On my knees, p.8
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       On My Knees, p.8

         Part #2 of Stark International Trilogy series by J. Kenner
 
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Go.

  I have an assigned spot near the elevator vestibule, and I hurry in that direction, thankful that despite my complete and total freak-out I didn’t forget my tote. I shove my hand inside, find my car keys in the small interior pocket, and pound frantically on the button to unlock the door.

  As soon as I’m inside, I yank the door closed and clutch tight to the steering wheel.

  Good. I’m good. I just need to get home.

  But my hand is shaking when I try to put the key in the ignition. I try again, but still I can’t quite make it. I curse and toss my keys across the car, which is stupid, because now they have bounced off the window and fallen between the passenger seat and door. And I’m trapped here, and I’m panicking, because I just need to get home.

  I just need Jackson.

  I fumble in my tote until I find my phone, but there’s no signal down here. And that’s it. The last straw. The end of the line. The final curtain.

  I can’t fight anymore. I can’t hold it in.

  And just as the tears start to flow, I hear the squeal of tires and then the slam of a car door.

  I don’t lift my head. I no longer care who sees me. I just have to let go. I just have to cry. I just have to survive this, even though I’m not at all sure how to do that.

  But then my door is jerked open, and I feel his hand on my arm.

  And he’s pulling me out, and his hands are on my face, and he’s saying to me, “Open your eyes. Dammit, Sylvia, open your eyes. ”

  Jackson.

  His eyes are wild. His brow furrowed with concern.

  “You came,” I say stupidly. “You’re here. ”

  “Of course I am,” he says, as he pulls me close and holds me tight. “You need me. Where else would I be?”

  ten

  “How did you know?” I am still in shock that he is here. Still so desperately grateful that his arms are tight around me.

  “Cass,” he says. “She saw the pictures, and when she called and you didn’t answer, she called me. ”

  “But you were all the way at the Marina. ”

  “I was in Beverly Hills,” he says. “I had errands. ”

  I start to ask what errands, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just rambling. My head trying to adjust to this new reality. A reality where photos taken of me by Reed are back in circulation. “Have you seen them?” I ask, and Jackson, thankfully, doesn’t ask what I mean.

  “Yes. ” He steers me back to my car, but opens the back door. “Come sit with me. ”

  I slide into the backseat, and he gets in beside me.

  “They’re not bad. From what I’ve seen¸ they’re ads that were used years ago, then pulled from circulation. Local retail mostly. ” Page 30

  “I want to see. ”

  I remember every ad that was published, and Jackson is right. As far as images go, there is nothing risqué about them. But I know the backstory. To me, each and every one is vile. And just the idea that they are out in the world again is tearing me up inside.

  But that’s not the only reason I want to see the photos. I believe Jackson, of course, and yet I need to see for myself. Because I remember the click click of Reed’s camera. I remember everything he had me wear. Every pose he had me strike. Every button on every piece of clothing.

  I recall with unerring, horrible clarity where he had me put my hands. The way he told me to touch myself.

  I know what other photos he took. Ones that were never intended for retail ads.

  And the thought that those horrific images might now be circulating, too, makes me cold with terror.

  Jackson hands me his phone, his web browser already open to the proper page. I glance at the photos, then sag with relief when I see that, yes, they really are just the ads.

  When I pass the phone back to Jackson, I see that he is watching me intently. “There are others, aren’t there?”

  I nod. “I’ve never seen them,” I admit. “But I know he took them. ”

  He closes his eyes, his entire body tense. I understand why—he’s fighting for control the same way that I am.

  The knowledge soothes me, because I know that I’m not alone.

  “I hate it,” I admit. “Not knowing what’s coming next. Even having these bland ads out there bothers me. I mean, I know that the public doesn’t know the backstory, but I still hate it. I don’t like the reminder of what happened to me. I don’t like anything about it at all. ”

  I kick off my shoes and put my feet up on the seat so that I can hug my knees. I’m wearing a skirt, but it’s loose, and it drapes over my legs like a blanket.

  I feel foolish, like a little girl needing comfort. Because nothing bad has actually happened today. Everything that is bothering me is in the past or a vague possibility of something that might happen in the future.

  But I am bothered nonetheless.

