After the death of her Master, Caitlin Bennett discovers years of abuse and sadistic cruelty at his hands have made her a slave to pain. To reach her peak, Cait needs the type of extreme agony few responsible Doms are willing to dole out, especially Doms like Paul Nelson. Willing to offer the love she craves, Paul’s nearly perfect—except for his aversion to the whip.
Paul refuses to hurt Cait, instead attempting to recondition her through patience and trust. But the longer Cait suffers from lack of sexual release, the more she’s convinced her mind and body are irrevocably programmed. And time to convince her otherwise is running out. Waiting in the wings is a newbie Dom who’s determined to have Cait for his own…who’s learning the whip just for her.
Caitlin will soon have to choose—the man who can give her what she wants? Or the man who can give her what she needs?
Paul stood at the top of the stairs to the second floor of the club, captivated by the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. She looked young and fresh and innocent—and so darn mouthwatering.
He had been standing up on the second floor watching the patrons downstairs. It had been quite a while since he’d mingled with the masses. He wasn’t even sure why he kept coming to the club, considering he couldn’t even summon the enthusiasm to do the bump ’n’ grind out on the dance floor or watch the couples in the common area, let alone seek out some warm, willing sub to flog and to fuck.
He rubbed the back of his neck. He wasn’t sure when it had started, but for quite a while before his self-imposed dry spell, all the women he’d slept with had left him feeling cold. Sure, he could get off, and he could get them off, but it left him feeling empty, and even worse when it was over. Maybe he was just tired of the parade of jaded, hardened subs with their silicone boobs and porn-star moans. He needed something, but damn if he knew what it was.
Maybe what he needed came in the form of a five-foot-some little angel with alabaster skin, a veil of dark, silky hair and big, wide, ball-breakingly beautiful eyes?
From his vantage point, he’d spotted her as soon as she came in the door. She’d stood there for about five years, just watching. Looked like a fawn in the headlights—poor little thing—and he’d been instantly intrigued. Couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.
He knew the exact moment she’d seen the couples in the public area. He could almost feel the tension vibrating off her body from all the way up on the second floor. And when she stepped away from the door and started walking through the club, his dick had stiffened. Instantly. And then he couldn’t even remember his own name, let alone when that had last happened.
Hot damn, that swishy little skirt swayed and flipped around her thighs with every step. Tantalizing him, making him burn to tear it off to see what was underneath. And those gorgeous legs encased in fishnet stockings. He loved those darn things, and didn’t they look so much naughtier on this sweet little girl.
The bustier she wore was laced up the front nice and tight. It pushed up the creamy swells of her small breasts—real, honest-to-god breasts—to their full advantage. Man, that top just begged for unlacing to free those luscious mounds into his awaiting palms. Mouth. Tongue. Teeth. Mmmm hmmm.
So hard. Agonizingly hard. He palmed his erection through his pants.
She had walked through the club mesmerized, until she got right up to the partition separating the general crowd from the kinksters playing publicly for their own as well as the crowd’s enjoyment. Trixie must have told her not to stand up against the wall; it was a house rule, making sure everyone could get a good view of the proceedings. But there she stood, palm on the glass, totally oblivious to the rows of chairs behind her that were set up for observation.
He was spellbound, watching her, taking in her every reaction to what she was seeing. It was observing Ray’s aftercare of Sara that elicited the strongest response in her. She began trembling, her chest rising and falling rapidly, and it seemed as if she were struggling just to keep it together. She needed something—badly. He hoped to god and all the saints it was him. He started down the stairs. He had to get to her. Immediately.
In his haste to get to the little woman, Paul almost knocked over Ray as the guy was trying to get up the stairs with Sara in his arms. Paul mumbled an apology and stopped two steps down, letting the couple past. Before he could get going again, some newbie staff member chose that moment to do a little impromptu meet-and-greet and the chatty little bastard attempted to talk Paul’s ear off. And he offered his ear only, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the woman.
Caitlin watched as the Dom carried his sub out of the room, all the while whispering to her. The sub was curled up with her head resting on his chest and a dreamy expression on her face. As they went upstairs to the private rooms—where no doubt he would make love to her, not just fuck her—they had to veer around someone coming down the other way.
