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“That will be all, Charles.” I looked up to find the chauffeur peering at me with his curiosity more apparent than it had been earlier. He nodded at Zach, then at me.

“Good night, Miss Reid. Mr. St. Brenton.”

And then I was alone with Zach. His expression still yielded no explanation for the sudden switch in his mood in the car, and I didn't like being in the dark.

Where once I would have just kept my mouth shut, I now felt compelled to question him. Perhaps some of Zach's brusque, confident demeanor was rubbing off on me.

“Why does Charles look at me that way?” Zach didn't pretend that he didn't know what I was talking about. Instead he sighed, ruffled a hand through his hair, and shoved his fingers down deep in his pockets.

“I've never brought a woman here before.” I wanted to be suspicious—Zachariah St. Brenton had surely dated scores of women—but the simplicity of his words told me that he spoke the truth.

“Why?” I'd come this far, after all. Why not poke the sleeping bear a bit more?

He raised an eyebrow at me, and the hint of a wicked smile played over the corners of his lips.

“I've never wanted to.” His eyes roamed over me, daring me to ask him another question. I felt the fire that had been banked by his mood change suddenly roar back to life.

“And you always do just what you want to?” I spoke before thinking, but I was still irritated with him, and at the same time envious.
What would it be like to live like that,
I wondered,
doing only as you wished, all the time?

“Always.” My question had been meant to provoke, but as Zach suddenly stepped toward me, I realized that I had pushed him in an unexpected way.

His eyes had darkened, and he looked like he was capable of devouring me. And even though all I had wanted for days now was to feel his hands on me, when he looked at me the way he was, I felt slightly—very slightly—afraid.

He closed his hand around the back of my neck and dipped his head. I closed my eyes, waiting for the kiss. Instead of the brush of his lips on my own, I felt the warmth of his breath as he whispered.

“Will you still stay the night?” My eyes flew open. His face was a study in seriousness, and I realized that the answer to this—my consent—was incredibly important to him.

Weighing my options, I let both the good angel and the bad berate me. Staying the night at some remote fortress of a mansion with an enigmatic stranger was not the brightest idea I'd ever had, and I was more than willing to admit it.

I also knew that if I said
no
, if Zach asked Charles to drive me home right then, I would regret it for the rest of my life.

“Yes.”

Zach exhaled loudly at my simple word, and I realized that he had been holding his breath. Before I could contemplate what I had agreed to, he clasped his hands at my waist and lifted me.

“Zach!” I let out a very undignified squeal as my bottom made contact with the hood of his car. The metal beneath me was warm in parts, since we had just driven in it, and bitingly cool in others. The contrast seeped through the thin material of my skirt, teasing my skin with its warring effects.

“Lift your skirt.” My mouth fell open at the order, but I did as I was told, remembering the feeling of his hands on my inner thighs. His stare fell on my parted lips, and with a growl he descended on them, his tongue immediately demanding entrance, then sweeping inside my mouth to claim.

“Oh.” A breathy moan escaped my lips. One of his hands tangled in my hair, and the other slid down to my waist, then up and under the back of my blouse. My hips arched upward instinctively, and he nipped at my lips, sharply.

“I hadn't intended to do this just yet.” With a final pinch of his teeth on my mouth, he drew back, breathing heavily, his gaze wandering up and down my body. “When I'm around you, I can't seem to help myself. It's a serious problem.”

With his stare locked tightly with my own, Zach stood straight and undid his belt. Not bothering to pull the strip of leather from the loops of cloth, he undid the snap and then the zipper of his pants.

Heat flooded through me, a slow, wicked burn, when I saw that he wore nothing beneath them.

“Use your fingers. Hold your panties to one side.” A shudder racked my body.

I had never been spoken to in this manner, never been treated like I was incredibly desirable.

I loved it.

I began to tremble when, opening my legs and drawing my knees up, I did as he asked, hooking a finger in the elastic of my panties and drawing them to one side. There was something thrilling about being fully clothed, yet exposing this most intimate part of my body.

Zach looked his fill at the neatly trimmed blond curls that I knew had been revealed.

“Shit.” He muttered an oath at the sight, and then pulled a small foil packet from his pocket. Grasping the base of his cock with one large hand, he ripped into the foil with his teeth, shaking out the ring of latex before smoothing it down the length of his cock.

The sight of his long fingers on the engorged shaft had saliva pooling in my mouth. I wanted to demand that he come to me, right then—to order him to fill me, to fuck me hard.

