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       Jacked, p.48

           Tina Reber

  His tenderness ended when he pinched and rolled my nipple between his fingers, sending a zing of pleasure-filled pain right into my bottom. It was a punishment—instant retribution for my apparent insolence.

  “It’s an important question.”

  When he stepped away, my head hung back, weighted by gravity. Ropes tugged and my thighs parted, and not on their own volition. My arms were bound to the ropes running to the metal circle in the ceiling, but after a few adjustments, he left me with some range of movement. I could hold on or relax back, cradled within his webbing. Right now, I was holding on for dear life, trying to pull myself up to watch him, but it was nearly impossible.

  His hands squeezed my inner thighs. “I can’t tell you how many times I’d envisioned you like this.”

  “What? Bound and helpless?”

  He added another length of rope, cradling my calves. “Sweetheart, you are far from helpless. And your body is in a sling, so you shouldn’t be in any pain. Well, maybe just in here.” His finger tapped on my forehead. “But bound and helpless has worked for us before.”

  I hated when he was right. I felt like I was lying in a loosely-woven hammock. Another pull and tug and my thighs split wide open.

  “And I think you’re going to enjoy the hell out of this.” His hands took ownership, his warm breath heated my anticipation, and then his tongue struck out. My body arched, all needy and wanting more. I hated my body for betraying me so quickly. A finger worked inside me, then two—in and out—scissoring and curling with master precision.

  Every thought, every synapse, tied to the rising sensations. My focus—singular. Only one direction—up—reaching for the ultimate release. Oh so close. So close.

  Abruptly, his fingers withdrew, his warm mouth left my skin, and he shoved the ropes, spinning me.

  “Let’s see how much you want my body,” he drawled, opening up his pants. Silky flesh rolled over my lips, firm and ready. His musky scent bloomed across my nose, adding depravity to my surmounting want. My mouth opened, tasting him with my tongue. He grabbed the ropes above me and hissed, groaning as I took him deeper.

  His woven web was quite convenient, allowing all sorts of rocking movements that were left unexplored on the static ground. His strong abs, the swell of his chest, all looked different at this angle. I wished I had the use of my hands, just to feel his hot skin, merge us together in different ways.

  He pulled out of my mouth and released the ropes, letting me swing freely again. Being suspended like this, he was upside down taking his jeans off his legs. Watching him stroke his length had to be one of the most erotic things I loved about him.


  There it was again.

  Love wasn’t an emotion—it was a misdiagnosed mental condition with physical symptoms and no medical cure. I’d spent days, weeks, lamenting over the word and its meaning. And here I was, exacerbating the situation by putting stipulations on what we’d built together. What we could build together.

  Adam stepped in between my legs, rubbing himself up and over me repeatedly, driving me slowly insane. He grabbed my hips, finding grip on the bindings, and pressed in.

  Air stuttered out of both of us.

  He eased in and out, setting a beautiful pace, before pounding into me. Skin smacked violently into skin, breaching the surrounding silence. His face twisted with his determination; it was challenge and anger and other emotions I’d recognized. I was getting close to coming, relishing the clenching rush inside me.

  “So tell me, Erin…” His fingertips bit into my skin. “What happens if I get you pregnant?” His eyebrows rose. “No condom between us…” He rolled his hips over and over again, bouncing me hard and rough over his bare skin. “Pretty sure if I dig in there I can find the strings to remove that thing.”

  Fear caused new pressure to build. I was drawn and quartered and completely unable to stop him from doing anything he wanted.

  “So what happens, huh? You gonna cut our baby out of your body? Toss it in the garbage like Nikki did?”

  I felt the bottom drop out, knowing with absolute certainty what angry fucking felt like. He stunned me and broke my heart, railing into me so hard it took my breath away.

  “She did that, you know. Told me she miscarried and I believed it… ’til I got the fucking bill.”

