Page 29 of Hardline (Hacker 3)

My stomach tightened with that familiar urge to run, to push him away. I didn’t know if I could ever give him the kind of control he wanted. What if I couldn’t, ever?

“What are you saying?”

“I'm saying that you've said you want me, all of me. And this is who I am. The shit that went down with Daniel…and now James. Nothing like that can happen ever again.”

“I don't want it to,” I insisted.

“And I'll guarantee that it doesn't.”

My jaw fell open a fraction, the words lost in what he was saying. He had to know how impossible it was, what he was asking of me. Why couldn’t dominating me in the bedroom be enough?

“Is this about me being your submissive? You want me to play some Dom/sub game with you? That's fine, Blake. I’ll beg, I’ll kneel, but I'm not letting it trickle into my professional life. I have boundaries, and you need to understand that.”

“This isn't a game for me. And that way of thinking is exactly the problem.”

He took a step closer, leveling me with his eyes. Defensively, I leaned back, now pressed firmly against the door. He rested his hands on either side of me, our bodies nearly touching, not giving me an inch. I couldn’t think straight this way, this close. He held me in his steady gaze, no shred of doubt to be found there. His voice was low when he spoke again.

“How does it feel, Erica, when you give me control?”

That was a loaded question, but I could tell we were no longer talking about Daniel or James. His countenance had softened, the hard intensity there morphing into something else. Something sexual. No less intense, the energy was palpable. It resonated between us, lighting sparks over my skin everywhere he touched. A fingertip over the bow of my mouth, his thumb on the racing pulse at my neck. God, I wanted his hands everywhere now.

“You let everything go, and it feels good, doesn’t it? To know I’m taking care of you, of us. That no matter what, I’ll get us there.”

He grazed his hand lower, his palm skimming over my breast and down my torso, as if he were marking all the places that were his domain. On my body, the places were many.

“Have I ever left you unsatisfied? Has there ever been a time between us, no matter how far I've pushed you, when you haven't begged for more? When you haven’t come hard screaming my name? Tell me if you haven't.”

My breath left me and I struggled to replace it. I shook my head, knowing the answer as well as he did. Heat prickled under my skin and pulsed between my legs at the reminder of what he could do to my body, the power he wielded so easily. That kind of domination I could embrace. In fact I didn’t want that part of him to change, ever.

He leaned in. The smallest brush of his mouth teased my lips. I arched up to meet him fully but he pulled back, leaving me wanting, dizzy with it. I drew in a shaky breath, trying to get sober from this spell he’d put me under. With promises of the control I was already a slave to, he was luring me into something that meant far more.

“What are you doing to me?”

“Showing you what you want, what we need.”

“You know that's not what this is about. I know I can give you anything and you’ll be there for me. But you can’t... you can’t hold me down, stake your claim over me, and expect me to let you own me.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Is that so? That’s not what you said the other night. I heard the words, loud and clear.”

“As if you gave me any choice. Dangle me on the edge of an orgasm like that and I’ll tell you you’re the emperor of Rome.”

“You don’t want to be owned, is that it? You don’t want to belong to me as much as I want to belong to you, is that right?”

A dull ache began in my chest at the words. I couldn’t resolve what he was saying with the fears I couldn’t seem to shake about someone else controlling my life.

“I've never had to rely on anyone, answer to anyone. You know this, and you keep trying to change me, as if somehow I can turn that off.”

“If you marry me, that is going to change. Permanently.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you come to me before you even begin to consider making a rash decision. It means you involve me so I can make sure you do, which includes removing James from your business. It means you ask me for help when you need it, and you don't keep secrets from me, ever. And when a situation arises that makes more sense for me to manage, you let me. No matter what.”

He leaned in close again, his serious gaze flickering over my features, tracing a soft line down my jawline. When he spoke again, his voice was a whisper.

“It means that every waking breath you take, every step you take, you don't just take to move your own life forward, but ours. You take it knowing I'm right there with you, irrevocably tied to every decision you make.”

My chest ached with the effort to fill my lungs with a full breath. One after the next as I grappled with what he was saying. He wasn’t giving me room to run, to fight, nothing.

“I—I feel like you're giving me an ultimatum.”

My eyes were wide as I questioned him, hoping I was reading this all wrong. The serious look in his eye answered me before he could.

“I want it all, Erica. I won't accept any less. Wrap your head around it, or—”

I tried to still the tremble that worked its way through me. How could he ask me this? Threaten me with our relationship? I felt like a caged animal who’d been backed into a corner.

“Or what?” The words came out sharp, laced with challenge.

His hold on my waist tightened, mimicking the restless working of his jaw. Before I could gauge how pissed he was at my challenge, his lips crashed down onto mine. Now hard and demanding, he sought entrance. I opened for him, barely prepared for the devouring passion of his tongue. Curses rumbled through his chest, muffled in the wild merging of our mouths. The onslaught of his fervency shot through me, revving all my instincts to return his passion.

I kissed him back, fisting my hands in his shirt to urge us together. Tongues tangling, teeth biting, we melded hotly into each other. Pinned by his hips, I felt the unmistakable stirring of his erection pressed against me. He palmed my thigh, raising the hem of my skirt high, making no mistake about what he wanted from me. I sucked in a sharp breath, stifling the loud moan that wanted to burst from my lips when I exhaled.

He slipped his hand between my legs, rubbing me through my panties, making me crazy for him. A small moan escaped, pleasure overwhelming the rational part of my brain that knew we were in the wrong place for this. My body didn’t care when I was in his clutches.