That someone now stood near the top of the stairs, staring at Caitlin with such single-minded focus that a jolt of awareness ran through her, from her head to the tips of her toes.
Oh my, oh my, oh my.
He was like some kind of demigod standing up on high, surveying all that was his. And presently he was surveying Caitlin rather intensely with a deeply penetrating gaze. She felt another jolt, this time low in her belly.
Wow, that was new.
Caitlin had never had that kind of response before from just looking at a man. And he was a fair distance away. She could only imagine what she would feel if he got anywhere near her. Perhaps she would self-combust? Melt in a puddle at his feet? She wondered why she was responding this way—all pangs and contractions in her belly. Must be because she was so shaken by what she’d seen, watching the Dom and his sub. Maybe the small matter of not having had an orgasm since the beginning of time.
Perhaps it was the pepperoni pizza she ate for dinner.
Yes, it had to be that.
Although, looking at this guy, she decided he could probably make most women vibrate internally from fifty paces.
He was tall and broad-shouldered. His thick, slightly wavy hair was sandy blond and fell just to his shoulders, curling up a little at the ends. A face one would call ruggedly handsome—with its broad planes, chiseled cheekbones and strong, square jaw—was shadowed with sexy designer stubble, which just added to the whole rugged man vibe he was giving off. He looked like he spent time outdoors, sporting a lovely natural tan.
A gray turtleneck sweater clung to his frame, showcasing his broad chest and strong arms. His black dress trousers were of a looser style than most of the tight, black-leather variety worn by many of the other men in the club, but they didn’t hide the fact that underneath, he was powerfully built. He stood tall and strong and just radiated an aura of authority and command.
Big. Strong. Gorgeous. Pure alpha male.
He looked at Caitlin as if he knew what he wanted and he was going to take it. What he wanted being her. Caitlin got that feeling again, as if she were prey. Except there was something about his eyes—a hint of amusement, perhaps? She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. One corner of his mouth quirked up ever so slightly. But instead of looking cruel, like it had on Ivan, it looked almost like anticipation.
Well, Caitlin sure was anticipating.
She realized she’d been standing there with her mouth hanging opened, ogling a perfect stranger. Perfect being the operative word.
Geez, Cait, pull yourself together.
Caitlin felt herself blushing and turned her attention back to the Doms and subs in the common area.
The woman having her feet tortured was wriggling and squealing now. Funny, Caitlin hadn’t heard a thing while she’d been busy gawking at Mr. Good Vibrations on the stairs.
The young man being given electrostim treatment was begging his Domme to release him, to let him come. Poor guy. Caitlin could relate. Maybe the two of them could form a little club. They could call it W.O.B.I.N.A—Want Orgasm But I’m Not Allowed.
Caitlin felt a familiar churning in her gut when the guy started crying and begging nonstop, chanting over and over, “Please let me come, please let me come, please let me come.” Although it didn’t look as if he was coming anytime soon. Or going anywhere, for that matter, with that nasty-looking metal cock-and-ball cage contraption keeping him from even pointing his penis in the right direction.
Caitlin squeezed her eyes shut and blew out a breath; it was just too excruciating to watch.
She felt a finger slowly stroking along her shoulder and down her arm. She stiffened and sucked in a sharp breath. It was him. He had come to her.
Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god.
Caitlin gulped and opened her eyes as she turned to face him.
“Oh!” she gasped in surprise and jumped back a fraction.
The man was staring at her—however, he wasn’t the one she’d been expecting.
Dante has been Erica’s savior since she was a child, protecting her from others, wiping her tears, making her feel worthy. Until, as the years passed, she began to feel something new…and a girl’s crush became a young woman’s unyielding passion. Though she ran away to Paris after Dante unknowingly broke her heart, even distance couldn’t quell Erica’s desire. Because she knows Dante well, knows what he’s capable of doing for a woman…and knows her submissive needs match Dante’s deep dominance perfectly.
Dante’s in trouble. For years he’s kept his burning ache for his best friend’s sister firmly in check. But now Erica’s back in the States, more gorgeous than ever. Worse, she wants to learn about BDSM—and she’s determined to have Dante as a teacher. He won’t let her near the club he co-owns with her brother—Chris would kill him—but he’ll “train” her at home. When he’s done, Erica will want nothing to do with the lifestyle. And hopefully her crush on Dante will be diminished…for both their sakes.
