The edge of dominance, p.35
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       The Edge of Dominance, p.35
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         Part #4 of The Doms of Her Life series by Shayla Black

  Afterward, he took me out and got me shitfaced. But no amount of booze was enough to drown my remorse or wash away my sins.”

  “You’ve got to stop this. So much of what happened wasn’t your fault. You’ve become an amazing man.”

  “The only thing I’ve ever done right is you.” He blew out a breath, fought tears, and still refused to look at her. “And even that I screwed up for years.”

  His cutting honesty was breaking her heart. “Macen, don’t… Please. That’s not true.”

  “It is. Don’t sugarcoat this. I don’t deserve it. Because there’s more.” He nodded in challenge. “Yeah. That night I found you huddled by the dumpster, I couldn’t stand to see you hurting. Somewhere in the back of my head, I thought by saving you I could atone. Except the unthinkable happened. I fell in love with you—fast. Jesus, that did a fucking number on my head. You were barely seventeen and I was almost thirty. Teenage girls had never held any appeal for me, even when I was a teenager. I called myself every kind of pervert imaginable. I mean, I knew I was bent but… Do you know how much I fucking hated myself for wanting you? When you turned eighteen, I nearly dragged you into my room, locked the door, and sank inside your body for days, weeks, years. I tried to convince myself that I could have you and not ruin you, but guilt and terror made me keep my distance.”

  Raine didn’t even know what to say anymore. She just gave him her silent support, let him purge it all out, and wished he’d finally look at her.

  “I fucked just about every single sub in the club, and I hurt you so much, precious. I have no idea why you love me—”

  “Because you were always there for me, always protected me, wanted what was best for me, and challenged me. You were noble, Macen.”

  “Bullshit.” He dragged in a jagged breath.

  “Yes. Stop beating yourself up. Our choices and experiences have made us who we are, led us to right now, to the love we share.” She placed a hand on her stomach. “Gave us the baby we’re having, the future we could have if you’d just forgive yourself…”

  “How can I? I didn’t fix myself for years, just drowned in shame and pussy because it was easy and what I understood.”

  “You stayed away from me for so long because the people who should have cared for you had done nothing but use and abuse you.” She understood utterly now. “You did everything in your power to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to me.”

  Hammer nodded bleakly. “But I was a jealous bastard, too. I couldn’t stand the thought of another man touching you. I wanted to kill Zak and Gabriel. I wanted to rip their dicks off.”

  She suppressed a little smile. Gee, I would have never guessed… “I understand. I lost count of how many bitches I wanted to slap.”

  He grimaced. “Yeah… But I wasn’t just jealous. I drove everyone away from you because your heart was so…pure. I couldn’t let them hurt you. If I’d given in to my craving for you years ago, I would have destroyed that—and you.”

  He would have. As much as Raine had wanted him then, she hadn’t understood herself or her heart yet. She hadn’t been strong enough to stand in the storm they weathered now and endure the driving pain. She would have crumbled before they reached the heartfelt intimacy they shared today.

  “So you didn’t lie to me after that first night we spent together. When you said you needed a slave, I thought—”

  “I was full of shit. Yeah, I knew. But that was okay. It kept you away. I’d already fucked up once, given into booze and anger and a need for you that strangled me every fucking day. Being with you that night…holding you? It was the first time I’d felt peace in twenty years. I knew I was in love with you, but I didn’t know how to show it or how to be the man you deserved. I knew how to take a woman’s power and bend it to make me happy. You needed something else entirely. God, I fought myself… I still do sometimes. It’s the reason I backed off so badly after Bill almost killed you. The thought of losing the only woman I’ve ever loved in my entire life, of losing that innocent child growing inside you… I—I can’t. I’d never be able to survive that, precious.” He swallowed and gripped her hand so tightly her fingers went numb.

  “I’m here,” she promised. “I’m not going anywhere.”

  “But I might be. I’m scared I’ll be ripped from you. And you deserved to know everything I’ve told you because I couldn’t leave without you understanding how much I love you, how much joy and happiness you’ve brought to my life. You taught me how to live, Raine. But more than that, you taught me how to love. You stood by me all these years when I was a cold-hearted bastard, denying everything between us. You’ve branded yourself into my soul. Merely saying I love you can’t even scratch the surface of the profound feelings I have for you. I’m not even sure the words to describe that exist.” He leaned his head on their joined hands. “You’re everything. My breath, body, and soul. It would take me an entire lifetime to show you how I feel, and I don’t have a fucking clue how I’m supposed to squeeze all that into the time we might have left. How do I do that, precious? Cram all the love I have for you into six fucking weeks?”

  “By taking things one day at a time. By looking at me. Please…”

  * * *

  Hammer gripped Raine’s hand, ignoring the fine tremor in his arms. Why was the simple act of opening his eyes and looking at her so fucking difficult? He’d done it thousands of times, over thousands of days. But facing her now was one of the most difficult things he’d ever done.

  Because he’d just laid himself bare for her, and if he saw judgment or condemnation, he’d be utterly devastated.

