Theirs to cherish, p.4
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       Theirs to Cherish, p.4

         Part #8 of Wicked Lovers series by Shayla Black
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Page 4


  “Good. Do you know what this is?”

  Wide strands of something soft skimmed her from neck to ass. Air filled her lungs as she raised up, trying to extend the caress.

  “A flogger. ”

  “Deerskin, yes. Has anyone ever used one on you?”

  “No, Sir. ”

  “Wielded properly, it’s not an implement of pain. Are you afraid?”

  Of the flogger, no. But his intent was another story. If he’d gone out of his way to point out that the instrument didn’t have to hurt, she didn’t think he intended to test her pain threshold. And Sean had promised her a reward. Callie had a suspicion she knew where this was headed.

  It scared the hell out of her as much as it made her yearn.

  But she would give in tonight, see if she could separate her body from her mind in that floating paradise others called subspace. Just this once . . .

  “I want whatever you’d like to give me. ”

  She sensed more than felt his approval. “Fine, then. Don’t count. ”

  The words had barely cleared his lips before the tails of the flogger struck the fleshiest part of her ass in a slow thud. Sean repeated the motion—full across her butt, in the low curve of her spine, up her back and down again. Never hard, never even making her sting. Rhythmic, sweet, lulling, the flogging was like a slow dance cradling her in its arms until she began to block out everything but the way he made her feel. Her heart beat in time with the tresses kissing her skin.

  Callie didn’t have to work very hard to block out thoughts. Sean perfectly understood her body, exactly when, where, and how hard to work the falls over her.

  Her head started to swim away from her body, and she let it go for a moment. She sank toward the abyss just beyond her, calling out to her. The sensation was like having a couple of glasses of wine, but heavier and more compelling. More alluring.

  Darkness swam around her thoughts. Minutes might have passed. Or hours. She didn’t really feel her body anymore. The earth held her by the soles of her feet and her cuffed wrists, or she would have floated away to beautiful nothingness.

  Vaguely, she felt Sean’s hand glide up and down her hot, sensitive skin, an acute rise of burn and sensation. Her head rolled forward. She felt every instant of her slow, deep breathing, almost like a waking nap—except the intoxicating euphoria. How wonderful . . .

  “You look stunning, Callie. ”

  A drunk little smile curled her lips.

  “This is what I wanted to give you, lovely, some respite from your head. ” His lips slipped up the back of her neck. He wrapped his broad hand around her and under her chin until he tipped her head back. Then he kissed his way down her jaw. “I would give you more. ”

  Please . . . She didn’t have the strength to open her mouth and beg.

  “But I need something from you. Come back to me just a bit,” he coaxed.

  Callie frowned. It was the last thing she wanted to do, but the sweet splendor of silence in her head was too tempting. Complying took so much effort.

  “Let me into your heart, Callie. Into your head. I’ve asked you for nothing since we began our journey together. ”

  And he’d given her so much.

  “You draw me like no other. I want to know everything about you. I don’t want business to take me away from you before I’ve had a chance to learn you inside and out. Before I’ve had a chance to truly bind you to me. ”

  She sighed. He plucked at every one of her heartstrings, and she let him. Such exquisite words. How could she not give him a little?

  “We’ll start small,” he assured. “Did you have a pet as a child?”

  Pet? The first recollection to hit her brain spewed from her lips. “I found a kitten. ”

  “How old were you?”

  “Not quite six. I couldn’t keep her. Mom was sick. I woke up one morning and she was gone. I cried. Mom died anyway. ”

  “I’m so sorry, lovely. Of what?”

  Callie shied away from remembering. “God takes the fragile ones back into his fold. Dad always said that. It still made me sad. ”

  “Of course. ” He petted her. “Do you have any sisters? Brothers?”

  Chilled air suddenly smacked her toasty skin, jostling her brain. Awareness rushed back into her head. Why did he want to know?

  “Both. ” Of course, Dad never knew that she’d heard about his teenage romance that resulted in a son no one ever talked about. She hadn’t thought about that in years, but she’d spied on his son once. Apparently, being an illegitimate Howe sucked because he’d been a bitter man.

  “You’re sure?”

  Callie tensed. Why would he think otherwise? His tone and the enormity of his question hit her. It might seem trifling to most, but if he suspected at all who she was and she didn’t tread carefully, she might give him enough to confirm her identity.

  Would he sell her down the river for the two-million-dollar bounty?

  “I’m cold. ”

  Sean took a step back. The flogger fell over her back, her ass, alternating, thudding, seeking to calm her again. At first, it stung against her hot skin. Then she had to resist the divine slide back into her silent cocoon.

  “Relax,” he crooned.

  Callie didn’t dare. She bit her lip to stay present, but she pretended. At least the flogger warmed her enough to stop her shivering.

  “Did you take any special trips as a child?”

  “No. ” She’d wanted to go to Disney World. Dad preferred Europe and museums where she had to be quiet. A whole summer in the French countryside when she’d been fifteen had seemed nearly coma inducing.

  “Did you go to public school?”

  Never. Her mother would have rolled over in her grave. “Mom was too religious to allow that. Guess it didn’t stick very well. ”

  Her answer was true . . . in a sense. Her mother had worshipped at the altar of Prada and been a firm believer in the church of Versace. She would never have allowed her or Charlotte to rub elbows with the middle-class kids who lived in the tract houses a few miles away. That had sucked, too. They looked like they had more fun.

  “Callie, you’re in your head again. ” And Sean didn’t sound pleased.

  “Sorry. The cold rattled me and I just . . . ” Got scared with all the questions.

  That made her even more dejected. Most likely, the man just wanted to know her. But just in case she was wrong, she had to lie. The truth was too risky.