  Jackson’s arm is already around me, but now he pulls me closer. “Tell me,” he says. “Tell me what you’re thinking. ”

  I hesitate, but I comply. “The reality of the moment isn’t terrible at all,” I say. “But look at me. I’m a mess. I mean, how much of a wreck am I going to be if the worst really does happen?”

  “It won’t,” he says.

  I almost laugh. “You’re a lot of things, Jackson Steele, and I know that you’re a man who likes to be in control. But I’m pretty sure this one is out of your hands. ”

  For a moment I think he’s going to argue, but instead he just looks at me with eyes filled with pain. “I’m so sorry I brought this on you. ”

  “You didn’t. Reed did. ”

  “I’ll grant you that,” Jackson says. “But I think the fact that I beat the crap out of him brought it to the press’s more immediate attention. ”

  He puts a hand on my knees and eases my legs down, turning me a bit as he does so that I’m sitting sideways in the backseat with my legs over his thighs. I’m not wearing hose, and as he strokes my calf, I close my eyes, enjoying the sensation of his fingers upon my skin.

  “They’re just poking into me, you know,” he says. “They found this connection, and it’s interesting because of the resort. Because we’re working on the resort together, and because you work for Damien. That’s where the photos came from. ” His hand stops moving, cupping my leg. “But the truth about what Reed did to you isn’t going to come out. They won’t even get close to it. ”

  I nod.

  “Everyone assumes I assaulted Reed because of the movie, and you just watch. That’s where the next round of idiotic tabloid coverage is going to focus. My shit, not yours. ” He cups my chin so that he can look me in the eyes; his are warm and tender and concerned. “Okay?”

  “Okay. ” I draw in a breath. He still hasn’t told me why he doesn’t want the movie made. All I know is that Reed is producing a feature film that is based on the events surrounding a residential property in Santa Fe that Jackson designed and built. It’s an exceptional house that sealed his reputation as one of the world’s most talented contemporary architects.

  I’d read all about it at the time, both because I was following Jackson’s career, despite the fact that we weren’t together then, and because architecture is a passion of mine. And because I’d followed it, I knew what came after—a murder-suicide that tainted the spectacular property, forever burying the exquisite architecture under a layer of scandal. Page 31

  Though I haven’t read the script, I’ve been told that it focuses on the family, but that Jackson plays a role, too, supposedly as the reason the young woman took her own life and that of one of her sisters.

  And though I know that Jackson was long gone by the time the murder took place, I also know that it’s true he doesn’t want the movie made. Not only has he told me so, but I also know that he punched out the screenwriter.

  Reed, however, isn’t the kind to back down. And although the real reason Jackson assaulted him was in retribution over what
Reed did to me so many years ago, as far as the public knows, that assault was Jackson’s way to, once again, express his displeasure about the in-development project.

  One day, I want Jackson to tell me the full story behind the house and the secret he is so determined to protect. Right now, though, I’m interested only in my own secret.

  “I know you’ll do whatever you can,” I tell him. “But that doesn’t erase my fear that it’s all going to come out. And I know that’s unreasonable, but I can’t shake it. I feel like I’m losing my grip, and I know that’s ridiculous because it’s those stupid ad photos, and no one even cares about those. ”

  “You do. ” His voice is gentle, and his hand is stroking my leg again. “And it’s not the pictures that are bothering you. It’s what happened when he took them. It’s how you felt—and now you’re remembering it all over again. It’s about what he stole from you. ”

  “Control,” I whisper. “And choice. He took them both away. ”

  I’d been so young. And I’d wanted so badly to run. To hide. To shut off my emotions, my feelings. But he’d touched me, and he’d aroused me. He’d made me feel sexual pleasure along with horrible shame. And he’d made me come.

  I’d hated him for that, but I think I hated myself more.

  “Yes,” Jackson says. “He took that from you. Ripped it away. Stole it. Baby, you need to steal it back. ”

  I close my eyes. “I don’t know how,” I say, and I hear my voice tremble.

  “Yes, you do. ” His words are firm. Commanding. “You steal it back. You take back control, and you give it to me. Not because I’m demanding, but because you’re giving. ”

  As he speaks, he continues to stroke my leg. Only now his touches are going higher, skimming under my skirt above my knee. Grazing along my inner thigh.

