Sweet addiction, p.6
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       Sweet Addiction, p.6

         Part #6 of Sweet series by Maya Banks
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Page 6


  Lucas gripped her shoulder, kissed her again and softly nuzzled the barely raised area of flesh. Had she been badly frightened? Had it broken her trust?

  “It must have scared you. ”

  Ren rose up on her elbow so they were eye level. “That’s just the thing, Lucas. It didn’t frighten me. It hurt, yes. No doubt about that. Cole was devastated. I mean, truly devastated. He was so horrified that he’d hurt me. But I loved him. I trusted him. I knew he hadn’t meant to. I knew he’d cut off his right arm before ever willingly hurting me. I knew all of this. But he was the one who couldn’t get past it. ”

  Lucas’s forehead wrinkled in confusion.

  “He was the one who walked away,” Ren said softly, pain evident in her voice. “I begged him. God, I begged him. He hated himself. I think it made it worse for me to tell him it didn’t matter, that I loved him and knew he hadn’t meant to. He made this comment about how often women forgave their abusers over and over and how they were willing to say it was an accident when they were hurt. In his mind, he crossed an unforgivable line and nothing I said could change his mind.

  “He began to question every aspect of our relationship. How he had complete control and dominance. How I complied with his wishes. He worried I’d lost my individuality, that somehow he’d swallowed me up. He was horrified that he’d become this monster who held me on such a tight leash that I had no life outside of him. ”

  “Did he?”

  Her denial was immediate and he believed her. She was honest in all things. About herself. Her mistakes. Her shortcomings. If she truly believed that she’d been abused, she would tell him so now.

  “He made a mistake,” Ren said painfully. “One mistake. We were young. We were inexperienced. We were testing the waters of a relationship we knew defied societal norms. We decided together what did and didn’t work for us. He and I were both drawn to the idea of pain as pleasure and how much pain was too much before it overrode all else and simply became …pain. He was always so careful and he simply made a mistake. ”

  “Was that the only mark?” Lucas asked. Cole’s reaction seemed extreme, but then he’d been a much younger man and it appeared as though he’d had a deep sense of responsibility toward Ren even at that young age. It was hard to know if Lucas would have felt the same if he’d made such a mistake in his youth with a woman he hadn’t cared for as deeply as Cole had cared for Ren.

  Ren frowned and her eyes glittered with unshed tears. “No. But it was the only mark that left a scar. My back was striped. The skin was broken in three places but the place on my shoulder was the worst. The whip sliced open the skin and I bled a lot. Cole took me in to be stitched. ”

  Lucas pulled her in closer, offering his warmth and the strength of his body. He knew it was something that comforted her, and her sadness was unsettling to him. He didn’t like the look in her eyes or the sound of her voice.

  He felt …helpless and it was an odd sensation. Not at all one he was accustomed to.

  She was getting to him. Worming her way deeper and he found it perplexing. Why her? What was it about her?

  “So he left?” Lucas finally asked.

  Ren sighed against him and again, her unhappiness struck a chord deep inside his chest. “Not at first. He took care of me. Dressed the wound every single day. Went with me to have the stitches removed. But he didn’t touch me sexually. Not even once. He drifted further and further away. It was like he felt he wasn’t worthy of me anymore. It was so frustrating. I tried to talk to him but I just couldn’t get through. The harder I tried, the more convinced he was that he wielded too much power over me and that he wasn’t responsible enough to shoulder it and wield it properly. He blamed himself for ‘pushing’ me into the lifestyle. He seemed to forget that it had held as much interest to me as it had to him from the very beginning. It was a need I had, one I recognized, even before we ever embarked on the sexual side of our relationship. But he didn’t see it that way. He thought he’d forced me into something I didn’t want. That I’d done it all just to please him. And I know I’m making him sound like a martyr and that now, years later, it may sound ridiculous, but you have to understand, this affected him profoundly. ”

  “Yes, I see it did,” Lucas murmured.

  “He truly felt like the best thing he could do for me was to walk away when in fact it was the one thing that hurt me far worse than any whip to my back. Cole changed me. He awakened something within me that has never died. He is a large part of who I am today. ”

  “I think you don’t give yourself enough credit,” Lucas said.

  She shook her head. “I know what you’re saying. I do. But the thing is, he was my introduction to dominance and submission. Would I have gotten there eventually without him? Oh yes, definitely I would have. It was a need inside me before he awakened it. But through him, I tasted what it was like to have a man utterly cherish me. Protect me. Love me with everything he had. Would my experience have been the same with another man? Absolutely not. What if I had chosen the wrong man? What if I had experimented with someone who didn’t care for me as much as Cole did? Or someone who wasn’t as patient as he was. Or even someone who wasn’t willing to listen to what I liked and didn’t like, and what I needed and didn’t need? Because of him, I knew exactly what I wanted and needed from a relationship and I refused to settle for less. I’m honest in my needs and wants because of him. Because he showed me that there are men who will give me exactly what I want sexually and emotionally. ”

  Her impassioned speech shook him. Her eyes had darkened and she leaned forward, her voice cracking with emotion. This wasn’t a woman who’d moved on and forgotten the man she’d once given her very soul to.

  A sensation that felt very much like dread settled heavily into his chest. The weight was uncomfortable, like a rock pushing down on him.

  Cole had said he’d want Ren to be happy. Could Lucas say the same? He’d told Cole as much. But were they just words? A week ago he would have said without question that her happiness was everything to him. He spared no expense to ensure she had everything she could possibly need or want. He anticipated her moods, protected her, cared for her and yes, he cherished her.

  But could he really take that step to ensure her happiness? To give her a choice?

