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       Bound, p.30

         Part #1 of Mastered series by Lorelei James

  “You think I wanted to take a chance they’d shoot one or both of us in the back? Not happening. I disarmed them, broke their guns down, and scattered the pieces.”

  “Why not turn the guns in to the cops and tell them we were attacked?”

  “Chances are slim the guns were registered. Those thugs won’t report them as missing. If I file a report and the cops go looking for those guys, and the guns I ditched, I could end up in a lawsuit and I sure as fuck don’t want those guys knowing who I am and where I live.”

  Amery hadn’t thought of it that way.

  “Plus, given my background in martial arts, lots of people, including cops, believe I go looking for fights. I don’t. But there is that perception and I’ll be goddamned if I’ll defend myself to anyone—including law enforcement—for my right to defend myself when under attack.” He breathed deeply. “You were there. You’d rather I would’ve done the PC thing, given them what they wanted? Because I can guarantee you neither of us would’ve walked away unscathed. And because I reacted the way I did, the way I’ve been trained to react, we’re both here, in one piece. I won’t apologize to you for that either.”

  When Ronin turned his back to her, she noticed he was vibrating with anger.

  Maybe she’d been freaking out about the details and had missed the big truth. Ronin’s quick thinking and years of training had gotten them out of a potentially deadly situation. She oughta be thanking him, not questioning him.

  Amery moved in behind him. “Thank you for saving me tonight, Ronin.” She took a chance and circled her arms around his waist. “Sorry if I seemed ungrateful. I’m not.”


  “Let me finish. I’ve never seen you like that. In ass-kicking Master Black mode, showcasing your eighth-degree black belt skills in the real world.”

  “You weren’t put off by seeing that violent side of me?”

  “Shocked at first. But now? I’m more than a little turned on, if you want to know the truth. You moved so fast.” She stood on her toes and kissed the back of his neck. “It reminded me you don’t play at self-defense. Your body responds instinctively because that’s how you’ve trained it to respond. It’s sexy as hell.” She kissed the slope of his shoulder. “Makes me want you. Right now.”

  Ronin whirled around. His mouth was on hers, his hands were on her, and nothing else mattered.

  Her fingers automatically went to the buttons on his shirt, while Ronin’s hands made quick work of the zipper on her jeans. They managed to get undressed. He lifted his mouth from her throat long enough to say, “Bedroom is too far away. I want to fuck you here.” He pushed her up against the wall.

  She groaned when his teeth scraped down her throat. “No. On the floor. Like a takedown.”

  Next thing she knew, they were on the hardwood with her knees clamped against Ronin’s ribs as he slammed his cock inside her.

  “Yes. God, yes, do that again.”

  He withdrew and rammed into her with long, deep strokes, his mouth at her ear. “I want to feel your nails digging into my back and my ass. I want to feel your teeth on my skin. I want to wear your marks.”

  She just about came right then.

  As he pounded into her with enough force they slid across the floor, Amery sucked a love bruise on his pectoral. She dragged her nails down his back when his tongue flicked across the sweet spot in the curve of her shoulder. She arched and ground against him, giving herself over to this primal mating. This physical testament that they were alive.

  Ronin’s hands pushed her knees until the outside of her thighs pressed into the floor. That change forced his pubic bone to keep continual contact with her clit and she gasped.

  “Hands on me,” he demanded.

  With his mouth sucking on her nipple, it only took six short strokes and she came so hard white spots obscured her vision. Ronin’s orgasm started on the tail end of hers and she dug her nails into the back of his neck, his long moan sweet to her ears since the man usually came in near silence.

  They stayed slumped together in a sweaty pile, breathing hard, until the chill from the floor caused her to shiver.

  Ronin pushed up and looked into her face. “You blow my mind every fucking time.”

  “And just think . . . you didn’t even have to break out the ropes for it to be that hot between us.”

  “Smart.” Kiss. “Ass.” Kiss.

  She reached up and touched his face. Sometimes she couldn’t believe this gorgeous, complicated, kinky man was in her life.

  “Why are you looking at me like that?” he asked softly.

  Rather than tell him again how hot, sexy, and amazing he was, she said, “Thank you for your quick thinking and getting us out of a bad situation tonight.”

  “My pleasure.” He kissed her with such sweetness tears stung her eyes. “Let’s get cleaned up and ready for bed.”

  “That means I’m staying over?”

  “Be a little hard for you to leave after I tie you to my headboard.”

  She laughed, but come to find out . . . he hadn’t been joking.

  • • •

  AMERY showed up for work thirty minutes late on Wednesday morning. She hadn’t tried to sneak in, but after seeing her friends circled around Molly’s desk, loaded for bear, she wondered if she should’ve made her appearance after lunch and claimed a new client meeting had kept her away from the office.

  “Well, well, look what the cat dragged in,” Chaz said with no hint of a smile.