  Great basis for a relationship, Callie. Yeah, he’d really love you if he knew your past.

  She’d be long gone before he could.

  He sighed. “You get cold easily. I often forget because you make me sweat. ”

  A moment later, he shuffled around to the front of her body. She drank his nearness in with a moan, smelling the musk wafting from him. Her mouth watered, her pussy wept. She wanted him so badly, had truly sought to please him . . .

  “I genuinely tried. I loved the floaty feeling you gave me. I never thought I’d find subspace. ” Callie wished she could touch him. “It hurts me to disappoint you. ”

  Sean peeled the mask away, and she blinked until she adjusted to the glaring lights. His shirt was damp, his cheeks flushed. A submissive dip of her head as he unsnapped her wrists from the chains proved his cock lusciously hard.

  “You came a long way tonight, lovely. It’s my own impatience that makes me want you so completely right this instant. But your effort pleased me. ”

  “I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more. ” She blinked up at him uncertainly as he unfastened one of the cuffs and blood rushed back into her arms.

  Disappointment in herself chiseled away at her composure. Even when she’d given herself permission to let go and fully surrender to Sean, she’d been unable to.

  “I wanted to. ” Useless tears welled in her eyes.

  With a soothing sound, he drew her against his body, and she relished his warmth. When he pulled h
er into his embrace, she felt the protective wall around her heart softening, crumbling. Just once, why couldn’t she give this wonderful man who’d showered her with tenderness and pleasure a little fucking bit of herself? She was so closed off that even she could barely reach the real her buried inside. Certainly, she didn’t know how to share, even with a man as kind as Sean.

  “I know you did. ” He cradled her head in his hand. “Don’t cry, lovely. Let’s get comfortable and talk. ”

  He didn’t give her a chance to argue, just pulled her along beside him, back to the bench in the corner. He removed the last cuff still dangling from her wrist and those around her ankles. Her shoulders were slightly sore. The skin on her backside still leapt with tingling life.

  Sean reached for a blanket in a nearby stash, wrapped it around her, then pulled her into his lap. “Don’t beat yourself up. Yes, I wanted more. But tomorrow will come. ”

  Not for them, it wouldn’t.

  “I could share myself more readily if you shared with me,” she ventured. At least it sounded like a good excuse.

  Settling back on the bench with a raised brow, he drew her against his chest. “Is that so?”

  “What we have feels so . . . one-sided. I don’t know anything about you. ”

  He drew in a sharp breath. “I was raised by my grandparents in Scotland. My father served in the military in far-flung parts of the world. My mother preferred London to parenting. I attended local schools, finished university, learned how to hold my own in a fight and drink a few pints without getting too pissed. I work in project management. ”

  Callie gathered up her courage. “Are you married? Taken?”

  Sean let loose a hearty laugh. “Has that been worrying you all this time? No, lovely. I was engaged about a decade ago, but I was already married to my job by then. We ended things amicably. I’ve been alone since. And my life was empty as hell without you. ”

  That shouldn’t get to her. He shouldn’t. But damn, he did. She might as well be honest about this, too. “I didn’t know how much my life was missing until you walked into it. I need more of you. ”

  If they had nothing beyond tonight, she wanted him in every way he would give himself now.

  Scrambling off his lap and between his feet on the concrete floor, Callie braced her hands on his knees and glanced at his cock. Then she blinked up at him, pouring her desperation into this one entreaty. “Please . . . ”

  Chapter Two

  SEAN stared down at Callie, his breath trapped in his chest, his cock about to explode. Her blue eyes, framed in thick black lashes and silently pleading, pierced his chest. Hell, they dug into his heart. He had to hold his fucking head together. But he wanted her more than he thought possible. More than he had words to express.

  Of all the damn women to fall for . . .

  Normally, he’d remind her that he was the Dom, and she shouldn’t wheedle for the terms she wanted. He knew a pretty piece of manipulation when he heard one. But Callie wasn’t herself tonight. Her breakthrough actually worried him. On the one hand, he’d finally peeled away layers of armor to reveal the soft woman beneath her bratty attitude. On the other hand, everything about her—especially that haunted look in her eyes—reeked of desperation. Of good-bye.

  His gut twisted. Had something spooked her? Or someone, like him? There were a lot of reasons that letting her go wasn’t an option. If he had to rearrange his priorities, so be it. But no matter what, he must keep Callie beside him.

  “Lovely . . . ” He didn’t know what to say. His throat felt tight. His breath thickened as her fingers dug into his thighs.

  She didn’t reply, just silently beseeched him with those sad eyes. How much unhappiness had she known to be so walled off from everyone? Right now, Sean could only imagine, but he wanted to know. And he wanted to heal her.

  If he put her off now, she’d only bolt sooner. As it was, he suspected that she planned to be gone when he came back for her tomorrow. But if he gave in to her tonight . . . That was the wild card.

  He’d ask her if she planned to flee, but she would only deny it. He knew Callie so well in some ways, yet she remained the most intriguing mystery in others.

  Sean swallowed his doubts down. Fuck it. If he had this one chance to keep her, he was going to take it and deal with the metric shit ton of consequences later.

  “Never mind. ” She began to scramble to her feet, the unmistakable hurt on her delicate face wrenching.

  He braced a hand on her shoulder and pushed down gently. “Stay. I haven’t said no. ”

  Her gaze skittered away. “But you didn’t say yes. I haven’t earned it. ”

  “That’s not true. You gave me a great deal of effort tonight. You fought through fears and surrendered a part of yourself to me. I appreciate how hard that was for you. ”

  Holding his breath, he reached for the snap of his trousers. He was crossing a dangerous line, but he silenced the concerns screaming inside him and focused on Callie. On growing his bond with her and giving her what she needed. Right now, he suspected she ached to feel wanted.


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