The edge of dominance, p.29
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.29
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  Bryn rolled her eyes. “I’ll take your da and go.”

  She bustled off and wound her arm through Duncan’s, leading him off to explore the pier.

  Liam found Raine standing at the railing, staring out at the ocean. Looking for answers? He approached and took her hand. “Walk with me.”

  She didn’t argue, just let him lead her down toward the crashing waves.

  Away from people and noise.

  Away from cops and questions.

  Away from everything they couldn’t do for Hammer right in this moment.

  Just the two of them, reaffirming—or dissolving—what they shared.

  He dragged in a deep breath of salty air, calming the turmoil inside him. He sensed it pinging from her, as well.

  They walked for long minutes, not speaking, simply holding hands. Then the distance and silence between them became too much for Liam to bear. He pulled her closer and wrapped his arms around her. “Talk to me, lass.”

  She looked up at him, confused and lost. The devastation in her gaze bloody near crippled him. “And say what? I’m scared. And so fucking angry. I just want to hit something.”

  She was winding her emotions—and their baby’s—into a fervor. When he placed a hand on her belly, the distress magnified. The force of it sizzled across his palm. Damn.

  He understood the stakes. It was his responsibility to make her purge this toxic worry.

  “Tell me more.”

  “What more can I say that you don’t know? Macen needs us. I realize we had to leave the house, and the view here is pretty, but we don’t have time for—”

  “Centering you? It’s my first priority. If Hammer were here, he would insist on it, too.”

  “But Hammer isn’t here. He’s being incarcerated as we speak. And we’re standing around, worrying about me and—”

  “That’s Dom 101, sweetheart. We shelve our own concerns until your needs are met. Get your fear and frustration out, then we’ll move on. Scream.”

  “Scream?” Raine stared at him as if he’d lost his mind. “What will that do except make me look like a fucking idiot? Stop trying to ‘adjust my attitude’ or whatever. Let’s do something productive.”

  He tightened his grasp on her. “I will stand here all day long if I have to until you”—he palmed her stomach again—“and the baby are calm again. So scream or talk. Those are your two choices.”

  She cursed under her breath, staring out at the ocean again. “All right. Everything that’s happened is my fault. And no one will listen to me when I swear I’m not a victim. I gave the police the truth, but it was inconvenient, so they tried to twist my words. They’ve already convicted Macen in their minds and—”

  “They aren’t the jury.” He slipped his hand into her hair, giving the strands a tug. “Stop assuming that he’s going away forever.”

  “How can I not worry about that? He must be pacing his cell, wondering whether he’s going to rot his life away in that shitty—”

  “That’s enough,” he said in a low, warning rumble. “Stop.”

  “Stop what?” Her laugh sounded halfway hysterical. “Stop worrying? Stop caring? What is it you want me to stop doing, Liam?”

  “Stop blaming yourself. Stop assuming the worst before it’s happened.” He tugged her until he could see into her face. “Do you think this attitude helps you? Or helps our child? It certainly doesn’t help me or Hammer.”

  “I know.” She looked up at the gray clouds, her face mottled. “I need him. I can’t do this without him.”

  Her words frustrated the hell out of Liam, and he shelved his urge to shake her. This wasn’t about him. She needed his Dominance, and he’d commanded her to vent her feelings. If she whipped him with her tongue because it made her feel better… Well, he had big shoulders. He could handle anything.

  Except her leaving him.

  “Stop thinking I can’t clear your head and give you the kind of boundaries Hammer does. Give me your problems.”

  “You don’t need them! You need me to be a big girl and stand on my own two feet.”

  He glowered at her. “I understand you believe—”

  “You don’t understand anything,” she lashed out. “How can you? I don’t understand this shit. I don’t understand why this happened. I don’t understand what the hell I’m supposed to do. And I definitely don’t understand why you’re trying to be my big, bad Dom right now.”

  Oh, she didn’t?

  Liam slid into a brutally familiar headspace. Dominance filled his veins. He embraced his darker, uncompromising side. And once he uncaged it on Raine, the submission she gave him in return would be a balm vital to them both.

  “You think I’m acting?” A humorless chuckle rolled from his lips. “Until now, I’ve only shown you my tender adoration. It’s what you needed when you first accepted my collar. When Macen and I took you to the lodge. When my ex-wife returned to wreak havoc. After that monster of a father kidnapped you. All these months Hammer’s been running from his ghosts. But make no mistake, I will show you just how demanding a taskmaster I can be. So either voluntarily hand me your concerns or I’ll pry my way inside your head and twist you inside out until you give them over.”