I did none of that, instead watching wide-eyed as the magnificent creature approached me with a wild look in his eyes.

“I don't know what it is about you, Miss Reid.” Releasing his cock, he slid one hand up and under the front of my blouse, finding and squeezing a nipple that was erect to the point of pain. I gasped, and as I did he took two fingers from his other hand and quickly slipped them inside of my slick heat, crooking them back toward himself in a quick succession of motion.

Those fingers brushed against something inside of me, something that was exquisitely sensitive. I cried out, then clapped a hand over my mouth.

“I want you to beg.” Pulling his fingers back out, Zach positioned his cock at the entrance to my pussy. I wanted to slow down, to savor these amazing sensations, and at the same time I wanted him to fill me up so that I stopped feeling so damn empty.

“No.” I shook my head and uttered the word in a whisper. As I did I looked over Zach's shoulder and caught sight of a bank of security cameras and a monitor not unlike the one in the lobby of Phyrefly.

“Oh.” My body clenched, and I tried to close my legs. Was someone watching this? Charles? A maid? A butler?

Zach seemed like the type who just might have one of each.

He followed my stare, looking over his shoulders. When he turned back, his expression held just the slightest edge of delicious taunting.

“Do you like the idea that someone might watch us?” With a very controlled motion of his hips, he pushed just the very tip of his cock inside of me. I arched my hips and cried out, wanting more, but he grabbed either side of my waist and held me still.

“Don't move until I tell you to.” At that I uttered a soft whimper, my patience long gone.

He had teased me, tortured me, all day long. I wanted my reward for being good.

He waited for me to still. Impatient, my eyes flicked back to the monitor. I wasn't sure I would have liked someone right there in the garage watching us, but the idea that someone—anyone—could be watching a monitor like the one I could see made my pussy become even more slick.

“Look at you.” I tried to turn back, to look at Zach, but he caught my chin in his fingers and forced me to look at the monitor. He turned his head, watching it, too, and we both saw our television images do the same.

“Look at that woman up there. She's the sexiest woman I've ever seen.” I didn't for a moment believe that, but looking at the image—the length of my blond hair splayed over the sleek black surface of the car's hood, my legs wrapped around Zach—I felt wanton. I felt desirable.

I felt sexy.

“Please.” I gave in. I just wanted him inside of me. Rocking my hips forward again, I groaned when he pulled back, the tip of his rock-hard cock slipping out from between the moist heat of my lower lips.

“Please what?” Placing one hand on my chest, flat between my breasts, he pushed lightly until I lay back on the car, my legs loosely wrapped around his hips. The metal was hard and unyielding against my skin, and I stared with longing at the thick erection that Zach fisted, rubbing his hand up and down lightly.

“Please, Zach.” Propping myself up on my elbows, I gave in to what he wanted . . . to whatever he wanted. “I . . . I want . . .”

Spit it out, Reid
. The words stuck in my throat. I had no experience in talking dirty. But something told me that Zach wouldn't give even an inch—he wouldn't reward me until I'd told him what I wanted in plain terms.

“Please . . . please fuck me.” I ducked my head, embarrassed.

All hints of discomfiture were shattered when Zach grabbed one of my hips in his hand and thrust inside of me in a long, hard plunge.

I gasped, crying out. My voice echoed off the plain plaster walls of the garage as he pulled nearly all the way back out and then seated himself inside of me again. There was nothing gentle in his actions, nothing kind. He was a predator who had cornered his prey.

I had never been so aroused.

“Move.” I had started to arch my hips to meet him, then had stilled when I remembered his admonishment to do so. “Move however you want to, Devon.”

His rough stroking had aroused me beyond thought. Throwing caution to the wind, I sat up, wrapped my arms around his chest and my legs around his waist, and met his thrusts with my own.

“Fuck.” He growled when I scraped my nails down his back, through his jacket and shirt, frustrated that I couldn't find flesh. “Fuck!” His movements came faster and even harder, pounding into me with fury. I fisted my hands in his suit jacket, feeling the pressure within me finally, gloriously rising, bringing me close to the edge.

It wasn't enough. I wanted more. I wanted him to brand me with his body, to let me know that I was woman enough to make Zachariah St. Brenton lose control.

“Harder.” I barely recognized my own voice, gone guttural with need. “Don't hold back.”

Something wild flashed in Zach's eyes, and then, molding his hands to my ass, he lifted me right off of the car as he thrust in, so deeply that it hurt, but the hurt was so good. My ass slammed back down on the car as he pulled back, and then he lifted me up again.

