“It’s just you and me,” he assured her.


She stiffened, didn’t turn to look at him. “I passed out.”

“Yes.”

“You caught me? Carried me to the bed?”

“Yes.” Be gentle with her. He’d once thought her tough, but now he suspected she was more fragile than any other woman he’d dealt with before. “Will you tell me what panicked you so badly? Please.”

Still she did not face him. “Nothing good will come of telling you.”

“How do you know? Have you talked about this with someone else?”

“No,” she admitted hesitantly.

“Then try me.”

“You first. Tell me something about you. Something humiliating.”

The rosy waves of her hair tumbled down her back like a waterfall of silk. He reached out and sifted his needy fingers through them. “All right,” he said.

Finally she twisted and eyed him. There was shock in her gaze. Shock that was soon hidden as her eyes narrowed. “I’ll know if you’re lying.”

He didn’t see how, but he said, “Which means you’ll also know if I’m telling the truth.” He settled on his back and locked his hands behind his head to keep from dragging her into his aching body. She wasn’t ready for that kind of contact. Right now she resembled a snake ready to sink poisonous fangs into its prey. “What would you like to know about? One of my former girlfriends or my job?”

“Both.” She flattened a hand on the mattress, the tips of her fingers brushing his hip.

He had to bite his tongue to hold back a plea for more. He couldn’t hide the twitching of his cock, though. Being near her, breathing in her sweet scent, aroused him more than being inside another woman. Why, he still didn’t know. But there it was.

“I went undercover once,” he said. “I was chosen because I’m good at getting answers out of the most closemouthed of people.”

She pffed. “That tidbit is in your file, but I have to admit I haven’t seen this so-called ability of yours. You learned nothing new from the Schön.”

Jaxon didn’t respond; he didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that he would soon have Mishka revealing her darkest secrets. Secrets she’d probably never shared with another.

How was that for skill?

“You want to hear this or not?”

She gave an imperial wave of her hand.

He wanted to kiss the pouty expression off her face. “As you probably know, some species, for whatever reason, are purely sexual.”

She gave a very stiff nod as her gaze darted away from him.

More telling than she realized.

“I was sent into an interspecies bondage club. As a submissive.” He paused to give his words time to sink in. “My target liked human men, so I allowed myself to be used by her to gain access into her fortress of a home.”

Once again, Le’Ace stopped breathing. This time, however, it had nothing to do with panic but with…hope? Hope that someone might understand her? Might care, might sympathize?

She hadn’t given permission yet, but he reached out anyway and curled his fingers around the base of her neck. With a tug, he had her lying beside him, her head buried in the hollow of his neck. She didn’t protest.

No, she snuggled closer.

“You screwed her?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Were you disgusted with yourself?”

“Yes, but not because I felt violated or anything like that. I went home and threw up because I had liked it, found pleasure in it. I let a criminal use me in every way you can imagine and I came. Over and over again.”

“Truth,” she breathed, her shock mixed with wonder. “Have you acted as a submissive since? Of your own volition?”

“No. Actually, I reverted to old habits and slept with as many women as possible. Prostitutes mostly, women who let me be in complete control. A bit later, I met Cathy. She was as feminine a female I could find, all into pink and glitter and ruffles, and very unassuming in bed. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to her and kept me by her side for so long. She didn’t remind me of my shameful behavior.”

“Do I?” Mishka asked without missing a beat.

“No.” And that was the truth. Not because she was unassuming, but because, with her, Jaxon so badly yearned to stake a claim. To possess. Nothing else seemed to matter. He’d take her however he could get her. If she wanted to tie him up and whip him, he’d agree. If she wanted lights out, missionary, he’d agree to that, too. “This is the only time I’ve even thought about the bondage club since meeting you. To be honest, you’ve been my single focus.”

Silence surrounded them for a long while. She was thinking, lost in her thoughts. He waited.

She began drawing circles on his chest. If he’d had the power, he would have stripped away his shirt with a single thought. As it was, he could feel the heat of her fingers like a live wire, sending tiny flickers of electricity through him.

Then she spoke.

“I live because I’m allowed to live. I’m a slave.” Next, a horrendous story of subjugation, her own sort of bondage—a computer chip that controlled whether she lived or died and the man who pulled her strings—flowed from her.

Jaxon listened in horror, in fury, in helplessness. By the end, he was seething with the emotions, drenched in them. What she told him was worse than anything he could have imagined. Those men had treated Le’Ace like an animal. They had controlled her actions like puppeteers. They’d threatened, they’d punished, they’d exploited.

One still did.

Jaxon’s arms tightened around her, pulling her so close her heart was positioned just above his, beating in sync. He didn’t know what to say. Knew there was nothing he could say to make up for the wrongs done to her. The wrongs still being done.

“Mishka,” he said, wanting to try.

“I’m fine. I’ll be fine. I always am.” She chuckled, the sound a little shaky.

Trying to comfort him? He sighed, the breath causing several strands of her hair to lift. On his next inhale, they fell onto his chin, tickling. “Is there any way to remove the chip?”

“Not without killing me.”

“How do you know?”

“They told me.”

“And you trust them?”

She did not have an answer.

“Any way to steal or disable the control panel?”

“I’m sure there is, but I haven’t found it. And believe me, I’ve looked.”

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