  She’d paused, staring at the waves gathering and rushing toward them, breaking thunderously on the sandy beach. The sea foam spreading messily as it caught in the onshore breeze, while the gulls screeched as they dove and circled on high. The wind whipped at her hair. She tossed it back absently.

  She sniffled. “I know you’re worried about me and the baby. I worry about the little one, too. But how do I not worry about the man I love? I’m scared Macen’s never coming back.”

  Her lashes fluttered closed as tears trickled from the corners of her eyes. Liam didn’t have the heart to lie and tell her everything would be fine.

  “He will. Barnes will make sure of it.”

  “But for how long?”

  “That’s out of our hands, Raine.”

  “I don’t…” She crossed her arms tightly over her chest. “I don’t know if I can live with that. I…”

  Suddenly her fury churned the air. She broke away from him and started to run. Startled, he watched her for a moment.

  See how she sped away like the goddamn fucking wind. Jesus. That’s it, love. Get it out of your system.

  Liam started after her.

  Acting on pure instinct, Raine darted like a wild thing. She glanced over her shoulder, sensed she was being hunted by a bigger, stronger predator. Arms and elbows pumping madly, hair flying about her in all directions as her legs propelled her forward, she dashed, her feet kicking up sand and wash.

  Fast twitch. But she’s a sprinter. Won’t last long.

  In fact, she didn’t get far before the burst of fury ran out and she nearly tripped on her own feet, collapsing on the wet sand with a sob.

  Liam was a second behind her, scooping her up in his arms and dragging her against his chest.

  “Put me down,” she insisted even as she wrapped herself around him and held tight.

  He sank to the sandy grains beneath him and dragged Raine into his lap, rocking her. He muttered soothing sounds in her ear and rubbed her belly, trying to calm her upset—and the baby’s. “It’s all right.”

  “No.” Raine beat weakly at his back with her fists in between ragged cries. “It’s not!”

  “Is that all you’ve got?” he prodded, his tone deceptively mild.

  “What do you mean?”

  “Sir,” he corrected. “You will address me as Sir until I say otherwise. Do you understand, sub?”

  She stubbornly refused to answer.

  “Do you?” he prodded. “C’mon, Raine. You’re itching for a fight. Let me have it. Let’s bleed off your fucking attitude. Or do I need to blister your ass right here and now to make my point? Because I will.” Liam grabbed her by the hair and yanked until he knew her scalp tingled with a sensation just shy of pain. “Think carefully before you answer. I can be your
greatest comfort or the most relentless bastard you’ve ever met. That’s up to you.”

  “What the fuck do you want from me, Sir?” She spit out the words as more tears swam down her face. “I’m lost. I’m scared. I’m angry. And I know I have no right to throw this goddamn hissy because you’re hurting every bit as much as I am and…” More sobs took over. “I’m sorry.”

  He stroked her hair. Now they were getting somewhere… “I know. Scream.”

  “What?” She stared at him incredulously.

  “You heard me,” he growled in soft warning. “Scream.”

  “How is that—”

  “Do it now.” He cupped her chin, forcing her face upward, and dragged her mouth open. “Scream!”

  She let loose a whimper.

  “Oh, come on. You’re stronger than that, Raine. I expect more. Give it to me.”

  Her second attempt went the way of the first, swallowed up by the crash of waves and the stiff morning wind.

  “Pathetic,” he tsked, shaking his head. “You didn’t even startle the birds. Stop being a bloody coward. Or is this you being a victim?” He pushed her off his lap and rose to his feet.

  She grabbed his hand and yanked him back. “You bastard!”

  “What did you call me?” He whipped around and pinned her with a dark glare, his voice cold.

  Raine let go of his hand. She thought about inching away—but she wouldn’t back down. “Bastard.”

  “That’s Sir Bastard to you. Do you have a scream in there after all? If you could roar at the assholes who’ve taken Hammer from us, what would that sound like?”

  She got to her knees, bracing herself by digging her fingers into the wet sand. Her lips pursed. Her face turned red. Her eyes burned a fiery blue. She glared at him like she hated his guts right now, and he didn’t care, because he was finally getting through to her.

  Raine gritted her teeth. Then she flung fistfuls of sand, threw her head back, and let loose a howl. The sound pealed across the beach, long and loud, over the surf, carried by the wind. People in all directions turned to stare. Liam didn’t give a shit. Her wail was filled with such misery that it cut him to the quick. Primal, soul-deep pain. He blinked away the burn behind his eyes.

  There was her heart. Fierce. Full of love. God, she would fight for Hammer. Good. It might take both of them to save him.

  When she ran out of air, she looked at him again, defiant and sad and still seething with fight.

  He gave her a nasty smile sure to set her off. “That was a decent start. Again.”

