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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 38 ] --

“Do you know how hot that is? How hard it makes me to know that you’re turned on.

That you want me?” “There’s never a moment that I don’t want you,” I said, admitting everything to him, because he already knew it anyway, and there was nothing left to hide from this man. “Please,” I said, hooking my arms around his neck and then pulling him to the ground with me. “I need you inside me. Now. Please, Cole, now.” He didn’t hesitate, and as I spread myself open for this man I adored, he buried himself inside me, his body pounding against me, as if by the force of the motion he could make the world outside of us go away.

“I love you,” I said as I felt the pleasure rising up and curling around me.

“I love you,” I repeated, because I needed to know that he’d heard it, too.

“Everything you are,” I said as he thrust harder and deeper, as if each pounding attack on my body was meant to punish himself.

“Everything you’ve done.

Don’t you get it, Cole?

You’ve stripped me raw and put me back together again, and I love you for it. I love you desperately.

“You gave me the world,” I said, as I felt his body tighten inside mine, then shudder in the sweet throes of release.

“You gave me everything,” I said, as my own orgasm rolled through my body like a shock.

“Don’t take it away from me,” I murmured, my body sated and my voice exhausted. “Don’t rip it all out from under me. You promised me once that you wouldn’t ever leave me. I couldn’t stand it if you did.

You have to know I couldn’t stand it.” He pulled me close, breathing hard. “But you could withstand those pictures being in the world?” “If that’s what it takes,” I said, realizing for the first time the full extent of what I’d been saying to him. “It would be awful. But if that’s what it takes to stay with you —to really and truly stay with you—then I could handle that and more.” He was silent, and I groaned in frustration.

“Dammit, Cole, what do I have to do to prove it to you?

Send the photos out as goddamn Christmas cards?” He pulled me close, his body shaking a little with what I finally realized was laughter. “Probably nothing that extreme,” he said. “But, Kat, I need to know that you’re sure.” “I am.” I stroked his head, his face. I looked into his eyes, because I needed to make sure he understood just how deeply I felt these words.

“I can survive anything if I know you’re at my side. If you really want to protect me, take me away. Take me to Europe or New Zealand or some tropical island so I’m not near the Internet or television or people I know.

But don’t do anything that risks them taking you away from me. Because I will tell you right now—if they arrest you or if Muratti’s people hunt you down, it will kill me. And that will be on you.” He studied me. “You’re really sure?” I clutched his hands. “I can survive the photos. My dad can survive the photos.

My friends, my career, my reputation. It won’t be fun, but it will pass.” I drew in a deep breath. “But if I lose you, I will shrivel up. That will be the end of me. Believe me, Cole. Believe me, and decide. Are you going to choose what you think I need, or will you listen to what I tell you I need?” I pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. “Either way, I do love you. And, Cole,” I added, “do you realize what happened tonight? You came,” I said. “Without kink, without pain. With just you and me and what’s between us.” I watched his face as he took in the moment, realizing then that I was right. I grinned a little, then met his eyes, laughing at the expression of exultant pride.

“Don’t worry,” I said wryly. “I like the status quo just fine. But it is always nice to have options.” “Yes,” he said. “It is.” After a moment, he sighed and pulled me close.

“Dammit, Kat, that’s what I’ve been trying to get you to understand. I want the option of protecting you, baby, just like I promised your dad. But that’s the option you’re just not giving me.” “The hell I’m not,” I said.

“Don’t you get it? You’re the shield between me and the world, and that’s more protection than I could hope for. You want to be the big strong man, then do what I ask. Stand by me. Take me out of the country until the worst blows over. But don’t you dare fucking leave me.” He was staring at me, an odd expression on his face.

“What?” “I adore you,” he said.

“I’m not sure how I survived a day without you.” “Then you understand why I’m so certain that I can’t risk facing a future without you.” Slowly, he nodded.

“So we tell the bastard to release the photos?” I asked.

“If you’re really certain.” “I’ve never been more sure about anything,” I said.

“Not about anything except you.” “I don’t want to be around when you make the call,” I said once we were on the jet.





He cocked his head, eyeing me suspiciously.

“I’m still certain,” I assured him, hoping he couldn’t see the way my insides were twisted up. “But that doesn’t mean I like it or that I’m looking forward to the moment the photos go live.” He studied me, as if searching for deception on my face. I guess he liked what he saw, because he finally nodded. “All right,” he said. “I’ll head up to the galley.” “Bring me back some wine,” I said dryly. “I’ll need it.” He nodded, then kissed me. “You are the strongest, most amazing woman I’ve ever met.” “If I was that strong,” I said, “I wouldn’t be dragging you out of the country.” “Leaving just means that you’re smart.” He brushed his thumb over my cheek.

“There’s good pain, and there’s bad pain, sweetheart.