“More!” Arching my body, throwing my head back, I let him pound into me again and again. I bit my lip until I tasted blood, desperate for release.

“Fuck!” My world shattered into a million brilliant pieces when he forced one hand between our straining bodies and rubbed his thumb over my clit. I shuddered against him, clinging to him with arms and legs, and felt him seat himself deeply inside of me and let go himself. He shouted as he came, his heat warming me from inside.

It was several long minutes before either of us so much as moved. When Zach finally stood, my front felt cold, protesting the removal of the heat from the solid body that had pressed me back into the car.

Despite the fact that my limbs were like jelly, I felt wariness steal over me when I noted that Zach wouldn't meet my eyes as he pulled a still-semi-erect cock from between my legs. Pulling the condom off, he tied a knot in the end and tossed it toward a trashcan that sat beneath the glaringly white security monitor.

As he stepped back, fastening his pants, I started to feel exposed—a ridiculous feeling, really, given what we had just done.

Regardless, I straightened my shirt, ran a hand over my tangled hair. As I smoothed my skirt over my hips, I noted that the elastic of my panties was stretched all to hell, and that they were soaked through.

Swallowing, I slid off the hood of the car. Well, what had I expected, coming here to have sex with my boss? That was exactly what had happened, and now I supposed that he was going to call Charles to drive me home.

Instead he offered me his hand formally, his expression guarded. Hesitantly I took it, flushing when I thought of how that hand had just touched me.

“Let's go have a drink,” he offered, to my surprise.

CHAPTER SIX

I
was far too apprehensive to look at our surroundings in detail as I followed Zach into an elevator, up several floors, and then down a dim hallway. From the quick peeks that I made from my downcast eyes, I noted sleek, masculine decor, done by someone who had a flair for modern style and no taste for warmth. There were none of the touches that made a house a home—no flowers, no half-melted candles, no framed photos of family or friends anywhere that I could see.

I supposed I could have missed those touches, since I was so distracted. His lightning-quick mood swing hung in the air like a rain cloud pregnant with thunder. Our footsteps echoed off the walls and the ceiling, and though I had no idea what Charles or any of Zach's other staff did in their spare time, I had the impression that we were entirely alone in the house.

I tried to hold back the great lump in my throat as I followed Zach into a cavernously large room that opened off of the hallway. It, too, was dim, until he picked up a remote and, with a few punches of his fingers, brought a fireplace that was big enough to stand in roaring to life.

“Wow.” I knew that it made me sound naive, but I found that I couldn't help it. I had been brought up in a household that had never wanted for anything, but as the harvest moon–tinged light of the fire lit up the room to life, I knew that I was seriously out of my league.

Zach either ignored me or didn't hear me, crossing the intricately tiled onyx and alabaster floor to a heavy wooden hutch that stood against a wall of smoky glass. To give myself something to do and to ease my nerves, I wandered across the room, letting my fingers trail over the butter-soft leather of a massive couch, the cashmere weave of an artfully placed throw, the slick glaze of an emerald vase that was likely worth more than my car. The flames cast everything into shadow, making it all look much more mysterious than it likely was, but it served as a reminder that I didn't know the first thing about the man who was now sloshing liquid of some sort into a glass.

Deliberately positioning myself so that my back was to him, I found myself facing a window that took up an entire wall. I had to step close to the icy sheet to see outside, since an indigo twilight had fallen, but when my eyes adjusted I let out a gasp.

The house itself jutted right out over the ocean. When I looked down, I saw jagged teeth carved from obsidian rock and the whipped-cream froth of the water as it thrashed against the cliff. My mouth fell open at the spectacular sight, which was both breathtaking and terrifying.

“It's why I built the house here.” Zach's voice was quiet as he came to stand beside me. He pressed a short, heavy glass into my hand, and I noticed that he avoided touching my fingers with his own.

Just being near him was enough to set my nerves humming with anticipation, even as my mind frantically tried to keep up with his moods. The man was ridiculously confusing, and I was frustrated with myself for being so intrigued.

The silence stretched out as Zach sipped at his drink. I held mine up to eye level, taking note of the thick golden liquid pooled in the glass before sniffing at it. The fumes were potent, and I felt as if I had taken a sip without actually doing so.

My nerves stretched tight along with the silence. Helplessness began to poke its little fingers into my mind—why was I even here? It was torture.

No
. Gritting my teeth, I reminded myself that I was no longer a doormat. I wanted to know why I was here, and I was damn well going to find out.

