn to paint you,” I said. “Off with the clothes.” But I didn’t splatter him.

Instead I pressed against him, hot and hard, and transferred the paint from my body to his. He laughed, then pulled me down to the floor that was, thankfully, covered in drop cloths.

We slid over each other, moving and stroking and playing in the paint—and laughing like little kids—until the mood shifted, taking on more heat. More fire.

“What are we doing?” I asked, because I could no longer hold back the question.

“What are we to each other?” “Everything,” he said, then pulled me in for a kiss.

And as his mouth captured mine—as I moaned from the sweetness of it all—I knew that he was right.

“What do you think?” Cole asked, taking his hands off my eyes so that I could see the finished St. Andrew’s cross. It was mounted on a deep wooden box that was attached to a mirrored wall, which allowed for access around the cross itself, not to mention allowing whoever was standing to see the face of whoever was on the cross in the mirror.

As for the cross itself, the wood was polished to a shine, and the leather padding looked bright and comfortable.

I felt my body clench just looking at it. I’d been wanting this ever since Cole suggested this playroom.

Hell, ever since he’d put me on that imaginary cross in my car and stung my back with the leather flails.

“Cole,” I said, and heard the need in my voice.

“I know,” he said. “Me, too. But I believe you have plans tonight.” I frowned, because he was right. In fact, I’d been just about to leave when Cole had pulled me away from the vanity in my bedroom where I was putting on my earrings to bring me into the playroom and show me the finished product.

“You just wanted to tease me.” “How well you know me,” he said, moving behind me, and then sliding his arms around me. I was wearing a Lucky Brand miniskirt and V-neck T-shirt, and he slipped his hand into the neck of the shirt and into the cup of my bra.

With his other hand, he eased up my skirt, then slid his hand into my panties and thrust two fingers deep inside of me. “You’re wet,” he said.

“Naughty girl.” “You got me excited,” I countered. “Now I’m going to have blue balls all night.” “That really is naughty,” he said, then pinched my nipple hard enough to make me yelp—and to make my sex clench tight around his fingers. “A preview,” he said, “of just how hard I’m going to fuck you when you get home.” “That was an awfully short preview,” I said.

“Maybe you should make me come. Take the edge off before I go watch half-naked men gyrate onstage.” “Not happening,” he said.

“Besides, I like the idea of you coming back hot and bothered. All the more reason to spank that pretty ass.” He pulled his hand out of my panties then, stroking slowly over my clit as he did and making me moan with a combination of pleasure and frustration.

I spent the drive to Angie’s worked up, and then the alcohol and mostly naked men at The Castle—our first bachelorette destination— really didn’t help matters. Not that I was interested in the mostly naked men, but I would lose all street cred as a typical American female if I didn’t at least appreciate the way those dancers were built —even if most of the time they faded away in my mind into a fantasy of Cole.

The party was an informal affair, because Angie had decided to ditch the idea of a big party and just hang out with me and Sloane. One last girls’ night on the town before she became Mrs. Evan Black.

We’d started at The Castle because the drinks were potent, the guys were hot, and the owners knew our men, so we were able to wrangle a few extra special, totally inyour-face dances for Angie.

All of which Sloane and I recorded with our phones so that we could show Evan.

Once we were sufficiently plastered, we had Red drive us to Forbidden Fruit. The idea was to buy Angie toys for her honeymoon—and we went a little crazy in that respect—but I had my own shopping to do, too, and before we piled back into the limo, I bought a present for Cole and me. One I very much hoped we would get some use out of soon.

The last stop, of course, was Destiny, where Sloane and I had deviously arranged for the dancers to pull Angie into the dressing room, get her decked out in a costume, and then let her give Evan his own private lap dance.

It was another iPhone moment, but Sloane was going to have to handle that one on her own. I was too intent on the man at the bar who was talking with Flynn but keeping his eyes on me.

“On a scale of one to ten, just how drunk are you?” Cole asked after I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him hard.

“Very,” I said. “Very, very drunk. But I have a present for you.” “Do you?” he asked.

“Nice to know you thought of me while you girls were out carousing.” I put the box from Forbidden Fruit on the bar in front of him, then leaned in to whisper in his ear, and as I did, I pressed my hand to his thigh, letting my fingers find and stroke his already hard cock. “You’re all I thought about,” I said. “Your hands, your cock, your mouth.” I nodded toward the box.

“Open it.” He did, pulling off the lid to reveal a black leather flogger that perfectly matched the one that he’d made come alive in my imagination.

He tilted his head up to meet my eyes, and I saw a gleam of anticipation in his eye that matched my own.

“Take me home,” I said, brushing my lips over his ear one more time. “Take me home right now.” “Hell, yes,” he said, and I swear we broke a dozen traffic laws getting back to my house in just over half an hour. A feat which pretty much defied the laws of nature.

“I’m going to fuck you,” he said once we were in the room. “I’m going to take you every way possible tonight,” he said. “But first I want you on the cross. I want your back red. I want your body to sing.” I nodded, my mouth too dry to form words.

Without waiting for him to tell me, I positioned myself. And as I did, reality meshed with the fantasy. I’d felt this before. The way the bindings at my wrists and ankles felt. The pressure of the padding against my skin.

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