But Erica proves to be far more resilient that he’d ever dreamed, and Dante’s plan backfires in spectacular fashion, driving her straight into the clutches of someone far worse than another Dom. Someone dangerous, someone from his past…who’s going to make Erica pay for Dante’s sins.
The teenaged girl hiding above in the barn’s hayloft watched as the man she loved pulled the woman roughly into his arms. As he kissed the woman’s mouth, the girl struggled not to cry.
The man stripped the woman’s clothes off—all of them—strewing them like so much rubbish on the filthy barn floor. He turned her to face away from him, positioned her legs so they were wide apart, then pushed down on her shoulders. The woman bent over and grasped the low railing in front of her.
The man pulled off his T-shirt, revealing smooth olive skin ridged with muscle and a dark trail of hair that disappeared below the waistband of his jeans. He unbuckled his belt and pulled it free from the belt loops. The girl bit down on her bottom lip in anticipation of seeing him fully naked. But instead of shedding the rest of his clothes, as she expected, he doubled the belt over, lifted his arm back and brought the belt down onto the woman’s bottom with a loud thwack.
The young girl stifled a gasp. The woman did not.
The girl would have been shocked into stillness if she hadn’t already been rigid as a statue, determined to not divulge her presence to the couple below. She could hardly believe what she was witnessing. However, her growing bubble of righteous indignation burst in response to the sounds the woman began to make. With each subsequent slap of belt against flesh, the woman flinched, but then moaned as if she reveled in this treatment.
The girl stared transfixed in a haze of disbelief.
Disbelief that slowly morphed into hot, pulsing arousal.
The man brought his belt down over and over until the woman’s backside was reddened and the voyeur upstairs was aching and restless and needing.
He finally threw his belt to the ground and moved up behind the woman. He fondled her abused bottom cheeks. When he pinched her there, the woman squealed—a high-pitched, desperate sound. And then he was unfastening the fly of his jeans. Before the girl could get a glimpse of the part of him she was longing to see, he shoved it roughly into the woman, who immediately screamed and shuddered as she orgasmed helplessly.
The man clasped his hand over the woman’s mouth as he fucked her. He fucked her at first with slow, controlled strokes, and then harder and faster until he was pounding into her, almost lifting her off her feet. And if the woman was making any more noise behind that big hand, the voyeur upstairs didn’t know. All she could hear was the blood pounding in her own ears.
She wanted so badly to be there, in place of that woman. The fantasies conjured by her inexperienced mind, of being kissed softly and taken gently by the man, dissolved away in the face of the reality of him.
She wanted him this way, in a way she’d never before imagined, with him controlling her roughly with strong hands, holding her down, making her take what he wanted to give her, taking exactly what he wanted from her.
The harsh lines of pleasure on his face made her crave to be the one giving him that kind pleasure, giving him everything he wanted.
The ache deep inside her became so overwhelming and so unbearable, she cupped herself and pressed, hard. And while the man she’d loved forever bucked and cried out his release, the girl came quietly, her teeth clamped together, with tears pouring down her face. And her heart breaking into a million pieces.
Erica fidgeted in her seat…for about the hundredth time.
The passenger beside her huffed and gave her angry businessman side-eye. She ignored the man, her hands hovering over her belt buckle, willing the “fasten seat belt” sign to make that “ping” sound so she could get off the damn plane. And get to him.
In the five long years she’d lived in Paris, since she was eighteen years old, she hadn’t seen him.
Dante. Just the sound of his name in her own mind gave her shivers.
She wondered if she’d somehow romanticized him. Was he really so devastatingly handsome, so powerful and dangerously sexual? Would he look at her with that dark, intense gaze, the way he did in her fantasies as she lay in her bed, alone, burning and restless? Would that secret smile of his still make her heart race? Would he make her insides clench and her sex moisten when he spoke to her in his deep, velvet voice?
Would he have a beer belly and a receding hairline?
He was twenty-five the last time she’d laid eyes on him. But knowing Dante, at thirty he’d probably look even sexier than he had back then. Gorgeous, infuriating man.
