I didn’t complain, even though it was a bit of a struggle to breath like that. But I liked his weight on top of me. I relished it. When he did finally roll off of me, it was only to lay plastered to my side, a heavy arm thrown over me.

We didn’t speak for long minutes, and I felt a sleepy fog invading my senses. But something was nagging at me, a persistent thought that I wanted to clear between us before exhaustion took me.

“Do you feel used by me?” I asked him suddenly.

He rose on an elbow to meet my eyes squarely. His studied mine, looking sad. It made me feel a little sad just to see it.

“I don’t,” he said after a long pause. “I worry that you don’t care for me, not like I care for you. I worry that you aren’t able to return my feelings. And I realize that, for the first time in my life, I would let you use me, however you wanted, if it came to that. If that’s all I could get from you, I would take it.”

I stroked his cheek, feeling an almost uncontrollable need to reassure him. “I do care for you. It scares me sometimes, the way I feel.” My voice was a whisper. It was all I could manage.

His eyes closed and he pressed his cheek into my hand, looking relieved but still almost anguished, all at once. It was hard to look at him, his face was so raw with emotions.

“Then live with me,” he said softly. “Be with me. Swear you’ll never leave me.”

I sighed heavily, but I knew him well enough to know that he couldn’t help but be so demanding. I’d given him a confession of sorts, and it was his first and strongest instinct to press forward and use it to his advantage. I had known, just known, that he would. When I gave, he took more, it was what both drew me to him, and terrified me about him.

“We need to be rational adults about this, James. Let’s start by trying to be together, trying to spend time together, when we can. I think that’s a good start. So, yes to the ‘be with you’ part. We’ll see on the rest.”

He arranged me against him for sleep, spooning me from behind, both of us lying on our sides how we slept. “Move in with me. We’ll be traveling so much that I’m not sure you’ll notice the difference, but say you’ll live with me. Just give me that much, and I’ll relent from pressing you for more, for the moment.”

Shockingly, his persistence actually just made me smile. That’s when I knew that I was well and truly sated. Or perhaps that was just an excuse for my sudden weakness. I made a conscious effort not to analyze it to death, and just thought about his request. What would it mean, to live together? It wasn’t a permanent step, right? I could always withdraw, if I panicked.

“I’m keeping my house. I worked my ass off for that house, and I’m keeping it,” I told him, shocked even as the words left my mouth, because I knew how he would take them, and it was, amazingly, actually how I meant them.

His arms squeezed me almost painfully from behind. “Of course. We can stay there when we’re in Las Vegas. Whatever you want. I’ll sell the other house in Vegas, if you prefer, though we should probably keep it for the stables, if you want to keep riding.”

I felt such a relief at my own acquiescence, at the world of relief that I heard in his voice and felt in his body, that it floored me. I had wanted this just as much as he had, I realized. I just hadn’t allowed myself to admit it.

“I do want to keep riding,” was all I said.

“Yes. Thank you, Bianca. You make me so happy. I never knew life could be like this,” he murmured into my hair. His voice was thick, as though with tears. I wasn’t brave enough to look back and see.

“So now you can’t propose, or do anything else crazy, since you said you’d relent if I agreed to live with you.”

He stiffened slightly as I spoke, and I was right there with him. My words had been a joke, because of course he wouldn’t propose, but they had made him tense up. That made me tense up.

“How long do I have to wait, then?” he asked, his tone earnest. “Give me a time frame, and I’ll respect it.”

The word ‘forever’ wanted to shoot out of my mouth, but I counted to ten, trying not to panic. “I can’t give you a time frame, James. I can’t even talk about it without having a panic attack. Let’s just enjoy the living together part, ok?”

He nuzzled against my hair, burrowing deep until he’d moved all the way into my neck. He kissed me there. “We’ll talk about it another time. I’ll give you time to grow accustomed to the idea.”

My exhausted body began to drift off, but not before I had the clear thought that he had somehow managed to get me to agree to one huge concession and still insisted on gaining some ground on yet another.

Impossible, dominant man.

CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

I blinked awake slowly. James was still spooned tightly behind me. And he had apparently been the thing that woke me up, as he murmured softly into my ear. He was saying sweet little things, an apology in his soft tone. “I’m sorry, my love. I’d let you sleep longer, I’d stay like this forever if I could, but I have to go to this thing, and I can’t bring myself to leave you. Please wake up.”

“I’m awake,” I told him in a voice rusty from sleep.

He kissed my hair. “Good.” He sat up, slipping away.

I made a loud sound of protest at his absence.

He laughed, and it was a carefree, happy sound.

I felt my face soften, my whole body softened, and a tender smile took over my face. Hearing such a happy sound come out of James made me happy. How not? I couldn’t imagine being immune to him.

