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       Bound, p.19

         Part #1 of Mastered series by Lorelei James

  from head to loafer. Then he said, “Tom Ford?”


  “Sharp. Always an excellent choice. So, did you pick up my gorgeous BFF in a limo, Mr. Class Act?”

  “No. I hate having someone else drive me.”

  “In charge in all aspects. Gotta respect that. Can I snap a picture of you two to commemorate this occasion?”

  Just as she’d been about to say yes, Ronin said no.

  Why didn’t he want a picture of them?

  Because this isn’t prom, Amery. Don’t act like a North Dakota rube.

  Ronin held out his hand. “Let’s hit it.”

  Amery air-kissed Chaz. “Don’t wait up, Mom.”

  He swatted her butt. “I’m more like your fairy godmother and I’m here to lock up, so you don’t have to worry about coming home at midnight, Cinderella.”

  “Thank you.”

  As she and Ronin clipped down the sidewalk, the sun’s intensity had faded but retained enough brightness that she needed her shades. She didn’t see his Lexus and for a brief moment she feared he’d ridden his bike. But he stopped beside a sleek black sports car parked at the curb.

  “This is yours?”

  “Yes. I don’t drive her very often.”

  “This is a Corvette?”

  “Corvette ZR-1. She can haul serious ass, but I’ll drive with utmost caution tonight, I promise.”

  Amery moved in close enough so their chests were touching. “Oh, I don’t know. Might be fun to go fast.”

  “There is that . . . thrill,” he said in the silken timbre that caused her pulse to zing. “To see how much she can take when I push her to her limits.”

  A funny tickle started low in her belly. “Do you do that a lot?”

  “Push boundaries? All. The. Damn. Time. And especially with you.” Ronin tugged her against his body. “Before you slide in and torture me with those legs for the next half hour, gimme this mouth.”

  Ronin took her mouth; there was no other way to describe the kiss. He owned her in that moment, his warring tongue stroking and teasing hers. His passion for her was barely contained. On the outside he might look like a sophisticated gentleman, but on the inside Ronin Black was pure sexual beast.

  His mouth brushed her ear. “Good thing your friends were at your place. Because if we’d been alone? I would’ve hiked up this dress and fucked you on your desk. And then I would’ve bent you over the back of the couch and fucked you again.”

  She trembled. “Ronin.”

  “And you would’ve said yes. Both times.” His mouth meandered down her throat. “Will you spread your legs for me in the front seat of my Corvette? Let me slide my fingers into your pussy and finger-fuck you until you come?”

  Her next shudder was more pronounced. “Yes.”

  Ronin made that low rumble in the back of his throat, and it vibrated against her skin. “At some point tonight I will have my hand up your dress and you will come for me. Anything I want, any time I want was a very dangerous promise to make to me, Amery,” he whispered against her jaw, “because you have no idea what I want from you.”

  “I don’t care,” she breathed, “it’s yours.”

  Someone yelled, “Get a room!”

  Amery blinked out of the sexual fog and realized they were still standing on the sidewalk.

  He placed one soft kiss on her lips. “I lose my head every time I’m around you.”

  But will you ever lose your heart?

  Where had that thought come from?

  Then he stepped back and opened her car door.

  The Corvette practically hugged the ground and she was glad the dress wasn’t any shorter.

  Ronin slid behind the wheel and the car made a throaty purr as he started it. He smiled. “Hang on.”

  So much for him driving with utmost caution.

  After a few minutes of enjoying the ride, she said, “I’m surprised you have a sports car.”

  “I don’t seem like the Vette-driving type?”

  “You have a nice car, and a nice bike, and an awesome penthouse, but you don’t strike me as the kind of guy who cares about owning expensive toys to impress others.”

  “I don’t.” He picked up her hand and kissed it. “But I do like things that go fast, and buying a Ferrari or Lamborghini seemed indulgent.”

  Her mouth fell open. He could afford to buy those?

  “Kidding. A guy I know got in over his head with this car and I took it off his hands before the bank re-poed it.”

  “That explains the purple fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror,” she said.

  “Those are mine. Needed to pimp it out a little.”

  She laughed.

  A few minutes later, Ronin said, “You’re quiet.”

  “Nerves. This gala is a big deal to you—”

  “The gala isn’t a big deal to me. The fact that you’re going with me is all I care about. And right now if you said let’s blow this off and have an intimate dinner, just the two of us, I’d do it in a fucking heartbeat.”