By the time Erica got to the baggage collection area, she was just about crawling out of her skin with impatience. Her stomach churned. While waiting for her luggage to appear, she rubbed sweaty palms on the thighs of her jeans, realizing she hadn’t felt this nervous for a very long time. Maybe since the last time she’d seen Dante. She silently admonished herself. She was determined to behave in a cool, sophisticated manner—Parisian nonchalance at its best—not like some crazy, lovesick schoolgirl.
Trouble was, she felt a little crazy. And sick. And she was most definitely in love.
But Erica needed to get a grip. She was adamant that Dante finally regard her as something other than his best friend’s kid sister. She wanted him to see her as a woman.
And not just any woman, but hopefully the woman who could belong to him.
Dante leaned against a concrete pillar in the arrivals hall waiting for Erica. His eyes scanned the passengers as they streamed out of the exit door, until he caught a flash of red in his peripheral vision. His heart thumped faster. Then a large man moved out of Dante’s line of sight and there she was.
Madre di Dio, she was so fucking beautiful, Dante’s breath caught in his chest.
He knew many beautiful women, but Erica was unique. She was stunning, statuesque, earthy…raw. There was a kind of wildness inherent in her beauty. In his more fantastical imaginings, Dante pictured her standing barefoot in a forest, every inch of her milky skin and lush body bared, her flame-red hair whipping fiercely in the wind.
She was like a goddess of the Earth.
And just as untouchable.
Even with his sole focus on her, from the corner of his eye Dante noticed other men’s heads turning to look at her. It made him want to growl and bare his teeth at them like an animal. But he could see, as per usual, Erica was oblivious to the way she affected males of the species.
She was tall—six feet without shoes on—which put her close to eye level with Dante’s six foot three. Her frame was sturdy with broad shoulders and nicely muscled thighs. He could now see the worn-out, skin-hugging jeans encasing those gorgeous legs that just went on and on forever. Her auburn hair appeared red under the fluorescent lighting, but Dante knew once she was out in the sun, he would see the shimmery streaks of copper and gold.
He watched as she scanned the room, a deep furrow between her brows. He used to rub that spot with his thumb and tell her she’d get old lady wrinkles if she didn’t stop frowning.
She saw him then, and her face lit up, her mouth breaking into her almost-too-wide smile.
She broke into a run and before he knew what she was about, she launched herself at him, jumping right into his arms. He grabbed her under her ass while she encircled his neck with her arms and his waist with her legs—those long, strong legs he’d dreamed about having wrapped around him.
“Dante,” she breathed in his ear, “I’ve missed you so much.”
At the sound of his name on her lips in that honeyed, husky voice and her warm breath in his ear, a shiver racked his spine.
Dante didn’t speak. He couldn’t. His throat choked up with all the words he longed to say to her but never would. He held her tight instead, pressed his lips to her cheek, then buried his face in her hair and breathed deeply, inhaling her scent. She smelled of oranges, summer days and sunlight.
He reveled in the feeling of her wrapped around him; it felt so right to finally hold her this way. He wondered if it was his overactive imagination, but he could have sworn he felt the heat from her sex penetrating through their clothing, branding his skin.
The need to claim her clawed up from inside him like a wild beast that had been caged too long. Beads of perspiration broke out on his lip at the thought of pushing her up against the nearest concrete pillar and driving himself inside her. He ground his teeth and prayed for sanity.
They held on to each other for a long time, neither of them moving to break the connection. After this initial reunion, they wouldn’t hold each other like this again. This was his best friend’s little sister; she was off-limits to him. No matter how he burned for her, how much he wanted her to be his, she never could be.
Finally, with more than a little difficulty, he forced himself to loosen his grip on her. As she slid slowly down his body, lust kicked him so hard in his gut, he thought he would fall to his knees.
She gazed at him with those clear gray eyes that had always utterly fascinated him. Gray, slightly tinged with green, the iris ringed with a color so deep, it was almost as dark as the pupil at its center. He knew he shouldn’t do it, but it was as if his hand and brain spoke two different languages.
Brain: “Don’t do it. Don’t touch her.”
Hand: “I no speaka de English.”
He touched her.