Staying would be the bad sort of pain.” “It wouldn’t,” I assured him. “So long as you’re with me, it’s all good.” I took a deep breath. “Everything else is all set? Daddy?” “Evan and Tyler will get him from The Drake as soon as I’ve made the call. And they’ve arranged for him to spend a few months in Fiji. I can’t promise you that he won’t see the pictures, but I can promise that they won’t be in his face.” “All right. Thank you.” His eyes narrowed. “You know damn well there’s no reason to thank me.” “You’re wrong,” I said, “but we don’t have to argue about it again.” I took a seat in one of the armchairs, casually tracing my finger over the tabletop in front of me. “Will you tell me now where you’re taking me?” “Paris,” he said. “You once told me you wanted to live there.” “You remember that?” “You’re like oxygen to me, Kat,” he said. “And how could I possibly forget to breathe?” I watched him move to the front of the plane, this man I loved who made me happier than I could ever imagine being, and, despite everything going on around us, made me feel safer than I could ever imagine.

I thought about the call he was making—about the pictures that were going to be out in the world.

I waited for the nausea to sweep over me, but it didn’t.

Just a tingle of unpleasantness, like that uncomfortable feeling when you have bad news to share with a friend.

I’d survive this. With Cole at my side, I would survive this just fine.

It took a few moments, but then the accordion-style sliding door opened and he stepped back into the passenger cabin. I stood immediately, alarmed by the expression on his face. Not anger. Not disgust or sadness or protectiveness or any emotion that I had anticipated.

No, he looked bewildered.

“Cole?” I took his arm and led him to the couch, then sat beside him. “What’s wrong?” “He’s dead,” Cole said. “I spoke with Michael. Ilya Muratti is dead.” “Dead? But—how?” He faced me, his dark eyes unreadable. “Someone broke into his house last night. Got all the way to his bedroom, put a bullet through his head, and managed to get out of the house undetected.” I sat back, an odd mixture of shock and relief coursing through me. That, though, was pushed aside almost immediately by fear. “You didn’t—” “No,” he said, so quickly and with such force that there was no doubting his words.

“And I don’t know for certain, but I think that Michael did.” “Michael? You think he killed his own father?” “I do,” he said.

“But why?” “The old man was a liability. This bullshit with you, the whole thing with the vendetta against your father.

Ilya was about revenge and about keeping a tight fist around his empire. Michael is about playing it smart.” I considered that for a moment, letting the ramifications of what he was saying flow over me. “The pictures,” I began, my words coming slowly. “If Michael is about business, then there’s no reason for him to release the pictures.” “No,” Cole agreed.

“There’s not.” “Do you think he’s going to just drop it?” “He told me as much.” A slow grin lit his face. “It’s over, baby. He’s even mailing me the memory card. It’s not perfect—for all we know he has them saved in the cloud somewhere—but I think you’re safe.” I sagged against him, overwhelmed by relief. And as his arms wrapped around me to pull me close, I let myself go and cried.

“There’s no reason to leave now,” Cole said, when my tears finally stopped and I could breathe normally again.

“Do you want to stay in Chicago?” “Do you?” “No,” he said. “I want to show you Paris. Hell, I want to show you the world.” “Good.” I sat up and looked around the cabin, then smiled wickedly. “I want to see the world,” I told him.

“But first I’m looking forward to the flight. I didn’t think about it the first time we flew, but the place has potential. It’s not as wellequipped as our playroom,” I teased, “but I think this cabin will do just fine.” Something devious sparked in his eyes. “I was thinking that when you move in with me, we can completely remodel your place. Forget playroom. We’ll have a full-fledged playhouse.” “When I move in?” I asked, the deliciously decadent concept of an entire playhouse skipping right out of my mind like a stone across the water. “Am I moving in?” “I figure that’s a first step.” He took my hand.

“Then a ring, then children after that,” he finished, moving his hand to press it flat on my belly.

“Oh.” I felt breathless and a little dizzy and more than a little overwhelmed. His wife.

His partner. His. “Is this a proposal?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

I looked away so that he couldn’t see the disappointment in my face.

I told myself I was being foolish. My father and I were safe. Cole and I were together, we were in love, we were happy. The rest would come soon enough. But he’d said the word, and now it was in my head, and damn me, I wanted it, because it was another way to say to the world that he was mine and I was his.

“Catalina?” There was a world of tenderness in his voice, and I turned to him.

“Do you remember once you asked me what my time in Italy was like?” “Sure.” I frowned, a bit off balance by the shift in conversation.

“I lived in Florence primarily, but I spent a month in Rome and almost two weeks in Venice. I know you want to see Paris, but would you mind if we went to Italy after? I’d like to show it to you.” “I’d love to see it. I want to share everything you’re willing to give me.” “Good,” he said, moving to stretch out on the couch, his back against the armrest. I leaned against him, then sighed as his arms closed around me, trapping me in a way that made me feel safe and loved.

“Are you familiar with the Bridge of Sighs?” he asked.