“What is this, Zach?” He looked at me sharply as I spoke, the flames of the fire reflected in his eyes. It made him look powerful and unearthly, like an angel who had fallen. It made my mouth dry, and so I hastily sipped at my drink, coughing when the alcohol fumes of what I recognized as cognac hit the back of my throat.

If he was amused by my gaffe, he didn't show it. Instead he kept his eyes fixed on me, and I shifted beneath the fierce stare.

“Devon, this isn't going to work.”

I swallowed thickly, trying to ignore the fact that his words hit me as if someone had punched me in the stomach. It shouldn't have hurt so much—I barely knew the man.

I didn't know what to say, and so I bit my tongue and gulped again at my drink. The potent substance burned my tongue and my cheeks as it slid down my throat. Fortified with liquid courage, I lifted my eyes to his and held his gaze.

To my surprise, he seemed discomfited by my direct focus. He rolled his own glass between his palms, and we both watched the cognac splash against the slick sides.

“I asked you here tonight to discuss an . . . arrangement.” That mask that he seemed to always have just under the surface slipped out, and he regarded me coolly. “An arrangement that's somewhat unorthodox.”

“Unorthodox?” I had no delusions that he had been planning to ask me to wear his ring and go steady, but an arrangement sounded a bit more businesslike than what I had expected.

“It doesn't matter now. I won't ask you to make this commitment. It's not for you.” I frowned, my forehead creasing with agitation.

“How do you know it's not for me if you don't ask?” My words were quiet, but firm. I wanted to make my own decisions.

Exasperation washed over his face, and he raked a hand through that beautiful blue-black hair.

“Devon, you are nothing like the women that I usually bring into my life. What I wanted to ask of you . . . I would only be asking for selfish reasons.” His expression dared me to argue with him. “I shouldn't have touched you at all. In fact, I didn't mean to.”

“Then why did you?” Though I whispered, my voice sounded loud in the silence of the room.

“You tempt me.” The way he looked at me as he said those words made me shift restlessly, my thighs rubbing together. “But no matter how much I want you, I have nothing to offer you.”

“What have you offered to other women, then?” Anger was coiling in my belly. “Don't tell me you're chaste, because there's not a hope in hell that someone who looks like you do is perpetually single.”

The ghost of a smile whispered over Zach's lips. “True enough. I have offered them pleasure. But it is a pleasure that someone as sweet as you won't understand.”

Suddenly I felt enraged at his dismissal. Why them and not me? I knew that he wanted me, even now, after our explosive encounter in the garage—in the dim light of the room I could see the outline of his cock, erect again and pressing against the cloth of his trousers.

“And why won't you offer me the same thing?” Was I not wild enough? Not experienced enough? No matter how much bravado I tried to clutch to me like a hug, my ever-present insecurities reared their ugly heads.

Why was I not good enough?

“You don't fully understand what I'm saying.” He looked as if he were daring me to run, the corners of his lips curling up with a hint of mockery. “I don't care for vanilla sex.”

Though I was taken aback by his words, I arched an eyebrow at his proclamation, trying to steady the rapid tattoo of my heart. I was feeling all kinds of things, some of which I didn't have names for, but I wasn't going to let him pull my strings as if I were his puppet.

I was through with going along with what others wanted, simply to keep the peace. I wanted—I craved—the ability to make a statement, to carve out my existence, just like the rocks outside had been worn smooth by the constant crash of the waves against them.

“You enjoyed vanilla sex just fine fifteen minutes ago.” If the atmosphere in the room hadn't been so heated, I would have laughed as Zach's mouth dropped open, just the slightest bit, at my words.

I was quite certain that the other women he had brought into his life didn't make a habit of challenging him.

“Vanilla sex doesn't fulfill my need for control.” Nerves skittered over my skin, and at the same time arousal wound its way through me in a sensual dance. “If you knew what I wanted to do to you, you would run screaming into the night.”

“Show me.” My tongue moved independently of the rest of me, and I spoke before I could think. “Show me what you want.”

I held my breath, staring at Zach defiantly. I watched as he changed before my eyes. He seemed to become even larger in stature, more rigid and unyielding. His face was dark with lust, but also held a hint of cruelty.

The tiny part of my brain that was still capable of rational thought told me to run.

It was overruled by the rest of me, which found the dangerous man in front of me both exciting and arousing.

“You do not give me orders.” Even his voice had changed, layered now with unyielding steel.

I inhaled sharply, wondering if I dared to reply. The hand holding my now-empty glass of cognac trembled, and I licked my lips.