I sat up sluggishly, watching him stride naked to the door of the bedroom. I was naked myself, and couldn’t even bring myself to cover up as I sat up, sitting cross-legged and just watching him move.

He opened the door, bent down and picked up a large covered tray. He shut the door again with his foot, carrying the tray to a large heavy dresser and setting it on top. He took off the lid, picking up two large plates and moving back to the bed. He handed me one, sitting close to me, cross-legged, to dig into his own.

It was a small portion of lightly seasoned salmon with a small cucumber ginger salad on the side. James scarfed it down in a few large bites, and I didn’t take much longer to finish mine.

“This feels decadent, eating in your bed,” I told him between bites.

He took my plate from me, smiling. He fed me the last few bites himself. “Our bed, love. Everything is ours now, remember.”

I gave him an arch look. That was something I didn’t think I’d ever really agree with. What was his was his. I felt no ownership for any of it, and couldn’t imagine a time when I would. But I knew it was pointless to argue with him, and I really wasn’t in the mood to, so I kept my silence.

James discarded our cleaned plates on the tray, covering it and shoving it back out of the room.

He dragged me into the bathroom, and then the shower, speaking more to me with smiles than words. He washed me as he washed himself, as though I was an extension of him. He even shampooed our hair at the same time, lathering my hair and then his. It was a strange thing, having someone tend to me like that, but I knew it was his preference, and I was growing to love it, as I loved everything he did to me.

He even lathered up my underarms and legs, shaving me expertly, bending down under the showers hard spray, without a qualm, to shave my legs. He even had and used the razor I preferred. The man didn’t miss a trick.

It was a quick shower, though it felt luxurious. He toweled us both dry afterwards, touching all of the marks he’d made on my body as he did so. He had insisted on leaving my choker on, even to shower, and he dried it carefully and thoroughly.

His eyes were enigmatic. If I read him right, he both loved and hated the marks he’d made on my body.

The angry little marks both fascinated and worried him. He pulled me to the bed, laying me down to rub nearly every inch of me with a creamy lotion.

“This is not the thing to start if you want us to leave your house tonight,” I told him rather breathlessly.

He smiled wickedly. “This is actually me not starting anything. And it’s our house.”

Impossible man.

He even dressed me, though not in much. He slid me into a tiny black thong, a strapless black bra, and a very short, very sheer black slip. He put on the large diamond hoop earrings that matched my collar.

“Did you see the changes I made to our room since the last time you saw it?” James asked as he pulled the slip over my head. He pulled on a pair of low slung black athletic shorts, his chest bare.

I glanced around. I hadn’t noticed much of anything since I’d come to his house. I had been more than a little distracted, with eyes only for James.

I saw my paintings almost immediately, once I started looking. He had two of my self-portraits beautifully framed and hanging facing his bed. I didn’t know how I hadn’t seen them before then. They were the most conspicuous pictures on his wall, positioned for a clear view from his bed.

“They kept me company when I was missing you. Your larger self portrait is hanging above our fireplace in the main living space downstairs. The others are in the bedrooms of our other properties.

And the nude is in our playground.”

“I didn’t see it,” I told him. That was understandable, I supposed, since I’d been blindfolded for most of our activities.

“You will next time. And I replaced the mattress and all of the bedding. You said you didn’t want me to replace the beds, so as you see, they stayed. Also, if you didn’t notice, most of the playground was redone.”

I took some deep breaths, trying to process his actions. It was all very sweet, and my heart felt like it was twisting in my chest to think of all he had done for me, but my first instinct was to panic.

I counted and breathed and tried to react calmly and reasonably. “That was very thoughtful, James. You didn’t have to do all of that.”

“I wanted to. We need to get moving. First, we’re meeting with the dresser so you can pick out a dress.

You’ll get your hair and makeup done while she makes any adjustments that might be needed.” As he spoke, he pulled me from the room.

I dug in my heels almost immediately. “You aren’t wearing a shirt. There are people in the house?

You’ll give someone a heart attack like that, James.”

He completely ignored me, and I got quickly distracted as I caught a glimpse of the tattoo on his back. It was still so shocking to me, and so lovely. A thought occurred to me. “Are you just showing off your new tats to anyone you can?”

He flashed me a grin. It didn’t tell me much of anything. He was just happy in general, and he wasn’t putting a shirt on anytime soon.

We stayed on the third floor, but walked down the long hallway. He pulled me into the room closest to the stairs. It was a very sparsely furnished guest bedroom decorated in blue. There were racks of dresses everywhere, nearly overwhelming the large room.

“James, is that you?” a voice called from what must have been the closet.

“Yes, Jackie,” he called back.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Up in the Air Erotic
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