Sweet addiction, p.17
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       Sweet Addiction, p.17

         Part #6 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
Page 17


  She stared back at him in complete befuddlement. Her stomach knotted and she could barely squeeze air into her lungs.

  “I looked at you and knew what was missing in my life. What I wanted in my life. I’ve never stopped loving you, Ren. I can’t make it any simpler than that. ”

  She swallowed but the knot didn’t go away. She had no idea what to say. How to feel. How could she make herself so very vulnerable when she was setting herself up for hurt no matter how this played out in the end?

  Cole framed her face and leaned forward to kiss her lightly on the lips. “I’ve been brutally honest with you for one reason and one reason only. Because I want you to know from the start where I stand so that no matter what happens this week, no matter how hard I push you, no matter how far I take you out of your comfort zone, you know one thing if you know nothing else. You’ll know I love you and that I’d never do anything to hurt you again. ”

  He released her face but his gaze held her captive. “You can belong to any number of men. You can be possessed. You can be a possession. You can submit. You can be dominated. But none of that necessarily means you are loved and cherished above all else. You’ll know that with me, Ren. You’ll never doubt it for even a moment if I can help it. ”

  Tears gathered in her eyes. “Oh Cole. ” She leaned forward until her forehead touched his and he swam in her vision as she tried to hold back the flood of emotion. “I’ve missed you so much. ”

  He tangled his fingers in her hair and held her close as their breaths mingled. “I’ve missed you too, darling. ”

  “It’s all so fast,” she murmured.

  He nodded. “It is. We’ll slow down. I never thought it would be easy. You can’t imagine what it felt like to see you and know you belonged to another man. Really belong. I knew what that collar signaled and I knew that I’d have to fight for you. But there was no way in hell I was going to walk away again. ”

  She snuggled into his arms and laid her head on his shoulder. He was so strong and comforting. Warm. She needed that strength.

  “I won’t be easy,” he warned.

  She shivered at the dark promise in his voice.

  “This time we have together will give you the opportunity to see who I really am. ”

  She glanced up into his eyes. “And you’ll see that I’m not weak. That I need your strength and the rigidity of a dominant relationship. It’s not just what I want, Cole. It’s what I need. It’s what I have to have. ”

  He nodded. “I understand. I’ll give that to you, Ren. I’ll give you everything. ”

  Contentment slid over her, loosening some of the tension in her muscles. She went limp against him as he continued to stroke her body, his touch tender and soothing.

  “Now tell me about this career of yours,” he said against her hair. “Rennie Michaels? Children’s author extraordinaire?”

  She laughed lightly. “It started as an escape. A way to deal with my unhappiness. My unfulfillment I suppose you could say. I would drift away, telling stories in my head and one day I decided to write them down. And then I began to draw the scenes, adding words to the pictures that danced around my mind. The second day I was with Lucas, after he moved me in with him, he came across my drawings and one of the books I’d put together myself. He insisted I submit it and so I did. To be honest I think he helped. He had connections. Before I knew it I had an agent and then an offer. They fast tracked that first book because it was already completed and little to no revisions were necessary. It released a few months ago and I’m working on the third in the series right now. The second will be released in four more months. ”

  “I’m proud of you. ”

  Her cheeks bloomed with heat and she smiled. “I love it. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in it, but I enjoy it. I have a purpose now. Job wise, I mean. Before I worked in marketing. I got my degree after you and I split up. But it’s so stressful and against my true personality. It was exhausting to make myself be this person I wasn’t and I finally quit trying. I owe a lot of that to Lucas. He was content to just let me …be. ”

  She glanced anxiously at Cole, already regretting that she’d brought up Lucas twice. It wasn’t that she was intentionally throwing Lucas in Cole’s face nor was she trying to make Cole jealous or make him feel threatened. The simple truth was Lucas had everything to do with the woman she was now. The woman she’d become over the last year.

  She would have gotten there on her own eventually but Lucas had been a rock-solid source of support. She’d always owe him that.

  “It sounds like Lucas recognized what a very special woman you were from the moment he saw you,” Cole said in a low voice.

  Ren nodded, relieved that he didn’t take offense.

  “What about your last relationship? Lucas said the man you were with hurt you. ”

  Ren could feel how stiff Cole went the moment he brought up the subject. There was a darkness to his eyes that told her how very dangerous he could be when provoked.

  She swallowed and sighed. “A lot of it was my own fault. ”

  Cole scowled.

  “No, really it was. I mean, it wasn’t my fault he was a dickhead, but it was my fault that I stayed as long as I did and that I settled for something I knew would never make me happy or fulfill me. That’s on me. ”

  “What did he do?” Cole gritted out.

  “He wanted to change me. He had very set ideas—stereotypical ideas—of how a dominant submissive relationship should work. To be honest he’d watched too many porn flicks or read too many bad novels on the subject. Quite frankly he was a joke. He wanted to be king of the castle and for me to kiss his feet. His idea of dominance was abuse and disrespect. He felt powerful when he was humiliating me. ”

  Cole’s nostrils flared and rage built like a storm in his eyes. His grip tightened on her and just as quickly he began to rub his hand up and down her arm in a comforting motion that she was unsure that he was even cognizant of.

