On my knees, p.6
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       On My Knees, p.6

         Part #2 of Stark International Trilogy series by J. Kenner
 
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I’ve gone from floating to attacking. From peaceful to feral. I want this—oh, dear god, I need this, and hear myself calling to him. His name. My moans. My cries of “Oh, god, yes, fuck me, please, Jackson, please fuck me harder. ”

  He is above me, his body undulating over mine, his stormy eyes wild with passion. He is filling me up and sending waves of pleasure coursing through me. I am so close—so ready—and I feel more alive and more awake than I have ever been in my life.

  “You offered,” he growls. “I took. ”

  “Yes. ” I suck in air as ripples of electricity zing over my body, the precursors to an orgasm that just might kill me. “Jackson—oh, god, Jackson. ”

  “That’s it, baby. Come for me. ”

  His hands are on either side of me, but now he lifts one, taking his weight only on the other as he closes his now free palm over my breast. I rise up, my body craving more, and he takes my nipple between two fingers, pinching me to the point of pain.

  I gasp—in surprise, yes, but even more from the sweet sting that spreads through me, fiery hot like an electrical storm that seems to connect my breast to my core.

  I hear him moan and know that he has felt this new sensation as deeply as I have. “Again,” I beg. “Harder. ”

  He doesn’t disappoint, and I bite my lower lip as he torments my nipple, making me writhe on the bed in the throes of a sweet pain that sends riots of pleasure through me, making my clit throb and my cunt tighten and convulse around him, silently demanding that he fuck me harder and deeper until finally the entire world seems to explode around us.

  I think that I call his name, but I am not sure. I’m not sure of anything, actually, until the world re-forms around us, and I am limp beneath his weight as he collapses on top of me. His cock is still inside me and his face is buried in my hair. His hand remains on my breast, and even now, even sated, I want more.

  “Jackson,” I murmur, then move my shoulder so that my still-erect nipple brushes against his hand.

  He makes a soft noise against my hair, and though he is otherwise still and spent, his fingers tease my breast, his fingertip stroking the areola, making the skin tighten and pucker.

  I am breathing harder, wanting more, and I drag my teeth over my lower lip in dire need of his touch. He doesn’t disappoint, but at the same time the touch is only a tease, a soft stroke of his fingers on my nipple, when I want that heat. That shock. That sting that shoots all the way through me.

  “You want more?” he whispers.

  “Yes. ”

  “Touch yourself. ”

  I open my eyes, only then realizing that I’d closed them in the first place. His face is right there, his jaw firm. His eyes hard and full of passion and heat.

  “Touch yourself,” he repeats, and because he has told me to, I comply. I slide my hand down my belly and find my clit. I’m wet and slick, and my fingers slide over my sensitive flesh.

  I buck a little, my body once again reaching for release, and as I do, I am rewarded by his fingers tightening upon my nipple, giving me what I had so desperately craved. And now that heat—that connection—seems to shoot through me, making my breasts heavy and my skin sensitive. Filling and teasing me.

  And as I stroke myself in small circles, I slide my fingers down to brush against his cock, feeling that place where we are connected. I feel him harden inside me, and I gasp at the power that seems to arc between us, firing both our bodies with such wild electricity.

  “Now, baby,” he whispers, tweaking my nipple even as a second, explosive orgasm rocks through me, making my muscles tighten around him, making him harder and wilder and oh, dear god, I still want more. I want everything. I want Jackson. Page 22

  And he, thank god, wants me.

  Still inside me, he rolls onto his back so that I am straddling him, impaled on his cock, my body still sensitive from the last climax. “My turn, sweetheart,” he says, as he takes my hips and guides me up and down as he pumps into me, using his control over my rise and fall to thrust deeper and deeper, until he finally explodes inside me, and I watch as he goes over the edge, and am humbled by the pleasure and wonder I see on the face of this man I love.

  When the last tremors subside and his body relaxes, I lean forward so that my breasts press against his abdomen and my cheek rests against his chest. He is warm, like a furnace, and his scent is intoxicating. I am tired, sated, but I can’t resist the urge to tease his nipple with my tongue.

  When I do, he laughs, then quickly flips me so that we change positions and he is over me. “Someone’s energetic,” I tease.