  She wasn’t exactly surprised by the ambush since things had been tense for the past couple of weeks. Chaz defined surly, even in casual conversation. And after Emmylou returned from her on-site jobs, she grumbled and slammed her office door. Amery had tried talking to each of them, in person and via text, but neither had responded, so she figured the issue was between them and they hadn’t wanted to drag her into it.

  But it appeared the issue was about her—and they’d joined forces.

  “What’s going on? Did I miss a memo for an interoffice meeting?”

  “Call it what you want, but we need to talk to you.”

  “Who’s we?” Amery asked.

  A blushing Molly put her hands up in defense. “I want no part of this.”

  “Why don’t you take a thirty-minute break at Lisabet’s Patisserie?”

  “Sure. Would you like me to bring you anything?”

  She shook her head. No one spoke until Molly had left and Amery had settled in with a cup of coffee. “So, besties, why does this feel like an intervention?”

  Chaz lifted an eyebrow. “Is there something bad and wrong you’ve been doing that requires one?”

  “Besides Ronin Black?” Emmylou added snarkily.

  What the hell? “Whoa. This is about Ronin?”

  “Of course it is, because you’re all about him lately, aren’t you?”

  She bristled. “What about him?”

  Emmylou and Chaz stared at her in silence.

  “So you decided to jump me about the man I’m involved with but you aren’t telling me why?”

  “You know why.”

  Amery shoved down the worry that her supposed friends had figured out what she and Ronin had been up to behind closed doors. He was always so careful not to leave excessive marks when he bound her. The rarely seen devil on her shoulder reminded her that what she and Ronin did in the bedroom was no one’s business. “No, I really don’t.”

  “Don’t you see that you’ve immersed yourself so much in this relationship with him that you’re losing yourself? We rarely see you anymore after work hours because Ronin monopolizes all your time and you let him,” Chaz said.

  She blew across her coffee before taking a sip. “Monopolizes,” she repeated. “Really? If I recall correctly I asked you to lunch last week, which you declined. I also asked if you wanted to have a drink with me, which you also declined. And the reason you declined is that hot little Latin piece of ass you’re hiding from Andre, remember? The week before that you
couldn’t be bothered to answer a single text from me. That is somehow my fault? Bull. Shit.”

  “See? This is why we’re worried about you. You snap at the drop of a hat and if anyone raises any questions about Ronin, you get defensive. And I’ll be frank—I’m worried that the only reason he’s teaching you how to fight is so you can be even more like him.”

  Her angry gaze zoomed to Emmylou. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

  “Look at this from our point of view. Ronin’s job is all about violence. Are you telling me that you don’t see anything wrong with how he’s isolated you from your friends?”

  “You think he’s isolated me? How the hell would you know that?” she demanded of Emmylou. “You were out of town all last week. The week before that the only time you approached me was the night of the self-defense class I’ve been taking for weeks, which, again, just indicates how little you care about the important things going on in my life.”

  “And you’ve deemed Ronin the most important thing in your life after only a few weeks? You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Chaz asked. “Right after you started seeing him you refused to go to the bars you’ve always gone to with us. Is that something Black demanded from you? Telling you that you couldn’t hang out with us anymore?”

  “I cannot fucking believe we are even having this conversation. And excuse me for being a total selfish bitch, but after years I’m done going to strictly gay hangouts. Why is that? Not because Ronin decreed it, but because I can’t count the number of times you—both of you—have ditched me during happy hour and I ended up going home by myself anyway. So the way I see it? You’re pissy that I’m not at your beck and call anymore to fill the void when you get bored and don’t have anyone else to go out with. But guess what? I don’t give a shit what you think about Ronin. I am perfectly capable of making my own decisions about things, including who I choose to spend my free time with, so suck it up. Both of you.”

  Chaz and Emmylou stared at her in total shock.

  “So, is there anything else? Or are you still going to try and convince me the time I spend with Ronin is the real issue here?”


  “Good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I do have actual work to finish.” Amery spun on her heel and headed to her office.

  She let out a little scream when she was abruptly jerked back. Then both Chaz and Emmylou were right in her face.

  “Looks like North Dakota has grown some big, sharp teeth. Brava, darlin’, but that’s not what this is about.”

  Amery snapped her teeth, which caused both Chaz and Emmylou to take a step back. It just further annoyed her when Chaz and Emmylou exchanged a pointed look. “For Christ’s sake. Tell me.”

  “You want to play hardball? We’re game. We’ve heard things about Ronin from people who’ve dealt with him,” Emmylou said.

  “He’s a scary man, chère,” Chaz said. “And the cautionary tales we’ve heard don’t make him fairy-tale prince material like he’s led you to believe.”

