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Authors: Eve Berlin

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BOOK: Pleasure's Edge
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The pen dropped, and he lurched to catch it, but it hit the floor with a clatter.

Fuck.

“Do you need to question it, Dylan?”

Did he? He didn’t want to think too careful y about whatever the hel was going on with him. He just wanted to see her, damn it.

“I . . . no, I suppose not.”

“Meet me at seven at Wild Ginger on Third. Do you know the place?”

“Yes, I know it.”

“Don’t be late.”

“I’m never late.”

A hint of stubbornness in her voice, but she wasn’t real y fighting him at this point. He sat back in his desk chair, his muscles loosening.

“And, Dylan, you are to wear al black. Do you have a black dress?”

“What woman doesn’t?”

“Black stockings? Boots?”

“Of course.”

He couldn’t tel from her tone how she was taking being given orders. But he would deal with that later. It didn’t matter to him right now as much as it should.

“I’l see you tonight, then.”

She blew out a breath. “Al right. Fine.”

Oh yes, a little fire in her, but he expected that. Enjoyed that.

“Until tonight, then.”

He hung up without giving her a chance to respond. He felt the annoyance coming, the fight. He’d let her stew on that today. Let her work some of it out of her system. Or let it build into real anger by the time he saw her. Either way it would work. Part of his job as a dominant was to elicit some sort of response from her. And if she was going to fight this process—and that was a given, with Dylan—it would be better if those issues were dealt with as soon as possible.

He’d enjoy this fight. Seeing her struggle. And even more, that moment when she final y gave in. Too much, maybe. But he would deal with that, too. Work this weird
need
out of his system. With Dylan. Or another girl. It didn’t matter, did it?

Did it?

It never had before. And he wasn’t about to start now, getting hung up on a woman. His insane attraction to Dylan Ivory was just that, and nothing more.

Just work her out of your system. Just work
her
.

Tonight would be about getting to know her, because the more he could get inside her head, the easier it would be to get her to truly submit. She was complicated. The power-play dynamic would be more effective once he had a better idea of how her mind worked. It was as simple and clear as that.

He shook his head, turned back to his computer screen. And knew deep down that he was lying to himself.

Dylan got out of the cab in front of Wild Ginger, slamming the door shut behind her. She’d been fuming al day.

She smoothed her hands over her dark brown slacks, straightened her caramel-colored leather jacket.

There was no way in hel she would have worn the damn black dress.

She yanked open the door to the restaurant a little harder than was necessary. Inside it was al spare Asian elegance, the dark red wal s making a dramatic backdrop to the black lacquer tables, the fragile sprays of white orchids in tal vases.

She spotted him immediately. He was lounging against the bar, a drink in his hand. Huge and handsome—no, handsome was not a powerful enough word for him—in his dark slacks and a dark shirt that fit his muscled body like it was custom-made for him. It probably was. There was no other way a shirt could fal perfectly over those enormously broad shoulders, and lie smooth and close around his narrow waist. But no matter how gorgeous he might be, his looks were not going to make her give up the simmering irritation she’d arrived with.

He smiled when he saw her. There was something smug about it, making her blood heat with fury. And her body heat with desire.

She swal owed the desire down, nodded her head and made her way toward him.

“Hel o, Alec.”

“So you showed up but had to be sure to let me know you’re not to be pushed around, is that it?”

She lifted her chin. “Yes. That’s it exactly.” He grinned at her. “You look beautiful, Dylan.” She hadn’t expected that. But she wasn’t going to be a push-over and she wanted to be clear about that.

“Maybe it’s part of your ritual with the girls you play with at the club, but I’m no slave girl. And my foray into this branch of kink does not mean that has changed. That’s not what I’m interested in.”

He kept smiling, which she found a little disturbing.

“That’s what we’re doing here tonight. Getting a better picture of what you
are
interested in. Shal we get our table?”

“I . . . yes.”