He fingered a strand of her hair and then slowly tucked it behind her ear. Her breath puffed out on a sigh and her eyes fluttered closed momentarily. Dante closed his eyes for a moment too, envisioning how she would react if he really touched her. Touched her in the ways he’d been dreaming of for so many years.
He imagined that underneath Erica’s sassy tomboy exterior lived a passionately sexual woman who would be as fiery as the hue of her hair. If they came together it would be incendiary. They would burn the damn place down around their ears.
And if he tried to take control of that fire and passion—to quiet it sometimes, and stoke it to greater heights at others, based solely on his whims and his wants—would she fight him? He thought he might like it if she fought him a little.
Trixie Meier, a club submissive who’s tired of being pushed around, has decided she’d rather be on the other end of the whip. She’s set her sights on Xavier Adams—the most enigmatic and unapproachable man in the club. Xavier’s a regular Mr. Darcy. If Mr. Darcy was covered in tattoos, wore black leather, and was built like a Sherman tank.
Xavier has skeletons in his closet. He’s done bad, bad things. And though Trixie might be feisty and off-the-wall, she’s way too sweet for the likes of him. That’s what he tells himself just before he starts stalking her.
When Xavier finds out Trixie doesn’t want to submit to him, but wants to master him instead, he thinks it’s the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard. Because a big, scary guy like him, submitting to that tiny, crazy-ass woman is just ludicrous. Right?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Conversing with Xavier Adams is as about as effective as talking to a brick wall. A sexy wall, that smells really good and makes you want to rub yourself up against in a completely inappropriate and pervy manner.
Not that there are many ways to rub yourself against a wall that aren’t inappropriate and pervy.”
“Trixie Meier is a kind, generous soul. She helps people, is a vegetarian because she can’t stand the thought of animals being hurt, and she hugs puppies in her spare time. She’s as sweet as they come—way too good for a guy like me.”
“I love rock climbing, skydiving and anything that gives me an adrenaline rush. Now I want to dominate Xavier. Wonder if I’m taking this “I love a challenge” attitude a little too far.”
“Trixie wants to dominate me?
She’s the craziest bloody woman on the face of this earth!”
Trixie let out an explosive breath, like a sigh being shot out of a canon. “Motherhumping shit-biscuits, you scared the crap out of me!” She clutched her chest and doubled over, feeling as though her heart was going to explode.
Then Xavier was right beside her, one big hand on her shoulder, the other rubbing her back, and he was saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
They stayed that way for quite a while, with him rubbing her back in comforting circles and telling her that everything was okay in his deep, rumbly voice.
When her heart rate calmed and the adrenaline wore off a bit, though, Trixie started shivering again.
“Hey, you’re freezing.” Xavier stood and pulled her to her feet. He rubbed up and down her arms vigorously to generate heat, then wrapped his arms around her and hugged.
Trixie was still for a moment, just absorbing the feeling. Xavier was so ridiculously huge, she felt smaller than she ever had before. But instead of it being threatening, she felt safe in there, all wrapped up in him.
There was a question that needed to be asked, but not wanting to ruin the unexpected Xavier-hug moment, she burrowed her nose into his chest and breathed him in. He didn’t smell of cologne, just natural man scent that screamed big alpha male. And sex. It definitely screamed sex.
But while Trixie was contemplating generating more heat by rubbing up against his thick, hard…thigh, he disengaged.
Damn it all.
He bent down and pulled a stupendously large anorak from a duffel bag at their feet. Then he put her in it, dressing her as though she were a doll. And she didn’t give a shit because it was Xavier, and he was interacting. Plus, she wanted to know what he was going to do next. The whole situation was intriguing. Apart from the screaming bit at the beginning, because holy exploding inflatable butt plugs, that had been frightening to almost soil-your-pants proportions.
What he did next was turn on a camping lantern, and then he started building a fire where Trixie had built one the previous night.
He was deft at fire building, that was for sure, and Trixie realized just how attractive that trait was. Her inner cavegirl was obviously rising to the surface. Next, he’d be hunting and bringing her a dead animal to eat, and she’d be all, “Oooh, ah, you’re my hero.” Even though she didn’t eat meat. Perhaps he’d kill her a “tofudebeest,” like the one in her favorite Gary Larson comic.
