Except I don’t want it yet. Because I’ve decided what I want to tell him later. Not all of it. But most. Because I do trust him. And I want him to understand me.

And so I will hold back my release as an enticement. My reward for sharing a secret.

“Jackson,” I say, as he brings me so very close. “Stop.” I twine my fingers in his hair and pull him up.

He looks at me with a question in those heat-filled eyes.

“I want to stay here. On the edge. I like it. I don’t want to go over yet.”

“Don’t you? I’ll remember that.”

I swallow, wondering what sort of sensual door I’ve just opened.

“The thing is,” I continue, “you never got your kiss for tattoo number two. And since I don’t think I’m qualified to keep an eye on the ship, I think you need to go sit in the captain’s chair.”

“Do I?”

I just smile innocently.

He laughs, but complies, and I follow him a moment later to the top deck. The chair is upholstered and reminds me of the bucket seats in luxury SUVs, with armrests that rise and descend. It’s on a swivel base, and right now, it is facing forward and Jackson’s hand rests on the wheel. The lights of Catalina are behind us, and I can see Santa Cortez getting bigger in the distance.

“How much longer?”

“About half an hour,” he says.

“Good,” I say, then shift his chair. I get on my knees and press my hand against his crotch, my face tilted up to his. I want to tell him that he makes me feel safe. That I trust him. But the words don’t come.

I hope that he will understand from my actions.

I drop my gaze and concentrate on his jeans. Slowly, I unbutton his fly, then free his cock. He’s hard and huge, and I want this. Want to taste him. Want to feel his excitement building. I need to give this to him, this man who has given me so much already.

I need to give him this pleasure before I give him the harsh reality of my secrets.

I use the tip of my tongue to tease him. I keep one hand on his thigh, but circle his cock with the other, and I can feel the way his muscles tighten. The way he shifts in the seat as he silently demands more. I feel it, and I like it. This sense of power. Of knowing that I’m leading him someplace sublime.

I can’t take all of him, I know. But I draw him in, using my tongue and my hand to stroke and tease, keeping my mouth tight and sucking, trying to take him to the edge and growing more and more aroused with each small sound he makes. With the feel of his fingers tightening in my hair. With the way his cock tightens in my mouth and twitches as he comes close, so very close.

“Stop.” His voice is a low demand, and he pulls me gently up. I release him reluctantly, but rise to kiss him, thrusting my tongue in his mouth, letting him taste his own pleasure.

“Are you sure?” I ask when I break the kiss.

“I want to be on the edge, too.”

“Oh, really?”

“I have plans for you,” he says.

“Isn’t that interesting?”

“Come here,” he says, and draws me into his lap. The armrest is down, and I’m cradled in his arms. I’m a little cold from the wind, but I don’t want to move to get the blanket. Instead, I snuggle closer, then sigh when he uses the control button on the dashboard to turn up the deck heaters aimed at the captain’s chair before wrapping his arms around me.

I feel warm and safe and protected, and begin speaking as if sharing this with him is the most natural thing in the world. “There’s more, you know. About Bob, I mean.”

His body tightens under mine, and when he speaks I can hear the precision in his voice, as if he has carefully chosen his words. “Do you want to tell me?”

“I don’t know that I want to, but I think I need to.” I look up at him just long enough to draw strength from the way he is looking at me. Then I snuggle against his chest, because it is easier to talk that way, when I am wrapped up warm in his arms.

“It was rape, what he did. I know that. But I don’t think I gave you the right impression when I told you the story before. It wasn’t—you know—he didn’t force me.”

“He seduced you,” Jackson says, his voice full of vitriol. “If that’s what you call that kind of behavior with a fourteen-year-old girl.”

I nod, feeling all of fourteen again. “He would touch me when he was adjusting a costume. He’d tell me I was pretty. That he wanted to touch my hair. That he just wanted to show me off.” My mouth feels full of cotton, but I press on, because I want to get it all out. For some reason, right now telling Jackson seems like the most important thing in the world. “Lots of that. Pretty words. And reasons why his staff couldn’t stay. And then he’d—”

Tags: J. Kenner Stark International Trilogy Romance
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