“Then give me one.” Tension was so thick in the room I could practically taste it, but it was a tension that was hot and sweet and seductive. “Tell me what you want me to do.”

I wanted to do whatever he told me to do. I couldn't have said why, but I recognized it all the same.

Zach regarded me for a long moment, and under his stare I felt naked. Finally he nodded, and I was relieved, as if I had passed a test of some sort.

“At the end of this hall is a bedroom.” Zach gestured with the hand not holding his glass, back toward the hallway from which we had entered this room. As he spoke, his eyes never left my own.

“Go into that bedroom. Comb your hair with the brush that you will find on the dresser, and then tie it back in a ponytail.” My fingers strayed to the tangles of my hair, the ones that had come loose during our tryst in the garage. “When your hair is tidy, remove all of your clothing, except for your panties.”

My nipples contracted to hard, tight points that rubbed against the fabric of my bra. My breath began to come faster. I knew I should rebel at the orders that he was throwing at me, but instead I found myself growing wet, soaking the thin cotton of my panties all over again.

“I will come to you in precisely ten minutes. When I enter that room, you will be kneeling on the floor at the foot of the bed.” I nearly moaned—how was he making something that should have been unbearably bossy sound so delicious?

I wasn't given time to speak.

“Do not disappoint me.”

•   •   •

N
ever before had ten minutes seemed to pass so slowly.

As I had been ordered, I had combed my hair, then pulled it back in the sleek ponytail that I wore most days. With trembling fingers I had unbuttoned my blouse, then unzipped my skirt.

Now I sat on my heels on the floor, naked but for the panties that had had quite an abusive day. The damp cotton pulled at my moist skin, and the slight chill in the room had gooseflesh prickling the skin of my arms.

I had never felt more nervous, or more exposed. Not knowing what to expect only aggravated the sensations.

Finally,
finally
the door that I had closed behind me opened. My body clenched, and I looked up with wide eyes as Zach entered the room.

“Lower your gaze to the floor.” His words were harsh, but I heard the lust that was layered beneath them. I hesitated before obeying—I didn't want to look at the floor.

I wanted to look at him.

Sometime in the last ten minutes, he had shed his tie and his dress shirt. His chest was gloriously naked, and I was not happy that I wasn't permitted to look at it.

He had kept it covered during all of our encounters, and the quick glimpse that I'd had had shown me tawny skin pulled tight over rope after rope of hard muscle and dusted with soft whorls of dark hair.

“Keep your eyes on the floor.” I stared at his ridiculously sexy bare feet as he came fully into the room. I heard the clink of ice against glass, and then the sharp click of glass against wood as he set a drink on the dresser, and then opened a drawer.

“You were ready when I came in. I am pleased.” I watched his feet as he walked to me, then lost sight of them as he moved behind me.

Zach placed his hands on my shoulders, brushing the skin there lightly with his thumbs. Then something soft and silky was placed over my eyes, blocking my vision entirely, and I cried out, startled.

“Shh.” Brushing the long wisps of my bangs back with one hand, he smoothed the silk over my temples. “You don't have to do anything that you don't want to do. You just say the word, and I'll stop.”

I stayed tense as he snugged the silk to my head, tying a knot at the base of my neck, below my ponytail. When his hands wandered down to stroke the column of my neck and to dance over my naked shoulders, I relaxed, just the tiniest bit.

“What's the word?” I laughed weakly, trembling under his touch. His fingers stilled for a moment, and he murmured low in his throat, as if I had pleased him somehow.

“What would you like the word to be?” His fingers resumed their movement, sliding down my shoulders, my upper arms, then moving forward slightly to stroke the flesh at the sides of my breasts. “You choose a word, and it will be your safe word. Anytime I push you too far, you use that word and I will stop immediately, no questions asked.”

Anytime he pushed me too hard
. What could he possibly push me to do that I would need a safe word for?

Before I could overthink it, I clenched my fists, feeling my nails bite into the skin of my palms.

“Dark.” My voice was hoarse and sounded like it belonged to someone else. “My word is ‘dark.'”

Zach's hands cupped my breasts, weighing them. His thumbs stroked lightly over my distended nipples, and a jolt went through me, straight to my pussy.

“‘Dark' it is.” The soft strokes melted into a harder caress, with slightly more masculine force behind it. He rolled my flesh between his thumb and forefinger, and each movement seemed attached to a string that tugged at something deep inside of me. “Tell me why you chose this word.”

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