“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “Usually when I’m upset or need to think I go to the Getty Center. I probably spent half my time in high school there.”

“But not last night.”

“No.” I frown, because the question hadn’t occurred to me. It had just seemed natural to go into the hills. To drive fast. “I was scared. I was running. I wasn’t thinking.”

“And yet you ran to Mulholland. Curves and hills and no guardrails. Sounds pretty scary, too.”

“Your inner psychologist is showing,” I say.

He laughs. “Perhaps. And perhaps I’m right. Maybe you were conquering fear with fear.”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” I hug myself, not really in the mood to be picked apart. “Why does it matter?”

“Because I think you were being smart.” He cocks his head, his blue eyes just a little devious. “Because we’re going to push you, Syl. Fight fear with fear. Take control by giving control.”

I shake my head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Then let me show you.” He steps back, then looks me up and down. “Take off your clothes.”

I see the heat in his eyes and hear the command in his voice and realize that he’s not kidding. Prickles of excitement skitter over me, but I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”

“No? That’s not the way this works, Sylvia. I tell you to get naked, and you do. I tell you to suck my cock, and you get on your knees.”

His voice is firm, commanding, and I take a step backward, shaking my head in both denial of his words and in defense against the way my body heats in response. “What kind of game are you playing, Jackson?”

“The only kind I ever play. Mine.” He crooks his finger. “Come here, baby. I want to show you something.”

I hesitate, and he laughs.

“Come on,” he urges. “I promise I don’t bite hard.”

I hear the echo from our past—the words he’d teased me with in Atlanta—and I move toward him.

“Good girl,” he says, meeting me, then pulling me into his arms so that my back is pressed to his chest and one of his arms holds me tight around the waist as we look out over the ocean.

“Beautiful,” he says, even as his free hand slowly tugs my skirt up.

“What are you doing?”

“Wait.” He kisses my ear, sending shock waves of pleasure through me at the same time his fingers find my panties. He slides his hand down, cupping my sex, then growling low and deep when he finds me hot and wet and ready.

He slides his fingers deep inside me, and I moan with pleasure even as my knees go weak.

He bends his head to whisper in my ear. “And that, beautiful, proves my point.”

“I—what?”

I turn in his arms. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

“You like feeling used, Sylvia,” he says, and I immediately shake my head.

“The hell I do. I—”

The press of his finger to my lips silences me.

“I told you to strip. Told you that it was my prerogative to order you to suck me off. And baby, that didn’t just make you wet, you’re so aroused I bet it’s painful.”

I say nothing; he’s hit just a little too close to the truth.

“You get off on submitting. On giving up control to a man. But you remember the shit that sick fuck did to you—how he took control, how he made you do things against your will—and it makes you ashamed when you get turned on, and that’s when the nightmares come.”

I hug my arms tight around myself, not liking his words and not understanding how he can be so damn perceptive. But so far he’s not saying a thing that I can argue with.

“But it’s not the same with me, baby. Bob stole your control. I haven’t. I’m calling it being used because that’s how you see it, but that’s not really true. It’s giving yourself over in trust. He took from you, baby. You didn’t give him a goddamn thing. But when you submit to me, you give me everything.”

I do not move. I do not speak. I just stand there as he peels apart the layers of my life, hoping that he truly understands what he’s seeing.

“So we’re going to do exactly what I told you yesterday. You’re mine, Sylvia. Wholly and completely. You’re ready for me when I say and how I say. You’re mine to pleasure. To take. To fuck. Do you understand me?”

“You said we were breaking that deal.”

“And we did. The first time around I was taking. This time, I want you to give control to me. Willingly, sweetheart. Hell, even enthusiastically. Because I promise you, I will make it worthwhile.”


Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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