She chuckled at the mental image of the three pissed-off lionesses when they realized they’d killed one of the Serengeti’s “obnoxious health antelopes.”
“What are you laughing about?” asked Xavier over his shoulder.
“Ah, just pondering a tofudebeest, actually,” she answered, getting ready to explain the concept.
“Oh my God, yeah, that one. You like his stuff?”
“I have a book of his comics that I used to read when I was a kid. Still do sometimes, when I need a laugh.”
“Me too,” he said, and started pulling food out of his duffel bag.
What the dickens was happening here? They were…bonding…over shared experiences? Humorous comic books, no less. Plus, Xavier was preparing food. And talking.
Speaking of talking—there was a matter of the question that needed asking.
“Xavier, what are you doing here?”
He stilled in the act of opening a can of baked beans. She watched his very broad back and waited for an answer.
“I’m making dinner.”
Trixie huffed. “Obviously. But why are you out here at this particular spot, at this particular time? Are you stalking me or something?”
Xavier got to his feet and slowly turned to face her. He fixed her with one of his stares. There was something going on behind those eyes, but it was nothing she could interpret. Because she didn’t speak Xavier stare.
“You shouldn’t be out here all alone.”
Trixie raised a brow. “I go camping all by myself quite often, thanks.”
Xavier didn’t respond.
“No, seriously. I do it all the time.” She stood up straighter in his anorak, which probably made her look like an upright infant wearing a one-person tent. “I like being alone out here. I don’t need anyone to come save me.”
“You were lying out in the open, in the dark, fast asleep and freezing.”
“That’s only because I felt as if someone,” she didn’t say the word, but the “you” was loud and clear, “was watching me. So I came outside to make sure they couldn’t take me by surprise in the tent.”
“And you fell asleep.”
“I didn’t mean to. I was tired, okay?” She was pretty embarrassed about that, and the pitch of her voice edged toward whiny-ness.
Xavier walked over and stopped right in front of her. As he studied her, she wondered why that light-blue gaze of his didn’t seem so icy all of a sudden?
“I know,” he said in a quiet voice. “Things have been a bit rough for you recently.” And then he palmed the side of her face and rubbed the calloused pad of his thumb along her cheek with gentle strokes, over and over.
Her insides did a few backflips, her nipples stood up and cheered, and she held her breath, waiting for the fireworks to start shooting out of her pants. Holy pyrotechnic punani protectors! He just had to rub her face a little, and she turned into a one-woman Fourth of July parade.
Trixie had no idea what the hell was going on. Color her confused.
Yup, if there was a confused crayon, you could color within her lines and call her done.
Something made a weird squealy noise over by the fire. “I forgot to poke the sausages,” said Xavier as he spun around and went back to his camp-dinner preparations.
He forgot to poke the sausages.
Trixie had obviously entered the twilight zone.
She went over and hunkered down next to him as he stabbed at the hissing meat cylinders. “I can’t eat any of those sausages, but thanks for bringing stuff. I can have the beans…oh, and the bread!” she said excitedly, spying a gorgeous-looking, floury loaf sitting there.
“You can have them. They’re soysages.”
Screw the twilight zone. This was an alternate universe! He’d stalked her and brought her soysages? It was an unusual combination, she had to admit. But Trixie liked unusual, so meh, whatevs.
“Did you hunt the tofudebeest yourself?”
“Maybe,” he answered, keeping his focus firmly on the foodstuffs.
“You’re my hero,” she announced as she gave a clap. Her inner cavegirl was silent, too busy picking out fur area rugs for the cave they were gonna be moving into together.
Trixie thought she saw the side of Xavier’s mouth curve ever so slightly, but it was more likely the flickering light of the fire playing on his face.
Then, just like a regular pair of domestic prehistoric partners, they finished preparing the dinner in silence, each mulling over their own thoughts.
Trixie had another burning question she wanted to ask, though. And knowing Xavier wouldn’t answer it directly if he could avoid doing so, she went about it all stealthy-like. As he handed her a plate piled with food, she accepted it with thanks, but followed up with, “I’m not really that hungry, you know.”
Sitting down beside her, he said, “You should be starving by now.”
“No, I’m quite full, actually.”
“How can you be?”
“I ate a lot today. Three squares.”