  “He’s an eighth-degree black belt and a martial arts master; of course he’s scary.” Amery’s eyes narrowed. “And who exactly did you hear these cautionary tales from? Because I know Ronin’s confidantes, and they wouldn’t tell tales out of school. Literally. So that makes me question your source.”

  Chaz looked cowed, but Emmylou remained defiant. “All I can say is it came from a reliable source. Someone who’s in the Denver sports world.”

  Where would Emmylou have picked up something like that? Then she remembered Emmylou had done on-site work with the Rockies last week. And the one person in the Rockies organization who might have any interest in her relationship with Ronin was . . . Tyler.

  No. A sick feeling took hold of her. Surely Emmylou wouldn’t listen to Tyler. “Tell me the name of your reliable source.”

  When Emmylou dropped her gaze, Amery knew.

  “Tyler Pessac, my self-absorbed asshole ex who annihilated my confidence and was the direct cause of me licking my emotional wounds for over a year, is your reliable source?”

  Fury boiled up. Amery inhaled two deep calming breaths before she spoke again. “Did you even consider, for one fucking minute, that Tyler approaching you with information about the dangerous Ronin Black might be born out of jealousy? Tyler saw me with Ronin at the Colorado Sports Banquet. He saw how happy I was. He knows Ronin is a better athlete, better looking, better connected, and a better man in all the ways that really count. He also saw that Ronin is crazy about me. And that made Tyler a little crazy because the only time I ever appealed to him after he started cheating on me? Was when another man was attracted to me. That’s the only thing that ever validated my worth in his eyes.

  “You know how long it took me to dig out of that pit after Tyler dumped me. Or at least I thought you did because you were there supposedly supporting me. So I can’t believe . . .” The word came out choked and she took a second to breathe. “I can’t believe you’d take that lying sack of shit’s side and even bring this up with me. Especially when I’m truly happy with a man for the first time in my life.”

  Chaz turned on Emmylou. “Tyler was your source? Are you fucking kidding me?” Then he faced Amery, his eyes filled with remorse. “I swear to god I had no idea or I wouldn’t have—”

  “Back off. Both of you. Leave her alone,” Molly said hotly. She walked over and inserted herself between Amery and Chaz and Emmylou. “I came back to get my purse, so I overheard Amery having to defend herself to you two. Friends don’t do that shit and you both know it. Now get out of this office and don’t show your faces again until you can apologize. I mean it.”

  Chaz and Emmylou both slunk out.

  Immediately Molly gave Amery a hug. “I’m sorry you had to deal with that. I overheard them bitching about you spending all your time with Ronin and I thought that’s all they were going to talk about with you. If I’d known what they really had planned . . .”

  “Molly. It’s okay. Thank you for jumping in.”

  “No, thank you for teaching by example. I’ve learned so much from you—it’s important to stand up for myself and be there for my friends.”

  “You are a good friend.” Amery squeezed her one last time and closed herself in her office.

  The shitty start to her morning continued throughout the day. She lost another existing client to the company’s in-house restructuring, and a potential client went to another agency. She spent more time on the phone than working, but at the end of the day, she couldn’t remain in her office a minute longer. After changing into workout clothes, she climbed into her car and headed toward Black Arts.

  Maybe beating the shit out of a punching bag would cleanse her mind, body, and spirit.


  YONDAN Deacon McCloud was a mean son of a bitch.

  Amery fantasized about throwing him on his ass. Kicking him in the shins. Slamming her hands into his ears with her newly learned thunderclap technique. Sinking her teeth into his tattooed biceps.

  The man claimed that missing a self-defense class meant he needed to push her harder. He showed her new moves and drilled her over and over until she was gasping for breath. Then he’d start in again.

  He made Sensei Black look like a kindergarten teacher.

  Not that she’d share that insight with the dojo’s Grand Pooh-Bah.

  She used a hand towel to mop her face.

  “Come on, flavor of the month. Quit stalling. We’re not done.”

  “You’re killing me.”

  He grinned.

  Holy shit. That was the first time she’d ever seen Deacon smile. It kicked his attractiveness up a notch or ten, but it also made him look ten times scarier. Bald, tattooed, excessively muscled, and overly intense men hadn’t appealed to her before, mostly because she’d never been around any. She definitely saw the appeal now.

  “So, you gearing up to kiss me or what? ’Cause that sure ain’t a defensive fighting stance, cream puff.”

puff? I’ll show you cream puff.” Sick of Deacon’s smarmy comments about being Ronin’s flavor of the month and her lack of defensive know-how, Amery twisted the towel, intending to snap him with it. But he snagged the end and did some fast maneuver that wrapped the towel around her own wrist. Then he twisted it until her arm was behind her back and she dropped to her knees. She gasped, “Uncle.”

  He laughed—a little maniacally. “Sucks when your own weapon is used against you, doesn’t it?”


  Deacon released her. “Get up and let’s go again.”

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