  “Someone had a nice long nap. ” He lifts his eyebrows. “Care to go again?”

  “Always,” I say, meaning it. “But I think we should probably eat. What time is it?”

  “Late. Early. I don’t know. ” He props himself up on an elbow and grabs his phone off my bedside table. “Late. We slept all day. ”

  “Makes sense. We were up all night. ”

  He pulls himself up to a sitting position, then leans his back against my headboard as he uses his phone to order pizza. He doesn’t bother to cover himself with a sheet, and he isn’t the least bit self-conscious. Nor does he seem to be aware of the fact that—as the most incredible hunk of maleness that I have ever seen—he is entirely distracting me. His hard abs, his muscled arms. That tight V of muscle that some men have that traces the way from waist to groin, and his still quite impressive, though no longer fully erect, penis.

  In my current state of arousal, even the bruises that mar his body are sexy, and I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t some sort of anthropological thing. The young woman attracted to the male in the tribe with the visible marks that prove he is capable of protecting her.

  He clears his throat.

  I realize that not only is he no longer on the phone, but that I have been staring at his waist—okay, at his cock—and lift my head sheepishly.

  “Like what you see?”

  “Just checking out what belongs to me,” I say boldly.

  “Good answer. Come here. ”

  I’ve been wrapped in the sheet, but he pulls me free of it so that I am tucked in naked beside him. It seems decadent, somehow. Spending the day naked in bed. Or it does until he bends over to kiss my forehead and says, “I’m sorry to have kept you up all night. I didn’t intend to worry you. Honestly, I didn’t intend anything at all. ”

  I sit up, then grab for the sheet and wrap it around me again. If he asks, I’ll say that I am cold. But the truth is that I just feel a little bit exposed.

  I don’t plan to say anything, but then I hear the words and realize that they’ve come out of my mouth. “I thought you were mad at me. I thought that’s why you left. ”

  “Mad?” He looks so confused that I immediately relax, because no verbal denial could be more reassuring. “Oh, baby, no. I probably could have ripped the great Damien Stark to shreds for making you do that—and it was his face I saw on every man I went up against in the ring—so I was mad, yes. But not at you. ”

  He reaches for me, sheet and all, and once again pulls me close. I curl against him, and the world seems to right itself again.

  “Not at you,” he repeats. “At Damien. ”

  “I know. I’m mad at him, too,” I admit. I don’t say that I understand why Damien did it. Right now, what Jackson needs is solidarity.

  “For that matter, I’m mad at my father, too. And we might as well add my mother to the equation. ” He grimaces. “Although you’d think I’d know by now that getting mad isn’t even worth the effort. My whole life has been run by Damien’s needs and whims. I don’t know why now would be any different. ”

  “You’ve never really told me about your family,” I say softly. “Not much more than the big picture, anyway. ”

  “It’s hardly a story worthy of Disney,” he says wryly. “But I suppose it has dramatic potential. ” He tilts his head back. “I told you I’m a bastard
, and not just of the asshole variety?”

  I make a face. “Very funny. You told me that your dad was married. ”

  “To Damien’s mother. But they didn’t have any kids when Jeremiah met my mom, about a year before I was born. Her name’s Penny, by the way. ” Page 23

  “They had an affair. And he didn’t just walk away when he learned Penny was pregnant?”

  “No. And she has always given him too much credit for that. I think she’s the one who should have run. Far and fast. But she had no education. No skills. She was a waitress in a bar when Jeremiah met her. And I don’t know how much you know about Jeremiah, but he was blue collar all the way. At least until he met Damien’s mother. She had money. ”

  “Really?” I hadn’t heard that. From the stories about Damien’s start in tennis, I had the impression that they were relatively poor, with the family’s hope resting on Damien.

  “That’s not altogether wrong,” Jackson says when I tell him as much. “It’s just later in the story. ”

  “Okay. Go on. ”

  “So Damien’s mother, Carol, had family money that she inherited. They were married. Happy. Why wouldn’t they be? All Jeremiah wanted was money and a beautiful wife and he had it. ”

  “He burned through the money,” I guess.