  The movements are casual, almost innocent. As if he’s not even aware that he is doing it. But I know that he is, of course. Jackson does nothing unintentionally. And right now, he is very slowly and very methodically teasing my senses. Getting me very wet, and very, very turned on.

  “You think you hate not being in control?” he asks, without missing a beat. “Let me prove to you that you like it. Because when you’ve given it away, sweetheart, I know that you do. ” His fingers are only inches from my panties, and I am tense with longing.

  “Say it. ” Though his voice is soft, his words are firm. Deliberate. And I know that he will not touch me until I concede. Or, rather, until I cede control to him. Until I submit to whatever sweet pleasure he intends for me.

  “Yes. ” My word is a whisper, and even as I speak, I shiver in anticipation.

  “Good girl,” he says, and then he very gently strokes the edge of my panties between my thigh and my crotch before cruelly pulling his hand away.

  I actually whimper.

  “Oh, yes,” he says. “You like it. ”

  I feel my cheeks heat, but I can hardly deny the truth. Not when my body tingles with anticipation. Not when I know that right now I would do anything he asked of me if the prize was Jackson’s touch.

  “Take off your panties. ”

  I lick my lips. “Why?”

  His eyes flick to me. “Because I told you to,” he says, and I immediately melt, my cunt going wet and my nipples straining against my bra. Yes, I think. This is what I need. I want to lose myself. To abandon control. To let him take me as far as I can go, and then safely bring me home again.

  I meet his eyes and nod. And then, because I’m both aroused and inspired, I whisper, “Yes, sir,” and am rewarded with his low, sensual growl of approval.

  “Now,” he says, and I don’t hesitate. I reach under my skirt and wiggle out of my panties, then drop them on the floorboard.

  “Good girl. Now take out my cock. ”

  I glance down and see his erection straining against jeans that are so tight now it must be painful.

  “Jackson …”

  “Hesitation?” I hear the tease in his voice. “Sounds to me like the lady wants to be punished. ” Page 32

  Frankly, the lady might enjoy that. But since the most keen punishment would be to not touch me at all, I shake my head.

  “Then do as I said. Take out my cock, and then fuck me. Slide that sweet cunt onto my cock, and ride me. ”

  His raw words are like a sensual tease, and my body clenches in response, so sensitive now that even the brush of clothing over my skin seems like an erotic exploration.

  I want this—oh, dear god, I just want to do as he says, losing myself in the knowledge that surrendering to his demands will make the pleasure that much sweeter.

  But even so, I continue to hesitate. “We’re in the garage. ”

  “And no one’s around. And we’re in the backseat of a car with tinted windows. ” He lifts a shoulder. “But you’re still in control, baby. You want to stop, we stop. Anytime, no questions asked. ”

  My mouth has gone suddenly dry, and I lick my lips.

  “Do you trust me?” he asks, as if in response to my hesitation.

  “You know I do. ”

  I can see on his face that my answer pleases him. “Then trust me to take you far and keep you safe. ”

  I swallow, but I nod. “I don’t want to stop. ”

  The corner of his mouth curves up. But all he says is “Then fuck me. ”

  I maneuver my position in the backseat so that I am straddling his legs, most of my weight at his knees. I lean forward and stroke his erection through his jeans, then revel in a surge of feminine satisfaction when he tilts his head back and moans with pleasure.

  I unfasten his jeans. They have a button fly, and I maneuver my fingers over each button slowly and methodically, enjoying this moment of power. He’s wearing boxer briefs, and I reach into the fly and ease him free. And then, because I just can’t resist, I slide off him and onto the floorboards, spreading his knees as I do.

  I glance at his face just once and then bend forward and run my tongue along the length of his cock. He tastes earthy and male, and I’m tempted to suck him off, but I’m selfish, too, and my cunt is throbbing with need, practically begging to be filled.

  I circle his cock with one hand as I tease the crown with my tongue. But I slip the other between my own legs, unsurprised to find that I’m so wet my thighs are creamy.

  “Now,” he demands. “I want to be inside you now. ”

  Since I want exactly the same thing, I don’t hesitate. I rise up and straddle him again, this time easing forward so that I am over his hips. I hold his cock steady, my eyes on his as I gyrate my hips, teasing him before lowering myself so hard and so fast that the tip of his cock hits my cervix and I feel the denim of his jeans rub against my ass.