  His mouth was dry and he loathed the indecision that racked him. He’d already taken the first step. Ren was his. She wouldn’t question what he chose to do with her body. But he couldn’t control her heart and that realization unsettled his carefully ordered existence.

  What he planned to do could very well mean losing her, and he wasn’t at all sure he could ever live with that.


  Lucas chose the meeting to happen at Cole’s offices. Cole wouldn’t have expected Lucas to come to him. The more expected move would have been for Lucas to have made a power play, invited Cole into his sanctum so that the confrontation occurred on Lucas’s turf.

  Lucas wasn’t one to be threatened by the power of others. He could easily meet Cole on his own terms and where Cole felt most comfortable. The outcome wouldn’t change regardless of where the meeting was held.

  He parked on the street outside the tall downtown Houston office building and strode inside. He checked in with security, got a visitor’s pass and then took the elevator to the thirtieth floor.

  He’d done his homework on Cole Madison. He was a successful real estate developer but he had his hands in many other pots. He had a Midas touch when it came to business and what he touched turned to gold, making him a sought out investor for up-and-coming enterprises. In recent years, he’d focused quite a bit on the timber industry in Southeast Texas and had partnered with Damon Roche in quite a few projects.

  When he stepped off the elevator, Lucas was greeted by Cole himself. Apparently Cole wasn’t into power games any more than Lucas was. Cole didn’t make Lucas wait and showed him directly into his office.

  Lucas declined Cole’
s offer of a drink but took the seat in the sitting area away from the desk when Cole issued the invitation.

  Lucas leaned back and simply waited, his gaze tracking Cole as he took the seat across from Lucas.

  “I want her,” Cole said bluntly.

  Appreciative that there would be no skirting the issue, Lucas nodded. “I know you do. ”

  “What exactly is the nature of your agreement with her?”

  Lucas lifted an eyebrow. “You don’t expect me to tell you that, do you?”

  “Is she your lover or is she simply your submissive?” Cole asked, his eyes narrowing.

  Lucas understood the differentiation but he didn’t appreciate Cole delving into what Lucas considered very private territory. Even though he well understood why Cole did so.

  “She’s both,” he said simply.

  “You care for her. ”

  “I care for all the women in my keeping. ”

  The vague response irritated Cole. Lucas wasn’t sure why he led Cole to believe that Ren meant nothing more to him than any other woman he had. Maybe it was said more to himself than to the other man. But either way it was an untruth, and Lucas despised liars.

  “Tell me, Madison, what makes you think Ren would want you back? Have you ever considered that she’s happy where she is in her life right now?”

  Pain darkened Cole’s eyes and he looked away briefly. When his gaze returned to Lucas, it was cold and unyielding, giving nothing away.

  “I can make her happy. ”

  It was on the tip of Lucas’s tongue to argue the point. To tell Cole that it didn’t matter what he thought because Ren was Lucas’s. But that wasn’t why he’d come. It wasn’t at all what he was going to say. There was little point in needling the other man.

  “I’m agreeable to giving her to you for two weeks’ time,” Lucas said.

  Cole went completely still, and his eyes suddenly blazed. It was clear that he was shocked by Lucas’s offer. Lucas experienced a moment’s satisfaction that he’d been able to catch this man off guard because he sensed it didn’t happen often.

  Cole finally found his tongue and his response was explosive. “What?”

  Lucas remained silent, allowing Cole to process the sudden declaration.

  Cole’s eyes narrowed and he leaned forward. “What’s your angle, Holt?”

  “No angle,” Lucas returned calmly. “Ren has been out of sorts since her meeting with you. It’s clear that you and she have unresolved feelings. I’d prefer for those feelings to be resolved so the past can be put to rest. ”

  “And if they aren’t?” Cole challenged.

  “One way or another, they will be. ”

  Cole stood, then ran a hand through his hair and turned his back to Lucas to stare out the window. When he turned back around, Lucas could see how unsettled he was. Whatever the past, he obviously did still care deeply for Ren.

  “I have conditions,” Lucas said before Cole could say anything further.

  “Of course,” Cole said dryly.

  “For the first meeting, I will be present. I won’t simply turn over a woman I care a great deal about to a man I’m not sure of. You’ll demonstrate your handling of her and I’ll be satisfied that she’ll be well cared for or we leave together. ”

  “You want to watch me fuck her?” Cole asked in disbelief.

  Lucas shrugged. “If that’s what occurs, then yes, I’ll watch you fuck her. You won’t disrespect her. You will treat her with the utmost care. If I sense anything, and I mean, anything at all that would lead me to believe I’m making a mistake, I’ll pull the plug and Ren leaves with me. ”

  Cole shook his head. “What’s your game? Why would you do this? It doesn’t make any sense. You have to know that I’m going to do everything in my power to make damn sure she stays with me. ”

  “Yes, I know. ”

  Cole’s look of absolute what the fuck amused Lucas.

  “If you’re able to take her from me then she never really belonged to me now did she?”

  “You’re crazy,” Cole muttered.

  “I want her to be happy even if it’s not with me. I wonder if you can say the same. ”

  “I don’t know,” Cole said honestly.

  Lucas rose. “I realize I run the risk of having Ren not return to me. She could choose you. I would be lying if I said I had any confidence of knowing how she’ll choose either way. But know this: If she does indeed return to me when her time with you is over, I’ll never let her go again. ”

  “Yeah, I understand. In your position, I wouldn’t either. ”

  “I’m giving you something very precious to me,” Lucas said quietly. “If you do anything to hurt her, I’ll come after you. ”

  Cole nodded his understanding. “Just so you understand, though, I don’t take orders from you. If you’re truly giving Ren to me, that period of time will be on my terms. ”

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