“No, you didn’t. You only ate a granola b—” He stopped himself, looking extremely annoyed at his slip-up.
Gotcha! Plus…holy crap! He was stalkier than she’d first imagined. “How long you been spying on me, Mr. Adams?”
He speared a soysage. Put it in his mouth. Chewed. Swallowed.
Trixie waited. She was used to waiting for Xavier to speak, but now—for a change—she was expecting him to eventually answer.
He was talking, but she shouldn’t be expecting miracles.
“Where exactly were you last night, Xavier?”
A hunk of bread, torn with his teeth. Chew, chew. Swallow. “Over there,” came the eventual answer, with a chin tip in the general direction.
Okaaaay. “And how’d you find me?”
“Your aunt Rozlyn.”
Trixie was going to ask more about that, but made the quick decision to quiz Aunt Roz when she saw her instead. Because in the forthcoming stakes, Aunt Roz would beat Xavier by a country mile.
She ate quietly for a while, letting Xavier recover from the last three questions. She felt that she should treat him carefully, like a wild animal she wanted to pet, but knew would get freaked out and run away with too much forced contact. She had more questions, though, for later. Many more. What in the devil’s digs is happening here, being the most pressing one.
Usually, Xavier’s aversion to chatting irritated the heck out of her. But at that particular moment, she didn’t mind the silence.
She, herself, was a total chatterbox. Aunt Roz could talk the hind legs, ears and tail off a donkey. The Doms at the club were constantly blabbing at her, “Do this, do that, and now the other thing.”
Her family talked. Every one of them. All the time. Mostly it was creative ways of tooting their own horns. Blah blah, I’m so damn impressive. All in code, of course, so as not to be blatantly obvious. But the message was always received loud and clear. She seemed to constantly be surrounded by people who kept missing good opportunities to shut the hell up.
But Xavier was a quiet and somehow soothing presence. It was actually nice.
After dinner was finished and everything had been washed in a bucket of water, dried and put away, Xavier produced a packet of marshmallows. He got a couple of long sticks, poked a marshmallow on the end of each and handed one to her.
She opened her mouth to say she’d toast it for him, not wanting any for herself because of the animal products they contained, when Xavier said, “They’re vegan ones; no gelatin.”
Trixie’s heart did a crazy little twirl.
Usually when it came to Xavier, it was Trixie’s loins and panties that were affected. This behavior, however, was hitting her somewhere else altogether.
A man could buy flowers and chocolates for any woman—every woman—but Xavier’s offerings of soysages and gelatin-free marshmallows showed specific thought for Trixie. Beneath Xavier’s tough, indifferent shell, there was quite a measure of caring and thoughtfulness hidden.
She wanted to delve into him and discover more, but the thought of her heart getting involved was a tad unnerving.
Her inner cavegirl, though? She gave no shits. That little ho just wanted to lift up her… Wait, what would a vegan cavegirl even be wearing? Not an animal skin. Maybe something with leaves. Whatever.
Anyway, Caveslut was falling onto her back and throwing her legs wide open.
Trixie watched Xavier out of the corner of her eye while she held her stick over the flames. He was staring at his marshmallow and…was there a slight curve to his lips? Must be the flickering light again, playing tricks on her. But when she turned to face him fully, it was definitely there. This guy who never smiled was getting amusement out of a heated marshmallow. Honestly, he was like the world’s biggest conundrum.
Which bizarrely made him even more attractive.
“How do you like yours?” asked Xavier.
“Your marshmallows—how do you like them?”
“Oh…a bit charred on the outside.”
He blew on his and then held it out for her to nibble off his stick. Trixie hid a grin of her own at the nibbling-off-his-stick thoughts. However, her humor evaporated as she watched him watching her, while she ate what she was fed.
In response to both his proximity and his interest, she was being all sexy—until a gob of melted stuff plopped onto her chin. She made a move to swipe it off with a finger, but Xavier grabbed her hand.
“No,” he said, his voice commanding, almost vehement.
He rose to his knees and leaned over her, bracing his hands on the ground to either side of her hips. And then he swiped his tongue ever so slowly up over her chin, licking the melted treat from her skin.
He stared at her, his irises like blue fire—an unearthly flame that she knew, without doubt, was going to burn her into freaking oblivion.