Have me, p.1
Have Me, p.1Part #3.20 of Stark Trilogy series by J. Kenner
Other Books by J. Kenner
The Stark Series
Take Me (e-novella)
Have Me (e-novella)
Most Wanted Series
Mrs. Damien Stark.
Those three simple words fill my thoughts as they have all morning, ever since I spoke the magic words that transformed me from Nikki Louise Fairchild, a single woman, to Nikki Fairchild Stark, a wife.
I feel the tug of muscles as my mouth curves up into a grin, followed by the tightening of Damien's hand around mine. "You're smiling," he says.
"I can't seem to stop," I admit. We have been walking side by side along a Mexican beach, the cool water of the Pacific rising up to froth around our ankles, then rushing back out again in a rhythm as old as time.
Now I turn to face him, and my breath catches in my throat even as my pulse picks up tempo. I have looked at him so many times, and yet every glimpse is like the first. He is power and perfection, love and honor. He is the culmination of my dreams, the embodiment of my fantasies.
He is the future, I think.
Most of all, he is mine.
He is standing with his back to the ocean, the blue sky spread wide behind him as the waves churn around his feet. He wears swim trunks low on his hips and an open short-sleeved button-down. It catches the breeze, the white material emphasizing his athletic build and the sleek, tanned chest that my fingers itch to stroke.
Even dressed so casually, Damien looks like a mythical god rising from the sea, a being so powerful that even the elements cower at his command. And in a moment of giddy certainty I know that this man would have been as successful on a battlefield as he is in a boardroom.
Not for the first time, I think about the fragility of circumstance. What if we had been born a hundred years apart, or even twenty, or ten? What if he hadn't judged that beauty pageant so many years ago? What if I had caved to my mother and become a model instead of pursuing my dreams? And what if I'd slapped his face instead of accepting his offer of one million dollars in exchange for a nude portrait of me?
I would have survived, yes, but surviving isn't the same as living, and with Damien, I am vibrantly, brilliantly, happily alive.
I tell him my thoughts, wishing I had the words to truly describe the way my heart swells with both relief and gratitude when I think about how even the tiniest snip of the threads in the tapestry of time could have sent our lives spiraling down different paths.
"You're a miracle," I conclude, hoping that he understands despite the inadequacy of my words.
"No," he counters. "We're the miracle." His words make me shiver, because Damien Stark gets me in a way no one else ever has, or ever will. And that, I think, is the real miracle.
I watch as he glances at his wrist, then grimaces in wry amusement when he doesn't find a watch there. I laugh. "Out of your element, Mr. Stark?"
"Happily roughing it," he counters, then turns toward the horizon. "What time do you think it is?" he asks. "Almost eleven?"
The sun looks down upon us from above, and I tilt my head back, shielding my eyes with my hand as I gaze at its white-hot heat. This is the time of day when the sand glitters and light sparkles off the ocean's froth like liquid fire. Appropriate, I think. Because right now, I want nothing more than to burn in Damien's arms.
"That's probably about right," I say. "Why? Do you have some pressing engagement?"
He grins in response to the amusement in my voice. "As a matter of fact, yes."
I raise my brows in legitimate surprise. "Oh, really?" I'm certain he hasn't planned a lunch. After all, we had a romantic breakfast on the beach right after our wedding ceremony, and that was only a few hours ago. We'd indulged in everything from delicate crepes to plump berries to coffee with thick, heavy cream. No way was he hungry again already.
"All right," I say. "Out with it. What's up?"
He says nothing, but merely hooks his arm through mine. "We should be getting back."
I narrow my eyes, but fail at my effort to look stern. Because, of course, I know what he has planned. Or at least I know the gist of it. This is our wedding day, after all. And there are certain traditional ways of passing the time immediately after tying the knot. Frankly, I'm all for that plan. What I don't know are the specifics of what Damien has in mind.
