His eyes meet mine with heat and possessiveness that match his touch, and I’m all for being possessed right now. He was right. He will own me, and I might just like it. He leans down, his blond hair tickling my skin, his tongue lapping at the other nipple before he draws it deeply into his mouth. I grab his head and hold him to me. When he lifts his head, his mouth finds mine, kissing me deeply, passionately before he licks the other ball and places it on my swollen nipple.

The intercom buzzes, and he surprises me by hitting the button. “Jacob from Walker Security would like to see you,” Beverly announces.


“Send him back,” Mark replies.

“What?” I say. “No!” I try to move away but he holds me. “I didn’t lock the door, Mark!”

“We’re done.” He pulls my bra up and zips my dress. “And now, Ms. Smith, every time your nipples chafe, think about all the ways I might fuck you when we get home.”

A knock sounds on the door.

“Come in,” Mark calls, and I glower at him as I stand up.

“I was not ready.”

“You will be, though, I promise.” He smiles.

“You really are an asshole, Mark Compton.”

He laughs as Jacob enters.

“I hear you might want to leave early. What time were you thinking?”

“I believe we’re ready now,” Mark replies.

* * *

We exit Riptide to a fresh crush of reporters that slams us with reality, leaving fantasy back in Mark’s office. By the time Jacob has us en route to the NYU athletic facility off Fourteenth Street, Mark’s mood is notably darker. Whatever he’s facing tonight from his past has clearly hit him. He’s reserved, barely speaking to Jacob, but I’m encouraged by the way he keeps me close, molding our legs and hips together, his fingers resting on the inside of my knee.

Jacob parks by a side door near a gymnasium and exits the vehicle, but Mark remains where he is, all hard lines and tension. I silently settle my hand on his leg. Baseball is clearly a part of the past he doesn’t want to revisit, but can’t escape. I wonder if that’s the reason he moved to San Francisco, and not his need for individual success outside the umbrella of Riptide and his mother.

He finally seems to shake himself into action. “Leave your coat here,” he says, shrugging out of his own. “You won’t want to deal with it inside.” After helping me with mine, he opens the door. Stepping outside, he guides me out of the backseat and into the cold, dry night. My hand settles on his chest, his erratic heartbeat thrumming beneath my palm.

“When was the last time you were here?” I ask.

“Ten years ago.”

It’s a number I’ve heard him mention on numerous occasions, and it stirs many questions that I don’t ask. He’s fighting some internal battle, and he’s trusted me enough to allow me here with him. He’ll talk when he’s ready to.

“Have you gone to your father’s games?”

“Yes. But I stay away from here.” His hands come down on my shoulders. “I’m going to want to touch you in there.”

It’s an admission that this trip is stirring his inner demons, and I want to help him. “Then touch me.”

“I’m certain my mother doesn’t know about us. She’d have already said something to me, and probably you as well. Let’s hold off until tomorrow.”

“We should go inside,” Jacob says, glancing around us, reminding me of the danger Mark is certain exists.

Mark scoops my hand from his chest and surprises me by bringing it to his lips and kissing it. The tiny act of tenderness reveals so much about what’s beneath his steely shell.

Jacob joins us and we walk to the door. Inside the small hallway, a guard assigns us badges. I hear Mark inhale a moment before we round the corner, and in unison we stop and take in the view before us. In the center of a yellowish orange floor is a catcher in full gear, kneeling in front of a huge net while a pitcher throws him a fastball. A half dozen players in uniforms are lined up to the left and watch the action. Mark’s father, dressed in jeans and a team shirt, is standing a few feet from the players with two other men in similar attire, apparently other coaches. On the opposite side of the room, Dana and Kara are seated in cushy folding chairs rather than on the hard bleachers, with a few extra chairs waiting for us.

Dana spots us and waves, her expression lightening and her energy level remarkably high. I lean in closer to Mark. “Her nurse thinks that her sleeping all the time has been more about depression than physical exhaustion. I’m beginning to think she was right, and you were the cure.”

“Whatever the case, it’s good to see her looking better.” He steps backward to where Jacob is talking to the guard, and I watch them huddle together before Jacob disappears out the door. Mark turns and his father spots us, waving his greeting as well. We both wave back and Mark rejoins me.

“Everything okay?” I ask.

“It’d be better if I was licking you all over right now.”

His hand comes down on my lower back, scorching me with erotic promise as he urges me forward, my nipples swelling beneath the soft plastic enclosing them. I want him suddenly, intensely, and I’m sure it shows on my face.

I step away and he laughs, low and deep. “Problem?”

“I thought we weren’t touching?”

“I cheated.”

Pleased that he’s being playful, I egg him on. “I’m going to make you pay for teasing me.”

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