  “You just want to get me out of this dress.”

  Ronin flashed her a predatory smile.

  They drove through a wooded area. Before she saw the venue where the event was being held, they joined a long line of cars waiting for the valet.

  “Will you know very many people?”

  “I’ll guess we’ll see.”

  Amery watched attendees alighting from cars ahead of them. The women were wearing everything from full-length ball gowns to glitzy cocktail dresses. She tugged on the hem of her dress.

  Ronin’s hand stopped the motion. “Don’t.”

  “I’m nervous.”

  “You’re with me. Doesn’t matter who else is here or what they’re wearing. We’re here to have a good time. And if it sucks, we’ll leave.”


  “That said, don’t be surprised if the women glare at you and the men lust after you since you’re stunningly beautiful.” He kissed the inside of her wrist. “And the dress isn’t bad either.”

  It was starting to scare her how crazy she was about this man.

  Ronin rolled down the window when the valet approached. “Good evening, sir. May I have your name?”

  “Ronin Black.”

  “Welcome to the Hidden Hills Resort, Mr. Black. I will need to trouble you for a picture ID.”

  This event did have tight security.

  He pulled out his driver’s license. The valet checked the picture on it against Ronin’s face and then he scanned it to make sure the ID wasn’t a fake.

  Really tight security.

  The valet smiled. “You’re good to go, Mr. Black. Brian is your assigned valet for the evening.” He handed over two tickets. “This is what will gain you admittance to the event, so take care not to lose them between your car and the front door.”

  “Thank you.”

  Ronin rolled up the window and muttered, “Jesus.” He looked over at Amery. “I can pull a U-turn. It’s not too late to get out of here.”

  “I’ll hold the tickets.” Grinning, she snatched them from his hand and shoved them in her bra. “See? Perfectly safe.”

  It took another ten minutes before they reached the valet stand, and Amery was getting antsy, but Ronin stayed calm. She wished his calm demeanor would settle her down. Immediately after he put it in park, both doors were opened. He said, “Stay put, I’ll help you out,” and exited the car.

  What was that about? She heard him instructing the valet and then he skirted the front end of the car. He offered her his hand. Once they were on the sidewalk, a person with a clipboard approached them. “Good evening and welcome. May I please see your tickets?”

  Ronin’s eyes were on Amery’s as he traced the line of her throat from her chin to her cleavage. A devilish smile lit his eyes as his fingers deftly slipped inside her bra cup and fished the tickets out. “Here you go.”

  That flustered the girl with the clipboard. “Ah, thanks I just needed to
see them. The tickets are actually being taken at the door.”

  Ronin kept his hand on the small of Amery’s back and guided her to the main doors. The ticket taker scanned the tickets—as if checking for forgeries?—before smiling and granting them access.

  “I think it would be easier to crash a White House party than this one,” Ronin murmured.

  “So if we get the standard shitty rubberized banquet chicken, overcooked green beans, and warm cheesecake, I’ll be pissed.”

  “That’ll make two of us. For the price of these tickets we should be served Kobe beef and Russian caviar for every course.”

  The wide hallway teemed with people. Some of the dresses bordered on spectacular, and Amery wanted a closer peek, but it’d be a faux pas to gawk, so she feigned aloofness.

  He slid his arm around her back and settled his hand on her hip. “Would you like a drink?”

  “No, I’d like five drinks.”

  “How about we start with one?” Ronin steered her out of the room and down the opposite hallway. He nodded to several people but didn’t stop to speak to anyone. A waiter held a tray of champagne.

  “Ooh, I’d like some of that.”

  He snagged two glasses and handed one to her. “May tonight be full of welcome surprises.”

  Amery clinked the crystal flute against his and drank. Okay, that was really good. “This is not Brut champagne.”

  “No, but don’t ask me what it is because I’m not a wine connoisseur.” His molten gaze drifted over her. “But looking at you, I know I have the absolute finest taste in women.”

  Amery blushed.

  “I’d like nothing better than to taste you right now. Suck the champagne from your tongue. Lick it from your lips. Pour it down the center of your body and lap it from between your thighs.”

  Her belly swooped.

  “I like that all I have to do is look in your eyes and I see what you’re feeling.”

  “So you know what I’m feeling right now?” she countered.

  Ronin let his knuckles follow the curve of her jaw. “You’re turned on but you don’t want to be. You’re trying hard to fit in, but you outshine them all. And you’re wondering why I’m saying all this now when we’re in public. Maybe someone will overhear. But I don’t give a good goddamn if that happens.”