I examine his face, noting in particular the determined gleam in his eyes. "You're not going to tell me, are you?"
His mouth twitches as he fights a smile. "Not even if you beg." He leans toward me, then brushes his lips over mine. "And I do like it when you beg," he adds, his voice full of wicked promises.
The kiss is soft and teasing, but my reaction is anything but gentle, and I have to fight the urge to press myself hard against him as a familiar heat pools between my thighs. "Damien," I say, and I hear something close to desperation in my voice. Passion is never far beneath the surface with the two of us, and just that simple kiss has sent fire rippling through and over me.
I reach out and grab his shirt front, then use it as a lever to pull him closer even as I move toward him. The air between us is charged, and I feel the surge of electricity rush through me as I press against his bare chest, now slick from the heat and humidity.
Beneath the thin material of my bikini top, my nipples tighten, and I make a small sound of longing. I changed out of my wedding dress before breakfast, and now I am wearing only this small top, tiny bikini bottoms, and a sheer pink sarong wrapped around my hips and knotted at the side. But even such minimal attire is too much. I want nothing but skin on skin, and I ease my hips forward, desperate to feel him against me.
He is hard, his erection straining against his baggy shorts. I shift my hold on him, cupping my hands on his ass and pulling him tighter, closer. He groans, the sound so full of desperate need that my entire body quivers, and I think that I might come simply from the force of his desire.
But no--I want more. I want to pull him down with me into the sand. This man who is my husband.
I want his hands upon me, his cock inside me. I want his lips, his touch. I want his heat.
I want everything he can give and more.
Best of all, I know that he wants it, too.
"Damien," I whisper, then release him as I fumble at the knot on my hip. The sarong is thin and gauzy, but it will suffice as a makeshift blanket.
His hand closes over mine, and I tremble with anticipation. I draw my hand away, then close my eyes, more than willing to let him undress me.
Except he doesn't.
I stand for a moment, confused and disoriented, then open my eyes to find him looking at me. I see the desire on his face, as vibrant and wild as my own need. And yet he makes no move to touch me again. On the contrary, he takes a single step back, his eyes never leaving mine.
He is denying us both, and that simple fact both pisses me off and turns me on.
I gather self-control around me like a cloak, then lift an eyebrow. "Playing games, Mr. Stark?"
"Absolutely," he says with a wicked grin. "And just in case you've forgotten, I don't play if I can't win."
"Really?" I say, enjoying myself. "And what's the prize?"
He steps closer, still not touching me, but so close that I can hear my own heartbeat echoing agains
My heart flutters in my chest. Even now--even married--he makes me feel as deliciously alive as I did the first time he touched me. "In that case," I whisper, the words thick with the weight of truth, "you've already won."
He reaches out and strokes my cheek so gently I'm not sure that I can truly distinguish his touch from the breeze. "Yes," he says. "I have."
He twines his fingers with mine, then starts to lead me across the sandy beach toward a boardwalk.
"At least tell me where we're going."
"Back," he says.
I start to say that I had already figured that much out. We are on a secluded beach, in a remote part of Mexico that I can't pronounce and couldn't ever find again. After deciding to skip the wedding drama and elope, we'd left LA in one of Damien's private jets. We'd left it at a fair-sized airport with Damien's regular pilot, Grayson, who I presume has taken it back to the States. Damien and I had been chauffeured across the airport in a Jeep, then boarded a small, single-engine prop plane with only two seats and a tiny cargo area. Damien himself had taken us the rest of the way.
Damien explained the switch in aircraft by telling me that the runway where we were going couldn't accommodate a jet. As it turns out, "runway" was a bit of an exaggeration. The landing strip was little more than a length of packed dirt. I'd been terrified that I would die before we arrived and could take our vows. Damien had been exhilarated.
And while I might have preferred a plane with more than one engine and some asphalt to land on, I wouldn't have traded the look on Damien's face for anything. Not the joy I saw as he maneuvered the craft, nor the pride and expectation when we deplaned, climbed into a waiting Jeep, and drove the short distance to the remote--and utterly spectacular--resort.