  I didn’t know. I gripped the ropes in both hands, wishing to get free, wishing I could take his pain away, wishing he wasn’t inside me while losing his mind. My head shook back and forth, trying to deny that I’d be like that. I knew the value of life and how precious it was and how quickly and violently it ended. We weren’t humans—we were biological marvels. If Adam got me pregnant—

  Sweat dripped down his chest. His teeth were clenched. “Would you do that, Erin? Would you? Answer me!”

  “No!” I’d never hurt him that way.

  “No? I saw the way you shied away from Turk’s kid, so I know you’re fucking lying to me. You know what I think?”

  I didn’t even want to venture a guess.

  “I think you’d rip that miracle right out of your belly and lie to my face like she did.”

  Tears stung my eyes. I’d never felt so hopeless in all of my life, powerless to convince him beyond what he believed. His lack of faith in me tore open new gaping wounds. I was nothing like his ex. “I wouldn’t.”

  He squeezed my legs together, pressing my thighs to his body within his muscular arm and fucked me harder, ebbing the pleasure toward pain. “Why don’t I believe you? It’s okay, I’ll give you want you want. After all, my cock is good enough for you.”

  “I wouldn’t,” I cried out, needing him to believe me. “I swear.”

  He released my legs as if they’d burned him. They flopped apart with a twitchy jerk, back to their bent positions. Muscles within my thighs quivered and quaked. Adam reached forward, grabbing me by the back of my neck, pulling me up to meet the ferocity in his eyes.

  “Lie to my face, Doc.”

  He impaled me again.

  He was just as torn, equally as broken.

  “I’m not lying.”

  He slammed into me, holding our gaze with each thrust. “Then fucking tell me the truth. You want a future or a memory?”

  I wanted the moon and stars, wrapped in his unyielding promises. “I want you.”

  My hair tangled in his clawed fingers. “Would you want what we created too? Would you?”

  “Please don’t.” He was asking too much—asking me to become a danger to myself and others. “Please.”

  “Answer me!”

  “You’ll hate me,” I cried, my chest cracking into a million pieces of pain. “I’m not a murderer. Don’t… Oh God, please. When I turn, you’ll hate me.”

  His scowl turned cruel. I tried to hide my face in my shoulder; my self-loathing burned the edges of my eyes. I choked on my tears, sputtering through the rising sobs that shook me while I dangled in the air. He’d turned our love to hate and me into my darkest fear, where the ugliness consumed me. The desolation and despair pulled me under. “You’ll hate me.” I barely whispered the words, drowning in their validity.

  Adam’s arm cinched around my waist, my legs circled his hips. With one hand, he pulled one of the ropes, releasing some of the tension holding me aloft. He bent sideways, fetching something long and silver. With a few passes, the sharp blade sliced through the tangle of rope above me.

  His knife hit the ground, using both arms to hold me to him as my legs failed to support my weight. A few steps and he sat with me sprawled over top of him.

  “Shh… sweetheart.” He brushed my hair back over and over again. “What is it that has you so scared? Please, please tell me. I want to understand.”

  “I didn’t do it. I could never… I save lives.” Memories slammed into each other with such violence, it was hard to stop shaking. “I didn’t do it. I’m not like that. I could never… hurt… but so many women do. So many women… She made me carry the jugs, putting my fingerprints over e
verything. And when the police came she just pointed and said that I did it. I didn’t. But they didn’t believe me. They didn’t even care or question her.”

  Adam just watched me intently as I fell apart. The silence was deadly.

  “That’s why I need to finish. So that never happens to another child. But what happens when I break? Will I turn into a monster, too?”

  I knew he didn’t understand.

  I had nothing left. Irrationality had taken control. “I don’t want to turn into a monster.”

  “That won’t happen, Erin. You’re an angel. You’re a savior, not a monster.”

  We were both in denial, except mine was wrapped in a thick layer of hysterics. “You don’t know that. Women change. The hormones or something.” I shook my head. “They do unspeakable things.”

  He held my face in his hands, imploring me. “What happened to you?”