  “That son of a bitch,” Cole hissed. “The little bastard. So he got his rocks off acting like an abusive asshole. ”

  Ren shrugged. “Basically, yeah. My fault. I mean, that I took it so long. I was at a crossroads and my problem wasn’t so much that I thought I wanted him. I knew I didn’t. My problem was that I didn’t know what I wanted and so I was afraid. ”

  He gathered her tightly in his arms and pressed his lips to her temple. “I’m so sorry you had to endure that. I’m glad you found Lucas. It sounds like he was a much better man. ”

  “He was—is,” she returned quietly. “In a lot of ways he saved me. From myself. He refused to let me settle. ”

  “It hurts me that someone hurt you. I’d like to kill the little son of a bitch. When a woman submits to a man, it’s the most precious gift she can give. Herself. Unreservedly. The man has to respect and honor that gift above all else. Even if he respects nothing else in the world, he must respect the woman in his care. It’s his sworn duty to protect, honor and cherish his submissive. To take care of her and provide a safe haven. Someone who would put his own needs above his woman’s is no man. ”

  She pushed herself up and rearranged herself so that she sat astride him on the couch, her knees resting on either side of him. She stared down into his eyes, touched beyond words at his vehement declaration.

  “Do you know, when you say those things, I don’t believe they are just words,” she said. “You mean them. ”

  “Damn right I do,” he said with a frown.

  For the first time, she looked to the next two weeks without a twinge of sadness and uncertainty. Anticipation licked through her veins, and more powerful than the anticipation, was yearning.

  She didn’t just need what Cole would give her. She wanted it and him. She’d never stopped loving or wanting him. At times she’d thought that she was still caught up in a youthful fantasy and that the memories would never translate to reality.

  But here he was in front of he
r. Strong. Demanding. Unyielding. Dominant, so very dominant. Hard and yet unbelievably tender.

  He was everything she wanted and needed and everything she’d missed for the last ten years. Cole wasn’t as good as or the same as that young man she’d known when she was just a girl.

  He was way better.


  They napped and lounged in the sunroom. At some point, two men carried in the boxes containing Ren’s writing and art supplies, but Cole motioned for them to be quiet. Ren still slept soundly on his chest and he had no desire to wake her and let go of the moment.

  There weren’t words to describe his contentment. His absolute satisfaction in holding her in his arms. It overwhelmed him and brought back so much of the past years when he’d searched in vain for what he’d been missing from the moment he walked out of her life.

  He was fortunate and so very grateful that she hadn’t chosen to walk away from him. That she’d decided to stay and give him—them—a chance.

  When the men had finished unpacking the boxes to Cole’s satisfaction, he waved them away and then gently shook Ren awake.

  Her eyes came open and she looked disoriented for the briefest of moments before she smiled and snuggled a little deeper into his arms.

  “I have plans for us this afternoon if you’re up for going out. ”

  She raised her head and pushed away the heavy silk of her hair. “Of course. I’ve been lazy the entire day. ”

  He smiled and touched her cheek. “If you have then so have I. I quite enjoyed our day together so far. But you have need of clothing and I thought we could enjoy dinner with friends. I’d like you to meet them in a more relaxed setting. ”

  Her eyebrows scrunched together. “Cole, I have more clothes than I know what to do with. Unless …Did Lucas not send anything over with my writing stuff?”

  Cole took a measured breath. “He did. I sent them back. ”

  She cocked her head, obviously confused, but she didn’t question him. An action he approved of.

  “You’re mine now, Ren,” he said in a soft voice. “It’s my responsibility to provide for you. To care for you. To ensure all your needs are met while you’re in my keeping. I won’t have another man do those things for you. ”

  She nodded her understanding.

  “So I thought perhaps we could go shopping. I have a distinct desire to outfit you in clothing that complements your natural beauty. Then we’ll meet two couples that I’m friends with for dinner. You’ve met Damon and Serena already but you haven’t yet met Micah and his wife, Angelina. ”

  She pursed her lips and her eyes grew thoughtful for a moment. He could see the question hovering but she made no effort to voice it.

  “Ask your question, Ren. ”

  “It’s really none of my business,” she said ruefully. “Just a thought that occurred and I’m not even certain why I want to know. ”

  “Ask it. ”

  “These women. Serena and Angelina. You spoke of being attracted to and of being …intimate …with women that belonged to other men. Are they …” She took a deep breath. “Are they the women you spoke of?”

  Cole went soft at how small her voice sounded. She was trying so hard to pretend only a passing interest but he remembered what Lucas had told him of her previous relationship and the promise he’d exacted from Cole about having other women. As if he could even bring himself to look at another woman with Ren at his side.

  “Look at me,” he said in a tender voice. “First, you’re it for me, Ren. All I want. The only woman I need. I have no desire—feel no desire—for another woman when I have perfection staring me in the face. ”

  “Oh,” she breathed, her eyes rounding and then sparkling with delight.

  “Now to answer your question because I’ll never be anything but honest with you. I have touched Serena. Intimately. But not in the way you’d think. Damon is very, very possessive of her. He doesn’t share. He trusts me and I spend a lot of time at his club, and so he would often have me prepare Serena. For him. For his attentions. It was part of his process. He’s very methodical in all things. That’s as far as things ever went with Serena. And I never had any desire to take things further. They are dear friends. She and Damon both. ”

  Ren nodded her understanding, relief lightening her eyes.

  He touched her and then shifted so he could sit up to hold her because he considered that the next might not be as easy to hear.

  “Angelina …she was different and in order to tell you the difference, I need to go back and tell you of my role at The House. A role that I basically made for myself and one I was content with. ”

  She nodded again but the frown was back.

  Unable to resist, he leaned forward and pulled her down into a long, heated kiss. She melted instantly, so sweet and unresisting. He could honestly spend all day doing nothing more than touching her. The next two weeks were going to be hard because all he wanted to do was lock himself in a room with her and make love to her until neither of them could take anymore.

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