  One of his hands is on my lower back to balance me, but the other is between our bodies, and he’s touching me, stroking and teasing my clit as I hold on to his shoulders and lift and lower myself, the sensation building and building, and all the more exciting because we’re in a car and we’re clothed and there’s something that just feels so wicked about that.

  He leans forward and closes his mouth over my breast, teasing me through the cotton of my shirt and the lace of my bra, and that extra sensation tips the scales. Suddenly, it’s all too much, and everything that has been building inside of me begins to spiral, wild and out of control.

  “Please,” I beg as the climax rises up, ready to sweep me away. “Jackson, please come with me. ”

  And then I’m reaching up, my hands pressed against the roof of the car, because the explosion is too strong, and I have to hold on to something to keep from shooting off into space as every atom in my body goes absolutely nuclear.

  “Oh my god,” I murmur when I finally collapse back onto him, my head bent down to tuck against his shoulder. “I’m completely shattered. ”

  “Completely?”

  There is humor in his question, and I gather enough strength to pull back so that
I can face him. “That’s just a figure of speech. ” I lean forward so that my lips brush his ear, and as I do I slip my hand down to where our bodies are still joined and tease the base of his penis with the edge of my finger. “I want more,” I whisper. “Lots more. ”

  “Then that works out exceptionally well. Because more is exactly what you’re going to get. ”

  He shifts me off him, then nods toward the front seat. “Get your things. We’re taking my car. Except your panties,” he adds. “Leave those here. ”

  “Jackson!” My protest, however, is only for form, and I eagerly grab my tote. Then remember that I’d thrown my keys across the car, and they’d disappeared into some crevice or other. It takes a moment to find them, but as soon as I do, I lock my car and join him in the Porsche. Page 33

  “I bought you something,” he says as soon as I’m settled in the seat beside him.

  “Really?” The thought of a present makes me glow a bit.

  “I told you I had errands to run today. One of them was for you. ” He leans across me to open the glove box, then pulls out a small, pink gift bag. He dangles it from his index finger. “For you,” he says, then grins. “Or, more accurately, for both of us. ”

  My brows rise. “Oh, really?” Now I’m even more intrigued, and I peek into the bag, then pull out a white rectangular box that’s about four inches long with the word CRAVE embossed on it. It weighs next to nothing, and when I shake it, it makes no sound.

  “I’m completely clueless,” I admit.

  “There’s no prize for the best guess,” he says. “Go ahead. Open it. ”

  Since I love presents, I eagerly comply. The lid lifts off the box, and inside I find a small velvet bag, like the kind that holds jewelry. Sure enough, there is a necklace in the bag, gold with a long, thin pendant that looks a bit like the pen that Joan, the character from Mad Men, wears around her neck.

  “A pen?” I don’t see a nib, though, and I look more closely, figuring there must be a cap that pulls off or unscrews.

  “Not exactly,” Jackson says at the same moment that I discover the tiny button on the side.

  I press it, expecting a retractable ballpoint to appear. Instead, the pendant starts to vibrate.

  Oh. My. God.

  I whip my head around to look at him, not sure if I’m aghast or excited or just completely befuddled.

  “You didn’t—I mean, it’s not—”

  “Oh, yes,” he says. “It is. High end and very classy. But, yes, a sex toy. ”

  “Wow. ” I cycle through the speeds and vibes, and I have to admit it’s pretty darn cool. And definitely one of the most unique gifts I’ve ever received. “Um, thank you. ”

  He laughs. “Don’t sound so unsure. I promise you’ll enjoy it. In fact, I’m thinking we should take it for a test run very, very soon. But until then,” he says, taking it from my hand and looping the long chain over my head, “I want you to wear it. In fact, sweetheart, I want you to wear it all day, every day. For at least one entire week. ”

  “I—what?”

  “You heard me. ”

  “But—”

  “No buts. ” He reaches over and follows the chain down to my cleavage, his fingers stroking my skin. “You can tuck it under your shirt,” he says, “but you will wear it—except when you’re not wearing it at my command. Are we clear?”

 
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