  It was a simple question, one of which I’d been avoiding answering for years, masking it under a façade of righteous purpose. But one look in his eyes and I unraveled, the agony from hidden shame bubbled up out of me. “She had me feed the baby poison, but I swear I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”

  He tried to hold me still. “Who, sweetheart?”

  Desperation was making me wild. “You have to believe me. I swear I didn’t know.”

  “I do.”

  I covered his hands with my own, thankful that his grip was holding me together.

  “Tabitha.” The memory of her name tasted like bitter acid on my tongue. “Morton.” It was the first time I’d spoken her name out loud in fourteen years, though the burning animosity didn’t feel as fresh. I, my parents—we’d boxed that dirty secret away, adding ignorance and well-crafted lies to our family memories. But I couldn’t hide them anymore. I can’t protect and pretend and go about as though it didn’t happen. Detachment was what was separating us. “She was a friend of my mother’s.”

  Just admitting that eased the constricting panic in my lungs somewhat. “I was young, Adam. I didn’t know about such things. I was a self-absorbed teenager, not a mother. I would never…”

  He wiped my face, taking special care in my fragile state. He was built so much larger than me and yet he tended to me as if I were made of glass. He listened while I slowly explained about Mrs. Morton’s divorce and her odd behavior, which now made a whole hell of a lot more sense and should have been glaring signs of looming danger. At the time, I was clueless.

  I had expected his revulsion, but instead he just gazed at me impassively while untangling me from the ropes. “What happened? It’s okay. Just tell me.”

  “What did you do?” Tabitha Morton shrieked. “You killed her! You killed my baby!”

  My head swayed as I stepped back in time.

  “She was jealous, officer. She tried to punish me for hiring her little boy-crush to do yard work at my house. That has to be it. I left for two hours and she murdered my baby!”

  “She bought four gallons of antifreeze that day. Four. Made me carry each one from the car.” My breath hitched after each admission. “Hannah was only… she was only a year old.”

  Adam’s hands massaged over each spot he’d exposed, rubbing and soothing my skin. It was starting to feel wonderful, relaxing, but I didn’t deserve it. I’d never atone for my transgressions.

  “I didn’t know the signs of ethylene glycol poisoning. I thought… I babysat her all the time. I just thought the baby was sick.”

  He unwrapped the ropes around my ribs. “You didn’t know, Erin. How could you?”

  A chill ran through me; I was cold and exposed and completely naked.

  “So many children come in… neglected, beaten, sexually…” My throat constricted. “Sexually abused, malnourished.” It was hard to swallow. “Left in hot cars… poi… poisoned.”

  Adam tossed the length of rope aside and then brushed my hair over my shoulder. “You’re not like that, Erin. You could never be. Is that what scares you?”

  Oh God, yes.

  He must have sensed my discomfort because he grabbed the thin blanket from behind his head and pulled it around my shoulders.

  “Look at me. Tell me the truth. Let’s lay it all out. Did your mom ever hit you?”

  He was dead serious asking. Do I look as though I’ve been physically abused? Maybe he thinks…

  “No. Never.”

  He nodded once. “Your dad? He ever hurt you, or your sister?”

  “No. My parents never hit me or Kate. They yelled plenty but never smacked us or anything.”

  He pulled the front of the blanket together, covering my exposed chest. “Sweetheart, that’s my point. You didn’t come from an abusive home and neither did I. What makes you think that you’d ever be capable of doing that to yours?”

  He didn’t understand. “Why does it happen then? So many women just snap. They lose their minds. I’m sure not all of them came from abusive homes or whatever, but they do it anyway.”

  “You have a fear. I get that. But you’ve also dedicated your entire life to taking care of sick people. You honestly think you’d turn into the exact opposite of who you are now? I can’t see that happening, Doc.”

  “She poisoned her baby, Adam. Medical exam said it had been going on for a little while. She kept on adding it little by little to her formula and then every time I babysat she’d have me feed it to Hannah so it looked like I was the one trying to kill her. Mrs. Morton didn’t seem psychotic, but she was. Her new boyfriend didn’t even know she had a kid at home.”