  Jackson touches his nose. “Right you are. Although to be fair, Carol got sick. So it was really the medical bills that eventually burned through it. ”

  I nod, because I understand that only too well.

  “Meanwhile, before she became ill, Damien was born. I was two at the time, and don’t even remember the blessed event. But I know that Carol and Jeremiah had been trying for years, and now suddenly he had what he wanted—a legitimate son. ”

  “And you started to see less and less of your dad. ”

  His smile is thin. “Are you sure you haven’t heard this story?”

  “Sadly, it’s not too hard to guess the plot. But go on. ”

  “That’s really the way it shook down. It started with my father simply shifting his attention to Damien. To his happy little perfect family. And I had to keep it a secret, because our money was Carol’s money, though I didn’t realize that at the time, either. ”

  He gets out of bed, gesturing for me to stay put, then pads out of the room. “Things coasted along for a while. I saw my dad, knew he had another family, tried to pretend I wasn’t jealous of my smelly, stupid little half-brother, and got on with my life. ”

  He returns with two bottles of sparkling water and hands me one. “Then Carol got sick. ”

  “Damien was about eight,” I say, remembering details from the various biographies I’ve not only read but edited over the years.

  Jackson nods. “I was ten. Old enough to understand things I overheard, but not to really comprehend them. And what I came to realize was that she’d been declining for a while, but it really got bad that year. Their money was dwindling, and there was no more to be had. Jeremiah had actually started working on an assembly line and had moved the family to Inglewood. ”

  I nod, because I happen to know those are some of Damien’s earliest memories.

  “But what I found really interesting was that Jeremiah told my mother that Carol wasn’t going to make it. And that when she passed away, he was going to be with her—my mother, I mean. Move me and her into the house he shared with Damien. And we were all going to be one big family. ”

  “Did you want that?”

  His smile is so sad it almost breaks my heart. “I did. Because I saw how much my mother wanted it. And because I thought my father would want to be around me more if I was part of an actual family and didn’t feel so much like a side note. ”

  I reach out to hold his hand, the gesture seeming feeble against the weight of the pain I hear in his voice. And my heart is so tight that I’m afraid it’s going to break for the little boy he used to be. “Why didn’t it happen?” I whisper the question, somehow afraid that by speaking too loudly I’ll shatter the boy and the man.

  “Because Damien turned out to be a goddamn tennis prodigy. ”

  The words seem to crack in the air like a bullwhip, and I can’t help but flinch from the force of them.

  “But why—” I begin, then stop myself. I get it. Because Damien’s career took off. The golden boy. The young celebrity athlete. And even after Carol passed away, Jeremiah wasn’t about to risk that cash cow by tossing scandal into the ring. Another family. Another child.

  And so instead he went the other direction. Told Jackson that if he breathed a word of the family secret, then Jackson and his mother would starve. And he justified his absences by his need to keep the meal ticket performing.

  He drew upon and honed his skills as a con man, a player, and left his blue-collar days behind for good.

  And in the end, both Jackson and Damien suffered. Page 24

  The intercom buzzes, and Jackson goes to let the pizza guy up, pulling on a pair of sweatpants that he’s left as a permanent fixture in my apartment. I slip into a robe and follow him into the living room, feeling a little bit shell-shocked.

  I want fresh air, and so I open the big, garage-style door to my patio.

  Jackson joins me out there, and we sit on the oversized lounge chair and balance the pizza box on the smaller chair that is the only other place to sit out here.

  “I’m so sorry,” I say as I grab a slice of pepperoni pizza. “I get why you hated him growing up. I really do. But don’t paint Damien with his father’s brush. ”

  “The day after he fired me probably isn’t the best time for you to make that case,” Jackson says, and I have to admit I see his point.

  “Can I ask you something else?”

  “Of course. ”

  I brush my fingers lightly over his bruises, leaving a streak of oil from the pizza. “Where did you go? You said you belong to a gym, but it was the middle of the night. ”

  “A fight club,” he says. “Bare knuckle. It’s gambling and it’s illegal, but it takes the edge off. ”

  My stomach twists. “Jackson. ”

  “Hey, I won the purse. ”

  I shoot him a scowl. “To the best of my knowledge, you’re not hurting for money. How’d you find the place, anyway?”