She didn’t know what else to say, and felt foolish for what she’d already said. Why couldn’t she calm down?

Alec gave an imperial nod of his chin and the hostess appeared out of nowhere, a slim, attractive girl with shining black hair. She smiled at Alec, batting her long lashes at him. Dylan wasn’t surprised, nor could she blame the girl. Alec was probably the best-looking man in the place, his smile charming, rakish.

Good Lord, had the word
rakish
actual y just passed through her mind?

She shook her head to herself as she fol owed the hostess to the table, Alec a step behind her. She swore she could feel the heat of his big body.

He leaned in and whispered to her, “I didn’t actual y expect you to wear the black dress, Dylan. Not you.”

She turned to stare at him, blinking, but he just smiled as he helped her out of her coat and draped it over the back of her chair before pul ing it out for her, then took the opposite seat.

“We’l have a pot of jasmine and green tea,” he told the hostess, his gaze steady on Dylan’s. His eyes glowed a deep, dark blue in the dim lighting.

“You surprise me,” she found herself saying.

“Do I? In what way?”

“Al of these nice manners. Holding my chair. Remembering the kind of tea I prefer.”

“Being a dominant doesn’t mean being an asshole, contrary to popular belief. And I never conform to popular belief.”

“No, I’m sure you don’t.”

“Neither do you.”

“What do you mean?” She fingered the edge of her cream-colored angora sweater.

He shrugged. “You’re an erotica author. There are those who might have some preconceived notions about what sort of person that makes you.”

“Probably. What do
you
think that makes me?” He leaned in, looking at her.
Through
her. She shifted in her chair. She wanted to hear his answer a little too badly.

“I think it makes you a woman who is more open-minded when it comes to sex than the average woman might be. More open-minded in general, perhaps. Although I don’t think you apply that to yourself.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“It means that I believe you judge yourself more harshly than you do others.”

“I’m sure I do. Doesn’t everyone?”

“Yes. You’re right about that.”

“Even you?”

He grinned at her, his teeth a dazzling white, his goatee wicked-looking even as he smiled. And she was, as always, charmed by him.

Damn it.

“Even me,” he said. “Ah, here’s the tea.”

To her surprise—once more—he picked up the pot and poured, handing her the smal red and white ceramic cup. She took it, warming her fingers around it.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

She could not figure this man out. And he was right: She did have preconceived notions about what a sexual dominant was about. Notions she was apparently going to have to toss out and start al over again.

If only he didn’t have to be so absolutely in control al the time. Or maybe if
she
didn’t . . .

She laughed softly.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Oh, just coming to terms with a few things,” she admitted.

“Readjusting my thinking. Not that I like it.” He leaned back in his chair, sipped his tea. “Ah, exactly what I hoped to achieve.”

She sighed. “And there you go again,” she muttered.

He was silent a moment, studying her, and she felt her cheeks begin to heat under his scrutiny.

He lifted his steaming teacup, blew on it for a moment, sipped, then set it down. Every tiny motion seemed measured. Or perhaps it was simply that she was waiting for him to say something, his study of her making her anxious.

“You intend to be a great chal enge for me, don’t you, Dylan?”

“I don’t ‘intend’ anything.”

“Don’t you?”

“I just am who I am.”

“And who is that, Dylan?”

“Are you being condescending?”

“Absolutely not. I want to get to know you. It’s part of my job, as it were. But I also just
want
to know you. Is that al right?” He leaned in once more, covered her hand with his. His was large, warm, the heat seeping into her skin in much the same way the heat from the teacup had. Her body went loose al over.

“Yes. Of course. I don’t know why I’m being so combative. Or maybe I do. But it’s rude of me. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Let’s start again. Just relax, talk. Why don’t you tel me something about yourself?”

“What would you like to know?”

“Start at the beginning.”

“Wel ...”

She realized his hand stil covered hers, making it hard to think.

She glanced down at their hands, up at his face, and he smiled briefly and withdrew his hand as though he understood.