  Adam rested his hands on my upper arms. “You’ll never be like that, Erin.”

  “How can you be so sure?”

  His mouth smashed into a hard line. “You remember a few weeks ago when I had that head cold? One sign of a sniffle and you were all up over here with vitamins and saline shit for my nose, making soup and hot tea for me. Remember?”

  He’d really had an upper respiratory infection which I was worried might turn into Bronchitis when he started coughing. Then he’d need corticosteroids and…

  “Erin, remember?”

  “Yeah. So?”

  “My own mother never made a steam tent with a towel for me, Doc. You think someone who would do all of that for a grown man would be capable of doing any less for an infant she grew in her own body?”

  His brow tipped up.

  My mouth poised to argue but I had nothing. “But…” Oh hell. Was I really this pathetic?

  The reality of my fears felt heavy, making my shoulders slump. Defeat was exhausting. And there he was, completely naked underneath me, still giving a shit. His compassion for my mental breakdown was written all over his face.

  I rubbed the bands of rope still around my calf between my fingers. “What are these ropes made out of anyway?”

  Adam dropped his gaze.

  “You put truth serum on them or something?”

  He chuckled softly, tracing the braid under his hand. “Something like that.”

  I took a few regrouping breaths, relieved to see the severity that marred his face earlier had subsided. That’s when it dawned on me. Not only did the truth spill out of me while bound in his magical rope, so did his.

  I traced my finger around the curve of his pectoral, delving into the area of his heart, circling the spot. “You really want children, don’t you?”

  He met my eyes. “Yes. Eventually.” He covered my hand with his, pressing it flush to his warm skin. His other hand reached up, his thumb softly brushing the edge of my jaw. “But I want to have them with you.”

  “Even after all of that?”

  “Yes. We may have to live with our guilt, Erin, but together we won’t let it define us.”

  I didn’t know what I’d done to deserve this man but I now knew I’d kill to keep it. Both of us, damaged and flawed, and yet together we were more than the sum of our fears.

  Words he’d spoken to me rang true and snapped all the pieces together—he made me want to be a better woman.

is what love was truly all about.

  TABITHA MORTON HAD been indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child, and four counts of providing false information to police.

  I scrolled down the screen, seeing justice had been served when she’d been sentenced to life behind bars. Erin had been named as a witness for the prosecution but all other information and original charges had been expunged from record.

  Good. That’s good.

  I rubbed my forehead, imagining her at sixteen, scared shitless, facing murder charges. And now she was dating a cop who loved seeing her wearing his handcuffs. That was something I’d have to curb going forward. I probably forced her to relive some dark moments while testing her limits.

  “Erin all moved out?”

  Marcus leaned on the cubical wall divider behind me, coffee mug in hand.

  I closed the link to the judicial system web portal. “Yeah. Got everything out yesterday.”

  “Sorry I couldn’t help ya.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Now that they extended the hours at the bank, Cherise has been working every other Saturday.”

  “No worries, man. We had enough help. She didn’t have that much shit actually.”

  “You sure about moving her into your place?”

  “I moved her into my house; her furniture and stuff is all in storage.”

  Marcus tossed his eyes. “That’s not what I mean.”

  “I know what you mean.” I wasn’t stupid. “Let me ask you a question—were you sure about marrying Cherise when you did?”

  His eyes widened a smidgen. “You at that point already?”

  I leaned back in my chair. “No. Just trying to make a point.”

  Marcus bobbed his head. “When you know, you just know.”

  “There you have it.”

  “You ready for marriage? That takes shit to a whole new level.”

  The rickety chair protested when I leaned back farther. “Slow down and let me enjoy living in sin for a while. We got time. For now, going to sleep and waking up just got a whole lot nicer.”

  “Yeah, well. Enjoy that shit while it’s nice. We’ll have this conversation again when your balls are blue from too much hallway sex.”

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