  “A friend from my rough-and-tumble high school years. Name’s Sutter. He owns the gym I belong to. And as for the fights, well, he’s hooked in. ”

  “I don’t like it,” I say, voicing the understatement of the century. “I mean, it’s dangerous, right?”

  “Compared to what? To boxing with gloves? Gloves add weight. More risk of head injuries. ”

  I put my pizza down. “Jesus, Jackson, why compare it to anything? It’s just dangerous. ”

  He says nothing, and I sigh. “Look, I’m not going to sit here and debate the right way for you to get the shit beat out of you. I just don’t want you to get the shit beat out of you at all. ”

  I shift on the lounger so that I’m looking at him straight on. “I meant what I said earlier. You want to pound something, then I think you should just pound yourself inside of me. ”

  His smile is slow and deliciously sexy. “All right. ”

  I blink, surprised by his quick acquiescence. “All right?”

  “What? Didn’t you think I’d take you up on your kind offer? Did you not mean it?”

  “No,” I assure him. “I meant it. I just thought that you—”

  He cuts me off by taking my hand. “Listen, Syl. I can’t promise I won’t ever want to beat the crap out of something again. But I was thinking about your offer while I was watching you sleep. ”

  “Watching me?”

  “Oh, yes. You’re beautiful, baby. I could watch you for hours. And so I watched you, and I thought. ”

  “And?” My palms are suddenly sweaty, and I wipe them on my robe.

  “And the thing is that sometimes my fights are about temper, and I really do want—like you say—
to just beat the shit out of something. And maybe I can rein that in a bit. I don’t know. But the truth is that most of the time, it’s not temper that sends me into the ring but frustration. The need to wrap control around an uncontrollable situation. ”

  “And I’m controllable?” Even as I say the words, I realize that my voice sounds breathy, and that my nipples are tight with excitement and anticipation. Hadn’t he said that I got off on submitting, so long as it was my choice?

  Well, he was damn sure right about that.

  “So you’ll use me?” I ask, my voice husky.

  “Baby,” he says, pulling me close, “it will be my pleasure. ”

  nine

  I stretch in the shower, then press my hands against the tile as the water pounds down on me, soothing my body. I feel sore and achy and very well-fucked, and I smile with satisfaction. If I felt this sore after a gym workout, I’d vow to not go again for a week. As it is, I want nothing more than to crawl back into bed, wake Jackson, and spend the day riding him hard.

  Sadly, that’s not going to happen.

  Instead, I’m going to go to work, and Jackson’s going to sleep in and then head to his boat. The thought is bittersweet, and I push it away, not wanting to think about the implications of Jackson not working on the Cortez resort. Not wanting to worry about the fact that his main office is in Manhattan, not Los Angeles.

  Not interested in fretting over the reality that Jackson will soon be looking for another commission, and god only knows where on the planet that might take him. Page 25

  Frustrated, I tilt my face up and let the spray wash over me. Then I step out of the shower, dry off, and wrap the towel around me as I head back into the bedroom.

  I get dressed quietly, careful not to wake Jackson. I know he must still be exhausted—god knows, I am—but I also don’t want to say goodbye. Not when I’m heading off to a job we should be going to together. And yes, I realize that’s stupid because this is reality now, and we are going to have to deal with it, but I’m not ready to face that reality yet. And if I don’t say goodbye, then maybe I can pretend that I’m at my desk on twenty-seven and he’s in his area on twenty-six, and everything is chugging along just fine.

  God, I’m pathetic.

  I push aside a pile of clean laundry so that I can sit in the blue upholstered chair by the window to put on my shoes. I bend over and tackle the tiny buckle on the tiny straps, and when I sit back up, I see Jackson watching me.

  “Hey,” I say.

  “Hey yourself. ” He pats the spot next to him. “Come here. ”

  I do, perching on the edge of the bed beside him as he props himself up on an elbow. I bend over and brush a kiss over his lips. “You should sleep. ” I trace my fingers lightly over the bruises on his chest. “The rest will do you good. ”

  “You did me good,” he says, the words so heavy with meaning that they seem to fill me up.

  “I’m glad. ”

 
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