  “Does that drummer in your head always do his own thing?”


  She drained her champagne and grabbed another glass before hooking her arm through his. “Let’s mingle. I want to spot some celebrities.”

  “Anyone in particular?”

  “The only mover and shaker I know in Denver is Alexis Carrington.”

  He shook his head. “Fictional TV character. Try again.”

  “I was so hoping for a catfight between her and Krystle—a hair-pulling, clothes-ripping, shoe-throwing beat-down.”

  “Aren’t you a little young to have grown up watching Dynasty?”

  “I watched reruns every day after school. My mother, for being a self-professed happy homemaker, wasn’t happy when school dismissed for the day. She let me and my brother watch whatever we wanted. Yes, we did make fun of it, but it was an eye-opener as to how the really rich lived. Not a lot of billionaires in North Dakota.” She laughed. “I wouldn’t know how to act if I ever met a billionaire anyway.”

  “I’m sure you’d do just fine. Nothing special about them, trust me.”

  They’d almost crossed into the banquet hall when a voice boomed, “Ronin Black.” Then an African-American guy about six foot five and three hundred and fifty pounds blocked their path. “I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Sensei Black. In the flesh. At a party. But here you are.” He offered a formal bow, which Ronin returned. Then he thrust out his hand. “Man, it’s good to see you.”

  “Same goes.” Ronin drew her forward. “Tegs Green, meet Amery Hardwick.”

  “Pleased to meet you,” Amery said.

  “You too.” Tegs grinned. “Got you a real foxy one, eh? She know about the time I whipped up on the unbeatable Master Black?”

  “You sitting on me and squashing me like a bug hardly qualifies as a true victory, Tegs. And I choked you out after you let me up, so no whipping up on me there either.”

  “I always forget that you wrapped those lethal fingers around my throat until I passed the motherfuck out.”

  “Which is why I always remind you.”

  “Such a hardass.” Tegs addressed Amery. “This psycho fucker made me run three miles on a treadmill. Three miles,” he repeated. “Look at this body. Do you think it fucking enjoys running? Hell no. But I did it. Puked like a frat boy on the first weekend of college afterward, but I goddamn did it.”

  Amery had heard Ronin acted as a personal trainer, but this was the first evidence she’d seen of it. “Good for you. I keep trying to convince him to teach me a shoulder throw.”

  Tegs laughed. “Little-bitty sprite like you throwing grown men around? You go, sister.” He held out his knuckles for a fist bump. “I hope the first guy you throw on his ass is that sadistic fucker Deacon, ’cause I’d pay good money to see that.”

  “Deacon didn’t like it any better than I did when you sat on him,” Ronin said.

  “Don’t matter. S’what I get paid to do.” He clapped Ronin on back. “Really great to see you out and about, old-timer.”

  After Tegs left, Amery said, “He’s some kind of sports guy, right?”

  “Tegs plays offensive tackle for the Broncos.”

  “Should I have recognized him?”

  “Only if you’re a football fan.”

  “Are you a die-hard sports fan?”

  He shrugged. “I’ll watch a game if it’s on. I try to keep up with what’s going on locally. But I’m not a fanatic.”

  A shadow fell over them again.

  Ronin faced Tegs. “What now?”

  Tegs’s hands came up in surrender. “Whoa. Don’t shoot the messenger. Krueger wants to talk to you.”


  “How the fuck do I know? He heard you were here, said you’ve been ditching his calls, and he told me to ask you for five minutes of your time.” Tegs shot Amery an apologetic smile. “Quick business thing, pretty lady. I’ll bring him right back.”

  She watched as the Master Black mask dropped back into place. Ronin said, “Amery, don’t wander off. This won’t take long.”

  The man didn’t even crack a smile when she saluted.

  None of the people milling about were friendly, except for a pervert or two she caught eyeing her ass. In lieu of starting a conversation with a stranger, she downed another glass of champagne, wondering how she’d ended up ditched at a cocktail party within fifteen minutes of arrival. This was what had kept her up last night: Ronin knowing everyone. Her knowing no one. Him leaving her alone while he roamed around.

  What she wouldn’t give to see one familiar face.

  That’s when she heard, “Amery?”

  She froze. Goddammit. The one time in her life she’d gotten what she’d wished for, she’d ended up with the one person she’d hoped never to see again. Maybe if she ignored him he’d think he
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