The property is small, with fewer than ten guests at any time. It caters exclusively to couples looking for a romantic retreat, and from what I've seen so far, the owners know their business well. For although our personal concierge told me that the resort is fully booked, neither Damien nor I have seen any sign of the other four couples. Instead, it is as if we are alone on this remote stretch of beach--or as alone as one can be with a staff that caters to your every whim.
I'd seen a map of the property upon arrival last night, and the overall area of the resort resembles a hand. It is set on a remote section of beachfront with five peninsulas that protrude like fingers. Each bungalow occupies its own peninsula, giving it both privacy and a stunning ocean view from three sides.
Though we'd arrived after dark, I'd been impressed from the first moment I saw the resort. But when I stepped into our bungalow and saw the three-sided ocean view revealed by walls and walls of glass, my breath caught in my throat. It was like standing on the deck of a boat with miles of pitch-black ocean stretching toward forever, broken only by the moonlight dancing on the curl of the waves.
Our bungalow is the farthest from the main building, which houses the staff offices, a spa, and a restaurant that rarely has patrons but does a huge business in room service. Even without the breathtaking view, the bungalow is stunning. It features a luxurious bedroom dominated by a huge bed covered in bright pillows of pink and turquoise. A remote control operates a set of blackout blinds that drop the room into complete darkness. Since I see no reason to block the view at night or during the day, I don't expect that Damien or I will make much use of that technology.
As for the rest of the place, there is a fully stocked, state-of-the-art kitchen, a living room that features an indoor-outdoor fireplace, and a covered patio with a huge two-person lounge chair from which to enjoy both the view and the ocean breeze.
"Do you own this?" I'd asked Damien after we'd arrived and I'd had time to catch my breath. He'd smiled, but then surprised me by shaking his head.
"I almost bought it years ago when it was stumbling," he said. "I ended up giving the owners a loan to help them get past a hump, do some upgrades, and rebrand the place as an exclusive--and very upscale--getaway destination."
"They succeeded in spades," I said.
"Yes, they did," he said. I heard the note of pride in his voice and looked at him curiously. "This property has been in the same family for over three generations. There's a history here, not to mention the kind of work ethic that would have found a way to make the property viable. I just pushed the process along. I didn't want to alter what the family had built, but I did want to make sure that what they'd established would continue to flourish."
I nodded, remembering what he'd once told me about a small gourmet wine and cheese company. He'd loved the product and had wanted to help the company, so much so that he had partnered with them, letting them run autonomously, but with the full weight and resources of Stark International behind them. It had been a mistake. Suddenly, the small local company that had been praised in the press was vilified, with critics claiming it was actually big business pretending to be small and family-owned. Damien had pulled his resources and sold Stark International's share back to the owners, but the damage was done, and it had taken many years for that company to recover.
Now, as we approach our bungalow, Damien draws me close. "There was another reason, too," he says.
I frown, trying to follow his train of thought. "For not buying the resort, you mean?"
He nods. "I wanted a place to come when I needed to be completely alone. No work. No obligations. A respite."
"Like now," I tease.
I pause on the path, then hook my arms around his neck and rise up onto my tiptoes. "In case it escaped your attention, you're not alone."
"But I am," he says.
I open my mouth to say something light in response, but then stop. I can see by his face that he is serious.
"A man is never more himself than when he is alone," Damien says, in answer to my unspoken question. "That is when the mask comes off. Shut the door, and the persona drops away. Alone, you reveal your soul. You and I know that better than most people."
I nod, but say nothing.
He brushes his lips over mine in a kiss so soft it makes me want to cry from the sweetness of it. "You, Nikki, are the only person I can be with and still be alone. You see me--the core of me. And not only do you see me, but you love me."