“It sounds familiar,” I admitted. “But no, not really.” “It’s an enclosed bridge in Venice. Ancient and beautiful. There is a legend that if lovers kiss under the bridge at sunset, they will be granted eternal love and bliss.” “I like that legend.” “Me, too,” he said. “So you might be interested to know that I’m going to take you there at sunset. And when we’re beneath the bridge, I’m going to kiss you, just like the legend says. And then, Catalina Rhodes, I’m going to ask you to marry me.” “Oh,” I said, my heart skipping in a way that made me more than a little breathless. “In that case I should tell you that I’m going to say yes.” I smiled up at him, warm and safe and content in the circle of his arms. “But right now, I think we really should practice that kiss. Don’t you?” “I do.” And then the man who would one day be my husband—the man who loved me and challenged me, who teased and adored me—the man who had saved me in so many wonderful ways— pulled me close and kissed me hard.

I clung to him, letting every fear and worry flow out of me, letting the past slide away so that the only things left in my head were that moment and my fantasies of the future.

A future that Cole and I would face together.

Fall in love with the irresistible, emotionally charged romance of Damien Stark and Nikki Fairchild...

He was the one man I couldn’t avoid.

And the one man I couldn’t resist.

Damien Stark could have his way with any woman.

He was sexy, confident, and commanding: anything he wanted, he got. And what he wanted was me.

Our attraction was unmistakable, almost beyond control, but as much as I ached to be his, I feared the pressures of his demands.

Submitting to Damien meant I had to bare the darkest truth about my past – and risk breaking us apart.

But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy him – and us – for ever.

For Damien, our obsession is a game.

For me, it is fiercely, blindingly, real.

Damien Stark’s need is palpable – his need for pleasure, his need for control, his need for me. Beautiful and brilliant yet tortured at his core, he is in every way my match.

I have agreed to be his alone, and now I want him to be fully mine. I want us to possess each other beyond the sweetest edge of our ecstasy, into the deepest desires of our souls. To let the fire that burns between us consume us both.

But there are dark places within Damien that not even our wildest passion can touch.

I yearn to know his secrets, for him to surrender to me as I have surrendered to him.

But our troubled pasts will either bind us close... or shatter us completely.

Our desire runs deep.

But our secrets cut close.

Beautiful, strong, and commanding, Damien Stark fills a void in me that no other man can touch. His fierce cravings push me beyond the brink of bliss – and unleash a wild passion that utterly consumes us both.

Yet beneath his need for dominance, he carries the wounds of a painful past.

Haunted by a legacy of dark secrets and broken trust, he seeks release in our shared ecstasy, the heat between us burning stronger each day.

Our attraction is undeniable, our obsession inevitable.

But not even Damien can run from his ghosts, or shield us from the dangers yet to come.

Our wedding approaches.

But our past still threatens.

I’ve long dreamed of my fairy tale wedding, but it wasn’t until I met Damien Stark that I began to believe it was my destiny. Though we both carry secrets and scars, our shared passion heals us, binding us together. Our mutual ecstasy is the brightest light in my life.

But darkness still snakes through the cracks in our armour.

Ghosts from our past have moved in, bringing fresh pain that cuts deep and threatens to destroy everything we hold dear.

Damien is my anchor to this world, and I am his. But if we are going to keep each other, we have to fight the shadows of our pasts to move forward into our future.

The seductively irresistible and sizzling hot Most Wanted series began with Angie and Evan’s story...

He is everything I crave, all I desperately want.

And he is everything I can’t have.

Evan Black embodies every fantasy I’ve ever had. He is brilliant, fierce and devastatingly handsome. But he is also headstrong, dangerous and burdened with secrets.

My family warned me to stay away, that I could never handle Evan’s dark dealings or scarred past. Maybe I should have listened. Maybe I should have run. But our desire is undeniable, and some temptations you just can’t fight.

And from the moment we finally touch, I know that we will never be the same.

Indulge in the scorching, scandalous affair with Sloane and Tyler as the Most Wanted series continues...

I knew better than to risk my heart.

But fierce passion comes at a high price.

I grew up believing in right and wrong, good and evil, black and white – that there were some boundaries that could never be crossed. And then I met Tyler Sharp.

Bold, charming, and dangerously sexy, Tyler always gets what he wants.

But his smile can be deceiving, his dealings sordid, his ambitions ruthless.

I thought I was the one woman strong enough to resist him, but our need for each other is too urgent to deny.

One look and I’m in trouble.

One touch and I’m hooked.

One night and I’m his. And once I fall, there’s no going back.

For updates, bonus content, and sneak peeks at upcomin

titles:

Visit the author’s website http://ju Find the author on Faceboo faceboo Follow the author on Twitter @juliek www.headline.co.uk www.headlineeternal.com FIND YOUR HEART’S DESIRE.

..

VISIT OUR WEBSITE:

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