Page 20 of Hardline (Hacker 3)


The order settled into the silence between us. The word physically chilled me, a shiver working its way up my spine.

“Blake, I don’t understand...”

He unbuttoned his shirt, unhurriedly pulling it loose from his pants. “I want you to strip down. Naked, here in the middle of the room.”

“Why...why are you so upset with me?”

The smooth veneer of his controlled expression broke. A frustrating grimace revealed his teeth. “Goddamnit, Erica. I’ll get another room, and I’ll be on the first plane out of here in the morning. You can sleep alone and go home alone. If that’s what you want, you should test me now. See how much room I’ll give you.”

His skin reddened. Had he ever been this angry with me? But why? His jaw ticked, the muscle bulging as he waited for me to react. I opened my mouth to speak, but I couldn’t. I had no idea what I was defending myself against. What had taken us from an enjoyable evening to being swept up in the tornado of this unexpected rage?

As if in answer to my unspoken question, he spoke in low and measured tones. “Risa let me know about James. Remember, your little rendezvous outside the office after I dropped her off? Sounds like things got pretty heated between the two of you.” He cocked his head a fraction. “Assuming there’s some weight to that story.”

No. No, this wasn’t happening.

My eyes blurred with the sting of the tears I held back. I was paralyzed. Without consideration, I would have done anything to stop where this was going.

He tossed his shirt aside and came toward me.

“Was it as steamy as the beach? I seem to recall you being pretty worked up after that.”

“Blake,” I pleaded. He was twisting everything. Goddamn her for doing this to me, to us.

He stood in front of me, staring down into my eyes. He seemed taller, more intimidating than I’d ever remembered. I lowered my shoulders, his posture seeming to demand that I do.

“Is it not true? Tell me it’s not true.”

I snapped my jaw shut. Anything I said now would be futile. He wasn’t interested in my excuses.

He threaded his fingers into my hair, gripping it by the roots to pull me an inch closer. I whimpered at the small pain. My hands found his chest, the leverage holding me up as my knees weakened slightly. The heat of his skin nearly burned mine. He leaned in so I could feel his breath in my hair, against my neck. I could smell him—the man I loved who maybe hated me now.

“Strip.” The venom in his voice was now replaced with a dangerous determination that prickled under my skin. “And kneel.”

My eyes fell shut. I exhaled sharply, already feeling stripped by his words. I wanted to cry, but I remembered his threat. That he’d leave me. Maybe only for a night, but the thought of him leaving in the midst of all this terrified me. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t already considering leaving me completely.

He released his grip. I nearly stumbled as he moved away. I looked down at my feet, my hands sliding restlessly against my dress. Without thinking, because I couldn’t make sense of anything right now, I kicked off my heels, one after the other. My fingers went to the knot holding my dress across my body. I fumbled with it, my hands trembling badly now. I loosened it and let the dress fall to the floor around me. Sensing the seconds ticking by and knowing he was counting them, waiting, I quickly released my bra and slid my panties down.

I stood there, starkly naked. The silence stretched between us. I lifted my head to find him. Eyes that stormed with emotion seemed to bark the order in the silence of the room.

With the unspoken command, I lowered, resting shaky hands on my knees. A voice in my head screamed that I shouldn’t have to, not this way, answered by another that told me I deserved every minute of it. Either way, I couldn’t let him leave me, and if I had to kneel to make him stay, I would.


I stared at the carpeted floor in front of me. This was what he wanted from me. When I wanted to ask why, when I wanted to fight it, Blake’s words echoed in my mind.

Total submission. Total control over your pleasure and pain.

He wanted submission. He didn’t want to explain himself. I could say sorry. We could talk it out, fight it out, but this is what he wanted now. Maybe it’s what I needed too. That tornado of our bodies crashing together, silencing the rest of the world. Except he was furious, and I hated to see that look in his eyes knowing I’d put it there.

He crouched down in front of me, but I kept my eyes down, focusing on his shoes, the way his slacks strained against his muscled thighs. God, but the man was gorgeous. Even when he was angry as hell.

His hand graced my cheek, eliciting a shiver that traveled up my spine.

“If I wasn’t so pissed off right now, I might be impressed with you, Erica. My little submissive is finally learning. We’ll see how long you can keep it up, because you’re going to get the punishment of a lifetime tonight. Do you think you can take it?”

I lifted my head, my eyes narrowing. The fighter in me threatened to spout off to him. I inhaled a slow, steadying breath through my nose. Ride out the storm.

“Still don’t want a safe word?”

My chest fought to expand over my next breath. I took another quickly and shook my head, casting my eyes down again. Stupidly, I assured myself that committing myself to one would give him license to make me want to use it.

He brushed his fingertips over my lips, sending a tingle over them.

“He kissed you. Did you kiss him back?”

I sucked in a breath through my now quivering lips.

“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not in the mood to repeat myself tonight. Did you kiss him back?”

“Yes, I...I kissed him back.” The words left a sour taste in my mouth. Why? Why had I let myself wander so damn far? A tinge of nausea hit my stomach at the thought I could lose Blake over that one stupid moment.

“Was he in your mouth?”

I waited a second and nodded again, the sickness reeling through me now. His touch feathered down to my breasts, cupping the heavy weight of one.

“What about his hands? How could he resist these perfect tits when his tongue was in your mouth? Did he touch you here?”

He gave my nipple a tug, eliciting a whimper.

“I don’t know. No.”

Lowering, his palm skimmed over my belly until he was between my parted legs. He grazed the lips of my pussy, barely touching me.


“No,” I insisted.