  “Macen.” She kissed his knuckles. “Have faith.”

  In her. In them. In the belief that she could love him as completely as he loved her. God knew he didn’t have faith in much else in life, but he believed in what they shared, all the way down to his core.

  Hope strangled him as he slowly lifted his lids and focused on her.

  Raine was waiting for him with big blue eyes, trembling tears, acceptance, and so much love he thought he’d burst. “Hi.”

  God, he was going to cry like a pussy. He blinked. Hot, acidic drops spilled down his cheeks, and he swore. “Fuck.”

  She gave him a watery giggle. “You’re so poetic.”

  “And romantic. Yeah.”

  Her delicate fingers curled around his cheek. “I’d say that’s why I love you…but that doesn’t even scratch the surface.”

  “I more than love you, Raine. Thank you for listening.”

  Spilling his life story had been painful and cathartic. He’d hung on to the bitterness for years—anger toward his unfeeling parents, his depraved caretakers, and his stupid-ass self. If his parents had just given a shit, maybe he wouldn’t have been such easy prey for two ruthless sexual freaks. If he hadn’t been horny and lonely and ready to flip his parents the moral bird, he wouldn’t have been so ready to toss away his innocence for a kinky fuck. At the end of the day, he couldn’t blame anyone but himself—which he’d been doing for twenty years. His shit went way further back than Juliet, and he allowed himself to admit it. Wasn’t it time to forgive himself, too? He’d made mistakes—some good, some bad. Either way, they’d all led him here, to this woman, to the love he’d been seeking his entire life, to this bond they shared with Liam.

  To peace.

  To pure, unconditional love.

  “I always will.” She brushed a kiss across his knuckles. “I’ve spent a lot of time the past few weeks wondering if maybe we would have all been better off if I had left Shadows that morning I threatened to. You know, the morning I sneaked in your bed and tried to seduce you.”

  “Oh, I remember.” He enveloped her small hand in his broad palms. “You scared the shit out of me.”

  A smile tripped across her lips. “I was terrified, too. But if I’d walked out the door like I’d threatened, we could have saved ourselves so much pain.”

  “But—”

  “But we would have missed out on e
verything wonderful. I know.”

  “I wouldn’t have missed you for the world. I don’t care what we’ve been through. This is worth it.”

  Her smile turned dazzling. “Last Halloween, I never fathomed we’d be here today. I’d never kissed you. I barely knew Liam. That was less than four months ago. Now we’re sharing a house, having a baby…”

  “And you’ve made me happier than I’ve ever been. I’d spend three lifetimes behind bars to have shared these past few months with you and Liam.” Hammer placed his hand on her stomach. “I might not get to share the joy of raising this child. But I’ll always be a part of you, Liam, and our baby. I might not be here physically, but I hope I’ll be here.”

  He raised his hand to her heart and slanted his lips over hers.

  “You will.” Her voice cracked. “I don’t want to do this without you.”

  “I hope you don’t have to, precious.”

  Raine wrapped her slender hands around his cheeks and drew him to her lips. Hammer couldn’t help but groan. The feather-soft kisses she pressed to the corners of his mouth were so heartfelt he nearly crumbled. Her sweet affection bled the ever-present anxiety from his veins. Soothed him. Calmed him. For the first time in his life, Macen relinquished his control and simply felt.

  Hyperaware of the smoldering connection that always pulsed between them, Macen’s senses sharpened. Time ceased to have meaning.

  When he closed his eyes, he could almost see them, one still image after the other, as their love flared. Hammer pressed every picture into his memory, storing them away in case the feds locked him up. He’d cherish and relive each one when he was going mad with grief, loneliness, and need.

  But he wasn’t just seeing them together. He was completely in the moment with Raine, so attuned to her—aware of her every nuance—that even something as simple as her breathing awakened his senses.

  The sensual bow of her lips fascinated him. He leaned closer and traced them with his finger. Her hypnotic feminine heat hovered in the air, intoxicating. She made him ache to feel her, taste her. To drag her beneath him and never let go.

  “I want to make love to you, precious.”

  Her lashes fluttered down to her cheeks as her mouth curled up in a soft smile. “I’d like that.”

  “Listen to me, Raine. I don’t mean sex or a power exchange. Tonight, I just want to be a man who loves a woman.”

  “Macen…” A single tear tracked down her cheek. “I’ve always felt your love.”

  Even when he hadn’t meant for her to. Even when he hadn’t given it freely.

  He thumbed away the clear drop as he stood and wrapped his arms around her. “I don’t know how, but I thank god every day you did.”

  He couldn’t—wouldn’t—waste another second. With infinite care, he lifted her, clutching her close as she wrapped her slender legs around him. She slid her arms behind his neck and sent him a searching stare.

  “I want to touch you in ways I never have,” he told her.

  Raine buried her face in his neck as if she couldn’t get close enough, couldn’t inhale him enough, as Hammer carried her upstairs to their bedroom.