“Start with your writing, Dylan. I’d love to know about your work.” She settled her hands in her lap, her fingers clenching, feeling the heat he’d left there. “I’ve been writing ful -time for the last four years.”

“And have you always written erotica?”

“Yes, always. I started to write in my early twenties, but I didn’t think about getting published until four years ago. Things happened pretty quickly, then. I got an agent, sold my first book, then three more, and several novel as. I’ve been very lucky. Before that I was in banking. I did quite wel .”

“Banking? I can’t see you in banking. I imagine your real talents were wasted there, in some stiff corporate environment. You’re too

. . . exotic.”

She shifted in her seat, her fingers twining tightly. She’d never thought of herself that way.

This man could unbalance her like no one else ever had.

She sighed to herself and went on. “I hated it. But the money I made there gave me the opportunity to stop working and just write, so I’m grateful for it. Luckily, I got my first contracts before my savings ran out. What about you? What did you do before writing professional y?”

“I taught English at the university here.”

“But you gave it up to write?”

“Not immediately. I stopped working three years ago. Too many book deadlines to keep it up. I didn’t feel I could do both and put enough energy into each. I didn’t want to rip off my students. I loved teaching, actual y. Some people think of it as a banal existence.

But I enjoyed it.”

“I’m sure you did. And I’m sure you found your thril s elsewhere.” He grinned. “Of course. I don’t bother denying who I am.” He sipped his tea again. “Unlike some people.”

“Oh, a barb. Should I be injured?”

He grinned, a wicked glint in his eyes. “Not yet. We’l get to that later.”

Her cheeks heated once more, her sex going warm. It hit her al at once that this man was real y going to touch her soon. Spank her. And what else?

She crossed her legs under the table, fighting the ache between them.

Focus. Just keep talking.

The talking made this almost seem like a normal date. She could handle that.

“Alec, tel me more about this thril -junkie stuff you mentioned the other day. The extreme activities.”

Alec smiled. “I like anything that gives me an adrenaline rush. I snowboard. I’ve been skydiving. The shark-diving I believe I mentioned. And my motorcycles. I’ve raced, but not professional y.”

She shuddered. She hated to think of that. She had most of her life.

“Dylan? What is it?”

She waved her hand. But she could feel herself going pale. And Quinn was a big part of what had made her who she was.

Just tell him. Get it over with.

“I . . . I lost my younger brother, Quinn, in a motorcycle accident.

The idea of anyone driving a motorcycle makes me . . .

uncomfortable.”

“I’m sorry. Was it recent?”

“No. No. Can we change the subject? It sounds as if you’ve traveled a lot.”

“I have. I particularly love Southeast Asia, the entire eastern hemisphere. Thailand is beautiful. Bali. And Tibet was an adventure, although not a comfortable one. I was tattooed there by an old man, using the ancient methods. They take a long spoke of sharpened bamboo and tap it over and over to push the ink into the skin. It takes two people to hold you down, to hold the skin tight. It takes hours. But you get into this sort of trance space after a while. It’s on the back of my shoulder, a bony area and it hurt like hel , but it’s my favorite tattoo. These tattoos are custom-made, and have a spiritual meaning the artist discovers for each individual. A unique message. It was an amazing experience.”

“I’ve seen it done in documentaries. It looks painful, but the designs are beautiful.”

“I’l show you mine eventual y. Do you like tattoos?”

“Yes. There’s something so personal and interesting, so much a statement about a person. I have one myself.”

“Do you?”

“You look surprised.”

“Maybe not. What is it?”

“A branch of plum blossoms sort of arching over my right hip.”

“Ah. Plum blossoms are a sign of perseverance.”

“Yes. The blossoms can survive a winter frost.”

“Perhaps you’l tel me sometime what that means for you.” She smiled. “Perhaps. You have other tattoos besides the one you had done in Tibet?”

BOOK: Pleasure's Edge
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