  Twice more she poured out her grief to the gulls as the wind carried her screams away. Until her throat turned raw. Until her body shuddered and the tension left her. Until she sank to the sand again, face in her hands, small and spent. Until she cried.

  “That was perfect, love. I’m proud of you.”

  She cupped his cheek, her red-rimmed eyes full of gratitude, of worship. “I feel better. Thank you, Sir.”

  Heart bursting, he gathered her up and into his arms. He brushed a hand over the babe, relieved to feel calm, even a bit of tumbling into slumber. A million feelings pelted him as he carried Raine back to the pier. She’d worked off her stress. In fact, she gave out completely and slept against him, resting her head on his shoulder in a silent show of trust.

  He still had no idea where he stood with her. If Hammer was gone, would she stay?

  Heaving a deep breath as he reached the car, he was relieved that his parents didn’t say a word when he slipped Raine’s slumbering form into the front seat and they left the beach.

  When they pulled into the driveway, the FBI had cleared out. Liam hoped like hell he could get Raine into bed so he could deal with whatever mess the search teams had left behind. When she woke…he’d deal with her.

  He handed Da his keys. When his father opened the door, the disaster that greeted him nearly took his legs out from under him. This was just another injustice Raine didn’t need now.

  “Don’t worry about a thing, son. We’ll soon have everything set to rights,” Mum insisted. “I raised seven children, remember? I’ve seen worse.”

  “True,” Duncan murmured. “But I’d have pulled out the strap for this mess.”

  “You’re all bluster. The strap…” Bryn swatted Duncan’s arm. “Enough with you, man. Start tidying down here.” She turned to Liam. “Why don’t you take your girl upstairs?”

  Since they both had sand all over them, he supposed the bath was a good place to start. “We’ll take a quick rinse and I’ll be down to help you directly.”

  His mum frowned. The expression turned into an angry scowl when she took in the disheveled state of the bedroom. “Don’t be ridiculous. Raine doesn’t need to clean up this mess. She needs your comfort.”

  Liam turned to look at his mother. Somehow, he didn’t think she meant his wee wench needed a hug.

  “Now you’re catching on.” She shooed him into the master bathroom, which looked far closer to normal than any other room in the house. “Don’t make the rinse too quick.”

  He stood and blinked at her. Had his own mother just told him to make love to Raine?

  “Of course.” She shook her head as she left the room, muttering to herself. “Sometimes men can be so thick…”

  Liam looked down at Raine lying in his arms, so trusting and peaceful. He hated like hell to wake her. Even without makeup, with tears staining her cheeks, she looked beautiful. Rumpled, windblown, all warm woman, precious and alive. His, by god.

  Instantly, his damn cock went hard with need for her, despite everything they’d endured today, despite everything beyond the door.

  “Raine, we’re home. Wake up, love. Let’s take a soak together.”

  She came awake in layers, inky lashes fluttering open, those stunning eyes coming alert as she took him and her surroundings in. Then she stretched like a cat and yawned. “Oh, my god. I just…fell asleep on you?”

  A smile twitched across his mouth. “You died, at least for a couple of hours.”

  “Sorry. Did you carry me back across the beach?”

  “I did. All hundred pounds of you,” he teased. “My arms are broken now.”

  She huffed. “Any news on Macen?”

  “I’m just as anxious as you, but we’re still waiting for Sterling to call. I’ll make all the arrangements for his bail, but until then, our hands are tied. So let’s get you cleaned up.”

  “Clean…” She froze. “The house! Should I ask how bad it is out there?”

  “Nothing that can’t be put to rights again. Mum and Da are tidying up now. Not to worry.” Liam set her on her feet. She didn’t wobble…much, just watched him in the mirror as he started the bath. “Come to me now.”

  Raine pulled off her T-shirt as she wandered to the side of the tub where he sat and stood between his legs. He bent to kiss her bare belly, then worked his lips up to the swells of her breasts, pausing a moment to revel in the feel of her silky skin against his so rough. She stroked his hair, her slender fingers working through the strands, drawing a rumble from deep in his chest.

  When she reached past him to pick one of her bath oils and added it under the running water, he smelled the musky-floral aroma in the air. He gripped her tighter. “Put your hands on my shoulders.”

  He waited until her fingers curled around him. Only then did he push the waistband of her yoga pants over her hips, trailing his broad palms down her pale thighs, lifting her knees one at a time to strip away the garment.

  “Liam?” She cooperated absently as concern settled onto her face. “I said a lot today. Did I upset you? You helped me so much, but…are you okay? Do you need something from me?”

  To tear off everything you’re wearing with my teeth and fuck you until you cling to me. Until you scream my name. Until you
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