  Just inside the door, she sank her fingers into his scalp and drew him to her lips again. Macen didn’t even make it to the bed before need seized him. He pressed her to the wall, sank into her mouth, and poured his heart into the kiss. He made love to her mouth—tasting, tormenting, teasing—as he stroked her tongue with a sensual surge and retreat. She dragged in a breath, grabbed his shirt, grinding softly against him as she cried out in supplication, a plea for all the love and passion he could give her.

  Raine writhed against the erection tenting his trousers. She arched, tossing her head back. Through the barrier of their clothes, he could feel her taut nipples against his chest. The graceful line of her neck beckoned him. Hammer couldn’t resist. He feathered his lips up her skin, breathing her in, holding her tight as he worked his way back to her lips with a groan.

  When he reached her, she was waiting. Their mouths melded. She felt so small but vital in his arms as he turned and carried her to the bed, then laid her across the middle, in the spill of silvery moonlight beaming through the window.

  Braced above Raine, he looked down at her. Watched. Stared. She blinked up at him, lips swollen, eyes shimmering with devotion.

  Hammer didn’t flinch or dilute the importance of the moment with a wolfish smile or wry smirk. Instead, he bared himself without removing a stitch, allowing her to see inside him, all the way to the bone.

  To his soul.

  He could barely fathom how he’d managed six years without showing her his heart. How would he ever survive the next thirty? He’d come to need Raine, to depend on the fact she was right beside him. He’d simply believed that she always would be. The utter shock that he might be the one leaving was almost more than he could bear.

  Macen trailed a knuckle down her cheek, brushed his thumb over her bottom lip. He gazed into her questioning eyes. She wore every emotion she felt on her sweet face. He could read her so easily. She wanted to be everything to him, wanted to give him whatever he craved.

  Somehow, she didn’t realize she already had.

  “Tonight, I need your love far more than I want your power,” Hammer whispered against her lips. “Take whatever you want. You don’t need permission for anything.”

  Her breath hitched. Raine took hold of his face. “I want all of you.”

  “I’m yours. I have been for longer than I could even admit.”

  Without a word, Raine sat up and unfastened the buttons of his shirt, pushing it off one shoulder, then the other, kissing the skin she uncovered with a gossamer press of her lips. Then she unfastened his belt, toyed with the button of his slacks. With a beseeching stare, she tempted him, igniting tingles not just in his cock but all over his body. As his zipper fell with a hushed purr in the room, goose bumps broke out across his skin. Usually, he was in control of everything. Now he couldn’t even control his breathing. He’d never felt anything like this wonder, the sense that her next touch could both soothe his need and wrench his heart.

  Hammer suspected those weren’t the only new and foreign sensations she’d bestow on him tonight. He was ready and oh-so-fucking willing to drink them all in.

  The neon numbers on the bedside clock flashed blue in the shadowed room. He was shocked to see that hours had passed since the O’Neill family departed. How could it feel as though he and Raine were cocooned in some perfect, timeless bubble while wondering if, at any moment, it was about to burst?

  Raine skimmed her fingers over his chest, dragging a nail softly around his nipples, into his navel, before pushing his pants past his hips and freeing his shaft. Macen forgot the clock. Instead, he drew in a deep breath and let it out as he followed her every worshipping caress. The beast within him didn’t even rouse, as if knowing the man couldn’t survive anymore without her love.

  “I never get tired of touching you,” Raine murmured. “The feel of your hard muscles beneath all that smooth, hot skin.”

  He sucked in an agonized breath as she tempted him with skimming palms and grazing lips. “I melt every time you touch me.”

  A tingling trail of awakening flesh spread until he swore his heart would split wide open.

  “Take your pants off,” she murmured, nipping her way up his shoulder, to his neck, pressing her lips to his jaw.

  God, he didn’t want to move, just stay and bask in her reverence and love.

  Why had he never known how much pleasure a woman could give him when he wasn’t commanding it?

  Because he’d never let anyone ever have this sort of power over him.

  For Raine, he stepped back. An involuntary groan of protest left his chest, but he kicked off his trousers and returned to the bed, hovering on his knees above her, just waiting.

  She smiled as she ate him up with her gaze. She had the definite advantage since she remained fully dressed. Hammer found their role reversal ironic, but h
e didn’t care. He simply closed his eyes and memorized the feel of her soft, smooth hands claiming every part of him.

  When she tongued her way up his abs and circled his aching cock with her fingers, Hammer’s hips bucked. She was undoing him—as she always did—but this experience was remarkably different. For a man who prided himself on control, she was unraveling him faster than a spool of yarn.

  Surprisingly, he kind of…liked it.

  “Raine, baby, I want to feel your skin. I have to kiss you all over.” He didn’t demand that she strip, and he didn’t tell her that he intended to peel off her clothes. He simply started removing them.

  He wanted it to take forever.

  Hammer tugged at the hem of her bright pink T-shirt, nudging it over her belly, smoothing it up her breasts and over her head. He eased to his feet, helped her up in front of him. Wrapping his
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