He doesn’t respond in kind, instead he glances at the selection of sex toys. “And this is how you intend to prove it?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

There is no reading his expression, and I’m both nervous and frustrated. I want his forgiveness. I want his touch.

I want him, plain and simple.

And right now I have no idea how I will survive if he tells me to get off his boat.

“You don’t need all of this.”

“Are you saying you want me to leave?”

Something like pain slashes across his face. “God, no.”

“Then this is what I need, Jackson. You said so yourself.”

“Sylvia—”

“Dammit, I’m not breakable. I need you to know how much I trust you. This is what I want.” I pick up the paddle. “I fucked up, Jackson. Don’t you want to spank me?”

I close the distance between us, then breathe in the scent of him, all soap and shampoo as I watch the fire flare in his eyes. He takes the paddle from me and tosses it onto the bed, then grabs my wrist and pulls me close. “Don’t you get it? I pushed you in Atlanta and you ran.”

“We talked about this on the way to Malibu. About why I ran. About what I was running from. You’re the one who said it. Bondage. Kink. Toys. That’s what you promised me. And you were right.”

“That was before—”

“Before I told you the full story?”

I see the affirmation in his eyes. “I don’t want to push too hard,” he says.

“I want you to push,” I counter. “I want you to push harder and farther. I want you to take me as far as you want, as far as you need. You’re holding back because you think I need you to. Reining in what you want. Who you are. Control and power, remember? That’s what you told me you are.”

He says nothing, so I rush on.

“You said you could anchor me. That I get off on being used, but only by someone I trust. That you like control. That it makes you hot and hard.” I take a breath and try to slow down. “You told me you wanted me to submit to you. Do you still want that?”

“Desperately.” The word sounds as though it’s been ripped from him. “But I’ll tell you again what I said before. Not if the price is breaking you.”

“You won’t. You can’t.” I slide my arms around his waist and tilt my head back so that I can look at him. At this man who is strong enough to hold back so that he doesn’t hurt me. “You’re my glue, Jackson. My glue, my knight, my hero.”

“That’s a lot of responsibility.”

I narrow my eyes and grin, because I’ve finally heard the acquiescence in his voice. “Can you handle it?”

“I think I can struggle through.”

“Then we start slow,” I say. “But we go large.”

He takes a step back so that he can see all of me with just a flick of his gaze, from my heels all the way up to my eyes. “What do you have on under my shirt?”

“Nothing.”

His eyes darken with the kind of passionate promise that makes my sex clench in anticipation. He walks around me slowly, and though I don’t move, I can feel his eyes upon me, and every inch of my body tingles with awareness.

He moves to the bed and retrieves the paddle he’d thrown there only moments before. “You have been naughty. But I don’t want this.”

I’m surprised by the wave of disappointment that crashes over me. I’m not sure how I can miss something I haven’t yet experienced, but I cannot deny that I want it. Like a tattoo, I want Jackson to mark me, and I am about to confess that to him when he steps up behind me and bends his mouth to my ear. “When I spank you, sweetheart, it will be my palm on your ass. Not leather. Not a tool. Nothing at all between you and me. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you been bad?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I should have trusted you.”

“Do you trust me now?”

I turn, because I need to see him. “Completely.”

My answer seems to spark something in him, because he grabs my shoulders and pulls me close, as if he is going to kiss me. He doesn’t, though, and the anticipation leaves me breathless. When he backs away to sit on the storage bench at the foot of the bed, I am left gasping from the force of my rising desire.

“Here,” he says. “Over my knee.”

I do as he says, positioning myself across his lap so that my rear end is right there for him. And, I realize with interest, I can feel his erection beneath the towel as it presses against me—and right now he is fully aroused, as turned on by this as I am.


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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