"Yes," I say, and only when I taste my tears do I realize that I am crying, after all. Throughout my entire life I have played a part. Social Nikki. Beauty Queen Nikki. Dutiful Daughter Nikki. But with Damien, I am only Nikki.
"I am alone with you," he says. "And at the same time, neither of us will ever be alone again."
I blink away the tears. "It's perfect," I say. "You could have searched forever and still not found a better place for us. It--it fills me up." The words are inadequate, but when he squeezes my hand and says, "I know," I think that perhaps he understands.
When we arrive at the bungalow, my thoughts are still on Damien's words and this place. I meant what I said about the location being perfect. Ever since his murder trial, things have been just a little crazy. And he's right, this is a well-deserved respite for both of us. Time to be alone together. A chance to stop the movement of the earth for just a little bit. I grin at the thought.
"What's that for?" he asks, brushing the corner of my mouth with his fingertip.
I lift a shoulder casually as he opens the bungalow door for me. "I was just thinking about how easily you control the universe. Stopping the earth's rotation is no mean feat."
He chuckles. "Is that what I do?"
"Mmm-hmm." I take his hands and pull him inside. "But right now, I don't want the earth to stop. Just the opposite. Make the earth move for me, Damien," I say, pressing my body against his. I draw in a deep, self-satisfied breath as he shifts against me, his erection hard against my abdomen. "I want you to make me fall apart," I whisper. "Please, Damien. I want you to make me scream."
"As you wish," he says, in the kind of low voice that makes me tingle in anticipation. "After all, Mrs. Stark, this
As it turns out, I don't scream. Instead, I squeal as he scoops me up and holds me tight against his chest, my arms hooked equally tight around his neck. I laugh and kick as he carries me toward the bedroom.
"I'm not going to make you scream, Mrs. Stark," he whispers with mischief in his voice. "I'm going to make you beg."
"Because you like it when I beg." My voice is breathy as I repeat what he said to me on the beach.
His mouth curves into a grin, but he doesn't answer in words. Instead, I see the truth in his eyes. Oh yes, I think. This is going to be fun.
I expect him to deposit me on the bed, and I'm prepared to cling to his shirt and pull him down on top of me if he even thinks about stepping away, even if only to undress. Instead, he surprises me, moving through the bedroom to a sliding wooden door. He shifts his grip on me just long enough to open it, revealing the most spectacular bathroom I've ever seen.
I'd seen enough of it last night to know that it is amazing, but it had been dark when we arrived, and I'd been more interested in the man I was eloping with than in architecture and plumbing, no matter how incredible.
This morning, I'd had no occasion to come through these doors. Damien had roused me before sunrise and handed me over to two local women who had hurried me into the living area, which had been converted into a makeshift dressing room. They'd washed my hair in a portable beauty shop-style chair, then did my makeup in the smaller, but still luxurious, bathroom off the kitchen.
I was primped and polished, then decked out in my wedding dress and hustled to the beach for a sunrise ceremony so quickly and efficiently that my memory of this morning before the vows began is a blur.
Then, as now, I'd wanted only Damien.
Now, however, my desire for the man is both underscored and enhanced by the scene in front of me. "Damien." The word comes out as an awed whisper. The room is romantic. Magical.
As perfect as the man himself.
I tilt my head up to find him smiling down at me, and in that moment my heart is so full that I have to cling to him more tightly for fear that it will burst.
This is like no room I've ever seen before, and I am a bit in awe. Last night, in the dark, I hadn't really thought about the floor, and if I had I would have assumed it was solid. Instead, it is slate leading up to a rectangular wading pool that fills most of the bathroom, but extends beneath a sliding glass wall to dominate the back patio as well. Beyond its infinity-style end is the ocean, and from the perspective of someone standing inside the house, the rocky shore that slopes down from the bungalow is completely invisible.
Have Me by J. Kenner / Romance & Love have rating 3.6 out of 5 / Based on25 votes